A TASK IS SET ME
On the day after I was made captive to the people on the Female Island in the Engano group, I was given an opportunity to observe the customs which prevail among these Amazons. They appeared to be a happy, healthy people, nor could I fail to notice the absence of ill-temper and discord, which may be observed in all communities in which men and women live together, and where jealousy between the sexes is too often the cause of lifelong feuds. Here the matrons seemed content to devote themselves to the rearing of their offspring, who, in return, rendered heart-whole affection to their mothers. I never witnessed such docility and loving obedience as was displayed by the children of this island to those who had the care of them, and while I remained at Engano I never heard a child cry or saw a woman in tears.
As the girls reach maturity, which they do in these latitudes at the age of about twelve years, they are instructed by their mothers how to perform the necessary work, and become very skilful at throwing the lance, harpoon, or any manner of dart, being bred to it from their infancy. These girls, from this training, possess wonderful eyesight, and will descry a sail at sea farther than any sailor could see it.
The dress adopted by the dwellers on the Female Island, though scanty to civilized eyes, is nevertheless suited to their manner of life. It consists of tapa cloth cut in a deep fringe depending from waist to knee. Their hair, which is long, hangs down their backs. Those who, like Sylvia, have red hair, are mostly freckled and rosy, which, so far from detracting from their beauty, rather adds to their charms. The dark-haired ones are burnt brown by the sun.