Papuan Pictures by Dauncey, H. M.
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[Illustration: TIMA OF DELENA.
H. M. DAUNCEY
(Of Delena, Papua)
With Sixty-Three Illustrations from Photographs by the Author
London London Missionary Society 16, New Bridge Street 1913
_With greetings to the boys and girls whose meetings I had the happiness to attend in the Old Home Land and in Australia, and the hope that the memories of those meetings are as bright and lasting to them as they are to me._
H. M. DAUNCEY.
I GAMES AND SCHOOL 1
II THE CONCEITED YOUTH 17
III KEEPING HOUSE 23
IV GRANDFATHER AND GRANDMOTHER 43
V THE SORCERER 44
VI A SANDALWOOD CHURCH, AND AN INCIDENT 53
VII A CHAPTER OF ACCIDENTS 59
VIII A FEAST AND A DANCE 72
IX HOW WE GO 79
X KORONA, A HILLSIDE VILLAGE 112
XI KABADI 123
XII A CHRISTMAS GATHERING 144
XIII DOCTORING 157
XIV PEACE-MAKING 163
XV SOME PICTURES OF LIFE 172
XVI THE AIM 183
List of Coloured Plates
TO FACE PAGE Tima of Delena _Frontispiece_ Rocking the Cradle 33 A Hearth 39 Returning from Fishing 61
List of Illustrations
TO FACE PAGE Delena Children 8 Two Convenient Handles 8 “I Protest!” 9 Parent and Child 9 Would he Take a Prize? 24 Throwing the Spear 25 Whip-tops in Season 25 Paroparo 28 The Snake Game 29 Delena School Group 29 The Cuscus Game 36 A Fine Frizzy Head 37 A Friend Lends a Hand 37 A Tight-laced Dandy 44 Bringing in the Firewood 44 Bridal Procession 45 “Out like a Coal-scuttle Bonnet” 45 Firing Pots 52 Making Pots 52 Thatchers at Work 53 Delena House 53 Dressed up in Paint and Feathers 56 Cooking Supper 56 The Cradle 57 Waiting for Mother 72 The Front Steps 72 Papuan Treasures 73 Cooking Food under the House 73 Miria the Sorcerer 76 Delena Church 76 Nara Village and Church 77 Queen Koloka 77 Nara Dancers 84 Delena Man at Nara Dance 84 Who is He? 85 Round the Rocks 85 Breakfast on the Beach 88 The Papuan Tailor 88 A Long Drink 89 Oa 89 Hisiu Girls in their Best 104 Morabi Village 104 Bad Walking: Over the Mangrove Roots 105 Fafoa with her Boy and Papauta 105 Scramble in Front of Timoteo’s House 120 A Widower 121 A Crocodile 121 Kopuana School 136 Delena Mission House 136 Delena District Teachers 137 Motumotu Man 137 A Well-oiled Amazon 152 Ume and the Crocodile 152 Miria Making Fire 153 The Blow-pipe 153 The Kaiva-Kuku 168 Native Surgery 168 Basket-making at Delena 169 Smiles 169
Games and School
Most visitors begin their Papuan experiences at Port Moresby, but you begin yours at a smaller place, where I have spent the last seventeen years. The village is called DELENA, and you can find it on the shore of Hall Sound. Nothing grand will impress you as you draw near to the shore, but no matter at what time you land you will find a crowd of young children running to meet you; no matter what your age, whether you are man, woman, boy or girl; no matter what the time of day, you will be greeted with “Good-morning, sir,” and little hands will go up to the salute, many of them as awkwardly as though the joints belonged to wooden Dutch dolls. These are the youngsters I want to introduce to you first.
Several things will attract your attention. First, perhaps, that they have no clothes such as we wear. They do not need them and are content to be clothed for the most part in mud and sunshine. Neither mud nor sunshine allows much scope for originality in fashion, but you will notice that the ordinary originality comes in in the way the hair is served. Many of the youngsters will have their heads shaved clean. Some will have two tufts left, one in front and one behind, like convenient handles to hold on by. Some have a ridge left along the top of the head, like a cock’s comb. Some have alternate bands of hair and bare scalp, and some the full bushy head of hair which is so distinctive of the Papuan.
As a rule they keep to the patterns they learnt from their fathers, but one day in school I saw a stroke of decided originality. A little fellow came in with a new pattern, and gradually I worked out the bare lines into the first three letters of the native alphabet, A, E, I, and then followed this dialogue:—
_Missionary._—“Who cut your hair in that fashion?”
_Boy._—“My big brother.”
_Missionary._—“What did he do it with?”
_Boy._—“A bit of a broken bottle.”
_Missionary._—“Did it hurt?”
_Boy._—“Only a little.”
The letters were not well formed, but there was no doubt about them, and I wondered if the elder brother thought the younger so thick-headed that there was a doubt about his getting the letters inside and so made sure that he should have them outside. Be that as it may, there the letters were till the hair grew again.
As a rule there is no fuss when a little Papuan comes into the world, but occasionally his arrival is celebrated with quite royal pomp and pageantry, and the women of his tribe have their turn at wearing the family finery, and going in for a big dance. A few years ago I was fortunate enough to come across one of these celebrations at Maiva.
Some sixty women with wonderful feather head-dresses, gay as the brightest feathers of tropical birds could make them, and wearing all kinds of shell ornaments, took part. The central square of the village had been carpeted with cocoanut fronds to keep down the dust, and provide a stage. Down this came the women in two parties, chanting, swinging their grass skirts, and waving in front of them branches of vividly coloured crotons. At the end where we were standing, the two parties turned right and left, and then formed figures something like the spokes of a wheel, and each revolving round the group in the centre, worked their way back to the other end of the village.
In small parties the women went to the house where the new baby was, and he was brought out and presented to them. Bowing themselves away backwards from him they swept the ground with the branches they had in their hands, chanting all the time, and, so it seemed to me, trying to sweep the child’s pathway into life clean. (That is just what the missionary tries to do from the time the child is old enough to come to school.)
Another interesting feature was the by-play of four old women, each of whom carried something that would be used by the child when he grew up. One with nets represented hunting and fishing. One, with digging sticks, told of the time when he would have to take his part in the planting. What the third was I have forgotten, but of the fourth there could be no doubt. Her bow and arrows and stone club, and the ornament she carried in her mouth to make her look savage, all told of war. Right and left she pretended to shoot the onlookers, and at times it seemed as though she would let an arrow slip from the string and so start real trouble.
As a baby the little Papuan receives unlimited attention from both father and mother. One’s ideas of the savage have to be modified when big men are seen carrying their young children about and fondling them as tenderly as any white parent could do.
This fondness is, however, carried to excess, and starts the child on the wrong path. He is allowed to please himself from his very earliest days. If you ask a father why his child did something that was sure to result in injury to himself, or trouble to others, the only reply you will get is, “Ia sibona” or “Ia ura.” Both mean much the same, though in the first case the expression puts it that it was the child’s own action, while in the second case there is the direct statement that the child wished to do it. The father does not interfere with the child’s action, or thwart its wishes, and so arises one of the greatest defects in the Papuan character, and most serious obstacles in the way of progress. Of obedience the Papuan knows nothing, unless there is a big stick, or a heavy hand, or the fear of the sorcerer, at the back of the command.
From early childhood right on through life the boy gets the best of it, as far as the amount of work he has to do is concerned. Very soon the young girls have to fetch water; collect firewood; and nurse their younger brothers and sisters, while the boys amuse themselves. Most of their amusements take the form of preparation for what they will have to do in later life, and they put as much energy into their games as an English boy would into his cricket or football. During this free and easy time the Papuan boy is much better off than the dweller in the crowded street in a big town, and his preparation for adult life is a more pleasant process than the grind in a factory. He enjoys making and sailing his model canoe, or building his model house, and shouts with delight when he has got as far as throwing his toy spear so as to hit the mark. Usually two parties stand facing each other. From the one a cocoanut husk is hurled, and as it goes bounding along the members of the other party try to spear it before it breaks through their ranks. So for an hour at a time, it is kept up from end to end.
Only two games as far as I have seen are the same as in England, and each year the time comes round when “Whip tops are in season.” The top is all wood, and the whip usually a piece of fibrous bark that can be teased out into something like a cat-o’-nine-tails.
The second game that would be familiar is the swing, but you cannot sit comfortably in it as you can in those at home. A length of vine hangs from a slanting cocoanut palm, and on the bottom end is lashed a piece of stick T fashion, only the T is the wrong way up, like this—⊥. Holding on to this T you swing as far as the length of the vine will allow. If a tree can be found at the bend of a river so much the better, for then the fun is to start from one bank and drop off on the other. If ever you have the chance to try this, be sure you take a good run to start with, or you may be left swinging over the river like the pendulum of a big clock, and have to be hauled back by the laughing onlookers, as I once was.
As before the introduction of schools the Papuan child spent most of his time in play, I think I had better give you more information as to his games.
In _Tom Brown’s School Days_ you can read the experience of a new boy when tossed in a blanket. A Delena boy could tell you something the same, except that there is no blanket in his case. In the game called “Paroparo,” or “The Frog,” he is tossed on the arms of two rows of his companions. Each boy grasps the arms of the one facing him, so forming a rough gutter at one end of which a small boy is placed face downwards. Gradually he is jerked forwards till his feet have left the couple who first held him. They run to the front and are ready to receive the head of the “Frog” when he has been jerked far enough along. In turn each couple comes to the front, and so “keeps the pot boiling” till an unlucky toss, or an intentional one, lands the poor “Frog” out on the sand, and his place is taken by another.
King of the Castle is suggested by another game, but the name is just “Eaea” and in playing it the girls are matched against the boys. A party of girls dig a hole in the sand and in it bury some of the fruit of the Nipa Palm, and then all sit down in a bunch on top and challenge the boys. The boys have to dislodge the girls, and dig up and take possession of the fruit, but as the girls are never out of play, and can struggle back as often as their strength will allow, it is some time before the boys capture the fruit and claim their turn at burying it. This is one of the games, and there are others, which beginning in play often end in a fight, drawing in the friends and relatives of the players.
The Papuan lack of self-control, unfortunately, often causes a game to end in a fight, and the reason for the winner only in a contest having a prize, they cannot understand. At Port Moresby there are three villages, and many years ago, hoping to add interest to the sports, we pitted the children of the three villages against each other in a tug-of-war. When B team was getting the best of the tug the parents of A team lent their children a hand. The parents of B team then tried to push away those who were helping A team. That led more to join in, and some good hard knocks were exchanged, and in the end the tug-of-war became a free fight, and our sports came to an abrupt end. The promoters had their work cut out to put a stop to the trouble they had unintentionally raised.
On another occasion when the people of several villages were gathered at Kerepunu there was a canoe race in which one canoe from each village took part. Near the end of the race when the Kerepunu crew had lost the leading place, a man got up from the bottom of their canoe and calmly put a spear into one of the paddlers in the leading canoe. The loss of one paddle enabled Kerepunu to again take the lead and win the race. When spoken to about his conduct the spearman replied, “What right have people from another village to come and win a race in our waters?”
[Illustration: DELENA CHILDREN.
_See page 1._]
[Illustration: TWO CONVENIENT HANDLES.
_See page 2._]
[Illustration: “I PROTEST!”
_See page 3._]
[Illustration: PARENT AND CHILD.
_See page 5._]
Contending for a prize seemed quite foreign to the Papuan mind. In the first regattas at Port Moresby we had to try and introduce the idea. After four canoes had raced and the prize had been handed to the winners, those in the other canoes wanted to know where their _payment_ was. We explained that the winners only received the prize, and were met by the question, “Why? We have brought our canoe as far as they have, and have paddled just as far as they have. They finished only a little ahead of our canoe.” They understand prizes now, but before they reached that stage those trying to introduce British pastimes had a real difficulty because the native looked upon the prize as payment for taking part in the event.
Only a few years ago the Delena people refused to take part in the Christmas sports, and when pressed for a reason said that the men from a neighbouring village had carried off most of the prizes the year before, and they were not going to put up with that as I lived in their village and belonged to them.
In a country where snakes are so plentiful it is not to be wondered at that a game takes both its name and its movements from a snake. The big carpet snake is, at Delena, called Auara, and the girls have a game of that name. A long string of girls, with arms outstretched, clasp hands, and then, swinging their grass petticoats to the rhythm, they chant repeatedly:—
“Auara ehaina. Auara kaito ehaina.”
Having worked up steam, the first girl, representing the head of the snake, twists round and passes under the arms of numbers two and three. Then numbers one and two pass under the arms of three and four, and so on to the end, the twisting representing the tortuous movements of the snake as it travels round and up a tree. The rhymes used in this and other games seem to have little more meaning than some of those repeated during English games. Very often neither the children nor the adults can give the meaning of the words used.
Another game takes its name from an animal. The Cuscus is common to all districts, and you will see in the picture the Papuan idea of representing its movements along the branch of a tree. The children cannot, however, come up to the real animal.
One of the most picturesque and exciting games is played in many districts under different names. In one it represents wasps stealing raw sago, while in another it is the wind and sea wrecking a _lakatoi._ (_Lakatoi_ is the Motu name of a big trading canoe, or a ship). A dozen or so girls get together like a Rugby scrum. Away in the distance you can see boys waving branches and humming to represent the wind. As they come nearer the sound increases and the branches are waved more vigorously. The pace increases, and at last with a rush and a shout the branches are thrown on to the girls. These waves, though they may produce discomfort (especially if a few stinging ants have been left amongst the leaves), do not smash up the lakatoi, so the boys themselves commence the attack, and try to pull the girls apart so as to represent the breaking up of the lakatoi. Often it is a long job, for the girls can hold their own.
If all work and no play makes a dull boy, all play and no school will not fill an empty head. Part of the missionary’s aim is to fill the head as well as change the heart, so we will turn from play to school.
With schools all around you, books at your disposal from the time the first picture alphabet was put into your hands, and letters and papers always bringing you fresh news, it will be difficult for you to imagine a whole country where a few short years ago the people knew nothing of either writing or reading, and where it is still possible to go into a village where not a man, woman or child is able to read a word. There are many such in Papua. News is conveyed by word of mouth, and appointments made in the same way, with a little mechanical help thrown in. Only a short time ago I saw a man send word to a friend in another village that he should expect him to come in six days. He told the boy who was to take the message and then gave him a piece of string with six knots in it. The boy started on his journey, and that night before he slept he would bite off one of the knots. The next night he would bite off another, and the following morning hand the string, with its four remaining knots, to the friend to whom the message was sent. He would go through the biting performance till only two knots remained, and would then know it was time for him to start to keep his appointment.
This is the old-fashioned way, always used when there were no names to the days of the week, and no numbers to the days of the month, and no writing materials, nor any who would have known how to use them even if they had possessed a whole stationer’s shop full. Now school is changing all this, and much of the missionary’s time is spent in school.
At Delena school meets in the church, and at once you would notice the absence of seats and desks. So far we have followed the native custom, and all the children sit on the floor, but now we are busy making desks for the seniors from material given by Birmingham friends. As they come in the boys sit in rows on the one side and the girls on the other. To form into rows may seem a simple matter to those of you who have been through a course of drill, but it was long before the children could be got out of their native habit of squatting down in two compact bunches one on either side of the church.
Our numbers may be anything between 60 and 100, for except when they are away with their parents on trading or hunting expeditions, we have now little difficulty in getting the children to school. We begin sometimes with a hymn, and always with prayer, and then divide into classes. We aim mainly at teaching the children to read and write, but add arithmetic, some geography, and the Catechism and Bible knowledge.
While reading the children are indifferent as to which way they hold their books. Right way up. Wrong way up. Looking at them from either right or left side. Neither comes amiss. I could not understand this till I noticed that the South Sea teachers more often than not hold the card from which they teach the young children the alphabet, so that it is the right way up for themselves. Some of the children, therefore, see the letters the wrong way up, and some get only a side view. As the child does not always occupy the same position in the class, it comes to recognize the letter from any angle.
In one respect only is the Papuan scholar ahead of those who have to deal with the English language. He finds no difficulty in spelling any word in his language, unless it be one with a lot of H’s in it. It is a different matter, however, when it comes to writing. You will never find him wrong with a vowel, but he plays ducks and drakes with the consonants. T’s and D’s, P’s and B’s, L’s and R’s are interchanged as the fit takes him. _Vada_ may be all right at the one end of the line, but at the other it will be _vata._ _Pa_ does duty for _ba._ This does not matter so much in the language the native knows, but it is a serious difficulty in the way of teaching him to write English. The pig may loom big in importance in the eyes of the native, and the bigger he is the better they like him; but one does not want his name to be written _big_ every time, and it is decidedly awkward when _hat_ becomes _had_, and _bat_ turns into _bad_. This careless use of the consonants seems to extend throughout most of the Islands of the Pacific, so the Papuan is not exceptionally dull or careless.
I remember reading that a chief in the South Seas once saw John Williams make some marks on a piece of wood, and was then asked to take the piece of wood to Mrs. Williams. She looked at the wood and then gave the chief an axe to take to her husband, afterwards throwing away the bit of wood. The man saw that the piece of wood had procured an axe so he picked it up, made a hole through it, and hung it round his neck for future use, no doubt looking forward to an unlimited supply of axes. Similar experience has produced a peculiar effect upon the Papuan. As soon as he can write he makes all his requests, even the most trivial, upon a bit of paper, and seems to think that no letter can be complete without a request for something. There is a difficulty about the practical application of some things we teach, but none whatever about writing.
If “multiplication is vexation” to young folks at home, what must it be in a village where written figures are quite modern? We are fortunate that the natives in our district have a good system of counting, but I have never been able to understand why they have words for ten thousand and a hundred thousand. They never use them in their daily life, and I cannot see that they ever could have had occasion to use them. Their counting is done upon their fingers. In school you can see a child adding away with the help of his fingers, and then if he wants to go beyond ten he has the advantage over an English child in that he wears no boots and can make use of his toes, and so can go to twenty without beginning again.
After a time a straightforward sum presents no difficulty, but there is no practical application as in the case of writing. The boys have never been taught to think a matter out, but they are beginning to do so, as the following story shows. Ume had got as far as addition of money, and could get his sums right nine times out of ten, except the farthings. Again and again I explained, and one day found out what his difficulty was. Here is his explanation: “I cannot understand the ways of you white men. You write one over four, and count it one; one over two and count it two; three over four and count it three. Why do you not count all _tops_ or all _bottoms_, and then I could get my sums right.” He had thought the matter out and discovered why he had failed.
Another illustration of their thinking matters out for themselves. I had just given the English word for fingers, and then giving the native for toes asked what it was in English. A pause, and then one boy shot out, “Foot fingers.”
When the lessons are all finished the calling of the register would interest you if you allowed me to translate some of the names as we read them out. Kasiri does not seem to be troubled by the fact that his name means “unripe”; and Ogogame (the orphan) is decidedly out of place for a boy who has both father and mother living in the village. The cassowary and the rooster are represented by boys bearing the name of VIO and KOKO-ROGU. Death (Mate) and life (Mauri) are both lively youngsters, in fact it would not be easy to decide which is the more alive. Boio, the equivalent of “lost,” is rather appropriately the name of a girl who is not at all a regular attendant at school. Place names are rather poorly represented at present. One girl who was rescued from death by a Samoan teacher’s wife is called Papauta, after the Samoan girls’ school, and another girl has to answer to the name of Purari, because she was born while her father was away with Chalmers, on his first journey to the river of that name.
As English becomes more known we shall have boys and girls called after all sorts of things, for in one part and another of the country I know Smoke, Fishline, Teapot, Tar-brush, London, and Fish-hook.
The Conceited Youth
In early childhood the Papuan is often a charming little being, looking at you with eyes that can hardly be matched the world over for size and the beauty of their plum-like bloom. He grows out of this stage all too early, and in the next thinks only of making himself ornamental. He certainly is not useful.
Having been allowed his own way when a child he soon considers himself free from all parental control, and goes his own way. The girls help in the daily round of the household management, but the youth spends most of his time in the club house, decorating himself for the afternoon promenade. Conceited and useless would best describe the male Papuan at this time of his history, but to make the picture complete we must go a step further and say that he is constantly getting into trouble and dragging his parents and relatives into quarrels with others on account of his misconduct.
After dancing and promenading best part of the night he is always unwilling to turn out when the others do in the morning. As soon as he has sufficiently roused himself he begins his preparations for the day by spreading around him the requisites for his toilet. A strange assortment. His dress-suit consists of a strip of bark cloth with gay coloured patterns marked upon it. So simple a suit takes little time or thought for its proper adjustment. No beauty doctor can, however, spend more time and care over the face. Cocoanut shells containing various pigments are brought into use, together with a mirror (this is one of the few things the youth will work to procure), and lines and dots, triangles and circles, soon hide the natural colour of the skin. It is not at all necessary that the two sides of the face should match. One eye may be surrounded by white or yellow, while the other may look at you out of a frame of black.
Next comes the dressing of the hair. A friend may lend a hand in combing this out with a two or three-pronged comb, the youth taking his ease the while, as you can see in the picture. By the time the process is complete the youth gazes from under a frizzy mop which it would be hard to match the whole world over. This must be parted a little way back from the forehead, so as to allow the feather head ornaments to be adjusted in the right place and at the correct angle. A bead or shell frontlet must be placed round the forehead, and then the necklace and armshells; the anklets and garters (though he has no stockings to keep up) must all be nicely in position before the final touch is given to the toilet. A cocoanut is scraped, and the friend, filling his mouth with the soft white mass, chews it till he has extracted the oil, and then gently blows it from his lips over the body of the youth who gradually turns round in front of him, till, like the joint on the old-fashioned spit he is done all round. Sometimes plain oil does not meet the case, but it is coloured with red clay and then smeared over the body instead of being blown on.
Now try and imagine what the dandy looks like, and remember that often you can tell he is coming long before you can see him, for the remains of former oil dressings are not washed off. The picture will give you an idea, but unfortunately it lacks the colour. Crude as are many of the attempts at decoration, the native often shows skill in the way he blends the colours of his feathers and the artistic way in which he adjusts them at the correct angle.
Many people are willing to be uncomfortable if they can be in the fashion, and the Papuan dandy is no exception. The tight lacing he subjects himself to may be bearable while he is promenading about, but I have seen him suffer agony from it while trying to row in a boat, and yet all his suffering would not make him remove his belt.
If the Papuan youth’s life were only devoted to empty show it would be bad enough, but there is another and darker side. His parents and elders may care little what he does with his time; nor do they worry about his education, except in one particular. They never allow him to forget that he must avenge wrongs inflicted upon his family. Of forgiveness they know nothing, and the youth as he grows up is taught that for every wrong he must exact payment.
One of the first cases tried after a Court of Justice had been established in Papua illustrates this. A young man from a village near Port Moresby was charged with murdering a woman and two children. He admitted that he had killed them, but said it was “payment” for the people of the woman’s tribe having killed his father. He was quite a small boy at the time, but his uncles had repeatedly told him of the deed, and that he would not only have to take a life for a life, but if possible get something on the credit side, and so win a name for himself. With this in view they taught him to handle the spear and the club, and when he was a man and proficient, sent him to find his victim. It mattered nothing to him that the first persons whom he met belonging to the offending tribe were a woman and two children. He killed them all three and gloried in his deed of shame. He had however to reckon with our first Governor (Sir William MacGregor), who, being in the neighbourhood, had the offender marched off to Port Moresby, and there, during a long term of imprisonment, he had an opportunity of learning something of the new order of things introduced under British Government.
