I had done her a great kindness, but one thing more. Neither she nor Titihuti nor Water could make out what Pahorai Calizte meant by “Coot Pae, Mama.” “A.P.A. Dieu.” was his commendation of her to God, but Coot Pae was not Marquesan, neither was it French. She pronounced the words in the Marquesan way, and I knew at once. Coot pae is pronounced Coot Pye, and Coot Pye was Pahorai Calizte’s way of imitating the American for Apae Kaoha. “Good-by, mama,” was his quite Philadelphia closing of his letter to his mother.
I addressed an envelop to her son with The Iron Fingers That Make Words, and gave it to My Darling Hope. A tear came in her eye. She rubbed my bare back affectionately and caressed my nose with hers as she smelled me solemnly. Then she went up the valley to enlighten the hill people.
The chants of departure; night falls on the Land of the War Fleet.
On the eve of my going all the youth and beauty of Atuona crowded my paepae. Water brought his ukulele, a Hawaiian taro-patch guitar, and sang his repertoire of ballads of Hawaii—“Aloha Oe,” “Hawaii Ponoi,” and “One, Two, Three, Four.” Urged by all, I gave them for the last time my vocal masterpiece, “All Night Long He Calls Her Snooky-Ukums!” and was rewarded by a clamor of applauding cries. Marquesans think our singing strange—and no wonder! Theirs is a prolonged chant, a monotone without tune, with no high notes and little variance. But loving distraction, they listened with deep amusement to my rendering of American airs, as we might listen to Chinese falsettos.
They repaid me by reciting legends of their clans, and Titihuti chanted her genealogy, a record kept by memory in all families. Water, her son, who had learned to write, set it down on paper for me. It named the ancestors in pairs, father and mother, and Titihuti remembered thirty-eight generations, which covered perhaps a thousand years.
We sat in a respectful circle about her while she chanted it. An Amazon in height and weight, nearly six feet tall, body and head cast in heroic mold, she stood erect, her scarlet tunic gathered to display her symmetrical legs, tattooed in thought-kindling patterns, the feet and ankles as if encased in elegant Oriental sandals. Her red-gold hair, a flame in the flickering light of the torches, was wreathed with bright-green, glossy leaves, necklaces of peppers and small colored nuts rose and fell with her deep breathing.
Her voice was melodious, pitched low, and vibrating with the peculiar tone of the chant, a tone impossible of imitation to one who has not learned it as a child. Her eyes were kindled with pride of ancestry as she called the roll of experiences and achievements of the line that had bred her, and her clear-cut Greek features mirrored every emotion she felt, emotions of glory and pride, of sorrow and abasement at the fall of her race, of stoic fortitude in the dull present and hopeless future of her people. With one shapely arm upraised, she uttered the names, trumpet-calls to memory and imagination: