A SKETCH OF
ing as director. He holds a cloth in his hand, and waves it with loud and incessant shouts, to animate those who are dragging the ponderous block. At his shouting they pull in concert, and so far his shouting is of real service. Holy water is also sprinkled on the stone as a means of facilitating its progress, till at length, after immense shouting, sprinkling, and pulling, it reaches its destination.
When the tomb is erected for a person deceased, but not yet buried, no noise is made in dragging the stones for its construction. Profound silence is regarded as indicating the respect of the parties employed. The tombs are occasionally washed with a mixture of lime, or white clay, and thus furnish to the eye of the traveler a pleasing variety in the objects around him. The entrance to the vault is covered by a large upright block of stone, which is removed when a corpse is taken in, and fixed in its former position at the termination of the ceremony. Small native fans are used in driving insects from the corpse, while it remains in the house, and on the road to the grave; these are left stuck in the earth over the grave. High poles are often planted around the tomb, upon which the skulls and horns of the bullocks slaughtered at the interment are stuck, the number of these showing the wealth of the family, or the value of the tribute thus rendered by survivors to the memory of the departed. Sometimes the horns are stuck in the earth at the corners of the tomb, or fixed in the form of a fence around it. This is considered highly ornamental.
Those who are desirous of paying great respect to their deceased relatives, and of preserving their tombs in good repair, keep the ground immediately around the graves in neat and excellent order, preserving it perfectly smooth and level, and free from weds. In the tombs of the wealthy much treasure is often buried.
Though the Malagasy are exceedingly kind and attentive to their sick, and exhibit the most grand and solemn manifestations of respect on the death of noted persons among them, yet they leave the bodies of criminals at the foot of the precipice from which they have been thrown, to be torn to pieces by the dogs, and to litter the earth with their bones.
Some of the amusements of the Malagasy are quite curious. The wife in saluting her husband, or the slave his master, on his return from war or from a journey, crawls on the ground and licks his feet.