Page:A Lady's Cruise in a French Man-of-War.djvu/69

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45
RUDE STONE IMPLEMENTS.

Isle of the old Druids, who there erected the 360 great monoliths, which the followers of St Columba sanctified by carving them into the form of crosses, but which in later years were cast into the sea by order of a ruthless Protestant Synod, who declared them to be "monuments of idolatrie."

The only traces of any forgotten race which I have had the good luck to see on the present cruise, have been the cyclopean tombs of the old kings of Tonga, and a huge trilithon, concerning which the present islanders know as little as we do of Stonehenge.

While in Tonga I endeavoured to procure some stone adzes, but could only buy three very coarse ones without handles. They have long been in disuse there. M. Pinart, however, succeeded in getting some better specimens, which were carefully stowed away by some of the old people in the recesses of their homes.

What miraculous patience it must have required, first to make these stone implements, and then to work with them! They were generally made from basaltic stones, which were dug out of the earth with strong sticks, and then roughly chipped into shape with a heavy flint. Perhaps after many hours of severe labour the stone would break in two, and the workman had to select another and begin again. This time he might progress swimmingly, and spend perhaps whole days in carefully chipping, till the rough stone began to take shape. Then he would substitute a lighter flint, and work with still greater care, only chipping off the first fragments,—and after all his labour, perhaps one sharp tap would prove fatal, and the carefully chiselled axe would split in two, revealing an unsuspected flaw in the centre. So the work must all be begun again, and the patient, persevering savage go on with his chipping till he succeeded in producing a perfect axe.

Then came the slow process of smoothing it by such delicate strokes as only removed a fine white dust, and last of all came laborious polishing with rough coral and water and fine sand, till the axe at length became a serviceable tool, ready to be bound with strongly plaited fibre to the bent wooden handle.

After this it had to be periodically ground by rubbing it on a very hard rock. We saw several rocks in Fiji scored with deep