“I never want to see the white man’s country again. I have starved in the big cities, and worked like a dog for the banana trust in the West Indies. I have begged a cup of coffee in San Francisco, and been fanned by a cop’s club. Here I make almost nothing, I have many friends and no superiors, and I am happy.”
Had these lovable savages had a few fine souls to lead them, to shield them from the dregs of civilization heaped on them for a century, they might have developed into a wonder race to set a pace in beauty, courage, and natural power that would have surprised and helped Europe.
They needed no physical regeneration. They were better born into health and purity—bloody as were some of their customs—than most of us. Their bodies had not become a burden on the soul, but, light and strong and unrestrained, were a part of it. They did not know that they had bodies; they only leaped, danced, flung themselves in and out of the sea, part of a large, happy, and harmonious universe.
If to that superb, almost perfect, physical base that nature had given these Marquesans, to that sweetness simplicity, generosity, and trust acknowledged by all who know them, there could have been added a knowledge of the things we have learned; if by example and kindness they could have been given rounded and informed intelligence, what living there would have been in these islands!
All they needed was a brother who walked in the sunlight and showed the way.
A savage dance, a drama of the sea, of danger and feasting; the rape of the lettuce.
Drums were beating all the morning, thrilling the valley and mountain-sides with their barbaric boom-boom. The savage beat of them quickened the blood, stirring memories older than mankind, waking wild and primitive instincts. Toho’s eyes gleamed, and her toes curled and uncurled like those of a cat, while she told me that the afternoon would see an old dance, a drama of the sea, of war, and feasting such as the islands had known before the whites came.
The air thrummed with the resonance of the drums. All morning I sat alone on my paepae, hearing them beat. The sound carried one back to the days when men first tied the skins of animals about hollow tree-trunks and thumped them to call the naked tribes together under the oaks of England. Those great drums beaten by the hands of Haabunai and Song of the Nightingale made one want to be a savage, to throw a spear, to dance in the moonlight.
Erase thirty years, and hear it in Atuona when the “long pig that speaks” was being carried through the jungle to the dark High Place! Then it was the thunder of the heavens, the voice of the old gods hungry for the flesh of their enemies.