Page:A Lady's Cruise in a French Man-of-War.djvu/315

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283
CHANGES IN PHYSIQUE.

is of the Polynesian type, and some allow it to grow long and smooth by not dyeing it with lime.

Yet another argument in favour of the migration having originally taken a northward course, lies in the physical development of the race. Surely it is easier to recognise a direct Malay ancestry for the warlike little Japanese, with their reverence for the sacred swords of their demi-gods, than for these stalwart Polynesians, with their firmly knit, muscular limbs, and stately yet graceful bearing. The race increased in stature, improved in feature, and enriched in colour on their southward way—circumstances doubtless due to more easy and luxurious lives, with better and more abundant food.

Beautiful as is the rich copper colour of these islanders, their own ideal of beauty, as showing pure blood, consists in possessing a very fair skin; and I have often been amused, when sketching, by their anxiety to be represented several shades lighter than nature, not from any wish to resemble foreigners, but evidently as embodying their tradition of good ancestry. They by no means despise the use of cosmetics to bring about so desirable a result: the Marquesan women, for instance, though naturally of a light copper colour, contrive to make their skin almost white by an application of the root of the papawa tree.

That modifying circumstances may produce such changes, both in stature and complexion, is now, I suppose, generally admitted; in fact it is almost certain that in some cases where barren atolls (such as the Kingsmill or Gilbert group, on the equator) have from accidental circumstances been peopled by descendants of these splendid men they have degenerated beyond recognition, and are now a short, spare, and generally ugly race. Naturally, the change from unbounded supplies of nutritious vegetable diet—bread-fruit, bananas, cocoa-nut, yams, sugar, and all the luxuries of the tropics—to isles where a coarse meal, prepared from the woody fruit of the pandanus, is the only edible form of vegetable, has in due time produced this result. Therefore it seems perfectly reasonable to infer that the converse occurred when an under-fed aggressive race, engaged from their cradles in piracy and strife, found themselves