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HUMANISING CHRISTIANITY, 231
read at the age of sixty, had proved a most useful school-teacher, was bitterly troubled in the hour of death by the thought of her sixteen children, every one of whom she had herself put to death. But there was scarcely a woman who had attained middle age ere the spread of Christianity, who was not haunted by the same sad memories; and one visitor to Tahiti has recorded his amazement when, on his expressing his belief that statements had been exaggerated, his friend appealed to three most respectable, motherly-looking women, who chanced to be sitting in the room quietly sewing, and, quite at random, asked each in turn how many of her children she had killed. With shame and evident pain, the first, with faltering voice, replied, “I have destroyed nine ; ” the second said she had killed five; the third had killed seven. So that these three women, casually selected, had killed twenty-one children It seems scarcely credible that such deeds were perpetrated by the same race whom we now see so gentle and loving; but heathenism always tended to cruelty. In nothing was this more apparent than in the treatment of the sick. Generally speaking, the best a sick man could hope for was simple neglect. As soon as it was evident that his illness would be protracted, a hut of cocoa-palm leaves was built for him at a little distance, and he was carried there. For a while he was supplied with food and drink; but his friends soon grew careless, and so often forgot him, that he very probably died of starvation. Should he be possessed of property coveted by his neighbours, he was very likely murdered with the most wanton barbarity. His “friends” having determined on his death, proceeded to his hut, armed with their spears; and, unheeding of his cries for mercy, they treated him as a target, trying who could take best aim, till at length some one, more merciful than the others, rushed in and pierced him through the heart. At other times the sick were buried alive. Their relations dug a pit, and then, pretending that they would carry the sufferer to the river to bathe, they threw him into the ready-made grave, and drowned his cries by quickly throwing in stones and earth. Sometimes the victim perceived what was in store for him, and endeavoured to escape; but he was invariably captured by his murderers, and carried to his untimely grave. Almost the first great change wrought by Christianity was in the care of the sick, who now are nursed with the utmost tenderness, the natives having, many years ago, formed themselves into societies for the express purpose of building houses, where the aged and helpless, who have no friends
TAHITI NEVER CANNIBAL. 233
or children to tend them at home, may be fed and clothed, and comforted by the ministrations of Christian teachers. In one respect, the people of Tahiti, like those of Samoa, proved superior to most other Pacific islanders. There is no evidence of their having ever been cannibals. While their neighbours in the Paumotus and the Marquesas, in the Hervey Isles and New Zealand, and in nearly every group throughout the Western Pacific, never lost a chance of feasting on human flesh, these gentler savages, like those of Samoa, do not seem to have been tempted by the hideous fare. They contented themselves with heaping insult on the bodies of the slain, which were often brutally mutilated. Nothing amazes me more than to hear travellers and others occasionally talk with positive regret of the work of missionaries of all denominations, throughout these various groups of isles. To hear them speak, you would suppose that the natives, in their untutored state, were the most innocent, loving, and attractive of mortals. Surely such men can know nothing of the past, and of the dangers incurred by the early teachers, to whose earnest labours in the beginning of the present century those ungrateful talkers owe their own present safety. But even in those days the worst dangers and the most virulent opposition encountered by the missionaries were almost invariably stirred up by iniquitous white men — generally sailors and shipmasters." Certainly the Tahitians, as we now see them, are as gentle and affectionate as it is possible for a people to be. Most kind and hospitable, always cheerful and good-natured, easily pleased and amused, finding matter for mirth in every trifle; so that angry words or recriminations are rarely heard, but rather a sound of rippling laughter, which seems here to pervade the very air. A messenger is just going across to Tahiti to take letters, and to fetch any that may have arrived by the schooner from San Francisco. I shall send this as a postscript to my last, which will probably reach you at the same time.—So good-bye.
YoUR LOVING SISTER.
* If any are disposed to doubt this statement, they have only to refer to the circumstantial and thoroughly authenticated accounts published by the various missionary societies; those, for instance, of the American Board, which again and again, in the early days of the mission to the Sandwich Isles, have occasion to refer to the outrages committed by British and American seamen, who came in armed bands to attack the mission stations, in their rage at the influence acquired by the missionaries, and the consequent change in the morals of the people. Again and again life and property were threatened, and the mission premises were only saved from destruction by the timely arrival of determined chiefs and their retainers.
LIFE ON MOOREA–AN ANCIENT PLACE OF SACRIFICE—ARRIVAL OF H.M.S. SHAH-HOSPITALITIES ON LAND AND WATER.
FRENCH MIssion, PAPEToAI, Saturday Night.
THIS has been a glorious day of unclouded sunlight, and in order that I might enjoy it to the full, my kind hosts planned a family picnic on the other side of the bay. There was no available boat, only a tiny canoe, so we crossed in several detachments, till all were safely landed on the opposite shore, where we established ourselves beneath the shade of some noble iron-wood trees, whence the view of towering mountains, laughing valley, and blue waters was so entrancing, that I at once settled down to sketch, while the little ones disported themselves in the shallow waters, therein capturing small crabs, and sea-urchins, and many other treasures, till the kindling of a fire, and preparation of our gipsy breakfast, afforded them fresh occupation and delight. What a pleasant feast they spread on the briny