Page:A Lady's Cruise in a French Man-of-War.djvu/36

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built was of volcanic rock, also hewn into shape, some of the stones being even larger than the coral blocks, and all perfectly joined together, without mortar.

As Captain Cook found no trace of any quarry in the neighbourhood, he inferred that these blocks must have been carried from a considerable distance; and even the coral with which the pyramid was faced, lies at least three feet under the water. The question, therefore, which puzzled him, as it does us this day, was, How did these savages, ignorant of all mechanical appliances, and possessing no iron tools, contrive to hew these wonderful marais, which were the temples and tombs of every Polynesian group? The majority were pulled to pieces by the natives when they abandoned idolatry, but happily for the antiquarian, some of the tombs of the mighty dead escaped these over-zealous reformers; and though the coral altars are no longer polluted by human blood, the grey ruins still remain, now overgrown by forest-trees, and more solemn in their desolation than when those hideous rites were practised by the poor savages at the bidding of ruthless priests.

In the course of our walk we saw some lovely little pigeons, bright green with purple head, and a number of larger ones, green and yellow. Also many small bats skimming about the cocoa-palms, darting to and fro in pursuit of the insects which make their home in the crown of the tree. Towards dusk a multitude of fruit-bats with soft fur appeared, flapping on heavy wing, and feeding on the flowers of various tall trees. We also noticed a number of tree swifts, reminding us forcibly of our own swallows: like them they skim airily about the houses, but instead of resting under the eaves, they seek a safer home in the tall palms.

Returning to the village, we lingered beneath the fine old trees known as Captain Cook's, till summoned by the Fathers to supper at their house, which stands close to the church. They gave us the best they had,—namely, salt-junk and villanously cooked cabbage, whereat their naval guests secretly groaned, and bewailed the excellent cuisine they had left on board; but to these good ascetics such fare seemed too luxurious, so, although it was Sunday, and a