RETIRING FOR THE NIGHT—THE DOCTOR GROWS DEVOUT
THEY put us to bed very pleasantly.
Lying across the foot of Po-Po's nuptial couch was a smaller one made of Koar-wood; a thin, strong cord, twisted from the fibres of the husk of the cocoa-nut, and woven into an exceedingly light sort of network, forming its elastic body. Spread upon this was a single, fine mat, with a roll of dried ferns for a pillow, and a strip of white tappa for a sheet. This couch was mine. The doctor was provided for in another corner.
Loo reposed alone on a little settee with a taper burning by her side; the dandy, her brother, swinging overhead in a sailor's hammock The two gazelles frisked upon a mat near by; and the indigent relations borrowed a scant corner of the old butler's pallet, who snored away by the open door. After all had retired, Po-Po placed the illuminated melon in the middle of the apartment; and so, we all slumbered till morning.
Upon awaking, the sun was streaming brightly through the open bamboos, but no one was stirring. After surveying the fine attitudes into which forgetfulness had thrown at least one of the sleepers, my attention was called off to the general aspect of the dwelling, which was quite significant of the superior circumstances of our host.
The house itself was built in the simple, but tasteful native style. It was a long, regular oval, some fifty feet in length, with low sides of cane-work, and a roof thatched with palmetto-leaves. The ridgepole was, perhaps, twenty feet from the ground. There was no foundation whatever; the bare earth being merely covered with ferns; a kind of carpeting which serves very well, if frequently renewed; otherwise, it becomes dusty, and the haunt of vermin, as in the huts of the poorer natives.
Besides the couches, the furniture consisted of three or four sailor chests; in which were stored the fine wearing-apparel of the household—the ruffled linen shirts of Po-Po, the calico dresses of his wife and children, and divers odds and ends of European articles—strings of beads, ribbons, Dutch looking-glasses, knives, coarse prints, bunches of keys, bits of crockery, and metal buttons. One of these chests—used as a bandbox by Arfretee—contained several of the native hats (coal-scuttles), all of the same pattern, but trimmed with variously-coloured ribbons. Of nothing was our good hostess more proud than of these hats, and her dresses. On Sundays, she went abroad a dozen times; and every time, like Queen Elizabeth, in a different robe.
Po-Po, for some reason or other, always gave us our meals before the rest of the family were served; and the doctor, who was very discerning in such matters, declared that we fared much better than they. Certain it was that, had Ereemear's guests travelled with purses, portmanteau, and letters of introduction to the queen, they could not have been better cared for.
The day after our arrival, Monee, the old butler, brought us in for dinner a small pig, baked in the ground. All savoury, it lay in a wooden trencher, surrounded by roasted hemispheres of the breadfruit. A large calabash, filled with taro pudding, or poee, followed; and the young dandy, overcoming his customary languor, threw down our cocoa-nuts from an adjoining tree.
When all was ready, and the household looking on, Long Ghost, devoutly clasping his hands over the fated pig, implored a blessing. Hereupon, everybody present looked exceedingly pleased; Po-Po coming up and addressing the doctor with much warmth; and Arfretee, regarding him with almost maternal affection, exclaimed delightedly, "Ah! mickonaree tata matai!" in other words, "What a pious young man!"
It was just after this meal that she brought me a roll of grass sinnate (of the kind which sailors sew into the frame of their tarpaulins), and then, handing me needle and thread, bade me begin at once, and make myself the hat which I so much needed. An accomplished hand at the business, I finished it that day—merely stitching the braid together; and Arfretee, by way of rewarding my industry, with her own olive hands ornamented the crown with a band of flame-coloured ribbon; the two long ends of which streaming behind, sailor-fashion, still preserved for me the Eastern title bestowed by Long Ghost.