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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 34.djvu/669

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AMONG THE FIJI ISLANDS.

proportioned from head to foot—no falling away about the calves, or spur-like heels, as one sees in some of the finer Indian races. Then such a carriage—broad shoulders, with the head well set on and thrown back. The mop head of hair, composed of long, separate spirals carefully tended and frizzed out, which is so special a characteristic of the race that till lately it was thought a natural peculiarity of the hair, is now unfortunately going out of fashion. It gives a very imposing appearance to the wearer, like a gigantic Guard's "bear-skin," but is now curtailed to the modest dimensions of four to six or seven inches in length. It is often dyed to a yellowish brown by a weekly plastering with lime, which also stiffens it, and is very becoming, though its primary use is to destroy the superabundant insect colonies. Any actor wishing to acquire the gait of conventional majesty should come out here and watch the ordinary Fijians walking up and down, every inch a king, and, in quaint combination with this majestic strut, holding each other's hands like little children. In color some few are very black, but the great majority vary from a dark bronze to chocolat Ménier; and one is often inclined to wonder whether the ancient use of bronze in statuary was suggested by the coloring of some such race. Certainly in this color humanity may go naked and not be ashamed. The costume proper is only the sidu, or waist-cloth; and there can be no better proof of the Fijian's natural dignity and look of breeding, than that the too frequent addition of a dirty flannel shirt does not always transform him into a ruffian or a snob. When a black coat and trousers are superadded—happily this is still very rare—as much can not be said!

The mysterious question of a general decline of these races has often been discussed, and has been ascribed to many causes, all of which contribute something, and some of which, as drink and debauchery, are obvious. Hardly less so, perhaps, the going to church in a full suit of European clothes, and sitting naked in a draught to cool themselves afterward! For this reckless introduction of clothing, not less deleterious than unæsthetic, the more ignorant missionary of former days has to answer, and disease has not unfrequently been introduced, besides, in second-hand clothing.

One hopes against hope, and against such experience as one has, that the decline of the Fijians will be arrested. The disappearance from the earth of these very fine races—for the Polynesians are finer still, perhaps the finest-looking race anywhere—is a distinct loss to the world, and not merely from a sentimental or antiquarian point of view. The experiment of preserving such a race has certainly never been tried before under such favorable circumstances, for the workers have had carte blanche; but it would not be surprising if, feeling they are fighting a losing bat-