Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 14, 1903.djvu/272

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2_}6 The Natives of New Caledonia.

of their women who reckon among them as beauties, are the least remote from the European ideal. As I never saw them confronted with a pretty white woman, I cannot say whether they would appreciate her charms. As a rule, the natives are well made, upright as a dart, with shoulders well thrown back, the breast prominent, the backbone buried in the deep hollow of the muscles.

From two years old they are extraordinary climbers. The Kanaka method of climbing a coco-nut tree is quite impossible to white men ; they go up a perfectly straight tree holding themselves upright, that is, not clasping the tree with their legs at all. Their toes simply rest on the bark, while their arms clasp it higher up ; they then mount by a series of jumps, from their toes, of a foot or so each time, their arms moving up at the same time by a sliding motion on the other side. It is astonishing how quickly they can get up. I once saw a native Lifu woman do a climbing feat of this sort, that beat all I could have imagined. She had a pretty name too,Wialatha, and like most of the women of that island was very beautifully formed. As I show later, she inspired a native poet. They have in Lifu a slighter and more feminine look than New Caledonian women. I asked her for a coco- nut, and she went to a tree, and began mounting in their usual upright style with her toes on the bark, but, to my surprise, used only one arm to slide up with on the opposite side.^ The other hand held a tomahawk. I could scarcely believe my eyes as I saw her thus clamber up to a dizzy height. The difficulty of this feat will hardly be appreciated by one who has not tried it. In their climbing and balancing they are greatly aided by their bare and nervous feet. These seem to possess some extra sense, at least I at times almost let myself believe so. In a tour I made all round the island, which of course, from the physical conformation of the

' In a New Caledonian Manhen (ISroncelon) the good hero climbs a coco- Iree without usiny his hands. The bad hero fails. The story is like Perraull's " Toads and Pearls." — A. L.