ePub 版

five - cultivated, thoughtful, and well- the door, asking treatment for a badly born; a graduate of a great univer- infected cut on her ankle. The cut was sity, and knowing intimately the people washed with soap and water, rinsed and capitals of many lands. When the with alcohol, painted with iodine, and war was over, he found himself out of sealed with adhesive plaster. I arrived touch with a life that seemed feverish an hour or two later; and as we sat and over-complex, and set out to seek down to lunch, a group of men and a place where he might pass the re- women approached at a rapid gait and mainder of his days in tranquillity. stopped before the house, talking excitHe had visited Tahiti before, and faroutedly among themselves. on the eastern extremity of the island The manner in which a caller aphis travels came to an end. There, proaches the house of his friend is close to the lagoon, in a thatched house, worthy of remark, for it throws a curistocked with books and good furniture ous side-light on Tahitian ideas of proand porcelain, he may be found to-day, priety. Since heathen days, the grounds a cheerful and serene recluse. Pos- surrounding the dwelling of every man sessed of enough to live in modest com- of importance have been enclosed by a fort, he seems to have found the en- fence or hedge. The caller halts outside vironment best suited to his quality of this barrier and waits, with an air of mind. When he asked me to spend a humility, until the cry of welcome is few days with him, I went with some given by someone within. curiosity to observe how my friend's ‘Haere mai,' called my host; and next venture was working out.

moment the dining-room was full of I found him settled to a quiet routine, people. They had come to tell him – in a place beautiful enough to excite the

all at once

of the wonderful results envy of an emperor. The view from his

of his medicine on old Teura. Remedies verandah - a panorama of mountains, given at daybreak had been known to forest, river, and bright-blue sea cure before dark, but this one had done would warrant a journey of a thousand its work in a matter of four hours — leagues. During the year of his resi- effecting a cure without parallel in the dence, he has learned to speak Tahitian memory of the village. The patient with surprising fluency, and without was eager to thank her benefactor in any effort toward authority, has be- person, but her family thought it best, come a sort of village patriarch and for the present, to keep her out of the counselor in native affairs. There is sunlight. For five years she had been neither white doctor nor brown tahua blind, and now-dimly, but more clearnearer than fifty miles; perceiving this ly every hour -- she could see! fact, my friend sent home for elementary The doctor took his cue with just the medical books and a stock of simple right degree of casual professional inremedies. Now he administers iodine terest - neither claiming nor disclaimand castor oil to such a multitude that ing credit for the achievement. So much he has been obliged to set aside certain the better, if they chose to believe him hours for consultation.

capable of miracles; in future his simple His good-nature is rewarded at times. admonishments would be heard with On the day of my arrival he performed more respect. It was the moment to - quite unintentionally - a cure which drive home a strong impression; he selplaced him in a class with the famous dom gave rum to the natives, but now healers of the island. Early in the morn- glasses were filled and we drank to the ing, a child led an old blind woman to

restored vision of Teura.

a sou


[ocr errors]

When they had gone and we had fin- Before the tahua took her leave, she ished lunch, the conversation turned to suggested the frequent drinking of an native medicine. I told him of an ex- infusion of orange leaves, and informed perience of my own, when I was down me that the real cure could not begin with an attack of old malaria

for another day, as the brewing of my venir of Vera Cruz. (The Anopheles medicine required twenty-four hours. mosquito, by the way, which carries the I awoke next morning with the vague germs of malaria, does not thrive in the premonitory depression familiar to all of islands of the eastern Pacific, though his us—an overflow from the subconscious, cousin Stegomia trails ominous striped independent of positive memory. What legs under one's nose at all hours of the was it that made disagreeable the prosday, and makes one shudder at the pect of the coming day. – Ah, yes, thought of a carrier of yellow fever ar- the sea-urchins! Toward nine o'clock riving by chance in Polynesia.) At the the doctor appeared. The cure began height of my illness, actuated by curi- with a bath from head to heels in a osity more than anything else, I called dark tincture of the grass gathered the in a Tahitian doctor of the half-baked day before; and after the bath my sore modern school. Perhaps I do the old bones were treated to an hour of maslady an injustice — for my doctor was sage. In this branch of their art, at elderly and feminine; at any rate, I least, I can affirm the competence of recovered, and can vouch for the po- the native doctors. The bath and mastency of her raau, which may or may not sage were calculated to pave the way have had a beneficial effect.

