Omoo: Adventures in the South Seas
Part 4 out of 6
never stepped on the island, nor any who gave less trouble to the
natives. But, for all this, whenever we met a respectably-dressed
European, ten to one he shunned us by going over to the other side of
the road. This was very unpleasant, at least to myself; though,
certes, it did not prey upon the minds of the others.
To give an instance.
Of a fine evening in Tahiti--but they are all fine evenings there--you
may see a bevy of silk bonnets and parasols passing along the Broom
Road: perhaps a band of pale, little white urchins--sickly
exotics--and, oftener still, sedate, elderly gentlemen, with canes;
at whose appearance the natives, here and there, slink into their
huts. These are the missionaries, their wives, and children, taking a
family airing. Sometimes, by the bye, they take horse, and ride down
to Point Venus and back; a distance of several miles. At this place
is settled the only survivor of the first missionaries that
landed--an old, white-headed, saint-like man, by the name of Wilson,
the father of our friend, the consul.
The little parties on foot were frequently encountered; and,
recalling, as they did, so many pleasant recollections of home and
the ladies, I really longed for a dress coat and beaver that I might
step up and pay my respects. But, situated as I was, this was out of
the question. On one occasion, however, I received a kind, inquisitive
glance from a matron in gingham. Sweet lady! I have not forgotten
her: her gown was a plaid.
But a glance, like hers, was not always bestowed.
One evening, passing the verandah of a missionary's dwelling, the
dame, his wife, and a pretty, blonde young girl, with ringlets, were
sitting there, enjoying the sea-breeze, then coming in, all cool and
refreshing, from the spray of the reef. As I approached, the old lady
peered hard at me; and her very cap seemed to convey a prim rebuke.
The blue, English eyes, by her side, were also bent on me. But, oh
Heavens! what a glance to receive from such a beautiful creature! As
for the mob cap, not a fig did I care for it; but, to be taken for
anything but a cavalier, by the ringleted one, was absolutely
I resolved on a courteous salute, to show my good-breeding, if nothing
more. But, happening to wear a sort of turban--hereafter to be
particularly alluded to--there was no taking it off and putting it on
again with anything like dignity. At any rate, then, here goes a how.
But, another difficulty presented itself; my loose frock was so
voluminous that I doubted whether any spinal curvature would be
"Good evening, ladies," exclaimed I, at last, advancing winningly; "a
delightful air from the sea, ladies."
Hysterics and hartshorn! who would have thought it? The young lady
screamed, and the old one came near fainting. As for myself, I
retreated in double-quick time; and scarcely drew breath until safely
housed in the Calabooza.
CATHEDRAL OF PAPOAR--THE CHURCH OF THE COCOA-NUTS
ON Sundays I always attended the principal native church, on the
outskirts of the village of Papeetee, and not far from the Calabooza
Beretanee. It was esteemed the best specimen of architecture in
Of late, they have built their places of worship with more reference
to durability than formerly. At one time, there were no less than
thirty-six on the island--mere barns, tied together with thongs,
which went to destruction in a very few years.
One, built many years ago in this style, was a most remarkable
structure. It was erected by Pomaree II., who, on this occasion,
showed all the zeal of a royal proselyte. The building was over seven
hundred feet in length, and of a proportionate width; the vast
ridge-pole was at intervals supported by a row of thirty-six
cylindrical trunks of the bread-fruit tree; and, all round, the
wall-plates rested on shafts of the palm. The roof--steeply inclining
to within a man's height of the ground--was thatched with leaves, and
the sides of the edifice were open. Thus spacious was the Royal
Mission Chapel of Papoar.
At its dedication, three distinct sermons were, from different
pulpits, preached to an immense concourse gathered from all parts of
As the chapel was built by the king's command, nearly as great a
multitude was employed in its construction as swarmed over the
scaffolding of the great temple of the Jews. Much less time, however,
was expended. In less than three weeks from planting the first post,
the last tier of palmetto-leaves drooped from the eaves, and the work
Apportioned to the several chiefs and their dependants, the labour,
though immense, was greatly facilitated by everyone's bringing his
post, or his rafter, or his pole strung with thatching, ready for
instant use. The materials thus prepared being afterwards secured
together by thongs, there was literally "neither hammer, nor axe, nor
any tool of iron heard in the house while it was building."
But the most singular circumstance connected with this South Sea
cathedral remains to be related. As well for the beauty as the
advantages of such a site, the islanders love to dwell near the
mountain streams; and so, a considerable brook, after descending from
the hills and watering the valley, was bridged over in three places,
and swept clean through the chapel.
Flowing waters! what an accompaniment to the songs of the sanctuary;
mingling with them the praises and thanksgivings of the green
But the chapel of the Polynesian Solomon has long since been deserted.
Its thousand rafters of habiscus have decayed, and fallen to the
ground; and now, the stream murmurs over them in its bed.
The present metropolitan church of Tahiti is very unlike the one just
described. It is of moderate dimensions, boarded over, and painted
white. It is furnished also with blinds, but no sashes; indeed, were
it not for the rustic thatch, it would remind one of a plain chapel
The woodwork was all done by foreign carpenters, of whom there are
always several about Papeetee.
Within, its aspect is unique, and cannot fail to interest a stranger.
The rafters overhead are bound round with fine matting of variegated
dyes; and all along the ridge-pole these trappings hang pendent, in
alternate bunches of tassels and deep fringes of stained grass. The
floor is composed of rude planks. Regular aisles run between ranges
of native settees, bottomed with crossed braids of the cocoa-nut
fibre, and furnished with backs.
But the pulpit, made of a dark, lustrous wood, and standing at one
end, is by far the most striking object. It is preposterously lofty;
indeed, a capital bird's-eye view of the congregation ought to be had
from its summit.
Nor does the church lack a gallery, which runs round on three sides,
and is supported by columns of the cocoa-nut tree.
Its facings are here and there daubed over with a tawdry blue; and in
other places (without the slightest regard to uniformity), patches of
the same colour may be seen. In their ardour to decorate the
sanctuary, the converts must have borrowed each a brush full of
paint, and zealously daubed away at the first surface that offered.
As hinted, the general impression is extremely curious. Little light
being admitted, and everything being of a dark colour, there is an
indefinable Indian aspect of duskiness throughout. A strange, woody
smell, also--more or less pervading every considerable edifice in
Polynesia--is at once perceptible. It suggests the idea of worm-eaten
idols packed away in some old lumber-room at hand.
For the most part, the congregation attending this church is composed
of the better and wealthier orders--the chiefs and their retainers;
in short, the rank and fashion of the island. This class is
infinitely superior in personal beauty and general healthfulness to
the "marenhoar," or common people; the latter having been more
exposed to the worst and most debasing evils of foreign intercourse.
On Sundays, the former are invariably arrayed in their finery; and
thus appear to the best advantage. Nor are they driven to the chapel,
as some of their inferiors are to other places of worship; on the
contrary, capable of maintaining a handsome exterior, and possessing
greater intelligence, they go voluntarily.
In respect of the woodland colonnade supporting its galleries, I
called this chapel the Church of the Cocoa-nuts.
It was the first place for Christian worship in Polynesia that I had
seen; and the impression upon entering during service was all the
stronger. Majestic-looking chiefs whose fathers had hurled the
battle-club, and old men who had seen sacrifices smoking upon the
altars of Oro, were there. And hark! hanging from the bough of a
bread-fruit tree without, a bell is being struck with a bar of iron by
a native lad. In the same spot, the blast of the war-conch had often
resounded. But to the proceedings within.
