SAMOA

In The Strange South Seas

When I woke up in the morning, the ship was still, and the familiar chatter of island tongues, and splashing of island paddles, audible outside the ports, told that we had reached Apia.
 
           
 
Dressing is always a rush, under such circumstances I hurried out on the deck in even quicker time than unusual, and hastened to enjoy a good look at the little island that has been made famous the wide world over, by the genius of the great writer who passed his latest years in exile among those palmy hills. Upolu, Stevenson's island, is the second largest in the Samoan Group, being forty miles by eight. Savaii is a little wider. Tutuila is smaller. The six other islands are of little importance.
 
 
 
Apia and Stevenson's home have been written about and described, by almost every tourist who ever passed through on the way to Sydney. there is little therefore to say that has not been said before. Every one knows that Apia is a fair-sized, highly civilised place, with hotels and shops and band promenades, and that Vailima, Stevenson's villa, is a mile or two outside. Every one has heard of the beautiful harbour of Apia itself, with the blue overhanging hills, and the dark wooded peak rising above all, on the summit of which the famous Scotsman's tomb gleams out like a tiny pearl --"under the wide and starry  sky." Since the disturbances of 1899, most people have been aware that England has absolutely relinquished any rights she had in Samoa, and that the islands are now divided between Germany and America - Upolu being among the possessions of the former.
 
Perhaps some people have forgotten that Samoa is a fairly recent discovery, having been first sighted by Bougainville in 1768. It is supposed that the natives originally came from Sumatra. During the last six hundred years, they were frequently at war with the Tongans and Fijians, and from the latter learned the horrible practice of cannibalism - which, however, they abandoned of their own accord a good while before the coming of the first missionaries in 1833. They are a singularly beautiful race, and most amiable in character. They are all Christianised, and a great number can read and write. Tourists have done their best to spoil them, but outside the towns there is much of the ancient simplicity and patriarchal character still to be found.
 
About two dozen Samoan gentlemen - I call them gentlemen, because in manners and demeanour they really deserved the name, and many were actual chiefs - had come on board the steamer, and were walking about the deck when I came out. The air was like hot water, and there was not a breath of wind. All the same, the Samoan gentlemen were quite cool, for they wore nothing at all but a British bath-towel with red edges, tied round the waist in the universal kilt style of the Pacific. In the Cook Group, the garment is called a pareo, and is made of figured cotton. In Tonga, it is a vala, and is usually cashmere. In Samoa the name is changed to lava-lava, and the thing may be either a piece of plain coloured cotton, or the bath-towel above mentioned, which is considered a good deal smarter - but the costume itself is the same all through.
 
 
Samoa chief, Malietoa
 
Most of the men had their short-cut hair plastered snow-white with lime, because it was Saturday. Almost every Samoan limes his hair on Saturdays, partly to keep up the yellow colour produced by previous applications, partly for hygienic reasons that had better be left to the imagination. All the visitors displayed an incomparable self-possession and dignity of bearing not at all like the "Tongan swagger," but much more akin to the manner of what is known in society as "really good people." Coupled to the almost complete absence of clothes, and the copper skins, it was enough to make one perfectly giddy at first. But afterwards, one grew used to it, and even came to compare the average white man's manner disadvantageously with the unsurpassable self-possession and calm of the unclothed native.
 
Then came boats and landing and hotels, and the usual one-sided South Sea town, with little green parakeets tweedling cheerfully among the scarlet flowers of the flamboyant trees, and looking very much as if they had escaped from somewhere. And behold, as we were making our way to the hotel, a heavy waterspout of hot-season rain came on, whereupon the street immediately became a transformation scene of the most startling character. The roadway had been full of natives in their best clothes, come down to see the passengers - some in bath-towels, like the visitors to the steamer, but many in the cleanest of shirts and cotton tunics, and scores of pretty Samoan girls in civilised gowns of starched and laced muslin, trimmed hats, and gay silk ribbons. The rain began to spout, as only tropical rain can, and immediately things commenced to happen that made me wonder if I were really awake. Under the eaves of houses, beneath umbrellas, out in the street without any shelter at all, the Samoans rapidly began undressing. Smart white shirts, frilled petticoats, lacy dresses, all came off in a twinkling, and were rolled up into tight bundles, and stowed away under their owners' arms, to protect the precious garments from the rain. Then down the street, with bare brown legs twinkling as they ran, and bodies covered merely by the "lava-lava," scurried the bronze ladies and gentlemen who had looked so smart and dressy a few brief seconds before. Some of the girls, who could not get an inch of shelter under which to undress, merely pulled their fine frocks up under their arms, and ran down the street looking like very gay but draggled tulips set on two long brown stalks. It was the oddest transformation scene that I had ever been privileged to look on at, and it sent the passengers of the ship into such screaming fits of laughter that they forgot all about keeping themselves dry, and landed in the hotel in the condition of wet seaweed tosse4d up by the waves. So we arrived in Samoa.
 
There is no use in relating at length how I drove out to see Stevenson's much described villa at Vailima - now in the possession of a wealthy German merchant, and much altered and spoiled - and how I did not climb the two thousand feet up to his tomb above the harbour, and was sorry ever after. Rather let me tell how, tired of the civilised section of the island, I took ship one day in an ugly little oil-launch, and sailed away to see the life of a native village, down at Falepanu. There is not much real native life now to be seen in the capital; for, although the "faa Samoa" (ancient Samoan custom) is very strong all over the islands, in Apia it is at a minimum, and the influence of the white man has much increased since Stevenson's day. Besides, how can one study native customs, dining at a table d'hote and living in a great gilt and glass hotel, situated in the midst of a busy street?
 
