Page:A Lady's Cruise in a French Man-of-War.djvu/307

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LOSS OF INDIVIDUALITY.

going to bed, notwithstanding the attraction of a pleasant moon-light expedition in the admiral's big barge.


Friday, 23d.

The Seignelay returned to-day from the Marquesas and the Paumotu group. She has had a most delightful fortnight's cruise, and my kind friends on board add to my poignant repentance for having refused to accompany them, by their regrets that I should have missed so excellent an opportunity. They had perfect weather. The voyage going and coming occupied just a week, during which they passed through the Paumotus. The other week was spent at different islands in the Marquesas, and they say that much of the scenery is like the island of Moorea, but greatly glorified. Now, as Moorea is the most unique and beautiful isle I have ever seen, you can imagine how grievous it is to think I should so stupidly have missed seeing one still more strange and lovely.

They also declare that the people are by far the finest race, and the most uncivilised savages, they have ever seen anywhere. They declare that many are still cannibal, and that all are tattooed all over the face and body, while many of the men are clothed only in a kilt of human hair. I think it possible that had they inspected this garment more closely, they might have discovered it to be made of the Rhizomorpha fibre—a glossy black parasitic weed, which is found in the forests, clinging to old trees by means of tiny suckers. It resembles coarse horse-hair, and in Fiji it is greatly valued as a kilt by warriors and dancers. So perhaps in this respect the Marquesans may not differ from our familiar Fijians. But there is no doubt that they are still in that very early stage of civilisation, which is most interesting to the traveller, before all distinctive angles have been rounded off—a process which, when once commenced, progresses with startling rapidity, to the total extinction of all individuality.

Here in Tahiti, for instance, scarcely a trace remains of the aboriginal manners and customs, and it is impossible for the most vivid imagination to conjure up any sort of suggestion of Captain