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In the South Seas by Robert Louis Stevenson

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Transcribed from the 1908 Chatto & Windus edition by David Price,
email ccx074@coventry.ac.uk




For nearly ten years my health had been declining; and for some
while before I set forth upon my voyage, I believed I was come to
the afterpiece of life, and had only the nurse and undertaker to
expect. It was suggested that I should try the South Seas; and I
was not unwilling to visit like a ghost, and be carried like a
bale, among scenes that had attracted me in youth and health. I
chartered accordingly Dr. Merrit's schooner yacht, the Casco,
seventy-four tons register; sailed from San Francisco towards the
end of June 1888, visited the eastern islands, and was left early
the next year at Honolulu. Hence, lacking courage to return to my
old life of the house and sick-room, I set forth to leeward in a
trading schooner, the Equator, of a little over seventy tons, spent
four months among the atolls (low coral islands) of the Gilbert
group, and reached Samoa towards the close of '89. By that time
gratitude and habit were beginning to attach me to the islands; I
had gained a competency of strength; I had made friends; I had
learned new interests; the time of my voyages had passed like days
in fairyland; and I decided to remain. I began to prepare these
pages at sea, on a third cruise, in the trading steamer Janet
Nicoll. If more days are granted me, they shall be passed where I
have found life most pleasant and man most interesting; the axes of
my black boys are already clearing the foundations of my future
house; and I must learn to address readers from the uttermost parts
of the sea.

That I should thus have reversed the verdict of Lord Tennyson's
hero is less eccentric than appears. Few men who come to the
islands leave them; they grow grey where they alighted; the palm
shades and the trade-wind fans them till they die, perhaps
cherishing to the last the fancy of a visit home, which is rarely
made, more rarely enjoyed, and yet more rarely repeated. No part
of the world exerts the same attractive power upon the visitor, and
the task before me is to communicate to fireside travellers some
sense of its seduction, and to describe the life, at sea and
ashore, of many hundred thousand persons, some of our own blood and
language, all our contemporaries, and yet as remote in thought and
habit as Rob Roy or Barbarossa, the Apostles or the Caesars.

The first experience can never be repeated. The first love, the
first sunrise, the first South Sea island, are memories apart and
touched a virginity of sense. On the 28th of July 1888 the moon
was an hour down by four in the morning. In the east a radiating
centre of brightness told of the day; and beneath, on the skyline,
the morning bank was already building, black as ink. We have all
read of the swiftness of the day's coming and departure in low
latitudes; it is a point on which the scientific and sentimental
tourist are at one, and has inspired some tasteful poetry. The
period certainly varies with the season; but here is one case
exactly noted. Although the dawn was thus preparing by four, the
sun was not up till six; and it was half-past five before we could
distinguish our expected islands from the clouds on the horizon.
Eight degrees south, and the day two hours a-coming. The interval
was passed on deck in the silence of expectation, the customary
thrill of landfall heightened by the strangeness of the shores that
we were then approaching. Slowly they took shape in the
attenuating darkness. Ua-huna, piling up to a truncated summit,
appeared the first upon the starboard bow; almost abeam arose our
destination, Nuka-hiva, whelmed in cloud; and betwixt and to the
southward, the first rays of the sun displayed the needles of Ua-
pu. These pricked about the line of the horizon; like the
pinnacles of some ornate and monstrous church, they stood there, in
the sparkling brightness of the morning, the fit signboard of a
world of wonders.

Not one soul aboard the Casco had set foot upon the islands, or
knew, except by accident, one word of any of the island tongues;
and it was with something perhaps of the same anxious pleasure as
thrilled the bosom of discoverers that we drew near these
problematic shores. The land heaved up in peaks and rising vales;
it fell in cliffs and buttresses; its colour ran through fifty
modulations in a scale of pearl and rose and olive; and it was
crowned above by opalescent clouds. The suffusion of vague hues
deceived the eye; the shadows of clouds were confounded with the
articulations of the mountains; and the isle and its unsubstantial
canopy rose and shimmered before us like a single mass. There was
no beacon, no smoke of towns to be expected, no plying pilot.
Somewhere, in that pale phantasmagoria of cliff and cloud, our
haven lay concealed; and somewhere to the east of it--the only sea-
mark given--a certain headland, known indifferently as Cape Adam
and Eve, or Cape Jack and Jane, and distinguished by two colossal
figures, the gross statuary of nature. These we were to find; for
these we craned and stared, focused glasses, and wrangled over
charts; and the sun was overhead and the land close ahead before we
found them. To a ship approaching, like the Casco, from the north,
they proved indeed the least conspicuous features of a striking
coast; the surf flying high above its base; strange, austere, and
feathered mountains rising behind; and Jack and Jane, or Adam and
Eve, impending like a pair of warts above the breakers.

Thence we bore away along shore. On our port beam we might hear
the explosions of the surf; a few birds flew fishing under the
prow; there was no other sound or mark of life, whether of man or
beast, in all that quarter of the island. Winged by her own
impetus and the dying breeze, the Casco skimmed under cliffs,
opened out a cove, showed us a beach and some green trees, and
flitted by again, bowing to the swell. The trees, from our
distance, might have been hazel; the beach might have been in
Europe; the mountain forms behind modelled in little from the Alps,
and the forest which clustered on their ramparts a growth no more
considerable than our Scottish heath. Again the cliff yawned, but
now with a deeper entry; and the Casco, hauling her wind, began to
slide into the bay of Anaho. The cocoa-palm, that giraffe of
vegetables, so graceful, so ungainly, to the European eye so
foreign, was to be seen crowding on the beach, and climbing and
fringing the steep sides of mountains. Rude and bare hills
embraced the inlet upon either hand; it was enclosed to the
landward by a bulk of shattered mountains. In every crevice of
that barrier the forest harboured, roosting and nestling there like
birds about a ruin; and far above, it greened and roughened the
razor edges of the summit.

Under the eastern shore, our schooner, now bereft of any breeze,
continued to creep in: the smart creature, when once under way,
appearing motive in herself. From close aboard arose the bleating
of young lambs; a bird sang in the hillside; the scent of the land
and of a hundred fruits or flowers flowed forth to meet us; and,
presently, a house or two appeared, standing high upon the ankles
of the hills, and one of these surrounded with what seemed a
garden. These conspicuous habitations, that patch of culture, had
we but known it, were a mark of the passage of whites; and we might
have approached a hundred islands and not found their parallel. It
was longer ere we spied the native village, standing (in the
universal fashion) close upon a curve of beach, close under a grove
of palms; the sea in front growling and whitening on a concave arc
of reef. For the cocoa-tree and the island man are both lovers and
neighbours of the surf. 'The coral waxes, the palm grows, but man
departs,' says the sad Tahitian proverb; but they are all three, so
long as they endure, co-haunters of the beach. The mark of
anchorage was a blow-hole in the rocks, near the south-easterly
corner of the bay. Punctually to our use, the blow-hole spouted;
the schooner turned upon her heel; the anchor plunged. It was a
small sound, a great event; my soul went down with these moorings
whence no windlass may extract nor any diver fish it up; and I, and
some part of my ship's company, were from that hour the bondslaves
of the isles of Vivien.

Before yet the anchor plunged a canoe was already paddling from the
hamlet. It contained two men: one white, one brown and tattooed
across the face with bands of blue, both in immaculate white
European clothes: the resident trader, Mr. Regler, and the native
chief, Taipi-Kikino. 'Captain, is it permitted to come on board?'
were the first words we heard among the islands. Canoe followed
canoe till the ship swarmed with stalwart, six-foot men in every
stage of undress; some in a shirt, some in a loin-cloth, one in a
handkerchief imperfectly adjusted; some, and these the more
considerable, tattooed from head to foot in awful patterns; some
barbarous and knived; one, who sticks in my memory as something
bestial, squatting on his hams in a canoe, sucking an orange and
spitting it out again to alternate sides with ape-like vivacity--
all talking, and we could not understand one word; all trying to
trade with us who had no thought of trading, or offering us island
curios at prices palpably absurd. There was no word of welcome; no
show of civility; no hand extended save that of the chief and Mr.
Regler. As we still continued to refuse the proffered articles,
complaint ran high and rude; and one, the jester of the party,
railed upon our meanness amid jeering laughter. Amongst other
angry pleasantries--'Here is a mighty fine ship,' said he, 'to have
no money on board!' I own I was inspired with sensible repugnance;
even with alarm. The ship was manifestly in their power; we had
women on board; I knew nothing of my guests beyond the fact that
they were cannibals; the Directory (my only guide) was full of
timid cautions; and as for the trader, whose presence might else
have reassured me, were not whites in the Pacific the usual
instigators and accomplices of native outrage? When he reads this
confession, our kind friend, Mr. Regler, can afford to smile.

Later in the day, as I sat writing up my journal, the cabin was
filled from end to end with Marquesans: three brown-skinned
generations, squatted cross-legged upon the floor, and regarding me
in silence with embarrassing eyes. The eyes of all Polynesians are
large, luminous, and melting; they are like the eyes of animals and
some Italians. A kind of despair came over me, to sit there
helpless under all these staring orbs, and be thus blocked in a
corner of my cabin by this speechless crowd: and a kind of rage to
think they were beyond the reach of articulate communication, like
furred animals, or folk born deaf, or the dwellers of some alien

To cross the Channel is, for a boy of twelve, to change heavens; to
cross the Atlantic, for a man of twenty-four, is hardly to modify
his diet. But I was now escaped out of the shadow of the Roman
empire, under whose toppling monuments we were all cradled, whose
laws and letters are on every hand of us, constraining and
preventing. I was now to see what men might be whose fathers had
never studied Virgil, had never been conquered by Caesar, and never
been ruled by the wisdom of Gaius or Papinian. By the same step I
had journeyed forth out of that comfortable zone of kindred
languages, where the curse of Babel is so easy to be remedied; and
my new fellow-creatures sat before me dumb like images. Methought,
in my travels, all human relation was to be excluded; and when I
returned home (for in those days I still projected my return) I
should have but dipped into a picture-book without a text. Nay,
and I even questioned if my travels should be much prolonged;
perhaps they were destined to a speedy end; perhaps my subsequent
friend, Kauanui, whom I remarked there, sitting silent with the
rest, for a man of some authority, might leap from his hams with an
ear-splitting signal, the ship be carried at a rush, and the ship's
company butchered for the table.

There could be nothing more natural than these apprehensions, nor
anything more groundless. In my experience of the islands, I had
never again so menacing a reception; were I to meet with such to-
day, I should be more alarmed and tenfold more surprised. The
majority of Polynesians are easy folk to get in touch with, frank,
fond of notice, greedy of the least affection, like amiable,
fawning dogs; and even with the Marquesans, so recently and so
imperfectly redeemed from a blood-boltered barbarism, all were to
become our intimates, and one, at least, was to mourn sincerely our


The impediment of tongues was one that I particularly over-
estimated. The languages of Polynesia are easy to smatter, though
hard to speak with elegance. And they are extremely similar, so
that a person who has a tincture of one or two may risk, not
without hope, an attempt upon the others.

And again, not only is Polynesian easy to smatter, but interpreters
abound. Missionaries, traders, and broken white folk living on the
bounty of the natives, are to be found in almost every isle and
hamlet; and even where these are unserviceable, the natives
themselves have often scraped up a little English, and in the
French zone (though far less commonly) a little French-English, or
an efficient pidgin, what is called to the westward 'Beach-la-Mar,'
comes easy to the Polynesian; it is now taught, besides, in the
schools of Hawaii; and from the multiplicity of British ships, and
the nearness of the States on the one hand and the colonies on the
other, it may be called, and will almost certainly become, the
tongue of the Pacific. I will instance a few examples. I met in
Majuro a Marshall Island boy who spoke excellent English; this he
had learned in the German firm in Jaluit, yet did not speak one
word of German. I heard from a gendarme who had taught school in
Rapa-iti that while the children had the utmost difficulty or
reluctance to learn French, they picked up English on the wayside,
and as if by accident. On one of the most out-of-the-way atolls in
the Carolines, my friend Mr. Benjamin Hird was amazed to find the
lads playing cricket on the beach and talking English; and it was
in English that the crew of the Janet Nicoll, a set of black boys
from different Melanesian islands, communicated with other natives
throughout the cruise, transmitted orders, and sometimes jested
together on the fore-hatch. But what struck me perhaps most of all
was a word I heard on the verandah of the Tribunal at Noumea. A
case had just been heard--a trial for infanticide against an ape-
like native woman; and the audience were smoking cigarettes as they
awaited the verdict. An anxious, amiable French lady, not far from
tears, was eager for acquittal, and declared she would engage the
prisoner to be her children's nurse. The bystanders exclaimed at
the proposal; the woman was a savage, said they, and spoke no
language. 'Mais, vous savez,' objected the fair sentimentalist;
'ils apprennent si vite l'anglais!'

