Page:A Lady's Cruise in a French Man-of-War.djvu/95

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71
SAMOAN DOVES.

minstrels of Samoa; and the wide world could offer no lovelier scene than the exquisite tropical forests of these happy isles, where no hurtful creature lies hidden. But I fear that even here the idyls were not free from occasional touches of shadow; though doubtless there were reflected lights, enough to relieve any transient shade, and lovers' quarrels were forgotten in new loves.

All round the central clearing, hiding-places were constructed and covered with green boughs. In each of these a sportsman was concealed, holding in one hand a stick to which a tame pigeon was attached by a string some ten yards in length. These pigeons were all trained to fly round and round; and the wild wood-doves seeing so many of their fellows circling round one spot, naturally supposed there was something good to be shared, and ventured near, when, from each ambush a long slim bamboo was thrust forth, with a net attached, and the stranger was forthwith captured. Of course, he who caught the largest niunber was the hero of the hour, and to him was presented the evening feast—at which baked pigeons figured largely. Some, however, were preserved alive, to be trained as decoy-birds, as this pigeon-taming was a favourite occupation at all seasons of the year,—indeed is so at the present time; for the Samoan takes as much pride in his doves and pigeons, as a Briton does in his hounds and horses. The birds are trained in such habits of idleness that they will not even feed themselves, but sit patiently waiting till their master actually puts their daily bread—yam, banana, or cocoa-nut—into their open mouths.

The Samoan dove and its wooing furnished the theme for one of the prettiest of the native dances. The girls, while gently gliding to and fro, utter the low soft call of the female dove, their mates answering from afar, in deeper resounding tones, and circling around, ever drawing nearer and nearer, till the wooers and the wooed unite in a ballet of much graceful fluttering.

We got back to Leone just in time to see the ecclesiastical procession start from the old church to the site of the new one. At the consecration service, the bishop wore his mitre and a very gorgeous vestment of patchwork, presented by the Samoan ladies.