Samoa, A Hundred Years Ago And Long Before eBook

George Turner (writer)
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 230 pages of information about Samoa, A Hundred Years Ago And Long Before.
to the ridge pole; then they do another row, and so on all round the house.  Two, three, or four thousand of these fringed reeds may be required for a good-sized house.  This thatching, if well done, will last for seven years.  To collect the sugar-cane leaves, and “sew,” as it is called, the ends on to the reeds, is the work of the women.  An active woman will sew fifty reeds in a day, and three men will put up and fasten on to the roof of the house some five hundred in a day.  Corrugated iron, shingles, and other contrivances, are being tried by European residents; but, for coolness and ventilation, nothing beats the thatch.  The great drawback is, that in gales it stands up like a field of corn, and then the rain pours into the house.  That, however, may be remedied by a network of cinnet, to keep down the thatch, or by the native plan of covering all in with a layer of heavy cocoa-nut leaves on the approach of a gale.

These great circular roofs are so constructed that they can be lifted bodily off the posts, and removed anywhere, either by land, or by a raft of canoes.  But in removing a house, they generally divide the roof into four parts—­viz. the two sides, and the two ends, where there are particular joints left by the carpenters, which can easily be untied, and again fastened.  There is not a single nail in the whole building; all is made fast with cinnet.  As Samoan houses often form presents, fines, dowries, as well as articles of barter, they are frequently removed from place to place.  The arrangement of the houses in a village has no regard whatever to order.  You rarely see three houses in a line.  Every one puts his house on his little plot of ground, just as the shade of the trees, the direction of the wind, the height of the ground, etc., may suit his fancy.

A house, after the usual Samoan fashion just described, has but one apartment.  It is the common parlour, dining-room, etc., by day, and the bedroom of the whole family by night.  They do not, however, altogether herd indiscriminately.  If you peep into a Samoan house at midnight, you will see five or six low oblong tents pitched (or rather strung up) here and there throughout the house.  They are made of native cloth, five feet high, and close all round down to the mat.  They shut out the mosquitoes, and enclose a place some eight feet by five; and these said tent-looking places may be called the bedrooms of the family.  Four or five mats laid loosely, the one on the top of the other, form the bed.  The pillow is a piece of thick bamboo, three inches in diameter, three to five feet long, and raised three inches from the mat by short wooden feet.  The sick are indulged with something softer, but the hard bamboo is the invariable pillow of health.  The bedding in old times was complete with a single mat or sheet of native cloth.  In the morning the tent was unstrung, mats, pillow, and sheet rolled together, and laid up overhead on a shelf between the posts in the middle of the house.

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Samoa, A Hundred Years Ago And Long Before from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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