She said that people came from far valleys to see her legs, and I could readily believe it. It was so with the leg of the late Queen Vaekehu, a leg so perfect in mold and so elaborately and artistically inked that it distinguished her even more than her rank. Casual whites, especially, considered it a curiosity, and offended her majesty by laying democratic hands upon the masterpiece. I had known a man or two who had seen the queen at home, and who testified warmly to the harmonious blending of flesh color with the candle-nut soot. Among my effects in the House of the Golden Bed I had a photograph showing the multiplicity and fine execution of the designs upon Vaekehu’s leg, yet comparing it with the two realities of Titihuti I could not yield the palm to the queen.
The legs of Titihuti were tattooed from toes to ankles with a net-like pattern, and from the ankles to the waistline, where the design terminated in a handsome girdle, there were curves, circles and filigree, all in accord, all part of a harmonious whole, and most pleasing to the eye. The pattern upon her feet was much like that of sandals or high mocassins, indicating a former use of leg-coverings in a cold climate. Titihuti herself, after an anxious inch-for-inch matching of picture and living form, said complacently that her legs were meitai ae, which meant that she would not have hesitated to enter her own decorations in beauty competition with those of Vaekehu.
Kake, her daughter, had been christened for her mother’s greatest charm, for her name means Tattooed to the Loins, though there was not a tattoo mark upon her. She was a beautiful, stately girl of nineteen or twenty, married to a devoted native, to whom, shortly after my arrival, she presented his own living miniature. I was the startled witness of the birth of this babe, the delight of his father’s heart.
My neighbors and I had the same bathing hour, soon after daylight, and usually chose the same pool in the clear river. Kake was lying on a mat on their paepae when I passed one morning, and when I said “Kaoha” to her she did not reply. Her silence caused me to mount the stairway, and at that moment the child was born.
Half an hour later she joined me in the river, and laughing back at me over her shoulder as she plunged through the water, called that she would give the child my name. That afternoon she was sitting on my paepae, a bewitching sight as she held the suckling to her breast and crooned of his forefather’s deeds before the white had gripped them.
Visit of Chief Seventh Man Who is So Angry He Wallows in the Mire; journey to Vait-hua on Tahuata island; fight with the devil-fish; story of a cannibal feast and the two who escaped.
“The Iron Fingers That Make Words,” the Marquesans called my typewriter. Such a wonder had never before been beheld in the islands, and its fame spread far. From other valleys and even from distant islands the curious came in threes and fours. They watched the strange thing write their names and carefully carried away the bits of paper.