It is difficult to believe that this bloodthirstiness dwells in youths who are so vain, and so easily captivated by bits of finery, and have such queer ideas of what should be done with English things when they do get them.
I once took a youth to Sydney. Of course Papuan dress, or want of dress, would not do there, so I had to fit him out in a suit of clothes. The garments were not by any means worn out when we returned to Delena, but for a time they passed from my view. Later Master Poha was strutting about in the well ventilated vest, while two of his relatives divided the remainder of the suit between them. I cannot say that either looked fully clothed, but they were not so conspicuous as the boy at Port Moresby who used to stalk about in a silk hat.
That hat had a history. A high Government official found that his servant had packed it amongst his things when he was leaving London, and having no use for it in Papua, he handed it over to a youth who had taken up his quarters in the back premises of Government House. That youth was not only the introducer of a new fashion, the observed of all observers, but he was the envy of his companions, as he strutted around clothed in a top hat, and a very broad smile. Of course the hat lost its gloss, and took on the shape of a concertina, but that did not detract from its usefulness, and the last I heard of it was that the elder brother of the owner borrowed it to take on Hiri (the trading expedition), because, as he put it, “He should be cold without any clothes.”
The Papuan youth, however, with all these faults is a loyal, brave companion. He can be relied upon when accompanying a white man on a journey. The tighter the corner the more he shines, and many others as well as ourselves would have ended their days in Papua long ago had not our boys stuck to us in time of need.
The Papuan comes of age in fewer years than the white boy. From his babyhood preparations have been made for starting him in life. His father having settled that he shall marry the daughter of some friend, begins to pay the stipulated price for the girl. Now a pig is paid on account, and if accepted by the girl’s father, as a native who could talk a little English of a kind told me, “He all same as finger ring.” Next it may be an armshell, or some feathers. Later on some sago; and so the price is gradually paid.
When the boy and girl are old enough to start for themselves, the girl’s father often manages to screw an extra pig or a few additional knives or axes out of the boy’s family, on the ground that his daughter is either very good-looking, very strong, or a particularly smart pot maker or gardener. When there is no chance of a higher price, or before if the young couple take the matter into their own hands, the marriage takes place. The couple eat from the same dish and the knot is tied. At first they do not set up housekeeping on their own account, but usually settle in the house of the bridegroom’s father. There is no honeymoon, unless it has been a runaway match, and then the fugitives think it advisable to stay away long enough for the anger of the old folks to cool down. In the ordinary course of events the bridegroom at once takes his part in whatever hunting or fishing or planting may be going on, and the bride settles in her place in the household and garden work.
Sometimes there is a little more ceremony, and a touch of display. I remember once at Orokolo seeing a procession going along the beach. It was unlike anything I had seen before, so I gave chase. It was a long chase, for all were going at top speed to get over the hot sand as quickly as possible, and I was only just in time to see the bride, the chief figure in the procession, and decked out in the finery belonging to her family, vanishing into the house. Her friends had been carrying suspended from poles the feathers, armshells, necklaces, and other ornaments that had been paid as her price. These poles were fastened to the front of the house she had entered like barbers’ poles in England, but I doubt if they were left out overnight. Too many of the valuables might have been missing in the morning.
[Illustration: WOULD HE TAKE A PRIZE?
_See page 4._]
[Illustration: THROWING THE SPEAR.
_See page 5._]
[Illustration: WHIP-TOPS IN SEASON.
_See page 6._]
On another occasion at an inland village, the bridal procession crossed the river in canoes. This time no ornaments were carried, but nearly all the people were carrying large sago puddings—round hard balls larger than a football, and all covered with grated cocoanut, which made them look as though coated with white sauce or sugar icing.
The houses in which the Papuans live are of all shapes and of all sizes, and some at least are built in strange places: some in the tops of tall trees like big birds’-nests; some on piles in the sea like the old lake dwellings in Europe; some half in the sea and half on land, as though they were just starting to paddle on the beach; some on platforms over swamps, and others on the dry land. Oblong buildings are the fashion in most villages, but in others the ends of the oblong are curved, and in others again the one end of the house goes up and out like an old coal scuttle-bonnet. The ridgepole is usually straight, but at the east end of Papua concave meets with more approval, while in the west the ridgepole looks like a hog’s back. Small conical houses are to be found inland, but in only one district do I remember to have seen houses that were not built upon piles. At Maiva, in the central district, the sides and ends of the house are carried right down to the ground so as to give protection from mosquitoes, and the building looks like a hayrick.
Usually the house is only large enough for one family, but in the Fly River each building is really a street under one roof. The longest I have measured, though not the longest I have been in, was 360 feet long by about 60 feet wide. You could enter at either end by means of a sloping platform, and then at once have to stop till your eyes became accustomed to the difference between the glare of the sunlight outside and the semi-darkness inside. Gradually you would make out that you were standing at one end of what looked like an unusually long cow-shed. The path ran down the middle, and on either side were stalls. There the similarity ended, for in each stall was a fireplace, and instead of quiet cows, painted and feather-bedecked natives could be seen walking about, and bows and arrows, drums and nets, mats and paddles hung from the posts and partitions in place of the three-legged stools and milk pails.
No matter how poorly a cowhouse might be lighted, it would not be as dark as that house at Kiwai. Imagine its 360 feet of length without a single window, and its roof without one chimney, though the fires in the stalls were burning wood, and they _did_ smoke. You did not quite need an axe to cut your way through that atmosphere, but before reaching the far end of the house I found my pace had quickened, and when once again in the pure outside air there was the same feeling of relief as when I came up out of the sea from my only experience of going below in a diving-dress.
Of all the Papuan houses I like those best which are built over the sea on piles. It is true that to get from one to the next you need to be something of a Blondin, if you take the high road, which consists of a single pole. On the other hand, if you are fond of a swim there is your opportunity all around you. From platform, door or window, you can dive or tumble in, and when you climb up into the house you want to visit there is no need to worry about wet clothes. The host has no carpets to spoil, and the hot sun and a strong sea breeze will soon dry thin cotton clothing.
In England men of many trades are required to build a house, and the materials are gathered from many different places. In Papua each man builds his own house, with the assistance of his own family and some of his friends, and gathers the materials from the supply he finds around him. The forest gives him his timber. The Sago palm or the Nepa palm supplies his thatch. In place of nails and screws he uses the cane and vines which he can find in almost any patch of forest, or strips of bark from many different kinds of trees. On the coast his flooring boards are made by splitting up the old dug-out canoes, or by the more laborious process of dividing a tree lengthwise and then adzing each half into a plank.
In some districts the native is not content with just putting his material together and providing a place to sleep in, but spends much time and a certain amount of skill and taste upon the decoration of his house. The best in this way are to be found in the eastern part of Papua, with elaborately-carved barge boards, or woven mat gables, with patterns worked out in white cowry shells.
All round Delena the houses lack ornamentation, though they differ in both plan and details of building. Perhaps the most interesting part of the work to watch is the putting on of the palm-leaf thatch. When the framework of the house is up, and the rafters all in position, the place of the slater’s battens is supplied by either strips of palm bark or strings of fibre. The palm leaves, doubled across the middle, are then pushed with one limb on either side of the strip and allowed to lie one on the other, much like the bits of carpet in the old cottage hearth rug. In this way a good thatch roof is made which will keep the water out for four or five years.
Another plan is to sew the palm leaves together and make long sheets of thatch, but this is not so tidy nor does it make so watertight a roof, and it needs some repair each year.
_See page 7._]
[Illustration: THE SNAKE GAME.
_See page 9._]
[Illustration: DELENA SCHOOL GROUP.
_See page 11._]
Even in the most civilized parts of the country at the present time the stock of tools with which a native starts building his house would be considered absurdly inadequate by a British workman. A pointed stick takes the place of a pick and a cocoanut shell a shovel for sinking the holes for the posts. An axe and a knife are probably the only cutting tools, and the point of the knife has to serve for boring holes and the back of the axe for a hammer. Ill equipped as the native may be, he is ahead of his fathers. They only had stone axes, and to cut down a tree and adze two planks from it with such a tool was slow work indeed.
When I look at the size of some of his buildings, and see the way he overcomes his difficulties, and remember his scanty stock of tools and rough material, I consider him a clever man.
Sometimes the arrangements and calculations of the Old Folks as to the marriage are all upset by the girl refusing to marry the boy chosen for her. Then a long time of trouble begins. The boy’s father demands the return of the payment he has made, but that is not possible. The pigs have been eaten, and probably some of the neckshells, armshells, and necklaces have been passed on by the father of the girl in part payment for a wife for one of his sons. They are not allowed to fight it out now, so a war of words goes on every night. If the houses are one at either end of the village it is a war at long range, and there is little chance for those not interested to sleep, till the combatants are too hoarse to continue shouting. In the end a compromise is arranged, and _perhaps_ the young people live happy ever after.
The married women are as a rule very patient, but at times they take matters into their own hands and free themselves from what they consider an unusually unfair share of the work. Two illustrations of this come to my mind. When I started at Delena a young man became my cook and general factotum. He claimed to be a cook because he could use a tin-opener, and his other qualifications were about on the same level. Early marriage being the rule I wondered why he was single and one day asked him. He said that he had been married, but that his wife was dead. Evidently he did not wish to go into details; but from another man I heard that the wife was so tired of her husband’s lazy habits, and of having to do all the garden work, that one day she cleaned up the garden and then hanged herself.
The other story ends better. At Tupuselei there lived a man who had great ideas of his personal appearance and his skill as a dancer. He was afflicted with the idea that if he dressed up in all his paint and feathers and let people admire him, that was enough to free him from garden work. His wife did not agree with him, and thought out a way of giving him a lesson. One evening he came home and did not find her waiting to give him his meal. Though he called, she did not show up; but the houses were close enough together for the neighbours to hear, and one of them answered—
“Your wife has gone to see her father.”
“What about my supper?”
“You will find your wife has left it in the pot on the fire to keep warm.”
In no sweet mood my gentleman removed the banana leaf wrapping from the top of the pot, and the smell made him wonder what he was going to have for supper. He certainly was not prepared for the new dish his wife had concocted. The first thing his wooden fork brought out of the pot was a bunch of his much-prized feathers. Then followed his pearl shell breast ornament, his armlets, his necklaces, and all the articles of personal adornment upon which he had so prided himself, and by way of gravy his precious paints.
His temper was not improved when he found his neighbours, who were in the secret, laughing at him, and delivering a farewell message from his wife, to the effect that she was tired of doing all the work and providing all the food. If he would not make a garden he had better try to live on his ornaments.
What became of the man for a time I do not know, but the woman continued to live with her father at a neighbouring village.
About a year later she found, morning by morning, a fine bunch of bananas on the verandah of the house, and told her father it was evident someone wished to marry her. Her father kept watch and found it was the former husband who was putting the bananas on the verandah, and knowing his character, asked him from whose garden he had stolen them. With a meekness quite new to him the husband replied that he had not stolen them at all. They were grown in his own new garden, the result of his own work, and he had brought them to show his wife that he had learnt his lesson, and could, and would, provide food for her and the children, if she would return to him. She did return to him, and they lived happy ever afterwards.
John Bunyan tells us that he and his wife started life “as poor as poor might be, not having as much household stuff as a dish or a spoon betwixt us both.” The young Papuan couple are not quite so badly off as that, but few of us would like to set up housekeeping with their scanty stock. The bride will at least have a few pots, perhaps the result of her own work, or if she lives in a district where pots are not made, procured by barter from another district. She will have at least one big spoon, made by fastening part of a cocoanut shell to the end of a stick, and perhaps a smaller spoon also cut from cocoanut shell and carved. Her wardrobe will vary according to the district in which she lives, and may be as extensive as a few fibre skirts, or as scanty as a length of parcel string, or be absolutely nothing. Arms and ornaments are what the bridegroom brings to the common stock, for his clothes are scarcely worth counting.
[Illustration: ROCKING THE CRADLE.
_See page 33._]
In time the cradle is wanted, and the young mother has not been able to buy one after the English pattern; but fortunately most of the real wants can be supplied by what grows around the native home, and the cradle comes from the banana plant. The fibre found in the stump is cleared of the soft pith that surrounds it, washed clean, and then twisted into a string as fine and nearly as evenly laid as whip cord; and the woman does all the twisting by rubbing the fibre between her hand and her thigh. When she has her string she makes the big bag that serves for the cradle, dyeing portions of the string as she goes along so as to work out her pattern. All the work is done without shuttle, mesh, or needle of any kind, and in the most used pattern there is only one length of string and only two knots—one at the beginning and one at the end of the work.
It would puzzle an English mother to put her baby comfortably into such a cradle, and perhaps puzzle her more to rock such a cradle. The picture will show you how the child is settled, and will make plain the ease with which it can be rocked. Just a push and away it goes like the pendulum of a big clock.
A mail cart would be of little use in a country where there are no roads, but this strange cradle can be used instead of one. When the mother wants to go to the garden or call upon a friend, all she has to do is to take the cradle from the rope by which it is suspended, and hang it down her back with what we may call the handle of the bag over her head. While the mothers are at work the children are hung up in strange places, and in walking through a banana plantation in which a number of women are at work, one might be forgiven for thinking that the plants were growing cradles with babies inside, instead of bunches of bananas, for the mothers make use of the shade given by the beautiful broad leaves to protect the children from the sun.
So far we have remained outside the house and talked about it. Now let us pay a visit to someone living in an ordinary house in Delena. We will find out if the owner is at home not by ringing a bell and then asking, but by standing in front of the house and calling his name. If he is inside he will answer by asking us to “Come up.” His front steps are about equal to the ladder in a poor hen roost, and with your boots on you will have to be careful. The rough poles that answer for the treads of the steps are far apart, and have no agreement as to angles, and when you have safely mounted to the last you will only have reached the verandah. Hobble skirts would never do for such steps. It was a stretch before you were up, but it will need a stoop, perhaps even you will have to go on your hands and knees before you can get through the small opening which does for a doorway.
Inside, as there is neither window nor chimney, and the house may be full of smoke, it will be well to wait a few minutes before beginning to explore, or you may knock your head against a spear or a net. As a rule the most the host can do for you is to spread a small mat on the floor, and invite you to sit upon it tailor fashion. He may have added a little to the small stock with which he began married life, but it is still a very small stock, and shows us how little one can go through life with. No tables, chairs, bedsteads or cupboards. No long list of kitchen utensils. No wardrobes stocked with clothes, or bottom drawer well filled with linen. No shelves lined with books. The floor takes the place of table, chair and bed. The native pots supply the means of cooking the native food. A few extra grass skirts for the wife, or an extra loin cloth for our host, may be hanging from the roof, and in the corner or stuck in the thatch are the spears, paddles and nets, and a few pointed sticks for use in the garden. The real valuables, the feathers and ornaments, are stowed away in a box if our friend is fortunate enough to possess one, or carefully wrapped up in strips of bark.
That you may know what the Papuan’s treasures are like, and be able to identify them in the museums, I have been to the village and borrowed a friend’s store box, and taken a photo of some of the contents. The feathers are not included, as they are all tied up in bunches, and later on you will see a picture of the head-dress made up and in wear.
Please now look at the picture and listen to the amateur showman as he proclaims, “Here, ladies and gentlemen, you have a collection of jewels from a far-off land.” It is often reported that anything may be bought from the simple savage for a few beads, a bit of red cloth, or a mirror, but much as you might wish to purchase this collection, nothing you could offer would persuade the owner to part with it.
The long necklace running along the bottom of the picture, and a little way up the sides, is made of dogs’ teeth. Only the canine teeth please remark, and if all the dogs who contributed to that necklace had their full compliment of ivory, then nearly forty had to be sacrificed. A man who does not possess such a necklace will find it impossible to purchase a wife for his son.
The thin necklace like a border round the picture is called taotao by the Motu people, but movio by the Maivans, and requires patience in the making. Each little bead is a small white cowry shell, and each has been ground flat before it could be sewn on to the string.
The greatest treasures of all are the koios, the one in the centre and four to the left of the picture. The dark part is a fretwork pattern cut from real turtle-shell, and then moulded into a white saucer cut from a large white shell. Do not ever call the man a duffer who can cut a koio with a boar’s tusk, or a shark’s tooth, or an old nail as his tool. Koios are only made by the people immediately round Hall Sound.
[Illustration: THE CUSCUS GAME.
_See page 10._]
[Illustration: A FINE FRIZZY HEAD.]
[Illustration: A FRIEND LENDS A HAND.
_See page 18._]
Precious stones increase rapidly in value when the little ones are left behind. So do the Toeas, or arm shells. A small one may be worth little, but there is a rush when it is known that one large enough to go up to a man’s shoulder is on the market. I have known a native who was earning twelve pounds a year willingly pay £5 for such a Toea.
The half-moon pearl shell is worn on the breast, and no marriage is complete without one or more of these changing hands.
Above the pearl shell are two nose sticks, both cut from a clam shell and carefully ground into shape. Some of these are so long and so heavy that when worn through the septum of the nose an old sailor would be inclined to suggest that a topping lift might ease the strain, and add to the comfort of the wearer.
The two large pendants are made from wallaby teeth, and are worn on the breast on state occasions, with a few dry husks at the end that will rattle as the wearer walks about.
Seven small turtle-shell ear-rings only are shown, but it is nothing uncommon for a woman to wear as many as twenty of these in one ear at the same time.
Such, ladies and gentlemen, are the treasures of my friend Noi of Delena. You would probably only value them as curios, but to him they are treasures, and valued as heirlooms.
The Papuans are very conservative if asked to do anything contrary to the customs of their forefathers, but are not too conservative to adopt the customs of the white men when by so doing they can lighten the daily task, or add to their own comfort. They willingly take to steel tools instead of stone, and think a blanket a great improvement upon bark cloth, and like rice and bread to be added to their daily menu. Comparatively few, however, copy any of the household arrangements of the foreigner.
I remember one who did. He was chief of his village, and his house, though built of purely native material, was in shape something like my own, and was divided into two rooms and had home-made doors and windows. He had even gone so far as to make a table, a chair, and a sofa, and asked me to sit on the chair when I visited him. One glance, however, was enough to convince me that I might as well go comfortably to the floor, as find my way there in a hurry amidst the broken fragments of the chair.
[Illustration: A HEARTH.
_See page 39._]
On the small table were three books which I quickly recognized as the Motu New Testament, a Hymn book, and the Catechism, and on top of the books a small bell. A few questions led Tanokari up to telling me he had been to my house, and seen the books and the bell and the use we made of them. When he had learnt to read he also bought books and a bell, and called his friends together at night so that he might have family prayers with them.
Many others have followed the lead of this chief as far as the books are concerned, and have learnt to make use of them as he did, but things sometimes seem strangely mixed. I have seen a native take down his netted bag, produce his book, and then with the greatest gravity put on a pair of spectacles and begin to read. His clothing would not have made a wrapping for a pair of boots, and perhaps the only other European things in the house were his hatchet and knife.
The hearth is in the centre of the floor, and the fire upon it serves as the light at night. An open fire in a thatch house suggests danger of the owner losing house and all his belongings by fire. The only precaution taken is that of putting earth on the boards where the fire is lighted, and surrounding all by four pieces of wood.
Fires are not so common as one would expect but when they do take place the whole village is usually swept away. In nearly every case the fire originates from the careless leaving about of a fire stick, but at Delena one Sunday afternoon we had excitement from another cause. An unusual wave of quarrelsomeness seemed to be passing over the village, and I had been preaching from the words, “Inai, au momo lahi maragi e haraia.” As that language is not taught in the English schools, I had better refer you to James iii. 7, and the latter part of the verse. By way of illustration I reminded the people that one fire stick would be enough to start a fire that would burn down the whole village. Less than half an hour after the service was finished there was a cry of “Fire” and a general rush to a house where the thatch was alight. Fortunately the fire was soon extinguished, and then the cause was sought. My sermon had produced an effect I neither expected nor desired. A little girl wanted to test the truth of my statement, and her experiment would have resulted in the destruction of the village but for the timely discovery of what she was doing.
This story of the little girl has taken us away from the inside of the house. We will go back to the hearth and notice the way in which the fire is built. When once it has been started sticks are placed like the spokes of a wheel, but they are only three in number. They meet in the centre of the hearth under the pot, and as they burn away have only to be pushed in a little till they again meet and replenish the fire. Three old cooking pots, turned the wrong way up, form a rough tripod on which the pot in use rests, and between them the three pieces of firewood are pushed to the centre of the hearth.
When first we came to Delena one of my wife’s great annoyances was the way the natives frequented the kitchen, and their curiosity as to the contents of the saucepans on the stove. Quite calmly they would walk in and lift the lid, and ask questions as to what they saw. I am not sure that they did not sample too, when they had a chance. You of course would not attempt to satisfy your curiosity in that way in a Papuan house, but I feel sure you would want to know something about the food, and I am equally sure you would not always care to share the Papuan’s meal, no matter how sharp set your appetite might be, for he is not at all particular as to what he eats.
For the most part his diet is a vegetable one, consisting of yams, sweet potatoes, taro, bananas, sago, and cocoanuts, but at one time and another I have seen the native eating and enjoying, not only his beloved pork, but wallaby, cuscus, rat, dog, snake, iguana, lizard, birds of nearly every kind, though there are a few he will not eat, shark, crocodile, the large fruit bat, and maggots as big as one’s thumb, which thrive in rotten palm stumps. These maggots are a great delicacy, and an old man once offered me a length of bamboo full and seemed surprised that I did not jump at the chance of purchasing them. In the Nara district they are so prized that an intertribal war was kept up for some years because two villages claimed certain land where the maggots were breeding freely in decayed sago palms.
The Papuan is not a great eater, and can go for long on very little food indeed, and then make up for it when he has the opportunity; but one wonders most at the little he drinks. He may have a green cocoanut after his meal, if he can get it, or may drink a little of the water the food was cooked in. At other times he drinks but little, and three or four men will start off for a day’s hunting with only a cocoanut shell of water between them. Certainly not more than a quart.
Grandfather and Grandmother
Whatever may be the faults of the Papuan, neglect of the old folks is not one of them. The grandmother or grandfather is always sure of kind treatment and a full share of all the good things that may come to the larder. There is no chimney-corner for him to sit and doze in, but he has the comfortable corner of the verandah, and spends his time there looking after his grandchildren and occasionally making or mending the fishing nets.
To deal with him needs a very short chapter indeed. His active part in the work of life is over, and one is glad to be able to tell of how well he is looked after in his old age. A long talk with some of these old men brings home how great has been the change in the life of the native during the last forty years. They talk proudly of their deeds when they were strong young men, and cause the rising generation to envy them, but white grandfathers have been known to do the same, and we think none the worse of them.
If sorcerers could be banished from Papua, nearly all troubles would be banished with them. There are nominal chiefs in the villages, but their power is as nothing beside that of the sorcerer. In fact the chief seems only to have such power as comes from having a fist that can strike a heavier blow than any one else, or a voice that can be heard above all others. The sorcerer, on the other hand, is feared by all, and there is no doubt about his word often carrying death with it.