So it was very gladly that I saw the wide blue harbour of Apia open out before me, and melt into the great Pacific, the "league long rollers" tossing our little cockle shell about remorselessly as we headed out beyond the reef, and began to slant along the coast. Upolu's rich blue and green mountains unfolding in a splendid panorama of tropic glory, as we crept along against the wind towards Faleta, our destined port, nearly twenty miles away. Here and there, white threads of falling water gleamed out against the dark mountain steeps; and the nearer hills, smooth and rich and palmy, and green as a basket of moss, parted now and then in unexpected gateways to show brief glimpses of the wildly tumbled lilac peaks of far-away, rugged inner ranges. A day of gold and glitter, of steady, smiling heat, of beauty that was almost too beautiful, as hour after hour went by, and found the glorious panorama still unrolling before eyes that were well-nigh wearied, and bodies that wanted shelter and food. But even a little oil-launch cannot take all day to cover twenty miles; so it was still early in the afternoon when we glided into the harbour of Faleta, and came to a stop in the very heart of Paradise. How to picture Faleta, to the dwellers in the far grey north? how to paint the jewel-green of th4e water, the snow white of the sand, the overhanging palms that lean all day to look at their own loveliness in the unruffled mirror below; the emerald peaks above, the hyacinth peaks beyond, the strangely fashioned out-rigged canoes, with their merry brown rowers, skimming like long-limbed water-flies about the bay; the far-away sweetness and stillness and unlikeness of it all! And the waterfall, dropping down seventy feet of black precipitous rock right into the sea's blue bosom - and the winding, shady fiords, where the water is glass-green with reflections of shimmering leaves - and the little secluded brown houses, domed and pillared after the Samoan fashion, that ramble about among the long avenues of palm - surely, even in all the lovely South Sea Islands, there never was a lovelier spot than this harbour of Faleta!
 
 
We three - a half-cast Samoan lady, a New Zealand girl, and myself - landed on the beach and gave over our things to a native boy, to carry up to the great guesthouse at Falepunu, a mile further on. Every Samoan village has its guest-house, for the free accommodation of passing travellers, but few have anything that can compare with the house where we were to stay - my companions for the night only, myself for a week.
 
A Samoan house, owing to the heat of the climate, is a roof and nothing more, the walls being omitt4ed, save for the posts necessary to support the great dome of the roof. It is worth well looking at and admiring all the same. Fine ribs made of strong flexible branches run diagonally from eaves to crown, only an inch or two apart, and curved with exquisite skill to form the arching dome. Over these, at an acute angle, are laid similar ribs in a second layer, forming a strong, flexible lattice. At just the right intervals, narrow, curved beams cross behind these, and hold them firm. The centre of the house displays three splendid pillars, made from the trunks of three tall trees; these support the roof-tree, and are connected with the sides of the dome by several tiers of slender beams, beautifully graded in size and length. The guest-house or Falepunu belongs to a high chi4f, and is in consequence exceptionally handsome. Its roof-tree is fifty feet from the floor, and the width of the house, on the floor-level, is the same. Forty wooden pillars, each seven feet high, support this handsome dome, every inch of which is laced and latticed and tied together with the finest of plaited cocoanut fibre, stained black, red, and yellow, and woven into pattern like elaborate chip carving. 
 
There is not a nail used in the construction of the house. One wet afternoon I attempted to count the number of thousand yards of sinnet (plaited cocoanut fibre) that must have been used in this colossal work, and gave it up in despair. The number of the mats used in forming the blinds was more calculable. Each opening between the pillars was surmounted by seven plaited cocoanut-leaf mats, fastened up under the eaves into a neat little packet. These could be dropped like a venetian blind, whenever rain or wind proved troublesome. The total number of mats was two hundred and seventy-three. 
 
The floor of a Samoan house consists of a circular terrace, raised some two feet above the level of the ground. It is surrounded by a shallow ditch, and it is made of large and small stones, closely fitted together, and covered with a final layer of small white coral pebbles from the beach. This forms the carpet of the house, and is known as "Samoan feathers," from the fact that it also forms everybody's bed at night, covered with a mat or two. The chief, Pula-Ulu, and his wife, Iva, who were in charge of the guest-house, in the absence of its owner, received us joyfully, and proceeded to make a feast for taro brought from the ovens outside (which were simply pits dug in the ground, and filled with hot stones), and oranges and pineapples plucked from the nearest grove. We sat cross-legged on the mats, and ate till we could eat no more; then, "faa Samoa," we lay down where w were to rest and doze away the hot hours of the afternoon.
 
 
In the evening, Iva lit a big ship's hurricane lap, and set it on the floor; and half Falepanu came in to call. In rows and rows they sat on the floor-mats, their brown, handsome faces lit up with interest and excitement, fanning themselves ceaselessly as they sat, and asking endless questions of the half-caste lady, who interpreted for the others. I. as coming from London, was the heroine of the hour, for the Samoans are all greatly interested in "Beritania" (Britain) and, in spite of the German annexation, still prefer the English to any other nation. The inevitable question: "Where was my husband?" followed by: "Why had I not got one?" - in a tone of reproachful astonishment - was put by almost every new-comer. The half-cast visitor explained volubly: but the villagers still looked a little puzzled. The Samoans have in almost every village a "taupo" or "Maid of the Village," whose office it is to receive guests, and take a prominent part in all public ceremonies and festivals. but she only holds office for a very few years, until she marries, and she is always surrounded, when travelling by a train of elderly attendants. An unmarried woman who had money of her own, who wandered about alone, who held office in no village, here or at home, this was decidedly a puzzle to the Faleunu folk, whose own women all marry at about fourteen. They had seen white women travelling with their husbands, but never one who had ventured from Beritania all alone!
 
There was evidently some difficulty, at first, in "placing" me according to Samoan etiquette, which is both complex and peculiar. A white woman with her husband presents no difficulty, since the "faa Samoa" always gives the superior honour to the man, and therefore the woman must only receive second-class ceremony. In my case, the question was solved later on, by classing me as a male chief! I was addressed as "Tamaite" (lady), but officially considered as a man; therefore I was always offered kava (the national drink of Samoa, never given to their own women, and not usually to white women), and the young chiefs of the district came almost every evening to call upon me in due form, sitting in formal rows, and conversing, through an interpreter, in a well-bred, gracious manner, that was oddly reminiscent of a London drawing-room. The women did not visit me officially, although I had many a pleasant bathing and fishing excursion in their company.
 
