Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 14, 1903.djvu/271

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The Natives of New Caledonia. 245

My ethnological and philological training was as limited as my geological education. But I am unable to agree with the views of a French missionary, who told me, truly, that the languages of the island are divided into two groups ; but he added that one group had affinities with the Semitic, the other with the Chaldaic tongues, while the speech of the Mare islanders in the Loyalty group is curiously akin to Latin. The resemblance has never struck me, but the Mares are certainly the best fighting-men in the South Seas.

As for the natives, they are so far from reticent that the garrulity of their answers to questions has often been my despair; sufflaminandi erant, as Ben Jonson said of Shakspeare. They are about 8,000 to 10,000 in numbers, each tribe being divided into sea-folk and bush-folk. The sea-folk live so near the water that the prows of their canoes often poke into the doors of their huts. They are coco-tree planters, and great fishers. Once a week their women hold a market with those of the twin bush-folk, who are yam-growers. The ladies of each section of the tribe sit down in rows with their produce before them, and barter is transacted in dances, with a good deal of manoeuvring.

Though bigger than most South Sea islanders, the natives are smaller than Europeans, but not conspicuously so, except when they wear European clothes. They vary from a very dark brown to a light complexion. Albinos are not uncommon, and are held in neither higher nor lower esteem than their neighbours. The hair is coarse and woolly, they straighten and lighten it by the use of wood-ashes. The teeth are admirable, and never diseased. Used as imple- ments, they are worn down to the bone in the old people. The noses of some are flat, in others large and heavy ; some are of the high North American Indian type,^ Those

' The elhnology is very obscure : probably there is a Melanesian population with Western Polynesian elements. — A. L.