Page:A Lady's Cruise in a French Man-of-War.djvu/89

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THE ITALIAN OF THE PACIFIC.

vocabularies did not suffice for much conversation, a mutual inspection was doubtless gratifying to both parties. The language of the Samoans is soft, and their voices musical. To express thanks, they say Faa-fetai. The familiar Vinaka! Vinaka! (i.e., "Well done!" in Fijian) is here rendered by Le-lei! Le-lei! Good-night, is Tofai.e., "May you sleep." The Samoan language is generally described as the Italian of the Pacific—it is so mellifluous. It is, however, a very difficult one for a foreigner to acquire thoroughly, as it has three distinct dialects—the language used in addressing a high chief, a middle-class gentleman, or a peasant, being altogether different; and a further complication arises from the politeness which leads the highest chief to speak of anything referring to himself in the dialect which describes the lowest of the people. In Samoa, however, as in the other Polynesian group, one language is spoken on all the different isles, and there has at all times been free intercourse between them—a very different state of things from that which prevails in such groups as the New Hebrides, where each isle has a dialect—perhaps two or three—unknown to any of its neighbours, and where one tribe dares not set foot on the land of another.

Samoa has always been in many respects superior to most of her neighbours. Not only was she free from the reproach of cannibalism, but also, in great measure, from that of infanticide, which prevailed to so frightful an extent in neighbouring groups. Here children were never destroyed after their birth, though it is supposed that fully two-thirds of those born in old days, died from mismanagement in nursing. The sick were invariably treated with kindness, and old age lovingly tended. Such horrors as the burial of the living, as practised in Fiji in heathen times, were never dreamt of in Samoa.

In no land is old age more beautiful than here—partly because the tendency is to corpulence in place of leanness; and the eyes retain their clear, piercing brightness, and the countenance a kindly expression, which tells of the powerful good sense for which many of these people have been so remarkable. Certainly they are a handsome and attractive race.