The place is well filled. Everywhere meets the eye the gay calico
draperies worn on great occasions by the higher classes, and forming
a strange contrast of patterns and colours. In some instances, these
are so fashioned as to resemble as much as possible European
garments. This is in excessively bad taste. Coats and pantaloons,
too, are here and there seen; but they look awkwardly enough, and take
away from the general effect.
But it is the array of countenances that most strikes you. Each is
suffused with the peculiar animation of the Polynesians, when thus
collected in large numbers. Every robe is rustling, every limb in
motion, and an incessant buzzing going on throughout the assembly.
The tumult is so great that the voice of the placid old missionary,
who now rises, is almost inaudible. Some degree of silence is at
length obtained through the exertions of half-a-dozen strapping
fellows, in white shirts and no pantaloons. Running in among the
settees, they are at great pains to inculcate the impropriety of
making a noise by creating a most unnecessary racket themselves. This
part of the service was quite comical.
There is a most interesting Sabbath School connected with the church;
and the scholars, a vivacious, mischievous set, were in one part of
the gallery. I was amused by a party in a corner. The teacher sat at
one end of the bench, with a meek little fellow by his side. When the
others were disorderly, this young martyr received a rap; intended,
probably, as a sample of what the rest might expect, if they didn't
Standing in the body of the church, and leaning against a pillar, was
an old man, in appearance very different from others of his
countrymen. He wore nothing but a coarse, scant mantle of faded
tappa; and from his staring, bewildered manner, I set him down as an
aged bumpkin from the interior, unaccustomed to the strange sights
and sounds of the metropolis. This old worthy was sharply reprimanded
for standing up, and thus intercepting the view of those behind; but
not comprehending exactly what was said to him, one of the
white-liveried gentry made no ceremony of grasping him by the
shoulders, and fairly crushing him down into a seat.
During all this, the old missionary in the pulpit--as well as his
associates beneath, never ventured to interfere--leaving everything
to native management. With South Sea islanders, assembled in any
numbers, there is no other way of getting along.
MISSIONARY'S SERMON; WITH SOME REFLECTIONS
SOME degree of order at length restored, the service was continued, by
singing. The choir was composed of twelve or fifteen ladies of the
mission, occupying a long bench to the left of the pulpit. Almost the
entire congregation joined in.
The first air fairly startled me; it was the brave tune of Old
Hundred, adapted to a Tahitian psalm. After the graceless scenes I
had recently passed through, this circumstance, with all its
accessories, moved me forcibly.
Many voices around were of great sweetness and compass. The singers,
also, seemed to enjoy themselves mightily; some of them pausing, now
and then, and looking round, as if to realize the scene more fully.
In truth, they sang right joyously, despite the solemnity of the
The Tahitians have much natural talent for singing; and, on all
occasions, are exceedingly fond of it. I have often heard a stave or
two of psalmody, hummed over by rakish young fellows, like a snatch
from an opera.
With respect to singing, as in most other matters, the Tahitians
widely differ from the people of the Sandwich Islands; where the
parochial flocks may be said rather to Heat than sing.
The psalm concluded, a prayer followed. Very considerately, the good
old missionary made it short; for the congregation became fidgety and
inattentive as soon as it commenced.
A chapter of the Tahitian Bible was now read; a text selected; and the
sermon began. It was listened to with more attention than I had
Having been informed, from various sources, that the discourses of the
missionaries, being calculated to engage the attention of their
simple auditors, were, naturally enough, of a rather amusing
description to strangers; in short, that they had much to say about
steamboats, lord mayor's coaches, and the way fires are put out in
London, I had taken care to provide myself with a good interpreter, in
the person of an intelligent Hawaiian sailor, whose acquaintance I
"Now, Jack," said I, before entering, "hear every word, and tell me
what you can as the missionary goes on."
Jack's was not, perhaps, a critical version of the discourse; and at
the time, I took no notes of what he said. Nevertheless, I will here
venture to give what I remember of it; and, as far as possible, in
Jack's phraseology, so as to lose nothing by a double translation.
"Good friends, I glad to see you; and I very well like to have some
talk with you to-day. Good friends, very bad times in Tahiti; it make
me weep. Pomaree is gone--the island no more yours, but the Wee-wees'
(French). Wicked priests here, too; and wicked idols in woman's
clothes, and brass chains.
"Good friends, no you speak, or look at them--but I know you won't
--they belong to a set of robbers--the wicked Wee-wees. Soon these
bad men be made to go very quick. Beretanee ships of thunder come and
away they go. But no more 'bout this now. I speak more by by.
"Good friends, many whale-ships here now; and many bad men come in
'em. No good sailors living--that you know very well. They come here,
'cause so bad they no keep 'em home.
"My good little girls, no run after sailors--no go where they go; they
harm you. Where they come from, no good people talk to 'em--just like
dogs. Here, they talk to Pomaree, and drink arva with great Poofai.
"Good friends, this very small island, but very wicked, and very poor;
these two go together. Why Beretanee so great? Because that island
good island, and send mickonaree to poor kannaka In Beretanee, every
man rich: plenty things to buy; and plenty things to sell. Houses
bigger than Pomaree's, and more grand. Everybody, too, ride about in
coaches, bigger than hers; and wear fine tappa every day. (Several
luxurious appliances of civilization were here enumerated, and
"Good friends, little to eat left at my house. Schooner from Sydney no
bring bag of flour: and kannaka no bring pig and fruit enough.
Mickonaree do great deal for kannaka; kannaka do little for
mickonaree. So, good friends, weave plenty of cocoa-nut baskets, fill
'em, and bring 'em to-morrow."
Such was the substance of great part of this discourse; and, whatever
may be thought of it, it was specially adapted to the minds of the
islanders: who are susceptible to no impressions, except from things
palpable, or novel and striking. To them, a dry sermon would be dry
The Tahitians can hardly ever be said to reflect: they are all
impulse; and so, instead of expounding dogmas, the missionaries give
them the large type, pleasing cuts, and short and easy lessons of the
primer. Hence, anything like a permanent religious impression is
seldom or never produced.
In fact, there is, perhaps, no race upon earth, less disposed, by
nature, to the monitions of Christianity, than the people of the
South Seas. And this assertion is made with full knowledge of what is
called the "Great Revival at the Sandwich Islands," about the year
1836; when several thousands were, in the course of a few weeks,
admitted into the bosom of the Church. But this result was brought
about by no sober moral convictions; as an almost instantaneous
relapse into every kind of licentiousness soon after testified. It
was the legitimate effect of a morbid feeling, engendered by the
sense of severe physical wants, preying upon minds excessively prone
to superstition; and, by fanatical preaching, inflamed into the belief
that the gods of the missionaries were taking vengeance upon the
wickedness of the land.
It is a noteworthy fact that those very traits in the Tahitians, which
induced the London Missionary Society to regard them as the most
promising subjects for conversion, and which led, moreover, to the
selection of their island as the very first field for missionary
labour, eventually proved the most serious obstruction. An air of
softness in their manners, great apparent ingenuousness and docility,
at first misled; but these were the mere accompaniments of an
indolence, bodily and mental; a constitutional voluptuousness; and an
aversion to the least restraint; which, however fitted for the
luxurious state of nature, in the tropics, are the greatest possible
hindrances to the strict moralities of Christianity.
