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statues. The chant of the men was quieter now, expressing a memory
of the old gaiety now crushed by the inhibitions of the whites, by
ridicule of island legends, and by the stern denunciations of
priests and preachers. Yet it was full of suggestion of days gone by
and the people who had once sailed the seas among these islands.

Again the dancers raised their arms, and the canoe sailed over sunny
waters. At length it touched at an isle, it was carried through the
breakers to a resting place on the sand. Its oarsmen rejoiced, they
danced a dance of thanksgiving to their gods, and wreathed the
_ti_ leaves in their hair.

At this moment Haabunai, master of ceremonies, gave a cry of dismay
and ceased to beat his drum. With an anguished glance at the
assembled spectators, he dashed around the corner of the house, to
reappear in an instant with his hands full of green leaves.

"_Mon dieu!_" cried the governor. "_Mon salade! Mon salade!_"

Haabunai, busied with his duties, had forgotten to provide the real
and sacred _ti_. In despair at the last moment he had raided and
utterly destroyed the governor's prized lettuce bed, the sole
provision for salad-making in Atuona. He hastily divided the precious
leaves among the dancers, and with wilting lettuce enwreathed in
their tresses the oarsmen launched the canoe once more in the waves
and returned to their own isle, praising the gods.

All relaxed now, to receive the praises of the governor and the
brimming glasses once more offered by the diligent Haabunai and Song,
aided by the gendarme.

A gruesome cannibal chant followed, accompanied by the booming of
the drums, and then, warmed by the liquor that fired their brains,
the dancers began the _haka_, the sexual dance. Inflamed by the rum,
they flung themselves into it with such abandon as I have never seen,
and I saw a _kamaaina_ in Hawaii and have seen Caroline, Miri, and
Mamoe, most skilled dancers of the Hawaiian Islands. With the
continued passing of the cup, the _hurahura_ soon became general. The
men and women who had begun dancing in rows, in an organized way,
now broke ranks and danced freely all over the lawn. Men sought out
the women they liked, and women the men, challenging each other in
frenzied and startling exposition of the ancient ways.

The ceaseless booming of the drums added incitement to the frenzy;
the grounds of the governor's palace were a chaos of twisting brown
bodies and agitated _pareus_, while from all sides rose cries, shouts,
hysterical laughter, and the sound of clapping hands and thumping
feet. Here and there dancers fell exhausted, until by elimination
the dance resolved itself into a duet, all yielding the turf to Many
Daughters, the little, lovely leper, and Kekela Avaua, chief of
Paumau. These left the lawn and advanced to the veranda, where so
contagious had become the enthusiasm that the governor was doing the
_hurahura_ opposite Bauda, and Ah Yu danced with Apporo, while Song,
the prisoner, and Flag, the gendarme, madly emulated the star

Kekela, who led the rout, was a figure at which to marvel. A very
big man, perhaps six feet four inches in height, and all muscle, his
contortions and the frenzied movements of his muscles exceeded all
anatomical laws. Many Daughters, her big eyes shining, her red lips
parted, followed and matched his every motion. Her entire trunk
seemed to revolve on the pivot of her waist, her hips twisting in
almost a spiral, and her arms akimbo accentuating and balancing her
lascivious mobility.

The governor and the commissionaire, Ah Yu and Apporo, Monsieur Bapp
with Song of the Nightingale and Flag, made the palace tremble while
the _thrum_ of the great drums maddened their blood.

Exhausted at last, they lay panting on the boards. Song was telling
me that the liquor of the governor's giving surpassed all his
illicit make, and that when his sentence expired he would remain at
the palace as cook. Ah Yu, in broken English, sang a ditty he had
heard forty years earlier in California, "Shoo-fle-fly-doan-bodder-me."
Apporo, overcome by the rum and the dance, was lying among the
rose-bushes. Many others were flung on the sward, and more rose
again to the dance, singing and shouting and demanding more rum. The
girls came forward to be kissed, as was the custom, and Madame Bapp
drove them away with sharp words.

Soon the hullabaloo became too great for the dignity of the governor.
He gave orders to clear the grounds, and Bauda issued commands from
the veranda while Song and Flag lugged away the drums and drove the
excited mob out of the garden and across the bridge. All in all,
this Sunday was typical of Atuona under the new régime.

