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Mystic Isles of the South Seas. by Fredrick O'Brien

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opponent, and, when won over, the most enthusiastic neophyte. In
that is found the secret of the society's strength. It embraced
all the imaginative, active, ambitious Tahitians, to whom it gave
opportunities to display varied talents, to form close friendships,
to rise in rank, to meet on evener terms those more aristocratic in
degree, and, above all, to change the monotony of their existence by
eating, drinking, and being merry in company, and all at the expense
of the other fellow. But--and the more you study the Polynesian,
the subtler are his strange laws and taboos--the main provision in
the Arioi constitution was undoubtedly conceived in the desire to
prevent over-population.

Pepe, the woman of Tuatini, had returned to the ways of the Arioi
because her husband had adopted the white convention of jealousy and
monogamy. Only Tahitians like Tetuanui now knew anything about the
order, and so many generations had they been taught shame of it that
the very name was unspoken, as that of the mistletoe god was among
the Druids after St. Patrick had accomplished his mission in Ireland.

Chapter XX

Rupert Brooke and I discuss Tahiti--We go to a wedding feast--How the
cloth was spread--What we ate and drank--A Gargantuan feeder--Songs
and dances of passion--The royal feast at Tetuanui's--I leave for
Vairao--Butscher and the Lermontoffs.

At Mataiea weeks passed without incident other than those of the
peaceful, pleasant round of walking, swimming, fishing, thinking,
and refreshing slumber. My mind dismissed the cares of the mainland,
and the interests thrust upon me there--business, convention, the
happenings throughout the world. I achieved to a degree the state in
which body and spirit were pliant instruments for the simple needs and
indulgences of my being, and my mind, relieved of the cark of custom
in advanced communities, considered, and clarified as never before,
the values of life. It was as if one who had been confined indoors
for years at a task supervised by critical guardians was moved to
a beautiful garden with only laughing children for playmates and a
kindly nature alone for contemplation and guide.

Brooke, who was busied an hour or two a day at poems and letters, and
was physically active most of the time, spoke of this with me. There
were few whites in Tahiti outside Papeete except in the suburbs. The
French in the time of Louis le Debonnaire and of all that period
thought nature unbeautiful. The nation has ever been afraid of it, but
let natural thoughts be freely spoken and written, and natural acts be
less censured than elsewhere. Even in late years their conception of
nature has been that of the painter Corot, delicate, tender, and sad;
not free and primitive. They had possessed Tahiti scores of years,
and yet one hardly saw a Frenchman, and never a Frenchwoman, in the
districts. The French seldom ever ventured in the sea or the stream or
to the reef. Other Europeans and Americans found those interesting,
at least, a little. Brooke and I swam every day off the wharf of the
chefferie. The water was four or five fathoms deep, dazzling in the
vibrance of the Southern sun, and Brooke, a brilliant blond, gleamed
in the violet radiancy like a dream figure of ivory. We dived into
schools of the vari-colored fish, which we could see a dozen feet
below, and tried to seize them in our hands, and we spent hours
floating and playing in the lagoon, or lying on our backs in the
sun. We laughed at his native name, Pupure, which means fair, and at
the titles given Tahiti by visitors: the New Cytherea by Bougainville,
a russet Ireland by McBirney, my fellow voyager on the Noa-Noa and
Aph-Rhodesia by a South-African who had fought the Boers and loved
the Tahitian girls and who now idled with us. Brooke, as we paddled
over the dimpled lagoon, quoted the Greek for an apt description, the
innumerable laughter of the waves. Brooke had been in Samoa, and was
about to leave for England after several months in Tahiti. He wrote
home that he had found the most ideal place in the world to work and
live in. On the wide veranda he composed three poems of merit, "The
Great Lover," "Tiare Tahiti," and "Retrospect." He could understand
the Polynesian, and he loved the race, and hated the necessity of
a near departure. Their communism in work he praised daily, their
singing at their tasks, and their wearing of flowers. We had in common
admiration of those qualities and a fervor for the sun. For his Greek
I gave him St. Francis's canticle, which begins:

Laudate sie, mi signore, cum tuote le tue creature,
Spetialmente messer lo frate sole.

Praised be my Lord, with all his creatures, and especially our brother
the Sun, our sister the Moon, our brother the Wind, our sister Water,
who is very serviceable unto us and humble and chaste and clean; our
brother Fire, our mother Earth, and last of all for our sister Death.

We remarked that while we plunged into the sea bare, Tahitians
never went completely nude, and they were more modest in hiding their
nakedness than any white people we had ever met. They could not accede
to the custom of Americans and Englishmen of public school education
when bathing among males of stripping to the buff and standing about
without self-consciousness. The chief had said that in former times men
retained their pareus except when they went fishing, at which time they
wore a little red cap. He did not know whether this was a ceremonial to
propitiate the god of fishes or to ward off evil spirits in scales. Man
originated on the seashore, and many of the most primitive habits of
humans, as well as their bodily differences from the apes, came from
their early life there. Man pushed back from the salt water slowly.

The official affairs of the chefferie, beyond the repair of roads and
bridges, were few. Crime among Tahitians being almost unknown, the
chief's duties as magistrate were negligible, and the family uttered
many aues when I related to them the conditions of our countries,
with murders, assaults, burglaries and rapine as daily news. The
French law required a civil ritual for marriage, and Tetuanui tied the
legal knots in his district. I was at the chefferie when a union was
performed. The bride and groom were of the middle class of prosperous
landholders. They arrived in an automobile wonderfully adorned with
flowers, with great bouquets of roses and ferns on the lamps. They
were accompanied by cars and carriages filled with their families and
friends. The bride was in a white-lace dress from Paris, with veil and
orange-blossoms, and the groom in a heavy black frock-coat over white
drill trousers with lemon-colored, tight shoes; both looking very ill
at ease and hot. The father of the groom must have us to the church
and to the wedding feast, so Brooke and I rode in a cart, I on the
mother's lap, and the poet on the knees of the father. The jollity of
the arearea was already apparent, and the father vainly whipped his
horse to outspeed the automobile. All the vehicles raced along the
road and into the yard of the Protestant church of Mataiea at top gait.

It was the season of assemblage of the manu patia, the wasps brought
from abroad, and quite ten thousand were clustered on the church
ceiling, while thousands more patrolled the air just over our heads,
courting and quarreling, buzzing and alighting on our heads and
necks. The preacher in a knee-length Prince Albert of black wool,
opened so that I saw he had nothing but an undershirt beneath,
recited the ceremony and addressed the couple. He took a ring from
his trousers-pocket, unwrapping and opening its box. A bridesmaid in a
rose-colored satin gown had taken off the bride's glove, and the pastor
put the ring upon her finger. A number of young men acted as aids
and witnesses, and all who stood were pounced upon by the wasps. They
betrayed no evidence of nervousness, but at the installation of the
ring, the groom, with a desperate motion, tore off his stiff collar
and bared his robust neck. He did not replace it that day. The bride's
mother wept upon my shoulder throughout the quarter of an hour. Not
a trace was indicated of the old wedding customs of the Tahitians,
as Christianity had effaced them rigorously, and though the Tahitians
had had plenty of ceremonies for all public acts, as had the Greeks
and Romans, many had been forgotten under the scourge of orthodoxy
before any white wrote freely of the island. They are lost to record
with the old language.

After the rite, all made a dash for their equipages, and raced for the
bride's home, where, as customary, the fete champetre was given. Again
on mama's lap, and Brooke on papa's, both ample, we hurried,
the bon pere not averse to taking a wheel off the bridal party's
motor-car. With cries of delight we drove into a great cocoanut-grove,
and a thousand feet back from the Broom Road emerged into a sunlit,
but shady, clearing. Huro! the banquet was already being spread. From
different parts of the plantation men came bearing huge platters of
roasted pig, chicken, taro, breadfruit, and feis, with bamboo tubes
of the taiaro sauce like the reeds of a great pipe-organ. Caldrons
of shrimp, crabs, prawns, and lobsters bubbled, and monstrous heaps
of tiny oysters were being opened. Fresh fruit was in rich hoards:
bananas, oranges, custard-apples, papayas, pomegranates, mangoes,
and guavas.

A magnificent bower a hundred feet long, broad and high, had been
erected of bamboo and gigantic leaves. It was similar to a temple
builded by the ardent worshipers of Dionysus to celebrate the
vine-god's feast. The roof of green thatch was supported on a score
of the slender pillars of the ohe, the golden bamboo, and there
were neither sides nor doors. The pillars were wreathed with ferns
and orchids from the forest near by, and on the sward between them
were spread a series of yellow mats woven in the Paumotu atolls. They
carpeted the green floor of the temple, and upon them, in the center,
the graceful leaves of the cocoanut stretched to mark the division
of the vis-a-vis.

From these long leaves rose graduated alabaster columns, the inner
stalks of the banana-plants, and on them were fastened flowers
and ornaments, fanciful creations of the hands of Tahitian women,
fashioned of brilliant leaves and of bamboo-fiber and the glossy white
arrowroot-fiber. From the top of each column floated the silken film of
the snowy reva-reva, the exquisite component of the interior of young
cocoa-palm-leaves, a gossamer substance the extraction of which is as
difficult as the blowing of glass goblets. Varos, marvelously spiced,
prawns, and crayfish, garlanded the bases of these sylvan shafts,
all highly decorative, and within reach of their admirers.

The stiff hand of the white which had garbed the wedding party in
the ungraceful clothing of the European mode had failed to pose the
natural attitude of the Tahitian toward good cheer.

A pile of breadfruit-leaves were laid before each feaster's space in
lieu of plates, and four half-cocoanut-shells, containing drinking
water, cocoanut-milk, grated ripe cocoanut, and sea-water. The last
two were to be mixed to sauce the dishes, and the empty one filled
with fresh water for a finger-bowl.

The bride and groom sat at the head of the leafy board, their intimates
about them, and the pastor, who had joined them, stood a few moments
with bowed head and closed eyes to invoke the blessing of God upon the
revel, as did the orero, the pagan priest of Tahiti a few generations
ago. The pastor and I, with the owner of the Atimaona plantation and
a Mr. Davey, had had an appetizer a moment before.

We all sat on the mats according to bodily habit, the lithe natives on
their heels, the grosser ones and we whites with legs crossed, and with
the minister's raising of his head we fell to, with ease of position,
and no artificial instruments to embarrass our hands. We transferred
each to his own breadfruit-leaves what he desired from the stores
in the center, meat and vegetables and fruit, and seasoned it as we
pleased. New leaves brought by boys and girls constantly replaced
used ones, and the shells of salt and fresh water were refilled.

Barrels of white and red wine had been decanted into bottles, and with
American and German beer stood in phalanges beside the milky banana
columns, and from these all replenished their polished beakers of
the dark nuts.

The oysters, of a flavor equaling any of America or Europe, were
minute and of a greenish-copper hue, and we removed them with our
tongues, draining the ambrosial juice with each morsel, and ate twenty
or thirty each. The fish was steeped in lime-juice, not cooked, and
flavored with the cocoanut sauce and wild chillies. The crayfish were
curried with the curry plant of the mountains, the shrimp were eaten
raw or boiled, and the goldfish were baked.

The sucking pig and fowl had been baked in a native umu, or oven,
on hot stones, and the taro and yams steamed with them. Taro tops
were served with cocoanut cream. One was not compelled by any absurd
etiquette to choose these dishes in any sequence. My left-hand neighbor
was indifferent in choice, and ate everything nearest to him first, and
without order, taking feis or bananas or a goldfish, dozens of shrimps,
a few prawns, a crayfish, and several varos, but informing me, with a
caress of his rounded stomach, that he was saving most of his hunger
for the chicken, pig, and poi. He was a Tahitian of middle age, with a
beaming face, and happy that I spoke his tongue. When the pig and poi
were set before us, he devoured large quantities of them. The poi was
in calabashes, and was made of ripe breadfruit pounded until dough with
a stone pestle in a wooden trough, then baked in leaves in the ground,
and, when cooked, mixed with water and beaten and stirred until a mass
of the consistency of a glutinous custard. He and I shared a calabash,
and his adroitness contrasted with my inexperience in taking the poi
to our mouths. He dipped his forefinger into the poi, and withdrew it
covered with the paste, twirled it three times and gave it a fillip,
which left no remnant to dangle when the index was neatly cleaned
between his lips. Custom was to lave the finger in the fresh-water
shell before resuming relations with the poi.

