Page:Picturesque New Guinea.djvu/340

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128
PICTURESQUE NEW GUINEA.

goods, which are mostly food and fruit; those who are badly off, barter ornaments or war implements for food. On seeing me the people got greatly excited, as I was the first European they had seen, but they soon became calm, and most of the men conducted us to their village, Nauea, and on entering this village the inhabitants raised their voices to the highest note in astonishment at seeing such a party carrying articles incomprehensible to them. After a formal introduction to the chief, and my name ascertained—it is always a custom amongst the Papuans to ask a stranger's name, where he comes from, where going to, and his errand amongst them—a house was placed at my disposal, and food was brought for us all. I say the house was placed at my disposal, but I feared every minute the frail structure would give way under its burden, for every available space was occupied by inquisitive natives to see the wonderful Albus man, the first one who had visited them. These people conversed at the very top of their voices; frequently my own voice was not audible, and to amuse myself while they were talking over all the wonderful things they saw of mine, I commenced to whistle, and before long found myself singing an operatic song, and the natives were as quiet as if a wonderful charm had acted upon them, with their mouths wide open, and staring at me. I had found the secret how to subdue their deafening conversation; I always applied the same means when I desired quietness, and it never failed to produce effect.

Every day, during my stay amongst them, I was requested to sit on the verandah of the house I occupied, and exhibit my white skin; it took place as near as possible between 4 and 5 p.m.; at this hour the people came in from their plantations or hunting excursions, and they appeared never to get tired of looking at me, and feeling every part of the body, and to all this I had to submit with a gracious smiling face.

The Nauea village contains about 1,500 inhabitants, with fairly good houses and small enclosures where variegated plants grew. The people are of a small stature, healthy and industrious, clean and orderly, well fed, and mostly of a light colour, even as light as many half castes of a Tahitian origin, with bright intelligent faces. Tattooing was not much