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her companions was rendered unnecessary by their appearance on the steep and circuitous path down the mountain, who, as they arrived on the beach, successively welcomed us to their island, with a simplicity and sincerity which left no doubt of the truth of their professions.”
The whole group simultaneously expressed a wish that the visiters would stay with them several days; and on their signifying a desire to get to the village before dark, and to pitch the observatory, every article and instrument found a bearer, along a steep path which led to the village, concealed by groups of cocoanut-trees; the females bearing their burthens over the most difficult parts without inconvenience. The village consisted of five houses, on a cleared piece of ground sloping towards the sea. While the men assisted in pitching the tent, the women employed themselves in preparing the supper. The mode of cooking was precisely that of Otaheite, by heated stones in a hole made in the ground. At young Christian's the table was spread with plates, knives, and forks. John Buffet said grace in an emphatic manner, and this is repeated every time a fresh guest sits down while the meal is going on.
So strict are they in this respect, that it is not deemed proper to touch a bit of bread without saying grace before and after it. “On one occasion,” says Captain Beechey, “I had engaged Adams in conversation, and he incautiously took the first mouthful without having said grace; but before he had swallowed it he recollected himself, and feeling as if he had committed a crime, immediately put away what he had in his mouth, and commenced his prayer." Their rooms and table are lighted up by torches made of doodoe nuts (aleurites triloba), strung upon the fibres of a palm-leaf, which form a good substitute for candles.
It is remarkable enough, that although the female part of the society is highly respected, yet in one instance a distinction is kept up which in civilized countries would be deemed degrading. It is that which is rigidly observed in all the South Sea islands, and indeed throughout almost the whole eastern world, that no woman shall eat in the presence of her husband; and though this distinction between man and wife is not carried quite so far in Pitcairn's Island, it is observed to the extent of excluding all women from table when there is a deficiency of seats. It seems they defended the custom on the ground that man was made before woman, and is entitled, therefore, to be first served—a conclusion, observes Beechey, “that deprived us of the company of the women at table during the whole of our stay at the island. Far, however, from considering themselves neglected, they very good-naturedly chatted with us behind our seats, and flapped away the flies, and by a gentle tap, accidentally or playfully delivered, reminded us occasionally of the honour that was done us." The women, when the men had finished, sat down to what remained.
The beds were next prepared. A mattress composed of palm-leaves was covered with native cloth made of the paper mulberry-tree, in the same manner as in Otaheite; the sheets were of the same material, and it appeared from their crackling that they were quite new from the loom, or rather the beater. The whole arrangement is stated to have been comfortable, and inviting to repose; one interruption only disturbed their first sleep; this was the melody of the evening hymn, which, after the lights were put out, was chanted by the whole family in the middle of the room. At early dawn they were also awaked by their morning hymn and the family devotion; after which the islanders all set out to their several occupations. Some of the women had taken the linen of their visiters to wash; others were preparing for the next meal; and others were employed in the manufacture of cloth.
The innocence and simplicity of these interesting young creatures are strongly exemplified in the following description. “By our bedside had already been placed some ripe fruits; and our hats were crowned with chaplets of the fresh blossom of the nono or flower-tree (Morinda citrifolia), which the women had gathered in the freshness of the morning dew. On looking round the apartment, though it contained several beds, we found no partition, curtain, or screens; they had not yet been considered necessary. So far indeed from concealment being thought of, when we were about to get up, the women, anxious to show their attention, assembled to wish us good morning, and to inquire in what way they could best contribute to our comforts, and to present us with some little gift which the produce of the island afforded. Many persons would have felt awkward at rising and dressing before so many pretty black-eyed damsels, assembled in the centre of a spacious room; but by a little habit we overcame this embarrassment, and found the benefit of their services in fetching water as we required it, and in substituting clean linen for such as we pulled off.”
Their cottages are spacious, and strongly built of wood, in an oblong form, and thatched with the leaves of the palm-tree bent round the stem of a branch from the same, and laced horizontally to rafters so placed as to give a proper pitch to the roof. An upper story is appropriated to sleeping, and has four beds, one in each angle of the room, and large enough for three or four persons to sleep
The lower is the eating-room, having a broad table with several stools placed round it. The lower room communicates with the upper by a stout ladder in the centre. Immediately round the village are small enclosures for fattening pigs, goats, and poultry; and beyond them are the cultivated grounds producing the banana, plantain, melon, yam, taro, sweet potatoes, tee-tree, cloth-plant, with other useful roots, fruits, and a variety of shrubs. Every cottage has its out-house for making cloth, its bakingplace, its pig-sty, and its poultry-house.
During the stay of the strangers on the island, they dined sometimes with one person and sometimes with another, their meals being always the same, and consisting of baked pig, yams, and taro, and sometimes sweet potatoes. Goats are numerous on the island, but neither their flesh nor their milk is relished by the natives. Yams constitute their principal food, either boiled, baked, or mixed with cocoanut, made into cakes, and eaten with molasses extracted from the tee-root. Taro-root is no bad substitute for bread; and bananas, plantains, and appoi are wholesome and nutritive fruits. The common beverage is water, but they make tea from the tec-plant, flavoured with ginger, and sweetened with the juice of the sugar-cane. They but seldom kill a pig, living mostly on fruit and vegetables. With this simple diet, early rising, and taking a great deal of exercise, they are subject to few diseases; and Captain Beechey says, “ they are ce inly a finer and more athletic race than is usually found among the families of mankind."
The young children are punctual in their attendance at school, and are instructed by John Buffet in reading, writing, and arithmetic; to which are added precepts of religion and morality, drawn chiefly from the Bible and Prayer Book; than which, fortunately, they possess no others, that might mystify and perplex their understandings on religious subjects. They seldom indulge in jokes or other kinds of levity; and Beechey says they are so accustomed to take what is said in its literal meaning, that irony was always considered a falsehood in spite of explanation; and that they could not see the propriety of uttering what was not strictly true, for any purpose whatever. The Sabbath is wholly devoted to the church service, to prayer, reading, and serious meditation; no work of any kind is done on that day, not even cooking, which is prepared on the preceding evening:
“I attended,” says Beechey, “ their church on this day, and found the service well conducted; the prayers were read by Adams, and the lessons by Buffet, the service being preceded by hymns. The greatest devotion was apparent in every individual; and in the children there was a seriousness unknown in the younger part of our communities at home. In the course of the Litany, they prayed for their sovereign and all the royal family, with much apparent loyalty and sincerity. Some family prayers which were thought appropriate to their own particular case were added to the usual service; and Adams, fearful of leaving out any essential part, read in addition all those prayers which are intended only as substitutes for others. A sermon followed, which was very well delivered by Buffet ; and lest any part of it should be forgotten, or escape attention, it was read three times. The whole concluded with hymns, which were first sung by the grown people, and afterward by the children. The service thus performed was very long; but the neat and cleanly appearance of the congregation, the devotion that animated every countenance, and the innocence and simplicity of the little children, prevented the attendance from becoming wearisome. In about half an hour afterward we again assembled to prayers, and at sunset service was repeated; so that, with their morning and evening prayers, they may be said to have church five times on a Sunday.”
Perhaps it will be thought by some that they carry their seriousness too far, and that the younger people are not allowed a sufficient quantity of recreation. The exercise and amusement of dancing, once so much resorted to in most of the islands of the Pacific, is here almost excluded. With great difficulty and much entreaty, the visiters prevailed on three