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some distance to our right a long and narrow mound rose five hundred
feet from the plateau, a hill that did not mar the vast level expanse,
but seemed instead a great earthwork piled upon it by man. Its green
terrace was a wild garden of flowers and fruit growing in luxuriant
confusion, watered by a stream that leaped sparkling among tall ferns.

There was no breadfruit, for it will live only where man is there to
tend it, and in all the extent of the tableland there was no human
being or sign of habitation. Wild cattle and boars moved in droves
among the scattered trees, or stood in the shallow stream watching us
with curiosity as we passed. Thousands of guinea-pigs scampered
before our horses' feet, and the free descendants of house-trained
cats from the cities of Europe and America perched upon lofty
branches to gaze down at our cavalcade.

I have seen the Garden of Allah, and the Garden of Eden, - if I can
believe the Arab sheik whose camel I bought for the journey, - I have
been in Nikko at its best, and known Johore and Kandy _en fête_, but
for the hours in which I looked upon it this plateau of Ahao was the
most exquisite spot upon the earth. The wilderness of its tropic
beauty, the green of its leafage, the rich profusion and splendor of
its flowers, the pale colors that shimmered along its far horizon,
and the desolate grandeur of Temetiu's distant summit wrapped in
thunderous clouds, gave it an aspect primitive, mysterious, and

Upon the trees hundreds of orchids hung like jewels, and vines were
swung in garlands. Flowers of every hue spread a brilliant carpet
beneath the horses' hoofs; the hart's-tongue, the _manamana-o-hina_,
the _papa-mako_ and the parasol-plant, with mosses of every
description and myriads of ferns, covered the sward. Some were the
giant tree-ferns, tall as trees, others uncurled snaky stems from
masses of rusty-colored matting, and everywhere was spread the
delicate lace of the _uu-fenua_, a maiden-hair beside which the
florist's offering is clumsy and insignificant.

We made our own way through the tall grass and tangles of flowering
shrubs, for there were no trails save those made by the great herds
of wild cattle that wandered across the plain. Three thousand head
at least I saw grazing on the luxuriant herbage, or pausing with
lifted heads before they fled at our approach.

"They are descendants of a few left by shipmasters decades ago,"
said Le Brunnec. "Twenty years ago they roamed in immense herds all
over the islands. I have chased them out of the trail to Hanamenu
with a stick. Like the goats left by the American captain, Porter,
on Nuka-hiva, they thrived and multiplied, but like the goats they
are being massacred.

"Both cattle and goats were past reckoning when, with peace fully
established and the population dwindling, the French permitted the
Marquesans to buy guns. The natives hunt in gangs. Fifteen or twenty
men, each with rifle or shot-gun, go on horseback to the grazing
grounds. The beasts at the sound of the explosions rush to the
highest point of the hills. Knowing their habits, the natives post
themselves along the ridges and kill all they can. They eat or take
away three or four, but they kill thirty or forty. They die in the
brush, and their bones strew the ground."

I told him of the buffalo, antelope, and deer that formerly filled
our woods and covered our prairies; of Alexander Wilson, who in
Kentucky in 1811 estimated one flight of wild carrier pigeons as two
thousand millions, and of there being not one of those birds now left
in the world so far as is known.

Le Brunnec sighed, for he was a true sportsman, and would not kill
even a pig if he could not consume most of its carcass. Often he
half-lifted the shot-gun that lay across the pommel, but let it drop
again, saying, "We will have a wild bird for supper."

We pitched our tent as the moon hung her lantern over the brow of
the hill. Never was tent raised in a spot lonelier or lovelier. We
chose for our camp the shelter of a _moto_ tree, one of the most
lordly of all the growths of these islands. Not ten of them were
left in all the Marquesas, said Le Brunnec as I admired its towering
column and magnificent spread of foliage. "The whites who used the
axe in these isles would have made firewood of the ark of the

We made a fire before our tent and cooked a wild chicken he had shot,
which, with pilot-biscuit and Bordeaux wine, made an excellent dinner.
Darkness closed around us while we ate, the wide plateau stretched
about us, mysterious in the light of the moon, and the night was
cool and pleasant. We lay in lazy comfort, enjoying the fresh light
air of that altitude and smoking "John's" mixture from Los Angeles,
till sleepiness spilled the tobacco. Our numbed senses scarcely let
us drag our mats into the tent before unconsciousness claimed us.

