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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 34.djvu/664

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

The ordinary Fijian house looks, outside, like a great oblong hay-stack, standing on a mound raised some few feet above the surrounding level, with a long ridge-pole extending beyond the roof at either gable, its ends sometimes ornamented with shells. The hay-stack has a doorway or two, with a mat suspended in it. Houses with greater pretensions, however, have the walls prettily latticed with reeds, and distinct from the roof, which is elaborately thatched, with great projecting eaves. Inside, immense posts, usually of vesi-wood. (Afzelia bijuga), and a very ingenious framework, support the roof. The interior decorations of sinnet (cocoanut fiber), always in rectilinear patterns—for they do not affect curves—are sometimes pretty. The black, squared lintels of the doors are the stems of tree-ferns. On a great shelf overhead is stored the family lau, a convenient Fijian word equivalent to the Italian roba. Here it comprises their fishing-gear, huge rolls of tappa or native cloth, mats, immense pottery vessels, and the like. The shelves were also handy in war-time as a point of vantage whence you could conveniently spear your neighbor as he entered, and before his eyes became used to the subdued light. The floor is strewed with mats, on which you recline, and is usually raised a foot or so toward one end, which enables you to take a graceful attitude, leaning on your elbow. Cooking is done in a little hut outside, or sometimes there is a great fireplace on the floor, confined by four logs, the smoke finding its way out through the lofty roof. As you enter the house, you find the mats being swept, or fresh ones unrolled and laid down. Your traps are brought up from the boat, and, if this happens to have grounded half a mile from the shore, you have perhaps yourself been carried to land by these willing giants. A few words are exchanged with the village chief or your host for the time being—far too few, to my mind, even for politeness. I am told they do not expect it. If they have ceased to expect politeness from English gentlemen, tant pis! I am helpless from ignorance of the language, and you hardly ever meet a Fijian who knows any English—the missionaries, in whose hands their education has been, having, wisely or otherwise, discouraged it. The silent séance then till supper came, and indeed after, surrounded by those pleasant and dignified faces, for whom I was necessarily dumb, was often very irksome. Supper, however, comes at last, provided from the materials before mentioned, and supplemented perhaps by an offering of fish or turtle. The latter sounds sybaritic, but it is very far from being a delicacy when badly cooked, and still less so when not quite fresh. And there is of course, as accompaniment, the ever-present and ready-cooked yam, or kumara (sweet-potato), or dalo (an arum-root), or bread-fruit, or cassava (manioc). I think I have arranged them approximately