Page:Picturesque New Guinea.djvu/127

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41
FIRST EXCURSION IN NEW GUINEA.

Chief, the native chiefs held an earnest consultation amongst themselves, and Lohio-bada asked leave to call on us again after we had taken our evening meal. The chiefs then retired. As the atmosphere of the room had become by this time quite stifling, I called on Hunter to disperse the crowd, so that we might eat our meal in peace. Slowly and reluctantly the summons to "clear out" was obeyed; and whilst our landlord and his wife gave the house a sweeping out and general tidying, we stepped out to inspect the village.

Whilst strolling round a native (through Hunter) proposed that I should buy from him a pig at the price of a tomahawk, the porker to be slaughtered next day, and made the pièce de resistance in a general feast. I agreed to the terms, but, not having a tomahawk with me, I was obliged to explain that the seller must give me credit, and must come himself to the Port to obtain payment. The bargain was sealed at once, this simple child of nature having no conception of anything like meditated deception in such a transaction. The staple of the live stock of this village was, visibly, swine. These animals swarmed everywhere, and followed us about like dogs of the household. The particular pig which I now was able to claim as my private property was pointed out to me; it seemed to be about half grown, and was in very good condition.

On re-entering our lodgings we found tea awaiting us; and our hurricane lamp, suspended from the rafter, threw a dim light upon a strangely unaccustomed interior. Piles of yams, taro, and other edible roots occupied three sides of the apartment; on the walls hung shields, clubs, and mouth ornaments; sheafs of spears were stacked horizontally between the rafters and the thatch. In the centre of the floor, which was made of battens of the sago palm, stood the fireplace (about four feet by five), with an inch or two of puddled clay for a foundation, on which lay a bed of ashes. Saplings of some four inches thick, scarfed into one another and bound together with cane, composed the fender, so that the precautions against a conflagration were fully sufficient. Our biscuits being of rather inferior quality I tried the experiment of substituting for these taro roots roasted in the ashes, which, with some