Many white men can not eat the varo. Some lose appetite at its appearance, its likeness to a gigantic thousand-leg, and others find that it rests uneasy within them, as though each claw, or tooth of the comb, viciously stabbed their interiors. I found them excellent when wrapped in leaves of the hotu-tree and fried in brown butter, and they were very good when broiled over a fire on the beach. One takes the beastie in his fingers and sucks out the meat. Beginners should keep their eyes closed during this operation.
Court day in Atuona; the case of Daughter of the Pigeon and the sewing-machine; the story of the perfidy of Drink of Beer and the death of Earth Worm who tried to kill the governor.
The Marquesan was guaranteed his day in court. There was one judge in the archipelago and one doctor, and they were the same, being united in the august person of M. L’Hermier des Plantes, who was also the pharmacist. The jolly governor, in his twenties, with medical experience in an African army post and in barracks in France, was irked by his judicial and administrative duties, though little troubled by his medical functions, since he had few drugs and knew that unless these were swallowed by the patient in his presence they would be tried upon the pigs or worn as an amulet around the neck. Faithful to his orders, however, the judge sat upon the woolsack Saturdays, unless it was raining or he wished to shoot kuku.
One Saturday morning, being invited to breakfast at the palace, I strolled down to observe the workings of justice. Court was called to order in the archives room of the governor’s house. The judge sat at a large table, resplendent in army blue and gold, with cavalry boots and spurs, his whiskers shining, his demeanor grave and stern. Bauda, clerk of the court, sat at his right, and Peterano, a native catechist, stood opposite him attired in blue overalls and a necklace of small green nuts, ready to act as interpreter.
Each defendant, plaintiff, prisoner, and witness was sworn impressively, though no Bible was used; which reminded me that in Hongkong I saw a defendant refuse to handle a Bible in court, and when the irate English judge demanded his reasons, calmly replied that the witness who had just laid down the book had the plague, and it was so proved.
The first case was that of a Chinese, member of the Shan-Shan syndicate which owned a store in Atuona. He was charged with shooting kukus without a license. There were not many of these small green doves left in the islands, and the governor, whose favorite sport and delicacy they were, was righteously angered at the Chinaman’s infraction of the law. He fined the culprit twenty dollars, and confiscated to the realm the murderous rifle which had aided the crime.
The Shan-Shan man was stunned, and expostulated so long that he was led out by Flag, the gendarme, after being informed that he might appeal to Tahiti. He was forcibly put off the veranda, struggling to explain that he had not shot the gun, but had merely carried it as a reserve weapon in case he should meet a Chinese with whom he had a feud.