But to be able to speak to people is not all. And in the first
stage of my relations with natives I was helped by two things. To
begin with, I was the show-man of the Casco. She, her fine lines,
tall spars, and snowy decks, the crimson fittings of the saloon,
and the white, the gilt, and the repeating mirrors of the tiny
cabin, brought us a hundred visitors. The men fathomed out her
dimensions with their arms, as their fathers fathomed out the ships
of Cook; the women declared the cabins more lovely than a church;
bouncing Junos were never weary of sitting in the chairs and
contemplating in the glass their own bland images; and I have seen
one lady strip up her dress, and, with cries of wonder and delight,
rub herself bare-breeched upon the velvet cushions. Biscuit, jam,
and syrup was the entertainment; and, as in European parlours, the
photograph album went the round. This sober gallery, their
everyday costumes and physiognomies, had become transformed, in
three weeks' sailing, into things wonderful and rich and foreign;
alien faces, barbaric dresses, they were now beheld and fingered,
in the swerving cabin, with innocent excitement and surprise. Her
Majesty was often recognised, and I have seen French subjects kiss
her photograph; Captain Speedy--in an Abyssinian war-dress,
supposed to be the uniform of the British army--met with much
acceptance; and the effigies of Mr. Andrew Lang were admired in the
Marquesas. There is the place for him to go when he shall be weary
of Middlesex and Homer.

It was perhaps yet more important that I had enjoyed in my youth
some knowledge of our Scots folk of the Highlands and the Islands.
Not much beyond a century has passed since these were in the same
convulsive and transitionary state as the Marquesans of to-day. In
both cases an alien authority enforced, the clans disarmed, the
chiefs deposed, new customs introduced, and chiefly that fashion of
regarding money as the means and object of existence. The
commercial age, in each, succeeding at a bound to an age of war
abroad and patriarchal communism at home. In one the cherished
practice of tattooing, in the other a cherished costume,
proscribed. In each a main luxury cut off: beef, driven under
cloud of night from Lowland pastures, denied to the meat-loving
Highlander; long-pig, pirated from the next village, to the man-
eating Kanaka. The grumbling, the secret ferment, the fears and
resentments, the alarms and sudden councils of Marquesan chiefs,
reminded me continually of the days of Lovat and Struan.
Hospitality, tact, natural fine manners, and a touchy punctilio,
are common to both races: common to both tongues the trick of
dropping medial consonants. Here is a table of two widespread
Polynesian words:-

House. Love.


New Zealand WHARE




Marquesan HA'E KAOHA

The elision of medial consonants, so marked in these Marquesan
instances, is no less common both in Gaelic and the Lowland Scots.
Stranger still, that prevalent Polynesian sound, the so-called
catch, written with an apostrophe, and often or always the
gravestone of a perished consonant, is to be heard in Scotland to
this day. When a Scot pronounces water, better, or bottle--wa'er,
be'er, or bo'le--the sound is precisely that of the catch; and I
think we may go beyond, and say, that if such a population could be
isolated, and this mispronunciation should become the rule, it
might prove the first stage of transition from t to k, which is the
disease of Polynesian languages. The tendency of the Marquesans,
however, is to urge against consonants, or at least on the very
common letter l, a war of mere extermination. A hiatus is
agreeable to any Polynesian ear; the ear even of the stranger soon
grows used to these barbaric voids; but only in the Marquesan will
you find such names as Haaii and Paaaeua, when each individual
vowel must be separately uttered.

These points of similarity between a South Sea people and some of
my own folk at home ran much in my head in the islands; and not
only inclined me to view my fresh acquaintances with favour, but
continually modified my judgment. A polite Englishman comes to-day
to the Marquesans and is amazed to find the men tattooed; polite
Italians came not long ago to England and found our fathers stained
with woad; and when I paid the return visit as a little boy, I was
highly diverted with the backwardness of Italy: so insecure, so
much a matter of the day and hour, is the pre-eminence of race. It
was so that I hit upon a means of communication which I recommend
to travellers. When I desired any detail of savage custom, or of
superstitious belief, I cast back in the story of my fathers, and
fished for what I wanted with some trait of equal barbarism:
Michael Scott, Lord Derwentwater's head, the second-sight, the
Water Kelpie,--each of these I have found to be a killing bait; the
black bull's head of Stirling procured me the legend of Rahero; and
what I knew of the Cluny Macphersons, or the Appin Stewarts,
enabled me to learn, and helped me to understand, about the Tevas
of Tahiti. The native was no longer ashamed, his sense of kinship
grew warmer, and his lips were opened. It is this sense of kinship
that the traveller must rouse and share; or he had better content
himself with travels from the blue bed to the brown. And the
presence of one Cockney titterer will cause a whole party to walk
in clouds of darkness.

The hamlet of Anaho stands on a margin of flat land between the
west of the beach and the spring of the impending mountains. A
grove of palms, perpetually ruffling its green fans, carpets it (as
for a triumph) with fallen branches, and shades it like an arbour.
A road runs from end to end of the covert among beds of flowers,
the milliner's shop of the community; and here and there, in the
grateful twilight, in an air filled with a diversity of scents, and
still within hearing of the surf upon the reef, the native houses
stand in scattered neighbourhood. The same word, as we have seen,
represents in many tongues of Polynesia, with scarce a shade of
difference, the abode of man. But although the word be the same,
the structure itself continually varies; and the Marquesan, among
the most backward and barbarous of islanders, is yet the most
commodiously lodged. The grass huts of Hawaii, the birdcage houses
of Tahiti, or the open shed, with the crazy Venetian blinds, of the
polite Samoan--none of these can be compared with the Marquesan
paepae-hae, or dwelling platform. The paepae is an oblong terrace
built without cement or black volcanic stone, from twenty to fifty
feet in length, raised from four to eight feet from the earth, and
accessible by a broad stair. Along the back of this, and coming to
about half its width, runs the open front of the house, like a
covered gallery: the interior sometimes neat and almost elegant in
its bareness, the sleeping space divided off by an endlong coaming,
some bright raiment perhaps hanging from a nail, and a lamp and one
of White's sewing-machines the only marks of civilization. On the
outside, at one end of the terrace, burns the cooking-fire under a
shed; at the other there is perhaps a pen for pigs; the remainder
is the evening lounge and al fresco banquet-hall of the
inhabitants. To some houses water is brought down the mountains in
bamboo pipes, perforated for the sake of sweetness. With the
Highland comparison in my mind, I was struck to remember the
sluttish mounds of turf and stone in which I have sat and been
entertained in the Hebrides and the North Islands. Two things, I
suppose, explain the contrast. In Scotland wood is rare, and with
materials so rude as turf and stone the very hope of neatness is
excluded. And in Scotland it is cold. Shelter and a hearth are
needs so pressing that a man looks not beyond; he is out all day
after a bare bellyful, and at night when he saith, 'Aha, it is
warm!' he has not appetite for more. Or if for something else,
then something higher; a fine school of poetry and song arose in
these rough shelters, and an air like 'Lochaber no more' is an
evidence of refinement more convincing, as well as more
imperishable, than a palace.

To one such dwelling platform a considerable troop of relatives and
dependants resort. In the hour of the dusk, when the fire blazes,
and the scent of the cooked breadfruit fills the air, and perhaps
the lamp glints already between the pillars and the house, you
shall behold them silently assemble to this meal, men, women, and
children; and the dogs and pigs frisk together up the terrace
stairway, switching rival tails. The strangers from the ship were
soon equally welcome: welcome to dip their fingers in the wooden
dish, to drink cocoanuts, to share the circulating pipe, and to
hear and hold high debate about the misdeeds of the French, the
Panama Canal, or the geographical position of San Francisco and New
Yo'ko. In a Highland hamlet, quite out of reach of any tourist, I
have met the same plain and dignified hospitality.

I have mentioned two facts--the distasteful behaviour of our
earliest visitors, and the case of the lady who rubbed herself upon
the cushions--which would give a very false opinion of Marquesan
manners. The great majority of Polynesians are excellently
mannered; but the Marquesan stands apart, annoying and attractive,
wild, shy, and refined. If you make him a present he affects to
forget it, and it must be offered him again at his going: a pretty
formality I have found nowhere else. A hint will get rid of any
one or any number; they are so fiercely proud and modest; while
many of the more lovable but blunter islanders crowd upon a
stranger, and can be no more driven off than flies. A slight or an
insult the Marquesan seems never to forget. I was one day talking
by the wayside with my friend Hoka, when I perceived his eyes
suddenly to flash and his stature to swell. A white horseman was
coming down the mountain, and as he passed, and while he paused to
exchange salutations with myself, Hoka was still staring and
ruffling like a gamecock. It was a Corsican who had years before
called him cochon sauvage--cocon chauvage, as Hoka mispronounced
it. With people so nice and so touchy, it was scarce to be
supposed that our company of greenhorns should not blunder into
offences. Hoka, on one of his visits, fell suddenly in a brooding
silence, and presently after left the ship with cold formality.
When he took me back into favour, he adroitly and pointedly
explained the nature of my offence: I had asked him to sell cocoa-
nuts; and in Hoka's view articles of food were things that a
gentleman should give, not sell; or at least that he should not
sell to any friend. On another occasion I gave my boat's crew a
luncheon of chocolate and biscuits. I had sinned, I could never
learn how, against some point of observance; and though I was drily
thanked, my offerings were left upon the beach. But our worst
mistake was a slight we put on Toma, Hoka's adoptive father, and in
his own eyes the rightful chief of Anaho. In the first place, we
did not call upon him, as perhaps we should, in his fine new
European house, the only one in the hamlet. In the second, when we
came ashore upon a visit to his rival, Taipi-Kikino, it was Toma
whom we saw standing at the head of the beach, a magnificent figure
of a man, magnificently tattooed; and it was of Toma that we asked
our question: 'Where is the chief?' 'What chief?' cried Toma, and
turned his back on the blasphemers. Nor did he forgive us. Hoka
came and went with us daily; but, alone I believe of all the
countryside, neither Toma nor his wife set foot on board the Casco.
The temptation resisted it is hard for a European to compute. The
flying city of Laputa moored for a fortnight in St. James's Park
affords but a pale figure of the Casco anchored before Anaho; for
the Londoner has still his change of pleasures, but the Marquesan
passes to his grave through an unbroken uniformity of days.

On the afternoon before it was intended we should sail, a
valedictory party came on board: nine of our particular friends
equipped with gifts and dressed as for a festival. Hoka, the chief
dancer and singer, the greatest dandy of Anaho, and one of the
handsomest young fellows in the world-sullen, showy, dramatic,
light as a feather and strong as an ox--it would have been hard, on
that occasion, to recognise, as he sat there stooped and silent,
his face heavy and grey. It was strange to see the lad so much
affected; stranger still to recognise in his last gift one of the
curios we had refused on the first day, and to know our friend, so
gaily dressed, so plainly moved at our departure, for one of the
half-naked crew that had besieged and insulted us on our arrival:
strangest of all, perhaps, to find, in that carved handle of a fan,
the last of those curiosities of the first day which had now all
been given to us by their possessors--their chief merchandise, for
which they had sought to ransom us as long as we were strangers,
which they pressed on us for nothing as soon as we were friends.
The last visit was not long protracted. One after another they
shook hands and got down into their canoe; when Hoka turned his
back immediately upon the ship, so that we saw his face no more.
Taipi, on the other hand, remained standing and facing us with
gracious valedictory gestures; and when Captain Otis dipped the
ensign, the whole party saluted with their hats. This was the
farewell; the episode of our visit to Anaho was held concluded; and
though the Casco remained nearly forty hours at her moorings, not
one returned on board, and I am inclined to think they avoided
appearing on the beach. This reserve and dignity is the finest
trait of the Marquesan.


