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22. CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO
PREPARATIONS FOR A GRAND FESTIVAL IN THE VALLEY--STRANGE DOINGS IN THE TABOO GROVES--MONUMENT OF CALABASHES--GALA COSTUME OF THE TYPEE DAMSELS--DEPARTURE FOR THE FESTIVAL
FROM the time that my lameness had decreased I had made a daily practice of visiting Mehevi at the Ti, who invariably gave me a most cordial reception. I was always accompanied in these excursions by Fayaway and the ever-present Kory- Kory. The former, as soon as we reached the vicinity of the Ti--which was rigorously tabooed to the whole female sex--withdrew to a neighbouring hut, as if her feminine delicacy 'restricted' her from approaching a habitation which might be regarded as a sort of Bachelor's Hall.
And in good truth it might well have been so considered. Although it was the permanent residence of several distinguished chiefs, and of the noble Mehevi in particular, it was still at certain seasons the favourite haunt of all the jolly, talkative, and elderly savages of the vale, who resorted thither in the same way that similar characters frequent a tavern in civilized countries. There they would remain hour after hour, chatting, smoking, eating poee-poee, or busily engaged in sleeping for the good of their constitutions.
This building appeared to be the head-quarters of the valley, where all flying rumours concentrated; and to have seen it filled with a crowd of the natives, all males, conversing in animated clusters, while multitudes were continually coming and going, one would have thought it a kind of savage Exchange, where the rise and fall of Polynesian Stock was discussed.
Mehevi acted as supreme lord over the place, spending the greater portion of his time there: and often when, at particular hours of the day, it was deserted by nearly every one else except the verd-antique looking centenarians, who were fixtures in the building, the chief himself was sure to be found enjoying his 'otium cum dignitate'--upon the luxurious mats which covered the floor. Whenever I made my appearance he invariably rose, and like a gentleman doing the honours of his mansion, invited me to repose myself wherever I pleased, and calling out 'tamaree!' (boy), a little fellow would appear, and then retiring for an instant, return with some savoury mess, from which the chief would press me to regale myself. To tell the truth, Mehevi was indebted to the excellence of his viands for the honour of my repeated visits--a matter which cannot appear singular, when it is borne in mind that bachelors, all the world over, are famous for serving up unexceptionable repasts.
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