Page:A Lady's Cruise in a French Man-of-War.djvu/162

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old, during which period its successive guardians have all been duly enrolled. It is called Moe-e-fui-fui—i.e., the mat which slept beneath the vines—in allusion to its having lain hidden for several years among the lilac ipomeas which twine in matted tangles all along the sea-beach. No money would induce a Samoan to sell one of these unsavoury treasures: it is said that £100 might be offered in vain, though I certainly cannot imagine any sane person offering 100 pence.

However, it is simply a form of relic-worship,—and probably no whit more foolish than the adoration of dirty clothes and kindred objects, supposed to have been hallowed by the touch of Christian or Buddhist saints. Indeed I am far more inclined to sympathise with the heathen Tahitian, who wore as an amulet the toe-nail of the father whom he had loved, than I can do with the multitudinous Christians who sanctify their altars by the presence of some splinter of saintly bone.

Amongst the many touching incidents of these early days, was that of one large village in which, contrary to the general course, all the women became Christians before any of the men did so. Mr Williams had reached a town called Amoa, the people of which had all accepted the lotu, when a party of seventy women approached in single file, each bearing a gift. At their head walked a tall handsome woman, with a mat, dyed red, folded about her loins, and the upper part of her body freely anointed with sweet-oil, tinged with turmeric. On her neck and arms she wore a necklace and bracelets of large blue beads; but her hair, alas! was all cut off, except one little lock falling over the left cheek. Her companions were equally picturesque,—the unmarried women being distinguished by their wearing a white mat, and no oil and turmeric, and by their retaining a profusion of graceful curls on one side of their head, while the other was shaven and shorn. The poorest girls wore only fringes of large leaves and wreaths of flowers.

It appeared that the leader was a chiefess of high rank, who, some time previously, had come to Amoa, and there remained for a month, diligently attending to the instructions of the teachers.