The Papuan knows nothing of the laws of Nature, and he usually traces home to the sorcerer the reason for all that happens to himself and his belongings. The sorcerer is the great trouble of his life, and his influence is ever present from birth to death. It cannot be dodged, and so has to be bought off. The power of the sorcerer is hereditary, but does not always pass to the eldest son. It seems to depend upon the possession of certain charms, and these may be almost anything from a stone to a bone.
[Illustration: A TIGHT-LACED DANDY.
_See page 19._]
[Illustration: BRINGING IN THE FIREWOOD.
_See page 23._]
[Illustration: BRIDAL PROCESSION.
_See page 24._]
[Illustration: “OUT LIKE A COAL-SCUTTLE BONNET.”
_See p. 25._]
With so many to choose from it is difficult to decide which sorcerer shall be introduced, but perhaps it will be better to take Miria, the hereditary chief of Delena. He would probably strike you as the most friendly man in the village, as he is certainly the most vain. After I had taken his photo once or twice he seemed to think I never took the camera out for any other purpose, and I had to dodge in all sorts of ways so as not to offend him and yet save my plates. Smilingly he will readily admit that there are plenty of sorcerers in the neighbourhood, and that his father was one with much power. If asked as to his own connexion with the craft, he will smile still more blandly and tell you that he had a little to do with it in the past, but that was before he knew better. Exactly what he would mean by that remark I do not know. Perhaps his idea of time is vague, for he has only this month returned from serving his fourth term of imprisonment for sorcery.
My first contact with Miria as a sorcerer was soon after I landed at Delena. Late one night when all was quiet, a slight cough told me some one was near, and Miria, as silently as a ghost is supposed to move, came within the range of the light of my lamp. Sitting down in front of me, he began to explain that certain bad persons had accused him of having caused the death of a man by sorcery, and that the police were after him to take him to prison. Then he began to unwrap the parcel he had taken from his bag. It contained various smaller parcels, and from these he produced a bird-of-paradise plume, a small armshell, a very inferior nose stick, and one or two other bits of native finery. Evidently the greatest treasure was contained in a carefully wrapped-up matchbox. It was a shilling, and placing this by the side of the other things at my feet, Miria said all should be mine if I would tell the police they were not to take him to prison. I had some difficulty in persuading him that it was not through ill will that I refused his present, and offered the advice that he should give himself up, take his punishment like a man, and then have nothing more to do with sorcery.
The advice as to giving himself up he took, and I heard from the magistrate that he was an exemplary prisoner, gave no trouble to the warders, and, much to my surprise, gathered the other prisoners for prayers each morning and evening during the time of relaxation they were allowed. I had hopes that Miria would take the other part of the advice and have nothing more to do with sorcery, but in that I was disappointed. He had not long been back in the village when there were fresh complaints, and the police were again on his track. This time he tried to put out of sight the proof of his guilt, by bringing me a peculiar stone and asking that I would keep it.
I can remember our conversation, and give you the chief questions and answers.
“Well, Miria, what is this stone you have brought me?”
“Father, it is a great medicine (charm), with such power that any one looking upon it will die at once.”
“Should I die if I looked at it?” “Yes.”
“Well, I shall not sleep to-night till I have had a look at it. Where did you get it?”
“From a mountain man with whom I was in prison. He was also there because he was a sorcerer.”
“Had he the stone with him in prison?”
“No, but we made all the arrangements about it while we were in prison, and when we were liberated he got the stone from its hiding-place in the forest, and handed it over to me after I had paid him a big price.”
“Where was it hidden?”
“In a white ants’ nest. The man made a hole in the nest, put the stone in, and the ants soon built all round it and covered it up, and the man only knew where to look for it.”
“You really believe the stone has all the power you claim for it?”
“Yes; and I do not want the police to get it.”
“Well, now we will unwrap it and put the matter to the test.”
“You must not look at it. I will not stay to see you look at it.”
With that Miria cleared out of the house and left me to my fate. I looked at the stone—a queer water-worn piece, weighing about three pounds. I wondered what was its history, and how many lives it had ended, for there is no doubt that the natives do die because of the charms. The sorcerer has made use of his charm and said they will die, and that is enough. Die they do. However, I did not die as the result of looking at that stone, nor did any of the many boys and girls who during the next few months, saw it used as a door stop to my room. When at last I told them what it was, they were horrified, and gave my room a wide berth till I had put the stone away.
Parting with the stone did not save Miria. He was accused of having caused the death of a man at a neighbouring village, and the dead man’s friends, finding courage in numbers, came in a body and tried to settle accounts with Miria. I managed to save him from their spears, but in the end he had to serve another term in prison. When released he promised amendment, and however much he was suspected while I was in England, he was allowed to continue at liberty. Whether from love of power, or love of gain, it is hard to say, but he has fallen again. This time he was supposed to have made a man very ill, and the magistrate was determined to take all his charms from him. In the end Miria told where they were hidden, and there was no little excitement when the police arrived and began to pull to pieces a small house under the one in which Miria and his two wives and two families lived. They had to dig as well as pull down, and then the treasures were found. Up till then all the braver spirits in the village had lingered round the working party, but when the parcels were dug up the sight was too much for their nerves. In a few minutes the only people in the village were the police, the Rarotongan teacher’s wife, and two young boys who lived with us at the mission. They told my wife of the strange things the parcels contained, amongst them being the thigh-bone of Miria’s father, and the hand of his own dead child.
I do not know if you would think as much as I did of those two boys Anederea and Aisi remaining to watch the unwrapping of the charms. Probably not; but I realized how different their outlook had become from that of their friends and relatives and was thankful to see such a result of our teaching. All they expressed was disgust that Miria should have desecrated the bodies of his father and child, and pity for those who believed such remains possessed the power of life and death.
Whether Miria will ever cease from being a sorcerer I cannot tell, but sometimes I am sorry for him and think he would like to have done with the whole business, despite the gain it brings in the shape of payment for the use of his powers. He finds it difficult to cut himself adrift from the old life. If people come with presents and he receives them, then he is accused of accepting payment to practise sorcery. On the other hand, if he refuses the present, and any one even distantly connected with those who offered it becomes ill or dies, the trouble is put down to Miria, and it is reported that he is angry as the present was not of sufficient value, and the sickness or death has been the result of his anger.
It is not necessary to go very far back in history to find queer practices used in England in both surgery and medicine, but even that backward glance is not necessary in Papua. The strange practices are in use every day. A man is sick and a sorcerer is called in from a neighbouring village. He brings his outfit with him and, spreading the strange articles around him, begins to examine his patient. More often than not he pronounces it a case of a snake or a stone somewhere inside the patient, but occasionally the cause of the trouble may be as bulky as a whole wallaby skin. He then looks at the present offered him and begins manipulations with a view to removing the snake, stone, or wallaby skin. With various grunts and exclamations, and dives here and there, he says that it is coming away, but at last in despair he announces that he cannot manage it. The payment is not enough. Another pig must be added. If the sick man’s people have not the required pig they borrow one, and then the sorcerer begins again. “’Tis the little pig as done it.” Away comes the cause of all the trouble. At least so says the sorcerer, but no one ever sees it. He is careful to hide it in his blanket, or bark cloth.
The belief the people have in the power of the sorcerer to heal them may be useful to them, but unfortunately they believe that he can kill them. At times there is little doubt he uses poisons, and that he has power over real snakes, but it is a question as to how much the sorcerer deceives himself as well as the people and just what use he makes of the snakes. Rarely is any one bitten by a snake without its being put down to the account of some sorcerer, and many cases can be recalled of snakes being found in or near a house immediately after the sorcerer has threatened death, but in only one case can I remember the snake being in the possession of the man.
The magistrate of the district was making a raid upon the sorcerers, and though the man escaped he left his “kit” behind him. Amongst other things were two earthenware pots fitting the one over the other, and forming a closed vessel. Inside was a human skull, and while the magistrate was examining this a snake popped out. You may be sure the skull was promptly dropped and the snake killed, but unfortunately it was not examined to find out whether it was a poisonous one, and if so whether the fangs had been extracted.
There are many unsolved mysteries about the sorcerer, but all, Government officers, missionaries, and natives, vote him a nuisance.
[Illustration: FIRING POTS.]
[Illustration: MAKING POTS.]
[Illustration: THATCHERS AT WORK.
_See page 28._]
[Illustration: DELENA HOUSE.
_See page 28._]
A Sandalwood Church, and an Incident
About a year before I came to Delena sandalwood had been found in the neighbourhood, and at once traders began to get it cut and to export it to China. Till then the people had no idea that the wood growing around them was of any special value. “What has this to do with the Delena Church?” you may ask, and my reply is “_Dohore_,” the word that has been used to me so often that I am tired of it, and pass it on to you. It just means, “Wait a bit. Don’t be in a hurry.”
A very fair church can be built in Papua at a cost of from three to five pounds, but the trouble is they do not last long, and the one I found at Delena was in a sadly dilapidated condition when I began to use it. An expenditure of a couple of pounds would have put the building in good repair, but Sunday after Sunday we held our services in the shabby church, which let the rain in on us, and the people had their attention repeatedly drawn to the fact, and were told what other villages had done to supply themselves with a good church. They were slow to move, and nothing had been done when I left for my first holiday, with the conviction that there was nothing for it but to repair the church at the expense of the Mission.
Upon landing again at Delena my attention was attracted by a pile of freshly cut sandalwood stacked just inside the Mission fence. For a moment I wondered whether my teacher had been doing a little trading on his own account, or whether a trader had stacked his wood inside our fence for safety. “Dohore,” said the teacher, “you shall know all about the wood when you are in the house and I can talk to you.”
South Sea men usually go a long way round when they have a story to tell, and once in the house Matapo settled himself comfortably and got ready for a real good time. His story would be too long, so I will condense it.
“You remember,” said he, “that when you went to Thursday Island with Tamate in the _Mary_ you took Naime and Henao. They saw many strange and many new things there, and when they returned to Delena they talked to their friends of what they had seen, and told of the stone church you took them to on the Sunday (the Quetta Memorial Church, now the Cathedral). How many times they told of that Church I do not know, but one evening some of the men came from the village, and said it would be good if they had a Beritani church in their village like the one Naime and Henao had seen in Thursday Island. “Such a church,” said Matapo, “costs a lot of money. It is no good your asking Donisi to build you one like that. He could not afford it.”
“We have talked of that,” answered the Delena men, “and we think we can pay for it ourselves.”
“How? You have no money.”
“Just so, but ‘dohore’. We have sandalwood growing on our land. That is worth money. We can cut it and sell it, and so pay for our church.”
As good as their word they went to work, cut and brought in the wood I found stacked inside the gate, and asked me to sell it and buy material for their Beritani church. It realized £72, and to that a friend in England added £30, and some friends in Sydney a few pounds more.
A concrete building was out of the question, but timber and iron were bought in Sydney, and the children’s ship, the _John Williams_, helped by bringing it all to Delena. Before we could build there was pick and shovel work to do, for the side of the hill had to be cut away to provide a site, and then we all turned carpenters and builders, and are rather proud of our work—partly because we think we made a good job of it, but more because the Delena men and women, and boys and girls—for they all had a share in it—contributed most of the cost, and that when they had little, if any, money in the village. The sandalwood they got for that church would have made them rich for a time, but they handed it over, and I have never heard one man regret that they did so.
[Illustration: DRESSED UP IN PAINT AND FEATHERS.
_See page 30._]
[Illustration: COOKING SUPPER.
_See page 31._]
[Illustration: THE CRADLE.
_See page 32._]
Delena having taken the lead Matareu, the teacher at Queen Koloka’s village, tried to persuade his people to build themselves a new church. They would not undertake one of “Beritani” material, but began to collect, oh so slowly, the wood necessary for a new church after the old style. Plenty of patience is needed, even when you have engaged Papuans to do a piece of work and can tell them what they are to do each day, but when they are doing the work as a favour the man in charge wants to be a regular Job. Little by little the material was gathered, and now and then a few posts cut the required size, but Matareu and his own boys had to do most of the work. At last the frame was up and the thatch all ready to be put on. A day for this was appointed, but when it arrived the men all wanted to go hunting. Another day was chosen, but when that arrived the men found that the pigs were in their gardens and it was necessary for them to go and repair the fences. So it went on till at last Matareu was fairly tired of the “dohore” and the excuses, and when another appointed day arrived and the men did not put in an appearance, he and his boys set to work and before sundown had half the thatch in its place.
Little did he expect the trouble that was in store. Instead of being pleased when they saw how much had been done the men looked at it, and then passed sullenly on to their houses, and later on held a meeting in the club house. Matareu wondered what was the matter, but was not long in doubt, for along came Keo, the village policeman, evidently with some weighty message to deliver.
“Who has been putting the thatch on the church?” he asked.
“I have, with the help of my boys,” answered Matareu.
“Why have you done it?”
“Because I was tired of your saying ‘dohore’ so often.”
“You should have waited till we were ready.”
“I waited so long that I was tired. It was always ‘dohore,’ and I was afraid we should not have the roof on before the rains began.”
“You should have waited. You have done wrong. If these were the dark days we should take our axes and cut down the church and your house, and probably kill you.”
“Why? What have I done wrong?”
“You have broken our custom. When we are building a new club house no one is allowed to touch the thatching till Koloka’s husband has put the first piece in position. I am glad for your sake that the dark days have passed. As it is the village men are all very angry.”
Matareu explained to the village assembled that he had offended in ignorance, but he and his boys had to finish the work themselves. They could get no more help.
This incident not only illustrates the difficulty there is in getting work done in Papua, but shows how a man with the best of intentions may get into trouble with the natives.
A Chapter of Accidents
For the most part a missionary leads a hum-drum life, but at times excitements come in, and are as welcome as the plums in a sailor’s “plum-duff” if not too exciting. Most of these incidents occur in connexion with travelling. In the chapter dealing with visiting our district I shall tell you how we travel, but the experiences described in this chapter are chosen from different journeys, some of them in distant parts of the country.
After four years at Port Moresby I was ordered away so that I might try and get free from the fever. Communication with Australia was not frequent, and the first stage, as far as Thursday Island, was made with Tamate in the _Mary_, the little boat built by the Mission on Murray Island. Our captain was a character. Formerly a pearl diver, he had been compelled to give up his occupation owing to diver’s paralysis. His qualification for the post was his experience of small boats, and never was a man more sure of himself. Few sailors take ships through the Torres Straits without having an anxious time, and as we sat on the deck in the moonlight Tamate remarked, “Well, cap’n, I hope you are not going to put us on the Portlocks or Eastern Fields”—both dangerous reefs. “No, Mr. Chalmers,” replied the captain, “I know just where we are. We shall see the opening in the Barrier Reef at about nine to-morrow morning, if this wind holds.” With that we went below. It was a tight pack the three of us in the little cabin, but two out of the three were soon sleeping soundly. Later on the third, who is now writing this, heard one of the boys on deck shout “’bout ship,” an unexpected order when we were supposed to be many miles from any land and on a sea rarely visited by vessels. That the reason for the order was a solid one there was no room for doubt, for the next minute crash, and the little _Mary_ trembled all through, and Number Three was shaken from his shelf-like berth right on the top of the little captain. Bump, bump, bump, went the _Mary_, and as soon as the little hatchway would allow we got on deck, there in the glorious moonlight to have a view of the reef much before the time the captain had promised. We were right on top of it. In a few minutes both rudder and false keel had been wrenched off, and left behind, and after each wave had lifted the little vessel she came down with a crash that threatened to jump the masts out of her. That she did not go to pieces was owing to the good sound work that had been put into her on Murray Island.
[Illustration: RETURNING FROM FISHING.]
Well, what were we to do? We were miles from any land. There were nine all told on board, and the dinghy would carry three in a calm sea. I admit I had a look at the hatch covers and wondered what sort of a raft they would make, and what travelling upon it would be like when it was made. There was nothing we could do that night, and fortunately the tide was falling, and soon the _Mary_ was resting on her side without that sickening bumping. Adjusting ourselves to the changed angle of everything in the cabin, we went to bed, but not before the captain had told us that we were not far from the spot on the reef where some natives, when out diving, had found heaps of Spanish coins all of old date, and believed to have come from a Spanish ship wrecked in trying to get through the Straits, but so long ago that not a trace of her remained.
Next morning the tide was not high enough to float the _Mary_, so I waded about the reef with the crew. My eyes were on my feet all the time, not because I was looking for more Spanish treasure, but because I had been warned not to tread in one of the giant clams which lay around. I soon forgot the _Mary_ and her plight, in the delight at what I saw spread out at my feet. Water as clear as crystal allowed everything to be seen distinctly. All the colours of the rainbow were represented by both vegetable and animal kingdoms, but most beautiful of all was the sight of the open giant clams. The shell could hardly be seen, so completely was it draped by the waving fringes of the fish. A great bowl of flashing gems could not have produced a more sparkling effect; but behind all this beauty lay a cruel strength, for the shell could close with a grip that nothing could unloose, and the natives told of unfortunate men who had, while fishing on the reef, put their foot into an open shell, which had closed upon them and held them till the rising tide ended their agony.
The crew, however, wanted some of the fish to eat and managed to get them without danger to themselves. Taking a large piece of firewood they quietly approached the fish. A sudden movement would have caused it to close, and then nothing could have forced it open. Silently and adroitly the wood was placed between the two halves of the shell, which instantly gripped it, but could not close owing to the size of the wood. With another piece of wood shaped for the purpose the men then cut the live fish away from its shell, and did their cooking on the _Mary_.
The reef was interesting and the talk of the native crew instructing, but the question was how were we to get the _Mary_ off and afloat in deep water again. The morning tide only rose enough to bump her, but in the afternoon when there was a higher tide, with each wave she lifted and we managed to punt her right over the reef, and at last she was afloat. Very few vessels have made the journey over the Great Barrier Reef, though many have struck it and gone to pieces.
It was a case of Reef to the right of us; Reef to the left of us; while behind us the Reef we had just left volleyed and thundered. The sun was down and we had to anchor, or run the risk of again getting on a reef. All night long the buckets had to be kept going, and the next morning with part of the crew still at the buckets, the other half managing the sails and keeping a look-out, and the two missionaries using big oars in place of the lost rudder, we made for Murray Island. There the _Mary_ was hauled up on the beach, and on the spot where she was built and by the man who had superintended her building made ready for sea again. The work took a month to complete. That month on Murray Island cleared all the fever out of me, and did away with the necessity of the trip to Australia. Instead I accompanied Chalmers to the Fly river. Three not easily forgotten months resulted, and the poor _Mary_ came in for more knocks, and once again lost her rudder, this time by striking a sunken log in the bed of the river.
One night, under stress of tide and wind she broke her cable and drifted ashore near Saguane on Kiwai Island, where Chalmers was then forming his head station for the district. We thought we had taken our last journey in the _Mary_. She settled down in the mud and sand and no amount of running out anchors and heaving on the windlass would move her, though everything possible had been taken out to lighten her. Amongst other things eighty bags of rice had to be got ashore. It required some manœuvring to get the Saguane people to carry that rice over the soft sand and mud. Each bag was supposed to weigh 50 lbs. It may have done, as it was taken over the side of the vessel, but every hundred yards through that mud and sand increased the weight, till it was more like 100 lbs. by the time the boat-house was reached. I know one of the carriers who, after his second journey, considered it his duty to remain in the boat-house and superintend the stacking of the bags as they were brought in.
On we worked till the east began to glow, and then feeling it was hopeless I made my way back to the teacher’s house and lay down for a sleep, as dead tired as ever in my life. There seemed no time to get comfortably settled when Chalmers rushed into the house, snatched up as many of my belongings as he could manage, and calling, “Come along; she is afloat,” made his way down to the shore. I followed, picking out of the mud such of my things as Chalmers had dropped. Just at the darkest moment, when there seemed little hope of the _Mary_ ever floating again, the wind had come from the land, and supplying that little help which the anchors required, had given us again the use of our little Mission vessel.
That was my last voyage in the _Mary_. A few years later she went ashore at the mouth of the Kerema river, and there went to pieces. Years afterwards when walking along the coast we saw some of her ribs sticking up through the sand.
On the coast most of our travelling is done in a whale boat, and at night, to save the glare of the sun. Few experiences could be more enjoyable than such a journey when the night is fine and the sea calm, and there are willing boys at the oars or a gentle breeze filling the sail. No need to think of accidents then. The nights are not all fine, however, and the sea is not always calm. It can be very angry and rough and make those anxious who have to land on a surf-beaten coast. Most people who have lived for any time in Papua have had nasty experiences of this kind. I will tell you of one at Maiva.
Donisi Hahine and I had started for a journey, and as we expected to be away nearly a month, we had a boatload of baggage. We left Delena at night so as to reach Maiva in the early morning when the sea is usually at its calmest, but rain drove us back, and it was morning before we again got under way. That made it early afternoon when we were off the village where we wished to land. The sea looked angry, but not so angry as on many another time when we had got through safely. There was no chance of turning back. We had to land, so the rudder was unshipped and the big steer-oar put in its place, and the boat headed for the shore. Each roller took us nearer to that first line of white. At last we were in it and through it, and all seemed going well when old Kone shouted out, “Help me!” I threw all my weight on the oar, but it was too late to keep her straight, and the wall of foam on top of which we were riding gradually swung the boat broadside on and the next moment over she turned. The last thing I saw before the boiling sea went over us was my wife vanishing under the boat, and the first when I came to the surface again was some of the boys pulling her out from under the overturned boat. Fortunately we were able to get hold of the keel, and so kept afloat.
At such times strange thoughts pass through one’s mind, but I doubt if any of you would ever guess my wife’s first remark, when she got the water out of her mouth and eyes. It was so unexpected, but as the waves were jostling us together like so many corks, it was very much to the point when she called out, “Mind my hatpins.” Before we could mind them or anything else, another wave was over us; but no sooner had it passed than away went those hatpins.
Judging from the time my watch stopped we were hanging on to the boat for nearly two hours. Repeatedly the natives tried to get to us from the shore, but the sea would not let them. Close in shore was a deep passage with the water rushing along it like a mill stream, and those who tried to help us, not making sufficient allowance for the current, were carried beyond us. The boat would soon have drifted in with us clinging to the keel, had not the anchor fallen out when she turned over. That unfortunately kept us where the seas were breaking worst.
At last we lost our hold, and what happened next I hardly know. I can remember wishing that we had been Papuans with no clothes and no boots to hold the water and weigh us down, and that after that something struck me. I gripped it, and found it was an oar, and soon after that touched bottom. Thanks to the devotion of the boys my wife was ashore before me, and we were both practically unhurt, but had lost all we had with us in the boat. Food for a month, clothing, camp gear, camera, magic lantern—all had gone. While the clothes in which we scrambled ashore were being washed and dried it was a mercy there were no “snapshotters” about. Had there been the resulting pictures might have given amusement to others, but not to ourselves. We had to borrow from the South Sea teacher and his wife. Apart from their taste in dress not being ours, he happened to be a very short and a very stout man. I am not. My wife was a little, but not much, better off. Imagine, if you can, what we looked like, but do not expect me to give you details.