Added to all this is a quality inherent in Polynesians; and more akin
to hypocrisy than anything else. It leads them to assume the most
passionate interest in matters for which they really feel little or
none whatever; but in which, those whose power they dread, or whose
favour they court, they believe to be at all affected. Thus, in their
heathen state, the Sandwich Islanders actually knocked out their
teeth, tore their hair, and mangled their bodies with shells, to
testify their inconsolable grief at the demise of a high chief, or
member of the royal family. And yet, Vancouver relates that, on such
an occasion, upon which he happened to be present, those apparently
the most abandoned to their feelings, immediately assumed the utmost
light-heartedness on receiving the present of a penny whistle, or a
Dutch looking-glass. Similar instances, also, have come under my own
The following is an illustration of the trait alluded to, as
occasionally manifested among the converted Polynesians.
At one of the Society Islands--Baiatair, I believe--the natives, for
special reasons, desired to commend themselves particularly to the
favour of the missionaries. Accordingly, during divine service, many
of them behaved in a manner, otherwise unaccountable, and precisely
similar to their behaviour as heathens. They pretended to be wrought
up to madness by the preaching which they heard. They rolled their
eyes; foamed at the mouth; fell down in fits; and so were carried
home. Yet, strange to relate, all this was deemed the evidence of the
power of the Most High; and, as such, was heralded abroad.
But, to return to the Church of the Cocoa-nuts. The blessing
pronounced, the congregation disperse; enlivening the Broom Road with
their waving mantles. On either hand, they disappear down the shaded
pathways, which lead off from the main route, conducting to hamlets
in the groves, or to the little marine villas upon the beach. There
is considerable hilarity; and you would suppose them just from an
old-fashioned "hevar," or jolly heathen dance. Those who carry Bibles
swing them carelessly from their arms by cords of sinnate.
The Sabbath is no ordinary day with the Tahitians. So far as doing any
work is concerned, it is scrupulously observed. The canoes are hauled
up on the beach; the nets are spread to dry. Passing by the hen-coop
huts on the roadside, you find their occupants idle, as usual; but
less disposed to gossip. After service, repose broods over the whole
island; the valleys reaching inland look stiller than ever.
In short, it is Sunday--their "Taboo Day"; the very word formerly
expressing the sacredness of their pagan observances now proclaiming
the sanctity of the Christian Sabbath.
SOMETHING ABOUT THE KANNAKIPPERS
A WORTHY young man, formerly a friend of mine (I speak of Kooloo with
all possible courtesy, since after our intimacy there would be an
impropriety in doing otherwise)--this worthy youth, having some
genteel notions of retirement, dwelt in a "maroo boro," or
bread-fruit shade, a pretty nook in a wood, midway between the
Calabooza Beretanee and the Church of Cocoa-nuts. Hence, at the latter
place, he was one of the most regular worshippers.
Kooloo was a blade. Standing up in the congregation in all the bravery
of a striped calico shirt, with the skirts rakishly adjusted over a
pair of white sailor trousers, and hair well anointed with cocoa-nut
oil, he ogled the ladies with an air of supreme satisfaction. Nor
were his glances unreturned.
But such looks as the Tahitian belles cast at each other: frequently
turning up their noses at the advent of a new cotton mantle recently
imported in the chest of some amorous sailor. Upon one occasion, I
observed a group of young girls, in tunics of course, soiled
sheeting, disdainfully pointing at a damsel in a flaming red one.
"Oee tootai owree!" said they with ineffable scorn, "itai maitai!"
(You are a good-for-nothing huzzy, no better than you should be).
Now, Kooloo communed with the church; so did all these censorious
young ladies. Yet after eating bread-fruit at the Eucharist, I knew
several of them, the same night, to be guilty of some sad
Puzzled by these things, I resolved to find out, if possible, what
ideas, if any, they entertained of religion; but as one's spiritual
concerns are rather delicate for a stranger to meddle with, I went to
work as adroitly as I could.
Farnow, an old native who had recently retired from active pursuits,
having thrown up the business of being a sort of running footman to
the queen, had settled down in a snug little retreat, not fifty rods
from Captain Bob's. His selecting our vicinity for his residence may
have been with some view to the advantages it afforded for
introducing his three daughters into polite circles. At any rate, not
averse to receiving the attentions of so devoted a gallant as the
doctor, the sisters (communicants, be it remembered) kindly extended
to him free permission to visit them sociably whenever he pleased.
We dropped in one evening, and found the ladies at home. My long
friend engaged his favourites, the two younger girls, at the game of
"Now," or hunting a stone under three piles of tappa. For myself, I
lounged on a mat with Ideea the eldest, dallying with her grass fan,
and improving my knowledge of Tahitian.
The occasion was well adapted to my purpose, and I began.
"Ah, Ideea, mickonaree oee?" the same as drawling out--"By the bye,
Miss Ideea, do you belong to the church?"
"Yes, me mickonaree," was the reply.
But the assertion was at once qualified by certain, reservations; so
curious that I cannot forbear their relation.
"Mickonaree ena" (church member here), exclaimed she, laying her hand
upon her mouth, and a strong emphasis on the adverb. In the same way,
and with similar exclamations, she touched her eyes and hands. This
done, her whole air changed in an instant; and she gave me to
understand, by unmistakable gestures, that in certain other respects
she was not exactly a "mickonaree." In short, Ideea was
"A sad good Christian at the heart--A very heathen in the carnal
The explanation terminated in a burst of laughter, in which all three
sisters joined; and for fear of looking silly, the doctor and myself.
As soon as good-breeding would permit, we took leave.
The hypocrisy in matters of religion, so apparent in all Polynesian
converts, is most injudiciously nourished in Tahiti by a zealous and
in many cases, a coercive superintendence over their spiritual
well-being. But it is only manifested with respect to the common
people, their superiors being exempted.
On Sunday mornings, when the prospect is rather small for a full house
in the minor churches, a parcel of fellows are actually sent out with
ratans into the highways and byways as whippers-in of the
congregation. This is a sober fact.
These worthies constitute a religious police; and you always know them
by the great white diapers they wear. On week days they are quite as
busy as on Sundays; to the great terror of the inhabitants, going all
over the island, and spying out the wickedness thereof.
Moreover, they are the collectors of fines--levied generally in grass
mats--for obstinate non-attendance upon divine worship, and other
offences amenable to the ecclesiastical judicature of the
Old Bob called these fellows "kannakippers" a corruption, I fancy, of
our word constable.
He bore them a bitter grudge; and one day, drawing near home, and
learning that two of them were just then making a domiciliary visit
at his house, he ran behind a bush; and as they came forth, two green
bread-fruit from a hand unseen took them each between the shoulders.
The sailors in the Calabooza were witnesses to this, as well as
several natives; who, when the intruders were out of sight, applauded
Captain Bob's spirit in no measured terms; the ladies present
vehemently joining in. Indeed, the kannakippers have no greater
enemies than the latter. And no wonder: the impertinent varlets,
popping into their houses at all hours, are forever prying into their
Kooloo, who at times was patriotic and pensive, and mourned the evils
under which his country was groaning, frequently inveighed against
the statute which thus authorized an utter stranger to interfere with
domestic arrangements. He himself--quite a ladies' man--had often
been annoyed thereby. He considered the kannakippers a bore.
Beside their confounded inquisitiveness, they add insult to injury, by
making a point of dining out every day at some hut within the limits
of their jurisdiction. As for the gentleman of the house, his meek
endurance of these things is amazing. But "good easy man," there is
nothing for him but to be as hospitable as possible.
These gentry are indefatigable. At the dead of night prowling round
the houses, and in the daytime hunting amorous couples in the groves.
Yet in one instance the chase completely baffled them.
It was thus.
Several weeks previous to our arrival at the island, someone's husband
and another person's wife, having taken a mutual fancy for each
other, went out for a walk. The alarm was raised, and with hue and
cry they were pursued; but nothing was seen of them again until the
lapse of some ninety days; when we were called out from the Calabooza
to behold a great mob inclosing the lovers, and escorting them for
trial to the village.