On the first evening the callers stayed a long time - so long, that we all grew very weary, and yearned for sleep. but they kept on coming, one after another; and by-and-by half-a-dozen young men appeared, dressed in kilts of coloured bark-strips; adorned with necklaces or scarlet berries and red hibiscus flowers, and liberally cocoanut-oiled. In the centre of the group was the most extraordinary figure I had ever seen - a white man, his skin burned to an unwholesome pink by exposure, his hair pure gold, extremely fine and silky, and so thick as to make a huge halo round his face when shaken out. His eyes were weak, and half shut, and I was not surprised to hear that he was not really of white descent, being simply a Samoan albino, born of brown parents. This man being the son of a chief, took the principal figure in the dance that was now got up for our amusement. The seven men danced on the floor-mats, close together, the albino in the centre, all performing figures of extraordinary agility, and not a little grace. The music was furnished by the other spectators, who rolled up a mat or two, and beat time on these improvised drums, others clapping their hands, and chanting a loud, sonorous, measured song.
 
At the end of the dance the performers, streaming with perspiration (for the night was very hot) and all out of breath, paused for our applause. We gave it liberally, and added a tin or two of salmon, which was joyfully received, and eaten at once. All Samoans love tinned salmon, which by an old perversion, they call "peasoupo." No doubt the first tinned goods seen in the islands were simply tinned peasoup. this would account for the extraordinary confusion of names mentioned above. By this time we were so utterly weary that we lay down on the mats where w were, and almost slept. Iva, seeing that, chased most of the callers out with small ceremony, and got up the calico mosquito curtain that was to shelter the slumbers of all three travellers. It enclosed a space of some eight feet by six. Within, plaited pandanus-leaf mats were laid, two thick upon the white pebble floor, and Samoan pillows offered us.
 
A Samoan pillow is just like a large fire-dog, being simply a length of bamboo supported on two small pairs of legs. If you a Samoan, you lay your cheek on this neck-breaking arrangement, and sleep without moving till the daylight. We preferred our cloaks rolled up under our heads. The invaluable little mosquito tent served as dressing-room to all of us, and very glad we were of it, for these were still a good many visitors dotted about the floor of the great guest-house, smoking and chattering; and none of them had any idea that a white woman could object to performing her evening toilet in public, and more than a Samoan girl, who simply takes her "pillow" down from the rafters, sp0reds her mat, and lies down just as she is. No bed-clothes were needed, for the heat was severe. We fidgeted about on our stony couch, elbowed each other a good deal, slept occasionally, and woke again to hear the eternal chatter still going on outside our tent, and see the light still glowing through the calico. It was exactly like going to bed in the middle of a bazaar, after making a coach out of one of the stalls. At last, however, the light went out; Iva, Pula-Ulu, and their saucy little handmaiden and relative, Kafi, got under their mosquito curtains, quite a little walk away, at the other side of the dome, all the guests departed, and there was peace.
 
Next morning my friends went away and I was left to study the life of a Samoan village alone, with only such aid as old Iva's very few few English words could give me, since I did not know above half-a-dozen sentences of the Samoan tongue. There were no great feasts, no ceremonies or festivals while I was in Falepunu, only the ordinary everyday life of the village, which has changed extremely little since the coming of he white men, although that event is three generations old. Perhaps the greatest change is in the native treatment of guests. Hospitable, polite and pleasant the Samoans have always been and still are; but in these days when a white visitor stays in a native house, he is expected to give presents when parting, that fully cover the value of his stay. this is contrary to the original Samoan laws of hospitality, which still hold good in the case of natives. No Samoan ever thinks of paying for accommodation in another's house, no matter how long his stay may be; nor is there the least hesitation is taking or giving whatever food a traveller may want on his way. But the white visitors who have stayed in Samoa have been so liberal with their gifts, that the native now expects presents as a right. He would still scorn to take money for his hospitality, but money's worth is quite another matter.  
 
 
Otherwise, the "faa Samoa" holds with astonishing completeness. Natives who have boxes full of trade prints, island owns, will dress themselves on ceremonial occasions in finely plait4ed mats, or silky brown tappa cloth. Houses on the verge of Apia, the European capital, are built precisely as houses were in the days of Captain Cook; though perhaps an incongruous bicycle or sewing-machine, standing up against the central pillars, may strike a jarring note. Men and women who have been to school, and can tell you the geographical boundaries of Montenegro and why Charles I.'s head was cut off - who know all about the Russo-Japanese war, wear full European dress when you ask them to your house, and sing "In the Gloaming" or "Sail away" to your piano - will take part in a native "siva" or dancing festival, dressed in a necklace, a kilt, and unlimited cocoanut-oil, and may be heard of, when the chiefs are out fighting, roaming round the mountains potting their enemies with illegally acquired Winchesters, and cutting off the victims' heads afterwards. The "faa Samoa" holds the Samoan, old and young, educated or primitive through life and to death.
 
Uneventful, yet very happy, was the little week that time allowed me among the pleasant folk of Falepunu. When the low, yellow rays of the rising sun shot under the wide eaves of he great guest-house, and striped the white coral floor with gold, and the little green parrakeets began to twitter in the trees outside, and the long sleepy murmur of the surf on the reef, blown landward by the sunrise wind, swelled to a deep-throated choral song - then I used to slip into my clothes, come out from my mosquito tent, and see the beauty of the new young day. Dawn on a South Sea Island! The rainbow fancies of childhood painted out in real - the
 
Dreams of youth come back again,
Dropping on the ripened grain
As once upon the flower.
Iva, Pula-Ulu, and Kafi would be awake also, and moving about. No minute of daylight is ever wasted in these tropical islands; where all the year round the dawn lingers till after five, and the dark comes down long before seven. None of my house-mates had much toilet to make. They simply got up from their mats, hung up the pillows, put the mosquito nets away, and walked forth, clad in the cotton lava-lava of yesterday, which they had not taken off when they lay down. Taking soap and bundles of cocoanut fibre off the ever useful rafters they went to bathe in the nearest river. Before long they came back, fresh and clean, and wearing a new lava-lava yesterday's hanging limp and wet from their hands - the Samoan generally washes his garments at the same time as himself. then Iva boiled water for my tea, and produced cold baked bread-fruit and stewed fish, and I breakfasted, taking care to leave a good share of tea, butter, and any tinned food I might open, for the family to enjoy afterwards. It is a positive crime in Samoa to eat up any delicacy all by yourself - an offence indeed, which produces about the same impression on the Samoan mind as cheating at cards does upon the well-bred European. The natives themselves usually eat twice a day, about noon, and some time in the evening; but a Samoan is always ready to eat at any hour, provided there is something nice to be got. Good old Iva enjoyed my tea and tinned milk extremely, and so did her pet cronies. They used to call in now and then, in the hope of getting some.- a hope liberally fulfilled by Iva, who distributed my goods among them with charming courtesy, and a total innocence of any possible objection on my part, which disarmed all criticism. I might have taken anything she had, from her Sunday lava-lava to her fattest fowl, and kept it or given it away; equally without remonstrance. Such is the "faa Samoa."  That any one continues to retain anything worth having, under such circumstances, speaks well for the natural unselfishness of the people. They may be a little greedy with the whites - much as we ourselves should no doubt be greedy if half-a-dozen millionaires were to quarter themselves in our modest mansions, or come to stay to our quiet suburbs - but among themselves they are wonderfully self-restrained, and at the same time faultlessly generous. 
 
