Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

kinds, and his quarters are surrounded by a stone wall with twelve pieces of cannon of various calibre. He boasts of a schooner of sixty tons, which is armed with four

guns, and has also good whale-boats, besides war-canoes. He dresses in European fashion, usually in black trousers, linen shirt and a black alpaca coat, and he is blessed with numerous wives.

Tem Baiteke is a Polynesian king of the blood and iron order. He is no mealy-mouthed advocate of a Permissive Bill : if his people get very drunk, he never fines them forty shillings—he immediately puts them to death; and near his house is a very interesting collection of human heads set on spikes, pour encourager les autres.

Tem Baiteke has also great ideas of the nobility of labour—for himself. So his people are kept hard at it all the year round, making cocoa-nut oil and fishing for bêche-de-mer, which he disposes of to the Sydney traders, who visit this paradise for Czar worshippers and gushing admirers of the 'good old times' of Temple Bar.

According to the latest information no European has been for years resident in any of the three islands ruled by Tem Baiteke, or even to land in any inhabited part of it, with the single exception of the captain or trading-master of the ship with which he may be dealing. When a vessel is seen entering his harbour, she is boarded three miles from the town by the pilot, who is the King's brother, and can speak a little English, having years ago sailed in a whaleship.

The pilot inquires all about the new-comer's busi

ness, and having seen the anchor put down, returns directly with his report to the King. If it be his pleasure the vessel is brought up to an anchorage near the village, and a small uninhabited islet is shown to the strangers as a place where they can, if they choose, land and display their goods to the natives who will meet them there ; otherwise they must do their business on board the ship. A number of women are allowed to go on board the vessel, and remain with the crew while she is in port. The captain or trader goes ashore, eats and drinks with the King, and is allowed perfect liberty. The King, as I have stated, claims all the produce of his people's labour, and receives all the pay, a portion of which, however, always consists of casks of tobacco, which he distributes justly among his subjects. In addition he serves out to them knives, axes, and other prized articles.

If the European vessel be not filled at Apemama, the King takes passage in her to his other two islands, his schooner keeping company. This latter craft is navigated by his own people, as he refuses to employ white sailors, having a rooted dislike to the papalagi.

On one occasion Tem Baiteke was offered a quan-, tity of Oregon timber, and the services of an English carpenter to build him a handsome house.

“No! he replied. "If I never have a house to live in, I will never have a white man to live with me while he builds it.'

It was not always so in Apemama, and the rigid exclusion which Tem Baiteke maintains is due to a horrible story of European avarice, lust, and murder,

which would be a tedious business to intelligibly relate here.

The Line islanders all speak one language, in which consonants are more freely used than in the Sawaiori languages of the Brown Polynesians of the Eastern Pacific. This is a great advantage in employing them as labourers, as it is easier to get on with them in their own tongue than in broken English.

Eighty per cent. of them are subject to a disease which often incapacitates them from work from four to twelve months. This is called in Fiji thake, and in Samoa lepauni. I have not heard that it exists in either the Marquesas or Tahiti. It appears in the form of sores, which vary from the size of a threepenny piece to six inches long. They are generally circular or oval; but when two or more join, the sore assumes all sorts of shapes ; its edge is clearly defined, raised, and filled with yellow matter. A week or two after its first appearance the body is covered, and the patient becomes very weak, and suffers much from rheumatic pains and stiff joints.

Sometimes the sufferers waste away and die ; but this may be owing to their revolting practice of eating the scab, and so poisoning themselves internally.

In the Fiji, New Hebrides, Tongan, and Samoan Groups, nearly every native child has this strange disease between the ages of one and five, being afterwards exempt from it. White men have been known to take it occasionally. I never heard of any remedy, except a sea voyage to a place where the disease does not exist.

In the Kingsmills is to be found a certain cure for

all inflammation of the mucous membrane. I have, I regret to say, forgotten the name of the plant ; but several of my Samoan friends are aware of its existence, and probably know how the natives call it. A friend of mine, of whom more anon, used to prepare this drug, but he kept the manipulation a secret.

The other Polynesian labourers come from the New Hebrides, a group which extends from lat. 13° 16' to 20° 15' S., and from long. 166° 40' to 170° 20' E., and consists of eleven islands, the largest of which is Espiritu Santo. This island is twenty-two leagues in length, and half that in breadth.

The natives of the New Hebrides Group are dark in colour, of moderate stature, and in some places, as at Pentecost and Malicolo, are robust, muscular men with woolly hair. Generally, however, the Papuan race to which they belong are small, with thin limbs, and physically weak. In their natural condition they are invariably cannibals, and are broken up into small hostile tribes, constantly at war with each other. So great is the 'confusion of tongues' among these people, that the inhabitants of six native towns in the same island speak six different languages.

Women in the Papuan Islands are merely the slaves and tools of the men, who care for little else than fighting. In every respect the original condition of the inhabitants of the New Hebrides is that of intense degradation. They have no traditions, and their religion resembles fetish worship. Kindness, gratitude, or even natural affection (except perhaps that of a mother for her child) are unknown. But in some of the islands Christian missions from Samoa have been very successful, especially in Anticyum, where cannibalism has ceased for about twenty years, and the natives are all nominal Christians. A few traders have settled among the

group.

The employment of labourers from the New Hebrides is certain to advance the civilisation of its people ; but time will be required, remembering their inherent degradation, and the fact that much of the prevalent licentiousness is due to the pernicious influence of some of the whites who took

up

their abode among them many years since.

The climate of this group is damp, and sometimes considered unhealthy. Cotton and the usual products of Polynesia, including the sugar-cane, nutmegs, and cocoa-nuts, grow abundantly. The canoes of the people are rude in shape, and very clumsily fitted. Their arms are clubs, spears, and arrows, the latter generally supposed to be poisoned. Their gods, or "devils,' are usually faces not unskilfully cut out of wood. Sometimes they are images of chiefs, made of clay and bamboo. Circumcision is practised universally. As in an island nearer home, the pigs share a Malicolo man's house, and the children and pigs sleep comfortably in the dust together. Infanticide is common, and the funeral ceremonies are like those practised in Fiji in the olden times.

Reference has been made to Nieuè, or Savage Island, so named by Captain Cook, on account of the extreme ferocity with which its natives attacked his landing detachment. It is about thirty-six miles in circumference, and about 200 feet high at the highest point. It consists of upheaved coral, and has no

« ForrigeFortsæt »