Page:A Lady's Cruise in a French Man-of-War.djvu/79

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55
A DRILL DANCE.

back the cup. In Fiji, the correct thing is to send the empty cup skimming across the mat to the great central bowl.

This afternoon a corps of sixty warriors favoured us with a very odd sort of drill dance. Their dress consisted of kilts of black calico, trimmed with cut-out white calico, to look like tappa; on their heads a turban of Turkey red; their mouth and chin hideously blackened, which on these very fair people produces a monstrously ugly effect. They all had muskets, and were called soldiers; but we thought their drill was more funny than warlike, and concluded that they would be quite as dangerous to their friends as their foes. They have a sort of American flag, invented by Colonel Steinberger.

The dance was a very miserable travesty of a true native méké, such as we have so often seen in the isles further west; but here the vulgarising influence of white men is painfully evident, and one of the prominent figures at the chief's council was a high chiefess in a huge crinoline, a gorgeous red dress, and a hideously unbecoming hat trimmed with scarlet and green ribbon and feathers:

"Oh, wad some power the giftie gie us,
To see oursels as ithers see us!"

Could that proud woman but have known with what different eyes we, the great strangers representing all Europe, looked on her fine foreign clothes, and on the pretty becoming attire of her handmaidens, with their finely plaited and fringed mats, necklaces of scarlet berries on their clear olive skin, and bright blossoms in their hair!

Philosophers tell us there is always good in things evil; and so far as outward appearance goes, the tendency to war is in favour of artistic beauty, as these people (like the Samoans and Tongans) connect the idea of good behaviour with pretty closely cropped heads; but when the war-spirit revives they become defiant, and let their hair grow like a lion's mane, and adorn themselves with gay wreaths and garlands from the neck and waist. When a man has allowed his hair to grow long, he twists it up in a knot on the