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EARLY PUBLISHERS. 211
them, lest other men should slip in before them and carry off the coveted treasures. When we consider that teachers were so few, and worshippers so numerous, and that many large congregations assembled in the chapels they had built for Christian prayer, firmly believing that HE in whose name they had met, was there present ; yet having none to lead their worship, save, perhaps, a newly converted priest of Oro, or a professional dancer, hitherto sunk in every form of vice,—we can the better understand the extreme anxiety of the people to possess the books which were the storehouses of excellent knowledge. Have you ever realised the innumerable difficulties under which these early publishers had to contend ? To begin with, they had themselves to reduce barbarous and hitherto unknown tongues to a written language, no easy matter, considering that many of these dialects are so rich as to possess far more words to express shades of meaning than any European language." So, beginning with the alphabet, they had to work out equivalents for words in which the slightest change of accent conveys totally different meanings; then they had to puzzle out very intricate grammatical structures, and, having mastered all this, had to commence the very difficult work of translating so large a book as the Bible—a book, moreover, treating of spiritual truths which it was hard indeed to render comprehensible to such very materialistic minds as these. Yet in the short space of about thirty years, the Scriptures have been translated into about twenty different languages, all previously unknown; and there is not one group throughout Polynesia, the people of which do not now read the Scriptures in their own tongue. The same good work is now gradually extending throughout Melanesia also; and even New Guinea, which, ten years ago, was an unknown land, has already received portions of the New Testament in the language spoken by at least one of its tribes. Considering the extremely volatile nature of these light-hearted people, the exceeding earnestness with which they seem to have entered into the requirements of a spiritual religion, is very remarkable. They had, however, been early trained to a belief in the necessity of whole-hearted attention, and reverence in the worship of their idols. It mattered not how large and costly might be the offerings, and how careful the ceremonial, should the priest omit, or even misplace, any word in the appointed prayers, or should his attention be diverted, the prayer was unavailing; other victims must be
* This is emphatically true of Fijian. See ‘At Home in Fiji, vol. i. p. 136.
PRE-CHRISTIAN OBSERVANCES. 213
brought, and the whole ceremony repeated from the beginning. So, too, the rigid observance of the Jewish Sabbatical laws seemed a natural requirement to a people who, from their infancy, had been taught implicit obedience to the laws of tabu, or sacred seasons, when, at the bidding of priest or chief, no fire must be kindled, no canoe launched, and neither food nor drink might be tasted, under severest penalties. When, therefore, the early missionaries declared one day in seven to be strictly tabu, and themselves gave the example by abstaining from every sort of secular employment, even preparing their own food on the previous day (which was hence called the mahana maa, or food-day), the natives willingly obeyed, and proved themselves capable of such close and continuous attention to spiritual subjects as the majority of Christians nowadays would find wellnigh impossible. So, too, with the custom of saying grace before eating, which is so strictly practised by all the converts in Polynesia. It was the more readily adopted because, in heathen days, no morsel might pass the lips of any member of the family till the chief person present had offered a portion to the gods, adding a few words of prayer for their protection and blessing. In some instances they chanted a form of thanksgiving for the good things received, as being the gift of the gods.
I have written this story of old days somewhat at length, from a conviction that it is probably almost unknown to you, and must surely prove interesting, though I am fully aware that it cannot be so to you in the same degree as it is to me, who have heard the story for the first time on the very spot where those terrible scenes were formerly enacted, and where the marvellous change was actually wrought.
A HEALING TREE–PLANTATION LIFE—WANILLA CROPS–CAT-ANDDOG LIFE— A FOILED ASSASSIN–THE TROPICS OF TO-DAYENGLAND IN DAYS OF YORE — AMONG THE CRAGS – INFANTICIDE—HEATHEN DAYS.
Chez MADAME BRUN, PAPEToA1,
ANOTHER long day in scenes of dream-like loveliness. Early as I always awaken, the little trio were astir before me, waiting in their bathingdresses to escort me to the shore, dancing joyously as sunbeams, and most carefully pioneering my path through the shallow water, so as to avoid the very unpleasant chance of treading on sea-hedgehogs and other spiny creatures. There are so very few places in the isles where sea-bathing is altogether free from danger of sharks, that it is a luxury on which we rarely venture, and therefore appreciate it all the more. Immediately after early chocolate, a friendly gendarme lent me his horse (I had brought my own saddle), and, not without some cowardly qualms, I