Of the beauties of Anaho books might be written. I remember waking
about three, to find the air temperate and scented. The long swell
brimmed into the bay, and seemed to fill it full and then subside.
Gently, deeply, and silently the Casco rolled; only at times a
block piped like a bird. Oceanward, the heaven was bright with
stars and the sea with their reflections. If I looked to that
side, I might have sung with the Hawaiian poet:

Ua maomao ka lani, ua kahaea luna,
Ua pipi ka maka o ka hoku.
(The heavens were fair, they stretched above,
Many were the eyes of the stars.)

And then I turned shoreward, and high squalls were overhead; the
mountains loomed up black; and I could have fancied I had slipped
ten thousand miles away and was anchored in a Highland loch; that
when the day came, it would show pine, and heather, and green fern,
and roofs of turf sending up the smoke of peats; and the alien
speech that should next greet my ears must be Gaelic, not Kanaka.

And day, when it came, brought other sights and thoughts. I have
watched the morning break in many quarters of the world; it has
been certainly one of the chief joys of my existence, and the dawn
that I saw with most emotion shone upon the bay of Anaho. The
mountains abruptly overhang the port with every variety of surface
and of inclination, lawn, and cliff, and forest. Not one of these
but wore its proper tint of saffron, of sulphur, of the clove, and
of the rose. The lustre was like that of satin; on the lighter
hues there seemed to float an efflorescence; a solemn bloom
appeared on the more dark. The light itself was the ordinary light
of morning, colourless and clean; and on this ground of jewels,
pencilled out the least detail of drawing. Meanwhile, around the
hamlet, under the palms, where the blue shadow lingered, the red
coals of cocoa husk and the light trails of smoke betrayed the
awakening business of the day; along the beach men and women, lads
and lasses, were returning from the bath in bright raiment, red and
blue and green, such as we delighted to see in the coloured little
pictures of our childhood; and presently the sun had cleared the
eastern hill, and the glow of the day was over all.

The glow continued and increased, the business, from the main part,
ceased before it had begun. Twice in the day there was a certain
stir of shepherding along the seaward hills. At times a canoe went
out to fish. At times a woman or two languidly filled a basket in
the cotton patch. At times a pipe would sound out of the shadow of
a house, ringing the changes on its three notes, with an effect
like Que le jour me dure, repeated endlessly. Or at times, across
a corner of the bay, two natives might communicate in the Marquesan
manner with conventional whistlings. All else was sleep and
silence. The surf broke and shone around the shores; a species of
black crane fished in the broken water; the black pigs were
continually galloping by on some affair; but the people might never
have awaked, or they might all be dead.

My favourite haunt was opposite the hamlet, where was a landing in
a cove under a lianaed cliff. The beach was lined with palms and a
tree called the purao, something between the fig and mulberry in
growth, and bearing a flower like a great yellow poppy with a
maroon heart. In places rocks encroached upon the sand; the beach
would be all submerged; and the surf would bubble warmly as high as
to my knees, and play with cocoa-nut husks as our more homely ocean
plays with wreck and wrack and bottles. As the reflux drew down,
marvels of colour and design streamed between my feet; which I
would grasp at, miss, or seize: now to find them what they
promised, shells to grace a cabinet or be set in gold upon a lady's
finger; now to catch only maya of coloured sand, pounded fragments
and pebbles, that, as soon as they were dry, became as dull and
homely as the flints upon a garden path. I have toiled at this
childish pleasure for hours in the strong sun, conscious of my
incurable ignorance; but too keenly pleased to be ashamed.
Meanwhile, the blackbird (or his tropical understudy) would be
fluting in the thickets overhead.

A little further, in the turn of the bay, a streamlet trickled in
the bottom of a den, thence spilling down a stair of rock into the
sea. The draught of air drew down under the foliage in the very
bottom of the den, which was a perfect arbour for coolness. In
front it stood open on the blue bay and the Casco lying there under
her awning and her cheerful colours. Overhead was a thatch of
puraos, and over these again palms brandished their bright fans, as
I have seen a conjurer make himself a halo out of naked swords.
For in this spot, over a neck of low land at the foot of the
mountains, the trade-wind streams into Anaho Bay in a flood of
almost constant volume and velocity, and of a heavenly coolness.

It chanced one day that I was ashore in the cove, with Mrs.
Stevenson and the ship's cook. Except for the Casco lying outside,
and a crane or two, and the ever-busy wind and sea, the face of the
world was of a prehistoric emptiness; life appeared to stand stock-
still, and the sense of isolation was profound and refreshing. On
a sudden, the trade-wind, coming in a gust over the isthmus, struck
and scattered the fans of the palms above the den; and, behold! in
two of the tops there sat a native, motionless as an idol and
watching us, you would have said, without a wink. The next moment
the tree closed, and the glimpse was gone. This discovery of human
presences latent overhead in a place where we had supposed
ourselves alone, the immobility of our tree-top spies, and the
thought that perhaps at all hours we were similarly supervised,
struck us with a chill. Talk languished on the beach. As for the
cook (whose conscience was not clear), he never afterwards set foot
on shore, and twice, when the Casco appeared to be driving on the
rocks, it was amusing to observe that man's alacrity; death, he was
persuaded, awaiting him upon the beach. It was more than a year
later, in the Gilberts, that the explanation dawned upon myself.
The natives were drawing palm-tree wine, a thing forbidden by law;
and when the wind thus suddenly revealed them, they were doubtless
more troubled than ourselves.

At the top of the den there dwelt an old, melancholy, grizzled man
of the name of Tari (Charlie) Coffin. He was a native of Oahu, in
the Sandwich Islands; and had gone to sea in his youth in the
American whalers; a circumstance to which he owed his name, his
English, his down-east twang, and the misfortune of his innocent
life. For one captain, sailing out of New Bedford, carried him to
Nuka-hiva and marooned him there among the cannibals. The motive
for this act was inconceivably small; poor Tari's wages, which were
thus economised, would scarce have shook the credit of the New
Bedford owners. And the act itself was simply murder. Tari's life
must have hung in the beginning by a hair. In the grief and terror
of that time, it is not unlikely he went mad, an infirmity to which
he was still liable; or perhaps a child may have taken a fancy to
him and ordained him to be spared. He escaped at least alive,
married in the island, and when I knew him was a widower with a
married son and a granddaughter. But the thought of Oahu haunted
him; its praise was for ever on his lips; he beheld it, looking
back, as a place of ceaseless feasting, song, and dance; and in his
dreams I daresay he revisits it with joy. I wonder what he would
think if he could be carried there indeed, and see the modern town
of Honolulu brisk with traffic, and the palace with its guards, and
the great hotel, and Mr. Berger's band with their uniforms and
outlandish instruments; or what he would think to see the brown
faces grown so few and the white so many; and his father's land
sold, for planting sugar, and his father's house quite perished, or
perhaps the last of them struck leprous and immured between the
surf and the cliffs on Molokai? So simply, even in South Sea
Islands, and so sadly, the changes come.

Tari was poor, and poorly lodged. His house was a wooden frame,
run up by Europeans; it was indeed his official residence, for Tari
was the shepherd of the promontory sheep. I can give a perfect
inventory of its contents: three kegs, a tin biscuit-box, an iron
saucepan, several cocoa-shell cups, a lantern, and three bottles,
probably containing oil; while the clothes of the family and a few
mats were thrown across the open rafters. Upon my first meeting
with this exile he had conceived for me one of the baseless island
friendships, had given me nuts to drink, and carried me up the den
'to see my house'--the only entertainment that he had to offer. He
liked the 'Amelican,' he said, and the 'Inglisman,' but the
'Flessman' was his abhorrence; and he was careful to explain that
if he had thought us 'Fless,' we should have had none of his nuts,
and never a sight of his house. His distaste for the French I can
partly understand, but not at all his toleration of the Anglo-
Saxon. The next day he brought me a pig, and some days later one
of our party going ashore found him in act to bring a second. We
were still strange to the islands; we were pained by the poor man's
generosity, which he could ill afford, and, by a natural enough but
quite unpardonable blunder, we refused the pig. Had Tari been a
Marquesan we should have seen him no more; being what he was, the
most mild, long-suffering, melancholy man, he took a revenge a
hundred times more painful. Scarce had the canoe with the nine
villagers put off from their farewell before the Casco was boarded
from the other side. It was Tari; coming thus late because he had
no canoe of his own, and had found it hard to borrow one; coming
thus solitary (as indeed we always saw him), because he was a
stranger in the land, and the dreariest of company. The rest of my
family basely fled from the encounter. I must receive our injured
friend alone; and the interview must have lasted hard upon an hour,
for he was loath to tear himself away. 'You go 'way. I see you no
more--no, sir!' he lamented; and then looking about him with rueful
admiration, 'This goodee ship--no, sir!--goodee ship!' he would
exclaim: the 'no, sir,' thrown out sharply through the nose upon a
rising inflection, an echo from New Bedford and the fallacious
whaler. From these expressions of grief and praise, he would
return continually to the case of the rejected pig. 'I like give
present all 'e same you,' he complained; 'only got pig: you no
take him!' He was a poor man; he had no choice of gifts; he had
only a pig, he repeated; and I had refused it. I have rarely been
more wretched than to see him sitting there, so old, so grey, so
poor, so hardly fortuned, of so rueful a countenance, and to
appreciate, with growing keenness, the affront which I had so
innocently dealt him; but it was one of those cases in which speech
is vain.

Tari's son was smiling and inert; his daughter-in-law, a girl of
sixteen, pretty, gentle, and grave, more intelligent than most
Anaho women, and with a fair share of French; his grandchild, a
mite of a creature at the breast. I went up the den one day when
Tari was from home, and found the son making a cotton sack, and
madame suckling mademoiselle. When I had sat down with them on the
floor, the girl began to question me about England; which I tried
to describe, piling the pan and the cocoa shells one upon another
to represent the houses, and explaining, as best I was able, and by
word and gesture, the over-population, the hunger, and the
perpetual toil. 'Pas de cocotiers? pas do popoi?' she asked. I
told her it was too cold, and went through an elaborate
performance, shutting out draughts, and crouching over an imaginary
fire, to make sure she understood. But she understood right well;
remarked it must be bad for the health, and sat a while gravely
reflecting on that picture of unwonted sorrows. I am sure it
roused her pity, for it struck in her another thought always
uppermost in the Marquesan bosom; and she began with a smiling
sadness, and looking on me out of melancholy eyes, to lament the
decease of her own people. 'Ici pas de Kanaques,' said she; and
taking the baby from her breast, she held it out to me with both
her hands. 'Tenez--a little baby like this; then dead. All the
Kanaques die. Then no more.' The smile, and this instancing by
the girl-mother of her own tiny flesh and blood, affected me
strangely; they spoke of so tranquil a despair. Meanwhile the
husband smilingly made his sack; and the unconscious babe struggled
to reach a pot of raspberry jam, friendship's offering, which I had
just brought up the den; and in a perspective of centuries I saw
their case as ours, death coming in like a tide, and the day
already numbered when there should be no more Beretani, and no more
of any race whatever, and (what oddly touched me) no more literary
works and no more readers.


The thought of death, I have said, is uppermost in the mind of the
Marquesan. It would be strange if it were otherwise. The race is
perhaps the handsomest extant. Six feet is about the middle height
of males; they are strongly muscled, free from fat, swift in
action, graceful in repose; and the women, though fatter and
duller, are still comely animals. To judge by the eye, there is no
race more viable; and yet death reaps them with both hands. When
Bishop Dordillon first came to Tai-o-hae, he reckoned the
inhabitants at many thousands; he was but newly dead, and in the
same bay Stanislao Moanatini counted on his fingers eight residual
natives. Or take the valley of Hapaa, known to readers of Herman
Melville under the grotesque misspelling of Hapar. There are but
two writers who have touched the South Seas with any genius, both
Americans: Melville and Charles Warren Stoddard; and at the
christening of the first and greatest, some influential fairy must
have been neglected: 'He shall be able to see,' 'He shall be able
to tell,' 'He shall be able to charm,' said the friendly
godmothers; 'But he shall not be able to hear,' exclaimed the last.
The tribe of Hapaa is said to have numbered some four hundred, when
the small-pox came and reduced them by one-fourth. Six months
later a woman developed tubercular consumption; the disease spread
like a fire about the valley, and in less than a year two
survivors, a man and a woman, fled from that new-created solitude.
A similar Adam and Eve may some day wither among new races, the
tragic residue of Britain. When I first heard this story the date
staggered me; but I am now inclined to think it possible. Early in
the year of my visit, for example, or late the year before, a first
case of phthisis appeared in a household of seventeen persons, and
by the month of August, when the tale was told me, one soul
survived, and that was a boy who had been absent at his schooling.
And depopulation works both ways, the doors of death being set wide
open, and the door of birth almost closed. Thus, in the half-year
ending July 1888 there were twelve deaths and but one birth in the
district of the Hatiheu. Seven or eight more deaths were to be
looked for in the ordinary course; and M. Aussel, the observant
gendarme, knew of but one likely birth. At this rate it is no
matter of surprise if the population in that part should have
declined in forty years from six thousand to less than four
hundred; which are, once more on the authority of M. Aussel, the
estimated figures. And the rate of decline must have even
accelerated towards the end.

