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slightest shanie, of having put to death half-a-dozen helpless innocents, while some confessed to ten or twelve; and when the missionaries and their wives implored these women to spare their little ones, yet unborn, their words were heard with derision, and the cruel mothers would return to boast how they had obeyed tho custom of the isles, in defiance of white men's counsel.
Afterwards, when these same women had become Christians, they would come to the school festivals, at which were sometimes gathered several hundred happy children, whose lives had been spared in obedience to a better law; and often, with bitter tears, did these childless mothers bewail their own dead offspring, murdered by their own hands. At one such meeting, a venerable chief arose to address the people, and show, by contrast with the past, how great was their present gain. Pointing to a troop of comely lads and lasses, he said : “ Large was my family, but I alone remain. I am the father of nineteen children; all of them I have murdered: now my heart longs for them. Had I spared them, they would now have been men and women, knowing the word of the true God. But all died in the service of the false gods, and now my heart is repenting—is weeping for them.”
One of the chief women, who, having learnt to read at the age of sixty, had proved a most useful school teacher, was bitterly troubled in the hour of death by the thought of her sixteen children, every one of whom she had herself put to death. But there was scarcely a woman who had attained middle age ere the spread of Christianity, who was not haunted by the same sad memories; and one visitor to Tahiti has recorded his amazement when, on his expressing his belief that statements had been exaggerated, his friend appealed to three most respectable, motherly-looking women, who chanced to be sitting in the room quietly sewing, and quite at random, asked each in turn how many of her children she had" killed. With shame and evident pain, the first, with faltering voice, replied, “I have destroyed nine ;” the second said she had killed five; the third had killed seven. So that these three women casually selected, had killed twenty-one children!
It seems scarcely credible that such deeds were perpetrated by
the same race whom we now see so gentle and loving; but heathenism always tended to cruelty.
In nothing was this more apparent than in the treatment of the sick. Generally speaking, the best a sick man could hope for was simple neglect. As soon as it was evident that his illness would be protracted, a hut of cocoa-palm leaves was built for him at a little distance, and he was carried there. For a while he was supplied with food and drink; but his friends soon grew careless, and so often forgot him, that he very probably died of starvation. Should he be possessed of property coveted by his neighbours, he was very likely murdered with the most wanton barbarity. His “friends” having determined on his death, proceeded to his hut, armed with their spears; and, unheeding of his cries for mercy, they treated him as a target, trying who could take best aim, till at length some one, more merciful than the others, rushed in and pierced him through the heart.
At other times the sick were buried alive. Their relations dug a pit, and then, pretending that they would carry the sufferer to the river to bathe, they threw him into the ready-made grave, and drowned his cries by quickly throwing in stones and earth. Some times the victim perceived what was in store for him, and endeavoured to escape; but he was invariably captured by his murderers, and carried to his untimely grave.
Almost the first great change wrought by Christianity was in the care of the sick, who now are nursed with the utmost tenderness, the natives having, many years ago, formed themselves into societies for the express purpose of building houses, where the aged and helpless, who have no friends or children to tend them at home, may be fed and clothed, and comforted by the ministrations of Christian teachers.
In one respect, the people of Tahiti, like those of Samoa, proved superior to most other Pacific islanders. There is no evidence of their having ever been cannibals. While their neighbours in the Paumotus and the Marquesas, in the Hervey Isles and New Zealand, and in nearly every group throughout the Western Pacific, never lost a chance of feasting on human flesh, these gentler savages,
ATTRACTIVE DISPOSITION OF TAHITIANS.
like those of Samoa, do not seem to have been tempted by the hideous fare. They contented themselves with heaping insult on the bodies of the slain, which were often brutally mutilated.
Nothing amazes me more than to hear travellers and others occasionally talk with positive regret of the work of missionaries of all denominations, throughout these various groups of isles. To hear them speak, you would suppose that the natives, in their untutored state, were the most innocent, loving, and attractive of mortals. Surely such men can know nothing of the past, and of the dangers incurred by the early teachers, to whose earnest labours in the beginning of the present century those ungrateful talkers owe their own present safety. But even in those days the worst dangers and the most virulent opposition encountered by the missionaries were almost invariably stirred up by iniquitous white men -generally sailors and shipmasters.1
Certainly the Tahitians, as we now see them, are as gentle and affectionate as it is possible for a people to be. Most kind and hospitable, always cheerful and good-natured, easily pleased and amused, finding matter for mirth in every trifle; so that angry words or recriminations are rarely heard, but rather a sound of rippling laughter, which seems here to pervade the very air. A messenger is just going across to Tahiti to take letters, and to fetch any that may have arrived by the schooner from San Francisco. I shall send this as a postscript to my last, which will probably reach you at the same time. -So good-bye.
