Omoo: Adventures in the South Seas
Part 6 out of 6
pierced through and through with a hole, which was immediately
clapped on the top of the jar. Then planting the crotched stick
upright about two yards distant, and making it sustain one end of the
bamboo, he inserted the other end of the latter into the hole in the
block: concluding these arrangements by placing an old calabash under
the farther end of the bamboo.
Coming up to us now with a sly, significant look, and pointing
admiringly at his apparatus, he exclaimed, "Ah, karhowree, ena
hannahanna arva tee!" as much as to say, "This, you see, is the way
His contrivance was nothing less than a native still, where he
manufactured his island "poteen." The disarray in which we found it
was probably intentional, as a security against detection. Before we
left the shed, the old fellow toppled the whole concern over, and
dragged it away piecemeal.
His disclosing his secret to us thus was characteristic of the "Tootai
Owrees," or contemners of the missionaries among the natives; who,
presuming that all foreigners are opposed to the ascendancy of the
missionaries, take pleasure in making them confidants, whenever the
enactments of their rulers are secretly set at nought.
The substance from which the liquor is produced is called "Tee," which
is a large, fibrous root, something like yam, but smaller. In its
green state, it is exceedingly acrid; but boiled or baked, has the
sweetness of the sugar-cane. After being subjected to the fire,
macerated and reduced to a certain stage of fermentation, the "Tee"
is stirred up with water, and is then ready for distillation.
On returning to the hut, pipes were introduced; and, after a while,
Long Ghost, who, at first, had relished the "Arva Tee" as little as
myself, to my surprise, began to wax sociable over it, with Varvy;
and, before long, absolutely got mellow, the old toper keeping him
It was a curious sight. Everyone knows that, so long as the occasion
lasts, there is no stronger bond of sympathy and good feeling among
men than getting tipsy together. And how earnestly, nay, movingly, a
brace of worthies, thus employed, will endeavour to shed light upon,
and elucidate their mystical ideas!
Fancy Varvy and the doctor, then, lovingly tippling, and brimming over
with a desire to become better acquainted; the doctor politely bent
upon carrying on the conversation in the language of his host, and
the old hermit persisting in trying to talk English. The result was
that, between the two, they made such a fricassee of vowels and
consonants that it was enough to turn one's brain.
The next morning, on waking, I heard a voice from the tombs. It was
the doctor solemnly pronouncing himself a dead man. He was sitting
up, with both hands clasped over his forehead, and his pale face a
thousand times paler than ever.
"That infernal stuff has murdered me!" he cried. "Heavens! my head's
all wheels and springs, like the automaton chess-player! What's to be
done, Paul? I'm poisoned."
But, after drinking a herbal draught concocted by our host, and eating
a light meal, at noon, he felt much better; so much so that he
declared himself ready to continue our journey.
When we came to start, the Yankee's boots were missing; and, after a
diligent search, were not to be found. Enraged beyond measure, their
proprietor said that Varvy must have stolen them; but, considering
his hospitality, I thought this extremely improbable; though to whom
else to impute the theft I knew not. The doctor maintained, however,
that one who was capable of drugging an innocent traveller with "Arva
Tee" was capable of anything.
But it was in vain that he stormed, and Varvy and I searched; the
boots were gone.
Were it not for this mysterious occurrence, and Varvy's detestable
liquors, I would here recommend all travellers going round by the
beach to Partoowye to stop at the Rock, and patronize the old
gentleman--the more especially as he entertains gratis.
OUR RECEPTION IN PARTOOWYE
UPON starting, at last, I flung away my sandals--by this time quite
worn out--with the view of keeping company with the doctor, now
forced to go barefooted. Recovering his spirits in good time, he
protested that boots were a bore after all, and going without them
This was said, be it observed, while strolling along over a soft
carpet of grass; a little moist, even at midday, from the shade of
the wood through which we were passing.
Emerging from this we entered upon a blank, sandy tract, upon which
the sun's rays fairly flashed; making the loose gravel under foot
well nigh as hot as the floor of an oven. Such yelling and leaping as
there was in getting over this ground would he hard to surpass. We
could not have crossed at all--until toward sunset--had it not been
for a few small, wiry bushes growing here and there, into which we
every now and then thrust our feet to cool. There was no little
judgment necessary in selecting your bush; for if not chosen
judiciously, the chances were that, on springing forward again, and
finding the next bush so far off that an intermediate cooling was
indispensable, you would have to run hack to your old place again.
Safely passing the Sahara, or Fiery Desert, we soothed our
half-blistered feet by a pleasant walk through a meadow of long
grass, which soon brought us in sight of a few straggling houses,
sheltered by a grove on the outskirts of the village of Partoowye.
My comrade was for entering the first one we came to; but, on drawing
near, they had so much of an air of pretension, at least for native
dwellings, that I hesitated; thinking they might be the residences of
the higher chiefs, from whom no very extravagant welcome was to be
While standing irresolute, a voice from the nearest house hailed us:
"Aramai! aramai, karhowree!" (Come in! come in, strangers!)
We at once entered, and were warmly greeted. The master of the house
was an aristocratic-looking islander, dressed in loose linen drawers,
a fine white shirt, and a sash of red silk tied about the waist,
after the fashion of the Spaniards in Chili. He came up to us with a
free, frank air, and, striking his chest with his hand, introduced
himself as Ereemear Po-Po; or, to render the Christian name back again
into English--Jeremiah Po-Po.
These curious combinations of names among the people of the Society
Islands originate in the following way. When a native is baptized,
his patronymic often gives offence to the missionaries, and they
insist upon changing to something else whatever is objectionable
therein. So, when Jeremiah came to the font, and gave his name as
Narmo-Nana Po-Po (something equivalent to
The-Darer-of-Devils-by-Night), the reverend gentleman officiating
told him that such a heathenish appellation would never do, and a
substitute must be had; at least for the devil part of it. Some
highly respectable Christian appellations were then submitted, from
which the candidate for admission into the church was at liberty to
choose. There was Adamo (Adam), Nooar (Noah), Daveedar (David),
Earcobar (James), Eorna (John), Patoora (Peter), Ereemear (Jeremiah),
etc. And thus did he come to be named Jeremiah Po-Po; or,
Jeremiah-in-the-Dark--which he certainly was, I fancy, as to the
ridiculousness of his new cognomen.
We gave our names in return; upon which he bade us be seated; and,
sitting down himself, asked us a great many questions, in mixed
English and Tahitian. After giving some directions to an old man to
prepare food, our host's wife, a large, benevolent-looking woman,
upwards of forty, also sat down by us. In our soiled and
travel-stained appearance, the good lady seemed to find abundant
matter for commiseration; and all the while kept looking at us
piteously, and making mournful exclamations.
But Jeremiah and his spouse were not the only inmates of the mansion.
In one corner, upon a large native couch, elevated upon posts,
reclined a nymph; who, half-veiled in her own long hair, had yet to
make her toilet for the day. She was the daughter of Po-Po; and a
very beautiful little daughter she was; not more than fourteen; with
the most delightful shape--like a bud just blown; and large hazel
eyes. They called her Loo; a name rather pretty and genteel, and
therefore quite appropriate; for a more genteel and lady-like little
damsel there was not in all Imeeo.
She was a cold and haughty young beauty though, this same little Loo,
and never deigned to notice us; further than now and then to let her
eyes float over our persons, with an expression of indolent
indifference. With the tears of the Loohooloo girls hardly dry from
their sobbing upon our shoulders, this contemptuous treatment stung
us not a little.
When we first entered, Po-Po was raking smooth the carpet of dried
ferns which had that morning been newly laid; and now that our meal
was ready, it was spread on a banana leaf, right upon this fragrant
floor. Here we lounged at our ease, eating baked pig and breadfruit
off earthen plates, and using, for the first time in many a long
month, real knives and forks.
These, as well as other symptoms of refinement, somewhat abated our
surprise at the reserve of the little Loo; her parents, doubtless,
were magnates in Partoowye, and she herself was an heiress.
After being informed of our stay in the vale of Martair, they were
very curious to know on what errand we came to Taloo. We merely
hinted that the ship lying in the harbour was the reason of our
Arfretee, Po-Po's wife, was a right motherly body. The meal over, she
recommended a nap; and upon our waking much refreshed, she led us to
the doorway, and pointed down among the trees; through which we saw
the gleam of water. Taking the hint, we repaired thither; and finding
a deep shaded pool, bathed, and returned to the house. Our hostess
now sat down by us; and after looking with great interest at the
doctor's cloak, felt of my own soiled and tattered garments for the
hundredth time, and exclaimed plaintively--"Ah nuee nuee olee manee!
olee manee!" (Alas! they are very, very old! very old!)
