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forth be the regular headquarters of all Mooreans who have occasion to visit Papeete. The house was finished this morning, and the event was notified by a most deafening beating of native drums, after which all the boats set sail, very sensibly objecting to lose the fair breeze by any delay. M. Brun arrived in time to see them flying before the wind, like a flight of white butterflies.
I solaced myself by commencing a careful study of a noble breadfruit tree, overshadowing Queen Moe's house, when suddenly a cry was raised that an English man-of-war was signalled. Great was the excitement that prevailed, as it is fully four years since the British ensign was last seen in this harbour, and there was a general chorus of disappointment when it was found that the visitor was only a small sloop, H.M.S. Daring; a disappointment, however, which was followed by great rejoicing, when it became known that she was the forerunner of H.M.S. Shah, Admiral de Horsey's flag-ship, which is to arrive here in a few days. Already the small society of the place is in a ferment at the prospect of so important a visitor; and the arrival of about fifty English officers will compensate for the departure of the French flag-ship. So all manner of hospitalities are already under discussion, as we gathered from the general conversation at the band this evening.
I shall leave this letter to go by H.M.S. Daring, in case she sails before I return from Moorea; so shall bid you good-bye for the present.
VISIT TO THE PROTESTANT MISSION ON MOOREA A SKETCH OF
THE EARLY HISTORY OF THE MISSION.
Cluz Madame Brun, Papetoai, Moorea.
I am safely ensconced in this most charming little home, and very glad indeed to have reached it, for we have had rather a tiring day. Mrs Green most kindly gave me breakfast at five, that A DAY OF REST. 295
I might be ready for a six o'clock start; but it was fully eight before we got away, in a Haapiti boat, which agreed to bring us to this side of the island. We rowed out of harbour, hoping to catch a breeze, but it fell dead calm, and for four long hours we lay just outside the reef, rocked by heavy rollers—the water smooth as oil, and the burning heat of the sun so intense that I almost expected that the water would really frizzle! The thermometer at this season sometimes rises to 120° in the shade. I am afraid that if the truth must be confessed, both M. Brun and I were exceeding sea-sick.
At last, to our great relief, a fresh breeze sprang up, and our little boat literally flew over the water, and in less than two hours carried us across to the pretty village of Tiaia, in the district of Teaharoa, whence one hour's rowing inside the reef, along the most lovely shore, brought us here, where we were welcomed to this sweet French home by its pretty clever little mistress, and three charmingly old-fashioned children, Lucie, Henri, and Adrien, who administered refreshing hot tea to the tired and giddy travellers; after which I, for one, yielded to peaceful sleep, and awoke to find the watchful little trio all ready to escort me in any direction, and show me such treasures of delight as only true country children can discover. This is a fairy-like nest, on the shore of the loveliest sea lake, with wooded mountains all round, and a background of mighty rock-pinnacles, which are glorified in this evening light, and seem like the towers and ramparts of some celestial city.
To me this has been a day of intense peace. A silence which may be felt seems to enfold this exquisite spot, and from morning till evening not a ripple has disturbed the perfect calm of the blue waters—only the light fronds of the cocoa-palms quiver and gleam with every faint breath of air.
The village is perhaps a quarter of a mile from the house, and lies buried in a thicket of bread-fruit and mango trees. There my hosts have spent the greater part of the day, having held four church services, and morning and afternoon school. But I have rejoiced in a day of quiet idleness, spent chiefly on the lovely shore beneath the shadow of very large trees, whose great boughs overhang the white coral beach,—shell-strewn and crab-haunted. At high tide the silvery waters creep upward till the far-spreading roots are half bathed in the brine, while the other half are burieu in a tangle of lilac marine convolvulus, wherein myriads of hermitcrabs disport themselves.
Madame Valles came to breakfast . She is the daughter of that dear old lady Mrs Simpson, of whose death I told you in a former letter. Her husband is a retired French naval officer, who has settled in this beautiful valley as a planter.
This evening several members of the congregation met here to hold a prayer-meeting, after which they sang most harmonious sacred himenes—the very first I have heard since I was last on Moorea.
I have rarely in any land seen a nicer and more thoroughly respectable-looking body of people than these; so gentle and courteous in their manners, and apparently so reliable. I fancy that in this secluded isle the people have retained more of their primitive Christianity than they have done in Papeete, where French influence and utter infidelity are continually acting as a leaven of evil, and where the fervour of first love is certainly a thing of the past, as regards the mass of the population.
