Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 35.djvu/712

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

having figures worked upon them with differently colored bark and beads of small shells. Placed one upon another, these boxes are good substitutes for cupboards and chests of drawers, while a strong, roughly made timber chest, provided with a clumsy lock of iron or brass, contains the family treasures, jewels, heirlooms, weapons, and emblems. An assemblage of huts or houses forms a village. The villages are surrounded by walls of coral, and are for the most part situated on the sea-shore.

Each village has an allotment of land, the boundaries of which are established by the chiefs. Here the native may fell his timber, cultivate a garden, or cut down the sago-palm, which furnishes his principal food. The cocoanut-trees, however, are regarded as general property, and are under the guardianship of chiefs, without whose orders not a nut may be plucked till harvest-time. Then, on a day appointed for this purpose, the whole village will set out to gather them, when each one will receive a number proportioned to his rank and station.

When a native child is strong enough to assist his parents in their daily occupation, he has to accompany them to the garden, the boat-building yard, or some other place of general work. Children of from three to five years of age may be seen occupied in trying their skill in carving ornamental figures such as are used for the figure-heads of boats, or in cutting out vessels and rigging them, or the boys will assist their fathers at the building of a boat or a house. Although they are without all proper drawing materials, the artistic and constructive talent is almost universally manifested among them. The children are seen trying their skill by drawing, on a smooth, flat surface of fine sand, houses, animals, steam and sailing boats, and I have been always struck by the symmetry of their work. The children are deemed marriageable at fifteen years of age, but arrangements for mating the female children are made as soon as may be after their birth.

When disputes relating to boundaries arise between different villages, each of the quarreling districts elects a person and commits him to the judgment of the god, who, it is believed, will let the party in the wrong die within three months. If no harm befalls either party after the lapse of that time, the land in dispute is divided equally.

The chief talent of the natives is for boat-building. The symmetrical construction of their vessels, large and small, would astonish a European ship-builder, and is the more remarkable as they have nothing but the most roughly shaped tools. All the tools are made by natives of Teor. In nearly every village we find a smith established, who is employed from morning till night melting rusty nails in a charcoal-fire, which is kept burning by means of a primitive pair of bellows moved by the operator's