When Arfretee, good soul, thus addressed us, she thought she was
talking very respectable English. The word "nuee" is so familiar to
foreigners throughout Polynesia, and is so often used by them in
their intercourse with the natives, that the latter suppose it to be
common to all mankind. "Olee manee" is the native pronunciation of
"old man," which, by Society Islanders talking Saxon, is applied
indiscriminately to all aged things and persons whatsoever.
Going to a chest filled with various European articles, she took out
two suits of new sailor frocks and trousers; and presenting them with
a gracious smile, pushed us behind a calico screen, and left us.
Without any fastidious scruples, we donned the garments; and what
with the meal, the nap, and the bath, we now came forth like a couple
Evening drawing on, lamps were lighted. They were very simple; the
half of a green melon, about one third full of cocoa-nut oil, and a
wick of twisted tappa floating on the surface. As a night lamp, this
contrivance cannot be excelled; a soft dreamy light being shed
through the transparent rind.
As the evening advanced, other members of the household, whom as yet
we had not seen, began to drop in. There was a slender young dandy in
a gay striped shirt, and whole fathoms of bright figured calico
tucked about his waist, and falling to the ground. He wore a new
straw hat also with three distinct ribbons tied about the crown; one
black, one green, and one pink. Shoes or stockings, however, he had
There were a couple of delicate, olive-cheeked little
girls--twins--with mild eyes and beautiful hair, who ran about the
house, half-naked, like a couple of gazelles. They had a brother,
somewhat younger--a fine dark boy, with an eye like a woman's. All
these were the children of Po-Po, begotten in lawful wedlock.
Then there were two or three queer-looking old ladies, who wore shabby
mantles of soiled sheeting, which fitted so badly, and withal had
such a second-hand look that I at once put their wearers down as
domestic paupers--poor relations, supported by the bounty of My Lady
Arfretee. They were sad, meek old bodies; said little and ate less;
and either kept their eyes on the ground, or lifted them up
deferentially. The semi-civilization of the island must have had
something to do with making them what they were.
I had almost forgotten Monee, the grinning old man who prepared our
meal. His head was a shining, bald globe. He had a round little
paunch, and legs like a cat. He was Po-Po's factotum--cook, butler,
and climber of the bread-fruit and cocoa-nut trees; and, added to all
else, a mighty favourite with his mistress; with whom he would sit
smoking and gossiping by the hour.
Often you saw the indefatigable Monee working away at a great rate;
then dropping his employment all at once--never mind what--run off to
a little distance, and after rolling himself away in a corner and
taking a nap, jump up again, and fall to with fresh vigour.
From a certain something in the behaviour of Po-Po and his household,
I was led to believe that he was a pillar of the church; though, from
what I had seen in Tahiti, I could hardly reconcile such a
supposition with his frank, cordial, unembarrassed air. But I was
not wrong in my conjecture: Po-Po turned out to be a sort of elder,
or deacon; he was also accounted a man of wealth, and was nearly
related to a high chief.
Before retiring, the entire household gathered upon the floor; and in
their midst, he read aloud a chapter from a Tahitian Bible. Then
kneeling with the rest of us, he offered up a prayer. Upon its
conclusion, all separated without speaking. These devotions took
place regularly, every night and morning. Grace too was invariably
said, by this family, both before and after eating.
After becoming familiarized with the almost utter destitution of
anything like practical piety upon these islands, what I observed in.
our host's house astonished me much. But whatever others might have
been, Po-Po was, in truth, a Christian: the only one, Arfretee
excepted, whom I personally knew to be such, among all the natives of
RETIRING FOR THE NIGHT--THE DOCTOR GROWS DEVOUT
THEY put us to bed very pleasantly.
Lying across the foot of Po-Po's nuptial couch was a smaller one made
of Koar-wood; a thin, strong cord, twisted from the fibres of the
husk of the cocoa-nut, and woven into an exceedingly light sort of
network, forming its elastic body. Spread upon this was a single,
fine mat, with a roll of dried ferns for a pillow, and a strip of
white tappa for a sheet. This couch was mine. The doctor was provided
for in another corner.
Loo reposed alone on a little settee with a taper burning by her side;
the dandy, her brother, swinging overhead in a sailor's hammock The
two gazelles frisked upon a mat near by; and the indigent relations
borrowed a scant corner of the old butler's pallet, who snored away
by the open door. After all had retired, Po-Po placed the illuminated
melon in the middle of the apartment; and so, we all slumbered till
Upon awaking, the sun was streaming brightly through the open bamboos,
but no one was stirring. After surveying the fine attitudes into
which forgetfulness had thrown at least one of the sleepers, my
attention was called off to the general aspect of the dwelling, which
was quite significant of the superior circumstances of our host.
The house itself was built in the simple, but tasteful native style.
It was a long, regular oval, some fifty feet in length, with low
sides of cane-work, and a roof thatched with palmetto-leaves. The
ridgepole was, perhaps, twenty feet from the ground. There was no
foundation whatever; the bare earth being merely covered with ferns; a
kind of carpeting which serves very well, if frequently renewed;
otherwise, it becomes dusty, and the haunt of vermin, as in the huts
of the poorer natives.
Besides the couches, the furniture consisted of three or four sailor
chests; in which were stored the fine wearing-apparel of the
household--the ruffled linen shirts of Po-Po, the calico dresses of
his wife and children, and divers odds and ends of European
articles--strings of beads, ribbons, Dutch looking-glasses, knives,
coarse prints, bunches of keys, bits of crockery, and metal buttons.
One of these chests--used as a bandbox by Arfretee--contained
several of the native hats (coal-scuttles), all of the same pattern,
but trimmed with variously-coloured ribbons. Of nothing was our good
hostess more proud than of these hats, and her dresses. On Sundays,
she went abroad a dozen times; and every time, like Queen Elizabeth,
in a different robe.
Po-Po, for some reason or other, always gave us our meals before the
rest of the family were served; and the doctor, who was very
discerning in such matters, declared that we fared much better than
they. Certain it was that, had Ereemear's guests travelled with
purses, portmanteau, and letters of introduction to the queen, they
could not have been better cared for.
The day after our arrival, Monee, the old butler, brought us in for
dinner a small pig, baked in the ground. All savoury, it lay in a
wooden trencher, surrounded by roasted hemispheres of the breadfruit.
A large calabash, filled with taro pudding, or poee, followed; and
the young dandy, overcoming his customary languor, threw down our
cocoa-nuts from an adjoining tree.
When all was ready, and the household looking on, Long Ghost, devoutly
clasping his hands over the fated pig, implored a blessing. Hereupon,
everybody present looked exceedingly pleased; Po-Po coming up and
addressing the doctor with much warmth; and Arfretee, regarding him
with almost maternal affection, exclaimed delightedly, "Ah!
mickonaree tata matai!" in other words, "What a pious young man!"
It was just after this meal that she brought me a roll of grass
sinnate (of the kind which sailors sew into the frame of their
tarpaulins), and then, handing me needle and thread, bade me begin at
once, and make myself the hat which I so much needed. An accomplished
hand at the business, I finished it that day--merely stitching the
braid together; and Arfretee, by way of rewarding my industry, with
her own olive hands ornamented the crown with a band of
flame-coloured ribbon; the two long ends of which streaming behind,
sailor-fashion, still preserved for me the Eastern title bestowed by
A RAMBLE THROUGH THE SETTLEMENT
THE following morning, making our toilets carefully, we donned our
sombreros, and sallied out on a tour. Without meaning to reveal our
designs upon the court, our principal object was, to learn what
chances there were for white men to obtain employment under the
queen. On this head, it is true, we had questioned Po-Po; but his
answers had been very discouraging; so we determined to obtain
further information elsewhere.
But, first, to give some little description of the village.
The settlement of Partoowye is nothing more than some eighty houses,
scattered here and there, in the midst of an immense grove, where the
trees have been thinned out and the underbrush cleared away. Through
the grove flows a stream; and the principal avenue crosses it, over
an elastic bridge of cocoa-nut trunks, laid together side by side.
The avenue is broad, and serpentine; well shaded from one end to the
other, and as pretty a place for a morning promenade as any lounger
could wish. The houses, constructed without the slightest regard to
the road, peep into view from among the trees on either side: some
looking you right in the face as you pass, and others, without any
manners, turning their backs. Occasionally you observe a rural
retreat, inclosed by a picket of bamboos, or with a solitary pane of
glass massively framed in the broadside of the dwelling, or with a
rude, strange-looking door, swinging upon dislocated wooden hinges.
Otherwise, the dwellings are built in the original style of the
natives; and never mind how mean and filthy some of them may appear
within, they all look picturesque enough without.