Such at least is my own impression, seeing only the surface of life, and naturally comparing things here with the very high standard now existing in Fiji, which has been my home for the last two years. The impulsive children of the South Seas are readily influenced for good or for evil; and as they quickly and whole-heartedly turned from their idols to embrace the purer faith taught them by devout white men, so now they are in danger of becoming even more careless than the average foreigners. I do not, however, mean to imply that the Tahitians or any of the islanders who have once adopted Christianity, have yet fallen away from its practice, so far as the bulk of the people in any European nation. In such matters as meeting for family prayer, and thanksgiving at meals, probably a much larger proportion of Tahitians than of Britons are still true to their early teaching.
It really is very difficult, in presence of such peaceful, kindly people, and such settled forms of civilised Christian life, to realise what different scene3 were witnessed by the earlier visitors of this lovely isle at the time of its discovery by Captain "VVallis in 1767, and Captain Cook's subsequent visit.
It was in March 1797 that the first band of missionaries arrived here in the Duff, landing on Tahiti near Point Venus, where at first they were kindly welcomed by King Pomare, Queen Idia, and the chiefs, who seem to have expected that they would prove not merely sources of wealth, by distributing barter, but also able assistants in the art of war.
But when the new-comers were found to be men of peace, and their mission that of teaching, they soon fell in the estimation of the natives, and for many years they struggled, apparently in vain, to stem the tide of idolatry and of such evil practices as infanticide and the offering of human victims to the feather-gods, as the Tahitians called their idols, because they were generally adorned either with the scarlet feathers of a small bird, or the long tailfeathers of the man-of-war or tropic bird.
As quicksilver attracts gold, so was it supposed that this gay plumage became the very incarnation of the god; therefore, when a tribe went forth to war (and of course desired that the presence of their god should be with them) they held a solemn service at the temple, and then took perhaps only one feather from off the principal idol, and placed it in the ark prepared for it on the sacred canoe, which formed part of every fleet. Then, till the close of that expedition, all worship was addressed only to the feathersymbol, and no sacrifices or prayers were offered at the marae, lest the attention of the god being divided, he should return to the land, forsaking the warriors.
At other times, however, he was present alike at every domestic shrine which possessed a feather brought from the great temple. For, as other nations have carried sacred symbolic firo from the altar, to sanctify their domestic hearth or their family temple, so did these Tahitians year by year assemble at the great national temple, bringing with them offerings of the precious feathers. These the priests deposited inside the hollow idols, distributing among the worshippers those which had lain there since the previous year, thereby imbibing such essence of sanctity as to convey the very presence of the god wherever they were carried.
Not that these were the only visible symbols of the gods. Some appeared to their worshippers in the form of sharks; others, less terrible, took the form of divers birds. Hence, as I described to you in one of my letters from Samoa, so here in Tahiti and Moorea, the herons, king-fishers, and woodpeckers which frequented the old trees round the temples, were reverenced as incarnations of the deities, and their cries were interpreted as oracles.
So strong was the hold of these superstitions, that for several years the mission seemed to make little or no progress beyond the establishment of gardens in which various imported fruits and vegetables were successfully raised, and the people were taught to cultivate them systematically for their own use. Orange-trees, limes, shaddocks, citrons, tamarinds, guavas, custard-apples, peaches, figs and vines, pine-apples and water-melons, pumpkins and cucumbers, cabbages and other vegetables, were thus first introduced to the island, where they are now so thoroughly acclimatised.
But in an evil hour a great intertribal war broke out for the bodily possession of Oro, the national idol, and this first civilising influence was swept away—the mission premises were laid waste, the garden entirely destroyed, and the work of twelve years scattered to the winds.
King Pomare, Otu his son, and all the chiefs and warriors of the isle, had assembled at the great marae at Atehuru, where many fatted pigs were offered on the altar, while the surrounding trees were adorned with the ghastly corpses of human victims, all of whom had been sacrificed to Oro. The ark containing the symbolic feather was then placed on the sacred canoe belonging to the royal fleet.
But on the following day Otu pretended to have had a revelation that the idol itself wished to be removed to Tautira; and on the chiefs of Atehuru refusing to allow this, his followers rushed to the temple, seized the idol, carried it off to the sea, and immediately set sail. As soon as they reached land a human sacrifice was