My handsome neighbor ate four times as much as I, and I was hungry. His
appetite was not unusual among these South Sea giants. I noticed that
he ate more than three pounds of pig and a quart of poi after all his
previous devastation of shellfish, feis, chicken, and taro, besides
two fish as big as both my hands. My right-hand neighbor was Mr. Davey,
an urbane and unreserved American, who informed me in a breath that he
was a dentist, a graduate of Harvard University, seventy-two years old,
and had been in Tahiti forty-two years. He called his granddaughter
of eighteen to meet me, and she brought her infant. Only he of his
tribe could speak English, but she talked gaily in French.

He practised his profession, he said, but with some difficulty, as
the eminent Acting-Consul Williams had by law a monopoly of dentistry
in the French possessions in the South Seas. The monopoly had been
certified to by the courts after a controversy between them, but his
Honor Willi did not enforce the prohibition except as to Papeete,
and besides was very rich, and had more patients than he could
possibly attend.

At the lower end of the mats the bachelors sat,--there were only
three whites at the feast,--and merriment had its home there. After
the first onslaught, the vintages of Bordeaux and of the Rhineland,
and the brews of Munich and Milwaukee shared attention with the
viands. The head of the mats had a sedate atmosphere, because of
the several preachers there, and those Tahitians ambitious to shine
in a diaconal way talked seriously of the problems of the church,
of future himenes, and the waywardness of those who "knew not the
fear of Ietu-Kirito." Their indications of grief at the hardness
of the heathens' hearts grew more lively as they sipped the wine,
thinking perhaps of that day when the Master and the disciples did
the same at another wedding feast.

Soon their voices were drowned by the low notes of an accordion and the
chanting by the bachelors of an ancient love-song of Tahiti. Miri and
Caroline and Maraa, being of Mataiea, had returned for this arearea,
and were seated with the young men. The Tahitians are charitable in
their regard of very open peccadilloes, especially those animated by
passion or a desire for amusement, thinking probably that were stones
to be thrown only by the guiltless, there would be none to lift one;
certainly no white in Tahiti. The dithyramb of a bacchanal sounded,
and the outlaw dentist was reminded of his former intimate friend,
King Pomare the Fifth.

"I was a bosom chum of the king," he said confidentially as he
poured me a shell of Burgundy. "He was much maligned. He drank too
much for his health, but so do almost all kings, from what I've read
and seen. Lord! what a man he was! He'd sit around all night while
the hula boomed, applauding this or that dancer, and seeing that the
booze circulated. He was a fish, that's a fact. He never had enough,
and he could stow away a cask. Good-hearted! When he would go to the
districts he always sent word when he had laid out his course, and
after a few days in each place he would go on with his crowd. He paid
for everything except, of course, gifts of fruit and fish. Every night
there would be a big time, dancing and drinking. Jiminy! But times were
different then. Look at me! I've lived freely all my life, and I am
over forty years here, but you wouldn't know I was past seventy. It's
the climate and not worrying or being worried about clothes or sin."

The bride had long since left the table, removed her shoes, and put
on a Mother Hubbard gown. She and her mother I saw having a bite
together in private comfort.

There were many speeches by Tahitians, most of them long, and
some referring to the happy couple and their progeny in the quaint
way of the medieval French in the chamber scenes after marriage,
as related in story and drama. The pastors depressed their mouths,
the deacons filled theirs with food to stifle their laughter, and the
groom was the subject of flattering raillery. The women did not sit
down, because mostly occupied in the service; but the hetairae, Miri,
Caroline, and Maraa, entertained the bachelors without criticism or
competition. The Tahitian women had no jealousy of these wantons, or,
at least, no condemnation of them. They have always had the place in
Polynesia that certain ancient nations gave them, half admired and
half tolerated. They had official note once a year when the most
skilful of them received the government cachet for excellence in
dances before the governor and his cabinet celebrating the fall of
the Bastile. They became quite as well known in their country by their
performance on those festal days as our greatest dancers or actresses.

When the mats became deserted, and the pastors had taken their carts
for their homes, a little elated but still quoting holy writ, the
nymphs and a dozen other girls of seething mirth took possession of the
temple with a score of young men, and sang their love-songs and set
the words to gesture and somatic harmony. Brooke and I lay and mused
as we listened and gazed. When a youth crowned with ferns began to play
a series of flageolets with his nose, the poet put his foot on mine.

"We are on Mount Parnassus," he whispered. "The women in faun
skins will enter in a moment, swinging the thyrsus and beating the
cymbals. Pan peeps from behind that palm. Those are his pipes, as
sure as Linus went to the dogs."

I met others of the royal family than the former queen, Marao, and her
daughters, the Princesses Tekau and Boots, at an amuraa maa given at
the mansion of Tetuanui. The preparations occupied several days, and
we all assisted in the hunt for the oysters, shrimp, crabs, mao, and
fish, going by twos and threes to the lagoon, the reef, the stream, and
the hills for their rarest titbits. The pigs and fowl were out of the
earth by the day of the feast, and Haamoura and Tatini set the table,
a real one on legs. The veranda was elegantly decorated with palms,
but the table was below stairs in the cooler, darker, unwalled rooms,
on the black pebbles brought from a far-away beach. The pillars of
the house were hung with banana-leaves and ferns, but the atmosphere
was not vividly gay because of the high estate and age of Tetuanui
and his visitors.

The company arrived in automobiles, conspicuous among them Hinoe
Pomare, the big hobbledehoy son of Prince Hinoe, and, next to his
father, heir to the throne. With him was his sister, Tetuanui, who was
departing for Raratonga, and her husband. He was a brother of Cowan,
the prize-fighter, and in their honor was the luncheon. Introduced to
all by the chief of Mataiea, I was asked to sit with them. The group
was extraordinarily interesting, for besides the prince's heir and
his sister, Chief Tetuanui, and his brother-in-law Charlie Ling, was
Paraita, son of a German schooner captain, who was adopted by Pomare
V, and Tinau, another adopted son of the late king, who owned, and
ran for hire, a motor-car. There were other men, but among the women,
all of whom sat below the humblest man, myself, was the Princesse de
Joinville of Moorea, mother of Prince Hinoe, and grandmother of the
youth at the head of the table, and of the boy, Ariipae, who attended
to the chief's garden.

This grandmother, known as Vahinetua Roriarii, was one of the very
last survivors among the notable figures of the kingdom. She had a
cigarette in the corner of her sunken mouth, but she tossed it away
when she and Haamoura, the chief's wife, kissed each other on both
cheeks in the French way. The Princesse de Joinville was tottering,
but with something in her face, a disdain, a trace of power, that
attracted me before I knew her rank or history. Her once raven hair was
streaked with gray, she trembled, and her step was feeble; but all her
weaknesses and blemishes impressed me as the disfigurement by age and
abrasion of a beautiful and noble statue. She was more savage-looking
than any modern Tahitian woman, more aboriginal, and yet more subtle. I
once contemplated in the jungle of Johore an old tigress just trapped,
but marked and wounded by the pit and the blows of her captors. She
looked at me coolly, but with a glint in her eye that meant, I thought,
contempt for all that had occurred since her last hour of freedom.

In the curious network of lines all over the worn face of the princess
there were suggestions of the sensual lure that had made her the
mistress of the court; a gentle but pitiful droop to the mouth that I
had noticed persisting in the roues and sirens of Asia after senility
had struck away all charm. The princess refused a third glass of wine
at the table, but smoked incessantly, and listened absent-mindedly
to the music and the songs. Her thoughts may have been of those mad
nights of orgy which Davey, the dentist, and Brault, the composer, had
described. Her cigarettes were of native tobacco wrapped in pandanus
leaf, as the South American wraps his in corn husk. They were short;
merely a few puffs.

Afa, the tane of the lovely Evoa of the Annexe, brought to the luncheon
Annabelle Lee, the buxom wife of Lovaina's negro chauffeur. She was
a quadroon, a belle of dark Kentucky, with more than a touch of the
tar-brush in her skin and hair, and her gaudy clothes and friendly
manner had won the Tahitians completely. She was receiving much
attention wherever she went in Tahiti, for she had the fashion and
language and manners of the whites, as they knew them, and yet was
plainly of the colored races. The chauffeur himself, a self-respecting
negro, had sat at table with Lovaina many times. There was in Tahiti no
color-line. In America a man with a drop of colored blood in his veins
is classed as a colored man; in Cuba a drop of white blood makes him
a white man. The whites honor their own pigment in all South America,
but in the United States count the negro blood as more important. In
Tahiti all were color-blind.

The amuraa maa was over in a few hours. There were no speeches, but
much laughter, and much singing of the himene written by the king,
"E maururu a vau!"

The tune was an old English hymn, but those were all the words of
the song, and they meant, "I am so happy!" They were verses worthy
of monarchy anywhere, and equaled the favorite of great political
gatherings in America, "We're here because we're here!"

"When I was made chief of Mataiea," said Tetuanui, reminiscently to
me as we sang, "I went, as was the custom, to Papeete to drink with
the king. He had just fallen down a stairway while drunk, and injured
himself severely, so that our official drinking was limited. He hated
stairs, anyhow, but his trouble was that he mixed his drinks. That is
suicidal. He would empty into a very large punch-bowl champagne, beer,
absinthe, claret, whisky and any other boissons, and drink the compound
from a goblet. He could hold gallons. He was dead in two weeks after
I had my chiefly toasts with him. His body was like an old calabash
in which you have kept liquor for a quarter of a century. We had no
alcohol until the whites brought it." Tetuanui ended with a line of
Brault's song about Pomare: "Puisqu'il est mort ... N'en parlons plus!"

Mataiea was the farthest point on Tahiti from Papeete I had reached,
and wishing to see more of the island, I set out on foot with Tatini,
my handmaid. We bade good-bye to Tetuanui and Haamoura and all the
family after the dawn breakfast. Mama Tetuanui cried a few moments
from the pangs of separation, and the chief wrung my hand sorrowfully,
though I was to be back in a few days.

From the reef at Mataiea I had glimpsed the south-west of Tahiti, the
lower edge of the handle of the fan-shaped double isle, mountainous and
abrupt in form, and called commonly the presqu'ile de Taiarapu. The
chief said that at the isthmus of Taravao, the junction of the fan
and handle, there was the Maison des Varos, a famous roadhouse, kept
by M. Butscher, where one might have the best food in Tahiti if one
notified the host in advance.

"One must wake him up," said Tetuanui. "He is asleep most of the time."

I wrote him a letter, and on the day appointed, Tatini and I,
barefooted, started. We went through Tetuanui's breadfruit-grove,
and there, as wherever were choice growths, I stopped to examine and
admire. No other tree except the cocoa equals the maori in usefulness
and beauty. The cocoa will grow almost in the sea and in any soil,
but the breadfruit demands humus and a slight attention. The cocoas
flourish on hundreds of atolls where man never sees them, but the
maoris ask a clearing of the jungle about their feet. The timber
of the breadfruit is excellent for canoes and for lumber, and its
leaves, thick and glossy, and eighteen inches long by a foot broad,
are of account for many purposes, including thatch and plates. There
are half a hundred varieties, and each tree furnishes three or four
crops a year, hundreds of fruits as big and round as plum-puddings,
green or yellow on the tree, pitted regularly like a golf-ball,
in lozenge-shaped patterns. The bark of the young branches was used
for making a tough tapa, native cloth, and resin furnishes a glue
for calking watercraft. The tree bears in the second or third year,
is hardy, but yields its life to a fungus, for which there is no
remedy except, according to the natives, a lovely lily that grows in
the forest. Transplanted, at the roots of the maori, the lily heals
its disease and drives away the parasite. The missionaries cited
this as a parable of Christianity, which would save from damnation
the convert no matter how fungusy he was with sin. In tribal wars the
enemy laid a sea-slug at the heart of the maori, and, its foe unseen,
the tree perished from the corruption of the hideous trepang.