I was wakened by the blood-chilling howls of a wolf-pack in full cry,
and a shout from Le Brunnec, "The dogs!"

He stood by the open flap of the tent, a black silhouette of man and
gun. When I had clutched my own rifle and reached his side I saw in
the moonlight a score of huge white beasts, some tangled in a
snarling heap over the remains of our supper, others crouching on
their haunches in a ring, facing us. One of them sprang as Le
Brunnec fired, and its hot breath fanned my face before my own
finger pressed the trigger.

The two wounded brutes struggled on the ground until a second shot
finished them, and the rest made off to a little distance, where Le
Brunnec kept them with an occasional shot while I brought up the
terrified ponies, snorting and plunging. More wood thrown on the
coals spread a circle of firelight about us, and Le Brunnec and I
took turns in standing guard until morning, while the white dogs sat
like sheeted ghosts around us and made the night hideous with howls.
One or the other of us must have dozed, for during the night the
beasts dragged away the two dead and picked their bones.

These, Le Brunnec said, were the sons and daughters of dogs once
friendly to humanity, and like the wild cats we had seen, they bore
mute testimony to the numbers of people who once lived on this

When dawn came the mountain rats were scurrying about the meadows,
but the dogs had gone afar, leaving only the two heaps of bones and
the wreckage of all outside the tent to tell of their foray. The sun
flooded the mesa, disclosing myriad fern-fronds and mosses and
colored petals waving in the light breeze as Le Brunnec and I went
down to the stream to bathe.

Alas! I lolled there on the bank, thinking to gaze my fill at all
this loveliness, and sat upon the _puke_, a feathery plant exquisite
to the eye, but a veritable bunch of gadflies for pricking meanness.
It is a sensitive shrub, retreating at man's approach, its petioles
folding from sight, but with all its modesty it left me a stinging
reminder that I had failed to respect its privacy.

At noon we came to the hill that rises from the plateau, and found
at its base a cistern, the sole token we had seen of the domain of
man, except the dogs and cats that had returned to the primitive. It
was a basin cut in the solid rock, and doubtless had been the water
supply of the tribes that dwelt here hemmed in by enemies. There was
about it the vague semblance of an altar, and in the brush near it
we saw the black remains of a mighty _paepae_ like that giant Marai
of Papara in Tahiti, which itself seemed kin to the great pyramid
temple of Borobodo in Java. Melancholy memorials these of man, who
is so like the gods, but who passes like a leaf in the wind.

Lolling in the stream that overflowed the edge of the ancient cistern,
we discussed our plans. Le Brunnec was convinced that the _eva_,
which we had found in considerable numbers, was a rubber-tree. He
said that rubber was obtained from many trees, vines, roots, and
plants, and that the sap of the _eva_, when dried and treated, had
all the necessary bouncing qualities. We were to estimate the number
of _eva_ trees on the plateau and size up the value of the land for
a plantation. Thus we might turn into gold that poison tree whose
reddish-purple, alluring fruit has given so many Marquesans escape
from life's bitterness, whose juice wounded or mutilated warriors
drank to avoid pain or contempt.

Idling thus in the limpid water, we heard a voice and started up
surprised. A group of natives looked down upon us from the hill above,
and their leader was asking who were the strange _haoe_ who had come
to their valley.

Le Brunnec shouted his name - Proneka, in the native tongue - and
after council they shouted down an invitation to breakfast. We had
no guns, or, indeed, any other clothing than a towel, our horses
being tethered at some distance, but we climbed the hill. Half way up
the steep ascent we were confronted by a wild sow with eight piglets.
Le Brunnec said that one of them would be appreciated by our hosts,
but the mother, surmising his intention, put her litter behind her
and stood at bay. To attempt the rape of the pork, naked, afoot, and
unarmed, would have meant grievous wounds from those gnashing tusks,
so we abandoned the gift and approached our hosts empty-handed.

We found them waiting for us in the Grotto of the Spine of the
Chinaman, a shallow cave in the side of the hill. There were seven
of them, naked as ourselves, thick-lipped, their eyes ringed with
the blue _ama_-ink and their bodies scrolled with it. They had
killed a bull the day before and had cooked the meat in bamboo tubes,
steaming it in the earth until it was tender and tasty. We gorged
upon it, and then rested in the cool cave while we smoked. They were
curious to know why we were there, and asked if we were after beef.
I disclaimed this intention, and said that I was wondering if Ahao
had not held many people once.

