Page:A Lady's Cruise in a French Man-of-War.djvu/283

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.

graceful tree traced along the spine, while the spreading branches extend on either shoulder and droop down the sides, and delicately traced vines twine spirally round arms and legs, birds and insects appearing among the leaves.

I have been told that in one of the beautiful valleys lying farther round the isle than Nukuheva harbour there are Cyclopean remains, somewhat suggestive of the tombs of the Toui Tongas which we saw in the Friendly Isles. Among the dense groves which clothe the base of the mountain lie a series of vast terraces, each about a hundred yards long by twenty wide, and disposed one above another on the mountain-side, like gigantic steps. They are built of oblong blocks of stone, some of which are fifteen feet long by five or six wide. Though perfectly smooth, they bear no mark of any tool, and are laid without cement. Huge trees have taken root in the crevices, and their interlacing boughs now form a dense canopy above this monument of a forgotten race, concerning which the Marquesans themselves have no tradition. So impenetrable is the growth of vines in that green wilderness, that a stranger might pass the spot—nay, actually cross the terraces by the native track—without observing them. It is another of the mysteries of the stone age.

But, on a much smaller scale, there exist in the Marquesas marais similar to those of Tahiti, which have been the temples and the tombs of the present inhabitants ever since they knew their own history,—and even these are sufficiently large to make one marvel how they could have been erected by a race ignorant of all mechanical arts, and owning only such rude stone implements. Beside the marais there are a vast number of very old stone foundations, similar to those on which the houses are invariably raised, probably telling of a diminished population. The man who, in the present day, wishes to build himself a bamboo house, can therefore appropriate one of these ready-made foundations, and laid the hardest part of his house-building already accomplished.

I cannot learn that there is any trace of active volcanic agency now existing in the Marquesas, though in some districts sulphur-springs and mineral waters of various kinds have been found.