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IN THE SHADOW OF FANEUHI
BY CHARLES BERNARD NORDHOFF
TOWARD evening the wind died away to a little breeze from the southeast; barely enough to fill the sails of the schooner and ruffle gently the calm surface of the sea. Banks of cloud, gold-rimmed and flushing in the sunset, were piled above the horizon, and beneath them loomed a purplish blur of land
the skyline of Huahine, first of the Leeward Islands.
I was stretched on the after-deck, listening to the faint lap and gurgle of water under the counter. The sound of subdued laughter came from the forecastle, breaking a murmur of voices speaking softly in the native tongue. The ship's bell sounded twice, seemed to hesitate, and rang twice again. A sailor in dungarees and a ragged straw hat came aft to replace the helmsman, who yawned as he stepped aside from the wheel, stretching huge bare arms in a gesture of relief. I noticed for the first time that he was of a type rare ly seen in the islands to-day: a hand'sbreadth taller than what we count a tall man; superbly proportioned on a giant scale, and light-skinned as a Sicilian or Catalan.
The white man beside me looked up with a scowl. He was a lean and bilious gentleman, with eyebrows that twitched unpleasantly when he spoke, and the air of perpetual discontent that goes with a dyspeptic mouth. I used to wonder why the directors had selected him for his task the collection of Polynesian material for the cases of an American museum.
'Have a look at that boy,' he re
marked; 'I've collected in a good many parts of the world, but I never had to deal with such people as these Kanakas. They're liars and thieves, every one of them, and that overgrown rascal Teriiaro is the worst of the lot. He took me in for a while - I was quite warmed up over his yarns of a burial-cave at Opoa.
'I was sent here to get together a lot of weapons and bowls and ornaments
genuine old stuff. Nowadays it is all stowed away in the burial-caves; there must be hundreds of them scattered through the islands, but if you think it is easy to find one, try it some day! I don't want to carry away bones
the French government won't allow that; all I want is the ethnological stuff and measurements of a series of old skulls. Living specimens don't prove much, because the modern native is saturated with white blood. Even among the natives the secrets of the burial-caves are closely guarded; I discovered that after I'd wasted three months without getting on the track of one. By that time everyone on the beach knew what I was after, and that I was offering a thousand francs to the man who would show me what I wanted to see. Then one morning Teriiaro knocked at my door, shaky and bleareyed at the end of a seven-day spree. He speaks a little English.
'His proposition was simple: for a thousand francs down and another thousand when the job was finished to my satisfaction, he would show me the burial-cave at Opoa- the biggest of
them all, he claimed. We were to run down to Raiatea by different boats, and while I waited at Uturoa, he would go ahead to see that the coast was clear, bring out and hide all the stuff he could carry, and return to take me around the island by night in his canoe. I had to swear not to give him away.
'Jackson gave me a line on the boy. I said I was considering him for a guide to help me explore the interior of Raiatea. Yeshe knew the island well; people lived near Opoa; chiefs since heathen times. Well, I took a chance. I waited at Uturoa and finally Teriiaro came to tell me that he had failed; years before, he had known the cave, but now he could n't find it perhaps a landslide had blocked it up. I was put out; he had taken my money and made a fool of me; but I raised such a row about my thousand francs that, when we got back to Tahiti, he persuaded old Jackson - Ah, here's Jackson now.'
A thin old man in pajamas was coming aft. His eyes of faded blue regarded the world with a glance at once kindly and cynical; a short curved pipe — so permanently affixed that it seemed as much a part of him as his nose protruded through the curtain of a white moustache. The manager of the Atoll Trading Company was known to remove his pipe, now and then, in order to knock out the ashes and fill it; and presumably it did not remain in his mouth when he slept; but at other times it was to be seen in place, trailing a blue wisp of smoke, and lending to his utterances pronounced between teeth forever held apart by a quarterinch of hard rubber an individual quality. Old Jackson is a person of considerable education, and probably the most successful trader in eastern Polynesia; and he knows more of the native life than is considered good for a white man. As he sat down carefully
beside me, settling his back against the rail, the collector rose to go below. The trader smiled behind his moustache.
'Still croaking about his thousand francs, eh?' he said, when the other was gone. 'Teriiaro paid that long ago -I lent him the money myself. I fancy he's been telling you what a lot of thieves and liars the natives are a conclusion based on a single experience. No doubt he's right the native does n't differ very much from the rest of us. But Teriiaro, though he does drink a bit, is not a bad boy; I've known his grandfather for twenty. years, and you won't come across a finer old chap. The men of the family were hereditary high priests at Opoa for centuries, and the missionaries still suspect the old man of dabbling in heathenism. The boy was probably lying when he told this collector person he could n't find the cave; he admitted as much to me when he asked me to lend him the money to make good his advance. I'll give you his side of the story as he told it to me that day; you can believe what you like the native yarn, at any rate, is the more entertaining of the two.