It was Friday when the accident happened. The journey could not be continued, as we had lost everything, and it was not till the Monday that the sea would allow of our damaged boat being launched for the return to Delena. During those four days we lived the “Simple Life.” Sweet potatoes and bananas are all very well as a change, but they pall when served regularly three times a day, and our teacher Paiti from Kivori was a welcome visitor when he brought us a loaf of bread of his own making and a little butter. Paiti was from Aitutaki in the South Seas, and few men can handle a boat like the natives of that Island. We were relieved when he undertook to see us safely started on the return journey. There was no luggage to pack, so all ready, and perhaps a bit anxious, we sat in the boat waiting. Watching each wave as it came in, at last Paiti gave the word to start. Those at the oars pulled; those in the water pushed; and with many a shout, and many a splash, and with the boat half swamped, we found ourselves outside the breakers, with Paiti perched up behind us handling the steer oar. Would he come on to Delena with us and there wait an opportunity to return to his village? No sooner was the question asked than he promptly answered, “Good-bye, my father. I go now”; and with a header he vanished over the stern. Straight for the breakers he went with a long steady stroke. Time after time he vanished, but at last we saw him wade ashore, and signal that all was right, and then we shaped our course for Delena.
We returned much poorer than we started, but matters would have gone worse with us than they did but for Kone, Avi, and Aisi. They stuck to my wife and landed her safely. They perhaps will hardly understand such an expression of gratitude, but in that spirit I give you their photos. Of course we showed our gratitude in another way. They were told they could ask for what they liked. Their request was modest and utilitarian. Each wanted a bag of rice. He got it and more too.
The third accident took place on shore. All the world over feasting seems to accompany any special event, whether of rejoicing or regret. It was near the time of our English furlough, and a farewell gathering was arranged with the teachers. Their part was well managed and passed off without any accident. In solemn, slow procession they had marched round the house, telling us many nice things about ourselves, in a chant composed in English by one of the Samoan teachers, the chorus of which ran: “Good-bye, Misi Donisi. Do not forget us when you are far away on the _Ioane Uiliamu_ (_John Williams_).”
Donisi Hahine had spent much time in making preparations for the farewell feast, so that the spread might include more than the everlasting boroma (pig). Stores of tinned provisions that could neither be taken to England, nor used up before we sailed, were added to the menu. The long verandah of the teacher’s old house was the dining-room, banana leaves the cloth, not spread on a table, but down the centre of the verandah. The food that could not be accommodated on the dishes was piled all down the middle of the banana leaves, and then the teachers, their wives, and their children, all as smart as their best clothes and well oiled hair could make them, sat in two long rows, and at the one end stood the missionary to offer grace and then make a farewell speech. It was an important moment, and the children were eyeing the good things in a way that suggested the question, “How long before we can begin?” Alas! the house was an old one. The white ants had been busy. The food was plentiful, and many of the teachers and their wives were decidedly heavy weights. There was a crack, a crash, and what a transformation scene. In place of two rows of expectant guests, and a loaded table (or what took the place of a table) there was a great hole in the verandah floor, and at the bottom a mass of men, women and children mixed up with broken crockery and many kinds of food. Fortunately some of the joists held firm, and one by one those of the party who had not “gone below” withdrew to a place of safety, while others went to help the fallen and ascertain the extent of the damage. How so many fell nine feet without there being broken bones we cannot tell. Only a few scratches had resulted, but what a mess, and what a disappointment. Best dresses smeared all over food. Tinned meat and bits of roast pork to be picked from well-combed hair. A little extra grease did not matter there, for it was soon rubbed in, but one poor child had received the whole contents of a dish of tinned salmon outside, when he had intended having some of it inside. While the people were looking after themselves it was a grand opportunity for the dogs who had been waiting below for the scraps. Instead of scraps they helped themselves to the untouched feast, and various joints of pork and goat vanished into the long grass, where growls of envy as well as satisfaction told of desires unexpectedly gratified.
We bemoaned the accident, the damage to the house, and the loss of the provisions, but the dogs, and some of the outsiders who profited by our misfortune, would not have minded a frequent repetition of the performance.
A Feast and a Dance
Perhaps nothing stands more in the way of the advancement of the Papuan than his love for feasting and all-night dancing. Nearly every incident connected with his life, from his entering it to his leaving it, gives occasion for the feast and the dance, and if the energy put into these were spread over the year’s work in the garden, the hunting and fishing, he would rarely know what hunger means, and would be able to put by for a rainy day.
[Illustration: WAITING FOR MOTHER.
_See page 33._]
[Illustration: THE FRONT STEPS.
_See page 34._]
[Illustration: PAPUAN TREASURES.
_See page 36._]
[Illustration: COOKING FOOD UNDER THE HOUSE.
_See p. 41._]
In some villages informal dances take place nearly every night, but for these no special preparations are made. A big dance is a more important matter, and is talked of for months before it comes off. Invitations are sent out, but not on printed cards. Someone representing the founder of the feast walks into a village, and in the easy, no-hurry-to-morrow-will-do style begins to tell that So-and-So is beginning to gather his food and fatten his pigs. Of course they all know what that means, and are prepared to see the visitor produce some betel nuts (the fruit of the areca palm) and hand them round. Each person receiving a nut accepts it as an invitation. Perhaps the date has not been fixed, but later on word of that will be passed from village to village.
I have been present at several of these dances, and have seen as many as three thousand taking part. That was years ago, and I told many of you about it when I was in England, so I will deal with the last, the particulars of which are fresher in my mind.
Nara consists of a group of inland villages, not far from Delena. The principal village is Oroi, and there reigns Queen Koloka, the only woman I have known in Papua who is the recognized head of a village. Others may have plenty to say in the management of affairs through their husbands, but Koloka is the undoubted head, recognized by both husband and people, and is strong and wise and rules her people well. We were included in the invitation to her feast, and as a special inducement were informed that twenty-three pigs were to be killed.
The Delena people were busy for some days getting their feathers in order, and furbishing up their ornaments, and then started off ahead of us. The south-east wind made our progress slow, and the sun was nearly down when we landed with a three hours’ walk ahead of us. Lamps are great conveniences, but they do not give much help in showing what is round your feet on a bush track, and Nara has its full share of snakes. The last half-mile of the track winds round the side of a hill, and here we suddenly found ourselves in the dressing-room of the Delena people. It was a dark night and fires had been lit at intervals, and round these were grouped the performers and their dressers. Here a wife was painting the lines and patterns on her husband’s face. There some girls were having their new grass skirts fitted, and cut away to the right length, so as to leave enough weight behind to give the required swing. Yonder one young man was arranging the hair of another, and next him was one blowing the oil over a companion’s body. Others were tuning the drums, and along the line went old men and women advising and criticizing. Tongues were busy as well as hands, and the firelight reflected from the gay feathers, the well-oiled bodies, and sparkling from the leaves and branches which met overhead, made a picture one longed to reproduce in colour.
Having traversed the whole length of this strange dressing-room, we reached the teacher’s house, and had time for an evening meal before the signal was given for the festivities to begin. The roll of drums could be heard in all directions, for eight villages were to be represented, and each had its own forest dressing-room. Then came the shrill call of a policeman’s whistle (certainly a new importation into a Papuan dance), and the first party marched in in Indian file, to the accompaniment of drum-beating and chanting. Their ball-room was an open space that might have been called the village green if only it had had grass growing upon it, and here they began to dance with the monotonous swinging of the body and slow lifting of the feet, distinctive of this district.
In quick succession in marched other groups representing other villages, till seven lots were in motion at one time. Each group of dancers supplied its own orchestra, nothing but the drum and the chant, and as there was no conductor to give the key and the time, seven different times and seven different keys were going simultaneously. Result—Bedlam, but happiness for the natives.
The ball-room floor was far from tempting. The village is built round the top of a hill, formed by an outcrop of stone, and the softer parts had worn away and left knife-like edges running from end to end of the village. These may have interfered with the comfort of the dancers, but certainly did not put an end to their performance. Hour after hour the same tom, tom, tom of the drums, the same chant made a little more objectionable as the voices became tired and hoarse. As any dancer became weary he withdrew without any effect upon the figure such as it was. Two at least who were present wearied of the monotony and wished they were back at the Mission House at Delena. Sleep was out of the question, and at last light began to show at the back of the great mountain range, and as it became stronger revealed a bedraggled remnant of those who had started with such energy some ten hours before. They were evidently tired out, but native custom would not allow them to stop till the all-important pig-killing had been accomplished, and they were called to receive their share.
Painfully deliberate were the movements of those in charge. The sun mounted higher, and the ground got so hot that the dancers were obliged to put more energy into their movements, like the much-talked-of cat on hot bricks. When they could bear it no longer their friends brought banana leaves and refuse from the food, and threw amongst their feet so as to make a carpet. The dancers never travelled over a great area, but it was amusing to watch how they now took care not to move off the leaves so thoughtfully provided for them.
Some of the weary men were, I think, relieved when we asked them to step out of the dance and let us take their pictures. The village club house was like a theatrical property shop. Feather head dresses eight and ten feet high were standing round the walls, hanging from the rafters, and one even on the roof. We hardly recognized some of our friends under the paint and feathers. Will any of you, I wonder, recognize an old friend in an unfamiliar head dress.
[Illustration: MIRIA THE SORCERER.
_See page 45._]
[Illustration: DELENA CHURCH.
_See page 53._]
[Illustration: NARA VILLAGE AND CHURCH.
_See page 46._]
[Illustration: QUEEN KOLOKA.
_See page 73._]
I remember once being told at a bacon-curing factory that three hundred pigs were often killed before breakfast, and that no unpleasant traces of the slaughter remained. Dispatch of that kind would not suit the Nara folk, nor would they care for so few traces of the slaughter. Under the club house lay the twenty-three pigs, their legs fastened together so that a pole could be passed through, and each pig carried head down. Much to the disgust of our boys we left the village as soon as the squealing of the pigs began, but those who remained behind to receive our share described how all the due formalities were observed. Koloka’s eldest son, Naime, is always master of the ceremonies. When all the pigs have been put in a row no one can lay a hand on them till Naime, with his fighting stick, has killed his pig by a blow on the side of the head. His cousin must then kill his and then the village men can kill theirs. Naime must also take the lead in the cutting up and distribution of the joints. The women and children are allowed certain small portions, but all that is considered best is appropriated by the men.
Great preparations had been made for this feast, and what was the occasion of it all? Five young men were to be invested with the Garter. Not the elaborately bejewelled Garter so much coveted by those of high degree, but a neat little pair of string garters made like the macramé work. Not much to look at, but to the native the sign that the wearer was now a man, and had a man’s place in the village. Five mothers had worked the garters for their sons, and when the day arrived, the sons were taken outside the village, and for once in a way their bodies were really cleaned and then carefully oiled before the garters were placed below their knees. They must not be seen, however, till after the feast, so that the legs are carefully swathed round with strips of bark cloth, and coated with red clay and oil. These five young men were the centre of the feast, and they were conscious of it. So fond of praise are they at such times, that they actually pay for it. As they strut round a friend will say, “Naime, you do walk grandly. Mine is a wallaby”; and Naime will later on go and catch the wallaby and give it to the friend who praised him before others. Another will tell Naime that he handles the drum well, and mention that he is fond of fish, and Naime is in honour bound to supply the fish within a reasonable time. One can well understand that too many friends may at such a time become a serious burden, but it is a burden that the praise-loving young fellow is quite willing to shoulder.
How we Go
Some years ago the Editor of _News from Afar_ had a series of articles describing “How We Go” in different lands. Only one of the series dealt with Papua, and that mainly with a journey in a small cutter. In Delena district we have no cutter, so every journey must be made either in the whale boat, or a canoe, or by tramping. After the comfort of fast trains and trams in England, the labour of a short journey in Papua would be laughable if it were not so wearisome. To talk of a journey when the distance to be covered is only some 50 or 60 miles, seems absurd till you have had experience of it, and then you will measure the distance not by miles, but by hours or days.
These journeys are necessary because each missionary, in addition to the head station at which he lives, has charge of villages scattered over a wide area, where the South Sea and Papuan teachers who help him are doing their work.
If the journey is to be performed in comfort (and there is no need to seek discomfort, plenty will come in the ordinary way) careful thought must be given to the preparation. Much more has to be done than just pack a portmanteau, for everything that will be needed till the return must be remembered and packed, or done without, for nothing can be got on the way. Food is the first consideration, and if we are to be away three weeks, then it is not safe to start with provision for less than a month. A time-table may be made out, but that does not say that it is going to be kept. A tide may be lost, or a strong wind may blow, and then there is nothing for it but to “dohore,” or more often the real trouble of Papuan travel causes delay. Carriers cannot be got to take the baggage on to the next village. How many weeks are lost to travellers in Papua in the course of a year, from this cause alone, it would be difficult to estimate. The total would surprise one, and unfortunately no amount of arrangement will overcome the difficulty. Remembering this it will be well to be liberal in the estimate of the number of meals that will be required before we return to the starting-point.
Next comes the provision for paying the carriers and buying native food for them. A missionary from China once told me of the trouble caused by the quantity of Chinese cash that had to be carried on a journey. A big purse indeed would be necessary, but no purse would be any good in Papua. A good sized box, heavy enough to require two men to carry it, takes its place. Instead of £ _s._ _d._ it contains an assortment of barter goods. The real currency is black tobacco, made up in small sticks going 26 to the pound. For ordinary work three of these constitute a day’s pay, in the Delena district but do not imagine that the man who receives the pay smokes it all. As often as not when he has been paid he says, “Now give me a smoke.” His unbroken sticks of tobacco are like so many unchanged shillings. They are safe, and can be passed on in payment for food, but if once broken they are like the coppers—they soon vanish. One after another his friends will borrow, or beg—it amounts to the same thing in this case—till there is nothing of the original stick left.
Matches, print, knives, hooks, lines, mirrors, beads, hatchets—all find a place in the trade box. I have tried soap, but it does not “take.” Some of the Papuans will receive it as a present, but not as payment for work done.
Having provided for the inner man, and for paying our way, we next think of the saucepan, the “billy,” the frying-pan, lamps, bucket, hatchet, kerosene for the lamps, hammocks and tent if we are going to villages where we have no teacher, table requisites, and are careful to see that the mosquito nets are in the bag. Once only did I forget to do this, and the lesson I learnt has never been forgotten. Beds one can do without, but not mosquito nets. Rice for the boys must not be overlooked, for it is not always possible to buy native food.
When all is ready it is a wonderful assortment, beating “Mrs. Brown’s Luggage,” and so wonderful that even a Waterloo porter would have his attention arrested, and wonder what it all meant.
Having made our preparations, now where are we going, and how are we going? The where you will find out as we go along, the how is answered by the whale boat, over the launching of which there has been so much shouting. The start is to be made about midnight, and to try not to be late, the crew are invited to a supper, and are kept about the place till it is time to load the boat. A wide margin must be allowed for this, or it will be long after midnight before we get away.
Midnight seems to be a strange time for starting, but it is chosen for reasons which can, like the sermon, be divided into three heads. Firstly: to escape the terrible heat of the sun. Secondly: to allow the strong south-east wind to die down, and make the pulling easier for the boys. Thirdly: to allow of landing at the end of the first stage early in the morning, when the sea is at its calmest.
There will be a big gathering to witness the start, but you must not run away with the idea that the white folks are the centre of interest. The men who form the crew have mothers and fathers and wives, and all have come to see them off, much as though they were going to the other side of the world. Now the start is not so distressing as it was a few years ago, when all the relatives considered it necessary to hug the members of the crew, and howl over them as though they had little hope of ever seeing them again.
As we have no landing-stage the passengers will have to submit to being carried to the boat, and if they have any respect for their clothes they will look out that the men who carry them have on some kind of covering, otherwise they may find themselves smeared with reddish oil. Papuans would never take a first-class certificate as stevedores. The boat is large and has plenty of room for all the cargo, but unfortunately the crew seem to think it necessary to put all the big, awkward things at the stern where the passengers’ legs ought to go, and the locker is always full of high-smelling blankets and small bags belonging to the crew. A certain amount of re-stowing is necessary, and perhaps rearrangement of the boys at the oars, and then we settle down for the remainder of the night. We are bound for the Nara and Kabadi villages, but as we are short of one man in the crew, we call at Geabada. No one lands; but in answer to our “Coo-e,” Avi the teacher appears. We inform him of our need and turning round he soon wakes the village and asks for a volunteer. Many questions have to be answered as to how long we shall be away, where we are going, and who forms the crew, before a man steps into the boat, rubbing his eyes as though they were full of sleepy-dust. As soon as he gets hold of an oar he is all awake, and again we get under way. The night being dark there is nothing to see, and the boys beguile the time by telling of experiences they have had at each point as they pass it. One yarn leads to another, and interesting bits of native history come to light, especially if there happens to be in the boat an older man who was with Lawes or Chalmers on their early journeys.
At last light begins to show behind the Owen Stanley range to our left, and the beauty of the sunrise is often worth the long hours in the boat. We are in good time, so will land and have a morning cup of tea. Water is in the boat, and firewood is all around, so there is not much time lost, and while we are enjoying real “Billy tea” the boys are roasting bananas in the fire. Had we been smart we might have had turtle eggs for breakfast, for natives coming along a few hours later found that our fire was made within a couple of yards of a nest containing a bucketful of eggs.
[Illustration: NARA DANCERS.
_See page 75._]
[Illustration: DELENA MAN AT NARA DANCE.
_See page 76._]
[Illustration: WHO IS HE?
_See page 77._]
[Illustration: ROUND THE ROCKS.
_See page 79._]
In less than an hour we have again started, and another hour brings us off the opening of Namoa Creek. The entrance is so hidden by mangrove trees that it is well we have on board boys who know it. There is barely room for the boat to enter, but once inside there is deep water, and the boat will be safe till we return to her in about three weeks.
Unloading the boat takes less time than loading her, and having seen that the boys have made her fast at both ends, we get ready for the walk inland. There are plenty of volunteers to carry the small packages, but none of them like the look of the boxes. Apportioning the various loads takes time, but at last it is done, and seeing that the food box and our clothes have gone ahead of us, we start, leaving what we cannot carry till we can send men down from Nara.
The road leads away through the forest, and being a government road is at least six feet wide. It is impossible, however, to make use of the whole six feet, for natives never walk side by side, and the beaten track worn just wide enough for their feet winds along like a great snake. Sweet-potato vines are the only thing I know harder to walk in than one of these tracks. The rain cuts it deeper and deeper, till it is a gutter not more than a foot wide, and often deeper than that. One may want to look about at the trees and the butterflies, but it must never be forgotten that you must look well where you are going, or a tumble will be the result.
We have not got as far as that part of the track which was used as the dressing-room on the night of the Nara dance, when we meet Matareu the teacher. Some one has gone ahead and told him we are on the way, and he has come to take us to the house, while the men with him go on to the creek for the baggage we have left behind. The house is built on the side of a steep hill, so we enter it at the back, and walking through to the front verandah have a view we are not likely to forget. We have the village immediately in front of us, then the green hills and valleys, and away in the distance mountains rising higher and higher till Mount Victoria is lost in the clouds. We may be tempted to linger and watch the play of light and shade over it all, but after a night in the boat the first need is food, and then a rest. All we shall want, even to the water, is in the food box, and if we cannot buy some bananas for the boys then the rice must be opened. If possible however, that is kept as a reserve. This time there is no need to touch it, for along comes Queen Koloka with a few of her grandchildren carrying bowls of cooked yarns and bananas, while she herself has hanging down her back a netted bag containing a few choice uncooked yams for roasting.
The preparation of the food does not take long, and before we have finished ours the boys are stretched in all positions, heads resting on any article of baggage they could get hold of, or on their folded arms, and sleeping as soundly as on feather beds. After a word or two with Koloka and having given her a present that will keep her occupied for some time, we too seek a rest; but the children are inquisitive, and the dogs are on the prowl for any scraps they can find, so the rest is disturbed, and before long we get up and have a talk with Matareu and hear how matters are going in his village.
At Nara it is always a feast or a fast. A feast when it rains, and a fast soon after the dry season has begun. The people are feeling the pinch now and consequently spend most of their time in the forest hunting for food. Of course they take their children with them, and the teacher is discouraged because of the small attendance at school. Knowing that we were coming most have remained in the village to-day, but they want to get away hunting, so we will have school at once. A little fellow takes a cow-bell and walks round the village ringing it all the time, and when he has made the complete circuit the big bell hanging at the end of the house is rung as the final signal, and we go to the neat little church you can see in the right of the picture, and about which I have told you in chapter vi. Between forty and fifty children are present, and at the back of the church are fathers and mothers and uncles and aunts who have come to see how the youngsters acquit themselves. The strongest points are reading and the catechism, but some can write fairly. After school small presents are given to the children, and then they are free to go and hunt in the bush for all kinds of queer things for supper.
The missionary is wanted to see a sick man at the far end of the village, and as we go we can notice that the houses differ from those at Delena. The village is built in sections. Long sheds with open fronts face the centre, and at the back of these, and at right angles to them, are the houses proper, each consisting of one room. The long shed is used by all the occupants of the houses at the back, who belong to one Iduhu or family. All the buildings look rickety, but as the wood is all very hard they last well.
The front steps at Delena may be poor, but those at Nara are poorer, and certainly of lighter build, but they do what no steps in England can. They serve to close the house and show that the owner is not at home. Really nothing more than a rough ladder, a little wider at the bottom than at the top, the owner, when he goes out detaches them and hangs them across the front of the house. Not much protection, one would think, but quite as much as a piece of vine tied across is at Delena.
[Illustration: BREAKFAST ON THE BEACH.
_See page 84._]
[Illustration: THE PAPUAN TAILOR.
_See page 89._]
[Illustration: A LONG DRINK.
_See page 96._]
_See page 99._]
The Nara men are great hunters and consequently think much of their dogs. A native dog is quite capable of climbing the ordinary steps into the house, but his master is thoughtful enough to provide a separate set for him, with a back so that his feet cannot slip through. It is interesting to watch a dog going home. He goes away from the house as though he had no connexion with it; then turns round and starts straight for it, and as he gets nearer increases his speed. With a rush he starts up the steep steps, and if fortunate vanishes over the top and into his home. If unfortunate he just falls back to the ground, and goes through the whole performance again, only with a little more energy.
In front of one house a man is doing a bit of tailoring on his own account. His material is neither best broad cloth, nor shoddy, for he gets it from the bark of a tree. It was too thick for his purpose when he peeled it from the tree, so he thinned it out by placing it on a log and beating away with a piece of wood shaped like a plumber’s bossing stick. We are too late to see that part of the performance, but in time for the marking of the pattern upon the suit. Aua has filled his mouth with bark and lime and chewed it till he has a plentiful supply of red saliva. Then folding the bark cloth he passed the folded edge through his lips, leaving a dull red stain; then another and another fold till the other end of the strip is reached and the new suit of clothes is complete. No visit to the tailor necessary, bark and lime supply all he needs, and there is no tailor’s bill to follow.
I do not remember seeing the performance that particular afternoon, but may as well tell you now what goes on when a girl is having a new dress. The materials are three in number, and can all be found near the village. The fibre is obtained from the sago palm, and the dye from a root and some dark mud, boiled together in a cooking-pot. The fibre is teased out till it looks like lengths of untwisted manilla rope. Small bunches of this are knotted on to a string, which is to form the waist-band, and in sufficient numbers to hang like a kilt all round the girl. For the present no uniformity of length is aimed at, but care is taken to have panels of red and yellow alternating, and across some of these panels will be dark stripes. When all is dry the girl has to be fitted, and this is not done in the privacy of the dressmaker’s room. The girl mounts a stump or a stone in front of an old relative, with the new dress hanging in uneven lengths around her. The relative takes a knife, if she has one; if not, a shell; and if even that cannot be found handy, then the teeth can be used as scissors, and going all round trims off the dress till it hangs just right. That means that enough has been taken off the sides, and enough left on the back to enable the girl, as she goes along, to swing her tails behind her. Many a sly glance have I seen directed over the shoulder with a view to finding out whether the effect was all that could be desired.