A good way to appreciate the depopulation is to go by land from
Anaho to Hatiheu on the adjacent bay. The road is good travelling,
but cruelly steep. We seemed scarce to have passed the deserted
house which stands highest in Anaho before we were looking dizzily
down upon its roof; the Casco well out in the bay, and rolling for
a wager, shrank visibly; and presently through the gap of Tari's
isthmus, Ua-huna was seen to hang cloudlike on the horizon. Over
the summit, where the wind blew really chill, and whistled in the
reed-like grass, and tossed the grassy fell of the pandanus, we
stepped suddenly, as through a door, into the next vale and bay of
Hatiheu. A bowl of mountains encloses it upon three sides. On the
fourth this rampart has been bombarded into ruins, runs down to
seaward in imminent and shattered crags, and presents the one
practicable breach of the blue bay. The interior of this vessel is
crowded with lovely and valuable trees,--orange, breadfruit, mummy-
apple, cocoa, the island chestnut, and for weeds, the pine and the
banana. Four perennial streams water and keep it green; and along
the dell, first of one, then of another, of these, the road, for a
considerable distance, descends into this fortunate valley. The
song of the waters and the familiar disarray of boulders gave us a
strong sense of home, which the exotic foliage, the daft-like
growth of the pandanus, the buttressed trunk of the banyan, the
black pigs galloping in the bush, and the architecture of the
native houses dissipated ere it could be enjoyed.

The houses on the Hatiheu side begin high up; higher yet, the more
melancholy spectacle of empty paepaes. When a native habitation is
deserted, the superstructure--pandanus thatch, wattle, unstable
tropical timber--speedily rots, and is speedily scattered by the
wind. Only the stones of the terrace endure; nor can any ruin,
cairn, or standing stone, or vitrified fort present a more stern
appearance of antiquity. We must have passed from six to eight of
these now houseless platforms. On the main road of the island,
where it crosses the valley of Taipi, Mr. Osbourne tells me they
are to be reckoned by the dozen; and as the roads have been made
long posterior to their erection, perhaps to their desertion, and
must simply be regarded as lines drawn at random through the bush,
the forest on either hand must be equally filled with these
survivals: the gravestones of whole families. Such ruins are tapu
in the strictest sense; no native must approach them; they have
become outposts of the kingdom of the grave. It might appear a
natural and pious custom in the hundreds who are left, the
rearguard of perished thousands, that their feet should leave
untrod these hearthstones of their fathers. I believe, in fact,
the custom rests on different and more grim conceptions. But the
house, the grave, and even the body of the dead, have been always
particularly honoured by Marquesans. Until recently the corpse was
sometimes kept in the family and daily oiled and sunned, until, by
gradual and revolting stages, it dried into a kind of mummy.
Offerings are still laid upon the grave. In Traitor's Bay, Mr.
Osbourne saw a man buy a looking-glass to lay upon his son's. And
the sentiment against the desecration of tombs, thoughtlessly
ruffled in the laying down of the new roads, is a chief ingredient
in the native hatred for the French.

The Marquesan beholds with dismay the approaching extinction of his
race. The thought of death sits down with him to meat, and rises
with him from his bed; he lives and breathes under a shadow of
mortality awful to support; and he is so inured to the apprehension
that he greets the reality with relief. He does not even seek to
support a disappointment; at an affront, at a breach of one of his
fleeting and communistic love-affairs, he seeks an instant refuge
in the grave. Hanging is now the fashion. I heard of three who
had hanged themselves in the west end of Hiva-oa during the first
half of 1888; but though this be a common form of suicide in other
parts of the South Seas, I cannot think it will continue popular in
the Marquesas. Far more suitable to Marquesan sentiment is the old
form of poisoning with the fruit of the eva, which offers to the
native suicide a cruel but deliberate death, and gives time for
those decencies of the last hour, to which he attaches such
remarkable importance. The coffin can thus be at hand, the pigs
killed, the cry of the mourners sounding already through the house;
and then it is, and not before, that the Marquesan is conscious of
achievement, his life all rounded in, his robes (like Caesar's)
adjusted for the final act. Praise not any man till he is dead,
said the ancients; envy not any man till you hear the mourners,
might be the Marquesan parody. The coffin, though of late
introduction, strangely engages their attention. It is to the
mature Marquesan what a watch is to the European schoolboy. For
ten years Queen Vaekehu had dunned the fathers; at last, but the
other day, they let her have her will, gave her her coffin, and the
woman's soul is at rest. I was told a droll instance of the force
of this preoccupation. The Polynesians are subject to a disease
seemingly rather of the will than of the body. I was told the
Tahitians have a word for it, erimatua, but cannot find it in my
dictionary. A gendarme, M. Nouveau, has seen men beginning to
succumb to this insubstantial malady, has routed them from their
houses, turned them on to do their trick upon the roads, and in two
days has seen them cured. But this other remedy is more original:
a Marquesan, dying of this discouragement--perhaps I should rather
say this acquiescence--has been known, at the fulfilment of his
crowning wish, on the mere sight of that desired hermitage, his
coffin--to revive, recover, shake off the hand of death, and be
restored for years to his occupations--carving tikis (idols), let
us say, or braiding old men's beards. From all this it may be
conceived how easily they meet death when it approaches naturally.
I heard one example, grim and picturesque. In the time of the
small-pox in Hapaa, an old man was seized with the disease; he had
no thought of recovery; had his grave dug by a wayside, and lived
in it for near a fortnight, eating, drinking, and smoking with the
passers-by, talking mostly of his end, and equally unconcerned for
himself and careless of the friends whom he infected.

This proneness to suicide, and loose seat in life, is not peculiar
to the Marquesan. What is peculiar is the widespread depression
and acceptance of the national end. Pleasures are neglected, the
dance languishes, the songs are forgotten. It is true that some,
and perhaps too many, of them are proscribed; but many remain, if
there were spirit to support or to revive them. At the last feast
of the Bastille, Stanislao Moanatini shed tears when he beheld the
inanimate performance of the dancers. When the people sang for us
in Anaho, they must apologise for the smallness of their repertory.
They were only young folk present, they said, and it was only the
old that knew the songs. The whole body of Marquesan poetry and
music was being suffered to die out with a single dispirited
generation. The full import is apparent only to one acquainted
with other Polynesian races; who knows how the Samoan coins a fresh
song for every trifling incident, or who has heard (on Penrhyn, for
instance) a band of little stripling maids from eight to twelve
keep up their minstrelsy for hours upon a stretch, one song
following another without pause. In like manner, the Marquesan,
never industrious, begins now to cease altogether from production.
The exports of the group decline out of all proportion even with
the death-rate of the islanders. 'The coral waxes, the palm grows,
and man departs,' says the Marquesan; and he folds his hands. And
surely this is nature. Fond as it may appear, we labour and
refrain, not for the rewards of any single life, but with a timid
eye upon the lives and memories of our successors; and where no one
is to succeed, of his own family, or his own tongue, I doubt
whether Rothschilds would make money or Cato practise virtue. It
is natural, also, that a temporary stimulus should sometimes rouse
the Marquesan from his lethargy. Over all the landward shore of
Anaho cotton runs like a wild weed; man or woman, whoever comes to
pick it, may earn a dollar in the day; yet when we arrived, the
trader's store-house was entirely empty; and before we left it was
near full. So long as the circus was there, so long as the Casco
was yet anchored in the bay, it behoved every one to make his
visit; and to this end every woman must have a new dress, and every
man a shirt and trousers. Never before, in Mr. Regler's
experience, had they displayed so much activity.

In their despondency there is an element of dread. The fear of
ghosts and of the dark is very deeply written in the mind of the
Polynesian; not least of the Marquesan. Poor Taipi, the chief of
Anaho, was condemned to ride to Hatiheu on a moonless night. He
borrowed a lantern, sat a long while nerving himself for the
adventure, and when he at last departed, wrung the Cascos by the
hand as for a final separation. Certain presences, called
Vehinehae, frequent and make terrible the nocturnal roadside; I was
told by one they were like so much mist, and as the traveller
walked into them dispersed and dissipated; another described them
as being shaped like men and having eyes like cats; from none could
I obtain the smallest clearness as to what they did, or wherefore
they were dreaded. We may be sure at least they represent the
dead; for the dead, in the minds of the islanders, are all-
pervasive. 'When a native says that he is a man,' writes Dr.
Codrington, 'he means that he is a man and not a ghost; not that he
is a man and not a beast. The intelligent agents of this world are
to his mind the men who are alive, and the ghosts the men who are
dead.' Dr. Codrington speaks of Melanesia; from what I have
learned his words are equally true of the Polynesian. And yet
more. Among cannibal Polynesians a dreadful suspicion rests
generally on the dead; and the Marquesans, the greatest cannibals
of all, are scarce likely to be free from similar beliefs. I
hazard the guess that the Vehinehae are the hungry spirits of the
dead, continuing their life's business of the cannibal ambuscade,
and lying everywhere unseen, and eager to devour the living.
Another superstition I picked up through the troubled medium of
Tari Coffin's English. The dead, he told me, came and danced by
night around the paepae of their former family; the family were
thereupon overcome by some emotion (but whether of pious sorrow or
of fear I could not gather), and must 'make a feast,' of which
fish, pig, and popoi were indispensable ingredients. So far this
is clear enough. But here Tari went on to instance the new house
of Toma and the house-warming feast which was just then in
preparation as instances in point. Dare we indeed string them
together, and add the case of the deserted ruin, as though the dead
continually besieged the paepaes of the living: were kept at
arm's-length, even from the first foundation, only by propitiatory
feasts, and, so soon as the fire of life went out upon the hearth,
swarmed back into possession of their ancient seat?

I speak by guess of these Marquesan superstitions. On the cannibal
ghost I shall return elsewhere with certainty. And it is enough,
for the present purpose, to remark that the men of the Marquesas,
from whatever reason, fear and shrink from the presence of ghosts.
Conceive how this must tell upon the nerves in islands where the
number of the dead already so far exceeds that of the living, and
the dead multiply and the living dwindle at so swift a rate.
Conceive how the remnant huddles about the embers of the fire of
life; even as old Red Indians, deserted on the march and in the
snow, the kindly tribe all gone, the last flame expiring, and the
night around populous with wolves.


Over the whole extent of the South Seas, from one tropic to
another, we find traces of a bygone state of over-population, when
the resources of even a tropical soil were taxed, and even the
improvident Polynesian trembled for the future. We may accept some
of the ideas of Mr. Darwin's theory of coral islands, and suppose a
rise of the sea, or the subsidence of some former continental area,
to have driven into the tops of the mountains multitudes of
refugees. Or we may suppose, more soberly, a people of sea-rovers,
emigrants from a crowded country, to strike upon and settle island
after island, and as time went on to multiply exceedingly in their
new seats. In either case the end must be the same; soon or late
it must grow apparent that the crew are too numerous, and that
famine is at hand. The Polynesians met this emergent danger with
various expedients of activity and prevention. A way was found to
preserve breadfruit by packing it in artificial pits; pits forty
feet in depth and of proportionate bore are still to be seen, I am
told, in the Marquesas; and yet even these were insufficient for
the teeming people, and the annals of the past are gloomy with
famine and cannibalism. Among the Hawaiians--a hardier people, in
a more exacting climate--agriculture was carried far; the land was
irrigated with canals; and the fish-ponds of Molokai prove the
number and diligence of the old inhabitants. Meanwhile, over all
the island world, abortion and infanticide prevailed. On coral
atolls, where the danger was most plainly obvious, these were
enforced by law and sanctioned by punishment. On Vaitupu, in the
Ellices, only two children were allowed to a couple; on Nukufetau,
but one. On the latter the punishment was by fine; and it is
related that the fine was sometimes paid, and the child spared.

