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HIGH MASS AT NUKUALOFA.
out to do a little preliminary milking, that she might give me a cup of delicious fresh milk, and with it she brought me some lovely blossoms from the little garden in which the Sisters cultivate tall French lilies and a few other flowers to mingle with the abundant pink oleanders, in their church decorations.
After vespers, the day's work being done, they came to my cell, and we all sat down on the mats and had a pleasant little gossip. I think that a breath from the outside wicked world cannot quite have lost all charm, and two at least of these ladies have evidently lived in good French society. Now they have gone to their cells, and there is not a sound in the quiet night. My door opens on to a verandah leading into the garden, and just beyond lies a peaceful burial-ground—neatly kept graves of Christian Tongans, some marked with simple crosses, and overgrown with flowers.
Now I must say good-night, as to-morrow will be a long day,
Monday 10th. On Sunday morning I was awakened before dawn by hearing the Sisters astir. They were lighting their own tiny chapel, where, at sunrise, they had an early celebration, in order that they might not be obliged to remain fasting till the later service.
At 7.30 they brought me café au lait in my cell, and at 8 we went together to high Mass in the large native church. Of course there was a very full congregation, as, the better to impress the native mind, all the French sailors were paraded, to say nothing of all the officers, who, dressed in full uniform, were ranged in a semicircle inside the altar-rails, on show-a very trying position, especially to the excellent captain, who, though a thoroughly good man, would scarcely be selected as a very rigid Catholic. Indeed I cannot think that devotion to the Church is a marked characteristic of this mission ship.
Accustomed only to see the good bishop in his ordinary garb of rusty black and faded purple, it was startling to see him assume the gorgeous Episcopal vestments of gold brocade with scarlet linings —the mitre, which was put off and on so frequently at different parts of the service, and all the other ecclesiastical symbols. The friendly priests, too, were hard to recognise in their richly brocaded vestments; and I confess that to my irreverent eyes the predominance of yellow and scarlet, and a good many other things besides, forcibly recalled the last gorgeous ritualistic services I had witnessed in many Buddhist temples in Ceylon, and on the borders of Thibet. Such impressions tend to wandering thoughts, and mine, I fear, are apt to become rather“ mixed.” Anyhow it was a relief when the scarlet and gold vestments were replaced by purple, with beautiful white lace. All the accessories were excellent. A native played the harmonium well, and Tongan enfants de chour chanted the service admirably. Altogether the scenic effect was striking.
Chairs had been provided for all the foreigners present, and of course I sat with the Sisters, though it would have seemed more natural to curl up on a mat beside the native women, as we do in Fiji. These Catholic Tongans so far retain their former customs, that they continue to sit on the ground, although the polished wooden floor, which has replaced the soft grass and mats of old days, is not exactly a luxurious seat.
In the Wesleyan churches, which are here built as much as possible on ugly foreign models, regular benches are the rule. I trust it will be long ere our simple and suitable churches in Fiji are replaced by buildings of that sort. I grieve to say that this is by no means the only point in which the natives here have departed from primitive custom. Not content with the noble work of utterly exterminating idolatry and cannibalism, the teachers in these isles are afflicted with an unwholesome belief in foreign garments, and by every means in their power encourage the adoption of European cloth and unbecoming dresses; consequently many of the Tongan men glory in full suits of black, while some of the girls appear in gaudy and vulgar hats, trimmed with artificial flowers. Imagine these surmounting a halo of spiral curls !
Is it not strange that this admirable mission, which has done such magnificent work in these isles, cannot be content to allow its Tongan converts the same liberty in outer matters as its wise representatives in Fiji allow their congregations ? Here the “gold ring and goodly apparel” are promoted to the foremost stiff benches.
TORTOISE-SHELL BONNETS !
There the distracting “ care for raiment” is reduced to a minimum, and all the people kneel together devoutly, on the soft accustomed mats, in houses of the same type as their cool pleasant homes, without a thought that a building of a European type, with hard uncomfortable seats, and unbecoming foreign clothes, can render their prayer and praise more acceptable to their Father in heaven.
Nothing astonishes me more, in reading any of the early missionary records of grand work done in these seas, than the frequent laudatory allusions to the general adoption by the converts of some fearful and wonderful head-dress, in imitation of the hideous bonnets of our grandmothers, and worn by the wives of the early missionaries. Immense praise was bestowed on the ingenious females who, under the direction of those excellent women, succeeded in manufacturing coal-scuttle bonnets of cocoa-palm leaves. Still more startling was the same monstrous form, when cunningly joined pieces of thin tortoise - shell were the materials used to imitate the brown silk bonnet of England! We may well rejoice that these horrors are no longer an integral feature of Christianity in the South Seas! It is sufficiently dreadful to see the ultra "respectable” classes donning coats, waistcoats, and trousers.