YOUR Loving SISTER.
i If any are disposed to doubt this statement, they have only to refer to the circumstantial and thoroughly authenticated accounts published by the various missionary societies ; those, for instance, of the American Board, which again and again, in the early days of the mission to the Sandwich Isles, have occasion to refer to the outrages committed by British and American seamen, who came in armed bands to attack the mission stations, in their rage at the influence acquired by the missionaries, and the consequent change in the morals of the people. Again and again life and property were threatened, and the mission premises were only saved from destruction by the timely arrival of determined chiefs and their retainers.
LIFE ON MOOREA-AN ANCIENT PLACE OF SACRIFICE-ARRIVAL (F
H.M.S. SHAH—HOSPITALITIES ON LAND AND WATER.
French Mission, PAPETOAI, Sa'rriay Vish.
This has been a glorious day of unclouded sunlight, and in orie: that I might enjoy it to the full, my kind hosts planned a family picnic on the other side of the bay. There was no available boat, only a tiny canoe, so we crossed in several detachments, till all were safely landed on the opposite shore, where we established ourselves beneath the shade of some noble iron-wood trees, whence the view of towering mountains, laughing valley, and blue waters was so entrancing, that I at once settled down to sketch, while the little ones disported themselves in the shallow waters, therein capturing small crabs, and sea-urchins, and many other treasures, till the kindling of a fire, and preparation of our gipsy breakfast, afforded them fresh occupation and delight.
What a pleasant feast they spread on the briny grass, and with what hospitality they ministered to our numerous self-invited guests, the hermit-crabs! Less welcome were the inevitable mosquitoes, but to-day there was sufficient breeze to disperse them in a great measure; and after breakfast we wandered along the shore, and the strange lady from Beretania was introduced to the gentle inmates of many a bird-cage home!
Oh dear, how fascinating is this simple, kindly, island life! Each day leaves me more and more captivated by the loveliness of these isles of paradise, where our eyes always rest on some scene of beauty, wherever they turn. Each halting-place seems more charming than the last, and the only sorrow is having to leave it, to pass on to another, which in its turn becomes as attractive. Each week makes me wonder more how I shall ever be able to settle down to a humdrum existence in well-appointed English houses, with their regiments of fine servants, and wearisome conventionalities of social
life! I vote that, instead of my having to do so, you should come out here and learn what true enjoyment means.
But, alas ! my days in Moorea are for the present drawing to a close, for on our return this evening I found kind letters from Mrs Brander and from the governor, M. D’Oncieue, telling me of the arrival of H.M.S. Shah, and requesting that, as a good British subject, I would hasten back to share in the festivities to be held in her honour.
Sunulay Evening. A morning of peaceful delight on the silent shore, and a long afternoon stroll by myself, to drink in deep draughts of never-tobe-forgotten enjoyment, of one of the loveliest spots in all this fair creation. We had planned various pleasant expeditions for this week, but it seems best to defer them; so I am to leave my baggage here to take its chance of following me, and I am to ride to the other side of the island, whence it is probable that a boat may go across to Papeete within a day or two.
Haapiti, Isle Moorea, Monday Night. Bidding a provisional farewell to my charming hostess and my little guides, I started in the fresh early morning, accompanied by M. Brun. The whole ride was exquisite, though in places the beautiful forest has suffered from ruthless carelessness, and many splendid old iron-wood trees stand scathed and half-burnt by accidental fires. On our arrival here, the big man of the village welcomed us to his house, and gave us breakfast.
You may remember that it was at this place that Mrs Brander, in her character of high-chiefess of the isle, gave such a picturesque welcome to the young king and queen. To-day the district was in its normal condition of quiet—no crowds, no himènes, no feasting, save and except the fatted fowl which perished on our arrival. Only the natural beauty remained, unchanged and unsurpassable. I cannot believe that even the Marquesas can be more beautiful, nor yet the nearer isle of Bora-Bora, of which the Tahitians speak as of a marvel of loveliness, with its towering rock-pinnacles and