Page:A Lady's Cruise in a French Man-of-War.djvu/74

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.

dress days; and of course to-day every one was got up in full suits of mats and foliage, with a good coating of fresh cocoa-nut oil, the effect of which, on a brown skin, is admirable. The Psalmist knew what it was, when he spoke of "oil to make him a cheerful countenance." The man who neglects it looks dull and lack-lustre; while he who, having anointed his flaxen locks, has then given his face and shoulders a good polish, seems altogether radiant.

Of course we found our way to the House of Debate. The spokesmen were apparently eloquent orators, very fluent, making use of much gesticulation and very graceful action. Each carries a fly-flap, which is his badge of office, and consists of a long bunch of fine brown fibre, very like a horse's tail, sometimes plaited into a multitude of the finest braids, and all attached to a carved handle about a foot in length. With this, when not engaged in speechifying, he disperses the flies which presume to annoy his chief. But while talking, the fly-flap is thrown carelessly over the right shoulder. Dainty little flaps of the same sort are carried by many persons in preference to the fibre-fans in common use. I observe, however, that there are fewer fans here than in Fiji, where you are always offered one the moment you enter the poorest hut.

I was struck by the rapt attention with which the audience favoured each successive speaker. The bishop was present, accompanied by the captain. They wished to remonstrate with the big chief on the subject of crtain persecutions of Catholics, and also to urge him and his party to submission. They are but a handful compared with the others, and the strife seems so hopeless, and has already cost so many good lives; but I fear the good bishop's efforts are all in vain. Like the Hebrew peacemaker, he "labours for peace; but when he speaks unto them thereof, they make them ready to battle." And now, in every village and in every house, all the men are busy rubbing up their old guns, and preparing ammunition, making cartridges, and so forth.

We returned on board at noon; and after luncheon, the bishop had to return in a ship's boat to Leone. He most kindly invited me to accompany him. We were a full boat-load—Père Soret and Père Vidal, two chiefs, two other natives, one officer, and twelve