After my breakfast, following the agreeable Samoan custom, I lay down on a mat and dozed a little, to feel the wind blowing over my face from the sea, as I wandered half in and half out of the lands of dreams, and saw with semi-closed eyes the sun of the hot morning hours turn the green of the bush into a girdle of burning emerald-gold, clasped round the pleasant gloom of the dark over-circling roof. Pula-Ulu was out on "ploys" of his own; Kafi had tone to fish, or to flirt; Iva, pulling a fly-cover over her body, slept like a sheeted corpse on her own mat, on the other side of the central pillars. After an hour or two - there was never any time in Falepunu - I would rise, and call for Kafi, and we would walk slowly through the smiting sun, to a fairylike spot in the lovely bay of Faleta - a terrace of grey rock clothed with ferns, and shaded by thick-growing palms and chestnut and mango trees. The great white waterfall, cool as nothing else is cool in this burning land, thundered within fifty yards of us, turning the salt waters of the bay to brackish freshness, and spraying the hot air with its own delicious cold. Here we swam and dived for hours at a time, getting an old canoe sometimes, and paddling it up under the very spray of the fall - upsetting it perhaps, and tumbling out while Kafi yelled as if she could not swim a stroke, and anticipated immediate death (being, of course, absolutely amphibious). A pretty little minx was Kafi, small and black-eyed and piquante, always with a scarlet hibiscus bloom, or a yellow and white frangipani flower, stuck behind her ear; always tossing her head, and swaying her beautiful olive arms, and patting her small arched foot on the ground, when she stood waiting for me under the palms, as if could not keep her elastic little frame from dancing of itself. Pretty, saucy, mischievous little Kafi, she gave me many a bad moment wickedly calling out, "Shark!" when we were swimming far from land, in places where it was just conceivable that a shark might be; but I forgive her everything, for the sake of that unique and charming small personality of hers. Not even Fangati, the languorous sweet-eyed Taupo of Apia, can compete with her in my memories of fascinating island girls and pleasant companions.    
 
One morning - it must have been somewhere near the middle of the day - Iva and Kafi and I were walking back from Faleta, tired out and very hungry (at least; I will answer for myself), when we were hailed from the house of a chief, and asked to come in. We did so, all saying, as we bowed our heads to step under the low eaves; "Talofa!" (my love to you), and being answered with a loud chorus: "Talofa, tamaite! (lady); Talofa, Iva; Talofa, Kafi." I took my seat cross-legged on the mats, and looked about me. All round the house in a circle were seated a number of men, about a dozen, each with a bundle of cleaned and carded cocoanut husk fibre, called sinnet, beside him, and a slender plait of sinnet in his hand, to which every minute added on an inch or so of length. It was evidently a "bee" for making sinnet plait, and it solved a problem that had perplexed me a good deal - namely, how all the thousands of sinnet used instead of nails in building Samoan houses, were ever obtained. Afterwards I learned that Samoan men occupy much of their unlimited leisure time in plaiting sinnet. The bundle of husk and the neat little coil of plait are to a Samoan man what her needle and stockings are to a Scotch housewife; he works away mechanically with them in many an odd moment, all going to swell the big roll that is gradually widening and fattening up among the rafters. some of the sinnet thus made is as fine as fine twine, yet enormously strong.
 
My hosts it seemed, were just going to knock off work for the present, and have some kava, and I was not sorry to join them, for kava is a wonderfully refreshing drink among these tropical islands, and wholesome besides. It was made Tongan fashion, by pounding the dry woody root with stones, pouring water over the crushed fragments, and straining the latter out with a wisp of hibiscus fibre. A handsome wooden bowl was used, circular in form, and supported on a number of legs - the whole being curved out of one solid block of wood. The ancient Samoan way of preparation was to chew the kava root, and deposit the chewed lumps in the bowl, afterwards pouring on the water; but this practice has died out, in many parts of Samoa, though in some of the islands it is still kept up. My kava on this occasion was not chewed, and I was thankful, as it is unmannerly to refuse it under any circumstances. The kava made, the highest chief present called the names, according to etiquette, as in Tonga, in a loud resounding voice. I answered to my own (which came first, as a foreign chief) by clapping my hands, in the correct fashion and drained the cocoanut bowl that was handed me. Kava, as I had already learned, quenches thirst, removed fatigue, clears the brain, and is exceedingly cooling. If drunk in excess, it produces a temporary paralysis of the legs, without affecting th4e head; but very few natives and hardly any whites do drink more than is good for them.
 
After the kava, two young men came running in from the bush, carrying between them an immense black wooden bowl, spoon-shaped, three-legged, and filled with something exactly like bread-and-milk, which they had been concocting at the cooking-pits. It was raining now, and the thrifty y9ouths had taken off their clothes, for fear of spoiling them, yet they were dressed with perfect decency, and much picturesqueness. their attire consisted of thick fringed kilts, made of pieces of green banana leaves (a banana leaf is often nine or ten feet long, and two or three wide), and something like a leather boa, hung round the neck, of the same material. Clad in these rain-proof garments, they ran laughing through the downpour, their bowl covered with another leaf, and deposited it on the floor, safe and hot. A section of banana-leaf was now placed on the mat beside each person, also a skewer, made from the midrib of the cocoanut leaf. Then the servers dipped both hands generously into the food, and filled each leaf with the bread-and-milk, or "tafolo," which turned out to be lumps of bread-fruit stewed in thick white cream expressed from the meat of the cocoanut. Better eating no epicure could desire; and the food is exceedingly nourishing. We ate with the cocoanut skewers, on which each creamy lump was speared; and when all was done we folded the leaf-plates into a cone, and drank the remaining cream. Afterwards, Iva and Kafi and I took our leave, and I hurried back to Falepunu, feeling that my hunger and fatigue had been magically removed, and that I was ready for anything more in the way of exercise that the day might produce.   
 
