Page:A Lady's Cruise in a French Man-of-War.djvu/94

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judged of all imported animals by this standard: so a goat or a cow became known as a horned pig; a horse, a man-carrying pig; a cat, a mewing pig. When the first goat was landed on one of the Hervey Isles, where even pigs were unknown, the natives called one another to come and see "the wonderful bird with great teeth growing out of its head!"

The most interesting aboriginal inhabitant of Samoa is a little kind of dodo, or tooth-billed pigeon, here called Manu-mea.[1] Though now rare, it is still to be found in the forests, generally hiding in the tops of the highest trees. The natives say that it used to frequent the ground, but that since the introduction of foreign cats and rats, which have proved its deadly foes, it has instinctively retreated to safer quarters. Its diminished numbers may probably, however, be attributed to the high value set on it by the Samoan epicures. It is said to be closely allied to the extinct dodo. Its body resembles that of a pigeon, but its head and beak are those of a parrot. Its general plumage is dark-red, the head and breast being grey. Eyes, legs, and feet are all red, and the beak is reddish gold. When captured, it is generally very savage, and bites severely, but it is occasionally tamed, and feeds on fruit.

Formerly the sporting world of Samoa found its chief pastime, not in pigeon-shooting, but in pigeon-catching, which sounds a very innocent amusement, but which was indulged in to such excess that the teachers found it necessary to discourage it, as it led to the schools being quite deserted, and all work at a stand-still, for months at a time—the favourite season being from June till August. The Hurlingham of Samoa was a large circular clearing in the forest—(there were many such). Thither the whole population of a district would resort, having previously prepared great stores of provision. Grandfathers and little children, but especially young men and maidens, delighted in the dove-festival, dear to happy lovers. They erected temporary huts in the forest, and there took up their abode for a prolonged picnic. Many an idyl of the forest might have been sung by the flower-wreathed

  1. Didunculus strigirostris.