If two girls are seen with the same markings on their skirts it may be taken for granted that they belong to the same family, or are at least cousins. Each family has its own particular pattern, and woe betide those who try to infringe the copyright.
The sick man having been attended to, on the way back to Matareu’s house we notice that big pigs have begun to gather in the village. They have been away foraging all day, but as it is nearing the time for the evening meal they have not only put in an appearance, but are loudly demanding attention. Some go so far as to put their forefeet on the ladders as though they would mount and help themselves to what they could find. In Nara wooden troughs much like small canoes are provided, and when the food is put in some one has to mount guard to see that a stranger does not get his snout into the wrong trough.
A sure way to gather a crowd at any village is to show the magic lantern, and word is soon passed round that there will be an exhibition in the church that evening. Many a strange experience have I had with the lantern.
At one village where some twenty years ago they had scarcely seen a white man, and where a teacher had only been settled for a few months, the people took some persuading before they would come in to the church after dark. When the circle of light was thrown upon the sheet a deep gasping breath was taken by all, and a mixture of a sigh and a shudder was quite audible. All might have gone well had the operator been content to proceed quietly from this point, but the spirit of mischief prompted the desire to see what would be the result of a chromotrope. It was fatal. No sooner did the coloured rings begin to revolve as though they would overwhelm the audience, than with one yell men, women and children made for the doors and windows. Each one was blocked by a struggling mass and there seemed danger of the building being carried away. For that night the show was over as far as the village people were concerned.
At Ukaukana, years later, the church was cleared in another way. A large head of a former chief of the village was thrown upon the sheet, the operator forgetting for the moment that the man was dead. A great stillness fell upon the gathering, so noticeable that the operator looked the other side of the sheet. There were the people with their heads as low as they could get them without knocking their noses on the floor, all crawling to the doors as fast as they could. Then the mistake was recognized, but too late. Naime had a bad name as a sorcerer while still alive, and the ordinary size for a big well-built man. If he was bad then, what must he be now when he was many sizes larger. Something of his power might hang about the enlarged picture, so that people would not take the risk. Once more the teacher and my own boys formed my audience.
A third experience was of a more exciting kind. At Hula the people were taking but little interest in the pictures, and to stimulate them two boys were placed between the lantern and the sheet, and after their shadows had been recognized by their friends were told to wrestle. All went well at first, but when the youngsters began to put more energy into the business one of them got hurt. His friends came to his rescue. Then the other boy’s friends joined in, and in a moment there was a tangled mass of sheet, rope, and human beings on the floor, and to save a fire I snatched up the lantern and made my way out of the building by the back door.
Nara people are accustomed to the lantern, and there were no accidents that evening. All the pictures interested them, and they listened to the description of a set illustrating the life of Moses. At first the natives do not seem able to see the picture, or fail to connect ideas with it. Then comes in the use of pictures of their own village and their own people. They can connect the idea and the picture, and so pass to ideas conveyed by pictures of things and places they do not know.
It was a relief to find there was to be no dancing on this night, and that we were able to get a good night’s rest and be ready for the start the next morning. Carriers had to be engaged and then there was all the packing up to be done again.
The village we were making for was Ala-ala, and to get there we had to traverse a long switch-back. Down from the village into the valley; then up again as high as the village we had left; down again and up again. In this way some three hours were spent, but as part of the time we were in a tunnel cut through the forest, it was pleasant. Out on the grass land the sun gave trouble and the sea breeze was missed. Ala-ala is but a small village and the teacher an old man who in his younger days had travelled much with Tamate. His wife’s idea of cleanliness and Donisi Hahine’s did not at all agree. The one thought that if a piece of new calico was spread over a pillow or a mat it did not matter what was underneath. Donisi Hahine wanted to see what was underneath, and then there was a lot of changing and cleaning before the camp for the night was arranged.
I think it was the first time a white woman had been in the village, and the people, and in particular the old women, were anxious to show due attention, or maybe satisfy their curiosity to the full. Their attention was overpowering, and would have been more acceptable at a little increased distance. The small house was decidedly overcrowded that night. Even the lantern in the village did not completely clear it, and a number of young babies, probably excited by the unusual gathering, kept up a chorus all night.
Next morning we went down into a valley, and through what in the wet season is a swamp, and then a gradual rise till Diumana was reached.
Here the village is fenced, not with a view to safety but to keep the pigs in and prevent their visiting the gardens, which are on the slopes around the village. The Mission has its own little fence some distance from one end of the village, but what between lack of energy and sickness the teacher has not built much inside that fence. When his house will be finished it is hard to say, and we spent the night in the little temporary hut.
There is no church in the village yet, and the services and school are held in the dubu, or club house. In the old village half a mile away, this was a large building with elaborately-carved posts, but in the present village is only a shed raised some seven feet from the ground. Here preparations were made for school and for the baptism of some children. Native gear, such as hunting-nets and drums, was soon removed, and a small table—a very small one—and two boxes introduced by way of furniture. First the children were examined, and then the service begun, but before it was half through it was suddenly interrupted. A loud crack, and ejaculation from the people, and half of them jumped to the ground. It was evident that the congregation was larger than usual, for the floor had given way, and there would have been a nasty accident, but for the prompt action of those who jumped down and held the breaking pieces of wood in position while the rest of us dismounted as quickly and quietly as possible. Nothing worse happened than our having to finish the service on the ground on the shady side of the building instead of under the roof on the platform.
One great drawback to Diumana is the lack of good water. What there is has to be brought from a water-hole a long way from the village, and the only pots the people have are procured from coast villages. By looking about them they have, however, found a good substitute. Bamboo grows plentifully in the neighbourhood, and from a well-grown length of this the divisions at the joints are knocked out, and at once there is a bucket seven or eight feet long. In the afternoon the girls and women can be seen returning from the water-hole, each with a couple of these long buckets carried as a soldier carries his rifle. They are too awkward for taking into the house so stand outside. To find out how such buckets were handled I asked for a drink, and was told to squat down as low as I could, and take the open end of the bamboo and put it to my lips. I did so, and then the boy who held the other end lifted it. Of course it was said to be an accident, but boys are boys all the world over, and he who had the lifting of that other end could not resist the temptation, or did not try. The result was the same. He lifted just a little too high, and a little too quickly, with the result that the missionary got plenty of water outside, but very little inside, much to the amusement of the crowd.
The Papuan generally can do with little water inside, and the people of Diumana, having far to fetch it, manage with a surprisingly small quantity outside. This makes them unpleasant near neighbours. They take a bath when they happen to be caught in the rain, or when they visit the coast.
That night for the magic lantern we did not trust the Dubu which had refused to carry our weight in the afternoon, but hung the sheet at the side of a house, and feared no fall, for we were as low as we could get to begin with.
Next day as we were going to a village where for the time being there was no teacher we did not move our camp. The food box is known to our boys as “Hari maua kakakaka” from its being painted red, so that we can easily see if it is with us, and not left behind as on one occasion when at the end of a long tramp we found ourselves without water or food. This box provided all we needed for the day, and we were to return to Diumana for the night.
Less than a mile from Diumana to the right of the track is a beautiful group of palms. Sago, areca and cocoanut all tower above the surrounding vegetation. In the order given they might be taken to typify dignity, slender grace, and real utility. Looking at the sago palm one wonders how men can approach it near enough to cut it down, so formidable are the thorns that cover its lower fronds. One by one the workman has to remove those fronds till he can get to the main stem. Even the thorns have a use, for long strips of the frond covered with thorns four and five inches long, are bound to the stem of the areca palm, and present a surface that none can climb. In this way the owner protects his property.
Oa, the chief of Bokama, good old friend that he is, has heard that he may expect a visit, and is on the look-out. Down the hill from the village he comes, dressed, not in his Papuan best, but his real Beritani Sunday best. A gay waist cloth, and an Oxford mat shirt, and his shock of hair tied up in a red printed handkerchief. Just a few of his native adornments give the finishing touches. If you care to try a real Papuan salutation Oa will oblige you as you are a friend of mine. If you do not care to try it you had better let me go first, as Oa always expects me to indulge him. He gives me a good hug and we rub noses, and then taking my hand he leads me to his Dubu, and calls for his daughter to bring cocoanuts. When he thinks the delay has been as long as decency demands, and if he sees no tobacco forthcoming, he will pick up his baubau (bamboo pipe) and look at it. Of course that is enough and he passes it and the tobacco over to one of the younger men, and when it is alight has the first pull himself, and then passes the baubau round as a pipe of peace.
Oa’s Dubu is much like the one that gave way at Diumana, except that on one side the roof comes down and joins the floor, making a wall. Of ornamentation there is little except a collection of bones. These attract attention, and Oa is nothing loth to talk about them. The pigs’ jaws need little explanation. They are a record of the number killed for the feasts.
Bound to one of the wall plates were much longer jaws, and these we found belonged to crocodiles which were caught in a way that causes us not a little surprise. They must belong to a different class from those at the coast or the men would never venture to take them as they do. There is no doubt as to the method, for the same account is given at different villages throughout the district.
The crocodiles are found in the lagoons, and usually sleeping in the mud at the bottom. The hunter wades in and feels about with his feet till he touches one of the creatures. That would be enough for most folks, and they would make for the bank in double quick-time, but not so our hunter. He stoops down and begins to stroke the crocodile. They say the animal likes it and remains perfectly still while the hunter introduces a rope under its legs and round its back, keeping up the stroking all the time with the other hand. When all is ready he suddenly pulls the rope tight and then the struggle begins: at one end the crocodile, at the other the natives; the crocodile lashing with his tail, and the natives pulling for all they are worth. It is a grand tug-of-war, and if the animal is a big one it may be some time before he is landed, but that he will be landed there is little doubt, for the people say that one rarely escapes when once the ropes have been made fast. Clubs finish the struggle, and then comes the feast. The flesh looks all right but I have never been able to bring myself to eat it. When the bones have been picked clean the lower jaw is added to the collection in the Dubu.
In another part of the Dubu is a collection of lengths of the backbone of some creature. These, Oa informs us, belonged to large carpet snakes. They are plentiful in the district and the Nara people consider them a delicacy. They not only hunt them along the ground but follow the great beautifully marked creatures into the trees, and I have seen a man holding on to the tail of one with his teeth while he moved his hands to get a better grip. Some of the men seem to have no fear in handling the carpet snake, and one adept hunter, when I expressed surprise at his allowing a creature at least ten feet long to writhe round him, explained that it could do him no harm as he had hold of its neck and the tip of its tail. The head seemed easy of explanation, but not the tail, till he gave the fuller information that a carpet snake cannot crush a body unless it has its tail round some solid substance.
One of our boys who had not previously eaten snake, came to us that evening and said that he had eaten a whole one (it could not have been a ten-footer), and that it was “Digara bada.” He knew no praise beyond that, which was his way of saying it was not only fat but all that was good. Next day he did not seem so sure about it, and since then has not eaten snake at all.
This might almost be called a Natural History section, for there is still another animal for you to hear about. It is reported from many districts, but in Nara one family has adopted it as the family coat of arms, and carved it on the posts of the Dubu. They call it lolio, and I believe it is a species of Iguana, a curious climbing reptile. I have seen one which some white men captured to send to Europe, so I know the animal exists, but hesitate to accept some of the stories the natives tell about it. That they dread it there is no doubt, as the following story will show.
Report came to Nara that a lolio had been seen on the bank of a creek, and a native who was used to a white man’s gun went to look for it, but when near the creek his courage failed him till he remembered that he had something more than a spear in his hand. Creeping nervously nearer he caught sight of the animal, and much relieved called to his friends, “It is only a crocodile.”
The lolio is reported to steal children and take them up trees, and is said never to run away from a man. The man runs away from him, but can find no safety in climbing a big tree, as the lolio can climb better and quicker than he. The only safety to be got is by climbing a tree just big enough to bear the man’s weight, but too small for the lolio to grasp, as he cannot climb if his claws meet at the back of the stem.
It is strange that an animal cunning enough to cover itself with leaves and lie in wait for its prey, should nearly always make the mistake of leaving a little of its whip-like tail exposed, and so betray itself. In two places nearly a hundred miles apart I heard a story of men finding the lolio so hid, and quietly and securely knotting the tip of the tail to a tree, and so holding the animal in position while it was killed, in the one case by arrows and the other by spears.
Having examined Oa’s museum, now look at the building on the other side of the village. The square one without a verandah, and with steps with treads like those you are accustomed to, not like the bars in a hen-roost—that building has a history. The first teacher placed in the village was a Papuan. He held his services and his little school in the Dubu, but upon a subsequent visit my attention was drawn to the new building by all eyes being turned that way when I entered the village. It was evident the people intended I should see the result of their work. Without consulting me at all they had built themselves a neat little church, under the guidance of the young Papuan who was their teacher, and in that church later on Oa and two of his relatives were baptized, and some of the children of the village learnt to read. Unfortunately the village has been without a teacher for some time, but the man from Diumana visits it for the Sunday services.
Beyond Diumana are two small villages. Lalime and Tubu. These had to be visited, but as it meant a long tramp in the hottest part of the day, Donisi Hahine remained in Oa’s Dubu while I was away. Exactly how the afternoon was spent history does not record, but this much is known. The old men of the village felt their responsibility, and kept guard in the Dubu. When one was tired he just lay down where he was and went to sleep, while others sat up and talked and had a smoke. Owing to the language difficulty they and their guest could hold little communication except by signs.
It was dark before we reached Diumana and that evening we did not indulge in the lantern, though the people would have been quite willing to see the same pictures again.
The next day’s journey was to be a long one, so no time was lost in the morning in packing and starting. Fresh carriers had been engaged over night and a home-made palanquin rigged up to give Donisi Hahine a lift on the way when she required it. We had done a good two hours’ walking when a halt was called for breakfast, and then all hands wanted to huddle up close to our “red box” and cook their food in our fire. A rearrangement had to be made before we could have our meal in peace. The halt was a short one, for we were only at the beginning of the journey. With regret we left the interesting shady forest road and began the weary miles along the open beach. The sea breeze was acceptable, but the soft sand made heavy going, particularly for those carrying the baggage. Rests became frequent as midday drew near, and no one was sorry when shade enough was found for the midday halt. Hour after hour along the sand made us ask, “Is that point the last?” and the sun was getting low before the boys were able to answer “Yes.” Hisiu was so far beyond that point that another halt was called for tea.
At the end of a heavy day the Samoan welcome we received from Fareni and his wife was doubly acceptable. Their one concern was that the old teacher’s house was unsafe. They were living on a platform with a roof over it, but without walls, and this they placed at our disposal, together with their table, and with our boxes for seats and mats for beds the place was soon furnished. Before the evening meal was over curtains of cocoanut fronds were hung round, and our camp was comfortable as well as rather out of the common.
[Illustration: HISIU GIRLS IN THEIR BEST.
_See page 106._]
[Illustration: MORABI VILLAGE.
_See page 110._]
[Illustration: BAD WALKING: OVER THE MANGROVE ROOTS.
_See p. 114._]
[Illustration: FAFOA WITH HER BOY AND PAPAUTA.
_See p. 125._]
People in England, whether believers in Christianity or not, pay tribute to its founder every time they date a letter. The Papuans now acknowledge Him by making their calculations from His day. The SABATE they call it. The boys all knew that the next day was Sabate, and that we should not travel, but remain at Hisiu. Those who had clothes had managed to keep them fairly clean for that day, and those who had none, borrowed from those who had, with the result that a small singlet fell to the lot of the biggest man of the party. Still he was satisfied, and no one was surprised at his odd appearance.
Soon after six in the morning the people were called to the first service by a bell which they had purchased for themselves. How different the surroundings and the gathering from anything to be seen in England: the walls and the roof of the church supplied by the palm; the floor made from old canoe boards; the reading-desk by the teacher from packing-cases; the seat round the wall also from old canoes. Then the congregation. Our own boys had more clothing than the rest of the congregation all told. In the first few rows sat the children. Behind them the adults, and on the seat round the wall the Church members and those more particularly identified with the Mission. Very few ornaments were to be seen and none in the hair of the men, for the Papuan having no hat to take off as a mark of reverence removes his comb when he enters the church. Of the service little need be said. You could not follow the words, but the bowing of the head by the natives, and the opening of the New Testaments, would mark the times of prayer and of reading the lessons. How often one wishes the Papuans were direct descendants of the Sweet Singer of Israel; but, alas! they are not even distant relatives, and most of the Samoans can claim but little closer kinship, and so cannot help the Papuan much. Tuneful singing cannot be expected from a people with a range of about three notes, especially when they do not always use even these three. They will chant a hymn on one note only. Still they do their best, they are improving; and we always hope for better times in this as in other respects. In one thing the Papuans do not fail. Their behaviour is reverent throughout the service, and they listen to the message given.
During the day there are three services and a Sunday School, all held in the church; but I was most pleased with the evening gathering at the teacher’s house. The few Church members, with thirty or forty children and young people, came to family prayers, and of the young people at least twenty had their own New Testaments, and took their turn in reading a verse, and one of the young men offered prayer. Such a scene makes one realize the change for the better which is taking place. The first time I went to Hisiu there was no teacher living there; no church; no school; not a Church member in the place, and not a soul who could tell which way to hold a book even if he had one.
One advantage of having to stay over the Sunday at a village is the opportunity for good informal chats with the people, during which much can be gathered as to their way of looking at the message the Missionary brings.
Two separate conversations that Sunday revealed the fact that they carry their own ideas of malevolent spirits into their idea of the God whom we regard as the loving Father. To many of them He seems to be a compound of the policeman and the magistrate, seeing that due punishment is inflicted for each given offence.
Rosa came to see us in the afternoon wearing signs of mourning. We had heard that her husband Veata was dead, but did not know the circumstances. It was a long story, for she began at the time when her husband was taken by the teacher to live in his house, and when she, as a young girl, was nurse to the teacher’s children. She recalled what Faasiu had taught them and how after they were married Veata expressed a wish to become a teacher, and how glad she was. Then came the history of the three years during which they lived with us at Delena, which ended in the call of the old village life being too strong, and their giving up the idea of being teachers and returning to their village. At first Veata boasted of what he had done, but afterwards became ashamed, and very sad. He knew he had done wrong, but took no steps to put the matter right.
One day on the way to his garden he saw a snake in the track, and as he could not kill it, got out of its way. It followed him, however, and bit him twice. His friends, knowing the snake was a deadly one, carried Veata back to the village, and began the death wail over him, but he asked them to be quiet and to listen to what he had to say, as he should soon leave them and they would not hear his voice again. The speech was a long one for a man under such circumstances, but Veata was in earnest in his desire that his friends should know that he acknowledged he had done wrong, “in putting out the light he once had within him.” He looked upon the ending of his life by snake bite as a just punishment for his having turned back “after he had put his hand to the plough,” and begged his friends to listen to the teacher “and follow the light.”
On the same day another widow, a much older woman, came to see us. Her husband had been west with Tamate, and later had served for a time as a teacher under Holmes. He too listened to the call of the old life, and at Hisiu took a leading part in reviving the night dancing. He was an elderly man, and probably the sitting about after he was hot from the dancing produced chest troubles. He became ill, and then found that his right hand was affected with what looked like leprosy. Before long he was unable to use it at all, and became so ill that it was only with difficulty that he could get as far as the church. The last time he attended the service he asked the teacher to let him speak to the people. His address followed the lines of Veata’s, but near the end, lifting his maimed hand, he said, “This is the hand that beat the drum to call you to the dance. Look at it now. God has taken from it the power to do anything. He has punished me, and I shall not live much longer. God forgive me, and help you to follow not me but Jesus.”
I heard of these two cases in one day, but often, both before and since, have wondered at the number of those who having turned back from taking part in Mission work have died soon after. When the first wild burst is over, they lose heart and feel there is nothing left to live for, and that the end is near. When a native gets that idea nothing can save him. It is sad to think how little they realize the love that can forgive. Their own idea is vengeance, “An eye for an eye,” and only slowly comes that of an all-loving and forgiving Father.
The next morning saw us again on the tramp. Canoes ferried us across the Aroa River, and then on we went along the sand. Mile after mile with nothing to break the monotony except the great stranded trees that had been washed out of Galley Reach by the last floods, and a solitary pelican that would fly on ahead of us, wait till we were nearly up to him, and then start off again as though to show us the way.
When we got near to Morabi, the village we were making for, the beach was covered with thousands upon thousands of little round crabs who moved with the precision of an army. If one got in front of them, and stamped on the sand, no confusion followed, but the army, as though at the word of command, turned off and went in another direction. For at least a mile we walked through these strange little creatures, they opening up a way by which we might pass and not one of them getting under our feet.
Morabi is on the left as we stand at the mouth of Galley Reach, but away on the right bank is a spot that will always be of interest to those connected with the L.M.S. It was there, where the village of Manumanu stood, that in 1872 the first Christian teachers landed. Sixteen years later most of the houses had been moved to Morabi, and now there is no village at Manumanu. Few of those who witnessed that landing are now alive, but their descendants are the people we are going to see. After Ieru the Samoan teacher, the first to welcome us is Naime, till lately as fine a specimen of a man as could be found in the country. He was too young to have distinct memories of the landing of those first teachers, but has been good friends with their successors.
The usual round of service, school, doctoring, and talking to the people having been accomplished, the next thing was to arrange for an experience which does not often come to the missionary in the more settled districts, that is, a visit to new ground, and an introduction to new people.
To mark the event we will deal with it in a new chapter.
Korona, a Hillside Village
For some time people had been coming down from the hills and asking that a teacher might be sent to live with them. They were suffering severely from raids by their enemies, and were anxious for peace and protection. Fortunately there was a Samoan widower, who had no fixed station, and I told him to visit such villages as he could get at, and try to make peace. He had taken up his temporary quarters at a village called Korona, and he and the people were anxious that we should visit them. The road, they admitted, was a rough one for an English lady to travel, but as they had gone to the trouble to clear parts of it, so they said, Donisi Hahine decided to accept the invitation.
To have the help of the rising tide an early start was made on the Tuesday morning. We were in the boat by four o’clock, while it was yet dark.
People may ascend Snowdon or the Swiss mountains to view the sunrise, but they could never see one more beautiful or more impressive than on that particular morning in Galley Reach. All around was the great expanse of water, so calm that it reflected the clouds. Away on either side, and right ahead, were the low banks covered without a break by the fresh bright green of the mangroves. Then when the eyes were lifted higher came the hills wrapped in mist as in fleecy cotton wool, and behind them tier above tier rose the peaks and ridges of the Owen Stanley Range. As the light became stronger the peaks, over 12,000 feet high, stood out with wonderful distinctness. Then the pale glow turned to gold and rose, as the sun came up behind the mountains, and as it mounted higher and higher, the lower peaks on our side of the range were lit up one after another like so many great electric lights. The white mists curled further up the range, and though details were lost, the effect was grandly harmonious.