Papeari, the next district west of Mataiea, was well watered, as its
name signified, and we passed cows and sheep and horses grazing under
the trees or in pastures of lush grass. Swamps had been ditched and
drained, and there was evidence of unusual energy in agriculture. The
country gained in tropical aspect as we approached the narrow strip of
land which is the nexus of Tahiti-nui and Tahiti-iti, of the blade and
the handle of the fan. Tahitian mythology does not agree with geology,
any more than does the catechism; for though the scientists aver that
these separate isles were not united until ages after their formation,
a legend ran that at one time the union was complete, but that a
sea-god conceived a hatred for the inhabitants of the Presqu'ile of
Taiarapu, the fearless clans of the Teva-i-tai and the Te-Ahupo.

One very dark night when the moon was in the ocean cavern of this
evil Atua, he began his horrid labors to sever the tie. He smote the
rocks from the foundations, and the people heard in terror throughout
the night the thunders of his blows. He had almost achieved his task
when the goodly sun-god appeared over the mountains far in advance
of his usual time, and blinded the Titan so that he sought safety
beneath the ocean. Tatini showed me the fearful signs of the demon's
fury. Monstrous masses of rock were in the sea, and the isthmus
was reduced to a mere mile of width, an extensive bay filling the
demolished area. The deep inlet of Port Phaeton swept in there like
the Gulf of Corinth in Greece. All this peninsula of Taiarapu was
ceded to Captain Cook. He called it Tiaraboo in his journal, but he
never took possession of his principality, realizing that the cession
was in the fashion of the Spaniard who says, "All I have is yours,"
but would think you unmannerly to carry away anything of value.

Port Phaeton is famed in the annals of the early French conquerors, for
in it they anchored their warships, and the Paris chauvinists dreamed
of a navy-yard and a large settlement there. On the plateau of Taravao,
a hilltop raised fifty feet, is an old fort of the French, a solid
construction against the stubborn Tahitians whom they insisted, with
cannon and musket, must receive Christianity through the French clergy
of the Order of the Sacred Heart of Jesus instead of through English
dissenters. From the plateau we could see the immense extent of the
forests, which rose almost from the water to the tops of the mountains.

A dozen magnificent kinds of trees were all about us. The earth wore
a verdant coat of grass, ferns, and vines, so profuse and bright that
by contrast a remembrance of the barren parts of America crossed my
mind, with the fulsome praise of them by the pious thieves of that
region who sell them. It would be impossible and cruel, I reflected,
to convey to those extravagants in adjectives the richness of herbage
and the brilliancy of scene about the isthmus. The vegetation was
ampler than anywhere else in Tahiti.

The tamanu-, the hotu-, and the mape-trees were in abundance. The
tamanu yields tacamac, a yellow, resinous substance with a strong
odor and a bitter, aromatic taste, that is used as incense and in
ointments. The Tahitians call the tamanu the healing-tree. It grows
just above high water on any kind of shore, embowering, with dark
foliage, and peculiarly easeful in midday on the hot sands. I have
had a tamanu-leaf soaked in fresh water laid upon my eye inflamed by
too long a vigil in the sun on the reef. The small gray ball within
its round green fruit affords a greenish oil that is a liniment of
wizardry for bruises, stiffness, rheumatism, and fevers. In every
house was a gourd stored with it.

The mape, the Tahitian chestnut, grew farther from the water, a
powerful, commanding figure, with flowers of sublimated sweetness, and
with it the tiairi, or tutui-tree, covered with blossoms, like white
lilac, and bearing nuts with oily kernels. It is the candlenut-tree,
which has furnished lights for Tahitians since they wandered to
these latitudes. The nuts are baked to make brittle their shell,
and the kernels of walnut size easily extracted and pierced. Strung
on the midrib of a palm-leaf, the combination makes wax and wick,
and has lighted many a council and many a dance in Polynesia.

The pandanus likes the coral sand, and is in appearance a tree out of a
dream. It grows twenty feet high and stands on aerial roots resembling
inclined stilts. The leaves are in tufts at the tips of the branches,
set like a screw, twisting around the stem in graceful curves, and
marking the stem with a spiral pattern from the root upward. The
leaves are edged with spines. The wood is close, hard, and hollow,
and full of oil. From the pandanus are made posts five or six inches
through. The leaves, four or five feet long, are torn into strips
for making hats, thatch, mats, and canoe sails. They are steeped in
sea-water, and beaten with a mallet to remove the green outer skin,
the residue being white, silken fiber. This is dyed to weave hats and
belts. The aerial roots are crushed to make a tougher fiber for ropes,
baskets, and mats. The fruit is something like a coarse pineapple, and
the blossoms are very fragrant. The ripe fruit is crimson, and strings
like beads into favorite necklaces. The fruit separates into cones,
and one chews the inner end like licorice, while, when dried, the
kernels can be ground into a brown, sweet flour for cakes, a wholesome,
nourishing food, but esteemed only in more barren islands, where fish
and cocoanuts are the principal diet. From the fruit is distilled a
fiery liquor that the early whalers taught the line islanders to drink.

At the isthmus was the only crossing of the belt or, Broom Road, about
Tahiti. One had to choose the left or the right, and we wound to the
right to reach the Maison des Varos. To the left we could have gone to
Tautira, famous as the last stand of the god Oro against the cross,
and still under the chieftaincy of Ori-a-Ori, with whom R.L.S. and
his family lived several months.

The road was a fairy-tale brightly illuminated by plantation,
jungle, and garden, by reef and eyot. The sea lapped gently on sand
as white as the fleecy clouds. Carts of Chinese and Tahitians passed,
carrying their owners and produce. The Chinese said, "Yulanna!" for
"Ia ora na!" and the natives called to us to eat with them in their
near-by homes. But we walked on, saying, "Ua maururu!" "Much obliged!"

M. Butscher had a good-sized, rambling house, with verandas for dining,
and bedrooms for sleep. We found him on his largest table, lying flat
on his back, and contemplating, in the eternal and perplexing way of
the Polynesians. The Daibutsu, the great Buddha of Kamakura, had no
more peaceful, meditative aspect than had the Taravao taverner. He
was long and meager, as dry as a cocoanut from the copra oven, as if
all the juices of his body and soul had been expressed in his years
of cooking the sea-centipedes for which he was celebrated. Tatini
addressed him slowly: "Bocshair, ia ora na!"

He sat up stiffly, and regarded us with indifference. He was cast
for an old and withered Mephistopheles, his lines all downward, his
few teeth fangs, and his smile a threatening leer, as if he thought
of a joke he could not tell to decent visitors, but which almost
choked him to withhold. His clothes were rags, and his naked feet
like the flippers of seals. He opened his mouth, yawned, and said,
"Iiii," a word which means, "I slept with my eyes open."

He settled back upon the table, and became immersed again in
reverie. On the floor by the kitchen was a Tahitian woman with a
baby and a pandanus-basket of varos. They squirmed and wriggled,
contorted and crackled like giant thousand-legs, and almost excited
in me a repulsion.

The vahine laughed at me.

"I fished for them with a dozen grapnels," she said. "It was good
fishing to-day. I put a piece of fish on each group of hooks. You know
those holes are very small at the top and under two or three feet of
water. Not many know how to find them. I set a grapnel in each hole,
and then returned to the first to pull out the varo. I have more than
twenty here."

Butscher rose, and sluggishly began to prepare the breakfast. He
wrapped the varos in hotu-leaves, and put them in the umu to steam on
the red-hot stones, and began to open oysters and fry fish in brown
butter, as Tatini and I hastened to the beach for a bath. The sea
was studded with coral growth, and sponges by the thousand, and we
sat on these soft cushions under the surface, and watched the little
fishes' antics, and chatted. Tatini had gathered half a dozen nono,
a fruit that has a smooth skin and no stone, and she threw them at me.

"Do you know about the nono?" she asked merrily. "It was in our
courtship. When a crowd of young men were gathered to bathe in the
pools or to lie on the banks under the shade of the trees, suddenly a
missile struck one of them on the shoulder. The others began to shout
at him and to sing, for it was a sign that a vahine had chosen him. He
jumped to his feet and ran in the direction of the hidden thrower, and
she ran, too, but no farther than away from the eyes of the others."

"Tatini," I said, "the nono was the Tahitian arrow of a little fat
god we have called Cupid."

"Aue!" she replied. "It was not always oaoa for him, because it might
be an old woman, or some one he did not like, but who loved him. The
Arii, the aristocratic ladies, no matter how old, threw nono at the
youngest and handsomest youth, and they had to pursue them, because
of good manners. You know, Maru, that an illegitimate child is called
to-day taoranono, and taora means to throw."

"When I was in Hawaii," I told her, "the old natives used to talk of a
game there which, under King Kalakaua, their next to last sovereign,
was played at night in Iolani palace or in the garden, but a ball
of twine took the place of the nono, and all stood about, men and
women, in a circle, to speed and receive the token of passion. The
missionaries severely condemned the game."

At the Maison des varos I breakfasted alone, for Tatini was too shy
to break the taboo that separated the sexes at meals. Butscher waited
on me, bringing one plate of ambrosia after another--oysters, shrimp,
varos, and fish. I warmed his frigid blood with a cup or two of Pol
Roger, 1905, a bottle of which he dragged from a cave.

"I am born in Papenoo," he volunteered, "fifty-three years ago. My
father came from Alsace seventy-five years ago, when Tahiti had not
many white people. I am a tinsmith, but I gave up that business many
years ago to keep this maison. I was a catechist in the Catholic
church here nine years, teaching the ignorant. I gave it up; it
didn't pay. I got nothing out of it. I worked about the church,
read the prayers, and led the service when the priest was not there,
and I never made a penny. Everything for me was the future life. Vous
savez, monsieur, toute a l'avenir! Sacre! what a fool I was! Mais,
one day when I was lying on that table as you found me, I was iiii,
and I dreamed that there was no hell and that I was a fool. I turned
over a new leaf that moment. Now I never go near the church, and the
future can take care of itself. That's my son-in-law going by in the
cart. He's the richest young man in Taravao. Ah, oui! he'll spend a
hundred francs here with me in a week for drinks. That's their baby."

Butscher's leathern, yellow visage contracted in an appalling grin.

"They have been married long?" I remarked politely.

"Mais, they are not married yet," replied the father-in-law. "There
is no hurry."

Leaving Tatini to her own pleasures, I rented a horse and cart
of Mephistopheles and drove into the district of Vairao. From the
outset I realized the iniquitous character of the Atua who had tried
to destroy or set adrift the people of the presqu'ile of Taiarapu,
for they were handsomer and, if possible, more hospitable than those
of Tahiti-nui. The road was closer to the water of the lagoon,
and the reef and coral banks were nearer. I allowed the horse to
go his own gait, and we jogged slowly, stopping to browse and to
consider the landscape. The beach was covered with seeds and pods,
the square-shaped seeds of the Barringtonia in their outer case of
fiber, tutui-nuts, cocoanuts, flowers and bits of wood, and objects
that would cause a naturalist to weep for lack of time. Our beaches
of the temperate zones are wastes compared with these, for not only
were the sands strewn with a vast debris of forest and jungle, but
animal life abounded. The hermits toddled about, carrying their
stolen shells, some as small as watch charms, and the land-crabs
fed on the purauand hibiscus-leaves. They are the scavengers of the
shore, eating everything, and thus acting as conservators of health,
as do the lank pigs of the Philippines. They were in myriads, rushing
about seemingly without purpose, and diving into their holes beneath
the palm-roots. Their legs, unshelled, are as excellent food as the
crabs of the Atlantic. In the water a foot or two away moved exquisite
creatures, darting fish, and sailing craft--Portuguese men-of-war,
and other almost intangible shapes of pearly hue.

The village of Vaieri is opposite the pass of Tapuaeraha. Far from the
capital, and from the distractions of tourists and bureaucracy, this
tiny group of homes along the beach was less touched by the altering
hand of the white than Mataica, its setting and atmosphere affectingly
unspoiled. There was a mildness, a reticence, a privacy surrounding
the commune that bespoke a gentle people, living to themselves. It
was almost at the end of the belt road, which virtually terminated
at Puforatiai. Gigantic precipices, high cliffs, and rugged mountains
forbade travel, and from a boat only could one see the extreme southern
end of Tahiti-nui Marearea, Great Tahiti the Golden, as it was called
by its once proud race.

