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FOOD OF THE NATIVES.
cry at parting, and also to cut themselves; but that they had not cut themselves, because they had been told by the English that it was bad to do so.
Some of the missionaries arrived at the ship, just before it set sail, with letters for their friends in England. They bade the captain and sailors an affectionate farewell, and then returned to the shore.
THE SINGULAR MANNERS AND THE WICKED
CUSTOMS OF THE PEOPLE OF TAHITI.
LET us now pause a moment to inquire what were the manners and customs of the people for whose souls these missionaries laboured. I will first speak of their food, and of their manner of taking it.
No corn nor grapes grew in Tahiti ; therefore the inhabitants could neither eat bread nor drink wine; but the trees bore an abundance of fruit, upon which the people lived.
A TAHITIAN DINNER.
The chiefs often ate the flesh of hogs, and sometimes of dogs, both of which animals fed
Rats were the only beasts, besides hogs and dogs, on the island, when first discovered: they were very troublesome, and were always running over the beds and over the food of the people, but they were not eaten by them. Captain Cook had left some cats in Tahiti, which were very useful.
The Tahitians had no regular times for their meals; but they generally had three every day. They had no iron pots, therefore they could only bake their food in holes, or boil it on the ashes of the fire. The most usual din
was fish and bread-fruit. They were served up on leaves, and eaten upon leaves instead of plates. A cocoa-nut shell full of salt water was placed beside each person, and every morsel was dipped in it before it was eaten. English people disliked this sauce very much, but the Tahitians thought it gave a relish to the food.
Different sorts of fruit were often mixed together and made into puddings. The only way of heating them was by putting hot stones into the cocoa-nut milk, with which the fruit was mixed.
But however nice the food was, there was one circumstance that made the meal far less
THE WOMEN'S LONELY MEALS.
pleasant than one taken in England; for the father and mother, brothers and sisters, never ate together. The men and boys generally took their meals together in the house; but each woman and girl ate alone in a little hut built for the purpose. Do you not wonder what could be the reason of so strange a custom? The reason was, that the Tahitian men called the women common, and not fit to eat with them, who they said were holy: for the same reason they would not allow women to eat any of the kinds of food that were offered to the gods, such as hogs, fowls, cocoa-nuts, plantains, turtle, and many sorts of fish. All these things were called sacred, and unfit for women, The men and women had also their food kept in different baskets, and cooked at different fires. A man would not even drink out of a cup that had been used by a woman.
The houses were generally built by the seashore, and under the shade of bread-fruit trees. Their shape was long and narrow: the walls were made of posts placed two or three inches apart, so that the passers-by could see into the house, as into a bird-cage. There were no windows in them, for none were needed; there was, however, a door, tied by cord to a post at
The roof was made of reeds, covered with large leaves. These roofs soon became old, and were often repaired. The beds were mats, made of cocoa-nut leaves woven together, and the pillows were blocks of wood. These mats were placed side by side all down the house, and sometimes there were fifty or sixty in one house; for the Tahitians were fond of company both night and day. The floor was covered with dried grass, which soon became very unpleasant from the food that was spilt upon it. There were no gardens round the house: but sometimes there was a little court enclosed by a low railing, and a walk made of black and white coral up to the house.
There no comfort or peace in these houses, but continual riot, laughing, and talking, even during the night.
When the people travelled, as they often did, they lodged in small sheds by the seashore with their canoes: for they generally went by water, and landed where they wished.
The men and women dressed nearly alike. They wore several yards of cloth of bark, wrapped round their bodies, and, over their shoulders, either a shawl or a tiputa.
You will ask what a tiputa was?
middle, through which the head passed, while the ends of the cloth hung down before and behind, and were confined round the waist by a girdle. As the cloth was spoilt by the rain, in wet weather they wore matting.
They had one frightful custom, called tattooing. They covered their skins with pictures of beasts, birds, flowers, and trees. These pictures were drawn, not with a pencil, but with a sharp fish-bone fastened to the end of a stick. After the marks were made, a dark stuff, made of the juice of a plant, was put into them. This operation was very painful. It was done to the
young people, when about twelve or fourteen
years old. The figures were seldom made on the face, but chiefly on the legs and arms. The chiefs were more beautifully tattooed than the common people, because they hired persons who could tattoo the best, to adorn them.
The men generally had long hair fastened with a comb on the back of their heads, and the women had short hair, which they arranged with great care, and often adorned with garlands of flowers. The women often wore shades over their
eyes made of yellow cocoanut leaves, to screen them from the sun, but they never wore bonnets.
Both men and women thought a great deal of their appearance, and spent much time in trying to make themselves look handsome;