Then came blankness until I awoke several hours after midnight. I was sitting on the curbing of the Pool of Psyche, and some one was holding my hand. I thought it must be Atupu or Lovaina, and groped for a moment before I could pull my senses together. I looked up, and saw a wreathed and bearded native, and then down and saw his attire, mixed man’s and woman’s, and knew he was one of the mahus who loafed about the queen’s grounds. I drew away my hand as from a serpent’s jaws, and clasped my head, which rocked in anguish. A horrid chuckle or dismal throaty sound caused me to see the Dummy standing in the gateway, looking contemptuously at me, and witheringly at my companion. I had a second’s thought of myself as a son of Laocooen.
The mahu got up and hastened away, and Vava put his hand on my shoulder and lifted me as a child to the road. He pointed toward the Annexe, and as I went haltingly with him, he now and again uttered unearthly cackles and bawls as if enjoying a farce I could not see. He, like the mahu, was one of those mishaps of nature assigned to play an absurd and sorry part in the tragicomedy of life in which all must act the roles assigned by the great author-manager until death puts us out of the cast. In that scene I myself was the buffoon of fate.
A journey to Mataiea—I abandon city life—Interesting sights on the route—The Grotto of Maraa—Papara and the Chief Tati—The plantation of Atimaono—My host, the Chevalier Tetuanui.
Life in the country made me laugh at myself for having so long stayed in the capital. The fever of Papeete had long since cooled in my veins. A city man myself, I might have known that all capitals are noxious. Great cities are the wens on the body of civilization. They are aggregations of sick people, who die out in the third generation. Greed builds them. Crowded populations increase property values and buy more manufactured luxuries. The country sends its best to perish in these huddlements. In America, where money interests boom cities and proudly boast their corruption in numbers, half the people are already in these webs in which the spider of commerce eats its victims, but ultimately may perish for lack of food. Brick and steel grow nothing.
I had made excursions from Papeete, but always carrying the poisons of the town with me. At last my playmates deserted me. Lying Bill and McHenry sailed on their schooner for the Paumotu and the Marquesas islands, Landers left for Auckland, and Count Polonsky for a flying visit to America. Llewellyn, though an interesting study, learned in native ways, and with comparisons of Europe and America, was too atrabilious, and, besides, had with his young partner, David, abandoned himself to the night life, the cinema bars, with their hilarious girls and men, the prize-fights, and the dancing on the beach in the starlight. Schlyter, the tailor, an occasional companion, was busied cutting and sewing a hundred uniforms for a war-ship’s crew.