After a quiet bath in the pool below my cabin I got my own dinner,
unassisted by Exploding Eggs, and went early to bed to forestall
visitors. The crash of a falling cocoanut awakened me at midnight,
and I saw on my _paepae_ Apporo, Flower, Water, and Chief Kekela
Avaua, asleep. The chief had hung his trousers over the railing, and
was in his _pareu_, his pictured legs showing, while the others lay
naked on my mats. There was no need to disturb them, for it is the
good and honored custom of these hospitable islands to sleep wherever
slumber overtakes one.

The night was fine, the stars looked down through the
breadfruit-trees, and Temetiu, the giant mountain, was dark and
handsome in the blue and gold sky. Two sheep were huddled together
by my trail window, the horses were lying down in the brush, and a
nightingale lilted a gay love song in the cocoanut-palms above the
House of the Golden Bed.

Next morning all Atuona had a tight handkerchief bound over its
forehead. I met twenty men and women with this sign of repentance
upon their brows. Watercress, the chief of Atuona, who guards the
governor's house, was by the roadside.

"You have drunk too much," I remarked, as I spied the rag about his

"Not too much, but a great deal," he rejoined.

"_Faufau_," I said further, which means that it is a bad thing.

"_Hana paopao_" he said sadly. "It is disagreeable to work. One
likes to forget many things."

There was bitterness and sorrow in his tone. His father was a warrior,
under the protection of Toatahu, the god of the chiefs, and led many
a victorious foray when Watercress was a child. The son remembers the
old days and feels deeply the degradation and ruin brought by the
whites upon his people. A distinguished-looking man, dignified and
haughty, he was one of half a dozen who were working out taxes by
repairing the roads, and he was one of the few who worked steadily,
saying little and seldom smiling.


A walk to the Forbidden Place; Hot Tears, the hunchback; the story of
Behold the Servant of the Priest, told by Malicious Gossip in the
cave of Enamoa.

It was a drowsy afternoon, and coming up the jungle trail to my
cabin I saw Le Brunnec, the trader, accompanied by Mouth of God and
Tahiapii, half-sister to Malicious Gossip.

Le Brunnec, a Breton, intelligent, honest, and light-hearted, owned
the store below the governor's palace on the road to Atuona beach.
He lived above it, alone save for a boy who cooked for him, and all
the Marquesans were his friends. He had come this afternoon to take
me for a walk up Atuona valley, and on the main road below my house
Le Moine, Jimmy Kekela, Hot Tears, the hunchback, and Malicious
Gossip awaited us.

We waded the river and found a trail that wandered along it crossed
it now and then and hung in places on the high banks above it. The
trail had been washed by freshets often and was rough and stony,
overhung with trees and vines. Along it, a hundred feet or so from
the river, were houses sparsely scattered in the almost continuous
forest of cocoanut and breadfruit. Oranges and bananas, mangoes and
limes, surrounded the cabins, most of which were built of rough
planks and roofed with iron. Here and there I saw a native house of
straw matting thatched with palm leaves, a sign of a poverty that
could not reach the hideous, but admired, standard of the whites.

Many people sitting on their _paepaes_ called to us, and one woman
pointed to me and said that she wished to take my name and give me
her own. This is their custom with one to whom they are attracted,
but I affected not to understand. I did not want, so early in my
residence in Atuona, to lose a name that had served me well for many
years, and besides, if I took another I would have to abide by
whatever it might be and be known by it. It would be pleasant to be
called "Blue Sky" or "Killer of Sharks," but how about "Drowned in
the Sea" or "Noise Inside"?

"Keep your name to yourself, _mon ami_," said Le Moine. "They expect
much from you if you give them yours. They will give you heaps of
useless presents, but you alone have the right to buy rum."

Following a curve in the stream, we came upon Teata (Miss Theater),
the acknowledged beauty of Atuona, waist-deep in a pool, washing her
gowns. She was a vision of loveliness, large-eyed, tawny, her hair a
dark cascade about her fair face and bare shoulders, the crystal
water lapping her slender thighs and curling into ripples about her,
the heavy jungle growth on the banks making an emerald background to
her beauty.

"They are like the ancient Greeks," said Le Moine, "with the grace
of accustomed nudity and the poise of the barefooted. You must not
judge them by the present standards of Europe, but by the statues of
Greece or Egypt. M'a'mselle Theater there in the brook would have
been renowned in the Golden Age of Pericles. I must paint her before
she is older. They are good models, for they have no nerves and will
sit all day in a pose, though they dislike standing, and must have
their pipe or cigarette. You have seen Vanquished Often, in my own
valley of Vait-hua, whom I have painted so much. Ah, there is beauty!
One will not find her like in all the world. Paris knows nothing
like her."