This is characteristic. For no people in the world are so fond or
so long-suffering with children--children make the mirth and the
adornment of their homes, serving them for playthings and for
picture-galleries. 'Happy is the man that has his quiver full of
them.' The stray bastard is contended for by rival families; and
the natural and the adopted children play and grow up together
undistinguished. The spoiling, and I may almost say the
deification, of the child, is nowhere carried so far as in the
eastern islands; and furthest, according to my opportunities of
observation, in the Paumotu group, the so-called Low or Dangerous
Archipelago. I have seen a Paumotuan native turn from me with
embarrassment and disaffection because I suggested that a brat
would be the better for a beating. It is a daily matter in some
eastern islands to see a child strike or even stone its mother, and
the mother, so far from punishing, scarce ventures to resist. In
some, when his child was born, a chief was superseded and resigned
his name; as though, like a drone, he had then fulfilled the
occasion of his being. And in some the lightest words of children
had the weight of oracles. Only the other day, in the Marquesas,
if a child conceived a distaste to any stranger, I am assured the
stranger would be slain. And I shall have to tell in another place
an instance of the opposite: how a child in Manihiki having taken
a fancy to myself, her adoptive parents at once accepted the
situation and loaded me with gifts.

With such sentiments the necessity for child-destruction would not
fail to clash, and I believe we find the trace of divided feeling
in the Tahitian brotherhood of Oro. At a certain date a new god
was added to the Society-Island Olympus, or an old one refurbished
and made popular. Oro was his name, and he may be compared with
the Bacchus of the ancients. His zealots sailed from bay to bay,
and from island to island; they were everywhere received with
feasting; wore fine clothes; sang, danced, acted; gave exhibitions
of dexterity and strength; and were the artists, the acrobats, the
bards, and the harlots of the group. Their life was public and
epicurean; their initiation a mystery; and the highest in the land
aspired to join the brotherhood. If a couple stood next in line to
a high-chieftaincy, they were suffered, on grounds of policy, to
spare one child; all other children, who had a father or a mother
in the company of Oro, stood condemned from the moment of
conception. A freemasonry, an agnostic sect, a company of artists,
its members all under oath to spread unchastity, and all forbidden
to leave offspring--I do not know how it may appear to others, but
to me the design seems obvious. Famine menacing the islands, and
the needful remedy repulsive, it was recommended to the native mind
by these trappings of mystery, pleasure, and parade. This is the
more probable, and the secret, serious purpose of the institution
appears the more plainly, if it be true that, after a certain
period of life, the obligation of the votary was changed; at first,
bound to be profligate: afterwards, expected to be chaste.

Here, then, we have one side of the case. Man-eating among kindly
men, child-murder among child-lovers, industry in a race the most
idle, invention in a race the least progressive, this grim, pagan
salvation-army of the brotherhood of Oro, the report of early
voyagers, the widespread vestiges of former habitation, and the
universal tradition of the islands, all point to the same fact of
former crowding and alarm. And to-day we are face to face with the
reverse. To-day in the Marquesas, in the Eight Islands of Hawaii,
in Mangareva, in Easter Island, we find the same race perishing
like flies. Why this change? Or, grant that the coming of the
whites, the change of habits, and the introduction of new maladies
and vices, fully explain the depopulation, why is that depopulation
not universal? The population of Tahiti, after a period of
alarming decrease, has again become stationary. I hear of a
similar result among some Maori tribes; in many of the Paumotus a
slight increase is to be observed; and the Samoans are to-day as
healthy and at least as fruitful as before the change. Grant that
the Tahitians, the Maoris, and the Paumotuans have become inured to
the new conditions; and what are we to make of the Samoans, who
have never suffered?

Those who are acquainted only with a single group are apt to be
ready with solutions. Thus I have heard the mortality of the
Maoris attributed to their change of residence--from fortified
hill-tops to the low, marshy vicinity of their plantations. How
plausible! And yet the Marquesans are dying out in the same houses
where their fathers multiplied. Or take opium. The Marquesas and
Hawaii are the two groups the most infected with this vice; the
population of the one is the most civilised, that of the other by
far the most barbarous, of Polynesians; and they are two of those
that perish the most rapidly. Here is a strong case against opium.
But let us take unchastity, and we shall find the Marquesas and
Hawaii figuring again upon another count. Thus, Samoans are the
most chaste of Polynesians, and they are to this day entirely
fertile; Marquesans are the most debauched: we have seen how they
are perishing; Hawaiians are notoriously lax, and they begin to be
dotted among deserts. So here is a case stronger still against
unchastity; and here also we have a correction to apply. Whatever
the virtues of the Tahitian, neither friend nor enemy dares call
him chaste; and yet he seems to have outlived the time of danger.
One last example: syphilis has been plausibly credited with much
of the sterility. But the Samoans are, by all accounts, as
fruitful as at first; by some accounts more so; and it is not
seriously to be argued that the Samoans have escaped syphilis.

These examples show how dangerous it is to reason from any
particular cause, or even from many in a single group. I have in
my eye an able and amiable pamphlet by the Rev. S. E. Bishop: 'Why
are the Hawaiians Dying Out?' Any one interested in the subject
ought to read this tract, which contains real information; and yet
Mr. Bishop's views would have been changed by an acquaintance with
other groups. Samoa is, for the moment, the main and the most
instructive exception to the rule. The people are the most chaste
and one of the most temperate of island peoples. They have never
been tried and depressed with any grave pestilence. Their clothing
has scarce been tampered with; at the simple and becoming tabard of
the girls, Tartuffe, in many another island, would have cried out;
for the cool, healthy, and modest lava-lava or kilt, Tartuffe has
managed in many another island to substitute stifling and
inconvenient trousers. Lastly, and perhaps chiefly, so far from
their amusements having been curtailed, I think they have been,
upon the whole, extended. The Polynesian falls easily into
despondency: bereavement, disappointment, the fear of novel
visitations, the decay or proscription of ancient pleasures, easily
incline him to be sad; and sadness detaches him from life. The
melancholy of the Hawaiian and the emptiness of his new life are
striking; and the remark is yet more apposite to the Marquesas. In
Samoa, on the other hand, perpetual song and dance, perpetual
games, journeys, and pleasures, make an animated and a smiling
picture of the island life. And the Samoans are to-day the gayest
and the best entertained inhabitants of our planet. The importance
of this can scarcely be exaggerated. In a climate and upon a soil
where a livelihood can be had for the stooping, entertainment is a
prime necessity. It is otherwise with us, where life presents us
with a daily problem, and there is a serious interest, and some of
the heat of conflict, in the mere continuing to be. So, in certain
atolls, where there is no great gaiety, but man must bestir himself
with some vigour for his daily bread, public health and the
population are maintained; but in the lotos islands, with the decay
of pleasures, life itself decays. It is from this point of view
that we may instance, among other causes of depression, the decay
of war. We have been so long used in Europe to that dreary
business of war on the great scale, trailing epidemics and leaving
pestilential corpses in its train, that we have almost forgotten
its original, the most healthful, if not the most humane, of all
field sports--hedge-warfare. From this, as well as from the rest
of his amusements and interests, the islander, upon a hundred
islands, has been recently cut off. And to this, as well as to so
many others, the Samoan still makes good a special title.

Upon the whole, the problem seems to me to stand thus:- Where there
have been fewest changes, important or unimportant, salutary or
hurtful, there the race survives. Where there have been most,
important or unimportant, salutary or hurtful, there it perishes.
Each change, however small, augments the sum of new conditions to
which the race has to become inured. There may seem, a priori, no
comparison between the change from 'sour toddy' to bad gin, and
that from the island kilt to a pair of European trousers. Yet I am
far from persuaded that the one is any more hurtful than the other;
and the unaccustomed race will sometimes die of pin-pricks. We are
here face to face with one of the difficulties of the missionary.
In Polynesian islands he easily obtains pre-eminent authority; the
king becomes his mairedupalais; he can proscribe, he can command;
and the temptation is ever towards too much. Thus (by all
accounts) the Catholics in Mangareva, and thus (to my own
knowledge) the Protestants in Hawaii, have rendered life in a more
or less degree unliveable to their converts. And the mild,
uncomplaining creatures (like children in a prison) yawn and await
death. It is easy to blame the missionary. But it is his business
to make changes. It is surely his business, for example, to
prevent war; and yet I have instanced war itself as one of the
elements of health. On the other hand, it were, perhaps, easy for
the missionary to proceed more gently, and to regard every change
as an affair of weight. I take the average missionary; I am sure I
do him no more than justice when I suppose that he would hesitate
to bombard a village, even in order to convert an archipelago.
Experience begins to show us (at least in Polynesian islands) that
change of habit is bloodier than a bombardment.

There is one point, ere I have done, where I may go to meet
criticism. I have said nothing of faulty hygiene, bathing during
fevers, mistaken treatment of children, native doctoring, or
abortion--all causes frequently adduced. And I have said nothing
of them because they are conditions common to both epochs, and even
more efficient in the past than in the present. Was it not the
same with unchastity, it may be asked? Was not the Polynesian
always unchaste? Doubtless he was so always: doubtless he is more
so since the coming of his remarkably chaste visitors from Europe.
Take the Hawaiian account of Cook: I have no doubt it is entirely
fair. Take Krusenstern's candid, almost innocent, description of a
Russian man-of-war at the Marquesas; consider the disgraceful
history of missions in Hawaii itself, where (in the war of lust)
the American missionaries were once shelled by an English
adventurer, and once raided and mishandled by the crew of an
American warship; add the practice of whaling fleets to call at the
Marquesas, and carry off a complement of women for the cruise;
consider, besides, how the whites were at first regarded in the
light of demi-gods, as appears plainly in the reception of Cook
upon Hawaii; and again, in the story of the discovery of Tutuila,
when the really decent women of Samoa prostituted themselves in
public to the French; and bear in mind how it was the custom of the
adventurers, and we may almost say the business of the
missionaries, to deride and infract even the most salutary tapus.
Here we see every engine of dissolution directed at once against a
virtue never and nowhere very strong or popular; and the result,
even in the most degraded islands, has been further degradation.
Mr. Lawes, the missionary of Savage Island, told me the standard of
female chastity had declined there since the coming of the whites.
In heathen time, if a girl gave birth to a bastard, her father or
brother would dash the infant down the cliffs; and to-day the
scandal would be small. Or take the Marquesas. Stanislao
Moanatini told me that in his own recollection, the young were
strictly guarded; they were not suffered so much as to look upon
one another in the street, but passed (so my informant put it) like
dogs; and the other day the whole school-children of Nuka-hiva and
Ua-pu escaped in a body to the woods, and lived there for a
fortnight in promiscuous liberty. Readers of travels may perhaps
exclaim at my authority, and declare themselves better informed. I
should prefer the statement of an intelligent native like Stanislao
(even if it stood alone, which it is far from doing) to the report
of the most honest traveller. A ship of war comes to a haven,
anchors, lands a party, receives and returns a visit, and the
captain writes a chapter on the manners of the island. It is not
considered what class is mostly seen. Yet we should not be pleased
if a Lascar foremast hand were to judge England by the ladies who
parade Ratcliffe Highway, and the gentlemen who share with them
their hire. Stanislao's opinion of a decay of virtue even in these
unvirtuous islands has been supported to me by others; his very
example, the progress of dissolution amongst the young, is adduced
by Mr. Bishop in Hawaii. And so far as Marquesans are concerned,
we might have hazarded a guess of some decline in manners. I do
not think that any race could ever have prospered or multiplied
with such as now obtain; I am sure they would have been never at
the pains to count paternal kinship. It is not possible to give
details; suffice it that their manners appear to be imitated from
the dreams of ignorant and vicious children, and their debauches
persevered in until energy, reason, and almost life itself are in


We used to admire exceedingly the bland and gallant manners of the
chief called Taipi-Kikino. An elegant guest at table, skilled in
the use of knife and fork, a brave figure when he shouldered a gun
and started for the woods after wild chickens, always serviceable,
always ingratiating and gay, I would sometimes wonder where he
found his cheerfulness. He had enough to sober him, I thought, in
his official budget. His expenses--for he was always seen attired
in virgin white--must have by far exceeded his income of six
dollars in the year, or say two shillings a month. And he was
himself a man of no substance; his house the poorest in the
village. It was currently supposed that his elder brother,
Kauanui, must have helped him out. But how comes it that the elder
brother should succeed to the family estate, and be a wealthy
commoner, and the younger be a poor man, and yet rule as chief in
Anaho? That the one should be wealthy, and the other almost
indigent is probably to be explained by some adoption; for
comparatively few children are brought up in the house or succeed
to the estates of their natural begetters. That the one should be
chief instead of the other must be explained (in a very Irish
fashion) on the ground that neither of them is a chief at all.