Vaieri was environed by all the plants of this clime. They ran
along the road and embosomed the houses. Guavas and oranges were
tangled with bananas, roses, reeds, papayas, and wild coffee. The
blue duranta and the white oleander, the cool gray-green hibiscus
with lemon-colored blossoms, the yellow allamanda, the trumpet lily,
acacias, lilac ipomaea, tree ferns, and huge bird's-nest ferns mingled
with white convolvulus, and over all lifted groves of cocoas and the
symmetrical breadfruit.

In this surrounding was a wooden house, built partly over the water,
so that a seaward veranda extended into the lagoon, high on posts, and
commanded a view of the sea and the mountain. I saw on this veranda a
more arresting figure of a white man than I had before come upon in
Tahiti. His body, clothed only in a pareu, was very brown, but his
light beard and blue eyes proved his Nordic strain. He was of medium
size, powerful, with muscles rounded, but evident, under his satin
skin, and with large hands and feet. He was reading a book, and as
I ambled by, he raised his head and looked at me with a serious smile.

I checked the horse, and tied him to a candlenut-tree. I felt that
I had arrived at the end of my journey.

I spent the remainder of the day and the night there. The man and his
wife were as stars on a black night, as music to a blind bard. His name
was Nicolai Lermontoff, born in Moscow, and his wife was an American,
Alaska her place of birth, and of residence most of her life. They
were each about forty years old, and of extraordinary ease of manner
and felicity of expression.

"Muy simpatica," had said the old Gipsy at the Generalife in Granada
when I had spoken bolee with him. Lermontoff shook hands with me. His
was as hard as leather, calloused as a sailor's or a miner's, and so
contradicted his balanced head, intellectual face, and general air
of knowledge and world experience that I said:

"You have the horniest palm in Tahiti."

"I am a planter," he replied. "We have been here a few years, and after
buying the ground I had to clear it, because it had been permitted
to go to bush. There were a few hundred cocoanut-trees, but nothing
else worth while. I began at the highest point and worked to the sea."

I drew from him that he had bought eighteen acres of land for twelve
hundred dollars, and had spent most of a year in preparing it for
vanilla, cocoanuts, a few breadfruit, a small area of coffee and taro,
and a vegetable patch.

"We have very little money," he explained, "and live largely on catches
in the sea and stream, and fruit and vegetables, with a dozen chickens
for eggs. I pull at the net with the village. Actually, we figure
that fifteen dollars a month covers our expenditures. This house cost
five hundred and eight dollars, but, of course, I did a lot of work
on it. The chief items for us are books, reviews, and postage."

Three walls of the house were covered with books, and the fourth
stopped at the floor to make the wide veranda over the lagoon.

Mrs. Lermontoff had on the peignoir of the natives, and was
barefooted within the house, but wore sandals outside. She sat before
a sewing-machine.

"I am making a gown or two for a neighbor who is sick," she said. "I
do not give many hours to sewing. I like better the piano."

She knew all the Russian composers well, had studied at a conservatory
in the German capital, and she also played Grieg for me with much
feeling and a strong, yet delicate, touch. For dinner we had a broiled
fish, which I myself cooked on stones outside the house, and tuparo,
mountain feis steamed and mashed into a golden pulp, with cocoanut
cream. With these we ate boiled green papaya, which tasted like
vegetable marrow; and for dessert sweet oranges with grated fresh
cocoanut, and for drink, the wine of the nut.

After the food we sat and looked at the reef, the purple sea, and the
stars, and talked. These two were weary of life in the big countries
of the world, and would rest in Tahiti. If they made enough money,
they would like to go to America and work for the revolution they
hoped for. They did not believe in bringing it about by violence,
but by acting on the Christ principle, as they interpreted it. Yet
they were not religionists.

"Of course one is not sure of the aims and end of life," said
Lermontoff. "I have no greater certainty than the kaisers and czars
or your great men, Morgan and Rockefeller; but, at least, theirs are
not worth while for the race of man. I hold that man is the greatest
product of life so far, and not government or trade. That the whirling
spheres are made for man I disbelieve, but on this planet, and in
our ken, he is the object we most prize, and rightfully. Therefore to
build him in health and character, in talent and happiness, is all of
existence. The life after death we are not sure of, but beauty is on
earth, and to know it and worship it in nature, and in man and his
thoughts and deeds are our ends. The individual man gains only by
sacrifice for his fellows. He must give freely all he has. This is
his only way out of the shadow that may be inherent in our growth,
but in any event has been made certain by machinery and business
control of world ethics."

They were believers in the doctrines of Leo Tolstoi, and especially in
non-resistance, and the possessing little or no property to encumber
their free souls. In the village they had become the guides of the
Tahitians in the devious path of enforced civilization.

Mrs. Lermontoff, in lamenting the Tahitian's degradation, physical
and spiritual, said that she was reminded always of the Innuit,
the Eskimo, among whom she and her husband had passed several years.

"They are the most ethical, the most moral, the most communal people
I know of," she commented. "They have a quality of soul higher than
that of any other race, a quality reached by their slow development and
constant struggle. I imagine they went through a terrible ordeal in the
more temperate zones farther south before they consented to be pushed
into the frozen lands of Canada, and then, following the caribou in
the summer, to mush to the Arctic sea. There, while they had to change
their habits, clothing and food, to learn to live on the seal and the
bear and the caribou in the midst of ice and snow, they were spared
for thousands of years the diseases and complexes of civilization,
and reached a culture which is more worth while than ours."

I was skeptical, but she quoted several eminent anthropologists to
support her statement that the Eskimo were better developed mentally
than other people, and that in simplicity of life, honesty, generosity,
provision for the young and the old, in absence of brutality,
murder and wars, they had a higher system of philosophy than ours,
which admits hells, prisons, asylums, poor houses, bagnios, famines
and wars, and fails even in the recurrent periods of hard times to
provide for those stricken by their lash.

"But," said Lermontoff, "the Innuit, too, is corrupting under the
influence of trade, of alcohol, and the savage lust of the white
adventurer. He attained through many centuries, perhaps thousands
of years, of separation from other peoples, and without any of the
softening teachings of Christianity, a Jesus-like code and practice,
which the custodians of Christianity have utterly failed to impress
on the millions of their normal adherents."

I looked out upon the reef where the waves gleamed faintly, upon the
scintillating nearer waters of the lagoon, and upon us, barefooted,
and clothed but for decency, and I had to jolt my brain to do justice
to the furred and booted Eskimo in his igloo of ice. The difference
in surroundings was so opposite that I could barely picture his
atmosphere climatological and moral. I led the conversation back to
their situation in Vaieri.

He had planted his vanilla-vines on coffee-bushes, the vanilla being an
orchid, a parasite, that creeps over the upstanding plants, coffee,
or the vermillion-tree. Lermontoff said that it was a precarious
crop, a world luxury, the price of which fluctuated alarmingly. Yet
it was the most profitable in Tahiti, which produced half of all the
vanilla-beans in the world.

This man and woman made a deep impression upon me. They had seen
cities everywhere, had had position and fashion, and were, for their
advanced kind, at peace.

"We have no nerves here," said Mrs. Lermontoff. "Our neighbors are all
fishermen, and we are friends. We drink no wine, we want no tobacco. We
have health and nature; books and music supply our interests. Life
is placid, even sweet."

When I bade them good-by it was with regret. They had found a refuge,
and they had love, and yet they wanted to aid in the revolution they
believed in. I restrained myself from pointing out that Tolstoi,
at the last, forsook even his family to seek solitude and die.

Chapter XXI

A heathen temple--The great Marae of Oberea--I visit it with Rupert
Brooke and Chief Tetuanui--The Tahitian religion of old--The wisdom
of folly.

Reading one day from Captain Cook's Voyages about a heathen temple
not far from Mataiea which Cook had visited, I suggested to Brooke
that we go to it. None of the Tetuanui younger folk had seen it, but
Haamoura directed us to return toward Papara as far as the thirty-ninth
kilometer-stone, and to strike from that point towards the beach. Cook
had had a sincere friendship, if not a sweeter sentiment, for Oberea,
the high chiefess of the clan of Tevas at Papara, and whom at first
he thought queen of Tahiti. He described her as "forty years of age,
her figure large and tall, her skin white, and her eyes with great
expression." That handsome lady had led him a merry chase, her
complacent husband, Oamo, abetting her in the manner of Polynesia,
where women must have their fling. The temple Cook and his officers
inspected was the tribal church of the noble pair. The Voyages say:

The morai consisted of an enormous pile of stone work, raised in
the form of a pyramid with a flight of steps on each side, and was
nearly two hundred and seventy feet long, about one-third as wide,
and between forty and fifty feet high. As the Indians were totally
destitute of iron utensils to shape their stones, as well as mortar
to cement them when they had made them fit for use, a structure of
such height and magnitude must have been a work of infinite labor and
fatigue. In the center of the summit was the representation of a bird,
carved in wood; close to this was the figure of a fish which was in
stone. This pyramid made part of one side of a wide court or square,
the sides of which were nearly equal; the whole was walled in, and
paved with flat stones.

When we reached the thirty-ninth kilometer-stone we met my host,
Tetuanui, in his one-horse vehicle, inspecting the road. He agreed,
though a little reluctantly, to take us to the marae (pronounced
mah-rye). We turned down a road across a private, neglected property,
and for almost a mile urged the horse through brambles and brush that
had overgrown the way. We were going toward the sea along a promontory,
"the point" upon which Cook's mariners saw the etoa-trees a century
and a half ago, about the time that Americans were seeking separation
from England, before Napoleon had risen to power, and when gentlemen
drank three bottles of port after dinner and took their places under
the table.

"Tooti was in love with Oberea," said the chief. "She was hinaaro

The expression is difficult to translate, but Sappho and Cleopatra
expressed it in their lives; perhaps ardent in love would be a mild

At last, after hard struggles, we reached Point Mahaiatea, the "point"
of Cook, on the bay of Popoti, which swept from it to the beginning
of the valley of Taharuu. The reef was very close to the shore, and
the sea had encroached upon the land, covering a considerable area
of the site of the marae. The waves had torn away the coral blocks,
and they lay in confusion in the water. The beach, too, was paved
with coral fragments, the debris of the temple. Though devastated
thus by time, by the waves, and by the hands of house-, bridge-,
and road-builders, by lime-makers, and iconoclastic vandals, the
marae yet had majesty and an air of mystery. It was not nearly of the
original height, hardly a third of it, and was covered with twisted
and gnarled toa, or ironwood, trees like banians, the etoa of Cook,
and by very tall and broad pandanus, by masses of lantana and other
flowering growths. Tetuanui, Brooke, and I stumbled through these,
and walked about the uneven top, once the floor of the temple.

"Every man in Tahiti brought one stone, and the marae was builded,"
said Tetuanui. "We were many then."

He had not been there in fifty years.

We crawled down the other side, a broken incline, and to the
beach. Land-crabs scrambled for their holes, the sole inhabitants of
the spot once given to chants and prayers, burials, and the sacrifice
of humans to the never-satisfied gods. There was an acrid humor in the
name of the bay on which we looked, Popoti meaning cockroach. That
malodorous insect would be on this shore when the last Tahitian was
dead. It existed hundreds of millions of years before man, and had not
changed. It was one of the oldest forms of present life, better fitted
to survive than the breed of Plato, Shakespere, or Washington. Its
insect kind was the most dangerous enemy man had: the only form of
life he had not conquered, and would be crooning cradle-songs when
humanity, perhaps through its agency, or perhaps through the sun
growing cold, had passed from the earth. Not impossibly, insects
would render extinct all other beings, and then the cockroach could
proclaim that creation had its apotheosis in it.

The marae was the cathedral of the Tahitians. About it focused all the
ceremonies of the worship of divinity, of consecration of priests and
warriors to their gods and their chiefs. The oldest marae was that of
Opoa, on the island of Raiatea, the source of the religion of these
groups. It was built by Hiro, the first king of Raiatea, who, deified
after death, became the god of thieves. The Papara marae was made of
coral, but the quarried mountain rock was laid at the foundation, and
these ponderous, uneven stones being patched with coral, in time the
blocks had become tightly cemented together. A lime-kiln was along
the land side of this marae of Oberea, and for years had furnished
the cement, plaster, and whitewash of the district.

