Page:A Lady's Cruise in a French Man-of-War.djvu/140

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A LADY'S CRUISE.

rain-god, who was instructed in his duties by a priest, and in times of drought was carried to the stream and therein bathed. But should rain fall in excess, the poor god was popped into the fire, to make him personally aware that the land needed a drying.

On the same principle the rain-making priests in New Caledonia do or did dig up a dead hody, and, having carried the bones to a cave, there fastened them together to form a complete skeleton, which they hung up, and poured water over it, supposing that the spirit of the dead would take the hint and cause the clouds to pour rain on the thirsty land. These priests were so far true to their pretensions that they remained in the cave fasting till rain did fall, and some actually died at their post. When fine weather was required, they kindled a fire beneath the skeleton and let it burn.

Similar as were these rain-making customs, there does not appear to have been any link between the Samoans and these Loyalty Islanders, the latter being about as debased a race of cannibals as could well be imagined,—men who, not content with eating the bodies of foes slain in battle, tied up their captives to trees, and prepared the ovens for their reception before their very eyes. The women followed their lords to battle, to be in readiness to seize the falling foe and carry his body to, the rear and prepare it for the feast. They themselves were liable to be eaten if captured; and the youngest children of the tribe shared the horrid meal. On ordinary occasions the Loyalty Islanders had only one meal a-day. The luxury of kava was unknown to them, but they indulged in copious draughts of sea-water. They wore no apology for clothes. A chief might marry thirty wives, no matter how closely related to him by ties of blood. The Samoans, on the contrary, rigorously prohibited the marriage of any persons nearly related, declaring that such unions called down the wrath of the gods. The gods of the New Caledonians were the ancestral spirits, and their

treasured relics were the finger and toe nails of their friends. In burying the dead the head was left above ground; and on the tenth day it was twisted off by the mourning relatives, who preserved the skull, extracting the teeth as separate treasures. The