Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 35.djvu/508

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the women. Having few wants, blest with a climate in which the rudest methods of cultivation produce abundance of food for their use, they ought to be a happy and contented race, and no doubt, were security to life more assured, they would be. But a man would as soon think of going to his garden of a morning without his spear and tomahawk as an Englishman would of wearing his hat in church. The greatest distinction a native can earn is to have taken a life, and it matters not whether it is an old woman surprised working in her yam-patch, or a man surprised and killed in the bush, the glory is just as great. Such a thing as a square, stand-up fight between equal numbers I never heard of. This renders them suspicious in the presence of strangers; always ready for treachery themselves, they are constantly suspecting it in others. Having given them a bad character in their dealings with one another, I must in justice say that my own relations with them were throughout of the most friendly character.

The shark is held in high veneration among certain of these natives, and notably upon the island of Savo. The Savo natives say that their island was made by the shark, who carried the stones there and planted yams and cocoanuts, and put upon it men and women, and the bird known as the megapode. The megapodes increased so rapidly that they began to make havoc by digging in the yam-patches. The men went to the shark and asked him to take the megapodes away. This was done, but now the men missed the megapode's eggs, which are a favorite article of food with them. They accordingly went again to the shark and asked him to bring the birds back, but to confine them to one place. This request was also complied with. The result may be now seen: the megapodes lay their eggs on two large open patches of sandy ground, which are several acres in extent, and nowhere else on the island. These laying-grounds are fenced off into small divisions for different owners, and I am told that several thousands a day are taken out of them. I myself bought eighteen eggs for the value of three-halfpence when calling there.

The sharks at Savo grow to a great size and are extremely bold. At the time of a child's birth the mother decides whether it belongs to the land or the water. If to the latter, it is thrown into the sea at death, with all the property it may have accumulated during life. If the mother declares it belongs to the land, it is buried ashore, the property also being buried with it, which, strange to say, is always found to have been stolen a few days afterward by the devil.

These natives believe in the power of some of their number to produce rain, while I met with a belief in the existence of a man in the moon, which was related to me by a native of Aola, named Muri Lau.