I had no watch or clock with me, and this was certainly an advantage, since it compelled me to measure time in the pleasant island fashion, which simply marks out the day vaguely by hot hours and cool hours, and the recurring calls of hunger. No one who has not tried it can conceive the limitless freedom and leisure that comes of this custom. time is simply wiped out. One discovers all of a sudden, that one has been groaning under an unbearable and unnecessary tyranny all one's life 0 whence all the hurry-scurry of civilisation? why do people rush to catch trains and omnibuses, and hasten to make and keep appointments, and have meals at rigidly fixed times, whether they are hungry or not? These are the things that make life short. It is illimitably long, and curiously sweet and simple, in the island world. At first one finds or wanting to go to bed - that eating and sleeping are the impulse of a moment, and not a set task - but once realised, the sense of emancipation is exquisite and complete.
 
The Samoan does what he wants, when he wishes, and if he does not wish a thing, does not do it at all. According to the theology of our youthful days, he ought in consequence to become a fiend in human shape; but he does nothing of the kind. He is the most amiable creature on earth's round ball. Angry voices, loud tones even, are never heard in a Samoan house. Husbands never come home drunk in the evening and ill-use their wives; wives never nag at their husbands; no one screams at children, or snaps at house-mates and neighbours. Houses are never dirty; clothes are always kept clean; nothing is untidy, nothing superfluous or ugly. there is therefore no striking ground for ill-temper or peevishness; and amiability and courtesy reign supreme. The Samoan has his faults - sensuality, indolence, a certain bluntness of perception as to the white man's laws of property - but they are European. And, concerning the tendency to exploit the latter person, which has been already mentioned, it must not be forgotten that if a white man is known to be destitute and in want, the very people who would have eagerly sought for presents from him while he was thought to be rich, will take him in, food and lodge him, without a thought of payment, and will never turn him out if he does not choose to go.
 
Sometimes, in the long, lazy, golden afternoons, a woman or two would drop in, and bring with her some little dainty as a present for the stranger. "Palusani" was the favourite, made, as in Niue, of taro-tops and, cocoanut; the cook grating down the meat of the nuts, and straining water through the only mass thus produce4d. The cream is very cleverly wrapped up inside the leaves, and these are again enveloped in larger and tougher leaves. While baking, the cream thickens and condenses, and permeates the taro-tops completely. the resulting dish is a spinach-like mixture of dark green and white, odd to look at, but very rich and dainty to eat. Another present was a sort of sweetmeat, also made from cocoanut cream, which was baked into small brown balls like chocolates, each containing a lump of thickened cream inside. These were generally brought tied up in tiny square packets of green banana leaf. Small dumpy round puddings, made of native arrowroot, bananas, cocoanut, and sugar-cane juice, used also to be brought, tied up in the inevitable banana-leaf; and baked wild pigeon, tender and juicy, was another offering not at all unacceptable. As a typical millionaire, possessed of several dresses, change for some sovereigns, and countless tins of salmon, I was expected to give an occasional quid pro quo, which usually took the form of tinned fish or meat, and was much appreciated. 
 
I do not know how late it was, one night - the moon had been up for many hours, but no one seemed to want to go to bed - when I heard a sound of splashing and laughing from the brightly silvered lagoon beyond the belt of palms. I went out, and saw thirty or forty of the native women wading about in the shallow water inside the reef, catching fish. It looked interesting, so I shed an outer skirt or two, kilted up what remained, and ran down the white shelving beach, all pencilled with the feathery shadows of tossing palms, into the glassy kne4e-deep water. How war it was! as hot as a tepid bath at home - how the gorgeous moonlight flashed back from the still lagoon, as from a huge silver shield! The whole place was as light as day; not as a Samoan day, which is too like the glare from an open furnace to be pleasant at all times, but at least, as light as a grey English afternoon. The girls, wearing only a small lava-lava, were wading in the water, some carrying a big, wide net made out of fine fibres beaten from the bark of a Samoan tree; others trailing two long fringes of plaited palm leaves, about a yard deep, and twenty or thirty yards long. these were drawn through the water about twenty yards apart, the girls walking along for a few minutes in two parallel rows, and then quickly bringing the ends of the palm fringes together in an open V shape. The net was placed across the narrow end of the V, and from the wise end two or three splashed noisily down the enclosed space, driving before them into the net all the little silvery fish who had been gathered together by the sudden closing in of the palm-leaf fringes. Then there was laughing and crying out, bronze figures, graceful as statues, stretching out their small pretty hands and wild curly heads, diamond-gemmed with scattered drops of water, over the gathered-in net, now sparkling and quivering with imprisoned life. the captured fish were dropped into a plaited palm-leaf basket; and then the two lines of girls separated once more, and marched on through the warm silvery water, singing as they went.
 
I think, though I do not know, that this simple sport (which was after all, a necessary task as well) went on nearly all the night. The Samoan is not easily bored, and no one minds losing a night's rest, when there is all the hot day to doze on the mats. I gave up an hour or so, and returned to the guest-house, loaded with presents of fish. It was quite absurd, but I wanted to go to bed, , silly inferior white person that I was! so I crept under my calico tent, and "turned in," feeling amid the stir and chatter, the singing and wandering to and fro, of those moonlit small hours, exceedingly like a child that has to follow nurse and go to sleep, while all the grown-ups are still enjoying themselves downstairs.
 
