The Marquesans never made a pot. They had clay in their soil, as Gauguin proved by using it for his modeling, but they had no need of pottery, using exclusively the gourds from the vines, wooden vessels hollowed out, and temporary cups of leaves.
This absence of pottery is another proof of the lengthy isolation of the islands. The Tongans had earthen ware which they learned to make from the Fijians, but the Polynesians had left the mainland before the beginning of this art. Thus they remained a people who were, despite their startling advances in many lines, the least encumbered by useful inventions of any race in the world.
Until hardly more than a hundred years ago the natives were like our forefathers who lived millenniums ago in Europe. But being in a gentler climate, they were gentler, happier, merrier, and far cleaner. One can hardly dwell in a spirit of filial devotion upon the relation of our forefathers to soap and water, but these Marquesans bathed several times daily in dulcet streams and found soap and emollients to hand.
It was curious to me to reflect, while Pere Olivier and I stood watching the two aged crones beating out the tapa cloth, upon what slender chance hung the difference between us. Far in the remote mists of time, when a tribe set out upon its wanderings from the home land, one man, perhaps, hesitated, dimly felt the dangers and uncertainties before it, weighed the advantages of remaining behind, and did not go. Had he gone, I or any one of Caucasian blood in the world to-day, might have been a Marquesan.
It would be interesting, I thought, to consider what the hundred thousand years that have passed since that day have given us of joy, of wealth of mind and soul and body, of real value in customs and manners and attitude toward life, compared to what would have been our portion in the islands of the South Seas before his white cousin fell upon the Marquesan.
Fishing in Hanavave; a deep-sea battle with a shark; Red Chicken shows how to tie ropes to shark’s tails; night-fishing for dolphins, and the monster sword-fish that overturned the canoe; the native doctor dresses Red Chicken’s wounds and discourses on medicine.
Grelet returned to Oomoa in the whale-boat, but I remained in Hanavave for the fishing. My presence had stimulated the waning interest of the few remaining Marquesans, and the handful of young men and women went with me often to the sea outside the Bay of Virgins, where we lay in the blazing sunshine having great sport with spear or hook and line.