Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 14, 1903.djvu/273

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The Natives of New Caledonia. 247

country, consisted almost entirely in a walk up one coast and down another, we arrived at a place called Taugau, on the eastern side. Here we saw what is, I must allow, not a very common sight in New Caledonia, viz., two natives staggering drunk. They were reeling about, and bothered us a good deal by persisting in embracing our guides. Now about this place, Taugau, the track we had to take was a most dangerous one ; it wound along the face of a cliff that hung at a great height over the sea, and you had to step along it very cautiously from one projecting rock to another ; the least false step would have been destruction. I passed it with much difficulty myself (barefooted of course, boots being out of the question), and was just saying, " Well, we are at least rid of our drunkards," when to my horror I saw one of them following. He was singing at the top of his voice, swinging his arms about, and his body swaying dreadfully. Every second I expected to see him fall, but by what seemed a special faculty in his feet, they always landed in exactly the right place. I ordered the guides to go and help him, but they refused to move, saying in a careless tone, " Very good he dies, he does not belong to our tribe. '^ However, the fellow arrived safely to within a few feet of us. Here the cliff ceased suddenly, and there was a fall of about six feet on to the sand. Stepping gaily off this, our (new) friend toppled on to the top of his head, and there we left him.

There are many exceptions to the rule of physical excel- lence : the people of the Isle of Ronde being hideous, with round shoulders, pot-bellies, and hardly human faces. On the whole, however, I can imagine no better Life-School for the artist, than the naked Kanakas. They are marvellous swimmers: two little boys were picked up miles from land, by a European boat ; they were swimming home to Pine Island from New Caledonia ! A gentleman in the boat that found them, got them from their master and took them to their home, and there they lived happily ever afterwards.