Their appearance was most singular. The girdle excepted, they were
quite naked; their hair was long, burned yellow at the ends, and
entangled with burrs; and their bodies scratched and scarred in all
directions. It seems that, acting upon the "love in a cottage"
principle, they had gone right into the interior; and throwing up a
hut in an uninhabited valley, had lived there, until in an unlucky
stroll they were observed and captured.
They were subsequently condemned to make one hundred fathoms of Broom
Road--a six months' work, if not more.
Often, when seated in a house, conversing quietly with its inmates, I
have known them betray the greatest confusion at the sudden
announcement of a kannakipper's being in sight. To be reported by one
of these officials as a "Tootai Owree" (in general, signifying a bad
person or disbeliever in Christianity), is as much dreaded as the
forefinger of Titus Gates was, levelled at an alleged papist.
But the islanders take a sly revenge upon them. Upon entering a
dwelling, the kannakippers oftentimes volunteer a pharisaical
prayer-meeting: hence, they go in secret by the name of
"Boora-Artuas," literally, "Pray-to-Gods."
HOW THEY DRESS IN TAHITI
EXCEPT where the employment of making "tappa" is inflicted as a
punishment, the echoes of the cloth-mallet have long since died away
in the listless valleys of Tahiti. Formerly, the girls spent their
mornings like ladies at their tambour frames; now, they are lounged
away in almost utter indolence. True, most of them make their own
garments; but this comprises but a stitch or two; the ladies of the
mission, by the bye, being entitled to the credit of teaching them to
The "kihee whihenee," or petticoat, is a mere breadth of white cotton,
or calico; loosely enveloping the person, from the waist to the feet.
Fastened simply by a single tuck, or by twisting the upper corners
together, this garment frequently becomes disordered; thus affording
an opportunity of being coquettishly adjusted. Over the "kihee," they
wear a sort of gown, open in front, very loose, and as negligent as
you please. The ladies here never dress for dinner.
But what shall be said of those horrid hats! Fancy a bunch of straw,
plaited into the shape of a coal-scuttle, and stuck, bolt upright, on
the crown; with a yard or two of red ribbon flying about like
kite-strings. Milliners of Paris, what would ye say to them! Though
made by the natives, they are said to have been first contrived and
recommended by the missionaries' wives; a report which, I really
trust, is nothing but scandal.
Curious to relate, these things for the head are esteemed exceedingly
becoming. The braiding of the straw is one of the few employments of
the higher classes; all of which but minister to the silliest vanity.
The young girls, however, wholly eschew the hats; leaving those dowdy
old souls, their mothers, to make frights of themselves.
As for the men, those who aspire to European garments seem to have no
perception of the relation subsisting between the various parts of a
gentleman's costume. To the wearer of a coat, for instance,
pantaloons are by no means indispensable; and a bell-crowned hat and
a girdle are full dress. The young sailor, for whom Kooloo deserted
me, presented him with a shaggy old pea-jacket; and with this buttoned
up to his chin, under a tropical sun, he promenaded the Broom Road,
quite elated. Doctor Long Ghost, who saw him thus, ran away with the
idea that he was under medical treatment at the time--in the act of
taking, what the quacks call, a "sweat."
A bachelor friend of Captain Bob rejoiced in the possession of a full
European suit; in which he often stormed the ladies' hearts. Having a
military leaning, he ornamented the coat with a great scarlet patch
on the breast; and mounted it also, here and there, with several
regimental buttons, slyly cut from the uniform of a parcel of drunken
marines sent ashore on a holiday from a man-of-war. But, in spite of
the ornaments, the dress was not exactly the thing. From the
tightness of the cloth across the shoulders, his elbows projected
from his sides, like an ungainly rider's; and his ponderous legs were
jammed so hard into his slim, nether garments that the threads of
every seam showed; and, at every step, you looked for a catastrophe.
In general, there seems to be no settled style of dressing among the
males; they wear anything they can get; in some cases, awkwardly
modifying the fashions of their fathers so as to accord with their
own altered views of what is becoming.
But ridiculous as many of them now appear, in foreign habiliments, the
Tahitians presented a far different appearance in the original
national costume; which was graceful in the extreme, modest to all
but the prudish, and peculiarly adapted to the climate. But the short
kilts of dyed tappa, the tasselled maroes, and other articles
formerly worn, are, at the present day, prohibited by law as
indecorous. For what reason necklaces and garlands of flowers, among
the women, are also forbidden, I never could learn; but, it is said,
that they were associated, in some way, with a forgotten heathen
Many pleasant, and, seemingly, innocent sports and pastimes, are
likewise interdicted. In old times, there were several athletic games
practised, such as wrestling, foot-racing, throwing the javelin, and
archery. In all these they greatly excelled; and, for some, splendid
festivals were instituted. Among their everyday amusements were
dancing, tossing the football, kite-flying, flute-playing, and
singing traditional ballads; now, all punishable offences; though
most of them have been so long in disuse that they are nearly
In the same way, the "Opio," or festive harvest-home of the
breadfruit, has been suppressed; though, as described to me by
Captain Bob, it seemed wholly free from any immoral tendency. Against
tattooing, of any kind, there is a severe law.
That this abolition of their national amusements and customs was not
willingly acquiesced in, is shown in the frequent violation of many
of the statutes inhibiting them; and, especially, in the frequency
with which their "hevars," or dances, are practised in secret.
Doubtless, in thus denationalizing the Tahitians, as it were, the
missionaries were prompted by a sincere desire for good; but the
effect has been lamentable. Supplied with no amusements in place of
those forbidden, the Tahitians, who require more recreation than
other people, have sunk into a listlessness, or indulge in
sensualities, a hundred times more pernicious than all the games ever
celebrated in the Temple of Tanee.
TAHITI AS IT IS
AS IN the last few chapters, several matters connected with the
general condition of the natives have been incidentally touched upon,
it may be well not to leave so important a subject in a state
calculated to convey erroneous impressions. Let us bestow upon it,
therefore, something more than a mere cursory glance.
But in the first place, let it be distinctly understood that, in all I
have to say upon this subject, both here and elsewhere, I mean no
harm to the missionaries nor their cause; I merely desire to set
forth things as they actually exist.
Of the results which have flowed from the intercourse of foreigners
with the Polynesians, including the attempts to civilize and
Christianize them by the missionaries, Tahiti, on many accounts, is
obviously the fairest practical example. Indeed, it may now be
asserted that the experiment of Christianizing the Tahitians, and
improving their social condition by the introduction of foreign
customs, has been fully tried. The present generation have grown up
under the auspices of their religious instructors. And although it
may be urged that the labours of the latter have at times been more
or less obstructed by unprincipled foreigners, still, this in no wise
renders Tahiti any the less a fair illustration; for, with obstacles
like these, the missionaries in Polynesia must always, and everywhere
Nearly sixty years have elapsed since the Tahitian mission was
started; and, during this period, it has received the unceasing
prayers and contributions of its friends abroad. Nor has any
enterprise of the kind called forth more devotion on the part of
those directly employed in it.