The change from the dark stillness, broken only by the cry of a bird and the rattle of the oars in the rowlocks, to the full blaze of the light was much more rapid than the coming of the daylight at home, and reminded one that it was not necessary to wait till near midday to feel the sting of the tropical sun.
Several large rivers flow into Galley Reach as well as a perfect network of smaller streams and creeks. Into one of these we turned. Then into a smaller one, and again into a smaller one still. It was wonderful how the boy in charge knew which of the many openings—all alike—he was to take. At last the creek so narrowed that the whale boat could go no further, and the first stage of the journey was over. It was ten o’clock when we landed under some giant trees, and no time was lost in getting breakfast for all hands, and taking his with him, one of the teachers went ahead to try and find carriers to help with the baggage. Our own boys could manage it well enough on the flat, but when climbing the hills they would need help.
Strange things were all around us, but strangest of all were some of the giant trees. Very high, very big round, they had roots which came out like giant buttresses. By putting roofs on, five or six stables could have been made at the foot of each tree.
So far there was no sign of any track having been cleared, and a boy had to go ahead armed with a big knife to cut away the vines. Some of them were the “wait-a-bit” thorns, and well did they deserve their name, for if once the thorn was hooked in the clothing then the person wearing that clothing had to wait till released from the unwelcome grip, or leave a memento behind him.
Progress was very slow, and it was well after midday before we reached a clearing on the bank of a rippling stream as clear as crystal, and the coldest water I have tasted in Papua. Here the Korona people were making a garden, and Naiti had been fortunate enough to meet some of them and secure their services to help us to reach their village.
One was tempted to linger at this spot. It would have made an ideal camp for a summer holiday. We had to pass on, and made use of the native bridge. One of the large trees that grew on the bank of the stream had been felled so that it lay from bank to bank, and to save themselves trouble when doing the work the woodmen had built a staging round the tree some ten feet from the ground and so got above the greatest girth.
On the other side of the stream the ground began to rise, and in places gave some stiff climbing. After a time the question arose, “How much further is the village?” Not far was the answer, and another start was made. Then the way seemed blocked by fallen trees, but the guide clambered over them, and following his lead we found ourselves in a sweet-potato plantation. What the water-lily is to the swimmer that the sweet-potato is to the walker. How many times one and another of the party was thrown down, or brought to a standstill, it would be a puzzle to say. To add to the trouble piles of felled trees continually blocked the way, and had to be surmounted. Again the question was asked, “Is the village far?” and again the guide, through an interpreter, answered, “Just a little.” His idea of “a little further” was like that of an Irishman who was once my guide in Ireland. The little further was just an indefinite distance in front. Then again the guide was accustomed to that kind of travelling. Our party was not, and there was plenty of grumbling amongst the boys as the sun got low, and there were still no signs of the village. At last the guide gave a coo-e and from the side of the next hill came an answer. One more scramble down, and one more scramble up, and there was the village in sight.
Few of our party had ever seen a stockaded village. It was my first. The site was well chosen on the crown of a small hill, so that the ground fell away on all sides. The houses which were on high stumps, almost like stilts, faced inwards, and the stockading was really a continuation of the outer walls of the houses right down to the ground, with the spaces between the houses filled in the same way. The defence would have been poor against an enemy armed with Sheffield steel, but would hold at bay one attacking with bows and arrows and clubs, and the only entrance was a puzzle-like stile at one corner. No need for the defender to say with brave Horatius, “Now who will stand on either hand and keep the bridge with me?” One could easily defend it.
Over and through this stile, one at a time, we clambered, and at once looked for quarters for the night. Any house in the village, or the club house, would have been placed at our disposal, but—— The people never wash; never clean their houses; and by both look and smell one would judge that they never cleaned the centre of the village.
The camp was made on the hill, and to the windward side of the village. Five poles were soon cut and the home-made calico tent fixed. Supper was soon over, and no one wanted rocking to sleep that night. All had been on the move for seventeen hours, to say nothing of the time spent in packing and getting into the boat at Morabi. God’s own peace seemed to brood over the hillside, the camp, and the village, and it seemed strange almost beyond belief, that amidst such surroundings the women and children had withdrawn into the forest for fear there might be a night attack.
Next morning there was more time and more energy for getting into touch with the people, but unfortunately that had to be done through an interpreter.
Sitting by the side of Naiti on the Dubu platform was a little toddler, who seemed loth to let go his hand. She was too young to do more than return love for care and affection, or she would have known how much she owed to Naiti. Her mother had died when she was a few weeks old, and her father, according to native custom, took the child into the bush and left it there to die. Fortunately Naiti found her, nearly dead from starvation and covered with sores, and took her to the village. He had no wife to tend the child, and no milk to give her, but he had his gun, and there were birds around. Some of these he shot and made broth for the little one, in which he soaked pieces of his hard biscuits; not perhaps according to the latest theories as to how a child should be fed, and Naiti, big man that he is, was not a dainty little nurse in cap and apron, but he managed grandly, and showed us the child with pride.
Many of our teachers have rescued little children in this way, but in most cases by taking them out of the grave of the dead mother, with whom they were to be buried, and rarely does the father take any notice till the child is grown enough to be useful and then he claims it. Another of our teachers found a Korona boy abandoned in the bush because, owing to a large ulcer on his foot, he was unable to keep up with the party on a journey.
The season was a good one for food, and the people were determined we should not go hungry while staying with them. Yams, sweet-potatoes, pumpkins, and sugar cane were brought from the gardens, and piled in front of the Dubu where we were sitting.
Then the pig was brought. He was a lively customer, and objected to the manner in which he was handled, and no wonder. It took three men, sitting on his back, to keep him down, and even then he had the better of it in the matter of voice. The men could not silence him, and he sadly interrupted the speech of the chief.
I should have liked to have recorded the whole incident in a picture, but, alas! my camera was at the bottom of the sea off Maiva, and I can only deal in words.
When all was ready the chief stepped down from the Dubu, and with the village people looking on from the verandahs of their houses, and the pig violently protesting, began his speech. Some natives are very demonstrative when they talk. They use their whole body, and it was not difficult to follow part at least of what the old man was saying, though none of us knew his language. It all had to be translated later on. First there was the welcome, and then the typical native regret that he and his people had no food to offer us. They had managed to provide “sisina hona” (a very little bit). Their idea of little in quantity seemed as elastic as their idea of the village being near on the previous day, for try as they would our boys did not manage to get through that “little bit” during our stay in the village, and had to get the donors themselves to help them. It was a present, the old man said; but presents are expensive luxuries in Papua, for they cost two or three times as much as if bought in the ordinary way. It was so in this case by the time the return present was completed.
I was expected to kill the pig, but not caring for the job, with due courtesy I trust, in any case with emphasis, I informed the old man that I was not in that line of business, and turning to Naiti asked him to be my deputy. The pig had to be killed in Papuan fashion and Naiti did not relish the business, so handed it on to Kone.
Then came the explanation as to why we had been asked to visit the village. Becoming very dramatic the chief received from his wife a small basket, out of which he took a human skull. This he held in one hand and a tomahawk in the other. The skull, he said, was that of his brother, who together with two of his wives and some of his children had been killed by people living on yonder hill. He showed how the tomahawk fitted into the holes in the skull and asked me to request the Governor to take vengeance (payment, he called it) for that murder, and then to send him a teacher to “teach him and his people peace.” No forgiveness. Revenge first, and then peace; but it was something that the desire for peace was there at all.
I felt sad, for I had neither the men nor the money to comply with the old man’s request. The sadness was the deeper when I remembered that down on the beach, not many miles below us, was the spot where the Christian teachers had landed as long ago as 1872, and yet till the arrival of my wife and myself the previous day, these people had never seen a white face in their village. Friends in England have since offered to support a teacher in the village, but dysentery has practically exterminated the people. The opportunity was lost.
[Illustration: SCRAMBLE IN FRONT OF TIMOTEO’S HOUSE.
_See page 127._]
[Illustration: A WIDOWER.
_See page 132._]
[Illustration: A CROCODILE.
_See page 134._]
My wife was fortunately outside the village in the camp while this demonstration took place. It was a day of rest for all after the toil of the preceding one, and after the feast the boys divided their time equally between sleep and chewing sugar cane. We explored a little, and enjoyed the beauty and the stillness of the tropical forest. Had we known that later on, but a short distance from Korona, the manager of a rubber plantation would find it necessary to offer so much per head for snakes killed, and would have to pay for as many as 500 in one month, it is probable we should not so freely have poked about amongst the ferns, or pushed our way through the undergrowth. Ignorance was bliss, and we laid in impressions that will never be effaced. We could hear the bird-of-paradise calling and were fortunate enough to see some playing round the top branches of a tree. The brush turkey ran from in front of us, and overhead flew the hornbill, making a noise like a rusty old engine, and not a snake did we see in our glimpse of paradise.
The second night was as uneventful as the first, and in the morning our newly-made friends accompanied us on the first part of the return journey. There was the same stumbling through the sweet-potato vines, and attempts to dodge the foot and a half of every sapling which the natives leave standing when they clear a track. Halts at the same places for food and rest, and then to our dismay we found the tide low, and not enough water to float the boat. To wait meant a delay of six hours and an impossible journey in the dark. It was one of those tight corners which bring out the best side of the Papuan character. The boys soon settled that we were not to wait, and went to work with a will. Where the water was shallow the boat was dragged through the mud. Where driftwood had blocked the course it was either cut through or torn away. Very slow progress was made, but it was progress, and all were in hope of soon reaching deep water, when right across the stream, just under water, was a big tree. The boat must have passed over it when the tide was higher. Tired as the boys were, they would not attempt to cut through this, and to move it was impossible. The only chance was to get the boat over it. Donisi Hahine sat in lonely state, and all the others took to the water. Pushing, pulling, straining, shouting, we got the boat on top of the tree like a well balanced see-saw. Then all the strength was put under the stern, and with one big lift she was launched into the deep water on the other side, and we all rushed or swam after her.
Three hours on the river gave us no interest: we were all tired, and thankful at last to reach Morabi.
The headings of the last four chapters suggest one of the greatest difficulties that stand in the way of Mission work in Papua. That is the number of different languages spoken by the people. At Delena both the Motu and Maiva languages are used. The Nara villages have a language of their own. Hisiu is an offshoot from Maiva. At Morabi we are amongst the Motu people again. Korona has a different language, and that of Kabadi is distinct from either.
Fortunately in all the villages Motu speaking people can be found, as well as some who know a little English, but unity amongst a people who have no common language is not to be expected.
The Kabadi villages lie on the flat land between the hills, and the sea, in Redscar Bay, and are all some distance from the latter. With a guide they can be approached by way of Galley Reach, and the Apiisi River, but in fine weather the best way is by entering the Aroa River, which flows into Redscar Bay. The Samoan boat was ready for us, and the only incident of the journey was the seeing of a big crocodile on a mud bank near the spot where we made fast to the bank of the river to have breakfast.
Vanuabaka is at the end of a long creek leading out of the main river. The houses are scattered about under the tall cocoanuts, which, as you will see in the picture, appear to be trying to get out of the ground in which they are growing. This peculiar appearance is probably the result of the continual sweeping up of the village, and sometimes the people find it necessary to place wattle fences round the roots and fill in with the sweepings of the village. Here, unlike Nara, the houses are all separate, and neighbours are given rather a wide berth. Timoteo’s house stands near the centre of the village inside a neat fence. His wife, with true Samoan hospitality, has wreathed vines and flowers not only round the verandah posts, and along the front of the house, but even round the posts of the home-made bedstead and over the wall of the small room devoted to our use.
Magazines and papers are passed from one to another in Papua, but the final use of many of them is to provide wall-paper for teachers’ houses. Timoteo’s house is so lined and the effect, if peculiar, is also useful, for a picture gallery is provided. I might almost have written a library, for I have found my wife going round the room trying to connect up the various parts of a serial, and getting on a box to reach those nearer the roof. On one occasion, so mounted, she managed to take a crochet pattern from an odd leaf of a ladies’ paper.
Few teachers knew their people better, or entered more into their life, than did Timoteo. As a boy he came to Kabadi with his father, who was the first teacher there, and after returning to Samoa for training at Malua, he succeeded his father, who had died at his post. His case is an example of what it costs the South Sea men and women to engage in work for Christ in Papua. His mother, his father, and his stepmother all died in Kabadi. He and his three children all died there, and his widow returned to her home _alone_. She wished to remain and carry on the work, and when that was declared impossible expressed the hope that some day she might again be able to join us.
At the time of which I am writing both teacher and wife were at their best, and in the evening after the big gathering on the verandah for prayers, there was much to talk about. A little girl called Papauta, after the girls’ school in Samoa, was put forward for inspection. A jolly little smiling savage she looked, and never before in her short life, had she been so happy. When her mother died her father took no notice of her, and Fafoa, Timoteo’s wife, found her crawling about the village fighting with the pigs for scraps of food. For a time it was doubtful if she would recover from such neglect, but care won the day, and Papauta is now a strong, thickset girl who, when Fafoa left for Samoa, came to live with us at Delena. Her father tried to claim her, but the Government decided that as the Mission had saved her life, she should live at the Mission till old enough to start life on her own account.
A sad story of cruelty was introduced by reference to a small enclosure we had seen under a house opposite to the teacher’s. A man had died and his relatives instead of comforting and helping his widow, had destroyed all her plantations and so ill-treated her that she would have died but for the help of Fafoa. They prevented the poor woman, who was covered from head to foot with a mixture like lamp-black, from eating anything but scraps of food. She was ordered not to be seen in the village or any of the tracks round it, and no one must hear her voice. She was confined in the little enclosure we had noticed under the house, from cock-crow in the morning till the village was all quiet at night, and even then she was only allowed to go on to the verandah of her house. Her well-grown children were threatened that if they attempted to help their mother they would be killed.
Why all this trouble and persecution? Simply this: the woman’s husband had died and his relatives believed that some wrong-doing on her part had made the spirits angry, and caused them to kill him.
Fafoa feared neither the threats nor the spirits, and at night she fed the woman and kept her alive till I was able to get the cruelty ended. Kabadi natives as much as any in this dark country need to learn the Golden Rule. They certainly know nothing of it till they are taught.
The school the next morning was worth a visit. Timoteo was a success as a teacher, as at most other things, but not as a singing master. His classes were well ordered, and more advanced than any others in the district. Seventy-six children were present, and they began badly, for they chanted the opening hymn on one note only. That was the weakest point. The strongest was the adaptation of the kindergarten methods to the teaching of the alphabet. Suddenly, while we were engaged with the seniors, all the smaller children rushed out of school and through the open doors and windows we saw the boys climbing cocoanut palms. There was a scramble for the fronds they threw down, and soon the children returned to school each carrying a bundle of the mid-rib they had got from the fronds. These looked like lengths of fine spring wire. With much energy they got to work, and when it was their turn to stand in front of the table, each child had a handful of letters made from the mid-rib, from which he or she sorted out and held out the particular letter asked for. With such letters as D or P it was a simple matter, for when once fixed they remained in the shape desired. S. G. M. and others were more difficult to manage, for though the pieces of mid-ribs were ready they had to be fixed or bent into position when held up. The children enjoyed the work, using their strong teeth in the place of scissors or nippers, and when the lesson was over the table looked as though basket-makers had been at work.
Here again one noticed that the position of the scholar in the class determined not only the angle at which he looked at his book, but in some cases the angle at which he wrote or printed his capital letters. Some of them were on their backs, and others leaning to either right or left. One boy signed his slate with carefully printed capitals—I.K.O.B.O.U.—a full stop after each letter.
The Sabate was to be spent at Ukaukana, so that we might be in touch with three villages for the services of the day.
Two hours across a plain as flat as a table top, and through grass in many places above our heads, brought us to a large banana plantation. At the right season it would be a grand place for a Sunday school treat, if the owners did not object. To travellers it was acceptable because it gave the only bit of shade to be found in the two hours’ walk, and we lingered long enough to enjoy it and notice that the natives had marked off each man’s share of the plantation by rows of bright dracena and coleus. The rich vegetation told that we were not far from the river, and we were no sooner out of the plantation and through a small village, than there was the Aroa River at our feet but some twenty feet below us.
Cool and rapid it hurried down to the sea, but when in flood it mounts that twenty feet of bank in a single night and takes possession of the village and most of the surrounding flat land. To cross then is out of the question, and to do so now is a novel experience, but if you trust yourselves to the natives, and like good girls and boys, do as you are told, you will be landed safely on the other bank without a ducking.
A canoe, made by hollowing out a tree trunk and roughly shaping the outside, is waiting tied to the bank by a length of cane. Both ends are shaped alike, so it is difficult to say which is the stem and which the stern, but for the time being the end pointing up stream is the stem and there stands the ferryman. He finds no difficulty in keeping his balance, nor does the canoe rock while he is alone, but the moment one not to the manner born puts a foot in the canoe, it seems to become alive and possessed with the determination to get rid of the stranger by turning over and throwing him into the water.
There is no outrigger nor any contrivance to keep the craft steady, except willing hands (far from clean) ready to help you to embark. Before they let go it will be well if the canoe happens to be wide enough to sit right down inside, despite the mud and water. If that cannot be managed then put your walking stick across from gunwale to gunwale and sit as low as possible on that. No doubt the boys and girls who are watching from both banks think this a lot of preparation for what they do without a thought, and the chances are that when they notice the start caused by the first wobble of the canoe, they will have a good laugh, but to the novice it is no laughing matter. I can only compare the sensation to that feeling of utter helplessness experienced during the first attempt to ride a bicycle.
The signal is given to let go, and then the boy in the bows begins to punt the canoe up stream as close to the bank as he can keep, till he thinks he has gone far enough to enable him to reach the proper landing on the gravel spit on the other side. He then pushes out into the stream the force of which turns the head of the canoe down towards the sea. His punting pole will not now reach the bottom, and the canoe is at the mercy of the current. As soon as he can touch the bottom again with his pole his action retards the downward rush of the bows and the canoe is brought alongside the bank with her head up stream again.
Willing hands help the passengers ashore, and if you do not want moments of anxiety as to the baggage pass on to the teacher’s house at once, for if you stay to watch you will see some at least of the carriers standing where you found difficulty in sitting, and with the boxes still on the poles between them.
The old Naime, whose picture caused such consternation when shown on the sheet, has been succeeded in the chieftainship by his son, also Naime, but not half the man his father was, either in size or anything else.
Naime the First always went hunting when he heard I was in the neighbourhood, so that he might have some fresh wallaby to offer. Naime the Second has not energy enough for that, so confines his attention to seeing that his wife cooks a bowl of bananas, and then escorts her to the teacher’s verandah, and sits down to wait for the return present. Years ago when talking to old Naime, I asked him why he had not listened to our message, and why he had not joined the Church. He had always been on the best of terms with the teachers and often attended the services. His reply was a bit of good sound advice for a young missionary. He was still proud of his strength and his success as a hunter, and having duly dwelt upon these he said “but natugu (he always called me his child), my inside is old and hard. I cannot receive the new words. Look to my grandchildren. They are young, and you can teach them.” His son has seen to it that the old man’s wish has been carried out, and all his children have been regular attendants at school, and can read and write well.
Memories of Naime crowd one on another. When first I knew him he was a widower, and every time we met, his vigorous Papuan embrace used to transfer some of his lamp-black mourning to my clothes. Once we met at another village, and in great excitement for so dignified a man, he said—
“Natugu, I have a new wife.”
“Yes. That is good.”
“Donisi, do you hear? I have a new wife.”
“Yes, I hear. I have told you that is good.”
“Donisi, I have got the new wife, but I have not got a new Beritani dress for her.”
“All right, Naime. You have found the wife. I will find the dress for her.”
As soon as possible I sent along a dress made of bright red Turkey twill, and the next time I went to Ukaukana there was Naime waiting to receive me, and in the background the new wife (who turned out to be very old and a cripple) struggling to get into the dress. She could not manage it, so it fell to the lot of the Missionary not only to provide the dress, but to act as lady’s maid to the old woman, and show her how she was to get into it.
Hanging in front of Naime’s house was the under-jaw of a crocodile, which must have belonged to a big animal, for it was more than three feet long. One night Naime found this creature carrying off his pig, and running alongside he killed it with his stone club. On land he knew no fear, but could never be tempted to trust himself to the sea. Time after time he promised to visit me at Port Moresby, and once came as far as Morabi, but as soon as it was a question of getting into the boat, he pleaded that he was not well and had better return to his village.
Some of our teachers have to complain that the village people will not help them, but Luteru once got more than he wanted at Naime’s village. He was a grand gardener, and good teacher, but a poor house builder, and when he was ready to occupy his new house he found it was leaning on one side. Either it must be straightened up as it stood, or taken down and rebuilt. The second course was only to be thought of if the first failed, so Luteru called his people together and explained what was wanted. Work of that kind could not be undertaken without a feed and pig-killing. The day was appointed, and the pig duly killed and eaten, and then the ropes having been fixed, Ukaukana men showed what they could do. It was a bit more than was wanted and the last state of that house was worse than the first. A long pull, a strong pull, and a pull all together, instead of straightening the house up, pulled it too far, and down it came with a crash on the other side. Luteru had to rebuild, and in addition to suffering the loss of his pig, had to put up with unlimited chaff from his fellow-teachers.
The Sunday was a day of rest and quiet for the carriers but not for the Missionary, who had to visit three villages and hold services in each. We began with the village where we were staying, and had a good gathering at the early morning service. After breakfast Kopuana further up the river was visited, and the new church seen for the first time, and in the afternoon Keveona on the other bank of the river. Here the first baptism in the village took place in the new church, and the evening was occupied in talking to the people at Ukaukana.
Monday saw the same round for the purpose of examining the schools, and at each village the boys who accompanied us had a story to tell of the previous night’s experience. Few nights are ever undisturbed in any native village, for either the pigs, the dogs, or the children do their best to prevent rest, but it is not often a crocodile joins in the fray. That particular night we heard a disturbance under the house, and upon inquiring were informed that for safety the teacher penned his pig under the house at night. There was then no need to seek further for certain troubles which had made us think the house was not very clean. The disturbance was caused by a crocodile, evidently a true Papuan and fond of pork, coming up from the river and seeking his breakfast at the expense of the teacher. The pig being blessed with a big voice gave warning and the crocodile had to seek his breakfast elsewhere.
The crocodile has, however, taken our thoughts away from the schools we set out to examine. At one, big things were being attempted. The teachers had been asked to see that the children committed to memory certain passages from the New Testament, and one of them, when the ordinary school work had been gone through, said he was ready to show what his children could do in that way. It may be well to begin at the beginning in most things, but when I heard the first child begin to recite the first chapter of Matthew I thought the choice not the best possible. Six verses for each child they went through that chapter with all its hard names, which sounded stranger still in their native form. Chapters two, three, four, and part of five had been repeated with wonderfully little prompting before there was any weakness shown. The end of the fifth chapter could not be reached, and then the teacher explained, “That is all they can do at present.” He had hoped that they would be able to reach the end of the book in time, but was advised to discontinue the attempt to teach the whole book, and confine his attention to certain chapters and passages indicated. What had been accomplished showed that the native child had a retentive memory.
At the second school the teacher was making a strong point of English, and here again the surprise was kept till last. The two biggest boys in the school, one fast nearing the dandy age, and already smeared red and wearing feathers, stood up, and turning towards each other, but being careful not to look at each other, Number One literally growled out—
“Good-morning, my dear.”