Since the return and the wars of the French, many chiefs have been
deposed, and many so-called chiefs appointed. We have seen, in the
same house, one such upstart drinking in the company of two such
extruded island Bourbons, men, whose word a few years ago was life
and death, now sunk to be peasants like their neighbours. So when
the French overthrew hereditary tyrants, dubbed the commons of the
Marquesas freeborn citizens of the republic, and endowed them with
a vote for a conseiller-general at Tahiti, they probably conceived
themselves upon the path to popularity; and so far from that, they
were revolting public sentiment. The deposition of the chiefs was
perhaps sometimes needful; the appointment of others may have been
needful also; it was at least a delicate business. The Government
of George II. exiled many Highland magnates. It never occurred to
them to manufacture substitutes; and if the French have been more
bold, we have yet to see with what success.

Our chief at Anaho was always called, he always called himself,
Taipi-Kikino; and yet that was not his name, but only the wand of
his false position. As soon as he was appointed chief, his name--
which signified, if I remember exactly, PRINCE BORN AMONG FLOWERS--
fell in abeyance, and he was dubbed instead by the expressive
byword, Taipi-Kikino--HIGHWATER MAN-OF-NO-ACCOUNT--or, Englishing
more boldly, BEGGAR ON HORSEBACK--a witty and a wicked cut. A
nickname in Polynesia destroys almost the memory of the original
name. To-day, if we were Polynesians, Gladstone would be no more
heard of. We should speak of and address our Nestor as the Grand
Old Man, and it is so that himself would sign his correspondence.
Not the prevalence, then, but the significancy of the nickname is
to be noted here. The new authority began with small prestige.
Taipi has now been some time in office; from all I saw he seemed a
person very fit. He is not the least unpopular, and yet his power
is nothing. He is a chief to the French, and goes to breakfast
with the Resident; but for any practical end of chieftaincy a rag
doll were equally efficient.

We had been but three days in Anaho when we received the visit of
the chief of Hatiheu, a man of weight and fame, late leader of a
war upon the French, late prisoner in Tahiti, and the last eater of
long-pig in Nuka-hiva. Not many years have elapsed since he was
seen striding on the beach of Anaho, a dead man's arm across his
shoulder. 'So does Kooamua to his enemies!' he roared to the
passers-by, and took a bite from the raw flesh. And now behold
this gentleman, very wisely replaced in office by the French,
paying us a morning visit in European clothes. He was the man of
the most character we had yet seen: his manners genial and
decisive, his person tall, his face rugged, astute, formidable, and
with a certain similarity to Mr. Gladstone's--only for the
brownness of the skin, and the high-chief's tattooing, all one side
and much of the other being of an even blue. Further acquaintance
increased our opinion of his sense. He viewed the Casco in a
manner then quite new to us, examining her lines and the running of
the gear; to a piece of knitting on which one of the party was
engaged, he must have devoted ten minutes' patient study; nor did
he desist before he had divined the principles; and he was
interested even to excitement by a type-writer, which he learned to
work. When he departed he carried away with him a list of his
family, with his own name printed by his own hand at the bottom. I
should add that he was plainly much of a humorist, and not a little
of a humbug. He told us, for instance, that he was a person of
exact sobriety; such being the obligation of his high estate: the
commons might be sots, but the chief could not stoop so low. And
not many days after he was to be observed in a state of smiling and
lop-sided imbecility, the Casco ribbon upside down on his
dishonoured hat.

But his business that morning in Anaho is what concerns us here.
The devil-fish, it seems, were growing scarce upon the reef; it was
judged fit to interpose what we should call a close season; for
that end, in Polynesia, a tapu (vulgarly spelt 'taboo') has to be
declared, and who was to declare it? Taipi might; he ought; it was
a chief part of his duty; but would any one regard the inhibition
of a Beggar on Horse-back? He might plant palm branches: it did
not in the least follow that the spot was sacred. He might recite
the spell: it was shrewdly supposed the spirits would not hearken.
And so the old, legitimate cannibal must ride over the mountains to
do it for him; and the respectable official in white clothes could
but look on and envy. At about the same time, though in a
different manner, Kooamua established a forest law. It was
observed the cocoa-palms were suffering, for the plucking of green
nuts impoverishes and at last endangers the tree. Now Kooamua
could tapu the reef, which was public property, but he could not
tapu other people's palms; and the expedient adopted was
interesting. He tapu'd his own trees, and his example was imitated
over all Hatiheu and Anaho. I fear Taipi might have tapu'd all
that he possessed and found none to follow him. So much for the
esteem in which the dignity of an appointed chief is held by
others; a single circumstance will show what he thinks of it
himself. I never met one, but he took an early opportunity to
explain his situation. True, he was only an appointed chief when I
beheld him; but somewhere else, perhaps upon some other isle, he
was a chieftain by descent: upon which ground, he asked me (so to
say it) to excuse his mushroom honours.

It will be observed with surprise that both these tapus are for
thoroughly sensible ends. With surprise, I say, because the nature
of that institution is much misunderstood in Europe. It is taken
usually in the sense of a meaningless or wanton prohibition, such
as that which to-day prevents women in some countries from smoking,
or yesterday prevented any one in Scotland from taking a walk on
Sunday. The error is no less natural than it is unjust. The
Polynesians have not been trained in the bracing, practical thought
of ancient Rome; with them the idea of law has not been disengaged
from that of morals or propriety; so that tapu has to cover the
whole field, and implies indifferently that an act is criminal,
immoral, against sound public policy, unbecoming or (as we say)
'not in good form.' Many tapus were in consequence absurd enough,
such as those which deleted words out of the language, and
particularly those which related to women. Tapu encircled women
upon all hands. Many things were forbidden to men; to women we may
say that few were permitted. They must not sit on the paepae; they
must not go up to it by the stair; they must not eat pork; they
must not approach a boat; they must not cook at a fire which any
male had kindled. The other day, after the roads were made, it was
observed the women plunged along margin through the bush, and when
they came to a bridge waded through the water: roads and bridges
were the work of men's hands, and tapu for the foot of women. Even
a man's saddle, if the man be native, is a thing no self-respecting
lady dares to use. Thus on the Anaho side of the island, only two
white men, Mr. Regler and the gendarme, M. Aussel, possess saddles;
and when a woman has a journey to make she must borrow from one or
other. It will be noticed that these prohibitions tend, most of
them, to an increased reserve between the sexes. Regard for female
chastity is the usual excuse for these disabilities that men
delight to lay upon their wives and mothers. Here the regard is
absent; and behold the women still bound hand and foot with
meaningless proprieties! The women themselves, who are survivors
of the old regimen, admit that in those days life was not worth
living. And yet even then there were exceptions. There were
female chiefs and (I am assured) priestesses besides; nice customs
curtseyed to great dames, and in the most sacred enclosure of a
High Place, Father Simeon Delmar was shown a stone, and told it was
the throne of some well-descended lady. How exactly parallel is
this with European practice, when princesses were suffered to
penetrate the strictest cloister, and women could rule over a land
in which they were denied the control of their own children.

But the tapu is more often the instrument of wise and needful
restrictions. We have seen it as the organ of paternal government.
It serves besides to enforce, in the rare case of some one wishing
to enforce them, rights of private property. Thus a man, weary of
the coming and going of Marquesan visitors, tapus his door; and to
this day you may see the palm-branch signal, even as our great-
grandfathers saw the peeled wand before a Highland inn. Or take
another case. Anaho is known as 'the country without popoi.' The
word popoi serves in different islands to indicate the main food of
the people: thus, in Hawaii, it implies a preparation of taro; in
the Marquesas, of breadfruit. And a Marquesan does not readily
conceive life possible without his favourite diet. A few years ago
a drought killed the breadfruit trees and the bananas in the
district of Anaho; and from this calamity, and the open-handed
customs of the island, a singular state of things arose. Well-
watered Hatiheu had escaped the drought; every householder of Anaho
accordingly crossed the pass, chose some one in Hatiheu, 'gave him
his name'--an onerous gift, but one not to be rejected--and from
this improvised relative proceeded to draw his supplies, for all
the world as though he had paid for them. Hence a continued
traffic on the road. Some stalwart fellow, in a loin-cloth, and
glistening with sweat, may be seen at all hours of the day, a stick
across his bare shoulders, tripping nervously under a double
burthen of green fruits. And on the far side of the gap a dozen
stone posts on the wayside in the shadow of a grove mark the
breathing-space of the popoi-carriers. A little back from the
beach, and not half a mile from Anaho, I was the more amazed to
find a cluster of well-doing breadfruits heavy with their harvest.
'Why do you not take these?' I asked. 'Tapu,' said Hoka; and I
thought to myself (after the manner of dull travellers) what
children and fools these people were to toil over the mountain and
despoil innocent neighbours when the staff of life was thus growing
at their door. I was the more in error. In the general
destruction these surviving trees were enough only for the family
of the proprietor, and by the simple expedient of declaring a tapu
he enforced his right.

The sanction of the tapu is superstitious; and the punishment of
infraction either a wasting or a deadly sickness. A slow disease
follows on the eating of tapu fish, and can only be cured with the
bones of the same fish burned with the due mysteries. The cocoa-
nut and breadfruit tapu works more swiftly. Suppose you have eaten
tapu fruit at the evening meal, at night your sleep will be uneasy;
in the morning, swelling and a dark discoloration will have
attacked your neck, whence they spread upward to the face; and in
two days, unless the cure be interjected, you must die. This cure
is prepared from the rubbed leaves of the tree from which the
patient stole; so that he cannot be saved without confessing to the
Tahuku the person whom he wronged. In the experience of my
informant, almost no tapu had been put in use, except the two
described: he had thus no opportunity to learn the nature and
operation of the others; and, as the art of making them was
jealously guarded amongst the old men, he believed the mystery
would soon die out. I should add that he was no Marquesan, but a
Chinaman, a resident in the group from boyhood, and a reverent
believer in the spells which he described. White men, amongst whom
Ah Fu included himself, were exempt; but he had a tale of a
Tahitian woman, who had come to the Marquesas, eaten tapu fish,
and, although uninformed of her offence and danger, had been
afflicted and cured exactly like a native.

Doubtless the belief is strong; doubtless, with this weakly and
fanciful race, it is in many cases strong enough to kill; it should
be strong indeed in those who tapu their trees secretly, so that
they may detect a depredator by his sickness. Or, perhaps, we
should understand the idea of the hidden tapu otherwise, as a
politic device to spread uneasiness and extort confessions: so
that, when a man is ailing, he shall ransack his brain for any
possible offence, and send at once for any proprietor whose rights
he has invaded. 'Had you hidden a tapu?' we may conceive him
asking; and I cannot imagine the proprietor gainsaying it; and this
is perhaps the strangest feature of the system--that it should be
regarded from without with such a mental and implicit awe, and,
when examined from within, should present so many apparent
evidences of design.

We read in Dr. Campbell's Poenamo of a New Zealand girl, who was
foolishly told that she had eaten a tapu yam, and who instantly
sickened, and died in the two days of simple terror. The period is
the same as in the Marquesas; doubtless the symptoms were so too.
How singular to consider that a superstition of such sway is
possibly a manufactured article; and that, even if it were not
originally invented, its details have plainly been arranged by the
authorities of some Polynesian Scotland Yard. Fitly enough, the
belief is to-day--and was probably always--far from universal.
Hell at home is a strong deterrent with some; a passing thought
with others; with others, again, a theme of public mockery, not
always well assured; and so in the Marquesas with the tapu. Mr.
Regler has seen the two extremes of scepticism and implicit fear.
In the tapu grove he found one fellow stealing breadfruit, cheerful
and impudent as a street arab; and it was only on a menace of
exposure that he showed himself the least discountenanced. The
other case was opposed in every point. Mr. Regler asked a native
to accompany him upon a voyage; the man went gladly enough, but
suddenly perceiving a dead tapu fish in the bottom of the boat,
leaped back with a scream; nor could the promise of a dollar
prevail upon him to advance.