It matters not that the earlier labourers in the work, although
strictly conscientious, were, as a class, ignorant, and, in many
cases, deplorably bigoted: such traits have, in some degree,
characterized the pioneers of all faiths. And although in zeal and
disinterestedness the missionaries now on the island are, perhaps,
inferior to their predecessors, they have, nevertheless, in their own
way at least, laboured hard to make a Christian people of their
Let us now glance at the most obvious changes wrought in their
The entire system of idolatry has been done away; together with
several barbarous practices engrafted thereon. But this result is not
so much to be ascribed to the missionaries, as to the civilizing
effects of a long and constant intercourse with whites of all
nations; to whom, for many years, Tahiti has been one of the principal
places of resort in the South Seas. At the Sandwich Islands, the
potent institution of the Taboo, together with the entire paganism of
the land, was utterly abolished by a voluntary act of the natives
some time previous to the arrival of the first missionaries among
The next most striking change in the Tahitians is this. From the
permanent residence among them of influential and respectable
foreigners, as well as from the frequent visits of ships-of-war,
recognizing the nationality of the island, its inhabitants are no
longer deemed fit subjects for the atrocities practised upon mere
savages; and hence, secure from retaliation, vessels of all kinds now
enter their harbours with perfect safety.
But let us consider what results are directly ascribable to the
In all cases, they have striven hard to mitigate the evils resulting
from the commerce with the whites in general. Such attempts, however,
have been rather injudicious, and often ineffectual: in truth, a
barrier almost insurmountable is presented in the dispositions of the
people themselves. Still, in this respect, the morality of the
islanders is, upon the whole, improved by the presence of the
But the greatest achievement of the latter, and one which in itself is
most hopeful and gratifying, is that they have translated the entire
Bible into the language of the island; and I have myself known
several who were able to read it with facility. They have also
established churches, and schools for both children and adults; the
latter, I regret to say, are now much neglected: which must be
ascribed, in a great measure, to the disorders growing out of the
proceedings of the French.
It were unnecessary here to enter diffusely into matters connected
with the internal government of the Tahitian churches and schools.
Nor, upon this head, is my information copious enough to warrant me
in presenting details. But we do not need them. We are merely
considering general results, as made apparent in the moral and
religious condition of the island at large.
Upon a subject like this, however, it would be altogether too assuming
for a single individual to decide; and so, in place of my own random
observations, which may be found elsewhere, I will here present those
of several known authors, made under various circumstances, at
different periods, and down to a comparative late date. A few very
brief extracts will enable the reader to mark for himself what
progressive improvement, if any, has taken place.
Nor must it be overlooked that, of these authorities, the two first in
order are largely quoted by the Right Reverend M. Kussell, in a work
composed for the express purpose of imparting information on the
subject of Christian missions in Polynesia. And he frankly
acknowledges, moreover, that they are such as "cannot fail to have
great weight with the public."
After alluding to the manifold evils entailed upon the natives by
foreigners, and their singularly inert condition; and after somewhat
too severely denouncing the undeniable errors of the mission,
Kotzebue, the Russian navigator, says, "A religion like this, which
forbids every innocent pleasure, and cramps or annihilates every
mental power, is a libel on the divine founder of Christianity. It is
true that the religion of the missionaries has, with a great deal of
evil, effected some good. It has restrained the vices of theft and
incontinence; but it has given birth to ignorance, hypocrisy, and a
hatred of all other modes of faith, which was once foreign to the
open and benevolent character of the Tahitian."
Captain Beechy says that, while at Tahiti, he saw scenes "which must
have convinced the great sceptic of the thoroughly immoral condition
of the people, and which would force him to conclude, as Turnbull
did, many years previous, that their intercourse with the Europeans
had tended to debase, rather than exalt their condition."
About the year 1834, Daniel Wheeler, an honest-hearted Quaker,
prompted by motives of the purest philanthropy, visited, in a vessel
of his own, most of the missionary settlements in the South Seas. He
remained some time at Tahiti; receiving the hospitalities of the
missionaries there, and, from time to time, exhorting the natives.
After bewailing their social condition, he frankly says of their
religious state, "Certainly, appearances are unpromising; and however
unwilling to adopt such a conclusion, there is reason to apprehend
that Christian principle is a great rarity."
Such, then, is the testimony of good and unbiassed men, who have been
upon the spot; but, how comes it to differ so widely from impressions
of others at home? Simply thus: instead of estimating the result of
missionary labours by the number of heathens who have actually been
made to understand and practise (in some measure at least) the
precepts of Christianity, this result has been unwarrantably inferred
from the number of those who, without any understanding of these
things, have in any way been induced to abandon idolatry and conform
to certain outward observances.
By authority of some kind or other, exerted upon the natives through
their chiefs, and prompted by the hope of some worldly benefit to the
latter, and not by appeals to the reason, have conversions in
Polynesia been in most cases brought about.
Even in one or two instances--so often held up as wonderful examples
of divine power--where the natives have impulsively burned their
idols, and rushed to the waters of baptism, the very suddenness of
the change has but indicated its unsoundness. Williams, the martyr of
Erromanga, relates an instance where the inhabitants of an island
professing Christianity voluntarily assembled, and solemnly revived
all their heathen customs.
All the world over, facts are more eloquent than words; the following
will show in what estimation the missionaries themselves hold the
present state of Christianity and morals among the converted
On the island of Imeeo (attached to the Tahitian mission) is a
seminary under the charge of the Rev. Mr. Simpson and wife, for the
education of the children of the missionaries, exclusively. Sent
home--in many cases, at a very early age--to finish their education,
the pupils here are taught nothing but the rudiments of knowledge;
nothing more than may be learned in the native schools.
Notwithstanding this, the two races are kept as far as possible from
associating; the avowed reason being to preserve the young whites
from moral contamination. The better to insure this end, every effort
is made to prevent them from acquiring the native language.
They went even further at the Sandwich Islands; where, a few years
ago, a playground for the children of the missionaries was inclosed
with a fence many feet high, the more effectually to exclude the
wicked little Hawaiians.
And yet, strange as it may seem, the depravity among the Polynesians,
which renders precautions like these necessary, was in a measure
unknown before their intercourse with the whites. The excellent
Captain Wilson, who took the first missionaries out to Tahiti,
affirms that the people of that island had, in many things, "more
refined ideas of decency than ourselves." Vancouver, also, has some
noteworthy ideas on this subject, respecting the Sandwich Islanders.
That the immorality alluded to is continually increasing is plainly
shown in the numerous, severe, and perpetually violated laws against
licentiousness of all kinds in both groups of islands.
It is hardly to be expected that the missionaries would send home
accounts of this state of things. Hence, Captain Beechy, in alluding
to the "Polynesian Researches" of Ellis, says that the author has
impressed his readers with a far more elevated idea of the moral
condition of the Tahitians, and the degree of civilization to which
they have attained, than they deserve; or, at least, than the facts
which came under his observation authorized. He then goes on to say
that, in his intercourse with the islanders, "they had no fear of
him, and consequently acted from the impulse of their natural
feeling; so that he was the better enabled to obtain a correct
knowledge of their real disposition and habits."
Prom my own familiar intercourse with the natives, this last
reflection still more forcibly applies to myself.
SAME SUBJECT CONTINUED
WE have glanced at their moral and religious condition; let us see how
it is with them socially, and in other respects.
It has been said that the only way to civilize a people is to form in
them habits of industry. Judged by this principle, the Tahitians are
less civilized now than formerly. True, their constitutional
indolence is excessive; but surely, if the spirit of Christianity is
among them, so unchristian a vice ought to be, at least, partially
remedied. But the reverse is the fact. Instead of acquiring new
occupations, old ones have been discontinued.
As previously remarked, the manufacture of tappa is nearly obsolete in
many parts of the island. So, too, with that of the native tools and
domestic utensils; very few of which are now fabricated, since the
superiority of European wares has been made so evident.
