White Shadows in the South Seas eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 365 pages of information about White Shadows in the South Seas.

At midnight the man with the elephantiasis removed his pareu to free his enormous legs for dancing, and he and the others, their hands joined, moved ponderously in a tripping circle before the couch on which I lay.  The chant was now a recital of my merits, the chief of which was that I was a friend of Grelet, that mighty man wiser than Iholomoni (Solomon), with more wives than that great king, and stronger heart to chase the wild bull.  He steers a whale-boat with a finger, but no wave can tear the helm from his grasp.  Long has he been in Oomoa, just and brave and generous has he been, and his rum is the best that is made in the far island of Tahiti.

So passed the night and the rum, in a pandemonium of voices, gyrating tattooed bodies, flashes of red and yellow and blue pareus, rolling eyes, curls of smoke drifting under the gently moving canvas ceiling, while from the garden came the scent of innumerable dewy flowers; and at intervals in the chanting I heard from the darkness of the bay the sound of a conch-shell blown on some wayfaring boat.

I dozed, and wakened to see Grelet asleep.  Pae was still filling the emptied cocoanut-shells, and the swollen green man postured before me like some horrid figment of a dream.  I roused myself again.  Pae had locked up the song-maker, and all the tattooed men slumbered where they sat, the Paumotan boys with sunbonnets tied about their heads lay in their corner, dreaming, perhaps, of their loved home on Pukaruha.  I woke again to find the garden green and still in the gray morning, and the veranda vacant.

The Marquesans were all in the river, lying down among the boulders to cool their aching heads.  The fefe sufferer stood like a slime-covered rock in the stream.  His swollen legs hurt him dreadfully.  Rum is not good for fefe.

“Guddammee!” he said to me in his one attempt at our cultured language, and put his body deep in a pool.

CHAPTER XXX

A visit to Hanavave; Pere Olivier at home; the story of the last battle between Hanahouua and Oi, told by the sole survivor; the making of tapa cloth, and the ancient garments of the Marquesans.

Grelet said that the conch I had heard at night sounding off Oomoa must have been in a canoe or whale-boat bound for Hanavave, a valley a dozen miles away over the mountains, but only an hour or so by sea.  It might have brought a message of interest, or perhaps would be a conveyance to my own valley, so in mid-forenoon we launched Grelet’s whale-boat for a journey to Hanavave.

Eight men carried the large boat from its shelter to the water, slung on two short thick poles by loops of rope through holes in prow and stern.  It was as graceful as a swan, floating in the edge of the breakers.  Driving it through the surf was cautious, skilful work, at which Grelet was a master.  Haupupuu, who built the boat, a young man with the features of Bonaparte and a blase expression, was at the bow, and three other Marquesans, with the two Paumotan boys, handled the oars.  There was no wind and they rowed all the way, spurting often for love of excitement.

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White Shadows in the South Seas from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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