Page images
[blocks in formation]

We afterwards took to our boat again, sailing between the land and a coral islet, overshadowed with trees, nearly two miles in length and half a mile in breadth. At the further point of this motu a scene of startling peculiarity and grandeur burst upon our view. Immediately before us a vast conical mountain stood up from the shore to the heavens, having on its peak the faded crown of a perishing marae, once held in profound veneration, having been dedicated to the worship of the dog. On either side of the straits, between Huahine and Huahine-iti, craggy precipices crowd one upon the back of another to the height of three thousand feet. Over the top of one of these hangs a huge rock, as though it were disrupted from its seat and falling instantly upon the valley beneath. On the contrary shore gigantic masses, of the same character, rear their weather-beaten but immoveable ridges, as in defiance of earthquakes or storms, passively maintaining their ground till they shall be crumbled into dust, under the perpetual foot of time, on the very spot where they were first fixed at the creation, left bare by the retiring waters of the deluge, or heaved from the bottom of the abyss by the volcanic throes that gave birth to the islands of which they are at once the ornaments and the stability. These stupendous eminences are mouldered into many singular but not mis-shapen forms, for grandeur and grace are distinguishable among all their variations; while, through the thick verdure that generally arrays them, break forth denuded crags, black, crimson, and grey, and frequent fissures open into their recesses, yet conceal what they disclose, their borders being curiously curtained with foliage that seems to live in the air as its element, and scarcely to be indebted to the stone cliff, whence it springs, either for nourishment or support. Even the perpendicular faces of the rocks are

[ocr errors]



often overgrown, in this genial climate, with rank and luxuriant vegetation.

Crossing over the district called Apoomatai, or the hole in the wind, the meaning of which we have not been happy enough to learn, we took up our quarters for the night at a preaching-place, where there is a small chapel, and a house for the use of the Missionaries when they come hither. We had evening service in the former, attended by about fifty persons, and in the latter we prepared our beds, but expected no sleep, on account of the multitudes of mosquitoes. The natives, however, to our no small surprise and pleasure—though it was hard to believe such good news, told us that the pestilent swarms would retire at the close of day. And so they did :—this place has somehow become tabued, from their visits, during the night, for, every where else, the matins, the vespers, and the vigils of these everlasting tormentors of flesh and blood, are little less annoying than their noon-day inflictions.

Near this privileged spot, and before we enjoyed the unhoped-for comfort of undisturbed repose, we visited a lofty mountain, rising just behind our lodging. We estimated the elevation at three thousand feet. A spring spouts from its flanks, at two-thirds of the way, which the traveller finds very refreshing in the toilsome ascent. From the summit, as from every other, the views were sublime and enchanting - loveliness of colour, and grace of form, marking every feature of land and sea scenery; combined with amazing height of interior mountains, winding irregularity of coast, smooth water within the lagoons, rough breakers on the reefs without, coral islands here and there; all compassed with the infinity of sea beyond and of sky above. Here is the extreme verge of Huahine. An insulated rock projects from the head of this mountain,

[blocks in formation]

presenting a panorama-stand by day, and a point on which star after star may be seen by night, from the depth below, lingering over its pinnacle, and cresting it with their beams, as they pass in their courses. The strata of this rock are irregular, and consist of volcanic rubble and basaltes, both quite black.—We remarked a second spring trickling from the under stratum of this pile, notwithstanding its great elevation. The same plants were also found in this superior region as on the lower slopes. The cotton-plant was abundant, and an uncommon kind of stone-crop. But the most curious was a species of mimosa, or sensitive plant, with a white blossom, like that of the pea, but very minute. It rises to the height of fourteen inches, and is called by the natives hora. The sweet-scented grass, formerly mentioned, grows exuberantly here, and is now in full blow and fragrance. Ferns and reeds also flourish in every crevice and hollow. The structure of the middle part of this mountain, so far as the soil was laid bare, is the same red loam which is traced every where in the high lands here, and which appears to be decomposed lava, containing many fragments of honey-combed stones, of the same colour. This is a royal domain, and formerly was a favourite haunt of those human harpies—the Areois, in whose character and habits all that is most loathsome — “ earthly, sensual, devilish”

was combined. The low land between the beach and the foot of the mountains is little more than a hundred yards in breadth, but exceedingly fertile. Towards the south, however, it expands gradually into a spacious and beautiful valley—a lap into which the horn of plenty has been unsparingly poured. Auna, who was formerly one of his most zealous and favoured votaries, informs us that Hiro, the patron divinity of thieves, was devoutly worshipped here and throughout these islands,



though he was a god of but recent creation. He is said to have been a native of Raiatea, and so far from being born an immortal that (if the ambiguity may be allowed) he did not even die one-his scull having been preserved at Opoa, in that island, and seen by persons now living there, though it has recently disappeared with the other relics of idolatry. This Hiro was so subtle and audacious a robber that even the altars and maraes of the gods were not safe from his sacrilegeous fingers. To his skill in thieving were added all those other accomplishments for which heathen deities in all countries, from Greece and Rome to Tahiti and Raiatea, have been celebrated, lying, murder, debauchery, &c. &c. Nor was he less famous for managing a canoe, and playing the pirate by sea, than the burglar and bandit on shore. After his death, when enrolled among the gods for his atrocities, he was reverenced even above Oro, to whom he proved himself superior by throwing him down and lying upon him. His scull, as already mentioned, was deposited in a large marae, which he had himself erected, and his hair was put into the body of Oro's image and committed to the flames at Maeoa. The devotees of this idol were all persons of more than vulgar rank; our friend Auna, being of royal kindred, was admitted to that honour. Indeed, it was not to be expected, even in such a state of savage society as then existed, that any except the great should be permitted to seize their neighbours' goods with impunity.

The fraternity of Areois had some customs and practices which they affected to reserve to themselves, and which it would have been at the peril of others to adopt. These were either exceedingly gross or exceedingly puerile. Of the latter we are assured that the following was a favourite one, which it might have been death for an uninitiated person



on a

to imitate. When they sate on the ground, or low stool, they put one foot on the other thigh, and continued giving the toes a particular motion, while in the one hand they waved at arms' length a fan, made of the white hairs of a dog's tail, to drive away the mosquitoes ; and in the other held a nasal flute, on which they occasionally made a flourish of notes, by blowing into it through one of the nostrils. It is remarkable that this little musical pipe is shaped like a German flute or fife, and is sounded, as above, through a hole in the side, near the upper end, which is plugged.

Jan. 2. After we had each planted a cocoa-nut, in front of the house where we had lodged, in memorial of our visit, we proceeded in the boat to reconnoitre the straits which separate the greater and lesser of the Huahines. The opening between the two islands is about a mile in width, with steep declivities on either shore. This narrow channel expands into a capacious basin and fine harbour, round which the most romantic scenery extends along the coast, and rises inland to the loftiest elevations. Indeed, this is the character of all these scattered islands, throughout the Southern Pacific, — they are mountains in the midst of the sea, whether seen from afar or at hand;—from afar, nothing more exquisite in aerial perspective can be imagined than their slim and unsubstantial forms first peering above the horizon, but gradually growing in bulk, in clearness, and in beauty, on approaching them; till, at hand, the richest colouring and the most harmonious combinations of the contrasted elements of loveliness and magnificence that constitute picturesque landscape are found, in a degree of diversity at once inexhaustible, and unexhausting to the eye, the imagination, the intelligence, and even the heart of the beholder--associated, as these “ fortunate islands” now are,

« EelmineJätka »