Teata waved her hand at us from the brook, and flung her heavy hair
backward over her shoulder as she went on with her task. Looking
back at her before the trail wound again into the forest, I saw that
her features in repose were hard and semi-savage, the lines still
beautiful, but cast in a severe and forbidding mold.

We climbed steadily, jumping from rock to rock and clinging to the
bushes. A mile up the valley we came suddenly upon a plateau, and
saw before us the remains of an ancient _Pekia_, or High Place, a
grim and grisly monument of the days of evil gods and man-eating.

This, in the old days, was the _paepae tapu_, or Forbidden Height,
the abode of dark and terrible spirits. Upon it once stood the
temple and about it in the depths of night were enacted the rites of
mystery, when the priests and elders fed on the "long pig that speaks,"
when the drums beat till dawn and wild dances maddened the blood.

When it was built, no man can say. Centuries have looked upon these
black stones, grim as the ruins of Karnak, created by a mysterious
genius, consecrated to something now gone out of the world forever.
For ages hidden in the gloom of the forest, it was swept and
polished by hands long since dust; it was held in reverence and dread.
It was _tapu_, devoted to terrible deities, and none but the priests
or the chiefs might approach it except on nights of ghastly feasting.

[Illustration: The old cannibal of Taipi Valley]

[Illustration: Enacting a human sacrifice of the Marquesans]

It stood in a grove of shadowy trees, which even at mid-afternoon
cast a gloom upon the ponderous black rocks of the platform and the
high seats where chiefs and wizards once sat devouring the corpses
of their foes. Above them writhed and twisted the distorted limbs of
a huge banian-tree, and below, among the gnarled roots, there was a
deep, dark pit.

We paused in a clear space of green turf delicately shaded by
mango-trees walled in with ferns and grass and flowering bushes, and
gazed into the gloom. This was forbidden ground until the French came.
No road led to it then; only a narrow and dusky trail, guarded by
demons of Po and trod by humans only in the whispering darkness of
the jungle night, brought the warriors with the burdens of living
meat to the place of the gods. But the French, as if to mock the
sacred things of the conquered, made two roads converge in this very
spot, from which one wound its way over the mountains to Hanamenu
and the other followed the river to an _impasse_ in the hills.

"My forefathers and mothers ate their fill of 'long pig' here and
danced away the night," said Hot Tears, the hunchback, as he lighted
a cigarette and sat upon the stone pulpit that once had been a
wizard's. His heavy face, crushed down upon his crooked chest, showed
not the slightest trace of fear; a pale imp danced in each of his
narrowed eyes as he looked up at me.

"That banian-tree, my grandfather said, held the _toua_, the cord of
cocoanut fiber that held the living meat suspended above the baking
pit. There, you see, among the roots - that was the oven, above which
the prisoners hung. Here stood the great drums, and the servants of
the priests beat them, till the darkness was filled with sound and
all the valleys heard.

"_Aue!_" The hunchback leaped to the edge of the pit. He raised his
thin arms in the air, and I seemed to see, amidst the contorted
limbs of the aged banian, fifty feet above, the quivering bodies
swaying. "The _toua_ breaks! They fall. Here on the rocks. They are
killed with blows of the _u'u_, thus! And thus the meat is cut, and
wrapped in the _meika aa_. Light the fire! Pile in the wood! It

His ghoulish laughter rose in the dark stillness of the jungle, and
the hair stirred on my scalp. To my vision the high black seats were
filled with shadowy figures, the light of candlenut torches fell on
tattooed faces and gleaming eyes. When the hunchback moved from the
tree of death, feigning to carry a platter, first to the great seats
of the chiefs, then to the wide platform below, the flesh crawled on
my bones.

"_Ai!_ They dance! _Ai! Ai! Ai!_ They danced, and they loved! All
night the drums beat. The drums! The drums! The drums!" He flung his
twisted body on the green and laughed madly, till the old banian
itself answered him. For a moment he writhed in a silence even more
ghastly than his laughter, then lay still.

"_Au!_" he said, turning over on his back. "My grandfather believed
this Pekia to be the abode of demons." He paused. "As for me, I
believe in none of them, or in any other gods." And he blew out his
breath contemptuously.

Le Moine surveyed the scene critically.