As we sauntered along the people we met saluted us pleasantly, and
invited us into their houses; and in this way we made a good many
brief morning calls. But the hour could not have been the fashionable
one in Partoowye, since the ladies were invariably in dishabille. But
they always gave us a cordial reception, and were particularly polite
to the doctor; caressing him, and amorously hanging about his neck;
wonderfully taken up, in short, with a gay handkerchief he wore there.
Arfretee had that morning bestowed it upon the pious youth.
With some exceptions, the general appearance of the natives of
Partoowye was far better than that of the inhabitants of Papeetee: a
circumstance only to be imputed to their restricted intercourse with
Strolling on, we turned a sweep of the road, when the doctor gave a
start; and no wonder. Right before us, in the grove, was a block of
houses: regular square frames, boarded over, furnished with windows
and doorways, and two stories high. We ran up and found them fast
going to decay: very dingy, and here and there covered with moss; no
sashes, no doors; and on one side, the entire block had settled down
nearly a foot. On going into the basement we looked clean up through
the unbearded timbers to the roof; where rays of light, glimmering
through many a chink, illuminated the cobwebs which swung all round.
The whole interior was dark and close. Burrowing among some old mats
in one corner, like a parcel of gipsies in a ruin, were a few
vagabond natives. They had their dwelling here.
Curious to know who on earth could have been thus trying to improve
the value of real estate in Partoowye, we made inquiries; and learned
that some years previous the block had been thrown up by a veritable
Yankee (one might have known that), a house-carpenter by trade, and a
bold, enterprising fellow by nature.
Put ashore from his ship, sick, he first went to work and got well;
then sallied out with chisel and plane, and made himself generally
useful. A sober, steady man, it seems, he at last obtained the
confidence of several chiefs, and soon filled them with all sorts of
ideas concerning the alarming want of public spirit in the people of
Imeeo. More especially did he dwell upon the humiliating fact of
their living in paltry huts of bamboo, when magnificent palaces of
boards might so easily be mortised together.
In the end, these representations so far prevailed with one old chief
that the carpenter was engaged to build a batch of these wonderful
palaces. Provided with plenty of men, he at once set to work: built a
saw-mill among the mountains, felled trees, and sent over to Papeetee
Presto! the castle rose; but alas, the roof was hardly on, when the
Yankee's patron, having speculated beyond his means, broke all to
pieces, and was absolutely unable to pay one "plug" of tobacco in the
pound. His failure involved the carpenter, who sailed away from his
creditors in the very next ship that touched at the harbour.
The natives despised the rickety palace of boards; and often lounged
by, wagging their heads, and jeering.
We were told that the queen's residence was at the extreme end of the
village; so, without waiting for the doctor to procure a fiddle, we
suddenly resolved upon going thither at once, and learning whether
any privy counsellorships were vacant.
Now, although there was a good deal of my waggish comrade's nonsense
about what has been said concerning our expectations of court
preferment, we, nevertheless, really thought that something to our
advantage might turn up in that quarter.
On approaching the palace grounds, we found them rather peculiar. A
broad pier of hewn coral rocks was built right out into the water;
and upon this, and extending into a grove adjoining, were some eight
or ten very large native houses, constructed in the handsomest style
and inclosed together by a low picket of bamboos, which embraced a
Throughout the Society Islands, the residences of the chiefs are
mostly found in the immediate vicinity of the sea; a site which gives
them the full benefit of a cooling breeze; nor are they so liable to
the annoyance of insects; besides enjoying, when they please, the
fine shade afforded by the neighbouring groves, always most luxuriant
near the water.
Lounging about the grounds were some sixty or eighty
handsomely-dressed natives, men and women; some reclining on the
shady side of the houses, others under the trees, and a small group
conversing close by the railing facing us.
We went up to the latter; and giving the usual salutation, were on the
point of vaulting over the bamboos, when they turned upon us angrily,
and said we could not enter. We stated our earnest desire to see the
queen; hinting that we were bearers of important dispatches. But it
was to no purpose; and not a little vexed, we were obliged to return
to Po-Po's without effecting anything.
AN ISLAND JILT--WE VISIT THE SHIP
UPON arriving home we fully laid open to Po-Po our motives in visiting
Taloo, and begged his friendly advice. In his broken English he
cheerfully gave us all the information we needed.
It was true, he said, that the queen entertained some idea of making a
stand against the French; and it was currently reported also that
several chiefs from Borabora, Huwyenee, Raiatair, and Tahar, the
leeward islands of the group, were at that very time taking counsel
with her as to the expediency of organizing a general movement
throughout the entire cluster, with a view of anticipating any further
encroachments on the part of the invaders. Should warlike measures be
actually decided upon, it was quite certain that Pomaree would be
glad to enlist all the foreigners she could; but as to her making
officers of either the doctor or me, that was out of the question;
because, already, a number of Europeans, well known to her, had
volunteered as such. Concerning our getting immediate access to the
queen, Po-Po told us it was rather doubtful; she living at that time
very retired, in poor health, and spirits, and averse to receiving
calls. Previous to her misfortunes, however, no one, however humble,
was denied admittance to her presence; sailors, even, attended her
Not at all disheartened by these things, we concluded to kill time in
Partoowye until some event turned up more favourable to our projects.
So that very day we sallied out on an excursion to the ship which,
lying land-locked far up the bay, yet remained to be visited.
Passing on our route a long, low shed, a voice hailed us--"White men
ahoy!" Turning round, who should we see but a rosy-cheeked Englishman
(you could tell his country at a glance), up to his knees in
shavings, and planing away at a bench. He turned out to be a runaway
ship's carpenter, recently from Tahiti, and now doing a profitable
business in Imeeo, by fitting up the dwellings of opulent chiefs with
cupboards and other conveniences, and once in a while trying his hand
at a lady's work-box. He had been in the settlement but a few months,
and already possessed houses and lands.
But though blessed with prosperity and high health, there was one
thing wanting--a wife. And when he came to speak of the matter, his
countenance fell, and he leaned dejectedly upon his plane.
"It's too bad!" he sighed, "to wait three long years; and all the
while, dear little Lullee living in the same house with that infernal
chief from Tahar!"
Our curiosity was piqued; the poor carpenter, then, had been falling
in love with some island coquette, who was going to jilt him.
But such was not the case. There was a law prohibiting, under a heavy
penalty, the marriage of a native with a foreigner, unless the
latter, after being three years a resident on the island, was willing
to affirm his settled intention of remaining for life.
William was therefore in a sad way. He told us that he might have
married the girl half-a-dozen times, had it not been for this odious
law: but, latterly, she had become less loving and more giddy,
particularly with the strangers from Tahar. Desperately smitten, and
desirous of securing her at all hazards, he had proposed to the
damsel's friends a nice little arrangement, introductory to marriage;
but they would not hear of it; besides, if the pair were discovered
living together upon such a footing, they would be liable to a
degrading punishment:--sent to work making stone walls and opening
roads for the queen.
Doctor Long Ghost was all sympathy. "Bill, my good fellow," said he,
tremulously, "let me go and talk to her." But Bill, declining the
offer, would not even inform us where his charmer lived.
Leaving the disconsolate Willie planing a plank of New Zealand pine
(an importation from the Bay of Islands), and thinking the while of
Lullee, we went on our way. How his suit prospered in the end we
Going from Po-Po's house toward the anchorage of the harbour of Taloo,
you catch no glimpse of the water until, coming out from deep groves,
you all at once find yourself upon the beach. A bay, considered by
many voyagers the most beautiful in the South Seas, then lies before
you. You stand upon one side of what seems a deep green river,
flowing through mountain passes to the sea. Right opposite a majestic
promontory divides the inlet from another, called after its
discoverer, Captain Cook. The face of this promontory toward Taloo
is one verdant wall; and at its base the waters lie still and
fathomless. On the left hand, you just catch a peep of the widening
mouth of the bay, the break in the reef by which ships enter, and,
beyond, the sea. To the right, the inlet, sweeping boldly round the
promontory, runs far away into the land; where, save in one
direction, the hills close in on every side, knee-deep in verdure and
shooting aloft in grotesque peaks. The open space lies at the head of
the bay; in the distance it extends into a broad hazy plain lying at
the foot of an amphitheatre of hills. Here is the large sugar
plantation previously alluded to. Beyond the first range of hills,
you descry the sharp pinnacles of the interior; and among these, the
same silent Marling-spike which we so often admired from the other
side of the island.
All alone in the harbour lay the good ship Leviathan. We jumped into
the canoe, and paddled off to her. Though early in the afternoon,
everything was quiet; but upon mounting the side we found four or
five sailors lounging about the forecastle, under an awning. They
gave us no very cordial reception; and though otherwise quite hearty
in appearance, seemed to assume a look of ill-humour on purpose to
honour our arrival. There was much eagerness to learn whether we
wanted to "ship"; and by the unpleasant accounts they gave of the
vessel, they seemed desirous to prevent such a thing if possible.
