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NIGHT CHILLS AND DEWS. 23
The feast being over, le Roi kanaque departed amid blue and green lights, one of which was reserved for us—i.e., the ecclesiastical party—returning to the priest's house and to the convent, where the pleasant Sisters awaited me with kindest welcome; and we all sat on the mats in my cell and chatted for a while.
Now I am so very cold that I must go to bed. I think this climate must be far more trying than that of Fiji. The heat in the daytime feels to me greater, and every night is bitterly cold, necessitating piles of rugs and blankets; while the dew is so drenching that the roofs always drip as if there had been heavy rain. I do not wonder at the delicate little Soeur Marie having fallen into consumption. It carries off many strong natives.
Tuesday Night. Wasn't it just cold when I left off writing ! I lay awake shivering for two hours, though wrapped up in blanket, cloak, and big tartan plaid. I find that the island of Tongatabu is known all over the group as the cold isle, and I am ready to endorse the title. I devoted this forenoon to a sketch of this hospitable cottageconvent, and in the afternoon went alone to see Mrs Baker, who took me to visit the queen—a fine old lady, but very helpless, having dislocated her hip by a fall eight years ago. She was sitting on the bare boards in a wretched little room of a small house close to the large villa or palace in which King George receives his guests, but in which he never lives, preferring that his home should be faka Tonga—i.e., adhering to native customs so far as is consistent with keeping up appearances. But here, again, we were struck by the uncomfortable substitution of a hard wooden floor for the soft mats of a truly native home. As civilised houses are glazed, the poor old queen, though much oppressed with heat, sat beside a glass window, shaded by a filthy tattered rag which had once been a curtain, but which in its palmiest days had been immeasurably inferior to a handsome drapery of native cloth: indeed the only symptom of comfort in the place was a curtain of Fijian tappa.
The king and his chiefs were in council over church matters in a small room adjoining the queen's, so we had to talk in whispers. Various female relations were grouped round the door, making the hot room still hotter. I am much struck by the fact that these proud Tongans make use of no titles. The Fijians always prefix the word Andi—i.e., Lady—to the name of a woman of rank; but here the name is used bluntly, whether in addressing a princess or her handmaid.
Hearing of the grave assembly of the chiefs to discuss the affairs of the Wesleyan Church, brought back vividly to my mind all that I had heard in former days of this very King George, and of the prominent part taken by him in rousing these islanders to abandon their gross heathenism and cannibalism. So effectual has been his work, that now not one trace of these old evils remains, and these islanders are looked upon as old-established Christians.
I had a pleasant walk back in the twilight, along the broad grass road which runs parallel with the sea, and am now spending my last evening in this peaceful convent. I am truly sorry that it is the last, for it will feel like leaving real friends to part from these kind Sisters, who make much of me, and do enjoy coming to sit with me in the evenings for a little quiet chat. They bring all my meals in here, as it is against their rules to allow me to feed with them in the refectory. In this respect they are far more rigorous than the Fathers, who, as you know, have invited me to supper and breakfast at their house.
C H A PTER III.
SAIL FROM TONGA To WAWAU—VOLCANO OF TOFUA—WESLEYAN MISSION.—
makes a capital sofa, and is a cosy, quiet corner, and a capital
THE DEVIL's FIRE. 25
point of observation, whence, without being in the way, I can
NEIAFU, WAVAU, Thursday Evening.
The volcano proved to be quiescent. Not even a curl of luminous smoke betrayed its character. The sea, however, made amends by the brilliancy of its phosphoric lights. It was a dead calm, and from beneath the surface shone a soft mellow glow, caused, I am told, by vast shoals of living creatures, as though the mermaids were holding revel beneath the waves, and had summoned all their luminous subjects to join in the dance. I know few things in nature more fascinating than this lovely fairy-like illumination. Its tremulous glow and occasional brilliant shooting flashes are to me always suggestive of our own northern lights— a sort of marine aurora.
Our course this morning was very pretty, steaming for many miles through narrow and intricate passages between the richly wooded headlands of Vavau, the great island, and many outlying islets. Finally, we anchored in what seemed like a quiet landlocked lake, at the village of Neiafu.
The bishop went ashore at once, and was reverently welcomed by two priests, one of whom, Père Bréton, has been here for about thirty years, living a life so ascetic as to amaze even his brethren, so completely does mind appear to have triumphed over matter. We sinners all agree that having each been intrusted with the care of an excellent animal, we are only doing our duty by feeding and otherwise caring for it to the best of our ability. So the ascetic example is one which we reverence, but have no intention of following, cold water and yam, day after day, being truly uninviting. But the old man has not forgotten how to be genial and kind to others, and is a general favourite.
The Roman Catholic flock here is small, as is also the church, which, however, is very neat. The Wesleyan Mission flourishes here, as it does throughout these Friendly Isles. In the three groups—namely, Tonga, Happai, and Vavau, it has 125 chapels, with an average attendance of 19,000 persons, of whom 8000 are church members. Four white missionaries superintend the work of 13 native ministers, upwards of 100 schoolmasters, and above 150 local preachers. At the Tubou Theological College—so named in honour of King George Tubou-there are about 100 students preparing for work as teachers or pastors.
I landed with M. Pinart, and a half-caste Samoan woman, who could talk some English, acted as our interpreter with the widow of the late “governor,” a large comely woman, who invited us to her cool Tongan house, where friendly, pleasant-looking girls peeled delicious oranges faster than we could eat them. This whole village and district is one orange-grove; every house is embowered in large orange-trees—the earth is strewn with their fruit, the air fragrant. What an enchanting change after Tonga, where there are no orangetrees, and where a sense of stiffness and over-regulation seemed to pervade life
WANTED, A DOCTOR. 27
The present “governor” is a fine tall young chief, rejoicing in the name of Wellington. He is acting for his father, Unga, King George's illegitimate son, whom he has declared heir to the throne, but who is at present in very bad health. The young chief seems inclined to hold the reins firmly and well. But at present the Vavau chiefs are in some disgrace with King George, as they are suspected of plotting against Unga, in favour of Maafu."
Having eaten oranges to our hearts' content, we continued our walk to the Wesleyan Mission, and on our way thither met the Rev. Fox on his way to the ship, to see if we had a doctor on board. The latter having already gone ashore, we returned together to the house—a quiet pleasant home, but for the present saddened by the serious illness of the young wife, who, a few weeks ago, gave birth to her first child. As Vavau can furnish neither nurse nor doctor, the wife of the missionary in Happai had, at great personal inconvenience, come thence in an open canoe to officiate on the occasion. She had, however, been compelled to return soon afterwards to her own nurslings, leaving the young mother and her baby in charge of native women. A very slow recovery, accompanied with some unfavourable symptoms, had produced such depression and alarm, that just before our arrival, the poor husband had actually been making arrangements for his wife's return to Sydney for proper medical care. But, to get there, involved, in the first instance, a journey of about 200 miles in an open canoe to reach Tonga, whence she would have to proceed alone, in a wretched little sailing vessel, on a voyage of upwards of 2000 miles (as the crow flies)—a serious undertaking for a woman in robust health, but a terrible prospect for an invalid with a young baby.
Happily the timely arrival of the Seignelay dispelled this nightmare. M. Thoulon, the good kind doctor (himself père de famille), at once vetoed the rash arrangement, and his well-applied wisdom, and kind encouraging words, have already restored heart to the
* A great Tongan chief, settled in Fiji, who, up to the time of annexation, contested with Thakombau for the supremacy. I have just received news of his death.