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SEARCH FOR RAROTONGA. 121
had built a large church, and rigidly hallowed the Sabbath. On the following day nearly 2000 of these now tamed Savages assembled on the shore, and all knelt together in solemn prayer to the Christian's God; after which they brought thirty of their discarded idols, and carried them on board the mission-ship, that the men of other isles, beholding them, might know that they were no gods, but only worthless images, and so might be led to discard their own. This was a satisfactory beginning for one year's work; and a great promise for the future lay in the fact that among the converts were six natives from the then unknown isle of Rarotonga, who earnestly prayed that teachers might be sent to their brethren, and that they themselves might be allowed to accompany them. The men of Aitutaki declared the Rarotongans to be most ferocious cannibals, and horribly treacherous, and were sorely alarmed for the safety of any teachers who should venture among them. Nevertheless it was agreed that the opportunity was one not to be lost. Accordingly the mission-ship sailed in search of Rarotonga. For eight days they sought in vain, but failed to dis
cover it. At last they found themselves off an isle which proved to be
Mangaia. There three brave Tahitian teachers, two of whom were accompanied by their wives, volunteered to land and endeavour to establish a footing among the people. These, however, proved such unmitigated savages that the attempt was frustrated. Though the chiefs had invited the teachers to land, their doing so was the signal for brutal ill-treatment of both men and women. All their little property was at once stolen, and they only escaped with their lives by swimming back to the ship through the surf. A few months later another attempt was made to commence a mission in the Hervey Isles. Once more the mission-ship returned to Mangaia, and two unmarried teachers, Davida and Tiere, leaped into the sea and swam to the shore, taking nothing with them but the cloth they wore, and a portion of the New Testament in Tahitian, which was carefully wrapped up and tied on their heads. Crowds had assembled on the shore, and one warrior rushed at them with a long spear, but the lunge was arrested by the king himself, who received them kindly, and at once led them to his own seaside temple, in order that the people might consider their persons sacred. This they were inclined to do; for soon after their cruel treatment of the first teachers, a terrible epidemic had broken out in the isle, which had carried off young and old, chiefs and peasants, Supposing this to be a punishment sent by the God of those strangers, they collected all the property they had stolen from them, the calico dresses torn off the women, and the strips into which they had torn the Bibles to make ornaments for their hair at the midnight dances in honour of the god Tane. All these things they threw into a chasm in the mountains into which they were in the habit of casting their dead, and made solemn vows to the unknown God that if His servants returned to their isle they should be well cared for. So now they prepared a feast for the two bold swimmers, and allowed them to settle among them in peace. Meanwhile Mr Williams had continued the search for Rarotonga, and had touched at the isles of Atiu, Mauke, and Mitiaro. The story of that voyage is more thrilling than any romance. It was as if a flash of electric light had suddenly illumined the thick darkness. What that darkness was you may infer from the fact that only four years previously all these islands had been decimated by war and cannibalism. The fierce people of Mitiaro had slain and eaten several canoe-loads of the men of Atiu, whose kinsfolk, determined to avenge them, came over in force, and by treachery gained access to the stronghold of the men of Mitiaro. A fearful massacre ensued, and to this day the oven is shown into which men and women and helpless infants were thrown alive to be cooked; the only mercy shown was when the brains of the children were dashed on the stones, and so they were killed ere being cast into the oven. When the conquerors had eaten their fill, they packed basketfuls of the savoury meat to regale their wives and families at Atiu ; but ere they left the blood-stained isle they practised one more barbarity common to heathen warfare. In dragging the great double canoes over the sharp coral, it is usual to lay down soft IDOL-WORSHIP ABANDONED. 125
A ZEALOUS CONVERT. 123
banana stumps to act as rollers, and so protect the canoes from
so long revered. Many were rescued as museum curiosities, and
arrival, they perceived a great body of people approaching bearing heavy burdens. These proved to be fourteen immense idols, the smallest of which was about fifteen feet high. Some of these were reserved to decorate the rafters of the new chapel, built by the people themselves, to contain 3000 persons; the rest were destroyed.
While this marvellous change was being wrought on the other isles, the brave young teachers who had swum ashore on Mangaia were steadily making their way. Within two years one died, leaving Davida to labour alone. He had, however, by this time made some progress; and on one glad day the king and chiefs determined to abandon the idol shrine, where, every evening, offerings of food were presented to the thirteen known gods, and to the great host of the unknown. So, to the great joy of Davida, the thirteen idols were carried to his house by their late worshippers, and there stripped of the sacred white cloth in which priests and gods were always clothed. They are now preserved in the museum of the London mission, and very much resemble the wooden idols of the ancient Britons to be seen in our antiquarian museums."
* Notably one dug out of the peat-moss at Ballachulish, now in the Antiquarian Museum in Edinburgh; and those in the Museum at Hull; also those in the Berlin Museum. All these have the eyes formed of quartz pebbles, instead of the bits of pearly shell or of obsidian used in the manufacture of idols in the Pacific.
The stone gods also had their counterparts in our own isles. When Dr Turner visited the Union or Tokelau Isles in 1850, he found that the great god, Tui Tokelau, was supposed to be embodied in a rude stone, which was carefully wrapped up in fine mats, and never seen by any human eyes save those of the king, who is also the high priest. Even he might only look upon the sacred stone once a-year, when the old mats were removed and new ones supplied. Of course constant exposure in all weather, day and night, soon decayed the mats; but the worshippers continually offered new ones, especially in cases of sickness, and these were wrapped round the idol, so that, ere the day came round for its disrobing, it attained a prodigious size. The old mats were considered so sacred that none might touch them ; so they were laid in a place apart, and there left to rot. The month of May was especially devoted to the worship of this god, and the people assembled from all the Tokelau isles to hold a great feast in its honour, and to pray for prosperity and health, and especially for an abundant supply of fish and cocoa-nuts.
Now turn from the Pacific to the North Atlantic, and read a statement by the Earl of Roden, in his ‘Progress of the Reformation in Ireland.’ He says:—