We asked where the rest of the ship's company were; a gruff old fellow
made answer, "One boat's crew of 'em is gone to Davy Jones's
locker:--went off after a whale, last cruise, and never come back
agin. All the starboard watch ran away last night, and the skipper's
ashore kitching 'em."
"And it's shipping yer after, my jewels, is it?" cried a curly-pated
little Belfast sailor, coming up to us, "thin arrah! my livelies,
jist be after sailing ashore in a jiffy:--the divil of a skipper will
carry yees both to sea, whether or no. Be off wid ye thin, darlints,
and steer clear of the likes of this ballyhoo of blazes as long as ye
live. They murther us here every day, and starve us into the bargain.
Here, Dick, lad, har! the poor divil's canow alongside; and paddle
away wid yees for dear life."
But we loitered awhile, listening to more inducements to ship; and at
last concluded to stay to supper. My sheath-knife never cut into
better sea-beef than that which we found lying in the kid in the
forecastle. The bread, too, was hard, dry, and brittle as glass; and
there was plenty of both.
While we were below, the mate of the vessel called out for someone to
come on deck. I liked his voice. Hearing it was as good as a look at
his face. It betokened a true sailor, and no taskmaster.
The appearance of the Leviathan herself was quite pleasing. Like all
large, comfortable old whalers, she had a sort of motherly
look:--broad in the beam, flush decks, and four chubby boats hanging
at the breast. Her sails were furled loosely upon the yards, as if
they had been worn long, and fitted easy; her shrouds swung
negligently slack; and as for the "running rigging," it never worked
hard as it does in some of your "dandy ships," jamming in the sheaves
of blocks, like Chinese slippers, too small to be useful: on the
contrary, the ropes ran glibly through, as if they had many a time
travelled the same road, and were used to it.
When evening came, we dropped into our canoe, and paddled ashore;
fully convinced that the good ship never deserved the name which they
A PARTY OF ROVERS--LITTLE LOO AND THE DOCTOR
WHILE IN Partoowye, we fell in with a band of six veteran rovers,
prowling about the village and harbour, who had just come overland
from another part of the island.
A few weeks previous, they had been paid off, at Papeetee, from a
whaling vessel, on board of which they had, six months before,
shipped for a single cruise; that is to say, to be discharged at the
next port. Their cruise was a famous one; and each man stepped upon
the beach at Tahiti jingling his dollars in a sock.
Weary at last of the shore, and having some money left, they clubbed,
and purchased a sail-boat; proposing a visit to a certain uninhabited
island, concerning which they had heard strange and golden stories.
Of course, they never could think of going to sea without a
medicine-chest filled with flasks of spirits, and a small cask of the
same in the hold in case the chest should give out.
Away they sailed; hoisted a flag of their own, and gave three times
three, as they staggered out of the bay of Papeetee with a strong
breeze, and under all the "muslin" they could carry.
Evening coming on, and feeling in high spirits and no ways disposed to
sleep, they concluded to make a night of it; which they did; all
hands getting tipsy, and the two masts going over the side about
midnight, to the tune of
"Sailing down, sailing down, On the coast of Barbaree."
Fortunately, one worthy could stand by holding on to the tiller; and
the rest managed to crawl about, and hack away the lanyards of the
rigging, so as to break clear from the fallen spars. While thus
employed, two sailors got tranquilly over the side, and went plumb to
the bottom, under the erroneous impression that they were stepping
upon an imaginary wharf to get at their work better.
After this, it blew quite a gale; and the commodore, at the helm,
instinctively kept the boat before the wind; and by so doing, ran
over for the opposite island of Imeeo. Crossing the channel, by
almost a miracle they went straight through an opening in the reef,
and shot upon a ledge of coral, where the waters were tolerably
smooth. Here they lay until morning, when the natives came off to
them in their canoes. By the help of the islanders, the schooner was
hove over on her beam-ends; when, finding the bottom knocked to
pieces, the adventurers sold the boat for a trifle to the chief of
the district, and went ashore, rolling before them their precious cask
of spirits. Its contents soon evaporated, and they came to Partoowye.
The day after encountering these fellows, we were strolling among the
groves in the neighbourhood, when we came across several parties of
natives armed with clumsy muskets, rusty cutlasses, and outlandish
clubs. They were beating the bushes, shouting aloud, and apparently
trying to scare somebody. They were in pursuit of the strangers, who,
having in a single night set at nought all the laws of the place, had
thought best to decamp.
In the daytime, Po-Po's house was as pleasant a lounge as one could
wish. So, after strolling about, and seeing all there was to be seen,
we spent the greater part of our mornings there; breakfasting late,
and dining about two hours after noon. Sometimes we lounged on the
floor of ferns, smoking, and telling stories; of which the doctor had
as many as a half-pay captain in the army. Sometimes we chatted, as
well as we could, with the natives; and, one day--joy to us!--Po-Po
brought in three volumes of Smollett's novels, which had been found
in the chest of a sailor, who some time previous had died on the
Amelia!--Peregrine!--you hero of rogues, Count Fathom!--what a debt do
we owe you!
I know not whether it was the reading of these romances, or the want
of some sentimental pastime, which led the doctor, about this period,
to lay siege to the heart of the little Loo.
Now, as I have said before, the daughter of Po-Po was most cruelly
reserved, and never deigned to notice us. Frequently I addressed her
with a long face and an air of the profoundest and most distant
respect--but in vain; she wouldn't even turn up her pretty olive
nose. Ah! it's quite plain, thought I; she knows very well what
graceless dogs sailors are, and won't have anything to do with us.
But thus thought not my comrade. Bent he was upon firing the cold
glitter of Loo's passionless eyes.
He opened the campaign with admirable tact: making cautious
approaches, and content, for three days, with ogling the nymph for
about five minutes after every meal. On the fourth day, he asked her
a question; on the fifth, she dropped a nut of ointment, and he
picked it up and gave it to her; on the sixth, he went over and sat
down within three yards of the couch where she lay; and, on the
memorable morn of the seventh, he proceeded to open his batteries in
The damsel was reclining on the ferns; one hand supporting her cheek,
and the other listlessly turning over the leaves of a Tahitian Bible.
The doctor approached.
Now the chief disadvantage under which he laboured was his almost
complete ignorance of the love vocabulary of the island. But French
counts, they say, make love delightfully in broken English; and what
hindered the doctor from doing the same in dulcet Tahitian. So at it
"Ah!" said he, smiling bewitchingly, "oee mickonaree; oee ready
No answer; not even a look.
"Ah I matai! very goody ready Biblee mickonaree."
Loo, without stirring, began reading, in a low tone, to herself.
"Mickonaree Biblee ready goody maitai," once more observed the doctor,
ingeniously transposing his words for the third time.
But all to no purpose; Loo gave no sign.
He paused, despairingly; but it would never do to give up; so he threw
himself at full length beside her, and audaciously commenced turning
over the leaves.
Loo gave a start, just one little start, barely perceptible, and then,
fumbling something in her hand, lay perfectly motionless; the doctor
rather frightened at his own temerity, and knowing not what to do
next. At last, he placed one arm cautiously about her waist; almost
in the same instant he bounded to his feet, with a cry; the little
witch had pierced him with a thorn. But there she lay, just as
quietly as ever, turning over the leaves, and reading to herself.
My long friend raised the siege incontinently, and made a disorderly
retreat to the place where I reclined, looking on.
I am pretty sure that Loo must have related this occurrence to her
father, who came in shortly afterward; for he looked queerly at the
doctor. But he said nothing; and, in ten minutes, was quite as
affable as ever. As for Loo, there was not the slightest change in
her; and the doctor, of course, for ever afterwards held his peace.
ONE DAY, taking a pensive afternoon stroll along one of the many
bridle-paths which wind among the shady groves in the neighbourhood
of Taloo, I was startled by a sunny apparition. It was that of a
beautiful young Englishwoman, charmingly dressed, and mounted upon a
spirited little white pony. Switching a green branch, she came
cantering toward me.
I looked round to see whether I could possibly be in Polynesia. There
were the palm-trees; but how to account for the lady?
Stepping to one side as the apparition drew near, I made a polite
obeisance. It gave me a bold, rosy look; and then, with a gay air,
patted its palfrey, crying out, "Fly away, Willie!" and galloped
among the trees.
I would have followed; but Willie's heels were making such a pattering
among the dry leaves that pursuit would have been useless.
