When darkness descends and all is quiet, the robber crab ascends the tree by gripping the bark with his claws. The rays of my electric flash-light have often caught him high over my head against the gray palm. Height does not daunt him. He will go up till he reaches the nuts, if it be a hundred feet. With his powerful nippers he severs the stem, choosing always a nut that is big and ripe. Descending the palm, he tears off the fibrous husk, which, at first thought, it would seem impossible for him to do. He tears it fiber by fiber, and always from that end under which the three eye-holes are situated. With these exposed, he begins hammering on one of them until he has enlarged the opening so that he can insert one of the sharp points of his claw into it. By turning his claw backward and forward he scoops out the meat and regales himself luxuriously.
This is his simplest method, along the line of least resistance, but let the nut be refractory, and he seizes it by the point of a claw and beats it against a rock until he smashes it. This plan failing, he will carry the stubborn nut to the top of the tree again and hurl it to the earth to crack it. And if at first he does not succeed, he will make other trips aloft with the husked nut, dropping it again and again until at last it is shattered and lies open to his claws.
It is said that if a drop of oil be placed on the long and delicate antennae of these crabs they die almost instantly. We have a somewhat similar rumor with respect to salt and a bird’s tail. Seldom does a robber crab linger to be oiled, and so other means of destroying him, or, at least, of guarding against his depredations, are sought. With the rat, who bites the flower and gnaws the young nuts, this crab is the principal enemy of the planter. The tree owner who can afford it, nails sheets of tin or zinc around the tree a dozen feet from the earth. Neither rat nor crab can pass this slippery band, which gives no claw-hold. Thousands of trees are thus protected, but usually these are in possession of white men, for tin is costly and the native is poor.
The ingenious native, however, employs another means of saving the fruit of his groves. He climbs the palm-trunk in the daytime, and forty feet above the ground encircles it with dirt and leaves. On his mat for the night’s slumber, he smiles to think of the revenge he shall have. For the crab ascends and passes the puny barrier to select and fell his nuts, but when in his backward way he descends, he forgets the curious bunker he went over and, striking it again, thinks he has reached the ground. He lets go, and smashes on the rocks his crafty foe has piled below.
Visit of Le Moine; the story of Paul Gauguin; his house, and a search for his grave beneath the white cross of Calvary.
I rose one morning from my Golden Bed to find a stranger quietly smoking a cigarette on my paepae. Against the jungle background he was a strangely incongruous figure; a Frenchman, small, thin, meticulously neat in garments of faded blue denim and shining high boots. His blue eyes twinkled above a carefully trimmed beard, and as he rose to meet me, I observed that the fingers on the cigarette were long, slender, and nervous.