The night before I left for Apia once more, I bought my farewell presents at the solitary little store that was marooned away down on the beach at Faleta, and bore on its house front the mysterious legend -- "MISIMOA" -- all in one word - translatable as "Mr. Moore!" Advised by the trader's native wife, I got several lava-lavas for the old chief and his wife, also a "Sunday frock" piece of white muslin, and some lace, for Iva herself. Poor old Iva! she could not afford herself many clothes, being only a caretaker in the great house; and I had felt sorry for her when I saw her missionary-meeting frock - only an old blue print.  All the Samoan women love to turn out in trade finery on Sundays, and a white muslin, with lace, made exactly like a British nightdress, is the height of elegance and good form. I gave Pula-Ulu, furthermore, a yellow shirt spotted with red horses; and as a final gift for Iva, I selected a large white English bath-towel, with crimson stripes and edge. The last I knew would certainly be Iva's best week-day visiting costume for some time to come. All these splendours I tied up in a brown paper parcel, and left on my portmanteau. Samoan etiquette is very strict about the giving and receiving of presents, and prescribes absolute ignorance, on the part of the recipient, of any such intention being about; but Iva could not resist pinching the parcel, and whispering - "Misi! what 'sat?"
 
"Ki-ki, Iva," (good), I answered.
"You lie!" said Iva delightedly, poking me in the ribs. She had no idea that she was not expressing herself with the most perfect elegance and courtesy; the Samoan tongue has no really rude words, and Samoans often do not realise the quality of our verbal unpoliteness.
 
Next morning, however, when my "solofanua" (animal that runs along the ground=horse) was standing out under the bread-fruit trees, and all my goods had been tied about the saddle, till the venerable animal looked like nothing on earth but the White Knight's own horse - Iva and Pula-Ulu, bidding me good-bye with the utmost dignity, did not even glance at the parcels which I threw across the house, and their heads, narrowly escaping hitting their old grey hair. This was etiquette. In Samoa, a formal gift must be thrown high in the air at the recipient, so as to fall at his feet; and he must not pick it up at once, but simply say "Fafetai" (thank you) with a cold and unmoved accent, waiting until the giver is gone to examine the present. The inner meaning of the custom is the supposed worthlessness of the gift, when compared with the recipient's merits - it is mere rubbish, to be cast away - and the demeanour of the recipient himself is intended to suggest that in any case he is not eager for gifts.
 
A long, hot ride of twenty miles back to Apia and civilisation filled up the day. The pendulum of Time, held back for a whole dreamy, lazy work, had begun to swing once more; and all day I worried about the hour I should get in. I was late for table d'hote; I was met by a "little bill"; and the mail had come in since I left. Thus Apia welcomed me; and thus I "took up the white man's burden" once again.
 
*     *     *     *     *     *
 
"Talofa!" say a gentle yet insistent voice.
It is only half-past six, and I am exceedingly sleepy, so I bury my face in the pillow, and try not to hear.
"Talofa!" (How do you do?), repeats the voice, a little louder, and my basket armchair creaks to the sudden drop of  a substantial weight. I open my eyes, and see,  through the dim mist of the mosquito-curtains, the taupo, Fangati, sitting beside my bed.
 
Fangati is my "flennie," and that means a good deal more in Samoa than the cold English word "friend," from which it is derived. She attached herself to me upon my arrival in Apia, some weeks ago, and has ever since continued to indicate, in the gentle Samoan way, that she prefers my company to that of any other white woman on the island. There is nothing contrary to Samoan etiquette in her calling upon me at 6.30 a.m., for Samoa knows not times or seasons, save such as are pleasing to itself for the moment. If I were suffering from sleeplessness and went to call on Fangati at midnight, she would certainly awake, get up off her mat, take a fan in her hands, sit down cross-legged on the floor, ready to talk or yarn for the rest of the night - without the smallest surprise or discomposure. so, aspiring after the ideal of Samoan politeness, I feel bound to shake myself awake, and talk.
 
Fangati is very much "got up" this morning. She is a chief's daughter, of high rank, and her wardrobe is an extensive one. To-day she has a short tunic of tappa (native cloth, beaten out of the bark of a paper mulberry tree), satiny brown in colour, and immensely pinked and fringed. This is worn over a lava-lava, or kilt, of purple trade print, reaching a little below her knees. Her beautiful pale brown arms (all Samoan women have exquisitely shaped arms) and small arched brown feet are bare. In her thick, wavy hair she has placed one large scarlet hibiscus flower, and there are three or four long necklaces round her neck, made of the crimson rind of a big scented berry, cut into curly strips. One of these, as a matter of common courtesy, she flings over my nightdress as we talk, and smiles sweetly at the brilliant effect achieved.
 
"Ni--ce!" says Fangati. She can speak quite a good deal of English, but she smooths and trims it prettily to suit her own taste, and the harsh language of the black North loses all its roughness on her lips. She has come to tell me that there will be dancing at the village of Mulinuu this afternoon, as it is the German Emperor's birthday, and a great many kegs of salt beef and boxes of biscuit have been given to the villages by the Government, to celebrate the day.  (Not such a bad method of encouraging loyalty in a newly acquired colony, either.) There are to be some taupo dances, and Fangati will take a leading part. therefore I must be certain to come and see my "flennie" perform. This matter settled, Fangati gets up and drifts to the washstand, tastes my cold cream and makes a face over it, points to a jug of cold tea and says "You give?" shares the luxury with her ancient chaperon, who is sitting on the doormat, and then melts away down the verandah, dreamily smoking a native-made cigarette.
 
It is now time to explain what a taupo is, and why the dance to-day will be especially attractive.
 
Most Samoan villages possess a taupo, or mistress of the ceremonies, who has many duties and many privileges as well. She is always young, pretty, and well-born, being usually the daughter of a high chief. She remains unmarried during her term of office, which may last for many years, or for only a few months. The propriety of her conduct is guaranteed by the constant presence of certain old women, who always accompany her on visits or journeys. sometimes her train is increased by the addition of a dwarf or a cripple, who seems to act a part somewhat similar to hat of a medieval court fool. Her duties oblige her to receive and entertain all guests or travellers who pass through her village; to make kava (the universal drink of the Pacific islands) for them, welcome them to the guest-house, which is a part of every Samoan settlement, and dance for their amusement. She is treated with royal honours by the villagers, always handsomely clothed, and luxuriously fed on pig and chicken, and never required to do any hard work, while the other girls have to be content with taro-root and bread-fruit, and are obliged to work in the fields, carry water, and fish on the reef in the burning tropic son. when there is a festival, she takes the principal part in the dances; and when the tribes are at war (as occasionally happens even to-day) the taupo, dressed as a warrior, marches out with the ceremonial parade of the troops, and acts as a vivandiere during the fight, carrying water to the soldiers, and bringing ammunition when required. This duty is not one of the safest, for, although no Samoan warrior knowingly fires on any woman, much less on a taupo, stray bullets take no account of persons, and many a beautiful young "Maid of the Village," in times past, has justified her warrior dress by meeting with a soldier's death.
 