The Marquesan, it will be observed, adheres to the old idea of the
local circumscription of beliefs and duties. Not only are the
whites exempt from consequences; but their transgressions seem to
be viewed without horror. It was Mr. Regler who had killed the
fish; yet the devout native was not shocked at Mr. Regler--only
refused to join him in his boat. A white is a white: the servant
(so to speak) of other and more liberal gods; and not to be blamed
if he profit by his liberty. The Jews were perhaps the first to
interrupt this ancient comity of faiths; and the Jewish virus is
still strong in Christianity. All the world must respect our
tapus, or we gnash our teeth.


The bays of Anaho and Hatiheu are divided at their roots by the
knife-edge of a single hill--the pass so often mentioned; but this
isthmus expands to the seaward in a considerable peninsula: very
bare and grassy; haunted by sheep and, at night and morning, by the
piercing cries of the shepherds; wandered over by a few wild goats;
and on its sea-front indented with long, clamorous caves, and faced
with cliffs of the colour and ruinous outline of an old peat-stack.
In one of these echoing and sunless gullies we saw, clustered like
sea-birds on a splashing ledge, shrill as sea-birds in their
salutation to the passing boat, a group of fisherwomen, stripped to
their gaudy under-clothes. (The clash of the surf and the thin
female voices echo in my memory.) We had that day a native crew
and steersman, Kauanui; it was our first experience of Polynesian
seamanship, which consists in hugging every point of land. There
is no thought in this of saving time, for they will pull a long way
in to skirt a point that is embayed. It seems that, as they can
never get their houses near enough the surf upon the one side, so
they can never get their boats near enough upon the other. The
practice in bold water is not so dangerous as it looks--the reflex
from the rocks sending the boat off. Near beaches with a heavy run
of sea, I continue to think it very hazardous, and find the
composure of the natives annoying to behold. We took unmingled
pleasure, on the way out, to see so near at hand the beach and the
wonderful colours of the surf. On the way back, when the sea had
risen and was running strong against us, the fineness of the
steersman's aim grew more embarrassing. As we came abreast of the
sea-front, where the surf broke highest, Kauanui embraced the
occasion to light his pipe, which then made the circuit of the
boat--each man taking a whiff or two, and, ere he passed it on,
filling his lungs and cheeks with smoke. Their faces were all
puffed out like apples as we came abreast of the cliff foot, and
the bursting surge fell back into the boat in showers. At the next
point 'cocanetti' was the word, and the stroke borrowed my knife,
and desisted from his labours to open nuts. These untimely
indulgences may be compared to the tot of grog served out before a
ship goes into action.

My purpose in this visit led me first to the boys' school, for
Hatiheu is the university of the north islands. The hum of the
lesson came out to meet us. Close by the door, where the draught
blew coolest, sat the lay brother; around him, in a packed half-
circle, some sixty high-coloured faces set with staring eyes; and
in the background of the barn-like room benches were to be seen,
and blackboards with sums on them in chalk. The brother rose to
greet us, sensibly humble. Thirty years he had been there, he
said, and fingered his white locks as a bashful child pulls out his
pinafore. 'Et point de resultats, monsieur, presque pas de
resultats.' He pointed to the scholars: 'You see, sir, all the
youth of Nuka-hiva and Ua-pu. Between the ages of six and fifteen
this is all that remains; and it is but a few years since we had a
hundred and twenty from Nuka-hiva alone. Oui, monsieur, cela se
deperit.' Prayers, and reading and writing, prayers again and
arithmetic, and more prayers to conclude: such appeared to be the
dreary nature of the course. For arithmetic all island people have
a natural taste. In Hawaii they make good progress in mathematics.
In one of the villages on Majuro, and generally in the Marshall
group, the whole population sit about the trader when he is
weighing copra, and each on his own slate takes down the figures
and computes the total. The trader, finding them so apt,
introduced fractions, for which they had been taught no rule. At
first they were quite gravelled but ultimately, by sheer hard
thinking, reasoned out the result, and came one after another to
assure the trader he was right. Not many people in Europe could
have done the like. The course at Hatiheu is therefore less
dispiriting to Polynesians than a stranger might have guessed; and
yet how bald it is at best! I asked the brother if he did not tell
them stories, and he stared at me; if he did not teach them
history, and he said, 'O yes, they had a little Scripture history--
from the New Testament'; and repeated his lamentations over the
lack of results. I had not the heart to put more questions; I
could but say it must be very discouraging, and resist the impulse
to add that it seemed also very natural. He looked up--'My days
are far spent,' he said; 'heaven awaits me.' May that heaven
forgive me, but I was angry with the old man and his simple
consolation. For think of his opportunity! The youth, from six to
fifteen, are taken from their homes by Government, centralised at
Hatiheu, where they are supported by a weekly tax of food; and,
with the exception of one month in every year, surrendered wholly
to the direction of the priests. Since the escapade already
mentioned the holiday occurs at a different period for the girls
and for the boys; so that a Marquesan brother and sister meet
again, after their education is complete, a pair of strangers. It
is a harsh law, and highly unpopular; but what a power it places in
the hands of the instructors, and how languidly and dully is that
power employed by the mission! Too much concern to make the
natives pious, a design in which they all confess defeat, is, I
suppose, the explanation of their miserable system. But they might
see in the girls' school at Tai-o-hae, under the brisk, housewifely
sisters, a different picture of efficiency, and a scene of
neatness, airiness, and spirited and mirthful occupation that
should shame them into cheerier methods. The sisters themselves
lament their failure. They complain the annual holiday undoes the
whole year's work; they complain particularly of the heartless
indifference of the girls. Out of so many pretty and apparently
affectionate pupils whom they have taught and reared, only two have
ever returned to pay a visit of remembrance to their teachers.
These, indeed, come regularly, but the rest, so soon as their
school-days are over, disappear into the woods like captive
insects. It is hard to imagine anything more discouraging; and yet
I do not believe these ladies need despair. For a certain interval
they keep the girls alive and innocently busy; and if it be at all
possible to save the race, this would be the means. No such praise
can be given to the boys' school at Hatiheu. The day is numbered
already for them all; alike for the teacher and the scholars death
is girt; he is afoot upon the march; and in the frequent interval
they sit and yawn. But in life there seems a thread of purpose
through the least significant; the drowsiest endeavour is not lost,
and even the school at Hatiheu may be more useful than it seems.

Hatiheu is a place of some pretensions. The end of the bay towards
Anaho may be called the civil compound, for it boasts the house of
Kooamua, and close on the beach, under a great tree, that of the
gendarme, M. Armand Aussel, with his garden, his pictures, his
books, and his excellent table, to which strangers are made
welcome. No more singular contrast is possible than between the
gendarmerie and the priesthood, who are besides in smouldering
opposition and full of mutual complaints. A priest's kitchen in
the eastern islands is a depressing spot to see; and many, or most
of them, make no attempt to keep a garden, sparsely subsisting on
their rations. But you will never dine with a gendarme without
smacking your lips; and M. Aussel's home-made sausage and the salad
from his garden are unforgotten delicacies. Pierre Loti may like
to know that he is M. Aussel's favourite author, and that his books
are read in the fit scenery of Hatiheu bay.

The other end is all religious. It is here that an overhanging and
tip-tilted horn, a good sea-mark for Hatiheu, bursts naked from the
verdure of the climbing forest, and breaks down shoreward in steep
taluses and cliffs. From the edge of one of the highest, perhaps
seven hundred or a thousand feet above the beach, a Virgin looks
insignificantly down, like a poor lost doll, forgotten there by a
giant child. This laborious symbol of the Catholics is always
strange to Protestants; we conceive with wonder that men should
think it worth while to toil so many days, and clamber so much
about the face of precipices, for an end that makes us smile; and
yet I believe it was the wise Bishop Dordillon who chose the place,
and I know that those who had a hand in the enterprise look back
with pride upon its vanquished dangers. The boys' school is a
recent importation; it was at first in Tai-o-hae, beside the
girls'; and it was only of late, after their joint escapade, that
the width of the island was interposed between the sexes. But
Hatiheu must have been a place of missionary importance from
before. About midway of the beach no less than three churches
stand grouped in a patch of bananas, intermingled with some pine-
apples. Two are of wood: the original church, now in disuse; and
a second that, for some mysterious reason, has never been used.
The new church is of stone, with twin towers, walls flangeing into
buttresses, and sculptured front. The design itself is good,
simple, and shapely; but the character is all in the detail, where
the architect has bloomed into the sculptor. It is impossible to
tell in words of the angels (although they are more like winged
archbishops) that stand guard upon the door, of the cherubs in the
corners, of the scapegoat gargoyles, or the quaint and spirited
relief, where St. Michael (the artist's patron) makes short work of
a protesting Lucifer. We were never weary of viewing the imagery,
so innocent, sometimes so funny, and yet in the best sense--in the
sense of inventive gusto and expression--so artistic. I know not
whether it was more strange to find a building of such merit in a
corner of a barbarous isle, or to see a building so antique still
bright with novelty. The architect, a French lay brother, still
alive and well, and meditating fresh foundations, must have surely
drawn his descent from a master-builder in the age of the
cathedrals; and it was in looking on the church of Hatiheu that I
seemed to perceive the secret charm of mediaeval sculpture; that
combination of the childish courage of the amateur, attempting all
things, like the schoolboy on his slate, with the manly
perseverance of the artist who does not know when he is conquered.

I had always afterwards a strong wish to meet the architect,
Brother Michel; and one day, when I was talking with the Resident
in Tai-o-hae (the chief port of the island), there were shown in to
us an old, worn, purblind, ascetic-looking priest, and a lay
brother, a type of all that is most sound in France, with a broad,
clever, honest, humorous countenance, an eye very large and bright,
and a strong and healthy body inclining to obesity. But that his
blouse was black and his face shaven clean, you might pick such a
man to-day, toiling cheerfully in his own patch of vines, from half
a dozen provinces of France; and yet he had always for me a
haunting resemblance to an old kind friend of my boyhood, whom I
name in case any of my readers should share with me that memory--
Dr. Paul, of the West Kirk. Almost at the first word I was sure it
was my architect, and in a moment we were deep in a discussion of
Hatiheu church. Brother Michel spoke always of his labours with a
twinkle of humour, underlying which it was possible to spy a
serious pride, and the change from one to another was often very
human and diverting. 'Et vos gargouilles moyen-age,' cried I;
'comme elles sont originates!' 'N'est-ce pas? Elles sont bien
droles!' he said, smiling broadly; and the next moment, with a
sudden gravity: 'Cependant il y en a une qui a une patte de casse;
il faut que je voie cela.' I asked if he had any model--a point we
much discussed. 'Non,' said he simply; 'c'est une eglise ideale.'
The relievo was his favourite performance, and very justly so. The
angels at the door, he owned, he would like to destroy and replace.
'Ils n'ont pas de vie, ils manquent de vie. Vous devriez voir mon
eglise a la Dominique; j'ai la une Vierge qui est vraiment
gentille.' 'Ah,' I cried, 'they told me you had said you would
never build another church, and I wrote in my journal I could not
believe it.' 'Oui, j'aimerais bien en fairs une autre,' he
confessed, and smiled at the confession. An artist will understand
how much I was attracted by this conversation. There is no bond so
near as a community in that unaffected interest and slightly shame-
faced pride which mark the intelligent man enamoured of an art. He
sees the limitations of his aim, the defects of his practice; he
smiles to be so employed upon the shores of death, yet sees in his
own devotion something worthy. Artists, if they had the same sense
of humour with the Augurs, would smile like them on meeting, but
the smile would not be scornful.

I had occasion to see much of this excellent man. He sailed with
us from Tai-o-hae to Hiva-oa, a dead beat of ninety miles against a
heavy sea. It was what is called a good passage, and a feather in
the Casco's cap; but among the most miserable forty hours that any
one of us had ever passed. We were swung and tossed together all
that time like shot in a stage thunder-box. The mate was thrown
down and had his head cut open; the captain was sick on deck; the
cook sick in the galley. Of all our party only two sat down to
dinner. I was one. I own that I felt wretchedly; and I can only
say of the other, who professed to feel quite well, that she fled
at an early moment from the table. It was in these circumstances
that we skirted the windward shore of that indescribable island of
Ua-pu; viewing with dizzy eyes the coves, the capes, the breakers,
the climbing forests, and the inaccessible stone needles that
surmount the mountains. The place persists, in a dark corner of
our memories, like a piece of the scenery of nightmares. The end
of this distressful passage, where we were to land our passengers,
was in a similar vein of roughness. The surf ran high on the beach
at Taahauku; the boat broached-to and capsized; and all hands were
submerged. Only the brother himself, who was well used to the
experience, skipped ashore, by some miracle of agility, with scarce
a sprinkling. Thenceforward, during our stay at Hiva-oa, he was
our cicerone and patron; introducing us, taking us excursions,
serving us in every way, and making himself daily more beloved.

