Page:The Melanesians Studies in their Anthropology and Folklore.djvu/345

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In Lepers' Island a crimson dye is applied to mats through a stencil of banana leaf.

(9) Money. There is some recognized medium of exchange in all the islands now in view, but the shell currency of the Banks' Islands and of the Solomon Islands is perhaps alone worthy of the name of money. It is probable that the ornaments of the person most in vogue have everywhere a certain relative value, and pass in exchange for food and other necessaries, and the general apparatus of native life. Besides these there are products of industry which are made for the single purpose of exchange, and which may be called Mat-money, Feather-money, and Shell-money. The Mat-money is in use in the Northern New Hebrides, Aurora, Pentecost and Lepers' Island. The mats are long and narrow, made for no other purpose than to represent value, and are in Aurora and Lepers' Island valued the more, the more ancient and black they are. Women plait them; either those of the family, or women hired for the purpose. In Aurora the name is malo, the name of the dress which is worn by some men there, as by all at Lepers' Island. The mats are kept in little houses specially built for them, in which a fire is kept always burning to blacken them; when they hang with soot they are particularly valued. Their value, however, is estimated by the number of folds, which are counted in tens; a mat of twenty folds is called double, one of thirty folds treble. Though these mats will buy anything of sufficient value to equal a mat, they are mostly used for buying the steps in the Suqe Club. If a man wants to raise funds for this, he sends a pig into a village where he knows mats are to be had, and he receives mats less in value than his pig; when he can repay the mats he recovers his pig. In Lepers' Island and in Pentecost these mats are called maraha. In the latter island red ones, bwana, a word which in San Cristoval means pandanus, are of most value; in Lepers' Island the ancient and rotten ones which have long hung in the house are very choice, though the value still goes by the number