Well-mannered as all Samoan women are, the taupo is especially noted for the elegance of her demeanour. My "flennie's" bearing reminds me oddly at times of the manner of a London great lady, accustomed to constant receiving and become in consequence almost mechanically "gracious," She never moves abruptly; her speech is calm and self-possessed, and her accent soft and trainant. There are, however, taupos and taupos. Vao, who lives just across the way, is by way of being an "advanced woman." She plays naive cricket in a man's singlet and a kilt, dances a knife dance that tries the nerves of every one that looks on, wears her hair short and is exceedingly independent, and a little scornful. Vao does not want to marry she says; but I have an idea, all the same, that if  just the right sort of young chief came along, with just the irresistible number of baskets of food (these take the place of bouquets and chocolate boxes among Samoan wooers). Vao would renounce her dignity of taupo just as readily as other Maids of the Village have done when Mr. Right appeared. On her wedding day she would dance her last dance for the villagers, according to immemorial custom, and thenceforward live the quiet home-life of the Samoan wife and mother, all the footlights out, all the admiring audience gone, and only the little coral-carpeted, brown-rooted cottage with its small home duties and quiet home affections left.
 
Then there is the Taupo Fuamoa - but of her more anon, as the Victorian novelist used to say.
 
Early in the afternoon, when the sun was of its very hottest - and what that heat can be, at 13 degrees south, in the height of the hot season, let Pacific travellers say - I made my way down to Mulinuu under a big umbrella, and took my place on the mats laid to accommodate the spectators. The dancing was in full swing. A long row of young men, dressed in short kilts of many-coloured bark strips - red, pink, green, yellow, purple - and decked out with anklets of green creepers and necklaces of big scarlet berries, which looked just like enormous coral beads, were twirling and pirouetting, retreating, advancing, and waving their arms, in wonderfully perfect time. The Samoan, man or woman, is born with a metronome concealed somewhere in his or her works, to all appearance. Certainly the exquisite sense of time and movement displayed in children's games, grown-up dances, and all the songs of the people, seems almost supernatural, as the result of unaided impulse.   
 
The arms and hands play a remarkable part in the dance. Every finger is made a means of expression, and the simultaneous flattering and waving of the arms of an entire cops-de-ballet can be compared to nothing but the petals of a bed of flowers, sent hither and thither by a capricious wind. there is no instrumental music, for the Samoans - strange to say, for a music-loving people - have no instruments at all, unless one may count the occasional British mouth-organ. But the sonorous, full-voiced chanting of the chorus that sits cross-legged on the grass at a little distance, leaves nothing to be desired in the way of orchestra. A favourite tune, which one is sure to hear at every Samoan dance-meeting or "siva" is the following: commended with a loud "Ai, ai!"
 
It is first sung very slowly, and gradually increased in speed until the dancers give up in despair. The faster they have danced before giving in, the louder is the applause. By-and-by the men conclude their dance, and retire, loudly clapped and followed by cries of "Malo! malo!" (well done). A short interval follows. The many-coloured crowd seated on the grass fans itself, smokes cigarettes, and chatters; the dry palm-fronds rustle in the burning sky overheard, harshly mimicking the cook whisper of forest leaves in gentler climes. suddenly six handsome young men, splendidly decorated, their brown skins satiny with rubbing of perfumed cocoanut-oil, rush into the middle of the green, and in the midst comes a seventh, smaller, slighter, and handsomer than the rest. What a beautiful youth! almost too young, one would have thought, for the smart black moustache that curves above his upper lip - wonderfully active, supple, and alive in every movement - a skin like brown Lyons silk, limbs --- Why, it is a girl! the taupo Fuamoa, dressed (or rather undressed) as a Samoan warrior, and full to the brim of mischief sparkle, and fun. She wears a fringe of coloured bark-strips round her waist and a very big kilt of scarlet and white striped cotton underneath. The rest of her attire consists of a necklace of whale's teeth inestimably valuable, a string of red berries, and a tall helmet, or bushby, apparently made of brilliant yellow fur. Her exquisitely moulded figure is as Nature made it, save for a rubbing of cocoanut-oil, that only serves to bring out the full beauty of every curving line. Strange to say, the black-painted moustache is wonderfully becoming, so too is the imposing helmet; and does not Fuamoa know it? and is not she saucy, and dainty, and kitten-like, as she frisks and plays in the center of the dance, making the prettiest of eyes at the audience, and flashing her white teeth delightedly under the wicked little black moustache? She is a celebrated dancer, being only surpassed on the island by one other taupo - Vao, who is not appearing to-day. You would never think, as her little brown feet twinkle over the grass, and her statuesque brown arms wave above her head, while the merry smile ceaselessly comes and goes, that Faumoa is suffering positive agonies all the t8me, from the splendid war-helmet that adorns her head; yet that is the truth. One must indeed suffer to be beautiful, as a Samoan taupo. Before the helmet is put on, the girl's long thick hair is drawn up to the top of her head, and twisted as tightly as strong arms can twist it, so that her very eyebrows are pulled out of place, and every hair is a separate torture. Then the great helmet is fastened on as firmly as a rock, with countless tight cords, and the dancer is ready for her part, with a scalp on fire and a torturing headache, which will certainly last until she can take the cruel decoration off.
 
There are several taupo dances this afternoon, but only two of the girls have the courage to wear the helmet. Fangati, my little "flennie," frankly confesses that she cannot stand it. "He made me cly-y-y! too much!" she says, and shows me the pretty wreath of crimson berry peelings and green leaves that is to adorn her own curly head. These helmets, it may be noted, are not made of fur, as one might suppose at a first glance. The material is human hair, cut from the head of a Samoan girl, and dyed bright yellow with lime. In time of war, it is a common thing for a girl to offer up her beautiful tresses to make a helmet for father, husband, or lover; and the wearer of such a gift is as proud as a knight of Arthur's round Table may have been, bearing on his crest his lady's little pearl-broidered glove.  It is Fangati's turn to dance now, and out she trips, wearing a valuable mat of the finest plait, her pretty wreath, countless scarlet necklaces, and a modest girdle of coloured silk, Fangati has the prettiest foot and hand in Apia, and she is a dainty little dancer, not so marvellously agile and spirited as Fuamoa, and with much less of "devil" in her composition, but a pretty and pleasant creature to watch. She has reached the twenties, and gone neatly half-way through them, so that she is in a fair way to become an old maid, according to Samoan ideas; but she still retains her maiden state, and declares she will not marry, in spite of good offers from several chiefs. It is said in Apia that she is proud, and wishes to marry a white man - which is much as if a charming English country girl should determine to mate with nothing less than a duke. Country lasses do marry dukes but not often; and there is not much more chance of my "flennie's" attaining her ambition, unless Providence is very kind.  
 
