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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 34.djvu/665

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AMONG THE FIJI ISLANDS.

according to their insipidity and unsatisfying qualities. I tried hard to appreciate these famous vegetables, whose very names recall endless picturesque and savage associations; but I never succeeded, and hardly know which I disliked the least.

Sometimes we produced a root of kava, or, as the Fijians call it, yanggona, always a welcome gift, and handed it to our native companions to prepare the national brew. I suppose most people by this time know the orthodox mode of preparing this. It is chewed, or ought to be, as in Samoa, by young and of course pretty girls, and the masticated stuff being thrown into a bowl and mixed with water, the woody particles are fished out with a wisp of the fiber of vau (a malvaceous tree, Paritium sp.), and the liquor is then carried round to each guest in order. Of course, by the old school this mode of preparation is thought very superior to the Tongan innovation of pounding or grating the root. Certainly, the ingredients differ somewhat, and the dash of human secretion in the orthodox mixture possibly promotes digestion—an effect not to be despised after a square meal of half a dozen pounds of yam! Even in the humblest ménage the national bowl is not prepared without some form and circumstance—elaborate traditional motions of the hands in clearing the bowl and rinsing the fiber, strict attention to precedence in handing the cup to the guests (a matter in which, when Europeans were concerned, I was in other islands sometimes consulted), and to other points of etiquette, the transgression of which is viewed with some severity. Thus, it is de rigueur to empty your cocoanut cup at a single draught. On my first occasion of drinking I had neglected this rule, for the cup was large, and the taste, as I thought, nasty. Accordingly, on returning the cup, which you do by sending it spinning along the floor to the master of ceremonies, the usual quiet clapping of hands and murmur of applause which should follow this were withheld. On discovering the cause of the silence, I hastened to explain that I had never tasted the cup before, and thought it so good that I could not resist prolonging the pleasure, but I saw that my solecism was too great to be easily excused.

The kava-bowl, tobacco, and family prayers exhaust the evening's programme; and my companions being all asleep—why people waste so much time in sleep in this interesting world I never understand—I look out some suitable rafter whence to hang my mosquito-screen, and turn in—not, for the first night at all events, to sleep, for Mother Earth, considered as a mattress, is hard, and deficient in spring; but there is, anyhow, no other impediment to sleep; the cleanliness inside the houses is remarkable—no fleas or other vermin bred of dirt or carelessness. Flies and mosquitoes are supplied by Providence, and the latter have recently been discovered to be "good for us"; but as you listen