'From the time of his birth, Teriiaro lived at the mouth of the valley of Opoa, at the foot of Faneuhi, the sacred mountain, in the house of his grandfather, Matatua. There is not a drop of white blood in the family, which is of the highest aristocracy, as natives go; you've seen the boy a much bigger man, and lighter-colored, than the run of them. Before the missionaries came, Opoa, on the island of Raiatea, was the holiest place in the Eastern Pacific: Oro, the war-god, was born there, and human sacrifices were brought from distant islands to be slain before the platform of rock in the grove of ironwood trees. When a high chief died, his body, embalmed by rubbing with cocoanut oil and the juices of
herbs, was laid on the marae for the ceremonies which would admit his spirit to Rohutu Noanoa- the SweetScented Heaven. After that, the corpse was borne, secretly and by night, far into the recesses of the valley, to a cave known only to the few who were its guardians. Nowadays the forest has grown thick about the neglected marae, and the natives fear the place as the haunt of evil spirits, saying that the hunter of a wild pig or gatherer of firewood who sets foot on that ground will be afflicted with a palsy, or break out with loathsome sores like those of a leper.
'Matatua, the grandfather of Teriiaro, is a wizard of great repute among the people. They believe that he can foretell the future, invoke the spirits of the dead, and lay spells which cause those who incur his displeasure to sicken and die. He alone on the island can subdue the fury of the fire in the Umuti, and by the power of his incantations pass unharmed with those to whom he gives leave over the whitehot stones. The missionary at Uturoa, to whom Matatua is a thorn in the flesh, came once to view this fire-walking; but he could make nothing of it and said that it was devil's work that Matatua was an unholy man, to be avoided like the devil himself. Nevertheless, the people still come from great distances to consult Matatua though secretly, for fear the missionary might hear of it.
out into the darkness; sometimes the boy fell asleep, and awoke at daybreak to find them gone and Matatua sleeping heavily in his corner. Once, when the moon was in its last quarter and he could see dimly, he rose as they went out and followed secretly until he saw them disappear in the forest where the skulls lie by the marae; but fear overcame him then, and he turned back. On those nights, fishermen on the barrier reef saw awesome things: glowing masses of flame, like pale comets, rushing down the mountainside; fitful glares on the tree-tops, as of fires suddenly fed and as suddenly extinguished; and sometimes, if the night breeze blew strongly from the land, they heard the faint deep throb of drums.
'Once the old man took the boy with him, far up into the valley, to gather herbs. At a place where three great miro trees grew apart from the rest of the forest, Matatua led the way to the base of a cliff. Directing his grandson to bind dry cocoanut fronds for a torch, he moved aside a thin slab of stone, disclosing a passage into the bowels of the mountain. Presently they stood in a lofty cavern, its ceiling lost in shadows that advanced and retreated in the flickering torchlight. From niches about the rocky walls looked out the skulls of men long dead; on the dry sandy floor, in ordered rows, lay
the gigantic figures of chiefs, bound with wrappings of delicately plaited cinnet; and beside each dead warrior was his polished omore of ironwood. And Matatua led the way from one to another, telling the names of men and of the clubs they had borne, and reciting their deeds in the poetic words of other days.
'In this way, Teriiaro came to know of the Sacred Cave of Opoa. On account of a woman, he left the house of his grandfather and came to Tahiti. Tetua was her name she lived in the district of Opoa and her pretty face caught the fancy of Teriiaro. Her family was of the lowest class of society
the Manahune, whom some believe to be the descendants of an aboriginal race, smaller and darker-skinned than the Polynesian immigrants. Matatua sternly forbade the match the gulf between the families was too great. But Teriiaro was no longer a child, and one night he and the girl stole away to Uturoa by canoe, and took passage on a schooner to Papeete.
'Had such a proposal been made to him when he first arrived in Tahiti, he would have dismissed the idea with horror. But he had been a long time in Papeete and had heard white men, whose wisdom he had no reason to doubt, ridicule the old beliefs-calling them heathen nonsense, fit only to deceive the ignorant. The offer of money in advance was an irresistible temptation; he spent the thousand francs on drink and dresses for Tetua, before his departure for the Leeward Group.
