Page:The Melanesians Studies in their Anthropology and Folklore.djvu/181

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Story of Qat.

progress in his work; every day when he returned to work he found the wood that he had chopped away replaced, and the tree made solid again. At length one evening when he had finished his day's work he lay down to watch, making himself small, and covering himself with a large chip which he drew away from the rest and hid. Presently he saw a little old man with long white hair creep out of the ground and begin to replace the chips, each in the place from which it had been cut, till the tree trunk was almost whole again. But there was one defective place to which the chip belonged which Qat had hidden, and the old man began to search for it, and Qat watched. After a while he saw it and advanced to take it; but Qat leapt up from under it, lifting up his shell axe to cut him down. But Marawa, the spider, another very powerful vui, for this was he, entreated Qat, 'Ah, friend, don't kill me, and I will make your canoe all right again;' and he worked at it, and soon finished it with his nails[1]. When all the canoes were finished, Qat bade his brothers launch their own, and as each was launched he lifted his hand, and one by one they sank. Then Qat and Marawa appeared in the one that they had made, paddling swiftly about, to the astonishment of the brothers, who had not known that Qat had even begun to work. Having amused himself with their mortification, he recovered their canoes for them in the night. After this his brothers tried with many deceits to destroy Qat, so that they might possess themselves of his wife and his canoe. One day they took him to the hole of a land crab under a stone, which they had already so prepared by digging under it that it was ready to topple over upon him. Qat crawled into the hole and began to dig for the crab; his brothers tipped over the stone upon him, and, thinking him crushed to death, ran off to seize Eo Lei and the canoe. But Qat called on Marawa by name, 'Marawa! take me round about to Ro Lei,' and by the time that his brothers reached the

  1. Hence, when iron was seen in the form of nails, it was called at Mota Marawa's finger-nails, pis Marawa, and pismarawa is now a widely accepted name for nails.