Page:Picturesque New Guinea.djvu/128

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.
42
PICTURESQUE NEW GUINEA.

apple jelly, was a novel food I confess I greatly enjoyed. This root, when carefully roasted, tastes somewhat like chestnuts, and is very palatable. For second course we had a pot of rabia (sago) prepared in the primitive native fashion, which is a little imperfect inasmuch as the washing given to the farina is not sufficient to remove from it the colouring and fibrous matters, so that it soon turns sour. Some of our own apple jelly added to the sago, with the sharp sauce of hunger to give the combination an additional relish, we managed to make a very hearty meal.

Tea over, I was about to take a quiet smoke when Hunter informed me that Lohio-bada and some other chiefs were coming to give us a full account of the onslaught made upon the tribe occupying this village by the neighbouring tribe, the same troublesome people that had robbed and speared Morrison. To refuse to hear their story would be counted a grave affront. Soon the dusky warriors made their appearance, creeping in Indian file through the low doorway on hands and knees. The dim light of the hurricane lamp played fantastically over their savage features and imposing forms. They were arrayed in all their savage panoply, evidently with the design of deeply impressing the white strangers. Cassowary plumes and coronets of feathers adorned their heads; their white nose ornaments contrasted grotesquely with their faces, painted in transverse streaks of red and black in sign of mourning and woe. For a time not a word was spoken. Presently there came in a steaming mess of rabia in a huge wooden bowl, a present from the chief Lohio-bada's wife. This was first handed to Hunter, who, as the representative man of our party, was obliged to go through the form of eating a portion of the guest-meal. Then the bowl was passed from hand to hand amongst the chiefs until it was entirely emptied. The empty bowl was again handed to Hunter, who dropped into it a stick of tobacco as a token of thanks for the hospitality shown us. The tobacco was for the use of the chief's wife.—Note, to have refused to join in the meal, or to have failed to drop a gift into the empty bowl, would have been deemed an unpardonable breach of Papuan etiquette.

The bau-bau (the calumet of peace) was next passed round, and