In the rear of the marae was the ossary where the bones of the
victims were thrown. In Manila I had viewed immense heaps of these
discarded skeletons of humans dragged from niches in a wall and
flung indiscriminately on the ground by the monks, who owned the Paco
cemetery, because the rent for the niches was past due. Tetuanui said
that in his grandfather's day there was a bad odor about the ossary, as
there was in Paco until the American Government abolished the iniquity.

The altar itself was called Fatarau. Here were laid the offerings of
fruit and meat, but human victims were not exposed on it. Their bodies
were thrown into the ossary after the ceremony was completed. The
altar was always bare except at these times, and none ascended it
but priests, ecstatics, and the man who carried the god. Only he and
the high priest might touch this idol. The demoniacs were usually in
collusion with the priests, willy-nilly.

The idol was the king's or prince's god. Each had his own. A royal
idol was wrapped in precious cloths and adorned with feathers, made
usually of ironwood, and was about six feet long. They diminished in
size with the importance of the owner, and among the commoners might
be put in a pocket or a piece of bamboo, like the pocket saints one
buys in Rome. Besides, every chief and little chief had his own marae,
which might be very small indeed, as family shrines. Of great religious
events the royal maraes were the scenes, and the high priests were
attached to these. The personnel of the marae was:

The king, chief, or master of the temple; all ceremonies were for
his benefit. The high priest and his assistants, the latter ordinary
priests. The high priests served only the maraes of the first rank. The
orero, who were preachers or poets; the oripou, or night runners;
the guardian porters of the idol. The sorcerers or demoniacs.

Thus there were six ranks in the service of the temple. The high
priest was supreme under the king, and decided when a human sacrifice
was demanded by the gods. He was a kind of cardinal or bishop, and
his jurisdiction extended over the maraes in the territory of his
master. The priests' functions were like those of the high priest
except that they were subordinate, and they could not replace him in
certain ceremonies. The orero was the living book of the religion,
the holy chants of tradition, of ancestry, and of state. He must
recite without hesitation these various records before the marae in
the middle of an immense crowd. The orero cultivated their memories
marvelously. They were usually sons of oreros or priests, and trained
by years of study to retain volumes, as actors do parts. The oripou
or haerepo were youths, neophytes, intended for the priesthood, and
assisted the ordinary priests; but their special duties were singular
and interesting. They were the couriers of the night, the spies of
their districts upon neighboring clans. In war-time their work was
arduous and most important, and their calling very honorable. Kings'
sons sometimes were oripou. The idol-carriers were tabu. Their persons
might not be touched nor their food.

The sorcerers, ecstatics, and demoniacs were not regularly organized
into a caste. When a man fancied himself possessed by a god, he became
a recognized saint. He was tabu. He ascended to the altar and danced
or gyrated as he pleased. The old missionaries, who believed these
sorcerers inhabited by devils, record incredible deeds by them. Often
the spirit forsook them, and they became common clay, but when primed
with the deity's power, they would ascend vertical rocks of great
height by touching the smooth surface with tiny idols which they held
in their hands, and without any contact by their feet. These demoniacs
recall the oracles of ancient nations, and especially Simon Magus,
the precursor of innumerable fathers of new religions, who by the
power of the "Christian God" fell to a horrible death when he tried
to fly before the Roman emperor on the wings of the devil.

Before a day of sacrifice a victim was selected by the high priest. The
victim had no knowledge of his approaching end. He must not be
informed, and though his father and mother and family were told in
advance, they never warned their unfortunate loved one. No hand was
lifted to avert his fate, for he was tabu to the gods. Though no excuse
could be offered for the slaying of their own clansman except the
direful hold of religion, which in Tahiti, as in Europe not so long
ago, put Protestant and Catholic on the pyre in the name of Christ,
yet so soft-hearted were these people that they could not disturb
the peace of mind of the offering, and until the moment when he was
struck down from behind he was as unconcerned as any one. They never
tortured as the English and French tortured Joan of Arc, and as the
police of America torture thousands of Americans every day.

I looked long at this ruined pagan tabernacle, this arc of the
covenant for Oberea and Oamo, and for Tetuanui's fathers. The chief
said that his grandfather had seen it in its palmy period. Oberea
was an ancestress of my host of Papara, Tati Salmon, who had the
table-ware of Stevenson, and who was of the clan of Teva, as she.

Wrecked, battered by the surf, torn to pieces by pickaxes, undermined
by the sea, and overgrown by the rank foliage of the tropics,
the marae preserved for me and for Brooke, too, a solemnity and
reminiscent grandeur that brought a vision of the beauty and might
of the passionate Oberea, who had commanded it to be built. Though
different in environment as the sea from the desert, and in size and
aspect, materials and history, I was transported from this Tahitian
temple to the pyramids on the sands of Egypt. Forty centuries later
I could trace the same aspiration for community with deity and for
immortality of monument which had sweated a hundred thousand men
for twenty years to rear the lofty pile of Gizeh. In Borobodo, in the
jungle of Java, I had seen, as near Cairo, the proudest trophy, temple,
and tomb of king and priest humbled in the dust by the changing soul
of man in his fight to throw off the shackles of the past.

This marae had not been a place of cannibalism, as the Paepae Tapu
of the Marquesas Islands. The Tahitians had no record of ever having
eaten humans. They replied to the first whites who asked them if they
ate people:

"Do you?"

Yet when a human sacrifice was made, the presiding chief was offered
the left eye of the victim, and at least feigned to eat it. Was this
a remnant of a forgotten cannibalistic habit, or a protest of the
Tahitians and Hawaiians against the custom as not being Polynesian, but
a concession to a fashion adopted in fighting the Fijian anthropopogi?

The people of Huahine, an island near Tahiti, had a supreme god named
Tane, who might be touched only by one human being, a man selected for
that purpose. He was the sole bachelor on the island, being forbidden
to marry. Whenever the priests wanted Tane moved to a shrine, this
chap, te amo atua (the god-bearer) had to pack him on his back. The
idol was a heavy block of wood, and when his bearer wearied, it had
to appear that the god wanted to rest, for a god-bearer could not be
tired. The missionaries burned Tane with glee, after a battle between
the Christian converts and the heathen reactionaries. The progressives
won, and convinced the enemy that Tane was a wretched puppet of the
priests, so that they dragged the god from his lofty house, and kicked
him on to his funeral pyre. "There was great rejoicing in heaven that
day," says a pious English commentator.

The Polynesians had very fixed ideas upon the origin of the universe
and of man. In Hawaii, Taaroa made man out of red earth, araea,
and breathed into his nostrils. He made woman from man's bones, and
called her ivi (pronounced eve-y). At the hill of Kauwiki, on the
eastern point of the island of Maui, Hawaii, the heaven was so near
the earth that it could be reached by the thrust of a strong spear,
and is to-day called lani haahaa.

The Marquesans said that in the beginning there was no light,
life, or sound in the world; that a boundless night, Po, enveloped
everything, over which Tanaoa, (Darkness), and Mutu-hei, (Silence),
ruled supreme. Then the god of light separated from Tanaoa, fought
him, drove him away, and confined him to night. Then the god Ono,
(Sound), was evolved from Atea, (Light), and banished Silence. From
all this struggle was born the Dawn, (Atanua). Atea married the Dawn,
and they created earth, animals, man.

In most of Polynesia there are legends of a universal flood from
which few escaped. In Fiji it was said that two races were entirely
wiped out, one of women, and the other of men and women with tails. A
little bird sat on the top of the uncovered land and wailed the
destruction. The Marquesans built a great canoe like a house, with
openings for air and light, but tight against the rain. The ark was
stored with provisions, and the animals of the earth were driven in
two by two, fastened in couples. Then the family of four men and four
women entered the ark, sacrificed a turtle to God, and retired to rest
amidst the terrific din of the confined animals. The storm burst, and
the waters covered the entire land. The storm ceased and a black bird
was sent over the sea of Hawaii. It returned to the ark, and a wind
set in from the north. Another bird was loosed, and alighted on the
sea-shore. It was recalled, and a third bird brought back twigs. The
ark soon grounded, and the four men and four women released the beasts,
and went ashore. These repopulated the earth.

The Samoans believed that the earth was once covered with water and the
sky alone was inhabited, until God sent his only begotten daughter in
the form of a kuri, or snipe, to look for dry land. She found a spot,
and brought down to it earth, and a creeping plant, which grew and
decomposed into worms, and, lo! the worms turned into men and women.

In Hawaii Nuu was saved from a similar flood, and with him his
three sons and their families. Ten generations later Kanehoalani
was commanded by God to introduce circumcision. He went to a far-off
country, had a son by a slave woman and one by his wife. He was then
commanded, this descendant of Nuu in the tenth generation, to go up
on a mountain and perform a sacrifice. He sought a mountain, but none
appeared suitable; so he communed with God, who told him to travel
to the east, and he would find a precipice. He departed with his son
and a servant. The Hawaiians still call the mountains back of Koolau,
near Honolulu, after the name of the three, and when the missionaries
gave them the Jewish sacred books, were delighted to point out that
long before Christ came to earth they had believed as above, and that
Abraham was the tenth from Noah, that Abraham practised circumcision,
and was father of Isaac and the illegitimate Ishmael, and that their
descendant of Nuu, as Abraham, became the father of twelve children,
and the founder of the Polynesian race, as Abraham had of the Jews.

One might detect some relation to the Hebraic scriptures in the legends
of the Maoris of New Zealand and Tonga that the older son of the first
man killed his brother, and that in Fiji one still is shown the site
where a vast tower was built because the Fijians wanted to peer into
the moon to discover if it was inhabited. A lofty mound was erected,
and the building of timber upon it. It was already in the sky when
the fastenings broke, and the workmen were precipitated over every
part of Fiji.

The sun stood still for Hiaka when she attempted to recover the body
of Lohiau, her sister Pele's lover. There was not daylight enough
to climb the mountain Kalalau and bring down the body from a cave,
so she prayed, and the sun set much later than usual. Aukelenui-a
Iku, the next to the youngest of twelve children, was hated by his
brothers because he was his father's favorite, and they threw him
into a pit to die. His next eldest brother rescued him, and he became
a traveler, and found the water of life, with which he restored his
brother who had been drowned years before. The Chaldeans had a similar
legend. Ninkigal, goddess of the regions of the dead, ordered Simtar,
her attendant, to restore life to Ishtar with the "waters of life."

Naula-a-Maihea of Oahu, not far from Honolulu, was upset from his
canoe while paddling to Kauai, and was swallowed by a whale, which
kindly threw him up on the beach of Wailua.

Kana-loa and Kane-Apua, prophets, walked about the world, causing water
to flow from rocks, as did Moses, and in the ancient litany, recited
by priest and congregation, the responses of "Hooia, e oia!" meant
"It is true!" as does Amen, the response of Christian litanies
to-day. The custom of using holy water prevailed all over Polynesia.

"The ocean which surrounds the earth was made salt by God so it should
not stink," said the legend, "and to keep it salt is the special work
of God."

To celebrate God's act, the priests of Polynesia blessed waters for
purification, for prayer, and for public and private ceremonies,
and to exorcise demons and drive away diseases, as the priests of
America and Europe do. Holy water was called ka wai kapu a Kane, and
from the baptizing of the new-born child to the sprinkling of the
dying its sacred uses were many. To-day the older people use these
pagan ablutions to alleviate pain and cure maladies. The old Greeks
used salt water for the same purposes, and had holy-water fonts at
the temple gates, as do the Catholic churches to-day.

Levy and Woronick believed, or pridefully affected to believe,
that at a remote period a band of Israelites, perhaps one of the
lost tribes carried away by the Assyrians, peopled these islands;
or settled in Malaysia before the Polynesian exodus from there,
and gave them their lore. Pere Rambaud of the Catholic mission at
Papeete considered it more probable that Spaniards, reaching Hawaii
from wrecked Spanish galleons voyaging between Mexico and Manila,
brought the holy doctrines. His explanation, however, often advanced,
fell utterly before the fact that the Polynesians had no knowledge of
Jesus or any man or god like him, and knew nothing of original sin;
but, more convincing, all Polynesia had these legends, and there
had been no communication with the Maoris of New Zealand and with
Fiji after the Spanish entered the Philippines. It is to me quite
certain that the Polynesians brought with them from Malaysia or India
or from farther toward Europe those traditions of the beginnings of
mankind which grew up hundreds of thousands of years ago, and were
dispersed with each group setting out for adventure or driven from
the birthplace of thinking humans.

