Page:A Lady's Cruise in a French Man-of-War.djvu/90

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We noticed in all these villages the same characteristic in house-building which struck us at Pango-Pango—namely, that there is a good deal of roof supported on posts, but little of anything answering to a wall; so the houses resemble huge oval mushrooms, and home-life is of a very public description. There are, however, movable screens of plaited cocoa-palm, which are put up so as to enclose the house at night, on the same principle as the paper walls or screens which compose the sides of a Japanese house, and which are generally removed in the daytime. The wooden screens invariably are so.

At night the interior of a Samoan house resembles a small camp, as large curtains of heavy native cloth are slung from the roof and hang like tents, within which the sleepers lie on a pile of soft fine mats, their necks, not their heads, resting on a bamboo or wooden pillow raised on two legs. Furniture is conspicuous by its total absence. A few baskets for fish or vegetables hang about the walls, and a few bundles containing cloth and mats lie in the corners. Cookery is done out of doors in the native ovens, for Samoans have no pottery of any sort; so the picturesque cooking-pots of a Fijian kitchen are lacking. The very few cooking or water pots which are sometimes seen in a chief's house have invariably been imported from Fiji, and are prized accordingly.

The roof itself is one of the most precious possessions of the isles. Ponderous as it appears, it can be divided into four parts, and removed from one place to another, should the family have occasion to flit. The great rafters are bound together by strong creeping-plants (vines or lianas) from the forest, and the ordinary thatching consists of sugar-cane leaves, strung on reeds, which are laid so as to overlap one another: sometimes a heavy cocoa-palm matting above all, secures the roof against a very high wind.

Some of the Samoan homes revealed very pleasant cool-looking groups of comely lads and lasses lounging on their mats, making and smoking the invariable tiny cigarettes, consisting of a scrap of tobacco rolled up in a morsel of the dried banana-leaf fringe they wear round the waist. A few were whiling away the hot hours of the day by a game with small cocoa-nut shells: each player has