“Good-morning, my dear,” replied Number Two in a tone which did not agree with the endearing words, but suggested, “I will settle this with you when I get you outside.”
“I hope you are well this morning,” was asked, and answered by, “I am quite well, thank you”; but the manner implied, “what has that got to do with you?”
“I hope your father is well this morning” gave the opportunity for an answer more to the mind of Number Two, for with evident satisfaction he said, “I have not seen my father this morning.”
When a native meets you his first question is either “Where have you been?” or “Where are you going?” so naturally the English lesson followed the same line.
“Where have you been?”
“I have been to Kanosia.”
“What did you go to Kanosia for?”
“I went to buy some kerosene.”
“What did you pay for the kerosene?”
“I paid some bananas.”
[Illustration: KOPUANA SCHOOL.
_See page 136._]
[Illustration: DELENA MISSION HOUSE.
_See page 144._]
[Illustration: DELENA DISTRICT TEACHERS.
_See page 146._]
[Illustration: MOTUMOTU MAN.
_See page 163._]
Each question was typically native. They cannot understand a walk for a walk’s sake. Amongst the first Government Officials to settle at Port Moresby was one who took a long walk every afternoon, and as there were few good tracks, went nearly always in one direction. So puzzled were the boys that one day they followed him, and upon their return, told with the greatest wonder that he went half way to Pari (a village eight miles from Port Moresby) and then turned back. “There was not even a bit of tobacco as the reason for the long walk.”
The native not only wants to know where you are going, or why you are going, but what you paid for anything you may have to get, so the teacher at Kopuana was only helping the boys and girls to express their desires in English instead of native speech.
A few couples went through the lesson without a stumble, and pronounced the words correctly, but others failed, and the whole incident was an illustration of the difficulty of one man teaching English when the children hear nothing but their own language around them.
At the third village the teacher is a Papuan who for ten years has tried hard to influence for good a people who do not want to be so influenced. They prefer their old ways though it was at their own request that a teacher was sent to live with them. At times they have not only been indifferent, but violent towards Aihi, and on one occasion would have probably killed him but for the help of his son who is one of the strongest young men in the neighbourhood. As it was he was nearly blind for some weeks owing to one of his assailants trying to gouge out his eyes. After this I offered to remove him to another village, but he declined, saying that in time the people would hear his message and learn what he had to teach.
Aihi’s house and compound are an object lesson, and should show his fellow-countrymen what one of their own people can do when he sets his mind on a changed life. Around his house are growing oranges and bread-fruit, both introduced by the missionary, and illustrating a side of the work not often thought of at home. The Papuan owes the bread-fruit to the children’s ship _John Williams_. Sections of the root were packed in earth by the missionaries in Samoa, and sent by her to us here. The Samoan teachers knew its value as a food supply and readily planted it round their houses. The Papuan teachers planted on the strength of our recommendation and are now reaping the reward, but the advantage does not stop there. The village people are begging for pieces of the root and planting for themselves, and so they are being helped in their food supply, often far from plentiful, by the assistance the British children give to the _John Williams_. On many voyages her captain might have added to old Captain Turpie’s description of her cargo as “Missionaries and Bibles” the words “and bread-fruit trees from Samoa to Papua.”
One more village remained to be visited and then the journey home. At Matapaila we were rather reminded of Nara, where Queen Koloka ruled. The Samoan teacher, though a stately old man, was evidently overshadowed by his wife, who not only told him what to do in the house, but how to manage school, and what he should preach about on the Sunday and Wednesday and Friday. He did not object, and between them they had a good school, though they made the mistake of wanting to keep the young people they had taught in regular attendance even after they were married. They did not like the numbers to go down and could not wait till the next generation had taken the places of those who had gone to the ordinary work of life.
The best picture of Matapaila could have been obtained at night when it was too dark to use the camera. The house had two rooms—a small bedroom and a large sitting-room. After the evening meal a boy took up a bell like that used by a railway porter (where it had come from I do not know) and rang it on the verandah till we had to cry for mercy. It was heard in the last house of the scattered village, and the children and young people came trooping in, and sat down round the wall. Many of them had New Testaments which they had bought for themselves, and the teacher had three to pass round to those who had none of their own. There were two lamps, the one on the small table at our side, and the other a hurricane lantern. All this preparation had been made for family prayers, and there was no doubt about the teacher and his wife being the father and mother of the village children. Of the hymn we had better say nothing, but the reading was first class. The room was not well lighted but we could tell who was reading by the position of the lantern as it was passed round to give light where it was needed. One of the elder boys offered prayer, and then all repeated the Lord’s Prayer.
After that some had reasons to give for their absence from school that day, and others for their desiring to be away the next day, and I did not once hear, “I had to stay at home to mind the baby.” Hunting, fishing, gardening and trading seemed to stand in the way of education, and the youngsters spoke of it all as though they were grown-up men and women, and could take their full share in it all.
Exactly how the conversation reached it I do not remember, but at last we were talking of English children and their games. There were not many we could indulge in in the house, but—I wonder if you will be shocked when I tell you; I cannot help it if you are—there was one they had never heard of, but the name of it took their fancy. Two short sticks were soon procured, and in a few minutes two boys were trussed up and put in the middle of the room ready for a “cock fight.” All looked very solemn till one of the party (guess who) gave his best imitation of a cock crow. Others soon tried and a merry and noisy party was the result. The climax was reached when one of the “cocks” rolled over and was unable to get up again. The noise attracted the elder people, who crowded on to the verandah and blocked the doors and windows, till we began to fear for the safety of the house. It was not guaranteed to carry more than the ordinary weight of the district, so the game had to end, and on the best of good terms the party broke up. The ball had been set rolling however, and next morning several laughing groups could be seen in different parts of the village repeating the performance of the previous night.
Without again visiting the river we made our way back to Vanuabaka. The village is nearly always short of water, and that night a little incident occurred illustrative of one of the discomforts of travel in parts of Papua. A bath at the end of the tramp was out of the question. Water could not be spared for that. In the middle of the night there was the welcome sound of rain upon the thatch, and soon it began to drop gently from the eaves. The temptation was great, and the village was all quiet and dark, so one in the house, taking soap and towel, slipped out and round to the back to enjoy a shower-bath. Alas! he had no control of the tap that supplied the water, and no sooner was the soaping stage completed than the shower was cut off. In vain he waited for it to be turned on again. At last he had to give up, and as you can easily imagine, the last state of that man was worse than the first, and continued so till he could get to the river the next day. The memory of clothes sticking to a lavishly soaped skin remains vivid.
At Hisiu we were back on the coast, and although we had only been away a week we were glad to feel again the fresh sea breeze. The shed-like house again became our quarters, and as school had not been examined during our first visit part of the next day was devoted to that and to cleaning up and bandaging a poor fellow who had been badly mauled by a wild pig. Bandages and dressings were left with the teacher and before long the man was able to go hunting again.
In the afternoon, as the falling tide offered firm instead of soft sand to walk upon, we left Hisiu, and had done several miles before the long shadows warned us that it was time to look out for a camping ground. It was found on a sand spit at the mouth of a river, and while one half of the party put up the tent, the other half cooked the supper. Prayers and a chat round the fire closed the day, and we felt much like children who hear a ghost story before going to bed, for one of the boys told how a relative of his had been carried off by a crocodile from the very spot on which we were camped. However, we suffered from nothing worse than our thoughts, and even the memory of what he had seen did not prevent the boy who had told us the story from stretching himself by the fire and sleeping soundly.
Breakfast with the glories of a tropical sunrise all around, and then on along the beach, round point after point past the place where we came out on the way from Diumana to Hisiu, and later on we turned into another opening in the bush, which after the glare and bright sunlight outside, was like going into a tunnel. Some two hours of this, and forcing our way through grass as tall as ourselves, brought us once more to Nara.
The next day we found the boat all safe in the creek, and a strong wind landed us at home in time to straighten up for the Sabate. The round had taken two days less than the three weeks we had arranged for.
A Christmas Gathering
How many parts of the world are there where Christmas is not known and celebrated in one way or another? If there are any, Papua is not one of them, for Kisimasi is talked about and looked forward to before it arrives, and long remembered and talked about after it has passed. In the Mission it is the time for the big gathering of the teachers and their followers and friends. At other times they have to come to the head station of their district, but at Kisimasi they come as the guests of the Missionary, and expect that the gathering shall be something out of the common.
From beginning to end differences between Christmas in Britain and Christmas in Papua are very marked. Instead of cold which makes blankets and good fires necessary, there is heat so great that the host need not worry if more guests arrive than he has provided accommodation for. They can all sleep out of doors and be none the worse for the experience.
At home there may be two gatherings—the one for the young folks and the other for the old folks, but with us the one gathering lasts at least a week, and includes all ages, from the children in arms to the old men and women.
A day has been fixed for the arrival of our guests, but some come a day before the time and some a day after, for half are from the east and half from the west, and the wind that will help the one lot will hinder the other. Never mind about when they arrive, so long as we stick to the day when the festivities are to begin. There will be but few missing then, and each party as it arrives will make some contribution to the feast: one a pig; another a goat; another some bananas; yet another some yams or sweet-potatoes, or cocoanuts.
One canoe-load of our visitors announces its arrival by gun-firing, and another by beating a tattoo on a hollow log. Others may come quietly to the beach, but when they begin to unload the pig he lets us know that he has arrived. Neither the Cook Islanders, nor the Samoans, nor the Papuans believe in silently adding their contribution to the general stock. Processions are formed, and everything, even to the poor, long-suffering pig, is brought and put in front of the Mission house, while the teacher indulges in a little speech. The year may have been a good one or a bad one in the matter of food, but the speech always follows one line. It is an apology for the very little the teacher is able to add to the general stock.
All food is hung on a framework erected for the purpose, and there it remains till the day of the feast.
Preparations are meanwhile going on inside as well as outside the house. In the kitchen Donisi Hahine is making piles of cakes, and outside the boys and girls are gathering stones and firewood for the native cooking.
Christmas morning dawns, and before the sun is over the hill we all assemble in the church for the Christmas Service. To make all the teachers feel as homely as possible, part of the service is conducted in their own language, and three languages at least have to be used. Emptying the church is slower work than filling it, for there is much handshaking to be got through and many attempts to express good wishes in English, to be heard.
Breakfast for all hands comes next, and then the separate little committees which have been told off to attend to various matters, all get to work. One lot sees that the boats and canoes are ready for the races; another attends to the greasing down of the old mast of the _Niue_, which for many years has been used as our greasy pole; a third see that the rope is ready for the tug-of-war, and that nothing is left on the course that would cut the feet of those taking part in the races; others get ready for the distribution of the food; but the group which is the centre of attraction is busy killing and cutting up the pigs and goats. This is simply irresistible to men, women and children. They turn to it as naturally as water runs down hill.
Gradually the interest moves to another part of the compound where a teacher with a sheet of paper in his hand is superintending the apportioning of the food. A delicate matter this, for none must be overlooked, and the quantity in each heap of food must be in direct proportion to the number of people who have come in with the teacher who is to receive it. The foundation of each pile is laid with bananas and cocoanuts, and on this yams are built up; then some rice and a few ship’s biscuits, and a joint of raw pork. To finish all off well to the taste of the Papuan a few sticks of tobacco are added to each pile.
The pork would soon suffer in the heat of the sun, so all hands are promptly called together, and the Missionary makes the Christmas speech of welcome, and after that is over a peculiar custom is observed.
A man with a strong voice is chosen, and if he has a dash of the clown in him so much the better. The teacher walks ahead with his list and announces the name of the man for whom the pile is intended. The assistant, cutting capers behind him, smacks the pile with his switch and calls aloud for So-and-So to come and take possession of the provision made for him and his boys. Then with another cut at the pile of food he passes on to the next, while So-and-So’s boys close in behind and see that nothing is lost of what has fallen to their share.
After this fires are lighted in all parts of the compound and separate cookings occupy the attention of many of our guests; we, however, will go and see what all the smoke near the big bread-fruit tree means. There in the open air the Christmas dinner is being cooked, and the need for the stones and firewood gathered by the boys and girls is explained. A hole has been dug in the ground and well lined with stones. On this a bonfire has been lighted, and now, when nearly burnt out, the ashes are being raked off, to the accompaniment of much hopping about on the part of the bare-footed cooks, who are too excited to look for stray cinders and only find them when they tread upon them.
Vegetables have been scraped and washed and are handy in tubs. First on top of the hot stones is spread a layer of bread-fruit leaves. Next go the vegetables to be served like the potatoes baked under the meat at home, for the joints of pork and goat are piled on top. Already the mass is beginning to steam, and causing some of those standing by to look pleasant in anticipation, but none of this steam must be lost, so the food is covered up with a thick layer of leaves. The earth is shovelled on to all this and well beaten down, and the Christmas oven looks like a gigantic mole hill, with little puffs of steam escaping here and there to suggest what is going on inside. It might be called a self-cooker, for it requires no attention, and though it may appear a strange way of cooking, from long experience I can vouch for its being most satisfactory. If properly heated such an oven turns out well cooked meat, and nicely browned vegetables.
Leaving the oven to do its work we turn to the sports. The entries for the various events are all made, and the handicapping all done on the spot, and whether from shyness, or disinclination to exertion, there is always a difficulty in getting a start. The prizes are all there for inspection, and the start is usually obtained by holding up some particularly tempting article, and announcing that it is the first prize for the opening event. When once the ball has been set rolling there is no difficulty. In quick succession follow races for men and for women; big boys and little boys; for big girls and little tots; for teachers’ wives; three-legged races and jockey races (which cause undersized boys to be in great demand as jockeys) and wheelbarrow races; sack races, and hopping races; but the excitement is fast and furious when the tug-of-war takes place between two well matched teams.
The greasy pole attracts little attention till the small boys have worked hard for half a day, and have rubbed most of the grease off. Then there are plenty of competitors for the last few feet, and great excitement when one gets his hand within a few inches of the flag, just fails, and comes down with a rush without it; but that is nothing to the cheer which greets the one who at last gets the flag. He enjoys his triumph to the full, holding on to the top of the pole, and smiling down upon those who have probably done much to clear away the grease and enable him to win the prize.
When tired of the exertion of racing the men turn their attention to archery and a little spear-throwing. A man looks very warlike with his long bow and his arrow nearly as long as himself, but judging from the number of shots they send in before making even an outer, the success of this method of fighting must depend more upon the cloud of arrows fired, than upon the aim of any individual man. Perhaps the fact that the arrows are not feathered may have something to do with this.
Of the Christmas dinner itself I need not write, as it was much like the one described in the “Chapter of Accidents.” The main difference was that we had seen to it that there were extra supports under the verandah and so avoided another accident.
The first part of the day had been well filled, and you must remember that the thermometer had stood at over 90 in the shade; so there was a lull in the afternoon, and then the final preparations for the evening party.
Though the verandah of the Mission house is a big one, it could not accommodate all who wished to be present, so we had to restrict the gathering to the teachers and their families, and the Delena Mission family.
There was no Christmas tree, but its place was taken by a fishpond. Every fish was named, and a little manœuvring let the man who managed the inside of the pond know the name of the fisher, and so hook on the fish he was intended to have. Big parcels sometimes contained only very small fish, but that only added to the fun.
There were not many Christmas party games we could indulge in, but the gramophone and the magnetic battery more than met the case. The mystery of the gramophone was at first awe-inspiring, and the whistling bird caused many a youngster to look round and close his hands as though he had a stone to throw. Soon the awe passed and all were laughing over the “Lancashire Lads’ Trip to London” as though they knew all about it and could follow the fun; but the “Laughing Song” was the climax, and would have gone far towards making the reputation of a man who wanted to be a master of facial expression. At the first laugh they simply looked at each other, but what looks they were. At the second they began to lose control of themselves, while at the third all control had vanished, and the gramophone could not be heard.
An entirely new set of facial contortions was the result of the introduction of the battery. Some of the children simply set their teeth tight together and took all that the machine could give them, but some of the big men writhed and rolled about; bit their lips; opened their mouths as though to shout; twisted their hands this way and that; stood first on one leg and then on the other; and finally lay down to it, and groaned “Vadaeni” (enough). They did not seem to enjoy the experience and yet were ready later on for a second, but there was no doubt about the onlookers enjoying it to the full.
Very few could be tempted to put their hands into a bucket of water connected to one of the handles of the battery, even when a prize was offered for the man who would get the nail from the bottom of the bucket.
It was ten o’clock before the party broke up. Every hour had been filled since six in the morning, and no room had been found for the boat and canoe races. We were all very tired, but very happy, and looked forward to finishing the programme on the morrow.
[Illustration: A WELL-OILED AMAZON.
_See page 167._]
[Illustration: UME AND THE CROCODILE.
_See page 172._]
[Illustration: MIRIA MAKING FIRE.
_See page 174._]
[Illustration: THE BLOW-PIPE.
_See page 176._]
The second day was not only devoted to the sports but to the second of the Christmas feeds. The provisions were not native, so the method of serving differed from that of the previous day. Under the shadow of the Mission house mats were spread upon the grass, and round them plates and all the drinking-vessels we could muster, whilst in the centre, amidst gay decorations of flowers and leaves, were dishes of cakes and sandwiches. Decked in all their best the guests arrived, and by close packing all managed to get a share of the edge of the mats. A curious restraint seemed to keep most very quiet and prevent them helping themselves freely, but Paiti, one of the jolliest teachers we ever had, soon put an end to that by jumping up and stepping into the midst of the decorations and the dishes. A more energetic waiter was never seen. A plate was no sooner empty than he filled it again, and the little eager hands that were stretched out by the children nearly hidden behind their parents did not escape his notice and soon had something to close upon. Paiti saw all, and attended to all, while from the outside of the ring the cups were replenished at a wonderful rate. Some of these people must have belonged to Dr. Johnson’s tribe, to judge by the amount of tea they could put out of sight. We had requisitioned every kettle, pot and pan we could find, but it was a question whether we should not have to make the announcement “No more.” Fortunately that humiliation was spared us, and when all the remains of the solids had been packed in handkerchiefs—for it is etiquette not to leave anything—Paiti made a speech.
Taking his stand in the middle of the mat, he began in English: “My father and my mother. We very glad you say we come here this day. We very glad we live one more year. We very glad all man and all woman and all boy and all girl be no sick——” Then either his memory or his English failed him and he broke into native speech, thanking us for the spread, and remarking that we had shown true hospitality in not only providing all they could eat, but more.
I have written that the gathering lasted a week, but please do not imagine that the whole of that time was devoted to feasting and sports. Meetings with the teachers had to be held to arrange for the work of the new year. Advice and encouragement had to be given, and difficulties adjusted. Long descriptions of mysterious sicknesses had to be listened to, and medicine, that idol of the Samoan, concocted to meet each individual case, and then came the STORE.
The word is printed in capitals to show how large it looms in the eyes of the teachers and their wives. Fancy how important the word would be if your mothers and sisters (I do not include your fathers and brothers, for they may have the same objection to entering a shop as I have) had only three chances of shopping during the year. How much talking and arranging would there not be before-hand, so that nothing might be forgotten, and the necessary things procured first. This is the teacher’s weak point. He is like a man who wants a suit of clothes covered with gold lace, and is so intent on the gold lace, that he forgets he has to pay for the cloth and the making. They all want the special things first, and then begin to wonder how they are to pay for the food for the next four months. To adjust matters so that each teacher shall be sure of food, light, matches, clothes, and other necessaries, and still keep within the limits of his salary, is not an easy matter, but it is not so trying as having to get down every piece of print in the store before a teacher’s wife can decide which colour suits her style of beauty best, or every pair of trousers before the man can decide whether he wants them dark or light.
A fair allowance of good temper is needed if matters are to go smoothly till the end of the third day of this kind of thing, in an iron store almost as hot as a baker’s oven. Still we all survive, and interesting and happy groups are seen at the bottom of the store steps discussing each other’s purchases. Despite all attempts to arrange matters before-hand, there are many supplementary visits with such appeals as “Please, Donisi, I have forgotten the blue,” or “How am I to sew my new dress, for I have forgotten the needles?”
By the end of the week all the requests have been attended to, and we hope all the teachers, if not satisfied, are at least well fitted out for another four months’ work at their stations, but before they leave we meet for the Communion of the Lord’s Supper, and then with mutual good wishes, and plenty of handshaking, we separate.
Most of the parties leave during the night, and signalize their going by firing guns, or beating their hollow logs of drums. That part of the performance could be dispensed with, for it usually comes soon after we have settled down at the conclusion of a very long day.
How much of all this is like your Christmas experiences at home? Not much; but it is the way we spend our Christmas at Delena.
So far most of the chapters have been devoted to the special events in connexion with missionary life, but those who need such doctoring as the missionary can give are like the poor—“always with us.”
At first their demands for attention were persistent but very irregular. They were made at all times of the day and often at night. Long effort and the use of a bell have reduced them to uniformity, and now the first hour after breakfast is devoted to the sick. Perhaps no hour of the day gives so complete an insight into the peculiarities of the native, and certainly no hour gives more laughable experiences.
Despite all the dirt their wounds often heal in a wonderful manner.
Now and then a stolid patient is met with who will submit to anything. Years ago at Port Moresby a man while hunting struck his foot against a broken tree. The result was a deep, gaping wound with splinters in it. When we thought all had been removed the man informed us he was sure there was one piece left. Three had a try to find that piece of wood but failed, and at last Walker thought he had got hold of it, and began to pull. For a moment the man said nothing, but then remarked quite quietly, “Misi Walker, that is the inside of my foot you are trying to pull out.”
Until used to doctoring the native would rather submit to external treatment than take medicines internally. Once greatly puzzled as to the non-effect of certain tabloids which had been sent to a sick man daily, I inquired how he had taken them. He languidly pointed to the roof of his house, but his action conveyed little information till his wife produced a dirty bit of rag, and unfolding it, displayed just the number of tabloids sent for her husband to take. No wonder they had produced no constitutional change.
The miserable “Ia sibona” often stands in the way of doctoring a child. The medicine is offered, and the child objects to take it. Any compulsion is discounted by the parent who calmly remarks, “Ia sibona. He does not wish to take it”; and there the matter would end if the Missionary would allow it to do so. Often I have seen not only the mother, but the father, turn away as though to insist upon the child taking the medicine and a moment later return the glass or spoon empty, but the child had not taken the medicine. The parent had swallowed it, perhaps to save trouble, but perhaps in the belief that as it had not gone out of the family the effect would be all right.
Payment for medicine and doctoring has always been a sore point with the people of this district. They do not hesitate to pay their sorcerers a pig or anything else they may demand for their attention, but seem surprised when the Missionary suggests that they should contribute to the food supply for the Mission boys and girls as a return for doctoring. In early years I have had patients refuse to take medicine I was willing to give them, because I would not pay them to swallow it. Those days are gone, and now some few bring a little present of food for the medicine, but it is generally a very little present.
Not long ago a man was wounded by a stinging ray. The fish had driven its spine right through his leg. Of course the man could not come to the Missionary so the Missionary had to go to him and continue his visits for weeks before the wound was healed. Without other than native help the man would certainly have died. When the doctoring was all over and the man able to walk again, his wife paid a visit to Donisi Hahine and made quite a speech about how her husband’s life had been saved. She should never forget it, but would remember it every time she looked at the wound. Then she produced from her “kiapa” a bunch, of bananas such as could be bought for a stick of tobacco, and put it on the verandah saying it was her return present for what had been done for her husband. At least she had been grateful, but one could not help the remark, “if that is the value she puts upon her husband’s life, then husbands must be cheap in this part of the world.”