Taaroa, whose name was spelt differently in separated archipelagos, was
the father of the Tahitian cosmogony. His wife was Hina, the earth,
and his son, Oro, was ruler of the world. Tane, the Huahine god,
was a brother of Oro, and his equal, but there were islands which
disputed this equality, and shed blood to disprove it, as the sects
of Christianity have since the peaceful Jesus died by the demands of
the priests of his nation.

Haui was the Tahitian Hercules. Of course he, too, bade the sun to
stay a while unmoving, and it did. Joshua, the son of Nun, whose
astronomical exploit at Gibeon brought him immortal fame, was a
glorious warrior; but Haui's unwritten achievements, as chanted by
the orero at the marae where Tetuanui, Brooke, and I stood, would
have forced the successor of Moses to have withdrawn his book from
circulation, as too dull.

The Polynesian creator put on earth hogs, dogs, and reptiles. There
were many kinds of dogs in their mythology, including the "large dog
with sharp teeth," and the "royal dog of God." Among reptiles was
Moo, a terrible dragon living in caverns above and beneath the sea,
who was dreaded above all dangers. He was to them the monster that
guarded the Hesperides garden, and the beast that St. George slew;
but as the common lizard was the largest reptile in Polynesia, this,
too, was an heirloom from another land. In the old Havaii--probably
Java--they must have known those fierce crocodiles that I have seen
drag down a horse drinking in the river at Palawan, and noted swimming
in the open sea between Siassi and Borneo.

The chief and Brooke and I sat in the shade of the etoa-trees, and
conversed about these ancient stories. Fixed in the mind of the race
by the repetition of ages, they are the most difficult of all errors
to erase, and the professors of this wisdom stamp it upon the heart
and brain of the child in almost indelible colors, and make it tabu,
sacrilege, or treason to deny its verity. Half a century ago repairs
became necessary to Mohammed's tomb at Medina, and masons were asked
to volunteer to make them, and submit to beheading immediately
after. There was no lack of desirous martyrs. One descended into
the mausoleum, finished the task, and, reaching the air again,
knelt, turned his face toward Mecca, and bent his head for the
ax. The Mussulman keepers of the tomb justified their act, as, the
forbidding telling the truth about religion and government, about
war and business, is justified. Their words were:

"We picture those places to ourselves in a certain manner, and for
the preservation of our holy religion, and the safety of society,
there must not be any one who can say they are otherwise."

It was noon when Brooke and I--Tetuanui having gone to instruct his
gang--plunged into the sea in front of the chefferie, and laughed
in the joy of the sweet hour. He had written lines of beauty that
interpreted our humor:

Tau here, Mamua,
Crown the hair, and come away!
Hear the calling of the moon,
And the whispering scents that stray
About the idle warm lagoon.
Hasten, hand in human hand,
Down the dark, the flowered way,
Along the whiteness of the sand,
And in the water's soft caress
Wash the mind of foolishness,
Mamua, until the day.
Spend the glittering moonlight there,
Pursuing down the soundless deep
Limbs that gleam and shadowy hair;
Or floating lazy, half-asleep.
Dive and double and follow after,
Snare in flowers, and kiss, and call,
With lips that fade, and human laughter
And faces individual!
Well this side of Paradise! ...
There 's little comfort in the wise.

Chapter XXII

I start for Tautira--A dangerous adventure in a canoe--I go by land
to Tautira--I meet Choti and the Greek God--I take up my home where
Stevenson lived.

Seeing the way the Lermontoffs lived, caused me to resolve that during
the remainder of my stay in Tahiti I would go even farther from Papeete
than Mataiea. They suggested Tautira, a village they had never visited,
but which was at the very end of the habitable part of the Presqu'ile
of Taiarapu. My easiest route to Tautira was by crossing the isthmus
of Taravao, to the other side of the peninsula, as nowhere in Tahiti
except at Lake Vaihiria were there even passable trails across the
lofty spine of the island. I was for sending back the cart and horse
to Taravao and taking a canoe to Tautira. A council of the elders of
Vaieri opposed me, but yielded to my persistence by advising me at
least to ride as far as possible in the cart along the western road,
and to find, nearer to Tautira, in Maora, or farther on, in Puforatoai,
a canoe and canoeists for the risky attempt.

Tatini, who had lagged behind at Butscher's, appeared as I harnessed
the horse. She had accompanied the Tinito storekeeper of Taravao to
Vaieri, and would not permit me to go on alone. She climbed into the
vehicle, and we wended a winding road, and forded several streams until
we came to Puforatoai, having gone through Hatiti and Maora. There
was a pass in the reef admitting to a questionable shelter, Port
Beaumanoir, used by the French when little gunboats threatened to
bombard villages to force the rule of Paris.

Puforatoai was a handful of houses, hardly a village. My advent was
of importance, and its few people gathered about us. They voiced
their amazement when Tatini announced our wish to find a navigator
and vessel to Tautira. They all said it was impossible, that the
coast to Pari, with the submerged reef of Faratara, was too rough
now for any but a large power boat, and the wind would be baffling
and threatening. But as fear of the sea was unknown to them, they
expressed a will to make the attempt. We launched a large canoe,
and two sturdy natives, relations of Tatini, took the paddles. They
had made the journey more than once, but not at this season.

We got into difficulties from the start. The shores were very different
from those of Mataiea, Papeari, and Vairao, the three districts
I had come through from the house of Tetuanui. The alluvial strip
of land which in them stretched from a quarter of a mile to a mile
from the lagoon to the slopes of the hills, here was cramped to the
barest strip. The huts of the indigenes, few and far apart outside
of Puforatoai, seemed to be set in terraces cut at the foot of the
mountains which rose almost straight from the streak of golden sand
to the skies. In every shade of green, as run by the overhead sun
upon the altering facets of precipice and shelf, of fei and cocoa,
candlenut and purau, giant ferns and convolvulus, tier upon tier,
was a riot of richest vegetation. But everywhere in the lagoon were
bristling and hiding dangers from hummocks of coral and sunken banks.

Our canoe was twenty feet long, and with a very strong outrigger,
but though all four of us paddled, Teta, the chief man of Puforatoai,
in the stern, steering, the vaa labored heavily. Tatini was adept in
canoeing, and with a quartet of hoe we would have ordinarily sent the
vaa spinning through the water; but we were nearing the southernmost
extremity of the Presqu'ile, and the wind and current from the
northeast swept about the broken coast in a confusion of puffs and
blasts, choppy waves and roaring breakers, and made our progress
slow and hazardous. The breeze caught up the foam and formed sheets
of vapor which whipped our faces and blinded us, while an occasional
roller broke on our prow, and soon gave Tatini continuous work in
bailing with a handled scoop.

Opposite the pass of Tutataroa our greatest peril came. The ocean swept
through this narrow channel like a mill-race. The first swell tossed
us up ten feet, and we rode on it fifty before Teta could disengage
us from its clasp, and, without capsizing, divert our course westward
instead of toward the parlous shore. One such jeopardy succeeded
another. We were in a quarter of an hour directly under black and
frowning heights from which a score of cascades and rills leaped
into the air, their masses of water, carried by the gusts, falling
upon us in showers and clouds, aiding the flying scud in shielding
the distance ahead from our view.

"Aita e ravea," shouted Teta to me. "It is impossible to go on."

We were all as wet as if in the sea, our faces and bodies stung by
the spindrift, and we were barely able to glimpse a dark and heaving
panorama of surf, rock, and bluff in the mists that now and again
were penetrated by the hot sun.

"Maitai! Hohoi!" I replied above the clangor, and raised my paddle.

Carefully and in a wide circle the vaa crept around to head back toward
our port, and it was after sunset before we were in Teta's house in
Puforatoai. The villagers met us with torches and incredulous aues
and we walked up the road singing the song of the "Ai Dobbebelly
Dobbebelly," which was known wherever a fisher for market dwelt in
all Tahiti. The farther from Papeete and more and more as time passed,
the words lost resemblance to English, and became mere native sounds
without any exact meaning, but with a never-forgotten sentiment of
rebellion against government and of gild alliance.

"Give us a hand-out!" had changed from "hizzandow" in Papeete, to
"Hitia o te ra!" which meant that the sun was rising. Within a year
or two the entire text would doubtless merge into Tahitian with only
the martial air of "Revive us again!" and the dimming memory of the
fish-strike to recall its origin. I had known a native who, whenever
he approached me, sang in a faltering tone, "Feery feery!"

I asked him after many weeks what he meant, and he said that that was a
himene, which a young American had sung at his potations in his village
in the Marquesas Islands. I had him repeat "Feery feery!" dozens of
times, and finally snatched at an old glee which ran through my mind:
"Shoo Fly, don't bother me!" and when I sang it,

"I feel, I feel, I feel,
I feel like a morning star!"

he struck his thigh, and said, "Ea! That is the very thing!" And to be
fair to all races, one has only to listen to an American assemblage
singing "The Starspangled Banner" to learn that after the first few
lines most patriots decline into "ah-ah-la-la-ha-la-ah-la-la."

Before our supper of fish and fei, Teta, who was a deacon in the
Protestant church, but of superior knowledge of his own tongue and
legends, asked a blessing of God, and afterward recited for me the
Tahitian chant of creation, the source of which was in the very
beginnings of his race, perhaps even previous to the migration from
Malaysia. He intoned it, solemnly, as might have an ancient prophet
in Israel, as we sat in the starlit night, with the profound notes
of the reef in unison with his deep cadence:

He abides--Taaroa by name--
In the immensity of space.
There was no earth, there was no heaven,
There was no sea, there was no mankind.
Taaroa calls on high;
He changes himself fully.
Taaroa is the root;
The rocks (or foundation);
Taaroa is the sands;
Taaroa stretches out the branches (is wide-spreading).
Taaroa is the light;
Taaroa is within;
Taaroa is, ----
Taaroa is below;
Taaroa is enduring;
Taaroa is wise;
He created the land of Hawaii;
Hawaii great and sacred,
As a crust (or shell) for Taaroa.
The earth is dancing (moving).
O foundations, O rocks,
Oh sands! here, here.
Brought hither, pressed together the earth;
Press, press again!
They do not ------
Stretch out the seven heavens; let ignorance cease.
Create the heavens, let darkness cease.
Let anxiety cease within;
Let immobility cease;
Let the period of messengers cease;
It is the time of the speaker.
Fill up the foundation,
Fill up the rocks,
Fill up the sands.
The heavens are inclosing.
And hung up are the heavens
In the depths.
Finished he the world of Hawaii.
E pau fenua no Hawaii.

The cart at my request had been driven back to Taravao; so in the
morning Tatini and I walked back to the isthmus. We drank coffee at
five, and at three we had covered the twelve miles in the sauntering
gait of the Tahitian girl, stopping to make wreaths, and to bathe in
several streams. Butscher was on his table in his after-breakfast
lethargy, and I regretted disturbing his iiii to ask him to serve
us. Again Tatini refused to sit at table with me. Evidently, she
feared the scowls of Butscher, who had none of the white's ideas of
the equality of females with males at the board. Butscher added many
francs to my bill by pouring me another bottle of Pol Roger, 1905,
which after several days of cocoanut juice took on added delight. I
made up my mind to tarry with Butscher a day, while Tatini returned
to the Tetuanui mansion by diligence, and despatched my bags to me
by the same carrier. I sent with her my love to the Tetuanui clan,
and some delicacies from the Maison des Varos for the half-blind
Haamoura. The diligence did not run farther than Taravao, and the
next day, with my impedimenta in the cart, and with a boy to drive
it, I turned my back on the road to Papeete, and began the jog trot
to the famous, but hardly ever visited, district of Tautira.

