Both of us went naked, the white and blue paréo around the loins, hatchet
in hand . . . My guide seemed to follow the trail by smell rather than by sight, for the
ground was covered by a splendid confusion of plants, leaves, and flowers which wholly
took possession of space.
And in this forest, this solitude, this silence were we two — he, a very young man, and
I, almost an old man from whose soul many illusions had fallen and whose body was tired
from countless efforts, upon whom lay the long and fatal heritage of the vices of a morally
and physically corrupt society.
With the suppleness of an animal and the graceful litheness of an androgyne he walked a
few paces in advance of me. And it seemed to me that I saw incarnated in him, palpitating
and living, all the magnificent plant-life which surrounded us. From it in him, through him
there became disengaged and emanated a powerful perfume of beauty.
Was it really a human being walking there ahead of me? Was it the naive friend by
whose combined simplicity and complexity I had been so attracted? Was it not rather the
Forest itself, the living Forest, without sex — and yet alluring?
Among peoples that go naked, as among animals, the difference between the sexes is
less accentuated than in our climates. Thanks to our cinctures and corsets we have
succeeded in making an artificial being out of woman. She is an anomaly, and Nature
herself, obedient to the laws of heredity, aids us in complicating and enervating her. We
carefully keep her in a state of nervous weakness and muscular inferiority, and in guarding
her from fatigue, we take away from her possibilities of development. Thus modeled on a
bizarre ideal of slenderness to which, strangely enough, we continue to adhere, our women
have nothing in common with us, and this, perhaps, may not be without grave moral and
On Tahiti the breezes from forest and sea strengthen the lungs, they broaden the
shoulders and hips. Neither men nor women are sheltered from the rays of the sun nor the
pebbles of the seashore. Together they engage in the same tasks with the same activity or
the same indolence. There is something virile in the women and something feminine in the
This similarity of the sexes make their relations the easier. Their continual state of
nakedness has kept their minds free from the dangerous preoccupation with the “mystery”
and from the excessive stress which among civilized people is laid upon the “happy
accident” and the clandestine and sadistic colors of love. It has given their manners a
natural innocence, a perfect purity. Man and woman are comrades, friends rather than
lovers, dwelling together almost without cease, in pain as in pleasure, and even the very
idea of vice is unknown to them.
In spite of all this lessening in sexual differences, why was it that there suddenly rose in
the soul of a member of an old civilization, a horrible thought? Why, in all this
drunkenness of lights and perfumes with its enchantment of newness and unknown
The fever throbbed in my temples and my knees shook . . .
With tranquil eyes and ever uniform pace my companion went on. He was wholly
without suspicion; I alone was bearing the burden of an evil conscience.
© The Noonday Press