for the final coup-de-grâce — almost as Ushered in reverently by an attend- deadly as the poniard-thrust between ant, she squatted on the verandah be- the joints of a mediæval gorget. It side where I lay, and regarded me for a came in the form of a half-pint tumbler, time with shrewd black eyes, set in a filled with a viscous whitish liquid. I do face of wrinkled brown. Perhaps she not know all its ingredients, or how was merely shy; perhaps she doubted they were compounded, but the boiledthe sincerity of a white man willing to down power of strange substances was pin his faith on native medicine. At in it, and it tasted worse than it looked. last she seemed satisfied and asked me 'Some people,' remarked my doctor, rapidly — and rather competently, I gazing admiringly at her handiwork in thought - a list of diagnostic ques- the glass held out to me, 'cannot take tions. It did not take her long to decide this medicine it is too strong. But on the needful febrifuge; within five it will cure your fever!' minutes she had summoned three girls This was no time to hesitate - I of the household and dispatched them seized the glass and gulped down its in search of her primitive drugs. One evil contents. An hour later I began to was to gather a coarse grass found along understand why some people could not the edge of the lagoon; another was take it, and decided that I must be one ordered to grate the meat and express

of them. The tahua had not exagthe cream of half-a-dozen cocoanuts; gerated when she said that it was the third set out for the reef in a canoe, strong. Keats might have had its efto search for a variety of sea-urchin fects in mind when he wrote: called fetue. All this sounded ominous

My heart aches and a drowsy numbness pains enough to me; I began to regret the

My sense, as though of hemlock I had drunk curiosity which leads one into scrapes, but it was too late to think of retreat. As the day dragged on, it became increasingly evident that I had been to him from all parts of Tahiti, from indiscreet. I thought again of the Moorea and the Leeward group, and doctor's words, and I recalled — not even from distant islands of the Pauwithout uneasiness a passage in an motu. Some of his cures were too abold missionary chronicle of life in these surdly simple to seem real. I ran across same islands: ‘Many of their applica- an Englishman, when I was here before, tions, however, were powerful. A who had suffered for months from an preparation, in which milk from the abscess of the leg - one of those hatepulp of the cocoanut formed a principal ful things which seem to heal from time ingredient, was sometimes followed by to time, only to break out again, deeper almost instant death. Mr. Barff once and more malignant than before. When took this preparation, at the earnest the sufferer had reached the point of recommendation of the people; but it arranging a trip to New Zealand, somenearly cost him his life, although he had one persuaded him to let Tiurai have a not drunk more than half the quantity go at it. Skeptical, but ready to try prepared.

anything in his extremity, the EnglishA sinister thought, especially since I man drove out to the district where the had swallowed the whole dose, one half native doctor lived. A dozen carts were of which had nearly caused the death drawn up before the house, and groups of the acquiescent Mr. Barff! Toward of people, with the solemn air of mournevening, when I was long past the stage ers at a death-bed, sat under the trees of being able to smile at my predica- awaiting their interviews. When the ment, I fell asleep — if sinking un- abscess was shown to Tiurai, he gave pleasantly into a loss of consciousness it only a casual glance and said that he may be described in words so peaceful. would send medicine the next day. I awoke at dawn, weak and giddy, but 'In the morning a boy appeared with better than I had been for several days. the remedy: a small bottle of what Perhaps the raau cured me. I only know seemed to be ordinary monoi - cocoathat my curiosity is satisfied – I shall nut-oil, scented with the blossoms of never dabble in native remedies again. the Tahitian gardenia. The patient

*You are probably right,' remarked was instructed to obtain the scarlet tailmy friend, smiling at the announce- feather of a tropic bird, dip it in the ment of this decision; 'the last of the oil, and draw a circle around the abold-fashioned native doctors — who

at sunrise, at noon, and at sunreally knew something — is dead. His set. This sounds ridiculous enough, but name was Tiurai; I met him when I for some reason the bad leg began to visited Tahiti before the war, and one improve at once and was healed within cannot doubt that he did, at times, ac- a few days. complish remarkable results. There is 'Over certain organs of the body so much humbug involved in all native notably the heart and kidneys — the medicine that it is difficult to distin- remedies of Tiurai possessed a remarkguish genuine skill from quackery; but able control; it is a pity that some Eurowhile old Tiurai used all the frills of his pean doctor did not gain the old man's art, he certainly possessed a consider confidence and persuade him to impart able knowledge of anatomy and an ac- the more important of his secrets. He quaintance with the virtues of many died in the epidemic of 1918 — the last kinds of herbs. He never took a fee. of a long line of tahuas. His loss was a During the last decade of his life he was heavy one to the island; as an obstetritoo busy to travel about; people came cian alone he was of immense value, VOL. 128 - NO. 4


[ocr errors]


with his curious system of massage, sort only a few weeks ago. In the house which seemed to rob child-birth of where I was stopping there was a young nearly all its suffering. The fact that girl who did the family washing and no others sprang up to take his place ironing-agentle, good-natured youngproves that Tiurai possessed unusual ster of sixteen. I was reading on the powers. There is a doctor practising at a

verandah, one evening after dinner, and Paea and another at Haapape, but the noticed this girl near-by, gazing out natives have little confidence in them over the sea in the detached and dreamy and consult them only in trifling cases. manner of her race. Suddenly I heard This does not apply, of course, to the her give a low cry, and, glancing up professional exorcists, who form a dis- from my book, I saw that she was cowtinct class. You will find them in nearly ering with an air of fear, arms raised every village — the trusted exponents

the trusted exponents and bent as if to ward off invisible blows. of an ancient art.'

