Page images
PDF
EPUB

SECURITY AND CONTENTMENT.

131

of this grotesque apartment. Our own iron bedsteads were at first placed on the floor, but we were then so liable to be invaded by armies of fleas, peopling the grass with which the floor was strewn, that we were obliged to raise them on stilts, to a height which made the evil of climbing into bed only less than the evil of falling out might have been. Even this precaution did not prevent our besiegers, the fleas, from storming our nocturnal citadels; it only put them to a little more trouble in scaling the outworks. But we had multitudes of assailants in the air as well as on the ground; from these (the mosquitoes) our lawn curtains proved a sufficient defence, when we had once excluded the enemy from within, and drawn them round

our beds.

When we commenced housekeeping, we each engaged a native man-servant to wait upon us, cook our victuals, carry us across fords, and help to manage the boat when we had to sail from one place to another. But, however humble our dwelling and scanty our accommodations, we envy not kings their palaces nor great men their splendour. The presence of God, not visible but felt, hath hallowed and blessed our frail tabernacle, which we dedicated to Him from the hour that it became our abode. Here it is our duty and our happiness to serve Him, in that cause to which He has appointed us. Though our slightlywattled dwelling could have afforded no security against violence, we needed none; shelter from the elements was all that we wanted. Hither, during the intervals of visiting, and after the fatigues of the day, we retired for privacy; and at night lay down in peace, fearing no evil, under the never-slumbering eye of Him that keepeth Israel; and amidst a people, lately savages, now Christians -Christians in their infant state.-On an island inhabited

[blocks in formation]

only by children, we should not have been more at home and at ease.

Oct. 28. (Lord's day.) While we were in the house, between the hours of divine service, many of the natives came in, with the frank familiarity which custom justifies here, and observed with quiet but intense curiosity all that we did and all that we had about us. One of them read a chapter from the gospel of St. Luke ; they afterwards sang a hymn; and all behaved with the utmost decorum. Though it is not always agreeable to our notions of comfort to be encumbered with the presence of strangers, we must acknowledge that there is always so much good-nature expressed in their countenances, and such simplicity of manners among them, that it is impossible to be seriously offended with their inquisitiveness. They go into every room, and carefully examine what happens to attract their notice, but never remove any thing out of its place, nor even handle it.

Oct. 29. The Tahitians are very early risers. No sooner does the day begin to dawn than they quit their couches, and proceed to their occupations, beginning with their private and social devotions, for in every house there is family prayer, morning and evening. Whatever these islanders may have been, in their heathen state, they are not the indolent beings now which they were formerly represented to be. They do a great deal of work, but it is chiefly done in the early part of the day, while Europeans are in bed. This morning many had assembled about our house, between five and six o'clock, bringing different articles for sale. They were careful, however, not to disturb us. By seven o'clock our sitting-room was crowded. Our visiters brought a great variety of merchandize, to tempt us to barter ;-such as hogs, goats,

[blocks in formation]

fowls, eggs, native cloth, pearl-shells, fishing-hooks (very ingenious and beautiful contrivances), lines, cordage made of various materials, mats, bags, nets, calabashes for water vessels, sweet-scented oil, umitis (large wooden dishes), penus (stone-hammers), stools, spears, bows and arrows, &c. &c. We made various purchases by barter; knives, forks, and scissors were in the greatest request, but European cloth would have been more acceptable, now that civilization is increasing their wants and their comforts, the former stimulating them to procure the latter by honest industry, and improvement in such arts and manufactures as they already practise, or are learning. Our house continued to be crowded, both within and without, till afternoon; and though the people ceased to importune us to buy their commodities when they saw us prepare for breakfast and dinner, yet many seated themselves on the floor, and witnessed with earnest attention our performances at both these meals. Though we could very well have dispensed with such spectators, yet we willingly indulged their. harmless curiosity, in hope that they might be induced, by what they saw, to change their own ruder modes of feeding

Among the wares offered for sale were mourning-bells. These are made of two large pearl-shells, loosely fastened back to back; when knocked against each other they emit a singularly shrill noise, which may be heard at a considerable distance. These bells were used when a member of a family died, or when a chief was ill. In the latter instance, the priests went about at night, ringing these bells, making the most dismal noises, and uttering such intercessory prayers to the gods as follow:-Tahi tea; have mercy!—Tahi po tea; have mercy, this night!-Faa hoia mai to maru ; restore thy own servant ! Eiatoa tenaia ;

[blocks in formation]

quench not his life !”—This lugubrious mummery was all deceptive and hypocritical, to impose on the credulity of the people. The crafty priests cared not for the chiefs, any further than as the chiefs were necessary instruments of extortion upon the vassals for the maintenance of idolatry. Every conceivable trick was resorted to for the acquisition of property; people, chiefs, the sovereign himself, were all fleeced to enrich the greedy hierarchy. The most valuable presents which the king received from England, or obtained from the captains of vessels touching upon his coast, he was generally compelled to offer to the gods. But these gifts were reserved for great occasions, such as the commencement of a war. Then were the royal treasures impoverished to enrich the maraes, and render the deities propitious; the priests of course being the proxies of the dumb idols, and appropriating all the precious things either to their own use, or distributing them among their dependents and patrons; thus maintaining their influence over every class of the community.

Towards evening we walked out into the neighbourhood. In one house we found twelve women diligently employed in beating out cloth from the bark of trees, keeping up a regular stroke, to a tune, with their wooden hammers. In the midst of this den lay a new-born infant, upon the floor, fast asleep.--As we walked through the grass, our clothes, before we were aware, had become studded, nearly all over, with a small burr, called piripiri, which is so keen that it instantly adheres where it touches; and, piercing through the thinner parts of the clothing, scratches and inflames the skin. This little plant abounds every where, and is, in the vegetable world, what fleas and mosquitoes are in the animal--a vexatious companion.

CHAPTER VI.

Fishing by Torch-light— Valley of Matavai–Sufferings of first Mission

aries—Rare Birds-Ora Tree, &c.—Basaltic Cliffs—Simple Method of producing Fire- Traits of Tahitian Character-Mode of Living—Administration of the Sacrament-Diseases of the Natives-Burial of a Child—Proper Names—Phosphoric Matches--Apprehensions of a Disturbance—Site for Cotton-Factory-American Ship in Matavai Bay— Account of a Plot once formed by Tahitians to seize a European Vessel -Providential Preservation of the Lives of Mr. Wilson and Mr. Bennet at Sea-The last Battle of the last Native War.

Oct. 31. Last night our house was surrounded and assaulted by depredators, who made repeated attempts to force an entrance, but were unable. The circumstance did not give us much uneasiness, the rogues being only pigs and dogs. We were much more annoyed by our enemies within doors—the fleas, which, in spite of our stilted bedsteads, obtruded upon us, and were so ardent and active that sleep was hopeless in such society. The fleas here are much smaller than those in England, and are so nimble that it is next to impossible to catch them. They breed in the herbless sand, and shelter in the grass that covers the floors of the houses ; happily, the light clothing of the natives affords these vermin little cover for hiding themselves.

Several women, accompanied by a man, were engaged this evening in catching fish, by torch-light. They first

« EelmineJätka »