Immediately after service I returned to luncheon on board, to be ready to start with Monseigneur Elloi for Mua, which is the principal Roman Catholic station here, distant about twelve miles. A large man-of-war boat with twelve rowers carried the bishop's party, which consisted of two Fathers, and four of the ship's officers. Several others got horses and rode across the isle. A party of Tongan students filled another boat. Wind, tide, and current being against us, the journey took three hours. It is a dreary coast, everywhere bound by a wide expanse of villanous shore-reef, which makes landing simply impossible. The approach to Mua is by a channel which seemed to me several miles long, and is like a river cut through the reef, which edges it on either side. Here we rowed against a sweeping current, and the men had hard work to make way.
On reaching Mua we found the riders awaiting us, and a great procession of priests, headed by Père Chevron, a fine grey-haired
old man, who has been toiling here for thirty-five years. Scarlet and white-robed acolytes and others, carried really handsome flags and banners. Their chanting was excellent. They escorted the bishop to the beautiful Tongan church, which is a building of purely native type, with heavy thatch, and all the posts, beams, and other timbers are fastened together without the use of a single nail. All are tied with strong vines from the forests, and plaited over with senniti.e., string of divers fibres,—of hybiscus, cocoa-palm, pandanus, and other plants, ranging in colour through all shades of yellow, brown, and black. These are laid on in beautiful and most intricate patterns, and form a very effective and essentially Polynesian style of decoration. The altar, which is entirely of native manufacture, is really very fine. It is made of various island woods, inlaid with whales'-tooth ivory and mother-of-pearl. All the decorations in this church are in excellent taste, and bespeak most loving care. Here, as at Maofanga, comfort is sacrificed to appearance by the substitution of a polished wooden floor for the accustomed mats. I cannot say I think this an improvement, as it is a hard seat during a long service.
However, on this occasion I did not experience its discomfort, for, shocking to say, in view of the example to the natives, none of us attended the service, but all went off at once, guided by M. Pinart (whose antiquarian instincts had already led him thither), to the tombs of the Toui-Tongas, the old kings of Tonga. They are formed of gigantic blocks of volcanic rock, said to have been brought to these flat isles from the Wallis group. They are laid in three courses of straight lines, like cyclopean walls, and lie at intervals through the bush. They are much overgrown with tangled vegetation, especially with the widespreading roots of many banyan trees, and though wonderful, are not sketchable.
In olden days, when the Toui-Tonga was here laid to his rest, his favourite wife and most valued possessions were buried with him. All his subjects, young and old, male and female, shaved their heads and mourned for four months. Those engaged in pre. paring his sacred body for the grave were obliged to live apart for ten months, as being tabu or sacred.
When the corpse had been deposited on this great burial-mound, all the men, women, and children assembled, and sat round in a great circle, bearing large torches made of dried palm-leaves. Six of the principal men then walked several times round and round the place of burial, in sunwise procession, waving the blazing torches on high; finally, these were extinguished and laid on the ground. Then all the people arose and made the sunwise circuit of the royal tombs, as has been done from the earliest days, by men of all nations and colours, and then they, too, extinguished the emblematic torches, and laid them on the earth, in memory of him whose flame of life had passed away for ever from the poor dead clay. This cereniony was repeated on fourteen successive nights.
The mystery in all antiquities of this sort lies in the problem, how a race possessed only of stone adzes could possibly have hewn these huge blocks in the first instance, and how they then transported them on their frail canoes across wide distances of open sea. Tombs of the same character were common to all these groups, and were called marais. They combined the purpose of mausoleunis of the chiefs, and of temples where human and other sacrifices were offered.
Some of them were of gigantic dimensions. Captain Cook described one at Paparra in Tahiti, which consisted of an immense pyramid, 267 feet long by 87 wide, standing on a pavement measuring 360 feet by 354. On its summit stood a wooden image of a bird, and a fish carved in stone, representing the creatures especially reverenced by that tribe.
The pyramid was, in fact, a huge cairn of round pebbles, “which, from the regularity of their figure, seem to have been wrought.” It was faced with great blocks of white coral, neatly squared and polished, and laid in regular courses, forming eleven great steps, each of which was 4 feet high, so that the height of the pile was 44 feet. Some of these stones were upwards of 3 feet in length and 2! in width. The pavement on which the pyramid was
1 For numerous instances of this, see · From the Hebrides to the Himalayas' (C. F. Gordon Cumming), vol. i. pp. 203-210.