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meaning : “ J. F. G. de la Pérouse,” an account of which supposed discovery appeared on the next day in the “Hurkaru” newspaper. Tytler, though aware of this fact, nevertheless took upon himself all the credit of solving the enigma on his arrival at Van Diemen's Land, where he swore in an open court of justice, that owing to his discovery of the meaning of those cyphers the expedition was fitted out : all which passed for truth, there being no one at Hobart Town to contradict him but myself, a party in the case, and therefore not competent to give evidence.
The sword-guard was shewn to artists of every description at Calcutta, and to gentlemen of literary and scientific acquirements; but no two of them agreed in their interpretations of the marks upon it. Some made out the names of the Boussole and Astrolabe from it; others that of Louis or Ludovicus Rex.
To clear up the whole mystery, I had sent the guard from Calcutta, in January last, to the Minister of Marine of France, at Paris, to be disposed of as the French authorities might think proper; where, I doubted not, the whole would be satisfactorily explained.
The Tucopians are an extremely mild and inoffensive race, hospitable and generous, as their reception of Bushart and the lascar sufficiently proves. They never had direct com
munication with any ship before the Hunter in 1813; but they said that a very long time before the appearance of the Hunter, a ship (the first they had ever seen) came in sight of the island, which they imagined contained evil spirits coming to destroy them. A boat was lowered down from the ship which approached the shore ; but they assembled in full force to oppose the landing, and brandished their weapons. The people in the boat made several attempts to land, but without effect, and returned to the ship, which immediately steered to the northward, and was soon out of sight, to the great joy of the Tucopians. I suppose that this ship was the Barwell, in 1798. Some years afterwards a canoe and four men were drifted to Tucopia from Rothuma, or the Grenville Island of the Pandora, a distance of 465 miles. These visitors were informed of the appearance of the vessel with evil spirits; but the Rothumans un. deceived them, and told them they had frequently such visits in Rothuma, and that, far from driving them away, they should have wel. comed them, as instead of evil spirits the people on board were good men from a distant country, who would give them cutlery and beads. The Hunter was the next vessel that came in sight of Tucopia, and they were very glad when they saw her.
Some of the customs of the Tucopians are very singular. I was surprised at the number of females on Tucopia, as it was at least treble that of the males. On inquiry, I found that all the male children of each female, except the two first, are strangled the moment after their birth. The reason they assign for this cruel policy is, that if they were allowed to live, the population of their little island would be so dense that its produce could not support them. Tucopia is only seven miles in circumference, but the soil is very luxuriant; yet there generally is a scarcity of provisions. They live chiefly on vegetable food, having neither hogs nor poultry, which are both plentiful on the other islands. They at one time had both, but they were voted common nuisances and exterminated by general consent. The hogs des troyed their plantations of yams, sweet potatoes, tara, and bananas. These, and the bread. fruit and cocoa-nuts, with fish, are what they subsist on; but, owing to the deep water round the island, fish is by no means plentiful. Bushart complained much of the forced abstemiousness of his fare. For the first eleven years of his stay at Tucopia he never tasted animal food, except now and then a little fish. An English whaler, which touched there about a year before the St. Patrick, supplied him with two or three
feasts of pork, which it will readily be believed he relished exceedingly after his long fast.
The island is governed by one principal chief, with several petty onės, who act as magistrates. They live very peaceably, and never have any wars among themselves or with their neighbours. This probably may be attributed to their Pythagorean diet. But it does not restrain an intuitive propensity for thieving, and though the punishment in case of detection is very severe, the lower classes often rob each other's gardens and plantations. If the thief is caught, he is carried before one of the chiefs, and if convicted, his
property and ground are forfeited to the individual he has robbed.
A plurality of wives is allowed. The wives are exceedingly jealous of each other, and if the husband bestows his caresses more freely on one than another, the despised one takes it to heart so much, that she puts an end to her life, either by jumping out of a high tree or hanging herself: self-murder among the females is for this reason of daily occurrence. The marriage ceremony
is curious. When a man wishes to take a wife, he first politely consults the lady he has placed his affections on, and if she consents and her parents agree, he sends three or four of his male friends at night, to take her away by force as it were. He then sends pre
sents of mats and provisions to the relations of the bride, and invites them to a feast at his house, which usually lasts for two days. They are very particular as to the fidelity of married women. If a wife be caught sinning, she and her innamorato are put to death by the husband or his friends. But there is no restraint placed on the inclination of single females at all. Widows, however, are not permitted to take a second husband.
When a child is born, the female friends of the father and mother assemble and bring presents to the nouvelle accouchée. All the female children are allowed to live.
When a native dies, his friends come to his house, and with much ceremony roll him carefully up in a new mat, and bury him in a deep hole prepared near his dwelling. It is a very curious, and to those who disbelieve in the reappearance of departed spirits, an unaccountable fact, that the belief is universal among the inhabitants of the South-Sea Islands; and they surely could not have imbibed the idea from the new world.
In each village on Tucopia there is a large building, called in their language the spirit house,' set apart for the use of disembodied spirits, which are supposed to reside in this building. On the approach of bad weather and thunder and lightning, which alarm the