Page:Picturesque New Guinea.djvu/201

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71
NATIVE VILLAGES.

which might have entailed serious consequences, but which, as things turned out, ended happily. That the imprudence of some members of the ship's company did not involve us in a serious embroglio was a most fortunate circumstance. After tea one evening one of the bodyguard and two stewards went on shore, the latter without leave. They stayed rather late, and while walking round the village and romping with the natives, had a few sticks of tobacco stolen from them. This they somewhat noisily demanded back, using intimidating gestures, and the result was a panic, the natives assuming that their village would be burnt if the missing tobacco were not restored. Howling and shrieking, the women snatched up their children and fled into the bush, making so great a hubbub, that those on board the "Blackall" became seriously alarmed on the circumstance of three members of the company being on shore becoming known. Captain Lake and Mr. Chalmers at once went on shore in the dingy to ascertain the cause of the disturbance, and rescue the men if possible. By the time they reached the shore the commotion had greatly abated, and they discerned some white men putting off in a native canoe, which they pursued, and identified the occupants. The General was naturally much annoyed at the circumstance, and the matter was thoroughly investigated next day, a High Commissioner's Court being convened, which the culprits were summoned to attend. The Court was held at the teacher's house, the evidence of the native witnesses being translated by Mr. Chalmers and the teacher, and taken down by me. The decision was reserved, but the proceedings were conducted with dignity and decorum, and evidently made a strong impression on the native mind. The congregation assembled afforded an excellent opportunity for an ethnologist. The admixture of races here becomes very noticeable, and further eastward the lighter coloured Polynesian type becomes more and more pronounced.

The next district to be visited is Aroma. Koapena, the great chief of that part of the country, hearing of the General's intention of going there, came down to Kerepunu, and was His Excellency's guest on the trip to Aroma. We left Kerepunu on the morning of the 2nd October,