This, however, would be all very well were the natives to apply
themselves to such occupations as would enable them to supply the few
articles they need. But they are far from doing so; and the majority
being unable to obtain European substitutes for many things before
made by themselves, the inevitable consequence is seen in the present
wretched and destitute mode of life among the common people. To me so
recently from a primitive valley of the Marquesas, the aspect of most
of the dwellings of the poorer Tahitians, and their general habits,
seemed anything but tidy; nor could I avoid a comparison,
immeasurably to the disadvantage of these partially civilized
In Tahiti, the people have nothing to do; and idleness, everywhere, is
the parent of vice. "There is scarcely anything," says the good old
Quaker Wheeler, "so striking, or pitiable, as their aimless,
nerveless mode of spending life."
Attempts have repeatedly been made to rouse them from their
sluggishness; but in vain. Several years ago, the cultivation of
cotton was introduced; and, with their usual love of novelty, they
went to work with great alacrity; but the interest excited quickly
subsided, and now, not a pound of the article is raised.
About the same time, machinery for weaving was sent out from London;
and a factory was started at Afrehitoo, in Imeeo. The whiz of the
wheels and spindles brought in volunteers from all quarters, who
deemed it a privilege to be admitted to work: yet, in six months, not
a boy could be hired; and the machinery was knocked down, and packed
off to Sydney.
It was the same way with the cultivation of the sugar-cane, a plant
indigenous to the island; peculiarly fitted to the soil and climate,
and of so excellent a quality that Bligh took slips of it to the West
Indies. All the plantations went on famously for a while; the natives
swarming in the fields like ants, and making a prodigious stir. What
few plantations now remain are owned and worked by whites; who would
rather pay a drunken sailor eighteen or twenty Spanish dollars a
month, than hire a sober native for his "fish and tarro."
It is well worthy remark here, that every evidence of civilization
among the South Sea Islands directly pertains to foreigners; though
the fact of such evidence existing at all is usually urged as a proof
of the elevated condition of the natives. Thus, at Honolulu, the
capital of the Sandwich Islands, there are fine dwelling-houses,
several hotels, and barber-shops, ay, even billiard-rooms; but all
these are owned and used, be it observed, by whites. There are
tailors, and blacksmiths, and carpenters also; but not one of them is
The fact is, that the mechanical and agricultural employment of
civilized life require a kind of exertion altogether too steady and
sustained to agree with an indolent people like the Polynesians.
Calculated for a state of nature, in a climate providentially adapted
to it, they are unfit for any other. Nay, as a race, they cannot
otherwise long exist.
The following statement speaks for itself.
About the year 1777, Captain Cook estimated the population of Tahiti
at about two hundred thousand. By a regular census, taken some four
or five years ago, it was found to be only nine thousand. This
amazing decrease not only shows the malignancy of the evils necessary
to produce it; but, from the fact, the inference unavoidably follows
that all the wars, child murders, and other depopulating causes,
alleged to have existed in former times, were nothing in comparison to
These evils, of course, are solely of foreign origin. To say nothing
of the effects of drunkenness, the occasional inroads of the
small-pox, and other things which might be mentioned, it is
sufficient to allude to a virulent disease which now taints the blood
of at least two-thirds of the common people of the island; and, in
some form or other, is transmitted from father to son.
Their first horror and consternation at the earlier ravages of this
scourge were pitiable in the extreme. The very name bestowed upon it
is a combination of all that is horrid and unmentionable to a
Distracted with their sufferings, they brought forth their sick before
the missionaries, when they were preaching, and cried out, "Lies,
lies! you tell us of salvation; and, behold, we are dying. We want no
other salvation than to live in this world. Where are there any saved
through your speech? Pomaree is dead; and we are all dying with your
cursed diseases. When will you give over?"
At present, the virulence of the disorder, in individual cases, has
somewhat abated; but the poison is only the more widely diffused.
"How dreadful and appalling," breaks forth old Wheeler, "the
consideration that the intercourse of distant nations should have
entailed upon these poor, untutored islanders a curse unprecedented,
and unheard of, in the annals of history."
In view of these things, who can remain blind to the fact that, so far
as mere temporal felicity is concerned, the Tahitians are far worse
off now, than formerly; and although their circumstances, upon the
whole, are bettered by the presence of the missionaries, the benefits
conferred by the latter become utterly insignificant when confronted
with the vast preponderance of evil brought about by other means.
Their prospects are hopeless. Nor can the most devoted efforts now
exempt them from furnishing a marked illustration of a principle
which history has always exemplified. Years ago brought to a stand,
where all that is corrupt in barbarism and civilization unite, to the
exclusion of the virtues of either state; like other uncivilized
beings, brought into contact with Europeans, they must here remain
stationary until utterly extinct.
The islanders themselves are mournfully watching their doom.
Several years since, Pomaree II. said to Tyreman and Bennet, the
deputies of the London Missionary Society, "You have come to see me
at a very bad time. Your ancestors came in the time of men, when
Tahiti was inhabited: you are come to behold just the remnant of my
Of like import was the prediction of Teearmoar, the high-priest of
Paree; who lived over a hundred years ago. I have frequently heard it
chanted, in a low, sad tone, by aged Tahitiana:--
"A harree ta fow,
A toro ta farraro,
A now ta tararta."
"The palm-tree shall grow,
The coral shall spread,
But man shall cease."
SOMETHING HAPPENS TO LONG GHOST
WE will now return to the narrative.
The day before the Julia sailed, Dr. Johnson paid his last call. He
was not quite so bland as usual. All he wanted was the men's names to
a paper, certifying to their having received from him sundry
medicaments therein mentioned. This voucher, endorsed by Captain Guy,
secured his pay. But he would not have obtained for it the sailors'
signs manual, had either the doctor or myself been present at the
Now, my long friend wasted no love upon Johnson; but, for reasons of
his own, hated him heartily: all the same thing in one sense; for
either passion argues an object deserving thereof. And so, to be
hated cordially, is only a left-handed compliment; which shows how
foolish it is to be bitter against anyone.
For my own part, I merely felt a cool, purely incidental, and passive
contempt for Johnson, as a selfish, mercenary apothecary, and hence,
I often remonstrated with Long Ghost when he flew out against him,
and heaped upon him all manner of scurrilous epithets. In his
professional brother's presence, however, he never acted thus;
maintaining an amiable exterior, to help along the jokes which were
I am now going to tell another story in which my long friend figures
with the physician: I do not wish to bring one or the other of them
too often upon the stage; but as the thing actually happened, I must
A few days after Johnson presented his bill, as above mentioned, the
doctor expressed to me his regret that, although he (Johnson) 'had
apparently been played off for our entertainment, yet, nevertheless,
he had made money out of the transaction. And I wonder, added the
doctor, if that now he cannot expect to receive any further pay, he
could be induced to call again.
By a curious coincidence, not five minutes after making this
observation, Doctor Long Ghost himself fell down in an unaccountable
fit; and without asking anybody's leave, Captain Bob, who was by, at
once dispatched a boy, hot foot, for Johnson.
Meanwhile, we carried him into the Calabooza; and the natives, who
assembled in numbers, suggested various modes of treatment. One
rather energetic practitioner was for holding the patient by the
shoulders, while somebody tugged at his feet. This resuscitatory
operation was called the "Potata"; but thinking our long comrade
sufficiently lengthy without additional stretching, we declined
Presently the physician was spied coming along the Broom Road at a
great rate, and so absorbed in the business of locomotion, that he
heeded not the imprudence of being in a hurry in a tropical climate.