I counted it the third stage in my pilgrimage in Tahiti. The first
had been in and about the capital, mingling mostly with white men,
and living in a public inn; the second at Mataiea had taken me far
from those rookeries, and had introduced me to the real Tahitians,
to their language, their customs, and their hearts; but still I had
been a guest, and a cared-for and guarded white among aborigines. Now
I wanted to cut off entirely from the main road, to sequester myself
in a faraway spot, and to live as close to the native as was possible
for me. My time was drawing near for departure. I must see all of the
Etablissements Francais de l'Oceanie, the blazing Paumotu atolls,
and the savage Marquesas, and I must make the most of the several
months yet remaining for me in Tahiti.

The highway along the eastern portion of the Presqu'ile was much
like that between Taravao and Puforatoai, tortuous, constricted,
and often forced to hang upon a shelf carved out of the precipice
which hemmed it. The route hugged the sea, but at every turn I
saw inland the laughing, green valleys, deserted of inhabitants,
climbing slowly between massive walls of rock to which clung great
tree ferns, with magnificent vert parasols, enormous clumps of feis,
with huge, emerald or yellow upstanding bunches of fruit; candlenut-
and ironwood-trees. Uncounted, delicious odors filled the air,
distilled from the wild flowers, the vanilla, orchids, and the forests
of oranges, which, though not of Tahiti, were already venerable in
their many decades of residence. Not a single path struck off from the
belt road, except that as we came toward the centers of Afaahiti and
Pueu districts the inevitable store or two of the Chinese appeared,
the cheferie, a church or two, and the roofs of the Tahitians. These
were always near the beach, set back a few hundred feet from the
road in rare instances, but mostly only a few steps from it. The
Tahitian never lived in hamlets, as the Marquesan and the Samoan,
but each family dwelt in its wood of cocoanuts and breadfruit, or
a few families clustered their inhabitants for intimacy and mutual
aid. The whites, missionaries, conquerors, and traders found this
system not conducive to their ends. Churches demand for prosperity
a flock about the ministrant, business wants customers close to the
store, and government is more powerful where it can harangue and
proclaim, parade before and spy upon its subjects. Individualistic
and segregated domestic circles give rise to tax evasions, feuds,
and moonshining, plots and the growth of strong men. The city is
the corral where humans mill like cattle in a panic, are more easily
ridden down en masse, and become habitual buyers of unnecessary things.

The French, after their bold seizure of the island in the name of
liberty for the earnest friars, and sealing their brave conquest in
the blood of the obstinate Polynesian who had hated to learn a new
liturgy and to unlearn his old Protestant songs, feared that the
dispersion of the people upon their little plantations, to which
they were greatly attached, would make their Frenchifying a long
task. So, about sixty years ago, a governor, who, ten thousand miles
from his superiors, with an exchange of letters taking many months,
was an autocrat, decided that all the people of the same region must
be huddled in a village. His name was Gaultier de la Richerie. His
office was snatched from him by another politician before he could
carry out his plan, and only one village exemplified it. In all the
districts I had passed through from Papeete, while in each was the
knot of chefferie, churches, stores, and perhaps a house or two, the
other residences stretched along the entire length of the political
divisions, from six to eight miles.

I was approaching the exception, Tautira, which, though farthest of
all from the palace of the governor, had been chosen for the first
experiment, and which had adapted its life to the paternal will of
M. de la Richerie, now long since laid in the bosom of Pere Lachaise.

The estimable troubadour, Brault, had advised me of the history of
Tautira. It was seldom visited by white tourists, as even the post
brought by the diligence ended at Taravao, and letters for farther
on were carried afoot by the mutoi, or postman-policeman of the
adjoining district, who handed on to his contiguous confrere those
for more distant confines. But for centuries Tautira was known as a
focus of the wise, of priests, sorcerers, and doctors, and, said the
knowing Brault, especially of the dancers, and those who, he explained,
under the banner of Venus.

Ont vu maintes batailles
Et recu nombre d'entailles
Depuis les pieds jusqu'au front.

The little boy and I chatted as the horse ambled at will, occasionally
urged to a trot by a shaking of the reins. The country as we progressed
became far more beautiful than that behind. A new wildness, not fierce
and rugged as between Vaiere and Puforatoai, but gentler and more
inviting, preluded the exquisite setting of the village. We had to
ford a stream three or four feet deep, the Vaitapiha, and the struggle
through it was a rare pleasure, the child on the back of the animal,
and I with the reins and a purau twig directing and commanding in
vain. We had to leap into the water and remove a boulder or two that
stymied the wheels. When we had pulled through to the opposite shore,
I was reduced to a dry pareu, and in it alone, barefooted, I reached
the rustic paradise, the loveliness of which was to content me more
than any spot except the strangely fascinating valley of Atuona in
the sad isle of Hiva-Oa.

In a delta formed by the Vaitapiha the settlement lay among tents
of verdure. For a mile it sprawled around a small point of land
which thrust out into the sea, and which was guarded by the most
wonderful of walls, a reef of madrepore, as solid as granite and sixty
feet wide. The road was arched by splendid trees of many kinds, and
facing it, every several hundred feet, was a home. Many of these were
cottages in modern style, but a dozen or so were the true Tahitian
fare, of bamboo and thatch. All were covered with flowering vines,
and surrounded by many fruiting trees.

"Tautira nei!" announced my coachman. "Tautira is here!"

He pulled up the horse. I had not given any thought to my lodging,
and I jumped out and looked around. The brook curved about a mango
grove, and under its high trees was a new native house, a replica
of the commodious dwellings of old days. I walked into the grove,
and was admiring the careful, but charming, arrangements of ferns
and orchids, which, though brought from the forests, had been fitted
into the scene to simulate a natural environment. All of a sudden
a something I could not see hurled itself from a limb upon my head,
and two affrighting paws seized my right ear and my hair, grown long
at Mataiea, and tried to tear them out by the roots, while at the
same time many fierce teeth closed, though without much effect, on
my tough and weathered shoulder. In horror at the attack, I covered
yards in two bounds, and my assailant was torn from its hold upon me.

I then turned and saw that it was a monkey tied to a rope fastened to
the limb of the tree. He stood upright on the ground, his jaws agape,
and a look of devilish glee upon his uncannily manlike face. At the
same moment a white man ran from the house and called in English:

"You damned little scoundrel! How often have I whipped you for
that same trick! I would better have left you in the slums in San

And then apologetically to me:

"I ought to kill him for that. He's a devil, that monkey. He has
bitten all the children around here, has killed all my chickens,
and raised more hell in this village than the whole population put
together. I swear, I believe he just enjoys being mean. Come in and
have a snifter after that greeting! Did he hurt you?"

My would-be host was himself a very striking somebody. He wore only
a pareu, as I, of scarlet muslin, with the William Morris design,
but he had wound his about so that it was a mere ornamental triangle
upon his tall, powerful, statuesque body. His chest and back had a
growth of red-gold hair, which, with his bronzed skin, his red-gold
beard, dark curls over a high forehead, handsome nose, and blue
eyes, made him all of the same color scheme. He was without doubt as
near to a Greek deity in life, a Dionysus, as one could imagine. He
had two flaming hibiscus blossoms over his ears, and he looked in
his late twenties. Accustomed as I was to semi-nudity and to white
men's return to nature, I had never seen a man who so well fitted
into the landscape as the owner of the ape. He was the faun to the
curling locks and the pointed ears, with not a trace of the satyr;
all youth and grace and radiance.

He walked on before me to the fare, and, opening the door, bade me
welcome. The house differed from the aboriginal in a wooden floor and
three walls of wire screen above four feet of wainscot. The roof was
lofty, of plaited pandanus-leaves, with large spaces under the eaves
for the circulation of air; but the immediate suggestion was of an
aviary, a cage thirty feet square. Attached to this room was a lean-to
kitchen, and near by, hidden behind the cage, was another native
house for sleeping. The aviary was the living- and dining-quarters,
protected from all insect pests, and an arbor covered with vines led
to the water.

Many canvases were about, on an easel an unfinished group of three
Tahitian boys, and a case of books against the one solid wall.

Half a dozen Tahitian youths were lolling outside in the shade, and
one, at the request of the host, led up the horse and the boy who
guarded it. The child skirted the circumference of the monkey's swing,
and then, a few feet away, squatted to regard the animal with intense
surprise and interest.

"Uritaata," he said; "I never saw one before, but I have read in my
school-book that they have those dogmen in French colonies."

Uri means dog and taata man, and the compound name was that which
sprang to the lips of the Tahitians on seeing a monkey, just as they
called the horse puaa horo fenua, the pig that runs on the earth, and
the goat, horo niho, the pig with horns. The pig and the dog were the
only land mammals they knew before the white arrived. The race-track
near Papeete was puaa horo fenua faa titi auraa. If a pig could talk,
he would say that man was a wickeder and stronger pig. Jehovah has
whiskers like a Rabbi. The Rabbis made him like themselves. Man has
no other ideal.

The Tahitian youth addressed the Greek god as T'yonni, which was
an effort to say John, and I adopted it instanter, as he did my
own Maru. T'yonni said that Uritaata was the bane of his existence
at Tautira. After building his fare he had been called to America,
and had danced in Chinatown the night before his steamship departed
for his return to Papeete. He remembered obscurely drinking grappo
with a deep-sea sailor, and had awakened in his berth, the vessel
already at sea, and Uritaata asleep at his feet. Many Tahitians, he
said, had never seen such a fabulous brute, and T'yonni had stirred
in them a mood of dissatisfaction by telling that their forefathers
had descended from similar beings.

"How about Atamu and Eva?" they had asked the pastors.

Those conservatists had replied emphatically that Adam and Eve, the
first man and woman, were created by God, which agreed thoroughly with
the Tahitian legends, and after that T'yonni's generosity was ranked
higher than his knowledge. He laughed over the stories as we sat at
breakfast with my coachman in the kitchen. T'yonni said that the deacon
of the Protestant church expressed a belief that the Paumotuans or
even the French might have followed the Darwinian course of descent,
but that Tahitians could not swallow a doctrine that linked them in
relationship with Uritaata. The Tongans, Polynesians like themselves,
had a tradition that God made the Tongan first, then the pig, and
lastly the white man.

"He quoted the Tongan with compassion for me," said T'yonni. "And now
about a place where you can live. Choti, a painter, whose pictures
you see around here, lives with the school-teacher up the road, and
he might find you a place. He's an American, as I am, and I suppose
you, too."

I raised my glass to our native land, and finding that the boy of
Taravao had eaten his fill of fei and fish, I said ariana to T'yonni,
and drove to Choti's. The painter was on the veranda of a cottage,
finishing the late breakfast. He received me with enthusiasm. Tall,
very spare, and his skin pale despite his wearing only a pareu
and never a hat, Choti's black eyes shone under long, black hair,
and over a Montmartre whisker that covered his boyish face from his
chiseled nose.

"Hello!" he said. "Come and have dejeuner?"

The manner of both T'yonni and Choti, while hospitable, and their
glances at my bags, showed a probable wonderment of my intentions.

Was I an average tourist or loafer come to put an unknown quantity in
their smoothly working problem of a pleasant life in this Eden? The
artist must have looked me over for indications of familiarity with
brush and palette.

I replied to Choti that I had breakfasted with T'yonni, and he smiled
at my knowledge of his friend's Tautira name.

"How about getting an apartment or a suite of rooms?" I inquired.

Choti sucked the last particle of poi from his forefinger,
dipped it into a shell of water, shook hands, and against my
pleadings, accompanied me to the house of Ori-a-Ori, the chief of
the district. The chief, an excessively tall man, quite six and a
half feet and big all over, but not fat, like many natives, was very
dark and slightly grizzled. He had a singular solemnity of address,
a benignity and detachment which were the externals of a thoughtful,
simple, generous nature, no longer interested deeply in trifles. His
house was toward the farther end of the main street, and set upon a
spacious lawn a hundred feet from the street, which, by the same token,
was also a lawn, for there was no sign of the unadorned earth. So
little wheeled traffic was there that bare feet walked on a matting
of grass and plants as soft as seaweed on the beach. The street was
bordered with cocoanuts and pandanus, and the chief's dwelling had
about it breadfruit, papayas, and cocoanuts. The grounds were divided
from neighbors' parks by hedges of tiare Tahiti, gardenias, roses,
and red and white oleanders. I drew in their perfume as Ori-a-Ori said,
"Ia ora na!" and took and held my hand a moment, while his grave eyes
studied my face in all kindliness.

