National Geographic : 1921 Jan
THE DREAM SHIP in consequence song and dance aboard the Dream Ship until dawn touched the peaks of Tai o Hae. A native dance is a dreary and monot onous affair to the average white man, because he does not take the trouble to understand. He sees before him an as sembly of posturing, howling natives, and seldom realizes that he is witnessing a pageant of history that has never been written or read. The performance opened with a panto mimic representation of the cruise of the Dream Ship. According to the actors' ideas, all aboard suffered acutely from seasickness, were utterly unable to stand upright, and continually looked for land under the shade of an upraised hand. Our vigor in battling with storms was ex traordinary; we stumbled over rope ends, clung to the rigging, nearly capsized, and one of us fell overboard, to be rescued, amid shrieks of laughter, by means of a boat-hook and the seat of his pants. We were a joke, there was no doubt about that, and any one who takes a Io,ooo-mile journey in a 23-ton yacht to the Marquesas and wants to be taken seriously had better go elsewhere. From such trivialities the performers passed on to what was evidently their stock repertoire-the history of the Mar quesas as handed down from father to son. It was all there in gesture and chant-mighty battles with their neigh bors the Paumotans, cannibalism, peace, the advent of the white man with his rum, the plague that still consumes them, and all enacted without resentment. That is the most astounding thing, that these people who were living their own lives, and surely as happy lives as ours, bear no ill will for the incredible suffer ings our civilization has brought among them. Perhaps they do not think, and if so it is as well. Conceive yourself, if you can, oh deni zen of Park Lane, Fifth Avenue, or Champs Elysees, a healthy, upstanding, unclad savage of the South Seas, and liv ing your own life. You may be a cannibal; and are there no cannibals, and worse, west of Suez? You will be a warrior and fight for your country and your women folk. Is there anything wrong about that? You will have a stricter moral code than most white folk, but that cannot be helped. You will hunt and fish and gather fruit for your family-in fact, you will live in the only way you know how to live, in contentment. One day an extraordinary-looking ob ject called a white man presents himself and informs you that you are not living in the right way at all. A much better way, according to this gentleman, is to exchange a ton of your coconuts for a bottle of rum or a death-dealing instru ment made of rusty iron. You are a tolerant sort of person, and you listen and drink his rum. The next day you have an insufferable headache, and, logically concluding that he has poi soned you, you kill him. But that is not the end. Replicas of him keep arriving, and you find you need his rum and his rusty iron, the one for its elevating properties, the other for its dispatch in dealing with enemies. OFF TO HUNT PEARL SHELLS To revert to safer topics, there is pearl shell in the Marquesas. The representa tive of incomparable Infantry told us so while we sat on his incomparable veranda one morning, consuming large quantities of papia, rolls, honey, and coffee, each in his particular brand of pajamas. The information brought upon our serene lives at Tai o Hae the white man's blight of avariciousness. Was this thing possible, with shell at $I,ooo a ton, deliv ered at Philadelphia? Yes; he, the in comparable, had seen it through a water glass, in anything from five to fifteen fathoms, between the islands of Hivaoa and Tahuata. Why had it not been prospected? It was doubtful if any but he and the na tives knew of its existence. Undoubtedly it was worth looking into. He made us a present of the information, to do with as we willed. His cook was an old Pau motan diver, who would no doubt ac company us-Pascal!-accompany us to the island, a bare 90 miles distant. We could take samples of shell to the com pany in Papeete, and no doubt make ar rangements - Pascal!! - arrangements with them to advance working capital in return for a lien on the shell-Pascal!!!