He was in a profuse perspiration; which must have been owing to the
warmth of his feelings, notwithstanding we had supposed him a man of
no heart. But his benevolent haste upon this occasion was
subsequently accounted for: it merely arose from professional
curiosity to behold a case most unusual in his Polynesian practice.
Now, under certain circumstances, sailors, generally so frolicsome,
are exceedingly particular in having everything conducted with the
strictest propriety. Accordingly, they deputed me, as his intimate
friend, to sit at Long Ghost's head, so as to be ready to officiate
as "spokesman" and answer all questions propounded, the rest to keep
"What's the matter?" exclaimed Johnson, out of breath, and bursting
into the Calabooza: "how did it happen?--speak quick!" and he looked
at Long Ghost.
I told him how the fit came on.
"Singular"--he observed--"very: good enough pulse;" and he let go of
it, and placed his hand upon the heart.
"But what's all that frothing at the mouth?" he continued; "and bless
me! look at the abdomen!"
The region thus denominated exhibited the most unaccountable
symptoms. A low, rumbling sound was heard; and a sort of undulation
was discernible beneath the thin cotton frock.
"Colic, sir?" suggested a bystander.
"Colic be hanged!" shouted the physician; "who ever heard of anybody
in a trance of the colic?"
During this, the patient lay upon his back, stark and straight,
giving no signs of life except those above mentioned.
"I'll bleed him!" cried Johnson at last--"run for a calabash, one of
"Life ho!" here sung out Navy Bob, as if he had just spied a sail.
"What under the sun's the matter with him!" cried the physician,
starting at the appearance of the mouth, which had jerked to one
side, and there remained fixed.
"Pr'aps it's St. Witus's hornpipe," suggested Bob.
"Hold the calabash!"--and the lancet was out in a moment.
But before the deed could be done, the face became natural;--a sigh
was heaved;--the eyelids quivered, opened, closed; and Long Ghost,
twitching all over, rolled on his side, and breathed audibly. By
degrees, he became sufficiently recovered to speak.
After trying to get something coherent out of him, Johnson withdrew;
evidently disappointed in the scientific interest of the case. Soon
after his departure, the doctor sat up; and upon being asked what
upon earth ailed him, shook his head mysteriously. He then deplored
the hardship of being an invalid in such a place, where there was not
the slightest provision for his comfort. This awakened the compassion
of our good old keeper, who offered to send him to a place where he
would be better cared for. Long Ghost acquiesced; and being at once
mounted upon the shoulders of four of Captain Bob's men, was marched
off in state, like the Grand Lama of Thibet.
Now, I do not pretend to account for his remarkable swoon; but his
reason for suffering himself to be thus removed from the Calabooza
was strongly suspected to be nothing more than a desire to insure
more regularity in his dinner-hour; hoping that the benevolent native
to whom he was going would set a good table.
The next morning, we were all envying his fortune; when, of a sudden,
he bolted in upon us, looking decidedly out of humour.
"Hang it!" he cried; "I'm worse off than ever; let me have some
breakfast!" We lowered our slender bag of ship-stores from a rafter,
and handed him a biscuit. While this was being munched, he went on
and told us his story.
"After leaving here, they trotted me back into a valley, and left me
in a hut, where an old woman lived by herself. This must be the
nurse, thought I; and so I asked her to kill a pig, and bake it; for
I felt my appetite returning. 'Ha! Hal--oee mattee--mattee
nuee'--(no, no; you too sick). 'The devil mattee ye,' said I--'give me
something to eat!' But nothing could be had. Night coming on, I had
to stay. Creeping into a corner, I tried to sleep; but it was to no
purpose;--the old crone must have had the quinsy, or something else;
and she kept up such a wheezing and choking that at last I sprang up,
and groped after her; but she hobbled away like a goblin; and that was
the last of her. As soon as the sun rose, I made the best of my way
back; and here I am." He never left us more, nor ever had a second
WILSON GIVES US THE CUT--DEPARTURE FOR IMEEO
ABOUT three weeks after the Julia's sailing, our conditions began to
be a little precarious. We were without any regular supply of food;
the arrival of ships was growing less frequent; and, what was worse
yet, all the natives but good old Captain Bob began to tire of us.
Nor was this to be wondered at; we were obliged to live upon their
benevolence, when they had little enough for themselves. Besides, we
were sometimes driven to acts of marauding; such as kidnapping pigs,
and cooking them in the groves; at which their proprietors were by no
In this state of affairs, we determined to march off to the consul in
a body; and, as he had brought us to these straits, demand an
On the point of starting, Captain Bob's men raised the most outrageous
cries, and tried to prevent us. Though hitherto we had strolled about
wherever we pleased, this grand conjunction of our whole force, upon
one particular expedition, seemed to alarm them. But we assured them
that we were not going to assault the village; and so, after a good
deal of gibberish, they permitted us to leave.
We went straight to the Pritchard residence, where the consul dwelt.
This house--to which I have before referred--is quite commodious. It
has a wide verandah, glazed windows, and other appurtenances of a
civilized mansion. Upon the lawn in front are palm-trees standing
erect here and there, like sentinels. The Consular Office, a small
building by itself, is inclosed by the same picket which fences in the
We found the office closed; but, in the verandah of the
dwelling-house, was a lady performing a tonsorial operation on the
head of a prim-looking, elderly European, in a low, white
cravat;--the most domestic little scene I had witnessed since leaving
home. Bent upon an interview with Wilson, the sailors now deputed the
doctor to step forward as a polite inquirer after his health.
The pair stared very hard as he advanced; but no ways disconcerted, he
saluted them gravely, and inquired for the consul.
Upon being informed that he had gone down to the beach, we proceeded
in that direction; and soon met a native, who told us that, apprised
of our vicinity, Wilson was keeping out of the way. We resolved to
meet him; and passing through the village, he suddenly came walking
toward us; having apparently made up his mind that any attempt to
elude us would be useless.
"What do you want of me, you rascals?" he cried--a greeting which
provoked a retort in no measured terms. At this juncture, the natives
began to crowd round, and several foreigners strolled along. Caught
in the very act of speaking to such disreputable acquaintances,
Wilson now fidgeted, and moved rapidly toward his office; the men
following. Turning upon them incensed, he bade them be off--he would
have nothing more to say to us; and then, hurriedly addressing Captain
Bob in Tahitian, he hastened on, and never stopped till the postern
of Pritchard's wicket was closed behind him.
Our good old keeper was now highly excited, bustling about in his huge
petticoats, and conjuring us to return to the Calabooza. After a
little debate, we acquiesced.
This interview was decisive. Sensible that none of the charges brought
against us would stand, yet unwilling formally to withdraw them, the
consul now wished to get rid of us altogether; but without being
suspected of encouraging our escape. Thus only could we account for
Some of the party, however, with a devotion to principle truly heroic,
swore they would never leave him, happen what might. For my own part,
I began to long for a change; and as there seemed to be no getting
away in a ship, I resolved to hit upon some other expedient. But
first, I cast about for a comrade; and of course the long doctor was
chosen. We at once laid our heads together; and for the present,
resolved to disclose nothing to the rest.
A few days previous, I had fallen in with a couple of Yankee lads,
twins, who, originally deserting their ship at Tanning's Island (an
uninhabited spot, but exceedingly prolific in fruit of all kinds),
had, after a long residence there, roved about among the Society
group. They were last from Imeeo--the island immediately
adjoining--where they had been in the employ of two foreigners who had
recently started a plantation there. These persons, they said, had
charged them to send over from Papeetee, if they could, two white men
Now, all but the prospect of digging and delving suited us exactly;
but the opportunity for leaving the island was not to be slighted;
and so we held ourselves in readiness to return with the planters;
who, in a day or two, were expected to visit Papeetee in their boat.
