Page:A Lady's Cruise in a French Man-of-War.djvu/127

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103
WAR CUSTOMS.

superstitious fear of the possible thief, warning him of the curses that will attach to whoever breaks the taboo. I have seen this identical custom in many lands, from Ceylon eastward.

A suspected thief was put upon oath in presence of the chiefs. Some venerated object was brought from the temple—a sacred stone, a trumpet-shell, or a cocoa-nut shell, which ranked as a divining-cup—and the accused, laying his hand on this object, had to pray that the gods would slay him if he spoke falsely. If he swore by a holy stone, a handful of grass was laid upon it, to signify that the doom of the false swearer would include his house-hold, and that all his kindred would perish, and the grass grow on the site of their dwelling.

With reference to war customs. "The Philistine cursed David by his gods." "Curse ye Meroz, . . . because they came not to the help of the Lord." So would a company of Samoan chiefs sit in conclave, and pray that the gods would curse those who refused to help in war. "Let his house be made a dunghill." "They shall bring out the bones out of their graves." "Fell every good tree, and stop all wells of water." All these were literal features in Samoan warfare. "Lay ye the heads in two heaps at the entering in of the gate," was also quite a natural direction. The description of the songs of the Jewish women in honour of the victor, when "the women answered one another as they played, and said,

Saul hath slain his thousands,
And David his ten thousands,"

might have been written of Samoan women describing the deeds of their warriors, and thereby often stirring up bitter anger and jealousies.

With regard to weapons, the "sling and stone," the "smooth stone of the brook," the "arrows, . . . the poison whereof drinketh up my spirit," exactly describe those of the Pacific; while the description of Saul encamped under a tree, "having his spear in his hand," is a true picture of any fine old South Sea chief. Further, it is said, "The trumpeters stood by the king;" and though the trumpets of the Pacific are only perforated shells, the blast blown through them in honour of a chief, or to