Choti put him the question of my habitation, and he instantly offered
me either a room in his own house or a small, native building on the
opposite side of the road and nearer the beach. We walked over, and
found it unoccupied. It was a bird-cage, all one room, with a thatch
of pandanus and a floor of dried grass covered with mats. The walls
were of split bamboo, like reeds, and the sun and air penetrated it
through and through; but hanging mats were arranged, one as a door,
and others to keep out the rain. It was exactly suited for sleeping and
lounging purposes, and the chief said that I could cook in a convenient
hut. I brought in my belongings, which included bedding, and in half
an hour was enough at home to dismiss the coachman and his equipage,
and to lie down, as was my wont during the heat of the day. I put my
bed in the doorway, and before I fell into my first sleep at Tautira,
filled my eyes with the blue of the shimmering lagoon and the hoary
line of the reef. I sank into dreams, with the slumbrous roar upon
the coral barrier like the thunder of a sea god's rolling drum.

Chapter XXIII

My life at Tautira--The way I cook my food--Ancient Tahitian
sports--Swimming and fishing--A night hunt for shrimp and eels.

T'yonni and Choti were the only aliens except myself in all Tautira,
nor did others come during my stay. The steamships, spending only
twenty-four hours in Papeete port every four or five weeks, sent no
trippers, and the bureaucrats, traders, and sojourners in Papeete
apparently were not aware of the enchantment at our end of the
island. T'yonni had found Tautira only after four or five voyages
to Tahiti, and Choti had first come as his guest. T'yonni had no art
but that of living, while Choti had studied in Paris, and was bent on
finding in these scenes something strong and uncommon in painting, as
Gauguin, now dead, had found. They lived separately, T'yonni studying
the language and the people,--he had been a master at a boys' school
in the East,--and the artist painting many hours a day. But we three
joined with the villagers in pleasure, and in pulling at the nets in
the lagoon.

The routine of my day was to awake about six o'clock and see the
sun swinging slowly up out of the sea and hesitating a moment on the
level of the horizon, the foliage brightened with his beams. I sprang
from my bed, washed my hands and face, and hastened to the fare umu,
the kitchen in a grove of pandanus trees, a few steps away. There
from a pile of cocoanut husks and bits of jetsam I selected fuel,
which I placed between a group of coral rocks on which were several
iron bars. I lit the fire, and put into a pot three tablespoonfuls
of finely ground coffee and two cups of fresh water. The pot was a
percolator, and beside it I placed a frying-pan, and in it sliced
bananas and a lump of tinned butter from New Zealand. Leaving these
inanimate things to react under the dissolving effect of the blaze,
I ran to the beach, where I watched the sunrise. There recurred to me
the mornings and evenings in the Orient when I had seen the Parsees,
the fire-worshippers of India, offer their devotions, standing or
kneeling on their rugs on the seashore. I, too, raised my hands
in silent admiration of the mother of all life. Then I observed
about me the hurry and scurry of the dwellers on the sands and in
the water. Small hermit-crabs in shells many sizes too big for them
toddled about, land-crabs rushed frantically and awkwardly for their
holes, and Portuguese men-of-war sailed by the coast, luffing to avoid
casting up on the beach. A brief period of observation, and I dashed
back to the fare umu, and trimmed the fire. When cooked, I brought
my food to my house, where I had a low table like a Japanese zen,
and with rolls from the Chinese store I made my first meal, adding
oranges, papayas and pineapple.

From the doorway, for all I encompassed in my view, I might have
been the sole human on this island. I could look to the reef and far
across the lagoon to Hitiaa or down the beach, but from that spot no
other house was in sight. If I went around the house, I was almost on
the Broadway of Tautira, the home of Ori-a-Ori before me, and a coral
church close to it, with other buildings and groves toward the mango
copse of T'yonni. On the bushes huge nets were drying, and canoes were
drawn up into the purau and pandanus clumps. As the day advanced,
the artless incidents of the settlement aroused my interest. I saw
about me scenes and affairs which had caused a famous poet after a
week or two in this very lieu to write:

Here found I all I had forecast:
The long roll of the sapphire sea
That keeps the land's virginity;
The stalwart giants of the wood
Laden with toys and flowers and food;
The precious forest pouring out
To compass the whole town about;
The town itself with streets of lawn,
Loved of the moon, blessed by the dawn,
Where the brown children all the day
Keep up a ceaseless noise of play,
Play in the sun, play in the rain,
Nor ever quarrel or complain;
And late at night in the woods of fruit,
Hark! do you hear the passing flute?

The school-house was near to the master's home where Choti lived,
and often I heard the children learning by singsong, the way I
myself had been taught the arithmetical tables. The teacher was
Alfred, a Tahitian, who, being a scholar, must have a French name,
and wear clothes and shoes when in his classes, but who very sensibly
sat with Choti upon his veranda in only his pareu. Much of the time
the pupils played in the grounds, hopscotch and wrestling on stilts
being favorite games. Alfred regretted that the ancient Tahitian
games which his grandfather played were out of style. Among these was
a variation of golf, with curved sticks, and a ball made of strips
of native cloth; and foot-ball with a ball of banana-leaves tightly
rolled. Grown-ups in those Tahitian times were experts in all these
sports, women excelling at foot-ball, with thirty on each side, and
captains, backs, and guards, or similar participants, and with hard
struggles for the ball, which, as the games were played on the beach,
often had to be fought for in the sea. The spectators, thousands,
did not view the contest from seats, but literally followed it as it
surged up and down within the space of a mile.

Wrestling was the most notable amusement, and boxing was fashionable
for women, some of whom were skilled in fistic combats. The wrestlers,
as their Greek prototypes, first invoked the favor of the gods, and
offered sacrifices when victorious. The palestra was on a lawn by
the sea, and in formal contests district champions met those of other
districts, and islands competed for supremacy with other islands. The
maona wore a breech-clout and a coat of cocoanut oil freshly laid on,
but not sand, as in the Olympiads. When one was thrown, the victor's
friends shouted in triumph and sang and danced about him to the music
of tom-toms, while the backers of the loser met the demonstrations with
ridicule. This was much like the organized yelling on our gridirons;
and when the wrestling began again there was instant silence. It was
all good-humored, as was the boxing.

Spear-throwing and stone-slinging at targets were both fun and
preparation for war, for in the battles the slingers took the
van. The stones were here, as in the Marquesas, as big as hens'
eggs, and rounded by the action of the streams in which they were
found. Braided cocoanut-fiber formed the sling, or flax was used,
and looped about the wrist the sling was flung down the back, whirled
about the head, and the missile shot with deadly force and accuracy.

Archery was associated with religion in Tahiti, as in Japan, between
which countries there are many strange similarities of custom. The
costumes of the bowmen and their weapons were housed in the temple, and
kept by devotees, and were removed and returned with ceremonies. The
bows, less than six feet, the arrows, half that long, were never
used in war or for striking a mark, but merely for distance shooting,
and the experts were credited with reaching a thousand feet.

Tatini had pointed out to me, when we walked the peninsula of Taravao,
a projecting rock, marked with deep-worn grooves, from which the
Tahitians once flew very large kites. These were tied to the rocks,
and the ropes of cocoanut sennit in the course of hundreds of years
had worn the stones away. Often when the wind was favorable, they
intrusted themselves to their kites, and slipping the ropes, flew
to the opposite side of the bay, forerunners in the air of a certain
Lyonnais of 1783, and contemporaneous with the Siamese who centuries
ago indulged their levitative dreams by leaping with parachutes.

Alfred had registered all these obsolete things in his memory, while
most Tahitians had no detailed knowledge of them, being crammed with
the lore of theology, of saints, of automobiles, and moving pictures,
and prize-fights for money. Matatini Afaraauia, son of Faaruia,
of chiefly descent, a boy of seven, and of a guileless, bewitching
disposition, made me his intimate friend, and through his sharp
eyes I discovered phenomena that might have escaped my untutored
mind. He lifted a stone, and beneath it was a spider larger than a
tarantula. It was tabu to Tahitians, harmless, and a voracious eater of
insects. Spiders are larger in these tropics than elsewhere, and here,
too, the male was smaller than the female. Being seized and slain and
devoured by his lady love even in the very transports of husbandly
affection, it had been bitten in on his subconscious sensibilities
that diminutiveness was life-saving, and natural selection had made him
inferior in size to his cannibal mate. He had a very shrinking attitude
in her presence, as Socrates must have affected about Xantippe.

At eleven o'clock of the forenoon I, with Matatini and Raiere, a youth
of twenty, strolled down the grassy street to the garden of Alfred,
where Choti might be painting under the trees, and if a halloo did
not bring him bounding to us, we went on to T'yonni's, where he would
surely be, either under the mango trees or in the salon. Choti had
many canvases completed, some six feet long, and he also did excellent
silver-point heads of the villagers. Tahitians were indifferent models,
as they were not much interested in pictures, not seeing objects, as
we do, and found posing irksome. Only Choti's friendship for them,
his bonhomie, and many merry jokes in their tongue could keep them
still for his purposes.

T'yonni's house was half a mile from my own. A quarter of a mile
farther, and the same distance from the junction of lagoon and river,
we had our swimming-place. On an acre or two of grass and moss,
removed from any habitation, grew a score of lofty cocoas, and under
these we threw off our pareus or trousers and shirts. The bank of the
stream was a fathom from the water which was brackish at high tide and
sweet at low. With a short run and a curving leap we plunged into the
flowing water. It was refreshing at the hottest hour. The Tahitians
seldom dived head first, as we did, but jumped feet foremost, and the
women in a sitting posture, which made a great splash, but prevented
their gowns from rising. As I remarked before, we three Americans
bathed stark when with men, but the modest Tahitian men never for a
moment uncovered themselves, but wore their pareus. Captain Cook said
that in their houses he had not seen a single instance of immodesty,
though families slept in one room. Choti avowed that he had to make
love to his girl models to induce them to pose in the altogether,
for money would not make them adopt the garb of Venus.

The Tahitians did not enter the sea for pleasure. The rivers and brooks
were their bathing- and resting-places. They attributed sicknesses
to the too frequent touch of salt water. They had not the habitude
of swimming within the lagoons, as at Hawaii; it was not with them
an exercise or luxury, but a part of their every-day activities in
fishing and canoeing. A farmer after his day's work does not run
foot-races. Yet in gatherings these people often vied for supremacy
in every sort of sea sport, and beforetime, in bays free of coral,
developed an astonishing skill in surf-riding on boards, in canoes,
and without artificial support. Such skill was ranked on a par with
or perhaps the same as proficiency in the pastimes of war, as did the
Greeks, who addressed Diagoras, after he and his two sons had been
crowned in the arena: "Die, for thou hast nothing short of divinity
to desire." These ambitions had been ended in Tahiti by the frowns
of the missionaries, to whom athletics were a species of diabolical
possession, unworthy souls destined for hell or heaven, with but
a brief span to avert their birthright of damnation in sackcloth
and ashes.

We entered the river regularly at eleven and four, but Choti, T'yonni,
and I also swam in the lagoon at the mouth of the river, and never
suffered bad consequences unless we cut or scraped ourselves on
coral. About noon I prepared my dejeuner a la fourchette, and had a
wide choice of shrimp, eels, fish, taro, chicken, breadfruit, yams,
and all the other fruits. The solicitude of the homesick missionaries
had added to those indigenous, oranges, limes, shaddocks, citrons,
tamarinds, guavas, custard apples, peaches, figs, grapes, pineapples,
watermelons, pumpkins, cucumbers and cabbages. They had grown these
foreign flora many years before they made sprout a single shoot
of Christianity.

I invented a stove from a five-gallon oil tin. With a can-opener I
cut a strip out on opposite sides ten inches from the bottom, and
laid two iron bars across, and under them, inside the receptacle,
built a fire. Upon this I cooked my coffee in the percolator, while
upon the earth and hot stones other delicious dishes boiled, stewed,
and fried. If I baked, I used the native oven in the ground, with
earth and leaves inclosing.

I passed hours on the reef with Raiere and Matatini or in canoes,

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