"What a picture at night, with torches flickering, and the
seats filled with men in red _pareus_! _Mais, c'est terrible!_"

He got off a hundred feet and squinted through a roll of paper.

"I wish I could paint it," he said. "It must be a big canvas, and
all dark but the torches and a few faces. _Mon dieu!_ Magnificent!"

Is cannibalism in the Marquesas a thing of the past? Do those grim
warriors who survive the new régime ever relapse? Who can say? It is
not probable, for the population of the valleys is so small and the
movements of the people so limited that absence is quickly detected.
Yet every once in awhile some one is missing.

"_Haa mate_. He has leaped into the sea. He was _paopao_. Life was
too long."

Or, if the disappearance was in crossing from one valley to another,
it is said that a rock or a fall of earth had swept the absent one
over a cliff. These are reasonable explanations, yet there persist
whispers of foul appetitites craving gratification and of old rites
revived by the _moke_, the hermits who hide in the mountains.

Two such dissappearances had occurred during my brief stay in Atuona,
and I had made little of the whispers. But now, with the hideous
laughter of the hunchback still ringing in my ears, they slipped
darkly through my mind, and I never felt the sunshine sweeter or
tasted the mountain air with more delight than when we left that
unholy place and were out on the trail again.

Our destination was a waterfall, with a pool in which we might bathe,
and after leaving the _Pekia_ we followed the stream, climbing
higher and higher from the sea. In the Marquesas all the rivers
begin in the high mountains, where from the precipices leap the
torrents in times of rain. As the valleys are mere ravines at their
heads, the waters collect in their depths and roll to the ocean,
rippling gently on sunny days, but after a downpour raging, rolling
huge boulders over and over and tearing away cliffs.

These streams are the life of the people in the upper valleys. In
the old days of warfare many of these mountain dwellers never knew
the sea; they were prevented from reaching it by the beach clansmen
who claimed the fishing for their own and made it death for the hill
people to venture down to the shore. All the people of a single
valley, six or perhaps a dozen clans, united to war against other
valleys, its people risking their lives if they trespassed beyond
the hills. Yet under a wise and powerful chief a whole valley lived
in amity and knew no class or clan divisions.

"We are going to _Vaihae_, The Waters of the Great Desire," said
Malicious Gossip. "It was a sacred place once upon a time."

We climbed painfully, Le Moine and I suffering keenly from the sharp
edges of the stones that cut even through the thick soles of our
shoes. The others, who were barefooted, made nothing of them,
walking as easily and lithely as panthers on the jagged trail.
Soon we heard the crash of the _Vaihae_, and sliding down the
mountain-side a hundred feet we came into a depths of a gorge a yard
or two wide, a mere crack in the rocks, filled with the boom and
roar of rushing water. The rain-swollen stream, cramped in the
narrow passage, flung itself foaming high on the spray-wet cliffs,
and dashed in a mighty torrent into a deep howl riven out of the
solid granite twenty feet below.

We put off our clothes and leaped into the pool, enjoying intensely
the coolness of the swirling water after the sweat of our climb.
Malicious Gossip and her sister would not go in at first, but when I
had climbed the face of a slippery rock twenty feet high to dive,
and remained there gazing at the melancholy grandeur of the scene,
Malicious Gossip put off her tunic and swam through the race,
bringing me my camera untouched by the water. She was a naiad of the
old mythologies as she slipped through the green current, her hair
streaming over her shoulders and her body moving effortlessly as a
fish. Once wetted, she remained in the water with us, and she told
me there was a cave behind the waterfall, hidden by the glassy sheet
of water.

"It is called _Enamoa_ (Behold the Servant of the Priest) and it has
a terrible history," said Malicious Gossip. "Follow me and we will
enter it."

She swam across the pool and turning lithely in the water curved out
of sight beneath the surface of the vortex. _Kekela_ followed her,
and I made several attempts, but each time was flung back, bruised
and breathless. It was not until Kekela, finding a long stick in the
cave, thrust it through the white foam, that by catching its end in
the whirling water I was able to fight through the roaring and
smashing deluge.

The cave was obscure and damp, its only light filtering through the
moving curtain of green water. Black and crawling things squirmed at
our feet, and darkness filled the recesses of the cavern. Malicious
Gossip's body was a blur in the dimness, and her low soft voice was
like an overtone of the deep organ notes of the torrent.

