The storm had passed, and the weather was pleasant, the beat not excessive, being tempered with a land breeze. I descended after a while into a valley, where I noticed a number of fresh-water ponds, at one of which I knelt down to drink, when I perceived a prodigious quantity of bivalve shells of one single species, which formed a kind of beach, in breadth about fifteen feet. The water in the pond was clear, and although it was deep, the sand and shells at the bottom of it were easily seen.
Whilst I was admiring their beauties I was startled by the approach of a party of natives, the leader of whom, a tall, muscular savage, marched in front of the others, who followed him with some degree of order. From the crown of his head to his waist he was plastered with a red pigment, his frizzled-out hair being ornamented with the plumes of the bird of Paradise. His dress, composed of tapa cloth, shells, and feathers, was more elaborate than any I had seen in the islands. In his hand he carried a spear tipped with white quartz. His followers were decked in similar fashion. Raising his right arm in token of friendship, an overture to which I responded, the chief then addressed me in the same dialect to that used at Cortes’ island, which I had little difficulty in understanding, although some of the words puzzled me.
“Whence come you?” said he. “From the sun or the sea?”
“From the sea, O chief, whither I will return when my friends, the white spirits, come for me,” I answered.
This reply did not seem to surprise my interrogator, who now desired me to follow him. After proceeding for some distance through a luxuriant forest we came to what appeared to be the gates of a town. Two large perpendicular stones rose to the height of fourteen feet above the ground. These pillars must have been twelve feet through at the base, and five feet on top, while a still larger stone, some sixteen feet long and four feet thick, was mortised into the perpendicular columns. It was difficult to understand how such huge stones could be quarried and transported inland by a people possessing so few mechanical appliances as these savages, but to my inquiry regarding this curious gateway I was answered that the stones had been there as long as any could remember, having been placed in position by supernatural agency.
At the gate of the city crouched some miserable specimens of humanity: old men and women, haggard, shrivelled, and naked. These unfortunates, I afterwards learned, were the aged and infirm, too feeble to perform their share of the work of the tribe and condemned to remain at the gateway, dependent for food upon such charity as might be given them. On entering the town we passed a number of warriors, all fine, athletic men, dressed in the same style as those who accompanied us, and painted with stripes of red, yellow, and white pigment.