When I reached her, a moment later, she had collapsed in a faint; I remember

the awkwardness of carrying her limp III

body to a couch. I felt her pulse, and it The modern exorcists, to whom my seemed to me that her heart was barely host alluded, are descendants of the stirring. Then, screaming terribly, and heathen Faatere, employed in the old with a suddenness that was uncanny, days by friends of the demon-ridden, to she sat up. I had noticed that she was drive out the evil spirit invoked by a a rather pretty girl, with tender lips and sorcerer. European witnesses of the soft dark eyes; now her lips were disagony and death of those upon whom torted in a snarl and flecked with a the destroying spirits preyed were light froth, while her eyes, fixed and forced to confess that powers beyond open to the fullest extent, shone with a their comprehension were at work. dull red glare. She sprang to her feet Even the hard-headed missionaries ad- with an air of horrid desperation. The mitted this. One of the most distin- next moment three of us seized her. guished of them, writing of Tahiti near- While we took good care to do her no ly a century ago, observed: 'It is not harm, she was not in the least afraid of necessary now to inquire whether satan- hurting us, and Aung us about as if ic agency affects the bodies of men. We we were children; it seemed to me that know this was the fact at the time our there was something monstrous in the Saviour appeared on earth. Many of strength and ferocity of her struggles. the natives of these islands are firmly In the midst of the scuffle, an elderly persuaded that, while they were idola- man appeared on the verandah — a ters, their bodies were subject to most spirit-doctor of some local reputation, excruciating sufferings from the direct who took in the situation at a glance. operation of satanic power . . . and 'Tell me quickly,' he said, 'where I

some of the early missionaries are can find a bottle of perfume strong disposed to think this was the fact.' perfume.'

There are still on Tahiti one or two I told him there was cologne on the old men considered capable of dire nec- dressing-table in my room, and in an romancy, but the belief is dying fast, instant he had a towel soaked in the and nowadays it is the spirit of an an- stuff, waving it about the frantic girl's cestor - naturally malicious, or offend- head. Perhaps the fit had run its course; ed by some misdeed which harries for she ceased at once to struggle, and the human victim. I saw a case of this sank down on the floor, quiet and limp.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]







Someone had run to fetch the Euro- girl had acquired a lover and was conpean doctor, and when he arrived the

cealing from her family the fact of an girl had recovered consciousness. He impending motherhood. sat down beside her, to ask questions There is a good deal of misapprehenin a low voice. By the troubled look in sion in regard to the native code of her eyes I could see that she understood; morality, which most white men disbut though she seemed to make an ef- miss with the statement that no such fort to speak, no sound came from her thing exists. In reality, the discovery lips. Presently he rose. 'It is a sort of that this child was involved in an inepilepsy,' he informed us; ‘though from trigue was something of a shock to the what you say the attack must have been native mind, for she was supposedly more than usually violent. Pauvre en- one of the chaste girls of whom every fant — there is no cure.'

village possesses a few - carefully When he had gone the girl spoke. guarded, and objects of considerable Her story may have been pure imagina- local pride. Chastity is, I believe, and tion, or the memory of a singular and always has been, in Polynesia, a virtue vivid dream; in the eyes of the natives, as highly prized as it is rare, though we of course, it was terrifying, but neither are apt to lose sight of the fact, because incredible nor strange.

the woman who cannot boast of it is 'I was resting after my work,' she neither shunned nor scorned. said, 'watching the little clouds above Native morals or rather the lack the sea. All at once I saw an old woman of them — are responsible for the adstanding before me. She carried a staff vent of a regrettably large proportion of black wood in her hand; her gray of visitors to the islands. This is simple hair hung tangled about her shoulders; truth. The credulous and shoddy volupshe gazed at me without smiling, and I tuary - in England, America, or France was greatly afraid. I knew her at once chances on one of the South Sea for my grandmother, who died when I books in vogue, to feast his mind on a was a child. Then she raised her staff text spiced with innuendo, and his eyes and began to beat me, and I put up my on portraits of brown ladies whose arms to ward off the blows. After that, charms are trammeled only by the I felt myself dying. When I awoke on sketchiest of attire. After that, if cirthe couch, she was standing beside me, cumstances permit, he is not unlikely and as I opened my eyes I saw her to board a steamer for the islands; but raise her club. Of the rest I know noth- a month or two later you will find him ing, except that, when the doctor ques

even more eager to return, for the realtioned me, I could not answer, for the ity of his tawdry dream does not exist hand of that woman was on my lips.' - the women within his reach are, if

“The tupapau,' remarked Mahine, possible, less interesting than their sisthe spirit-doctor, when the girl had been ters of Leicester Square, or Sixth Aveput to bed, 'cannot abide perfume; it nue, or the Butte. will drive off the most dangerous of In general the white men of the isthem. But though she pretends inno- lands are there for one of four reasons: cence, I know that girl has done an ill work, drink, women, or a murky past. thing, to incur the anger of her grand- But generalities are proverbially demother.'

ceptive, and a man like my friend the In justice to the spirit-world, I must American recluse, who chooses to live add that Mahine was not mistaken. on Tahiti - decently and wholesomeIt was discovered afterward that the ly as he would live at home, — because

« 上一頁繼續 »