CHAPTER VI. THE PEOPLE - INFANCY AND CHILDHOOD.

At the birth of her child, the mother had a liberal share in the kind attentions of her friends. Her own mother was almost invariably la sage-femme; but, failing her, some other female friend. Her father was generally present on the occasion, and either he or her husband prayed to the household god, and promised to give any offering he might require, if he would only preserve mother and child in safety. A prayer was thus expressed: "O Moso, be propitious; let this my daughter be preserved alive! Be compassionate to us; save my daughter, and we will do anything you wish as our redemption price." Offerings to the god, as we have already seen, were regulated by the caprice and covetousness of the cunning priest. Sometimes a canoe was demanded; at other times a house was to be built; and often fine mats or other valuable property was required. The household god of the family of the father was generally prayed to first; but, if the case was tedious or difficult, the god of the family of the mother was then invoked; and when the child was born, the mother would call out: "Who were you praying to?" and the god prayed to just before was carefully remembered and its incarnation duly acknowledged throughout the future life of the child. By way of respect to him the child was called his merda; and was actually named during infancy and childhood "merda of Tongo," or "Satia," or whatever other deity it might be. If the little stranger was a boy, the umbilical cord was cut on a club, that he might grow up to be brave in war. If of the other sex, it was done on the board on which they beat out the bark of which they make their native cloth. Cloth-making is the work of women; and their wish was that the little girl should grow up and prove useful to the family in her proper occupation.

Infanticide, as it prevailed in Eastern Polynesia and elsewhere, was unknown in Samoa. Nor were children ever exposed. After they were born they were affectionately cared for. But the custom of destroying them before that prevailed to a melancholy extent. Shame, fear of punishment, lazy unwillingness to nurse, and a dread of soon being old-looking, were the prevailing causes. Pressure was the means employed, and in some cases proved the death of the unnatural parent.

As to nursing, during the first two or three days the nurse bestowed great attention to the head of the child, that it might be modified and shaped after notions of propriety and beauty. The child was laid on its back, and the head surrounded with three flat stones. One was placed close to the crown of the head, and one on either side. The forehead was then pressed with the hand, that it might be flattened. The nose, too, was carefully flattened. Our "canoe noses," as they call them, are blemishes in their estimation. For the first three days the infant was fed with the juice of the chewed kernel of the cocoa-nut, pressed through a piece of native cloth, and dropped into the mouth. On the third day a woman of the sacred craft was sent for to examine the milk. A little was put into a cup, with water and two heated stones, and then examined. If it had the slightest curdled appearance she pronounced it bitter and poisonous. This process she repeated two or three times a day for several days, until it was drawn off free from coagulation, and then she pronounced it sweet and wholesome, and the child was forthwith permitted to partake of its proper nourishment. Of course she was well paid for her services, and had every inducement to prolong them for several days. During this time the infant was fed with the juice of the cocoa-nut or the sugar-cane. Many fell victims to this improper treatment. At a very early period the child was fed, and sometimes weaned altogether at four months. This was another fruitful source of mortality among children. Occasionally the father, or some member of the family, through whom it was supposed the god of the family spoke, expressly ordered that the child have nothing but the breast for an indefinite time. This was a mark of respect to the god, and called his "banana." In these cases the child grew amazingly, and was soon, literally, as plump as a banana.

A modified form of circumcision prevailed. About the eighth or tenth year two or three boys would unite and go of their own accord to some one in the village, who would make the customary incision, and give him some trifling reward for his trouble. There was no further ceremony on the occasion, as at other periods of life.

Names. - Out of respect to the household god, as we have already remarked, the child was named after him, during the time of infancy and childhood; after that, a name was given. The animal and vegetable kingdoms, places, occupations, actions, and passing events, furnished them with the principal names. The primitive rule, "one man, one word," invariably prevailed. Occasionally a chief bore the name of one of the gods superior.

Rejoicing. - About the third day the woman was up and at her usual occupation, and ready to take part in the rejoicings connected with the occasion. By this time the principal friends were assembled. They all brought presents, and observed an unvarying rule in the kind of presents each was expected to bring. The relations of the husband brought "oloa," which included pigs, canoes, and all kinds of foreign property. The relations of the wife brought "tonga," which included the leading articles manufactured by the females - viz. fine mats and native cloth. The "oloa" brought by the friends of the husband was all distributed among those of the wife, and the " tonga" brought by the friends of the wife was divided among those of the husband; and thus the whole affair was so managed that the friends were the benefited parties chiefly, and the husband and wife left no richer than they were. Still, they had the satisfaction of having seen what they considered a great honour - viz. heaps of property collected on occasion of the birth of their child. Feasting, sham-fighting, night-dancing, and many other heathen customs, formed one continued scene of revelry for two or three days, when the party broke up. When the child became strong and able to sit there was another feast for "the sitting of the child." A third feast was for the "creeping of the child." A fourth when the child was able to stand, and called "the standing feast." But the greatest was the fifth, when the child could walk. Then there was singing and night-dances, and then, too, if the child danced and sang, and was "impudent," the parents boasted over its abilities.