Michel Blanc had been a carpenter by trade; had made money and
retired, supposing his active days quite over; and it was only when
he found idleness dangerous that he placed his capital and
acquirements at the service of the mission. He became their
carpenter, mason, architect, and engineer; added sculpture to his
accomplishments, and was famous for his skill in gardening. He
wore an enviable air of having found a port from life's contentions
and lying there strongly anchored; went about his business with a
jolly simplicity; complained of no lack of results--perhaps shyly
thinking his own statuary result enough; and was altogether a
pattern of the missionary layman.


The port--the mart, the civil and religious capital of these rude
islands--is called Tai-o-hae, and lies strung along the beach of a
precipitous green bay in Nuka-hiva. It was midwinter when we came
thither, and the weather was sultry, boisterous, and inconstant.
Now the wind blew squally from the land down gaps of splintered
precipice; now, between the sentinel islets of the entry, it came
in gusts from seaward. Heavy and dark clouds impended on the
summits; the rain roared and ceased; the scuppers of the mountain
gushed; and the next day we would see the sides of the amphitheatre
bearded with white falls. Along the beach the town shows a thin
file of houses, mostly white, and all ensconced in the foliage of
an avenue of green puraos; a pier gives access from the sea across
the belt of breakers; to the eastward there stands, on a projecting
bushy hill, the old fort which is now the calaboose, or prison;
eastward still, alone in a garden, the Residency flies the colours
of France. Just off Calaboose Hill, the tiny Government schooner
rides almost permanently at anchor, marks eight bells in the
morning (there or thereabout) with the unfurling of her flag, and
salutes the setting sun with the report of a musket.

Here dwell together, and share the comforts of a club (which may be
enumerated as a billiard-board, absinthe, a map of the world on
Mercator's projection, and one of the most agreeable verandahs in
the tropics), a handful of whites of varying nationality, mostly
French officials, German and Scottish merchant clerks, and the
agents of the opium monopoly. There are besides three tavern-
keepers, the shrewd Scot who runs the cotton gin-mill, two white
ladies, and a sprinkling of people 'on the beach'--a South Sea
expression for which there is no exact equivalent. It is a
pleasant society, and a hospitable. But one man, who was often to
be seen seated on the logs at the pier-head, merits a word for the
singularity of his history and appearance. Long ago, it seems, he
fell in love with a native lady, a High Chiefess in Ua-pu. She, on
being approached, declared she could never marry a man who was
untattooed; it looked so naked; whereupon, with some greatness of
soul, our hero put himself in the hands of the Tahukus, and, with
still greater, persevered until the process was complete. He had
certainly to bear a great expense, for the Tahuku will not work
without reward; and certainly exquisite pain. Kooamua, high chief
as he was, and one of the old school, was only part tattooed; he
could not, he told us with lively pantomime, endure the torture to
an end. Our enamoured countryman was more resolved; he was
tattooed from head to foot in the most approved methods of the art;
and at last presented himself before his mistress a new man. The
fickle fair one could never behold him from that day except with
laughter. For my part, I could never see the man without a kind of
admiration; of him it might be said, if ever of any, that he had
loved not wisely, but too well.

The Residency stands by itself, Calaboose Hill screening it from
the fringe of town along the further bay. The house is commodious,
with wide verandahs; all day it stands open, back and front, and
the trade blows copiously over its bare floors. On a week-day the
garden offers a scene of most untropical animation, half a dozen
convicts toiling there cheerfully with spade and barrow, and
touching hats and smiling to the visitor like old attached family
servants. On Sunday these are gone, and nothing to be seen but
dogs of all ranks and sizes peacefully slumbering in the shady
grounds; for the dogs of Tai-o-hae are very courtly-minded, and
make the seat of Government their promenade and place of siesta.
In front and beyond, a strip of green down loses itself in a low
wood of many species of acacia; and deep in the wood a ruinous wall
encloses the cemetery of the Europeans. English and Scottish sleep
there, and Scandinavians, and French maitres de manoeuvres and
maitres ouvriers: mingling alien dust. Back in the woods,
perhaps, the blackbird, or (as they call him there) the island
nightingale, will be singing home strains; and the ceaseless
requiem of the surf hangs on the ear. I have never seen a resting-
place more quiet; but it was a long thought how far these sleepers
had all travelled, and from what diverse homes they had set forth,
to lie here in the end together.

On the summit of its promontory hill, the calaboose stands all day
with doors and window-shutters open to the trade. On my first
visit a dog was the only guardian visible. He, indeed, rose with
an attitude so menacing that I was glad to lay hands on an old
barrel-hoop; and I think the weapon must have been familiar, for
the champion instantly retreated, and as I wandered round the court
and through the building, I could see him, with a couple of
companions, humbly dodging me about the corners. The prisoners'
dormitory was a spacious, airy room, devoid of any furniture; its
whitewashed walls covered with inscriptions in Marquesan and rude
drawings: one of the pier, not badly done; one of a murder;
several of French soldiers in uniform. There was one legend in
French: 'Je n'est' (sic) 'pas le sou.' From this noontide
quietude it must not be supposed the prison was untenanted; the
calaboose at Tai-o-hae does a good business. But some of its
occupants were gardening at the Residency, and the rest were
probably at work upon the streets, as free as our scavengers at
home, although not so industrious. On the approach of evening they
would be called in like children from play; and the harbour-master
(who is also the jailer) would go through the form of locking them
up until six the next morning. Should a prisoner have any call in
town, whether of pleasure or affairs, he has but to unhook the
window-shutters; and if he is back again, and the shutter decently
replaced, by the hour of call on the morrow, he may have met the
harbour-master in the avenue, and there will be no complaint, far
less any punishment. But this is not all. The charming French
Resident, M. Delaruelle, carried me one day to the calaboose on an
official visit. In the green court, a very ragged gentleman, his
legs deformed with the island elephantiasis, saluted us smiling.
'One of our political prisoners--an insurgent from Raiatea,' said
the Resident; and then to the jailer: 'I thought I had ordered him
a new pair of trousers.' Meanwhile no other convict was to be
seen--'Eh bien,' said the Resident, 'ou sont vos prisonniers?'
'Monsieur le Resident,' replied the jailer, saluting with soldierly
formality, 'comme c'est jour de fete, je les ai laisse aller a la
chasse.' They were all upon the mountains hunting goats!
Presently we came to the quarters of the women, likewise deserted--
'Ou sont vos bonnes femmes?' asked the Resident; and the jailer
cheerfully responded: 'Je crois, Monsieur le Resident, qu'elles
sont allees quelquepart faire une visite.' It had been the design
of M. Delaruelle, who was much in love with the whimsicalities of
his small realm, to elicit something comical; but not even he
expected anything so perfect as the last. To complete the picture
of convict life in Tai-o-hae, it remains to be added that these
criminals draw a salary as regularly as the President of the
Republic. Ten sous a day is their hire. Thus they have money,
food, shelter, clothing, and, I was about to write, their liberty.
The French are certainly a good-natured people, and make easy
masters. They are besides inclined to view the Marquesans with an
eye of humorous indulgence. 'They are dying, poor devils!' said M.
Delaruelle: 'the main thing is to let them die in peace.' And it
was not only well said, but I believe expressed the general
thought. Yet there is another element to be considered; for these
convicts are not merely useful, they are almost essential to the
French existence. With a people incurably idle, dispirited by what
can only be called endemic pestilence, and inflamed with ill-
feeling against their new masters, crime and convict labour are a
godsend to the Government.

Theft is practically the sole crime. Originally petty pilferers,
the men of Tai-o-hae now begin to force locks and attack strong-
boxes. Hundreds of dollars have been taken at a time; though, with
that redeeming moderation so common in Polynesian theft, the
Marquesan burglar will always take a part and leave a part, sharing
(so to speak) with the proprietor. If it be Chilian coin--the
island currency--he will escape; if the sum is in gold, French
silver, or bank-notes, the police wait until the money begins to
come in circulation, and then easily pick out their man. And now
comes the shameful part. In plain English, the prisoner is
tortured until he confesses and (if that be possible) restores the
money. To keep him alone, day and night, in the black hole, is to
inflict on the Marquesan torture inexpressible. Even his robberies
are carried on in the plain daylight, under the open sky, with the
stimulus of enterprise, and the countenance of an accomplice; his
terror of the dark is still insurmountable; conceive, then, what he
endures in his solitary dungeon; conceive how he longs to confess,
become a full-fledged convict, and be allowed to sleep beside his
comrades. While we were in Tai-o-hae a thief was under prevention.
He had entered a house about eight in the morning, forced a trunk,
and stolen eleven hundred francs; and now, under the horrors of
darkness, solitude, and a bedevilled cannibal imagination, he was
reluctantly confessing and giving up his spoil. From one cache,
which he had already pointed out, three hundred francs had been
recovered, and it was expected that he would presently disgorge the
rest. This would be ugly enough if it were all; but I am bound to
say, because it is a matter the French should set at rest, that
worse is continually hinted. I heard that one man was kept six
days with his arms bound backward round a barrel; and it is the
universal report that every gendarme in the South Seas is equipped
with something in the nature of a thumbscrew. I do not know this.
I never had the face to ask any of the gendarmes--pleasant,
intelligent, and kindly fellows--with whom I have been intimate,
and whose hospitality I have enjoyed; and perhaps the tale reposes
(as I hope it does) on a misconstruction of that ingenious cat's-
cradle with which the French agent of police so readily secures a
prisoner. But whether physical or moral, torture is certainly
employed; and by a barbarous injustice, the state of accusation (in
which a man may very well be innocently placed) is positively
painful; the state of conviction (in which all are supposed guilty)
is comparatively free, and positively pleasant. Perhaps worse
still,--not only the accused, but sometimes his wife, his mistress,
or his friend, is subjected to the same hardships. I was admiring,
in the tapu system, the ingenuity of native methods of detection;
there is not much to admire in those of the French, and to lock up
a timid child in a dark room, and, if he proved obstinate, lock up
his sister in the next, is neither novel nor humane.

The main occasion of these thefts is the new vice of opium-eating.
'Here nobody ever works, and all eat opium,' said a gendarme; and
Ah Fu knew a woman who ate a dollar's worth in a day. The
successful thief will give a handful of money to each of his
friends, a dress to a woman, pass an evening in one of the taverns
of Tai-o-hae, during which he treats all comers, produce a big lump
of opium, and retire to the bush to eat and sleep it off. A
trader, who did not sell opium, confessed to me that he was at his
wit's end. 'I do not sell it, but others do,' said he. 'The
natives only work to buy it; if they walk over to me to sell their
cotton, they have just to walk over to some one else to buy their
opium with my money. And why should they be at the bother of two
walks? There is no use talking,' he added--'opium is the currency
of this country.'

The man under prevention during my stay at Tai-o-hae lost patience
while the Chinese opium-seller was being examined in his presence.
'Of course he sold me opium!' he broke out; 'all the Chinese here
sell opium. It was only to buy opium that I stole; it is only to
buy opium that anybody steals. And what you ought to do is to let
no opium come here, and no Chinamen.' This is precisely what is
done in Samoa by a native Government; but the French have bound
their own hands, and for forty thousand francs sold native subjects
to crime and death. This horrid traffic may be said to have sprung
up by accident. It was Captain Hart who had the misfortune to be
the means of beginning it, at a time when his plantations
flourished in the Marquesas, and he found a difficulty in keeping
Chinese coolies. To-day the plantations are practically deserted
and the Chinese gone; but in the meanwhile the natives have learned
the vice, the patent brings in a round sum, and the needy
Government at Papeete shut their eyes and open their pockets. Of
course, the patentee is supposed to sell to Chinamen alone; equally
of course, no one could afford to pay forty thousand francs for the
privilege of supplying a scattered handful of Chinese; and every
one knows the truth, and all are ashamed of it. French officials
shake their heads when opium is mentioned; and the agents of the
farmer blush for their employment. Those that live in glass houses
should not throw stones; as a subject of the British crown, I am an
unwilling shareholder in the largest opium business under heaven.
But the British case is highly complicated; it implies the
livelihood of millions; and must be reformed, when it can be

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