Rarely indeed is there active opposition when medical help is offered, but occasionally it has shown itself, and could then be traced to sorcery. A child had been badly burnt but not brought up to have its wounds dressed, and consequently they got very foul, and the mother feared the child would die. Then she brought it to me, and when asked why she had not done so before said the child’s grandmother had objected because the spirits which dwelt in her round stone were angry, and did not want the white man to have anything to do with the child.
It is doubtful if in the native mind the idea of doctoring has yet been separated from that of sorcery. An ulcer may have been eating away the flesh for months, but if the doctor will put his “muramura” (medicine) upon it just once that will be enough; and one dose of medicine should cure an attack of pleurisy even though the patient will sit out in the rain at night to get cool.
The white man may work the cure, but the native leaning towards sorcery is again shown in the patient going quietly away to the sorcerer, and paying a good price to have the restoration to health approved and made secure. Unfortunately the two systems do not always agree. After months of attention I had nearly cleared up an ulcer that was eating a man’s face away. A little more and the cure would have been complete, but the patient went to the sorcerer for the finishing touches, and weeks later returned to the village to die, with his face plastered with red clay.
One day some boys breathlessly announced that one of the numerous Aisis in the village had been badly torn by a wild pig while hunting. Fortunately the Government Doctor was in the village at the time, and he took the case in hand, and despite all Aisi’s objections stitched up all the wounds. For days the patient’s condition was critical, but he had all the care I could give him and at last was out of danger. For at least three months his wounds demanded daily attention, and during the whole of that time I went to the village each day, and used up my whole stock of lint and bandages. Doctors at home speak of their grateful patients. Aisi would never qualify for that class. One day we were launching the boat, or rather trying to, for we wanted just a little more help before we could get her into the water. Aisi was standing looking on, having quite recovered from his wounds, and I asked him to help us. I suppose I ought not to have been hurt by his answer, but it had a sting in it he little suspected, for looking at me he said, “What payment shall you give me?”—and that after more than three months attention. It was one of those times when words do not readily come. I said nothing, but thought the more, and was relieved that one of the other men turned and reminded Aisi of what I had done for him.
However, no matter if the Papuan does sometimes connect our medicine with his sorcery; no matter if he is ungrateful according to our standards, there is no doubt about the help given him in his time of need. It is a bit of real practical Christianity he can understand and profit by, and by its means it is possible to get into close personal touch with him, and show him something of the spirit of Him who went about doing good to the unthankful as well as the thankful.
In 1887 the natives of Moviavi made a raid upon the coast village of Motumotu. Amongst those killed were Tauraki, the Rarotongan teacher at Motumotu, and his child. Papua was then a British Protectorate and the Government sent a party to Moviavi to inflict punishment for the raid and murders. At the end of the next year Chalmers went to live for a time at Motumotu, and Walker and I went to visit him. Till then there had been no communication between Moviavi and Motumotu, though Chalmers had been pleading for peace.
So much by way of introduction. Now for the story. One evening Lahari, the fighting chief of Motumotu, and in those days one of the finest built men I had ever seen, came to the house and had a long talk with Tamate (Chalmers). Not knowing anything of the language we had to wait till Lahari had gone, and then Tamate told us we were in for a good thing, as an official “peace making” had been arranged between the two villages, and we were invited to attend. The Mission teacher had been killed, so the missionaries must be present at the burying of the hatchet, and join in the peace. Details had to be arranged, but they would all be arranged in a few days, and we should be informed when the day had been officially settled.
It was something for new arrivals in the country to have the opportunity of being present at such a function, and I for one looked forward eagerly to the day. The notice duly arrived, and early one morning, accompanied by the peace-loving old chief Hori, we started up the Williams River in the whale boat. We were to take the “short cut,” and so soon turned out of the main river into one of the many small streams which drain the Delta. This narrowed so quickly that before long the boatmen had a difficulty in keeping their oars clear of the banks, and the wonderful vegetation, not content with the land, reached out over the stream till meeting overhead it formed the nave of one of nature’s cathedrals. Sago palms with fronds forty feet long predominated, but where the ground was a little dryer cocoanut and areca palms abounded, and underneath them flourished crotons, hybiscus, pandanus, all wreathed together by vines of many kinds.
In time the stream became so narrow that rowing was impossible, and the men taking hold of the trees pulled the boats along, while others made use of the punting poles which had been put in the boat when we started. After joining and going down one of the main streams for a time, we turned into another narrow one on the other side.
So far we had seen nothing to indicate that anything special was happening, but not long after entering the small stream we noticed fully armed and painted natives watching us from behind the trees. Their numbers increased the nearer we got to the village, and instead of hiding behind the trees they fell in on either bank, and marched along as an escort and joined the crowd awaiting us at the landing. What a landing it was. For some distance the boat had been pulled through mud and not water, and the prospect of getting over the side was anything but inviting. I suppose the people saw us hesitating, for they got an old canoe and pushed it out to the boat, and one at a time, in this, we were dragged to firmer ground.
The procession that was then formed would have been the making of a Lord Mayor’s Show. The three white men, though evidently the centre of attraction, were very insignificant in their helmets and soiled white clothes, but the natives more than made up what was lacking by their display of paint, feathers and bright-coloured crotons, and the martial element was supplied by the bows and arrows and clubs. The parrot house at the Zoo would be peace itself compared with Moviavi at that hour.
First went Tamate with a native holding each hand, and closely followed by the man who had turned light porter and taken his bag from the boat. Walker was escorted by two more men, and his bag and umbrella proudly carried behind him. Donisi came next, and behind him his traps, and all around a shouting, surging mass of natives. In this way we were conducted to a shaded platform and there presented with fine new young cocoanuts to drink, while the people crowded round and examined us and our belongings, and no doubt expressed their opinions very freely, only we could not understand them. Tamate was presented with a pig, but as it was small, and there was no time for killing and eating it then, it was earmarked by cutting a hole in its ear and tying a strip of red handkerchief through, and then put out at board till some future time when Tamate might need it.
Soon after Lahari arrived, and evidently there were troublesome points to be settled, for a long and heated discussion followed, in which no rules of debate were observed. Each man tried his best to make himself heard above all the others. When matters had quieted down a little the procession was reformed and we moved to another village. It seemed as though we were beating the bounds of the proposed peace.
Early in the afternoon we began to move towards the boat, and though there had been plenty to interest there had not been the demonstration I had expected. I did not know what we were to see before sundown. The best was reserved till last.
Partly walking through the stinking swamp and partly riding on the backs of well oiled natives we reached the boat, and began the homeward journey.
On the way up in the morning we had seen Moviavi men watching us from behind the trees, but now we found every vantage point occupied by fully armed Motumotuans in all their best paint and feathers. The surprise, and interest, increased when we reached the main stream and found it almost blocked by canoes full of more people from Motumotu. Two of the largest were “manned” by Amazons with a uniform of bright-red paint. We decided to see the matter through, so drew to the bank near Lahari’s canoe.
It seemed as though they had been waiting for our arrival before beginning the last act. Lahari shouted an order, and in a moment the scene was one never to be forgotten. Intense excitement prevailed. Drums sounded all along the line, and conch shells blown lustily added to the din and shout that greeted the appearance of nine double canoes. Dashing round the bend, down with the swift current they came, as fast as twenty pairs of strong arms could drive them through the water. The men at the paddles were standing to their work, and the platforms between each pair of canoes were crowded with other men, some drumming for all they were worth, and others with their arrows drawn to the head, threatening all sides in turn. After passing the boat they altered their course, and charged on to the low land at the mouth of the creek leading to Moviavi. In a moment, as though by magic, the Moviavians swarmed on to the scene, ready to repel the attacking force. The scene beggars description.
A dangerously realistic sham fight took place, and all semblance of a peace-making vanished. Hori became anxious and explained that if only one man let his arrow slip from the bow the fight would be real and not sham. By means of much shouting and rushing about in company with other leading men, he managed to restore some sort of order, and more quietly and more slowly the leading canoes filed past the boat and made their way up stream.
All told nearly seventy canoes had put in an appearance from Motumotu, and the crews ranged from twenty to forty. Many had some distinguishing badge, as in the case of a crew of youths, each of whom had red hybiscus flowers in the hair, and green and yellow crotons waving from their armlets, waist-belts, knees and ankles.
[Illustration: THE KAIVA-KUKU.
_See page 180._]
[Illustration: NATIVE SURGERY.
_See page 181._]
[Illustration: BASKET-MAKING AT DELENA.
_See page 183._]
The last we saw was a very noisy exchange of Motumotu shell-fish for Moviavi sago, and it made old Hori more anxious than ever to get his crowd away and start safely on the homeward journey. Some of his young men seemed bent on a row, for he heard one telling a Moviavi man, in very strong language, that his sago was only fit for pigs to eat, and that he was not a pig.
We were delayed by our anchor getting foul of a log, and before it was cleared Hori had the satisfaction of seeing the last canoe vanish round the bend on the homeward way. Whether the crew of Amazons had very particular friends amongst the men in our boat, or whether they simply wished to show off before the white men, I know not, but their canoe flashed past us in grand style. Twelve paddles on either side, rising and falling with the regularity of a machine, made her travel grandly. Each stroke seemed almost to lift her out of the water, and our whale boat was soon left behind.
That we had had a field day there was no mistake, but there had been little to suggest a peace-making, and as we returned quietly down the Williams River in the evening, many were the questions Tamate was asked to put to Hori.
“How long had the two tribes been on unfriendly terms?”
“For six rounds of the seasons,” replied Hori.
“Would the peace be lasting?”
“He did not know, as there were many in both villages who did not want peace.”
“Why had there been such a warlike display?”
“Just to show that each was a strong village.”
“Why had the nine canoe-loads of fighting men charged on to the bank at the mouth of the creek, as though bent on attacking Moviavi, and why had the Moviavi men pretended to drive them back into the river?”
The idea of peace had originated with Motumotu, and their men wanted to show the Moviavians that though they had suggested peace they had not done so because they were unable to attack and pay off old scores. On the other hand the inland men had to let those from the coast know that if they did attack they would receive a warm welcome and be repulsed. On a big scale they had been acting out the small boy’s talk “I am not going to fight you, but do not think it is because I cannot fight, nor because I am afraid of you.”
There was one incident which was not referred to till we met at breakfast the next morning, then Tamate remarked, “Boys, you must remember to be thankful this morning, for it was just a question whether we were to get away from Moviavi yesterday with our lives.”
This was news to us. We had seen plenty of excitement, and heard noise enough to last for a long time, but not a hint that possibly that day might be our last. You may be sure we were all attention, and that we wanted the particulars from Tamate.
“Well there is not much to tell,” he said, “and even if they had killed us I do not think we could have blamed them very much. When the Government punished them for the raid and murder some of their people were shot, and all along they had been against peace being re-established. They refused to have anything to do with yesterday’s demonstration. Their account was unsettled and they were dissatisfied.
“Do you remember what happened when we were sitting on the platform drinking cocoanuts? You probably saw, as I did, that Tima (one of the teachers) jumped up hurriedly and went on to the platform of the big Dubu in front of us, but you would not understand what he called to me in Rarotongan. It was a warning to look out, as the men were covering our party with their arrows, and advice to clear out while he obstructed their aim by walking about in front of them. Lahari, too, saw what the men were up to, and hurried us away to the second village. Tima and the other teachers were all right, as the score was marked up against the white men, and not against them.”
Tamate is dead, Hori is dead, Lahari is dead, but the peace they all helped to establish has never been broken, and the last time I was at Moviavi we stayed in a Samoan teacher’s house and met many of the men at the service in the church, and heard their children read words of peace in the school.
Some Pictures of Life
UME AND THE CROCODILE
Ume Nou was at one time a teacher at Orokolo, but his wife died and he returned to his native village of Delena. When the picture was taken he had not turned scientist and found part of one of those wonderful creatures with the wonderful long name, that lived so long ago, but was holding the lower and part of the upper jaw of one of their relations.
Crocodiles are too plentiful for comfort round Delena, and a long chapter could be written about the people they have carried off. One morning I saw a great brute snatch away two girls who were bathing in front of the Mission house, and though after a couple of hours chase the bodies were recovered, the crocodile got away. Later two of the Mission boys were fishing at night. There was a rush, a splash, and the one boy saw his companion snatched from the canoe by a crocodile.
Crab-hunting seems a sport without much danger in it, but one day when some Delena women were chasing the crabs amongst the mangroves which come to the water’s edge on one side of the village, they heard one of their party scream, and turning saw that a crocodile had managed to get hold of her. The struggle was desperate, but they could do nothing to help and to their dismay saw their companion carried into the water in a deep hole.
As quickly as possible news was brought to the village, and Ume went out armed with a shot gun. He could see no trace of either the woman or the crocodile, but while standing on a log so as to get a better view of the pool, had a surprise that would have made most men lose their heads. Right at his feet the head of the crocodile shot up out of the water, and the wicked-looking jaws made a snap at him. There was no time to bring the gun to his shoulder, and as he lowered it the muzzle struck the forehead of the crocodile. Ume pulled the trigger and, I should imagine, for the first time a big crocodile was killed by No. 4 shot fired from an ordinary fowling-piece. The discharge blew away the top of the creature’s head, and that accounts for Ume having only part of the top jaw in his hand.
Think of a cold, raw morning at home and a fire wanted in the kitchen, but before you can have it, or the cup of tea you are after, two suitable pieces of wood have to be found, cut into the required shape, and then the one rubbed on the other till a spark is obtained. The spark has to be transferred to something that will readily burn, and then blown into a flame. Slower work this, even, than the flint and steel and the brimstone match of our ancestors, but it is the way the Papuan has to get his fire, if his own has gone out, and he cannot beg a fire stick from a neighbour.
In the picture you can see Miria going through the first stage of the process, and judging by the tension of the muscles, and the compressed lips, he finds it none too easy.
The story of the origin of fire varies in different parts of the country, but as far as I know, man is always indebted to the dog for procuring it. The Motu people say he got it by swimming out to sea, but at Delena the story is that he had to go inland for it.
Haiavaha was a great creature with long reaching arms, who lived in the hills where he jealously guarded the fire. The men living on the coast knew they could not steal the fire for themselves so called a meeting of the animals. Who the spokesman was is not known, but he first addressed himself to the pig—
“Will you go and steal some of Haiavaha’s fire?”
“It is no good my going. You know I always grunt when I find a root fit to eat as I am walking through the bush.”
“Will you try, wallaby? You can jump well, and when Haiavaha tries to catch you you can jump over his arms.”
“I cannot go, for he would hear me long before I got near the fire. Each time I jump I come down with a thud on the ground. I cannot go quietly.”
“Cassowary, can you help us?”
“No, I cannot, for I stand so high that Haiavaha would see my head above the grass long before I got to the fire.”
As a last hope the spokesman turned to the dog, and appealed to him to make the attempt.
“I will try,” said the dog, “and I might succeed but for my habit of crying out. If I find nothing on the way to make me break my resolve to keep my mouth shut, I hope I shall return with the fire.”
Fortunately he was able to keep his mouth shut, till he opened it to close upon the end of a fire stick. Then Haiavaha awoke, and out went his long arms in a wide sweep to the right and then to the left, but the dog had been too quick, and with a mocking howl (they cannot bark) he shouted out, “I have your fire. You should not have gone to sleep.”
The people on the coast were of course delighted, and told the dog that as a reward he should always live with them in their houses and sleep by the fire. Most seriously they say it must all be true, for to this day the dog is man’s companion and does always sleep by the fire.
Who knows what led to the invention of the blow-pipe in the old world? Did our remote ancestors want to hollow out a log to make a drum, in the days before Sheffield tools were made, and have to invent some means of doing it?
The Papuan made his drum from the solid log before he had seen steel tools, and now that he has seen them he still uses his blow-pipe.
The picture shows the drum in the process of making, and the completed article.
A piece of a particularly hard wood is cut and stood on end, and on top a few pieces of live charcoal are placed. With the help of the reed blow-pipe the charcoal is kept glowing, and the fire directed, while a shell of water is handy in case the burning proceeds more rapidly than is required in any one direction.
The process is repeated at the other end, and when complete the inside of the log looks like an hour glass. That accomplished, the shaping of the outside is a simpler matter, but, before the introduction of steel, a laborious one, as all the cutting had to be done with stone implements. Hatchets and knives now expedite matters, but the old native file is still used. A strip of shark skin is, while wet, stretched round a piece of wood, and when it has dried and shrunk it looks like an emery stick, and rasps away the wood in fine style. For the final smoothing off nature has provided the Papuan with a complete substitute for glass paper. A long lance-like leaf grows plentifully near the village, and has a surface equal to No. 1 glass paper and just as useful and lasting.
“A LITTLE CHILD SHALL LEAD THEM”
It was just an ordinary stone about the size of a swede turnip, with nothing particular in size, shape or colour to distinguish it from many another in the bed of a mountain stream, but it had held a whole village in terror, and would have compelled all, men women and children, to spend at least one night in the bush but for Matareu the teacher.
The village was Groi at Nara, and late one afternoon Poe Ava, wanting some food, went to his garden, but found some one had been there before him, and had cleared off with what he and his family had expected to eat. Poe had no intention of taking that quietly, so hastening back to the village he began a long oration about the wrong he had suffered, and wound up with the threat that he knew where to find the sorcery stone which had belonged to his family for so long, and he would bring it to the village and call upon its spirit Aikaika. He was the master and maker of the thunder, and would send it with lightning and rain and demolish the village, as a punishment for the theft.
Excitement soon reigned in the village. Women gathered food and valuables into their kiapas (the large netted bag) and got ready to hide in the bush. The children catching the spirit of fright began to cry, and the dogs joined in with their dismal howl. They always do when there is any excitement.
Queen Koloka carried to Matareu the teacher news of the terrible threat, but it made little impression on him, and in a few minutes he was in the village trying to prevent the exodus, and put courage into the people. By promising that he would go and see the stone he so far succeeded that few of the people left the village, but that night there was no laughter, and no children were playing round about the houses.
Poe tried to magnify the size of this terrible stone, as he had the evils that would follow its introduction into the village. He was sure it was far too heavy for Matareu to lift, but when he found Matareu determined to see the matter through, he promised to take him to the hiding-place in the morning.
When the morning came, of all in the village only one, a young fellow who had lived with the teacher for some years, had courage enough to risk seeing the stone. Matareu, Poe and this boy started off, and in time halted near a big tree. Then exaggeration number one was exploded, for the stone was found to be small enough to be put into a cracked cooking-pot.
“There is the stone,” said Poe, “but you must not touch it, if you do your hand will shrivel up; but if that boy touches it he will die on the spot.”
“We will see,” answered Matareu, and going to the pot he turned the stone out on the ground.
That was too much for Poe, and he took to his heels, but from a distance seeing that nothing dreadful happened to Matareu, and hearing him calling, he returned.
Matareu is a real believer in prayer, and, there under the shadow of the big tree, with the broken cooking-pot, and the sorcery stone at his feet, and Poe and the boy standing by, he offered a prayer that light might come to Poe and that he might know there was but one God, not Aikaika, but Jehovah.
The stone came to the village, but it was Matareu who carried it. The people were again ready to run when they saw it in his hand, but he called that it had done him no harm and would do them none, and with that sent it bounding over the uneven ground. He was in his element. Determined to show that the stone was a stone, and nothing more, he put it in the fire where his food was being cooked, and still nothing dreadful happened. Later he placed it on the verandah of his house, but the house remained safe and those in it were not sick, and gradually the fear of the people wore away, and they would sit on the same verandah with this representative of Aikaika, but none would touch it.
Matareu’s baby girl succeeded where her father had failed. She had no fear of the stone, and as it was fairly round she started it rolling along the boards, until it rolled off the verandah. The little one followed it to the ground, and her little playmates there joining in, they rolled that much-feared stone all over the place, and had a grand time. Their parents called to them to leave the stone alone or it would hurt them, but their reply was, “It had not hurt Matoakana, and will not hurt us.”
The little child had led the rising generation at Nara out from the bondage of fear of the stone and its master the dreaded Aikaika.
What would you say if you saw the original of the above picture doing the rounds in your town instead of “The Gentleman in Blue?” and yet I do not know any better description of the Kaiva-Kuku than to say he is the village policeman. It is his duty to look after the cocoanuts when they have been gathered and are accumulating in the village for a feast, and like the policeman at home he has his beat. You could not find him further east than Hisiu, nor further west than Maipua.
But who is he, or what is he? The who is a man. The what is a big mask. The “who” gets inside the “what” in the club house so that no one in the village can identify him. He then struts about armed with his big stick, and uses it freely if he finds any one stealing cocoanuts. The people cannot retaliate for the Kaiva-Kuku is sacred, and they do not know who is inside, and so cannot spot him when he has not got his uniform on.
The women and children are all very frightened when the Kaiva-Kuku is seen, and the men at Hisiu took advantage of this, and sent the Kaiva-Kuku out when they saw women and children coming along the beach from fishing. In their hurried flight the fish was all dropped and Mr. Kaiva-Kuku picked it up and took it to the club, where the men enjoyed it; but that was the end of the Kaiva-Kuku at Hisiu, for the Magistrate ordered the masks to be burnt and no more made.
For most ailments the Papuan uses the old-fashioned remedy of bleeding. All sorts of pains in all parts of the body are supposed to be relieved by blood-letting, and the operation was usually performed by slightly cutting the skin with a shell, but now they have taken a step in advance and use a piece of glass. For headache, however, another instrument is used. Tima had been walking in the sun all day, and said his head ached, and Aisi acted doctor. He made a little bow and arrow, tipping the latter with a fragment of glass, and then, at very close quarters so that he did not miss his mark, nor lose hold of his arrow, he repeatedly fired at Tima’s forehead. In this case not much blood was lost, but I have heard of cases where half a pint has been withdrawn before the cure was considered complete.
I have tried to make the Papuans real to you by stories of their daily lives, their vices and their virtues, their many fears and their few hopes, and want you to understand that they are men and women, and boys and girls who have their lives to live. They are not “something” to be laughed at, as many travellers seem to think, or exploited to put dividends into the pockets of investors in new companies.
I have tried to show you how we are helping the Papuan to live a fuller and better life than his father did. There is no talk about a finished article. You cannot make a Christian and a gentleman out of a savage as you can make a pair of boots, and say as you put them on the shelf, “There is the finished article worth so much.”
The Papuan may be turned in the right direction, but even then it means a long stiff climb, with many a backward slip. He needs all the help we can give him, by preaching, by schools, by industrial training, by constant watching and advising, even after he has learnt that there is ONE who came into the world to bring a message and a power that should touch man’s life at every point.
Some of the men and women I have told you about know this message, and are trying, as you and I are trying, to live up to their knowledge, but they deserve your sympathy. It is not an easy matter for them to rise. I have given you more than one story to show how the call of the old heathen life is always sounding in their ears and hearts.
To enlist your sympathy and help for those who know a little, and for the many who remain who have never heard of the message, is the aim of these Papuan Pictures.
“_Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these My brethren, ye have done it unto Me._”
_Printed by BUTLER & TANNER, Frome and London._