"Ai! _E mea tiatohu hoi!_ Do you not know of the Piina of Fiti-nui?
Of the people that once were here? _Aoe?_ Then I will tell you."

While the pipe went from mouth to mouth, Kitu, the leader of the
hunters, related the following:

"The Piina of Fiti-nui had always lived here on the plateau of Ahao.
The wise men chronicled a hundred and twenty generations since the
clan began. That would be before Iholomoni built the temple in Iudea,
that the priests of the new white gods tell us of. The High Place of
the Piina of Fiti-nui was old before Iholomoni was born.

"But, old as was the clan, there came a time when it grew small in
number. For longer than old remembered they had been at war with the
Piina of Hana-uaua, who lived in the next valley below this plateau.
These two peoples were kinsman, but the hate between them was bitter.
The enemy gave the Piina of Fiti-nui no rest. Their _popoi_ pits
were opened and emptied, their women were stolen, and their men
seized and eaten. Month after month and year after year the clan
lost its strength.

"They had almost ceased to tattoo their bodies, for they asked what
it served them when they were so soon to bake in the ovens of the
Hana-uaua people. They could not defeat the Hana-uaua, for they were
small in number and the Hana-uaua were great. The best fighters were
dead. The gods only could save the last of the tribe from the
_veinahae_, the vampire who seizes the dead.

"The _taua_ went into the High Place and besought the gods, but they
were deaf. They made no answer. Then in despair the chief, Atituahuei,
set a time when, if the gods gave no counsel, he would lead every
man of the tribe against the foe, and die while the war-clubs sang.

"Atituahuei went with the _taua_ to the giant rock, Meae-Topaiho,
the sacred stone shaped like a spear that stood between the lands of
the warring peoples, and there he said this vow to the gods. And the
people waited.

"They waited for the space of the waxing and waning of the moon, and
the gods said nothing. Then the warriors made ready their _u'u_ of
polished ironwood, and filled their baskets with stones, and made
ready the spears. On the darkest night of the moon the Piina of
Fiti-nui was to go forth to fight and be killed by the Hana-uaua.

"But before the moon had gone, the _taua_ came down from the High
Place, and said that the gods had spoken. They commanded the people
to depart from Ahao, and to sail beyond the Isle of Barking Dogs
until they came to a new land. The gods would protect them from the
waves. The gods had shown the _taua_ a hidden valley, which ran to
the beach, in which to build the canoes.

"For many months the Piina of Fiti-nui labored in secret in the
hidden valley. They built five canoes, giant, double canoes, with
high platforms and houses on them, the kind that are built no more.
In these canoes they placed the women and children and the aged, and
when all was ready, the men raided the village of the Piina of
Hana-uaua, and in the darkness brought all their food to the canoes.

"At daybreak the Fiti-nui embarked in four of the canoes, but one
they must leave behind for the daughter of the chief, who expected
to be delivered of a child at any hour, and for the women of her
family, who would not leave her. The hidden valley was filled with
the sound of lamentation at the parting, but the gods had spoken,
and they must go.

"When the four canoes were in the sea beyond the village of Hana-uaua,
all their people beat their war-drums and blew the trumpets of shell.
The people of Hana-uaua heard the noise, and said that strangers had
come, but whether for a fight or a feast they did not know. They
rushed to the shore, and there they saw on the sea the people of the
Fiti-nui, who called to them and said that they were going far away.

"Then the Hana-uaua tribe wept. For they remembered that they were
brothers, and though they had fought long, the warriors of Fiti-nui
had been good fighters and brave. Also many Fiti-nui women had been
taken by the men of Hana-uaua, and captured youths had been adopted,
and the tribes were kin by many ties.

"The two tribes talked together across the waves, and the tribe of
Hana-uaua begged their brothers not to go. They said that they would
fight no more, that the prisoners who had not been eaten should be
returned to their own valley, that the two clans would live forever
in friendship.

"Then the people of Fiti-nui wept again, but they said that the gods
had ordered them to sail away, and they must go.

"'But,' said the chief of the Fiti-nui, 'you will know that we have
reached a new land safely when the Meae-Topaiho falls, when the
great spear is broken by the gods, you will know that your brothers
are in a new home.'

