Page images
PDF
EPUB

VILLAGE OF MATARA.

237

repose in expatiating as freely as the wind that breathed over the mountains and rippled the ocean.

In the afternoon we proceeded on our cruise, keeping within the reefs, which are two miles from the shore, and afford perfect security from the breakers on the side of the sea. A high rock, projecting from the flank of one of the mountains, was pointed out to us, over the brow of which a man once leaped, to escape the spear of his pursuer, from whom he had stolen some property. Happily the fugitive alighted on a quantity of loose earth, which had been thrown up only the day before, and missed being dashed to pieces on the spot. We soon afterwards passed by one of the two districts whose inhabitants declined to emigrate to the Missionary settlement, to be nearer the means of Christian instruction, of which, at that time, they thought more lightly than the bulk of their countrymen. They come, however,

occasionally to Fare to hear the gospel, and their teachers in turn visit them when opportunity offers. In the evening we landed at Matara, where there is a small native village and a chapel. A beautiful motu stretches across the mouth of the bay here, and presents a complete specimen of a coralisland, where the rude structure of thousands of millions of minute worms, growing up, through successive ages, into a barren reef, has gradually been invested with soil, and now is as "a field which the Lord hath blessed." Our sleeping quarters had been comfortably arranged, and we passed a quiet night, in a large native dwelling, divided into three apartments, of which we occupied one end; the queen, with her attendants, the other; and the middle space served for a common eating-room.

Dec. 29. After an early breakfast and family prayer, we visited the aforementioned motu. A beach, composed of fragments of shells and other marine exuviæ, surrounds the

[blocks in formation]

island, which is nearly two miles in circumference. The coral-rocks-themselves incorrigibly sterile, but over which nature has spread prolific tillage-at several points jut out into the sea, and again disappear in the sand. Even in the centre and highest part of this new-made land coral is every where visible, as the substratum of the whole. In addition to the trees and plants commonly found on such spots, we collected eleven which were new to us.

Having caught a sufficient number of fishes, we ordered them to be dressed. Immediately a fire was kindled on the beach, and the repast was served up in so primitive a style that we could not but be reminded of that scene, by the lake of Tiberias, where the risen Redeemer shewed himself to his disciples, and condescended to sit down with them by 66 a fire of coals" on the shore, and fish laid thereon, and bread, of which He gave to them with his own hands, as He was wont to do, in the character of their Lord and Master, before his passion. Ah! who can remember the sequel— for "when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Son of Jonas, lovest thou me ?”—without "being grieved,” less because of the thrice-repeated question, than because he who has most experienced a Saviour's love-his pardoning love-is most sensible how imperfectly he can answer, “Lord, Thou knowest all things; Thou knowest that I love Thee."

On this occasion, a trifling circumstance occurred which is only worth notice as exemplifying the style of conversation in this remote corner of the world, where great plainness of speech is quite consistent with good manners. Mr. Barff, not having observed the fire which had been lighted, asked a native where it was. "You are a strangeeyed man," was the reply that he received, and this was given in perfect good humour, meaning no more than that

[merged small][ocr errors]
[blocks in formation]

if you will use your eyes you cannot help seeing it before your face. Such abrupt and significant answers are common among these people, who, though loquacious, strive to make their remarks in the fewest possible words; and often both matter and manner are equally pithy.-One evening the queen was amusing herself with peeping through a small opera-glass, belonging to one of our party. Having never seen any thing of the kind before, she was delighted with trying its powers, as she imagined, first on one and then another of the company, seated in different and distant parts of the spacious room. At length she exclaimed, "This is a short way of getting at a person!" The surprise of children in such a case is the reverse; they think the glass brings the objects near to themselves; she seemed to imagine that it carried her to the object.

Towards evening we walked to the great marae of Oro, which is within a mile of this bay. The queen and her friends accompanied us. Near "the high place" of this "abomination" of Huahine we called upon an aged man, who was the last priest here at the murderous shrine of the god of war. In youth he must have been uncommonly large and powerful. His face was singularly tatooed, which is in itself remarkable (indeed only the second instance that we have seen), as the vainest among the one sex, and the fiercest of the other, were not wont thus either to adorn or disfigure their countenances. And herein these Pacific islanders differed entirely from other savages who practise the same fanciful method of marking themselves. The North American Indians, the New Zealanders, &c., glory in the characteristic imagery which they depict on their foreheads, cheeks, and chins, by this barbarous species of embroidery. The grey hair of the patriarch before us was cut short, except one thin lock, which was allowed

240

CONVERTED PRIEST OF ORO.

His

to grow long, behind. But what gave peculiar interest to his person and character was the circumstance of his being blind, the occasion of his blindness, and its effect upon his future life. The dark idolater had long withstood the gospel, and refused to acknowledge the sanctity of the Sabbath, after the former was received, and the latter commanded by authority, to be observed in these islands. One Sabbath morning, in contempt of the day, he went out to work in his garden. On returning to his house, he became blind in a moment. Dreadfully alarmed, he cried out, "I am a dead man ! -a dead man!" neighbours, in amazement, came running to his assistance; -but vain was human help; an invisible hand was upon him, and had closed up his eyes for ever from seeing the But the same hand, we may believe, opened the eyes of his understanding by the stroke which destroyed the light of the body; he immediately concluded that this affliction was a judgment upon him for disobeying (probably against strong, though long-resisted, internal convictions) the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. His countrymen were under the same impression. He humbled himself in the dust, mourned over his sins, confessed them, abjured idolatry, and embraced that religion which had already triumphed over almost every other heart in the island except his own. To this day he has continued in that renovated state of mind, and his conduct has been conformable to his profession.

sun.

After some conversation with him respecting what he had been, and what he is now, we informed him whither we were going; he then got up, and accompanied us, finding his way without difficulty by the aid of a long stick. We were soon at the marae. This measured a hundred and forty-six feet in length, by eighteen in width, and

[blocks in formation]

was in a tolerably complete state, only a few of the great stones having been displaced. It is built of large flags of coral-rock, placed upon their edges in the ground, and forming an enclosure, which is filled up with earth. On this a second smaller enclosure had been raised in the same manner, leaving a platform all around, four feet wide. Within this upper story were interred the bones of the miserable victims, human and brute, which from time to time had been sacrificed to the demon-idol worshipped here. One of the large flag stones measured nine feet by ten. The labour of heaving such blocks from the bottom of the sea, bringing them so far, and building them up here, must have been immense.

Tare no Oro, or Oro's house, stood behind this long range of earth and stones, about the middle of the farther wall. It was a small structure, only eight feet long by six in width. About three yards beyond, and upon the ground, lay a flat stone, twelve or fourteen inches square, on which the priest of Oro formerly was accustomed to stand, when he offered his prayers and practised his enchantments. Close to this, rising behind it, was another stone, sufficiently broad and elevated to form a seat for him when weary, or when the duty of his office required him to assume the posture of repose.

Without due consideration, we requested the old priest to take his stand, and shew us in what manner he prayed to Oro, and delivered oracles to the people. With undisguised reluctance he consented, and stepped upon the accursed spot, from which he had so often, in times past, acted the part both of the deceiver and the deceived. But when he was about to repeat one of the prayers to Oroas though he had come within the grasp of the power of darkness, and felt himself in the act of apostacy—" fear

[blocks in formation]
[ocr errors]
« EelmineJätka »