Page:A Lady's Cruise in a French Man-of-War.djvu/310

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but even the distinctive games of the people have apparently been forgotton,—at least I have seen none played. Yet in olden times there were many national sports; as, for instance, one which exactly answered to golf, and was played with sticks, slightly curved at one end, and a hard ball made of strips of native cloth. Football was formerly as popular in Tahiti as in Britain or Japan, the ball used being a large roll of the stalks of banana-leaves, firmly twisted together. The players were often women, twenty or thirty on each side; and in the scramble to seize the ball, there was as much rough sport as in any English public school. As the games were generally played on the beach, the ball was often thrown into the sea, and followed by the merry crowd with shouts and ringing laughter.

Boxing also found favour with the lower orders; and wrestling and archery were as highly esteemed in Tahiti as in Japan, and, moreover, were equally associated with religious festivals, which probably is the reason of their having fallen into disuse. The dresses worn by the archers, with their bows and arrows, were all considered sacred, and certain persons were appointed to keep them. Before the contest began, the archers went to the marae to perform certain religious ceremonies; and at the end of the game, they returned thither to change their dress, bathe, and restore their bow and arrows to their appointed keeper, before they could venture to eat, or to enter their own homes. The bows in use were about five feet in length; the arrows about three feet, and the distance to which they would fly was often about 300 yards. They were never used in war, nor for shooting at a mark, as in Fiji.

Spear-throwing and slinging stones were games in which a target was always set up, and generally hit with precision; but these were exercises of war, in which the players had abundant practice. The slingers generally formed the advance-guard in battle, and often did much execution. The stones selected were about the size of a hen's egg. The slings were made of finely braided cocoa-nut husk, or filaments of native flax, with a loop at one end for the hand, and at the other a place for the stone. In throwing, the