The Great Taboo eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 280 pages of information about The Great Taboo.

“Water,” Tu-Kila-Kila said, with half-tipsy solemnity, “you are a god too.  Your power is very great.  But less than mine.  Do, then, as I bid you.  If any man touch my spirits, whom I have brought from my home in the sun in a fiery ship, before I bid him to-morrow, overturn his canoe, and drown him in lagoon or spring or ocean.  If any woman go near them without Tu-Kila-Kila’s leave, bind her hand and foot with ropes of porpoise hide, and cast her out into the surf, and dash her with your waves, and pummel her to pieces.”

The King of Water bent his head a second time.  “I am a great god,” he answered, “before all others save you:  but for you, Tu-Kila-Kila, I haste to do your bidding.  If any man disobey you, my billows shall rise and overwhelm him in the sea.  I am a great god.  I claim each year many drowned victims.”

“But not so many as me,” Tu-Kila-Kila interposed, his hand playing on his knife with a faint air of impatience.

“But not so many as you,” the minor god added, in haste, as if to appease his rising anger.  “Fire and Water ever speed to do your bidding.”

Tu-Kila-Kila stood up, turned toward the distant flame, and waved his hands round and round three times before him.  “Let this be for you all a great taboo,” he said, glancing once more toward his awe-struck followers.  “Now the mysteries are over.  Tu-Kila-Kila will sleep.  He has eaten of human flesh.  He has drunk of cocoanut rum and of new kava.  He has brought back his sun on its way in the heavens.  He has sent it messengers of fire to reinforce its strength.  He has fetched from it messengers in turn with fresh fire to Boupari, fire not lighted from any earthly flame; fire new, divine, scorching, unspeakable.  To-morrow we will talk with the spirits he has brought.  To-night we will sleep.  Now all go to your homes; and tell your women of this great taboo, lest they speak to the spirits, and fall into the hands of Fire or of Water.”

The savages dropped on their faces before the eye of their god and lay quite still.  They made a path as it were from the pyre to the temple door with their prostrate bodies.  Tu-Kila-Kila, walking with unsteady steps over their half-naked forms, turned to his hut in a drunken booze.  He walked over them with no more compunction or feeling than over so many logs.  Why should he not, indeed?  For he was a god, and they were his meat, his servants, his worshippers.


The guests of heaven.

All that night through—­their first lonely night on the island of Boupari—­Felix sat up by his flickering fire, wide awake, half expecting and dreading some treacherous attack of the unknown savages.  From time to time he kept adding dry fuel to his smouldering pile; and he never ceased to keep a keen eye both on the lagoon and the reef, in case an assault should be made upon them suddenly by land or water.  He knew the South Seas quite well enough already to have all the possibilities of misfortune floating vividly before his eyes.  He realized at once from his own previous experience the full loneliness and terror of their unarmed condition.

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The Great Taboo from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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