"The collector stopped in Uturoa, as they had agreed, while Teriiaro went on to the house of his grandfather. The old man received him gravely, saying that he had done well to come home, for reports of his bad habits in Tahiti had reached Raiatea. If he suspected the object of Teriiaro's visit, he gave no sign, and the boy began to fancy, with a faint new-born contempt, even here, in the shadow of Faneuhi, the sacred mountain, that, after all, white men were right. But he pretended interest when Matatua spoke of a desire to initiate him in the wisdom of the ancients, and suggested that he leave home no more.
'On the third morning the old man launched his canoe, telling his grandson that he was obliged to make a trip to Tevaitoa, on the far side of the island, where he owned land. There was copra to be weighed and sold - he might be gone a week. Teriiaro stood on the beach until the canoe had rounded a distant wooded point. His chance had
'I heard their story when he came to my office asking for work. As it chanced, I needed an extra hand to unload copra, and for a time he and Tetua got on happily enough. Then the boy began to run wild, wandering about at night with drunken companions and sleeping wherever the rum overcame him. The girl used to stop me on the streets, her eyes swollen with tears, and ask if I could n't do something to keep her husband straight.
'I got tired of it, finally, and put him aboard a schooner trading through the Paumotu. Hard work and clean living soon made a man of him; but when he returned to Papeete, the story was always the same. It was at the end of one of these sprees that he heard of the collector and made up his mind to rifle the Opoa burial-cave.
'It was still early when he started on his journey inland. The grass was still damp with dew; the air was cool, and fragrant with the scent of pua blossoms. He was thinking of the things he would buy with the second thousand francs: a new guitar, bright with pearl inlay, which would mark him as a man
of substance among his friends; the long-coveted watch with a luminous dial; a pair of shoes for Tetua, the kind with high heels, such as the half-caste girls in Papeete wear. His feet were as nimble as his thoughts; he glanced up, and the three great miro trees, stately and sombre as in the days of his boyhood, stood before him. The rest of the story I can tell you only as he told it
"When he had bound torches of dried cocoanut frond, he walked toward the base of the cliff, where years before his grandfather had shown him the entrance of the cavern. As he drew near the place, he saw a thing that made him pause. There, on a great rock, glaring at him and seeming to oppose his passage, was a lizard far larger than any known in the islands to-day. "Ah," thought the boy, in half-terrified bravado, "does my grandfather leave the king of all the lizards to guard his dry bones when he is away?" But when he cast a stone at the lizard, it vanished, and in its place stood an old man with hair as white as coral long bleached in the sun. His eyes were terrible to see; they held the eyes of Teriiaro with a strange power, causing his courage to melt away, and the strength to flow from his limbs. Then the life went out of him, and he knew no more until he became aware of a beating in his brain-a sound which changed to the throbbing of a great drum.
'When his eyes opened he saw what chilled his blood. There was the marae with its row of skulls, lighted from either side by torches which seemed trees aflame. On the platform of rock lay a shapeless thing, like an unhewn log, wound about with fine cinnet and decked with tufts of red feathers. At the foot of the marae was gathered a company of tall old men, dressed in the fashion of the ancient days, and in their
midst one knelt by the Ofai Tuturu the Praying-Stone-intoning a solemn chant. It seemed to Teriiaro that the priest was offering up something that lay before him. At times he paused in his chanting, and held up both hands toward the image on the marae. Then the drums thundered and the flame of the burning trees seemed to leap up with redoubled brightness. Moving his head a little, the boy saw that the offering was the dead body of a man; and at that moment the priest plucked out an eye and held it above his head, while the drums throbbed louder and deeper than before, and the huge torches, which seemed never to be consumed, sent flames leaping to the tops of the ironwood trees.
'As full consciousness returned to him, Teriiaro realized with a sudden pang of terror that his hands and feet were bound, and that two silent men, with axes of dolerite in their hands, stood over him. Was he destined to lie where the body of that other man lay now an offering to the feathered and shapeless god? He nearly swooned at the thought; and when he felt himself seized and lifted by many hands, his senses left him for the second time.
'A blinding light awakened himthe morning sun, shining through a familiar doorway, was full on his face. Filled with wonder and relief, he glanced about. There in the old corner, sleeping peacefully on a mat, lay Matatua, his grandfather. Teriiaro began to hope that he had only dreamed a strangely vivid and terrifying dream; but presently he noticed on his arm a loop of cinnet, tied in a curious manner; and as he puzzled over this, a disquieting memory came back to him-a saying of his grandfather that in heathen days a victim destined for sacrifice was thus distinguished.
'Stealthily and in haste he launched his canoe and paddled away from the