So I went straight home to Po-Po's, and related my adventure to the
The next day, our inquiries resulted in finding out that the stranger
had been on the island about two years; that she came from Sydney;
and was the wife of Mr. Bell (happy dog!), the proprietor of the
sugar plantation to which I have previously referred.
To the sugar plantation we went, the same day.
The country round about was very beautiful: a level basin of verdure,
surrounded by sloping hillsides. The sugar-cane--of which there was
about one hundred acres, in various stages of cultivation--looked
thrifty. A considerable tract of land, however, which seemed to have
been formerly tilled, was now abandoned.
The place where they extracted the saccharine matter was under an
immense shed of bamboos. Here we saw several clumsy pieces of
machinery for breaking the cane; also great kettles for boiling the
sugar. But, at present, nothing was going on. Two or three natives
were lounging in one of the kettles, smoking; the other was occupied
by three sailors from the Leviathan, playing cards.
While we were conversing with these worthies, a stranger approached.
He was a sun-burnt, romantic-looking European, dressed in a loose
suit of nankeen; his fine throat and chest were exposed, and he
sported a Guayaquil hat with a brim like a Chinese umbrella. This was
Mr. Bell. He was very civil; showed us the grounds, and, taking us
into a sort of arbour, to our surprise, offered to treat us to some
wine. People often do the like; but Mr. Bell did more: he produced
the bottle. It was spicy sherry; and we drank out of the halves of
fresh citron melons. Delectable goblets!
The wine was a purchase from, the French in Tahiti.
Now all this was extremely polite in Mr. Bell; still, we came to see
Mrs. Bell. But she proved to be a phantom, indeed; having left the
same morning for Papeetee, on a visit to one of the missionaries'
I went home, much chagrined.
To be frank, my curiosity had been wonderfully piqued concerning the
lady. In the first place, she was the most beautiful white woman I
ever saw in Polynesia. But this is saying nothing. She had such eyes,
such moss-roses in her cheeks, such a divine air in the saddle, that,
to my dying day, I shall never forget Mrs. Bell.
The sugar-planter himself was young, robust, and handsome. So, merrily
may the little Bells increase, and multiply, and make music in the
Land of Imeeo.
TALOO CHAPEL--HOLDING COURT IN POLYNESIA
IN Partoowye is to be seen one of the best-constructed and handsomest
chapels in the South Seas. Like the buildings of the palace, it
stands upon an artificial pier, presenting a semicircular sweep to
the bay. The chapel is built of hewn blocks of coral; a substance
which, although extremely friable, is said to harden by exposure to
the atmosphere. To a stranger, these blocks look extremely curious.
Their surface is covered with strange fossil-like impressions, the
seal of which must have been set before the flood. Very nearly white
when hewn from the reefs, the coral darkens with age; so that several
churches in Polynesia now look almost as sooty and venerable as famed
In shape, the chapel is an octagon, with galleries all round. It will
seat, perhaps, four hundred people. Everything within is stained a
tawny red; and there being but few windows, or rather embrasures, the
dusky benches and galleries, and the tall spectre of a pulpit look
anything but cheerful.
On Sundays we always went to worship here. Going in the family suite
of Po-Po, we, of course, maintained a most decorous exterior; and
hence, by all the elderly people of the village, were doubtless
regarded as pattern young men.
Po-Po's seat was in a snug corner; and it being particularly snug, in
the immediate vicinity of one of the Palm pillars supporting the
gallery, I invariably leaned against it: Po-Po and his lady on one
side, the doctor and the dandy on the other, and the children and
poor relations seated behind.
As for Loo, instead of sitting (as she ought to have done) by her good
father and mother, she must needs run up into the gallery, and sit
with a parcel of giddy creatures of her own age; who, all through the
sermon, did nothing but look down on the congregation; pointing out,
and giggling at the queer-looking old ladies in dowdy bonnets and
scant tunics. But Loo, herself, was never guilty of these
Occasionally during the week they have afternoon service in the
chapel, when the natives themselves have something to say; although
their auditors are but few. An introductory prayer being offered by
the missionary, and a hymn sung, communicants rise in their places,
and exhort in pure Tahitian, and with wonderful tone and gesture.
And among them all, Deacon Po-Po, though he talked most, was the one
whom you would have liked best to hear. Much would I have given to
have understood some of his impassioned bursts; when he tossed his
arms overhead, stamped, scowled, and glared, till he looked like the
very Angel of Vengeance.
"Deluded man!" sighed the doctor, on one of these occasions, "I fear
he takes the fanatical view of the subject." One thing was certain:
when Po-Po spoke, all listened; a great deal more than could be said
for the rest; for under the discipline of two or three I could
mention, some of the audience napped; others fidgeted; a few yawned;
and one irritable old gentleman, in a nightcap of cocoa-nut leaves,
used to clutch his long staff in a state of excessive nervousness,
and stride out of the church, making all the noise he could, to
emphasize his disgust.
Right adjoining the chapel is an immense, rickety building, with
windows and shutters, and a half-decayed board flooring laid upon
trunks of palm-trees. They called it a school-house; but as such we
never saw it occupied. It was often used as a court-room, however;
and here we attended several trials; among others, that of a decayed
naval officer, and a young girl of fourteen; the latter charged with
having been very naughty on a particular occasion set forth in the
pleadings; and the former with having aided and abetted her in her
naughtiness, and with other misdemeanours.
The foreigner was a tall, military-looking fellow, with a dark cheek
and black whiskers. According to his own account, he had lost a
colonial armed brig on the coast of New Zealand; and since then, had
been leading the life of a man about town among the islands of the
The doctor wanted to know why he did not go home and report the loss
of his brig; but Captain Crash, as they called him, had some
incomprehensible reasons for not doing so, about which he could talk
by the hour, and no one be any the wiser. Probably he was a discreet
man, and thought it best to waive an interview with the lords of the
For some time past, this extremely suspicious character had been
carrying on the illicit trade in French wines and brandies, smuggled
over from the men-of-war lately touching at Tahiti. In a grove near
the anchorage he had a rustic shanty and arbour, where, in quiet
times, when no ships were in Taloo, a stray native once in a while
got boozy, and staggered home, catching at the cocoa-nut trees as he
went. The captain himself lounged under a tree during the warm
afternoons, pipe in mouth; thinking, perhaps, over old times, and
occasionally feeling his shoulders for his lost epaulets.
But, sail ho! a ship is descried coming into the bay. Soon she drops
her anchor in its waters; and the next day Captain Crash entertains
the sailors in his grove. And rare times they have of it:--drinking
and quarrelling together as sociably as you please.
Upon one of these occasions, the crew of the Leviathan made so
prodigious a tumult that the natives, indignant at the insult offered
their laws, plucked up a heart, and made a dash at the rioters, one
hundred strong. The sailors fought like tigers; but were at last
overcome, and carried before a native tribunal; which, after a mighty
clamour, dismissed everybody but Captain Crash, who was asserted to be
the author of the disorders.
Upon this charge, then, he had been placed in confinement against the
coming on of the assizes; the judge being expected to lounge along in
the course of the afternoon. While waiting his Honour's arrival,
numerous additional offences were preferred against the culprit
(mostly by the old women); among others was the bit of a slip in
which he stood implicated along with the young lady. Thus, in
Polynesia as elsewhere;--charge a man with one misdemeanour, and all
his peccadilloes are raked up and assorted before him.
Going to the school-house for the purpose of witnessing the trial, the
din of it assailed our ears a long way off; and upon entering the
building, we were almost stunned. About five hundred natives were
present; each apparently having something to say and determined to
say it. His Honour--a handsome, benevolent-looking old man--sat
cross-legged on a little platform, seemingly resigned, with all
Christian submission, to the uproar. He was an hereditary chief in
this quarter of the island, and judge for life in the district of
There were several cases coming on; but the captain and girl were
first tried together. They were mixing freely with the crowd; and as
it afterwards turned out that everyone--no matter who--had a right to
address the court, for aught we knew they might have been arguing
their own case. At what precise moment the trial began it would he
hard to say. There was no swearing of witnesses, and no regular jury.
Now and then somebody leaped up and shouted out something which might
have been evidence; the rest, meanwhile, keeping up an incessant
jabbering. Presently the old judge himself began to get excited; and
springing to his feet, ran in among the crowd, wagging his tongue as
hard as anybody.
The tumult lasted about twenty minutes; and toward the end of it,
Captain Crash might have been seen, tranquilly regarding, from his
Honour's platform, the judicial uproar, in which his fate was about
The result of all this was that both he and the girl were found
guilty. The latter was adjudged to make six mats for the queen; and
the former, in consideration of his manifold offences, being deemed
incorrigible, was sentenced to eternal banishment from the island.