"The tale of the cave of _Enamoa_ is not a legend," she said,
"for it is more. It was a happening known to our grandfathers. There
were two warriors who coveted a woman, and she was _tapu_ to them.
She was a _taua vehine_, a priestess of the old gods. But they
coveted her, and they were friends, who shared their wives as they
divided their _popoi_."

"_Panalua_," said Kekela. "That is 'dear friend custom.' We had it in
Hawaii. Brothers shared their wives, and sisters their husbands."

"These two were name-brothers, and loved as though they were
brothers by blood," said Malicious Gossip. "And their hearts were
consumed with flame when they looked on this girl. It was evil of
them, for it was against the will of the gods. She was of their own
clan, and the priests had made her _tapu_ until she had reached a
certain age. Her brother was the servant of the priests, and she was
consecrated to the gods. She was guarded by most sacred custom. It
was forbidden to touch her or her food.

"Yet these warriors, _toa_ they were, and renowned in battle,
coveted her with a desire that ate their sleep. And at last when
they had drunk the fiery _namu enata_ till their brains were filled
with flames, they lay in wait for her.

"She came down to this pool to bathe. The pool itself was _tapu_
save for those consecrated to the gods, yet this wretched pair crept
through the lantana there on the bank, and watched her. She stood on
the rock above the pool and put off her _pae_, her cap of gauze, her
long robe, and her _pareu_, all of finest tree-cloth, for in those
days before the whites came our people were properly clothed. All
naked then in the sunlight, she lifted her arms toward the sky and
laughed, and sat down on a rock to bathe her feet.

"Suddenly the lustful warriors sprang upon her, and stopping her
cries with her own _pae_ they swam with her into this cave. Thought
and breath had left her; she lay as one dead, and before they had
attained their will they heard a sound of one approaching and singing
on the rocks. They had no time to kill her, as they had intended,
that she might not bring death to them. They left her and fled along
the cliffs, barely escaping before the other man came.

"He had seen from the corner of his eye a sight of some one fleeing
from the cave. He was curious, and swam to it. It was late in the day,
for the priestess had come for the evening bath. The sun had hidden
himself behind Temetiu and the cave was dark. The man came, then,
stepping with care, and his feet found in the darkness a living body,
warm and soft and perfumed with flowers.

"Then in the darkness, finding her very sweet, he yielded to the
demon. But when he brought her at last through the falling water to
the evening light, he cried aloud. He was the _moa_, the servant of
the high priest, and this was his sister whom he loved.

"He screamed thrice, so that all the valley heard him, and then he
flung her into the pool to drown. The people saw him fleeing to the
heights. He never returned to them. He became a _moke_, a sorcerer,
who lived alone in the forest, dreaded by all. He was heard
shrieking in the night, and then the storms came. His eyes were seen
through the leaves on jungle trails, and he who saw died.

"Then the people gave the cave a name, the name of _Enamoa_, Behold
the Servant of the Priest. It was much larger then than now, as
large as a grove. But one night the people heard the noise of the
falling of great rocks, and in the morning the cave was small as now.
The _moke_ was never seen again. He had brought down the walls of
the cave upon himself, because it had seen his sin."

Malicious Gossip, having finished her tale, slipped again beneath
the green curtain of the waterfall. When I had fought through the
blinding, crashing waters and floated with aching lungs on the
surface of the pool, she was donning her tunic on the rocks above it,
and soon, with our clothes over our wet bodies, we strolled back to
Atuona, Tahiapii smoking Kekela's pipe.

[Illustration: Interior of Island of Fatu-hiva, where the author
walked over the mountains]

[Illustration: The plateau of Ahoa]


A search for rubber-trees on the plateau of Ahoa; a fight with the
wild white dogs; story of an ancient migration, told by the wild
cattle hunters in the Cave of the Spine of the Chinaman.

I went one day with Le Brunnec, the French trader, in search of
rubber trees on the plateau of Ahao, above Hanamenu, on the other
side of Hiva-oa Island.

Mounted on small, but sturdy, mountain ponies, we followed the trail
across the river and up the steep mountain-side clad with
impenetrable jungle, climbing ever higher and higher above deep
gorges and dizzying precipices, until at noon we crossed the
loftiest range and dipped downward to the wide plateau.

A thousand feet above the valley, level as a prairie, and
indescribably wild and deserted, the plain stretched before us. At

Online LibraryFrederick O'BrienWhite Shadows in the South Seas → online text (page 12 of 29)