Page:A Lady's Cruise in a French Man-of-War.djvu/250

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These horrid creatures are highly phosphorescent, and leave a trail of light as they move at night. If crushed, they emit a glow of light, and hence were in olden days reverenced as an incarnation of divinity; and Veri, the centipede-god, was worshipped at Mangai, in the Hervey Isles, where a huge banyan-tree overshadowed his marae, among the grey rocks, and where to this day some say that gigantic centipedes keep guard over the hidden treasures of the tribe of Teipe, formerly their devout worshippers.

Speaking of phosphorescent things, did I ever tell you about the curious luminous fungi which are found in the mountains of Fiji? They gleam with a pale weird blue light, and the natives occasionally play tricks at the expense of their superstitious neighbours, suggestive of the turnip-ghosts of our own foolish young days.

Another new experience of this afternoon has been tasting the far-famed orange-rum, which is supposed to have such a deteriorating effect on those addicted to it. It is weak, insipid stuff, like mawkish vinegar. I should be very sorry to drink a wine-glassful of it, but I should think a bucketful would scarcely have any effect on the head, however seriously it might disturb other organs. I am certain it is weaker than the cider of which English haymakers drink twenty large mugs in a day with impunity.

But I am told that long before the introduction of oranges, and the consequent invention of orange-rum, the Tahitians had been taught by the Hawaiians how to distil an intoxicating spirit from the root of the ti shrub,[1] which is highly saccharine, and is generally baked, and made into puddings.

They invented a still of the rudest construction. For the boiler they hollowed a lump of rock, and this they covered with an unwieldy wooden cover, the rude stump of a tree, into which was inserted a long bamboo, which rested in a trough of cold water, and conveyed the distilled spirit into a gourd. This ponderous boiler was set on two layers of stones, leaving a space for a fire, and was then filled with the baked ti root, which had been soaked till fermentation had commenced. Then ensued wild orgies, when all the people of the district gave themselves up to unbridled licen-

  1. Dracæna terminalis.