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THE BLOOD OF THE MARTYRS.
delivered by the priest to the man who craved some special boon, as a symbol that the god required a human sacrifice. Well did the doomed man know how useless was resistance. His neighbours knew no pity, and a brief struggle invariably resulted in his being clubbed and carried to the marae.
Now the supply of victims was furnished from among those known to favour the new faith; and many a pathetic story is still told of the unflinching courage with which those brave martyrs met their fate, only pleading with their murderers that they too should renounce their idols and worship the living God.
As in the early days of the Church, so now, homes were divided: the believing wife was beaten by her heathen husband, children were driven from their parents' roofs, and friends were turned to foes—all in the name of the gods.
Those who worshipped the Saviour were distinguished by the name of Bure Atua (from bure, to pray, and Atua, God).
In spite of the persecution, their numbers steadily increased, and at last three of the principal chiefs of Tahiti, who had hitherto been sworn foes, resolved to unite their forces for the total annihilation of the Bure Atua sect. A midnight meeting was appointed when the conspirators were suddenly to fall on their sleeping, unsuspecting neighbours, and slaughter great and small . Happily, a few hours before the massacre was to have taken place, the Christians received a secret hint of what was in store for them, and were able to reach the shore, launch their canoes, and sail for Eimeo. When, at the midnight hour, their foes reached the trysting-place, and found their victims flown, their rage knew no bounds, and angry recriminations commenced, which soon passed on to blows, ending in a free fight, in which one of the principal chiefs was killed, and his followers compelled to fly.
In those turbulent days, it needed but a beginning to kindle a fierce war, and so it now proved. The heathen tribes having fallen out amongst themselves, seemed to forget their enmity to the Christians, and fought blindly among themselves. Beautiful and richly cultivated districts were reduced to desolation, houses burnt and property plundered, and numbers of the vanquished fled to Eimeo, to join the king and his party. Finally the weaker tribes fled to rocky fortresses in the mountains, leaving one tribe—the Oropaa— masters of the whole island.
These presently sent messengers to those who had taken refuge in Eimeo, inviting them to return to their homes in Tahiti. This they agreed to do; but, according to native custom, King Pomare accompanied them to reinstate them in their lands. With him came a very large train of followers, who were chiefly Christians, and when they approached the shore of Tahiti, the pagan party refused to let them land. However, that point was yielded.
On the following Sunday, about 800 of the king's party assembled for divine worship. Happily they had taken the precaution of assembling armed, for in the middle of service a firing of muskets was heard, and a large body of men, bearing the flags of the gods, and all emblems of idolatry, were seen marching towards the place where they were assembled. Very striking is the story of that day's contest. When the enemy was seen approaching, King Pomare arose and bade all remember that they were under the special protection of Jehovah, and that, having met to worship Him, they must not be diverted from their purpose. So all stood up to sing the accustomed hymn, then knelt in united prayer. They then formed themselves into three columns, the women taking their place among the men, resolved, like them, to fight with spear and musket. Thus they awaited the attack of the foe. The battle-field was a strip of ground between the sea and the mountains, covered with patches of brushwood. Under cover of these, the Christians again and again throughout the day knelt by twos and by threes to crave the help of the Almighty. After some hours of desperate fighting, TJpufara, the highest chief of the heathen, was killed. His party were so disheartened that a panic seized them, and they fled from the field, never pausing till they reached their strongholds in the mountains.
Thus the king's party remained in undisputed possession, and prepared, as in old days, to follow up their victory. But King Pomare had learnt a new lesson in war. He forbade any of his people to pursue the vanquished, or to enter their villages, either CLEMENCY CONQUERS.
to plunder the gardens or molest their wives and families. He, however, selected a trustworthy force, and bade them march to Tautira, to the temple of Oro, and totally destroy both temple and idol, and everything connected with the old worship. At eventide he bade the chiefs call together the congregation which had been so ruthlessly disturbed in the morning, and all knelt together in solemn thanksgiving for their great deliverance from so strong a foe.
