My voice sounded as that of another. I leaned harder against the wall and closed my eyes.
“He goes fast,” said Broken Plate, gladly.
A peace passing the understanding of the kava-ignorant was upon me. Life was a slumbrous calm; not dull inertia, but a separated activity, as if the spirit roamed in a garden of beauty, and the body, all suffering, all feeling past, resigned itself to quietude.
I heard faintly the chants of the men as they began improvising the after-feasting entertainment. I was perfectly aware of being lifted by several women to within the house, and of being laid upon mats that were as soft to my body as the waters of a quiet sea. It was as if angels bore me on a cloud. All toil, all effort was over; I should never return to care and duty. Dimly I saw a peri waving a fan, making a breeze scented with ineffable fragrance.
I was then a giant, prone in an endless ease, who stretched from the waterfall at the topmost point of the valley to the shore of the sea, and about me ran in many futile excitements the natives of Atuona, small creatures whose concerns were naught to me.
That vision melted after eons, and I was in the Oti dance in the Paumotas, where those old women who pose and move by the music of the drums, in the light of the burning cocoanut husks, leap into the air and remain so long that the white man thinks he sees the law of gravitation overcome, remaining fixed in space three or four feet from the ground while one’s heart beats madly and one’s brain throbs in bewilderment. I was among these aged women; I surpassed them all, and floated at will upon the ether in an eternal witches’ dance of more than human delight.
The orchestra of nature began a symphony of celestial sounds. The rustling of the palm-leaves, the purling of the brook, and the song of the komoko, nightingale of the Marquesas, mingled in music sweeter to my kava-ravished ears than ever the harp of Apollo upon Mount Olympus. The chants of the natives were a choir of voices melodious beyond human imaginings. Life was good to its innermost core; there was no struggle, no pain, only an eternal harmony of joy.
* * * * *
I slept eight hours, and when I awoke I saw, in the bright oblong of sunlight outside the open door, Kivi squeezing some of the root of evil for a hair of the hound that had bitten him.
[Illustration: The Pekia, or Place of Sacrifice, at Atuona]
[Illustration: Marquesan cannibals, wearing dress of human hair]
A journey to Taaoa; Kahuiti, the cannibal chief, and his story of an old war caused by an unfaithful woman.
It was a chance remark from Mouth of God that led me to take a journey over the hills to the valley of Taaoa, south of Atuona. Malicious Gossip and her husband, squatting one evening on my mats in the light of the stars, spoke of the Marquesan custom in naming children.