« PreviousContinue »
drunken bout by a free fight, in which clubs and stone axes had proved efficient weapons. The practice of this very unpleasant vice spread rapidly to other isles, and was one of the serious hindrances met with by the early missionaries. Thus, when Raiatea had for some time been looked upon as a model island, it only needed the arrival of a trading ship, and of a cask of spirits, to produce an outbreak on the part of King Tamatoa (not the present man), which was instantly followed by the mass of the people, who in their reawakened craving for spirits prepared about twenty stills, all of which were in full operation, when Mr Williams, returning after a short absence, found the island which he had left so orderly and flourishing, all given up to mad drunkenness. Having had their bout, the people were naturally rather ashamed of themselves, remembering how nobly their grand old chief, the original Tamatoa, Queen Pomare's grandfather, had kept his vow of temperance during the fifteen years he lived after becoming a Christian. Previous to that time he too had been a heavy drinker, and being a man of gigantic strength, and six feet eleven inches in height, he was not pleasant company when drunk. So it was a happy hour in which he vowed never again to touch any intoxicating liquor, and became the most constant attendant at School and chapel.
A MUSICAL NEIGHBOUR. 71
When his favourite daughter Maikara, the governess of Huahine, heard of this outbreak in Raiatea, she went over, with some of her trusted officers, to help the orderly remnant in the isle to carry out the laws for the destruction of all stills; and though in Some districts they met with considerable opposition, they effected their purpose thoroughly. Not long afterwards a temperance society was formed, which seems to have worked satisfactorily on the whole, though of course individuals sometimes succumb to the temptations so cruelly offered by foreign ships.
Evidently drunkenness is no longer admired as a kingly attribute, for the Raiateans banished the present Tamatoa, who was formerly their king, because of his disagreeable habit of taking potshots at his subjects when he was very far gone. I am happy to say he does not now indulge in this obnoxious practice, which would be particularly dangerous to us, as he lives in the next house, and frequently entertains us with wild rollicking songs, which, however, are not nearly so hateful as his habit of beating a large drum for several hours at a time 1 an entertainment which must be particularly trying to his sweet gentle wife, the charming Moé, concerning whom even the Frenchmen always speak with unbounded respect, and whose faithful love to her jovial but very trying spouse has continued unshaken, notwithstanding all the homage of one sort or another with which she has been loaded, including that of the author of ‘South Sea Bubbles.’ Just now every one is anxious about her, for she is daily expecting a small addition to her family, and is exceedingly ill with influenza—a very violent form of which has recently broken out, severely affecting lungs and throat. It is a real epidemic. A number of people have died from it, and such a multitude are suffering, that the town seems morne and sad. Even the band is deserted and the church is empty. Tamatoa himself, and the queen's two sisters, Titaua Brander and Moetia Attwater, are among the sufferers. Mrs Miller and her grownup sons, Mme. Fayzeau and her children, and all Mrs Green's children, are really very ill—high fever accompanied by utter prostration of strength being among the symptoms. It is a most extraordinary fact that on every one of the Polynesian groups the natives declare that influenza was never known till white men came ; and now it is one of the regular scourges of the Pacific, returning almost every year in a greater or less degree, but occasionally proving very severe and fatal, especially to old folk. It is generally preceded by westerly or southerly winds, and passes off as the steady trade-winds set in bring
FATAL INFLUENZA. 73
ing fine settled weather. It first appeared in Samoa in 1830, just when the first missionaries Williams and Barff touched the group, and was of course attributed to their machinations. In the New Hebrides, where it proved a very serious scourge, it led to the murder of many teachers, who (as I think I have already told you) were considered to be the disease-makers.
Among those now suffering from it, is dear old Mrs Simpson, the “mother of missions” in these parts, of whose “pure Biblical English " Lord Pembroke spoke so admiringly. She is now on a visit to Mrs Brander, to whom she has been like a second mother. There I have frequently met her, and we have become great friends. She is planning that I am to visit her daughter, Mme. Valles, who is married to a retired French officer, and has a plantation on Moorea. I hope to see it in the course of a few days.
Alas! the influenza has done its work quickly. Only yesterday morning I was breakfasting with Mrs Brander on my return from a lovely early ride with Narii, up the Fautawa valley; Mrs Simpson was unable to appear, and afterwards a messenger came to tell Mr Green that she was very ill. In the night I was wakened by a man with a lantern standing at my open window; he brought tidings of her death. It is a most trying moment, for this real sorrow occurs just when all those who were most devoted to the clever, good, and loving old lady, are compelled from their position to take a leading part in the festivities for the royal reception in Moorea. Mrs Brander, as chiefess of the isle, has to make every sort of festal preparation—and now, in addition to these, she has to make all arrangements for the funeral of her loved old friend, whose body will be carried to Moorea to-morrow on board the Seignelay. It will be a terrible shock for poor Mme. Valles, who to-day is preparing for all the gay doings of to-morrow, little dreaming that besides all the expected friends, whose visit would have been such a delight, one will return silent— never more to leave the isle where her lips first taught the words of life to many. We start for Moorea to-morrow morning.