Both these decrees seemed to originate in the general hubbub. His
Honour, however, appeared to have considerable authority, and it was
quite plain that the decision received his approval.
The above penalties were by no means indiscriminately inflicted. The
missionaries have prepared a sort of penal tariff to facilitate
judicial proceedings. It costs so many days' labour on the Broom Road
to indulge in the pleasures of the calabash; so many fathoms of stone
wall to steal a musket; and so on to the end of the catalogue. The
judge being provided with a book in which all these matters are
cunningly arranged, the thing is vastly convenient. For instance: a
crime is proved,--say bigamy; turn to letter B--and there you have
it. Bigamy:--forty days on the Broom Road, and twenty mats for the
queen. Read the passage aloud, and sentence is pronounced.
After taking part in the first trial, the other delinquents present
were put upon their own; in which, also, the convicted culprits
seemed to have quite as much to say as the rest. A rather strange
proceeding; but strictly in accordance with the glorious English
principle, that every man should be tried by his peers. They were all
IT is well to learn something about people before being introduced to
them, and so we will here give some account of Pomaree and her
Every reader of Cook's Voyages must remember "Otto," who, in that
navigator's time, was king of the larger peninsula of Tahiti.
Subsequently, assisted by the muskets of the Bounty's men, he
extended his rule over the entire island. This Otto, before his
death, had his name changed into Pomaree, which has ever since been
the royal patronymic.
He was succeeded by his son, Pomaree II., the most famous prince in
the annals of Tahiti. Though a sad debauchee and drunkard, and even
charged with unnatural crimes, he was a great friend of the
missionaries, and one of their very first proselytes. During the
religious wars into which he was hurried by his zeal for the new
faith, he was defeated and expelled from the island. After a short
exile he returned from Imeeo, with an army of eight hundred warriors,
and in the battle of Narii routed the rebellious pagans with great
slaughter, and reestablished himself upon the throne. Thus, by force
of arms, was Christianity finally triumphant in Tahiti.
Pomaree II., dying in 1821, was succeeded by his infant son, under the
title of Pomaree III. This young prince survived his father but six
years; and the government then descended to his elder sister, Aimata,
the present queen, who is commonly called Pomaree Vahinee I., or the
first female Pomaree. Her majesty must be now upwards of thirty years
of age. She has been twice married. Her first husband was a son of
the old King of Tahar, an island about one hundred miles from Tahiti.
This proving an unhappy alliance, the pair were soon afterwards
divorced. The present husband of the queen is a chief of Imeeo.
The reputation of Pomaree is not what it ought to be. She, and also
her mother, were, for a long time, excommunicated members of the
Church; and the former, I believe, still is. Among other things, her
conjugal fidelity is far from being unquestioned. Indeed, it was upon
this ground chiefly that she was excluded from the communion of the
Previous to her misfortunes she spent the greater portion of her time
sailing about from one island to another, attended by a licentious
court; and wherever she went all manner of games and festivities
celebrated her arrival.
She was always given to display. For several years the maintenance of
a regiment of household troops drew largely upon the royal exchequer.
They were trouserless fellows, in a uniform of calico shirts and
pasteboard hats; armed with muskets of all shapes and calibres, and
commanded by a great noisy chief, strutting it in a coat of fiery
red. These heroes escorted their mistress whenever she went abroad.
Some time ago, the queen received from her English sister, Victoria, a
very showy, though uneasy, head-dress--a crown; probably made to
order at some tinman's in London. Having no idea of reserving so
pretty a bauble for coronation days, which come so seldom, her
majesty sported it whenever she appeared in public; and, to show her
familiarity with European customs, politely touched it to all
foreigners of distinction--whaling captains, and the like--whom she
happened to meet in her evening walk on the Broom Road.
The arrival and departure of royalty were always announced at the
palace by the court artilleryman--a fat old gentleman who, in a
prodigious hurry and perspiration, discharged minute fowling-pieces
as fast as he could load and fire the same.
The Tahitian princess leads her husband a hard life. Poor fellow! he
not only caught a queen, but a Tartar, when he married her. The style
by which he is addressed is rather significant--"Pomaree-Tanee"
(Pomaree's man). All things considered, as appropriate a title for a
king-consort as could be hit upon.
If ever there were a henpecked husband, that man is the prince. One
day, his carasposa giving audience to a deputation from the captains
of the vessels lying in Papeetee, he ventured to make a suggestion
which was very displeasing to her. She turned round and, boxing his
ears, told him to go over to his beggarly island of Imeeo if he
wanted to give himself airs.
Cuffed and contemned, poor Tanee flies to the bottle, or rather to the
calabash, for solace. Like his wife and mistress, he drinks more than
Six or seven years ago, when an American man-of-war was lying at
Papeetee, the town was thrown into the greatest commotion by a
conjugal assault and battery made upon the sacred person of Pomaree
by her intoxicated Tanee.
Captain Bob once told me the story. And by way of throwing more spirit
into the description, as well as to make up for his oral
deficiencies, the old man went through the accompanying action:
myself being proxy for the Queen of Tahiti.
It seems that, on a Sunday morning, being dismissed contemptuously
from the royal presence, Tanee was accosted by certain good fellows,
friends and boon companions, who condoled with him on his
misfortunes--railed against the queen, and finally dragged him away
to an illicit vendor of spirits, in whose house the party got
gloriously mellow. In this state, Pomaree Vahinee I. was the topic
upon which all dilated--"A vixen of a queen," probably suggested one.
"It's infamous," said another; "and I'd have satisfaction," cried a
third. "And so I will!"--Tanee must have hiccoughed; for off he went;
and ascertaining that his royal half was out riding, he mounted his
horse and galloped after her.
Near the outskirts of the town, a cavalcade of women came cantering
toward him, in the centre of which was the object of his fury.
Smiting his beast right and left, he dashed in among them, completely
overturning one of the party, leaving her on the field, and
dispersing everybody else except Pomaree. Backing her horse
dexterously, the incensed queen heaped upon him every scandalous
epithet she could think of; until at last the enraged Tanee leaped
out of his saddle, caught Pomaree by her dress, and dragging her to
the earth struck her repeatedly in the face, holding on meanwhile by
the hair of her head. He was proceeding to strangle her on the spot,
when the cries of the frightened attendants brought a crowd of natives
to the rescue, who bore the nearly insensible queen away.
But his frantic rage was not yet sated. He ran to the palace; and
before it could be prevented, demolished a valuable supply of
crockery, a recent present from abroad. In the act of perpetrating
some other atrocity, he was seized from behind, and carried off with
rolling eyes and foaming at the mouth.
This is a fair example of a Tahitian in a passion. Though the mildest
of mortals in general, and hard to be roused, when once fairly up, he
is possessed with a thousand devils.
The day following, Tanee was privately paddled over to Imeeo in a
canoe; where, after remaining in banishment for a couple of weeks, he
was allowed to return, and once more give in his domestic adhesion.
Though Pomaree Vahinee I. be something of a Jezebel in private life,
in her public rule she is said to have been quite lenient and
forbearing. This was her true policy; for an hereditary hostility to
her family had always lurked in the hearts of many powerful chiefs,
the descendants of the old Kings of Taiarboo, dethroned by her
grandfather Otoo. Chief among these, and in fact the leader of his
party, was Poofai; a bold, able man, who made no secret of his enmity
to the missionaries, and the government which they controlled. But
while events were occurring calculated to favour the hopes of the
disaffected and turbulent, the arrival of the French gave a most
unexpected turn to affairs.
During my sojourn in Tahiti, a report was rife--which I knew to
originate with what is generally called the "missionary party"--that
Poofai and some other chiefs of note had actually agreed, for a
stipulated bribe, to acquiesce in the appropriation of their country.
But subsequent events have rebutted the calumny. Several of these
very men have recently died in battle against the French.
Under the sovereignty of the Pomarees, the great chiefs of Tahiti were
something like the barons of King John. Holding feudal sway over
their patrimonial valleys, and on account of their descent, warmly
beloved by the people, they frequently cut off the royal revenues by
refusing to pay the customary tribute due from them as vassals.
The truth is, that with the ascendancy of the missionaries, the regal
office in Tahiti lost much of its dignity and influence. In the days
of Paganism, it was supported by all the power of a numerous
priesthood, and was solemnly connected with the entire superstitious
idolatry of the land. The monarch claimed to be a sort of bye-blow of
Tararroa, the Saturn of the Polynesian mythology, and cousin-german to
inferior deities. His person was thrice holy; if he entered an
ordinary dwelling, never mind for how short a time, it was demolished
when he left; no common mortal being thought worthy to inhabit it
"I'm a greater man than King George," said the incorrigible young Otoo
to the first missionaries; "he rides on a horse, and I on a man."