The ordinary Samoan is obliged to a little work now and then, since yam patches must be cultivated, bread-fruit plucked an cooked, banana and arrowroot puddings made, fish caught, nets woven, houses built and repaired. But all is all there is not much to do, and the real business of life in Samoa is amusement. Le monde ou l'on s'amuse, for most people means a certain circle of London and Paris; but for all who have travelled in the South Seas, it means, once and for all, Samoa. The taupo is of course at the head and front of every diversion, for, little as the other people have to do, she has less, having nothing at all. a day at a Papaseea is one of her favourite delights. During my stay in Samoa one of these pleasant native picnics was organised for me, and I set off on a lovely morning for the "Sliding Rock," accompanied by fifteen native and half-cast girls, stowed away in six buggies. It was a long drive in the burning sun, and afterwards a long rough walk through the bush, among wild pineapples, scarlet hibiscus, tall, creamy-flowered, pungent, scented ginger-bushes, red-fruited cacao, quaint mammee-apple trees, mangoes, Pacific chestnuts, and countless other strange tropic growths. Hot and tired as we all were the Papaseea rock, when we reached it, seemed a perfect Paradise.   
 
Imagine a deep gorge in the heart of green, heavily-wooded hills; at the bottom a narrow channel shaded by overhanging trees, where the pure mountain water runs clear and and cold and deep, amber-brown pools quiver at the foot of white plunging falls - one only some seven feet high, the other a good thirty, This last was the Sliding Rock, over which we sere all going to fling ourselves a la Sappho by-and-by, only with less melancholy consequences. It looked formidable enough, and when Fangati and the others, with cries of delight, pulled off their dresses wound white and pink and green cotton lava-lavas over one shoulder, and round from waist to knee, crowned themselves picturesquely with woven fern-leaves, and plunged shrieking over the fall. I began to wish I had not come, or coming had not promised to "slide." However, there was no help for it, so I got into my English bathing-dress, which excited peals of merry laughter, because of its "continuations," waded down the stream, and sitting in the rush of the water, held tightly on to a rock at each side, and looked over my own toes at the foaming, roaring thirty feet drop. 
 
It was all over in a minute. Just an unclasping of unwilling hands from the safe black rocks, a fierce tug from the tearing stream, an exceedingly unpleasant instant when one realised that there was no going back now at any price, and that the solid earth had slipped away as it does in the ghastly drop of a nightmare dream;; then nothing in the world but a long loud roar, and a desperate holding of the breath, while the helpless body shot down to the bottom of the deep brown pool and up again - and at last, the warm air of heaven filling one's grateful lungs in big gasps, as one reached the surface, and swam across to the other side of the pool, firmly resolved on no account to do it again, now that it was over.
 
It was pleasant, afterwards, to sit among the rocks above the fall, and watch one after another, of the native and half-caste girls - including a very charming and highly educated half-American, who had been to college in San Francisco, and to smart society dances in Samoa - rush madly over the fall, leaving behind them as they went a long, loud yell, like the whistle of a train going into a tunnel. One native girl daringly went down head first; another, standing incautiously near the edge of the fall, dropping through the air with arms and legs outspread like a starfish. Fangati seized a friend in her arms and tumbled over the verge with her, in a perfect Catherine wheel of revolving limbs. It was hours before the riotous party grew tired, and even then, only the sight of large green leaves being laid out on the stones, and palm-leaf baskets being opened, brought them out of the water, and got them into their little sleeveless tunics and gracefully draped kilts. By this time, the pretty Samoan-American's mother had laid out the "ki-ki" - baked fowl and pig, taro-root, yams, bananas, pineapples, guavas, European delicacies such as cake and pies, and native dainties, including the delicious palusami, of which I have spoken before. The drinking cocoanuts had been husked and opened by the boy who brought the food, and there they stood among the stones, rows of rough ivory cups lined with smooth ivory jelly of the young soft meat, and filled with fresh sweet water, such as is never to be tasted out of the cocoanut-land. Our plates were sections of green banana-leaf; our forks were our fingers. And when every one had fed, and felt hap0py and lazy, we all lay among the rocks above the fall, in the green shadow of the trees, and did nothing whatever till evening. Then we climbed back too the road, and drove home, six buggies full of laughing brown and white humanity, crowned and wreathed with green ferns, and singing the sweet, sad song of Samoa ' "Good-bye, my flennie" - the song that was written by a native only a few years ago, and has already become famous over the whole Pacific. It is the farewell song of every island lover, the melody that soars above the melancholy rattling of the anchor chains on every outward-bound schooner that spreads her white wings upon the breast of the great South Seas. And for those who have known the moonlight nights of those enchanted shores, have smelt the frangipani flower, and listened to the soft singing girls in the endless, golden afternoons, and watched the sun go down upon an empty, sailless sea, behind the weird pandanus and drooping palms - the sweet song of the islands will ring in the heart for ever. In London rush and rain and gloom, in the dust and glitter of levered Paris, in the dewy cold green woods of English country homes, the Samoan air will whisper, calling, calling, calling, - back to the murmur of the palms, and the singing of the coral reef, and the purple tropic night once more.  
 

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An extract from IN THE STRANGE SOUTH SEAS by BEATRICE GRIMSHAW, published in London by Hutchinson & Co., 1908. 

 
Samoa Visit 1 - In The Backwaters Of Western Samoa
 
Samoa Visit 2 - American Samoa: The Littered :Lagoon
 

Extracts from THE HAPPY ISLES OF OCEANIA by Paul Theroux, published in London by Hamish Hamilton, 1992. 

 
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