Page:A Lady's Cruise in a French Man-of-War.djvu/61

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37
FOTUNA CLOTH.

trive to live in peace, instead of finding in differing faith a new occasion for enmities, as has been the case even in Polynesian isles. But is it not grievous that, when at length "the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light," it should not shine upon them in one undivided ray?

The people of this lonely isle are especially interesting, because they, and the inhabitants of Aniwa—a much smaller isle in the same region—are of a totally different race from those on the other isles composing the New Hebrides—the latter being Papuans, and these Malays, whose ancestors drifted all the way from Tonga in a canoe. Though their colour has darkened, they retain the dialect and the hair of their race.

Every one on board has treasures of some sort from Fotuna—especially very beautifully painted native cloth. I think some of the patterns are almost more artistic than those of the Fijians. Like theirs, these are principally geometrical; and in addition to the black and red dyes which are there used, the artists of Fotuna introduce a good deal of yellow. The printing is done in the same manner, the raised pattern being carefully designed with strips of cocoa-rib or bamboo on wooden blocks, on which the colour is stamped. It is the same principle as that of our printing-types, and was known in Polynesia long before the art of printing was invented in Europe.

The most remarkable productions of Fotuna and some of its neighbouring isles are gigantic cocoa-nuts, more than double the ordinary size. They are immensely prized as drinking-cups. Many are 18 inches in circumference after the husk has been removed. The largest grow on the isle of Niufau, which is described as being merely the rim of a great crater, from which smoke sometimes rises, and which is incrusted with sulphur. Apparently the warmth of the soil agrees with all vegetation; for the isle is exceedingly fertile, and the cocoa-nuts are the wonder and envy of all beholders.

I confess I should not care to live on one of these smouldering volcanoes. There are a good many such, scattered about the Pacific—and occasionally one subsides altogether. For instance,