Twins were rare. Triplets still more so; indeed, there is only a vague tradition of such a thing. Twins were supposed to be of one mind, and to think, feel, and act alike, during the time of infancy and childhood at least. There were a few instances of large families, but four or five would be the average.

Adopted Children. - The number of children seen in a family was small, occasioned, to a great extent, by the bad management and consequent mortality of children, and also a custom which prevailed of parting with their children to friends who wished to adopt them. The general rule was for the husband to give away his child to his sister. She and her husband gave, in return for the child, some foreign property, just as if they had received so many fine mats or native cloth. The adopted child was viewed as "tonga" and was, to the family who adopted it, a channel through which native property (or " tonga") continued to flow to that family from the parents of the child. On the other hand, the child was to its parents a source of obtaining foreign property (or "oloa") from the parties who adopted it, not only at the time of its adoption, but as long as the child lived. Hence the custom of adoption was not so much the want of natural affection as the sacrifice of it to this systematic facility of traffic in native and foreign property. Hence, also, parents may have had in their family adopted children, and their own real children elsewhere.

Employments. - Girls always, and boys for four or five years, were under the special charge of the mother, and followed her in domestic avocations. The girl was taught to draw water, gather shell-fish, make mats and native cloth. The boy after a time followed his father, and soon became useful in planting, fishing, house-building, and all kinds of manual labour. Boys were also accustomed to club together, and wander about the settlement, the plantation, or in the bush. If they fell in with a fallen cocoa-nut one boy would sit down and name some to come and join him in eating it, and to the rest he would call out, "Go and catch butterflies." Hence one who is excluded from eating anything nice is called a butterfly-catcher. If they called at the residence of one of themselves, then perhaps the lad of that house would select some to have food with him there, and call them "cocoa-nut princes," and the rest he would send off, calling them "cocoa-nut pigs." The latter would go off offended, and vow to each other never again to be friendly with that stingy, stunted fellow! The following is a translated specimen of one of the old songs chanted for the diversion of children, or to lessen the tedium of a long canoe journey. I do not tamper with an exact translation by any attempt at rhythm or rhyme, but simply give the thoughts as they stand, and as a fair translation would explain them.: -

    1. Mailesaeia and Mailetupengia were married. 
       They had two children, and these were their names, 
       The boy Tulifauiave, and the girl Sinataevaeva. 
                     Chorus - Aue! or wonderful!

    2. They were unkind to their children, and deserted them; 
       They did not wish to have children. 
                     etc.

    3. Then said the girl to the boy: "Come let us go, 
       Let us seek another home," and away they wandered. 
                     etc.

    4. They called at the house of Tangaloa of the heavens, 
       And Tangaloa took the girl and married her. 
                     etc.

    5. The brother of the girl acted as their child. 
       He was a lovely boy, and grew up to be a beauty. 
                     etc.

    6. Tangaloa of the heavens became jealous of the lad, 
       And told his people to kill him. 
                     etc.

    7. They took him to the bush and killed him, 
       He yielded to their wishes and resisted not. 
                     etc.

    8. They were divided about the disposal of the body, 
       Some said throw it into the river, others said leave it in the bush. 
                     etc.

    9. They cast it into the river to float to the sea, 
       It came floating down, and there his sister stood on the beach. 
                     etc. 
    10. She screamed, and wept, and wailed; 
        She seized the body, patted his head, and prayed for life. 
                     etc.

    11. The wounds closed up and healed, the lad sat up, 
        And thus he spake: "Let us both be off together." 
                     etc.

    12. They went to the village, the people were in the bush; 
        They smashed every canoe but one, and in that they left, 
        To search for the land of their parents. 
                     etc.

    13. The people returned from work, no Sinataevaeva was there, 
        Tangaloa called for his daughters Darkness, Lightning, and Thunder, 
        And ordered them off in search of his wife. 
                     etc.

    14. The three daughters obeyed, Thunder roared and Lightning flashed, 
        Darkness and Storm were added, and the canoe was found. 
                     etc.

    15. The ladies shouted out: "Don't be afraid; all's well! 
        You two be off, a calm and a smooth sea to you! 
        'Twas cruel to kill a child yonder." 
                     etc.

    16. The two went on and reached their land and home, 
        First the boy went on shore, his sister remained in the canoe. 
                     etc.

    17. Their parents called out: "Where are you two going?" 
        "My sister and I are in search of the home of our parents." 
                     etc. 
    18. "Who are your parents, tell us their names?" 
          "Mailesaeia and Mailetupengia," replied the lad. 
                     etc.

    19. Out rushed the parents in tears, 
          The children they cast away had come back, 
          And now their love returned to them. 
                     etc.