"Then they departed, the four canoes, but the daughter of the chief
did not go, for her child was long in being born. She lived with the
people of Hana-uaua in peace and comfort. And when the season of the
breadfruit had come and gone, one night when the rain and the wind
made the earth tremble and slip, the people of Hana-uaua heard a
roaring and a crashing.

"'The gods are angry,' they said. But the daughter of the chief said,
'My people have found their home.' And in the morning they found
that the Meae-Topaiho had fallen, the blade of the spear was broken,
and the prophecy fulfilled.

"That was four generations ago, and ever since that time the people
of Hana-uaua have looked for some sign from their brothers who went
away. Their names were kept in the memories of the tribe. Ten years
ago many men were brought here to work on the plantations, from
Puka-Puka and Na-Puka in the Paumotas, and they talked with the

"_Aue!_ They were the children's children of the Piina of Fiti-nui.
In those low islands to which their fathers and mothers went, they
kept the words and the names of old. They had kept the memory of the
journey. And one old man was brought by his son, and he remembered
all that his father had told him, and his father was the son of the
chief, Atituahuei.

"These people did not look like our men. The many years had made
them different. But they knew of the spear rock, and of the prophecy,
and they were in truth the lost brothers of the Hana-uaua people.

"But the Hana-uaua people, too, were dying now. None was left of the
blood of the chief's daughter. No man was left alive on the plateau
of Ahao.

"Their _popoi_ pits are the wallows of the wild boar; on their
_paepaes_ sit the wild white dogs. The horned cattle wander where
they walked. _Hee i te fenua ke!_ They are gone, and the stranger
shall have their graves."


A feast to the men of Motopu; the making of _kava_, and its drinking;
the story of the Girl Who Lost Her Strength.

The Vagabond, Kivi, who lived near the High Place, came down to my
_paepae_ one evening to bid me come to a feast given in Atuona
Valley to the men of Motopu, who had been marvelously favored by the
god of the sea.

Months of storms, said Kivi, had felled many a stately palm of
Taka-Uka and washed thousands of ripe cocoanuts into the bay, whence
the current that runs swift across the channel had swept the
fruitage of the winds straight to the inlet of Motopu, on the island
of Tahuata. The men of that village, with little effort to themselves,
had reaped richly.

Now they were come, bringing back the copra dried and sacked. Seven
hundred francs they had received for a ton of it from Kriech, the
German merchant of Taka-Uka, from whose own groves it had been
stolen by the storms.

On the morrow, their canoes laden with his goods, they would sail
homeward. One day they had tarried to raft redwood planks of
California from the schooner in the bay to the site of Kivi's new
house. So that night in gratitude he would make merry for them. There
would be much to eat, and there would be _kava_ in plenty. He prayed
that I would join them in this feast, which would bring back the
good days of the _kava_-drinking, which were now almost forgotten.

[Illustration: Kivi, the _kava_ drinker with the _hetairae_ of
the valley]

[Illustration: A pool in the jungle]

I rose gladly from the palm-shaded mat on which I had lain vainly
hoping for a breath of coolness in the close heat of the day, and
girded the red _pareu_ more neatly about my loins. Often I had heard
of the _kava_-drinking days before the missionaries had insisted on
outlawing that drink beloved of the natives. The traders had added
their power to the virtuous protests of the priests, for _kava_ cost
the islanders nothing, while rum, absinthe, and opium could be sold
them for profit. So _kava_-drinking had been suppressed, and after
decades of knowing more powerful stimulants and narcotics, the
natives had lost their taste for the gentler beverage of their

The French law prohibited selling, exchanging, or giving to any
Marquesan any alcoholic beverage. But the law was a dead letter, for
only with rum and wine could work be urged upon the Marquesans, and
I failed to reprove them even in my mind for their love of drink.
One who has not seen a dying race cannot conceive of the prostration
of spirit in which these people are perishing. That they are
courteous and hospitable - and that to the white who has ruined
them - shows faintly their former joy in life and their abounding
generosity. Now that no hope is left them and their only future is
death, one cannot blame them for seizing a few moment's forgetfulness.

