A walk to the Forbidden Place; Hot Tears, the hunchback; the story of Behold the Servant of the Priest, told by Malicious Gossip in the cave of Enamoa.
It was a drowsy afternoon, and coming up the jungle trail to my cabin I saw Le Brunnec, the trader, accompanied by Mouth of God and Tahiapii, half-sister to Malicious Gossip.
Le Brunnec, a Breton, intelligent, honest, and light-hearted, owned the store below the governor’s palace on the road to Atuona beach. He lived above it, alone save for a boy who cooked for him, and all the Marquesans were his friends. He had come this afternoon to take me for a walk up Atuona valley, and on the main road below my house Le Moine, Jimmy Kekela, Hot Tears, the hunchback, and Malicious Gossip awaited us.
We waded the river and found a trail that wandered along it crossed it now and then and hung in places on the high banks above it. The trail had been washed by freshets often and was rough and stony, overhung with trees and vines. Along it, a hundred feet or so from the river, were houses sparsely scattered in the almost continuous forest of cocoanut and breadfruit. Oranges and bananas, mangoes and limes, surrounded the cabins, most of which were built of rough planks and roofed with iron. Here and there I saw a native house of straw matting thatched with palm leaves, a sign of a poverty that could not reach the hideous, but admired, standard of the whites.
Many people sitting on their paepaes called to us, and one woman pointed to me and said that she wished to take my name and give me her own. This is their custom with one to whom they are attracted, but I affected not to understand. I did not want, so early in my residence in Atuona, to lose a name that had served me well for many years, and besides, if I took another I would have to abide by whatever it might be and be known by it. It would be pleasant to be called “Blue Sky” or “Killer of Sharks,” but how about “Drowned in the Sea” or “Noise Inside”?
“Keep your name to yourself, mon ami,” said Le Moine. “They expect much from you if you give them yours. They will give you heaps of useless presents, but you alone have the right to buy rum.”
Following a curve in the stream, we came upon Teata (Miss Theater), the acknowledged beauty of Atuona, waist-deep in a pool, washing her gowns. She was a vision of loveliness, large-eyed, tawny, her hair a dark cascade about her fair face and bare shoulders, the crystal water lapping her slender thighs and curling into ripples about her, the heavy jungle growth on the banks making an emerald background to her beauty.