Such was the case. He travelled post through his dominions on the
shoulders of his subjects; and relays of mortal beings were provided
in all the valleys.
But alas! how times have changed; how transient human greatness. Some
years since, Pomaree Vahinee I., the granddaughter of the proud Otoo,
went into the laundry business; publicly soliciting, by her agents,
the washing of the linen belonging to the officers of ships touching
in her harbours.
It is a significant fact, and one worthy of record, that while the
influence of the English missionaries at Tahiti has tended to so
great a diminution of the regal dignity there, that of the American
missionaries at the Sandwich Islands has been purposely exerted to
bring about a contrary result.
WE VISIT THE COURT
IT WAS about the middle of the second month of the Hegira, and
therefore some five weeks after our arrival in Partoowye, that we at
last obtained admittance to the residence of the queen.
It happened thus. There was a Marquesan in the train of Pomaree who
officiated as nurse to her children. According to the Tahitian
custom, the royal youngsters are carried about until it requires no
small degree of strength to stand up under them. But Marbonna was
just the man for this--large and muscular, well made as a statue, and
with an arm like a degenerate Tahitian's thigh.
Embarking at his native island as a sailor on board of a French
whaler, he afterward ran away from the ship at Tahiti; where, being
seen and admired by Pomaree, he had been prevailed upon to enlist in
Often, when visiting the grounds, we saw him walking about in the
shade, carrying two handsome boys, who encircled his neck with their
arms. Marbonna's face, tattooed as it was in the ornate style of his
tribe, was as good as a picture-book to these young Pomarees. They
delighted to trace with their fingers the outlines of the strange
shapes there delineated.
The first time my eyes lighted upon the Marquesan, I knew his country
in a moment; and hailing him in his own language, he turned round,
surprised that a person so speaking should be a stranger. He proved
to be a native of Tior, a glen of Nukuheva. I had visited the place
more than once; and so, on the island of Imeeo, we met like old
In my frequent conversations with him over the bamboo picket, I found
this islander a philosopher of nature--a wild heathen, moralizing
upon the vices and follies of the Christian court of Tahiti--a
savage, scorning the degeneracy of the people among whom fortune had
I was amazed at the national feelings of the man. No European, when
abroad, could speak of his country with more pride than Marbonna. He
assured me, again and again, that so soon as he had obtained
sufficient money to purchase twenty muskets, and as many bags of
powder, he was going to return to a place with which Imeeo was not
worthy to be compared.
It was Marbonna who, after one or two unsuccessful attempts, at last
brought about our admission into the queen's grounds. Through a
considerable crowd he conducted us along the pier to where an old man
was sitting, to whom he introduced us as a couple of "karhowrees" of
his acquaintance, anxious to see the sights of the palace. The
venerable chamberlain stared at us, and shook his head: the doctor,
thinking he wanted a fee, placed a plug of tobacco in his hand. This
was ingratiating, and we were permitted to pass on. Upon the point of
entering one of the houses, Marbonna's name was shouted in
half-a-dozen different directions, and he was obliged to withdraw.
Thus left at the very threshold to shift for ourselves, my companion's
assurance stood us in good stead. He stalked right in, and I
followed. The place was full of women, who, instead of exhibiting the
surprise we expected, accosted us as cordially as if we had called to
take our Souchong with them by express invitation. In the first
place, nothing would do but we must each devour a calabash of "poee,"
and several roasted bananas. Pipes were then lighted, and a brisk
These ladies of the court, if not very polished, were surprisingly
free and easy in their manners; quite as much so as King Charles's
beauties. There was one of them--an arch little miss, who could
converse with us pretty fluently--to whom we strove to make ourselves
particularly agreeable, with the view of engaging her services as
As such, she turned out to be everything we could desire. No one
disputing her will, every place was entered without ceremony,
curtains brushed aside, mats lifted, and each nook and corner
explored. Whether the little damsel carried her mistress' signet,
that everything opened to her thus, I know not; but Marbonna himself,
the bearer of infants, could not have been half so serviceable.
Among other houses which we visited, was one of large size and fine
exterior; the special residence of a European--formerly the mate of a
merchant vessel,--who had done himself the honour of marrying into
the Pomaree family. The lady he wedded being a near kinswoman of the
queen, he became a permanent member of her majesty's household. This
adventurer rose late, dressed theatrically in calico and trinkets,
assumed a dictatorial tone in conversation, and was evidently upon
excellent terms with himself.
We found him reclining on a mat, smoking a reed-pipe of tobacco, in
the midst of an admiring circle of chiefs and ladies. He must have
noticed our approach; but instead of rising and offering civilities,
he went on talking and smoking, without even condescending to look at
"His Highness feels his 'poee,'" carelessly observed the doctor. The
rest of the company gave us the ordinary salutation, our guide
announcing us beforehand.
In answer to our earnest requests to see the queen, we were now
conducted to an edifice, by far the most spacious, in the inclosure.
It was at least one hundred and fifty feet in length, very wide, with
low eaves, and an exceedingly steep roof of pandannas leaves. There
were neither doors nor windows--nothing along the sides but the
slight posts supporting the rafters. Between these posts, curtains of
fine matting and tappa were rustling, all round; some of them were
festooned, or partly withdrawn, so as to admit light and air, and
afford a glimpse now and then of what was going on within.
Pushing aside one of the screens, we entered. The apartment was one
immense hall; the long and lofty ridge-pole fluttering with fringed
matting and tassels, full forty feet from the ground. Lounges of
mats, piled one upon another, extended on either side: while here
and there were slight screens, forming as many recesses, where groups
of natives--all females--were reclining at their evening meal.
As we advanced, these various parties ceased their buzzing, and in
explanation of our appearance among them, listened to a few
cabalistic words from our guide.
The whole scene was a strange one; but what most excited our surprise
was the incongruous assemblage of the most costly objects from all
quarters of the globe. Cheek by jowl, they lay beside the rudest
native articles, without the slightest attempt at order. Superb
writing-desks of rosewood, inlaid with silver and mother-of-pearl;
decanters and goblets of cut glass; embossed volumes of plates; gilded
candelabra; sets of globes and mathematical instruments; the finest
porcelain; richly-mounted sabres and fowling-pieces; laced hats and
sumptuous garments of all sorts, with numerous other matters of
European manufacture, were strewn about among greasy calabashes
half-filled with "poee," rolls of old tappa and matting, paddles and
fish-spears, and the ordinary furniture of a Tahitian dwelling.
All the articles first mentioned were, doubtless, presents from
foreign powers. They were more or less injured: the fowling-pieces
and swords were rusted; the finest woods were scratched; and a folio
volume of Hogarth lay open, with a cocoa-nut shell of some musty
preparation capsized among the miscellaneous furniture of the Rake's
apartment, where that inconsiderate young gentleman is being measured
for a coat.
While we were amusing ourselves in this museum of curiosities, our
conductor plucked us by the sleeve, and whispered, "Pomaree! Pomaree!
armai kow kow."
"She is coming to sup, then," said the doctor, staring in the
direction indicated. "What say you, Paul, suppose we step up?" Just
then a curtain near by lifted, and from a private building a few
yards distant the queen entered, unattended.
She wore a loose gown of blue silk, with two rich shawls, one red and
the other yellow, tied about her neck. Her royal majesty was
She was about the ordinary size, rather matronly; her features not
very handsome; her mouth, voluptuous; but there was a care-worn
expression in her face, probably attributable to her late
misfortunes. From her appearance, one would judge her about forty;
but she is not so old.
As the queen approached one of the recesses, her attendants hurried
up, escorted her in, and smoothed the mats on which she at last
reclined. Two girls soon appeared, carrying their mistress' repast;
and then, surrounded by cut-glass and porcelain, and jars of
sweetmeats and confections, Pomaree Vahinee I., the titular Queen of
Tahiti, ate fish and "poee" out of her native calabashes, disdaining
either knife or spoon.
"Come on," whispered Long Ghost, "let's have an audience at once;" and
he was on the point of introducing himself, when our guide, quite
alarmed, held him back and implored silence. The other natives also
interfered, and, as he was pressing forward, raised such an outcry
that Pomaree lifted her eyes and saw us for the first.
She seemed surprised and offended, and, issuing an order in a
commanding tone to several of her women, waved us out of the house.
Summary as the dismissal was, court etiquette, no doubt, required our
compliance. We withdrew; making a profound inclination as we
disappeared behind the tappa arras.
We departed the ground without seeing Marbonna; and previous to
vaulting over the picket, feed our pretty guide after a fashion of
our own. Looking round a few moments after, we saw the damsel
escorted back by two men, who seemed to have been sent after her. I
trust she received nothing more than a reprimand.