Some years earlier, in the first bitterness of hopeless subjugation,
whole populations were given over to drunkenness. In many valleys
the chiefs lead in the making of the illicit _namu enata_, or
cocoanut-brandy. In the Philippines, where millions of gallons of
cocoanut-brandy are made, it is called _tuba_, but usually its name
is arrack throughout tropical Asia. Fresh from the flower spathes of
the cocoanut-tree, _namu_ tastes like a very light, creamy beer or
mead. It is delicious and refreshing, and only slightly intoxicating.
Allowed to ferment and become sour, it is all gall. Its drinking
then is divided into two episodes - swallowing and intoxication.
There is no interval. "Forty-rod" whiskey is mild compared to it.

I had seen the preparation of _namu_, which is very simple. The
native mounts the tree and makes incisions in the flowers, of which
each palm bears from three to six. He attaches a calabash under them
and lets the juice drip all day and night. The process is slow, as
the juice falls drop by drop. This operation may be repeated
indefinitely with no injury to the tree. In countries where the
liquor is gathered to sell in large quantities, the natives tie
bamboo poles from tree to tree, so that an agile man will run
through the forest tending the calabashes, emptying them into larger
receptacles, and lowering these to the ground, all without descending
from his lofty height.

The _namu_ when stale causes the Marquesans to revert to wickedest
savagery, and has incited many murders. Under the eye of the
gendarme its making ceases, but a hundred valleys have no white
policemen, and the half score of people remaining amid their
hundreds of ruined _paepaes_ give themselves over to intoxication. I
have seen a valley immersed in it, men and women madly dancing the
ancient nude dances in indescribable orgies of abandonment and

_Namu enata_ means literally "man booze." The Persian-Arabic word,
_nam_, or _narm-keffi_, means "the liquid from the palm flower."
From this one might think that Asia had taught the Marquesans the
art of making _namu_ during their prehistoric pilgrimage to the
islands, but the discoverers and early white residents in Polynesia
saw no drunkenness save that of the _kava_-drinking. It was the
European, or the Asiatic brought by the white, who introduced
comparatively recently the more vicious cocoanut-brandy, as well as
rum and opium, and it is these drinks that have been a potent factor
in killing the natives.

It has ever been thus with men of other races subjugated by the
whites. Benjamin Franklin in his autobiography tells that when he
was a commissioner to the Indians at Carlisle, Pennsylvania, he and
his fellow-commissioners agreed that they would allow the Indians no
rum until the treaty they earnestly sought was concluded, and that
then they should have plenty.

He pictures an all-night debauch of the red men after they had
signed the treaty, and concludes: "And, indeed, if it be the design
of Providence to extirpate these savages in order to make room for
cultivators of the earth, it seems not improbable that rum may be
the appointed means. It has annihilated all the tribes who formerly
inhabited the sea-coast."

It was not for me to speculate upon the designs of Providence with
respect to the Marquesans. _Kava_ had been the drink ordained by the
old gods before the white men came. Its making was now almost a lost
art; I knew no white man who had ever drunk from the _kava_-bowl. So
it was with some eagerness that I followed Kivi down the trail.

Broken Plate, a sturdy savage in English cloth cap and whale's-teeth
earrings, stood waiting for us in the road below the House of
the Golden Bed, and together the three of us went in search of
the _kava_ bush. While we followed the narrow trail up the
mountain-side, peering through masses of tangled vines and shrubs
for the large, heart-shaped leaves and jointed stalks we sought,
Kivi spoke with passion of the degenerate days in which he lived.

Let others secretly make incisions in the flower of the cocoanut and
hang calabashes to catch the juice, said he. Or let them crook the
hinges of the knee that rum might follow fawning on the whites. Not
he! The drink of his fathers, the drink of his youth, was good
enough for him! Agilely he caught aside a leafy branch overhanging
the trail, and in the flecks of sunshine and shade his naked, strong
brown limbs were like the smooth stems of an aged manzanita tree.

He had not the scaly skin or the bloodshot eyes of the _kava_
debauchee, whose excesses paint upon their victim their own vivid
signs. I remembered a figure caught by the rays of my flashlight one
might on a dark trail - a withered creature whose whole face and body
had turned a dull green, and at the memory of that grisly phantom I
shuddered. But Broken Plate, on the trail ahead, called back to us
that he had found a goodly bush, and without more words we clambered
to it.

The _kava_, a variety of the pepper-plant, grows to more than six
feet in height, and the specimen we had found thrust above our heads
its many jointed branches rustling with large, flat leaves. The
decoction, Kivi explained, comes from the root, and we set to work to
dig it.

Online LibraryFrederick O'BrienWhite Shadows in the South Seas → online text (page 13 of 29)