Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 14, 1903.djvu/274

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248 The Natives of Neiv Caledonia,

This reminds me of another incident connected with their swimming, which gives a brighter glimpse of native character than one usually gets. A white man whom I know very well, coming once over from Lifu to New Caledonia, was swept overboard, having got entangled in some ropes. He tells me that almost as he went over the side he saw something flash after him. This was a man called Hyma, a chief of Lifu, and all honour to him. He had seen the white man go over, and with admirable presence of mind and courage had thrown out two oars, and then come himself. The position of the pair was a very perilous one. The people in the boat were no great sailors, besides that, the great heavy cutter was difficult to manage at any time ; in fact it was nearly three hours before they were rescued. My friend told me he quite gave himself up for lost, but the native kept cheering him up all the time. " No fear, Mr. C, no fear. Plenty water here, and so no sharks. Suppose boat no find us, I savez take you ashore," and he would have done so too, alive or dead, I believe, though they were many miles from land. This Hyma I knew well, he was the best native in all respects whom I ever met.

As a rule, the natives are given to infanticide, and are terribly cruel to animals. To children and the old they are kind ; ' and, among themselves, of a generosity that seems to arise mainly from aversion to refuse any request. A bright-coloured shirt, given to one man, goes round the tribe like a novel from a circulating library. Twice only have I seen a child beaten. It was done in the manner and on the part of the person customary in Europe. Once the offence was rough treatment of little girls ; once it was theft, the father finishing with the remark that " such boys grew up to be wife-stealers." The men, when in anger,

' M. Lazare Sainean says that the old are killed in New Caledonia (^VEtat actuel des Etudes de Folk Lore, p. 10, Leopold Cerf, Paris, 1902). Mr. Atkinson found no trace of the practice. — A. L.