The next day Po-Po informed us that strict orders had been issued to
admit no strangers within the palace precincts.
WHICH ENDS THE BOOK
DISAPPOINTED in going to court, we determined upon going to sea. It
would never do, longer to trespass on Po-Po's hospitality; and then,
weary somewhat of life in Imeeo, like all sailors ashore, I at last
pined for the billows.
Now, if her crew were to be credited, the Leviathan was not the craft
to our mind. But I had seen the captain, and liked him. He was an
uncommonly tall, robust, fine-looking man, in the prime of life.
There was a deep crimson spot in the middle of each sunburnt cheek,
doubtless the effect of his sea-potations. He was a Vineyarder, or
native of the island of Martha's Vineyard (adjoining Nantucket), and
--I would have sworn it--a sailor, and no tyrant.
Previous to this, we had rather avoided the Leviathan's men, when they
came ashore; but now, we purposely threw ourselves in their way, in
order to learn more of the vessel.
We became acquainted with the third mate, a Prussian, and an old
merchant-seaman--a right jolly fellow, with a face like a ruby. We
took him to Po-Po's, and gave him a dinner of baked pig and
breadfruit; with pipes and tobacco for dessert. The account he gave
us of the ship agreed with my own surmises. A cosier old craft never
floated; and the captain was the finest man in the world. There was
plenty to eat, too; and, at sea, nothing to do but sit on the windlass
and sail. The only bad trait about the vessel was this: she had been
launched under some baleful star; and so was a luckless ship in the
fishery. She dropped her boats into the brine often enough, and they
frequently got fast to the whales; but lance and harpoon almost
invariably "drew" when darted by the men of the Leviathan. But what of
that? We would have all the sport of chasing the monsters, with none
of the detestable work which follows their capture. So, hurrah for
the coast of Japan! Thither the ship was bound.
A word now about the hard stories we heard the first time we visited
the ship. They were nothing but idle fictions, got up by the sailors
for the purpose of frightening us away, so as to oblige the captain,
who was in want of more hands, to lie the longer in a pleasant
The next time the Vineyarder came ashore, we flung ourselves in his
path. When informed of our desire to sail with him, he wanted to know
our history; and, above all, what countrymen we were. We said that we
had left a whaler in Tahiti, some time previous; and, since then, had
been--in the most praiseworthy manner--employed upon a plantation. As
for our country, sailors belong to no nation in particular; we were,
on this occasion, both Yankees. Upon this he looked decidedly
incredulous; and freely told us that he verily believed we were both
Be it known here that American sea captains, in the Pacific, are
mortally afraid of these Sydney gentry; who, to tell the truth,
wherever known, are in excessively bad odour. Is there a mutiny on
board a ship in the South Seas, ten to one a Sydney man is the
ringleader. Ashore, these fellows are equally riotous.
It was on this account that we were anxious to conceal the fact of our
having belonged to the Julia, though it annoyed me much, thus to deny
the dashing little craft. For the same reason, also, the doctor
fibbed about his birthplace.
Unfortunately, one part of our raiment--Arfretee's blue frocks--we
deemed a sort of collateral evidence against us. For, curiously
enough, an American sailor is generally distinguished by his red
frock; and an English tar by his blue one: thus reversing the
national colours. The circumstance was pointed out by the captain; and
we quickly explained the anomaly. But, in vain: he seemed
inveterately prejudiced against us; and, in particular, eyed the
doctor most distrustfully.
By way of propping the tatter's pretensions, I was throwing out a hint
concerning Kentucky, as a land of tall men, when our Vine-yarder
turned away abruptly, and desired to hear nothing more. It was
evident that he took Long Ghost for an exceedingly problematical
Perceiving this, I resolved to see what a private interview would do.
So, one afternoon, I found the captain smoking a pipe in the dwelling
of a portly old native--one Mai-Mai--who, for a reasonable
compensation, did the honours of Partoowye to illustrious strangers.
His guest had just risen from a sumptuous meal of baked pig and taro
pudding; and the remnants of the repast were still visible. Two
reeking bottles, also, with their necks wrenched off, lay upon the
mat. All this was encouraging; for, after a good dinner, one feels
affluent and amiable, and peculiarly open to conviction. So, at all
events, I found the noble Vineyarder.
I began by saying that I called for the purpose of setting him right
touching certain opinions of his concerning the place of my
nativity:--I was an American--thank heaven!--and wanted to convince
him of the fact.
After looking me in the eye for some time, and, by so doing, revealing
an obvious unsteadiness in his own visual organs, he begged me to
reach forth my arm. I did so; wondering what upon earth that useful
member had to do with the matter in hand.
He placed his fingers upon my wrist; and holding them there for a
moment, sprang to his feet, and, with much enthusiasm, pronounced me
a Yankee, every beat of my pulse!
"Here, Mai-Mai!" he cried, "another bottle!" And, when it came, with
one stroke of a knife, he summarily beheaded it, and commanded me to
drain it to the bottom. He then told me that if I would come on board
his vessel the following morning, I would find the ship's articles on
the cabin transom.
This was getting along famously. But what was to become of the
I forthwith made an adroit allusion to my long friend. But it was
worse than useless. The Vineyarder swore he would have nothing to do
with him--he (my long friend) was a "bird" from Sydney, and nothing
would make him (the man of little faith) believe otherwise.
I could not help loving the free-hearted captain; but indignant at
this most unaccountable prejudice against my comrade, I abruptly took
Upon informing the doctor of the result of the interview, he was
greatly amused; and laughingly declared that the Vineyarder must be a
penetrating fellow. He then insisted upon my going to sea in the
ship, since he well knew how anxious I was to leave. As for himself,
on second thoughts, he was no sailor; and although "lands--' men"
very often compose part of a whaler's crew, he did not quite relish
the idea of occupying a position so humble. In short, he had made up
his mind to tarry awhile in Imeeo.
I turned the matter over: and at last decided upon quitting the
island. The impulse urging me to sea once more, and the prospect of
eventually reaching home, were too much to be resisted; especially as
the Leviathan, so comfortable a craft, was now bound on her last
whaling cruise, and, in little more than a year's time, would be
going round Cape Horn.
I did not, however, covenant to remain in the vessel for the residue
of the voyage; which would have been needlessly binding myself. I
merely stipulated for the coming cruise, leaving my subsequent
movements unrestrained; for there was no knowing that I might not
change my mind, and prefer journeying home by short and easy stages.
The next day I paddled off to the ship, signed and sealed, and stepped
ashore with my "advance"--fifteen Spanish dollars--tasseling the ends
of my neck-handkerchief.
I forced half of the silver on Long Ghost; and having little use for
the remainder, would have given it to Po-Po as some small return for
his kindness; but, although he well knew the value of the coin, not a
dollar would he accept.
In three days' time the Prussian came to Po-Po's, and told us that the
captain, having made good the number of his crew by shipping several
islanders, had determined upon sailing with the land breeze at dawn
the following morning. These tidings were received in the afternoon.
The doctor immediately disappeared, returning soon after with a
couple of flasks of wine concealed in the folds of his frock. Through
the agency of the Marquesan, he had purchased them from an
understrapper of the court.
I prevailed upon Po-Po to drink a parting shell; and even little Loo,
actually looking conscious that one of her hopeless admirers was
about leaving Partoowye for ever, sipped a few drops from a folded
leaf. As for the warm-hearted Arfretee, her grief was unbounded. She
even besought me to spend my last night under her own palm-thatch;
and then, in the morning, she would herself paddle me off to the
But this I would not consent to; and so, as something to remember her
by, she presented me with a roll of fine matting, and another of
tappa. These gifts placed in my hammock, I afterward found very
agreeable in the warm latitudes to which we were bound; nor did they
fail to awaken most grateful remembrances.
About nightfall, we broke away from this generous-hearted household,
and hurried down to the water.
It was a mad, merry night among the sailors; they had on tap a small
cask of wine, procured in the same way as the doctor's flasks.
An hour or two after midnight, everything was noiseless; but when the
first streak of the dawn showed itself over the mountains, a sharp
voice hailed the forecastle, and ordered the ship unmoored.
The anchors came up cheerily; the sails were soon set; and with the
early breath of the tropical morning, fresh and fragrant from the
hillsides, we slowly glided down the bay, and were swept through the
opening in the reef. Presently we "hove to," and the canoes came
alongside to take off the islanders who had accompanied us thus far.
As he stepped over the side, I shook the doctor long and heartily by
the hand. I have never seen or heard of him since.
Crowding all sail, we braced the yards square; and, the breeze
freshening, bowled straight away from the land. Once more the
sailor's cradle rocked under me, and I found myself rolling in my
By noon, the island had gone down in the horizon; and all before us
was the wide Pacific.
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