Page:A Lady's Cruise in a French Man-of-War.djvu/108

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brother was a well-known character in Tahiti, who blew a brilliant bubble company, which for a while dazzled the world of the South Seas—till the bubble burst, and the blower died miserably.

H.B.M. Consulate, Tuesday Night.

Yesterday evening we were sitting in the verandah enjoying the coolness of the lovely evening, when we heard very pretty singing in a garden near. Some gentlemen who were calling took me to the spot, where a large party of Samoan girls were sitting on the grass beneath the palms and rosy oleanders. The singing and surroundings were all attractive. Indeed it is difficult to look on such a peaceful scene, and realise how very recently it was a hideous battle-field; and sad indeed to think how few days may elapse ere the grass—to-day so green—may be stained with the blood of all these fine men. In Samoan warfare the aim of each warrior is to secure as many heads as possible. Hence the sixty ghastly heads which were carried from here to all parts of the group only three months ago. But before they are so scattered, it is customary for the victors to pile them up in a hideous pyramid, surmounted by the head of the highest chief slain. An ugly feature in war here, is the practice of a large body of men landing at dead of night at some distance from an unguarded settlement, and stealing stealthily in, to surprise the unsuspecting sleepers: then suddenly rushing into the houses, slice off every man a head, of grey-haired patriarch or slumbering infant boy, and dashing down to the shore, where their canoes have meanwhile arrived, push off ere the startled villagers are sufficiently awake to arm for defence or vengeance. Only male heads are required. It would be considered cowardly to kill a woman. Nevertheless these are sometimes desperately wounded in the struggle to defend their little ones from their ruthless assassins.

In old days, after a battle, such of the headless bodies as were recognised received decent burial; the others were left as carrion, a prey to the village dogs and pigs. The influence of Christianity now secures burial for all. Strange to say, it also secures a rigid