Page:A Lady's Cruise in a French Man-of-War.djvu/91

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67
SAMOAN GAMES.

five shells, with which he tries to knock every one else's shell from a given spot, leaving his own in their place. They also play a game something like forfeits. They sit in a circle, in the centre of which they spin a cocoa-nut on its thin end; and as it falls, the person towards whom the three black eyes point is considered to have lost. In the same way they cast lots to decide who shall do some work or go an errand. In one village a party of lads had assembled on the village green to play totoga, or reed-throwing—a game very common in Fiji. The reeds, which are 5 or 6 feet in length, have oval wooden heads about 4 inches long, and the skill lies in making these skim along the grass to the furthest possible distance.

In a green shady glade we saw a party of young men, very lightly clad, practising spear-throwing, aiming at the soft stems of banana-trees, which I suppose represented the bodies of their foes. In the game they take sides, and one party tries to knock out the spears planted by the other. Sometimes they carry very short spears, and in throwing these, aim so as first to strike the ground, whence the shaft glides upwards towards the mark. I am told that a feat is sometimes performed which must involve marvellous coolness as well as dexterity. A man, armed only with a club, stands up as a target, and allows all the others to throw their spears at him. All these he catches with his club, and turns them aside in quick succession. It can scarcely be called a pleasant game, however.

We saw several distressing cases of elephantiasis, which is here called fè-fê, and, we are told, is common. It produces hideous malformations; and the sufferers are pitiable objects, the arms and legs being hideously swollen. The natives attribute this disease to the action of the sun; but some Europeans who have suffered from it declare that it is also produced by exposure to the night air, and by excessive drinking of kava. Happily it is painless. Some of the Samoans suffer severely from ulcers; and we heard of some cases of ophthalmia.

Here and there, beneath the green shade of the plantains, close to the houses, we noticed hillocks of white sea-sand, surmounted