The party whom he had despatched on so righteous a mission of destruction, carried out his orders implicitly. They turned neither to the right hand nor the left, till they reached Tautira, where they fully expected that the priests and people would make a stand in defence of their gods. They, however, met with no opposition from the crowds, who stood silently round while they entered the temple, hitherto held so sacred, and bringing out the idol, stripped him of his coverings, and exposed a rude unhewn log, about six feet long, of casuarina wood. Having utterly destroyed the temples, altars, and other idols, they carried off the rude log which for so many years had been the national god of Tahiti, and for the possession of which the land had, during the last thirty years, been made desolate by incessant wars. It was now turned to better use as a post in the king's kitchen from which to suspend baskets of food. Eventually it was cut up for firewood.
The effect of the king's clemency to the vanquished was magical. At first it seemed to them utterly incomprehensible; but when, under cover of night, some ventured from their hiding-places, and found their homes and families all undisturbed, and learnt that the bodies of the slain had received honourable burial, instead of being given to the dogs and pigs, and that the king had proclaimed a free pardon to all, then one by one they came down from the mountains to tender their submission to the merciful conqueror, and to learn from him the secret of such new principles. Then they agreed that the faith which inspired such deeds was assuredly the best, and with one accord they determined to destroy all their idols, and desired that the king would send messengers to instruct them in the good way.
Accordingly, those who had themselves been most diligent in learning, were-sent to teach these new inquirers, and proved faithful and earnest in their work. But so great was the demand for teachers, that they were altogether unable to meet it; and in many a remote village, the people, having destroyed their idol temple, built a new house of prayer, where they met together to worship the God of the Christians, concerning whom they as yet knew so little, beyond the mercy practised by His followers.
From this time forward, Christianity made steady progress; and when, in the year 1817, Mr Ellis arrived as a missionary in these isles, he found almost the entire population professing it, and apparently devout in their practice. Family worship was established in all the principal houses; and many had built in thengardens a small oratory, or, as they called it, fare bare huna—the house for hidden prayer.
Already the grosser crimes of heathenism had been abandoned— especially the practice of infanticide, which had prevailed to so frightful an extent. In every district the schools were crowded, and those who had mastered the arts of reading and writing assisted in teaching those less advanced. Strange pictures presented themselves in these classes, where bright, intelligent children were often the instructors of aged men and women, priests and warriors, to whom learning was a hard task, but one which they were determined to master, that they might read for themselves the wonderful book which had taught such wisdom to their king.
These were in truth earnest scholars. The only books that had as yet reached them, were a spelling-book, printed in England, and a summary of the Old and New Testaments, printed at Port Jackson. But of these there were few copies: and many of the people, in their anxiety to possess one, had prepared sheets of fine papermulberry fibre, on which, with a reed-pen, dipped in the sap of the banana-tree, they had carefully copied out whole pages of the reading-lessons, or fragments of the sacred Scriptures. Others had committed the whole to memory.
Great, therefore, was their excitement and delight when Mr Ellis arrived at Afareaitu, bringing with him a good printing
press. Crowds besieged the printing-office day and night, to watch the progress of setting up the types,—the king himself preparing the first alphabet. His delight when the first sheet was struck off, equalled that of his people; and all felt that it was a marked day in the history of Tahiti, when her king, with his own hands, printed the first page of the first book published in the South Sea Isles.
The binding of the volumes was the next interest. The supply of millboard was small; but again the fibre of the paper-mulberry was turned to account, several layers being pressed together to form a stiff pasteboard, which was then coloured with the purple dye obtained from the mountain-plantain; or else thin wooden boards were used, and covered with the skin of whatever animal could be procured,—goat, cat, or dog: and the new art of tanning was among the earliest industries of the isle.
Hitherto all books circulated in the isles had been distributed gratuitously, but it was deemed wiser for every reason, henceforth to exact a small payment in cocoa-nut oil, which was the article most easily obtained by the people. So great was their anxiety to purchase the books, that there were sometimes as many as thirty or forty canoes drawn up on the beach, having come from different remote villages, and having each brought several persons, whose sole object was to procure the precious volume, not only for themselves, but for others. Some who were thus commissioned, were the bearers of huge bundles of green plantain-leaves, each rolled up like a parchment scroll, and being, in fact, a written order for a copy of the book, payment for which was sent in the form of a bamboo measure filled with oil. Many of these messengers waited, for several weeks ere the copies could be supplied; and some of the more urgent refused to leave the mission premises till the books were delivered to 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