At the interview which ensued, we were introduced to them as Peter and
Paul; and they agreed to give Peter and Paul fifteen silver dollars a
month, promising something more should we remain with them
permanently. What they wanted was men who would stay. To elude the
natives--many of whom, not exactly understanding our relations with
the consul, might arrest us, were they to see us departing--the
coming midnight was appointed for that purpose.
When the hour drew nigh, we disclosed our intention to the rest. Some
upbraided us for deserting them; others applauded, and said that, on
the first opportunity, they would follow our example. At last, we
bade them farewell. And there would now be a serene sadness in
thinking over the scene--since we never saw them again--had not all
been dashed by M'Gee's picking the doctor's pocket of a jack-knife, in
the very act of embracing him.
We stole down to the beach, where, under the shadow of a grove, the
boat was waiting. After some delay, we shipped the oars, and pulling
outside of the reef, set the sail; and with a fair wind, glided away
It was a pleasant trip. The moon was up--the air, warm--the waves,
musical--and all above was the tropical night, one purple vault hung
round with soft, trembling stars.
The channel is some five leagues wide. On one hand, you have the three
great peaks of Tahiti lording it over ranges of mountains and
valleys; and on the other, the equally romantic elevations of Imeeo,
high above which a lone peak, called by our companions, "the
Marling-pike," shot up its verdant spire.
The planters were quite sociable. They had been sea-faring men, and
this, of course, was a bond between us. To strengthen it, a flask of
wine was produced, one of several which had been procured in person
from the French admiral's steward; for whom the planters, when on a
former visit to Papeetee, had done a good turn, by introducing the
amorous Frenchman to the ladies ashore. Besides this, they had a
calabash filled with wild boar's meat, baked yams, bread-fruit, and
Tombez potatoes. Pipes and tobacco also were produced; and while
regaling ourselves, plenty of stories were told about the
At last we heard the roar of the Imeeo reef; and gliding through a
break, floated over the expanse within, which was smooth as a young
girl's brow, and beached the boat.
THE VALLEY OF MARTAIR
WE went up through groves to an open space, where we heard voices, and
a light was seen glimmering from out a bamboo dwelling. It was the
planters' retreat; and in their absence, several girls were keeping
house, assisted by an old native, who, wrapped up in tappa, lay in
the corner, smoking.
A hasty meal was prepared, and after it we essayed a nap; but, alas! a
plague, little anticipated, prevented. Unknown in Tahiti, the
mosquitoes here fairly eddied round us. But more of them anon.
We were up betimes, and strolled out to view the country. We were in
the valley of Martair; shut in, on both sides, by lofty hills. Here
and there were steep cliffs, gay with flowering shrubs, or hung with
pendulous vines, swinging blossoms in the air. Of considerable width
at the sea, the vale contracts as it runs inland; terminating, at the
distance of several miles, in a range of the most grotesque
elevations, which seem embattled with turrets and towers, grown over
with verdure, and waving with trees. The valley itself is a
wilderness of woodland; with links of streams flashing through, and
narrow pathways fairly tunnelled through masses of foliage.
All alone, in this wild place, was the abode of the planters; the only
one back from the beach--their sole neighbours, the few fishermen and
their families, dwelling in a small grove of cocoa-nut trees whose
roots were washed by the sea.
The cleared tract which they occupied comprised some thirty acres,
level as a prairie, part of which was under cultivation; the whole
being fenced in by a stout palisade of trunks and boughs of trees
staked firmly in the ground. This was necessary as a defence against
the wild cattle and hogs overrunning the island.
Thus far, Tombez potatoes were the principal crop raised; a ready sale
for them being obtained among the shipping touching at Papeetee.
There was a small patch of the taro, or Indian turnip, also; another
of yams; and in one corner, a thrifty growth of the sugar-cane, just
On the side of the inclosure next the sea was the house; newly built
of bamboos, in the native style. The furniture consisted of a couple
of sea-chests, an old box, a few cooking utensils, and agricultural
tools; together with three fowling-pieces, hanging from a rafter; and
two enormous hammocks swinging in opposite corners, and composed of
dried bullocks' hides, stretched out with poles.
The whole plantation was shut in by a dense forest; and, close by the
house, a dwarfed "Aoa," or species of banian-tree, had purposely been
left twisting over the palisade, in the most grotesque manner, and
thus made a pleasant shade. The branches of this curious tree
afforded low perches, upon which the natives frequently squatted,
after the fashion of their race, and smoked and gossiped by the hour.
We had a good breakfast of fish--speared by the natives, before
sunrise, on the reef--pudding of Indian turnip, fried bananas, and
During the repast, our new friends were quite sociable and
communicative. It seems that, like nearly all uneducated foreigners,
residing in Polynesia, they had, some time previous, deserted from a
ship; and, having heard a good deal about the money to be made by
raising supplies for whaling-vessels, they determined upon embarking
in the business. Strolling about, with this intention, they, at last,
came to Martair; and, thinking the soil would suit, set themselves to
work. They began by finding out the owner of the particular spot
coveted, and then making a "tayo" of him.
He turned out to be Tonoi, the chief of the fishermen: who, one day,
when exhilarated with brandy, tore his meagre tappa from his loins,
and gave me to know that he was allied by blood with Pomaree herself;
and that his mother came from the illustrious race of pontiffs, who,
in old times, swayed their bamboo crosier over all the pagans of
Imeeo. A regal, and right reverend lineage! But, at the time I speak
of, the dusky noble was in decayed circumstances, and, therefore, by
no means unwilling to alienate a few useless acres. As an equivalent,
he received from the strangers two or three rheumatic old muskets,
several red woollen shirts, and a promise to be provided for in his
old age: he was always to find a home with the planters.
Desirous of living on the cosy footing of a father-in-law, he frankly
offered his two daughters for wives; but as such, they were politely
declined; the adventurers, though not averse to courting, being
unwilling to entangle themselves in a matrimonial alliance, however
splendid in point of family.
Tonoi's men, the fishermen of the grove, were a sad set. Secluded, in
a great measure, from the ministrations of the missionaries, they
gave themselves up to all manner of lazy wickedness. Strolling among
the trees of a morning, you came upon them napping on the shady side
of a canoe hauled up among the bushes; lying on a tree smoking; or,
more frequently still, gambling with pebbles; though, a little
tobacco excepted, what they gambled for at their outlandish games, it
would be hard to tell. Other idle diversions they had also, in which
they seemed to take great delight. As for fishing, it employed but a
small part of their time. Upon the whole, they were a merry,
indigent, godless race.
Tonoi, the old sinner, leaning against the fallen trunk of a cocoa-nut
tree, invariably squandered his mornings at pebbles; a gray-headed
rook of a native regularly plucking him of every other stick of
tobacco obtained from his friends, the planters. Toward afternoon,
he strolled back to their abode; where he tarried till the next
morning, smoking and snoozing, and, at times, prating about the
hapless fortunes of the House of Tonoi. But like any other easy-going
old dotard, he seemed for the most part perfectly content with
cheerful board and lodging.
On the whole, the valley of Martair was the quietest place imaginable.
Could the mosquitoes be induced to emigrate, one might spend the
month of August there quite pleasantly. But this was not the case
with the luckless Long Ghost and myself; as will presently be seen.
FARMING IN POLYNESIA
THE planters were both whole-souled fellows; but, in other respects,
as unlike as possible.
One was a tall, robust Yankee, hern in the backwoods of Maine, sallow,
and with a long face;--the other was a short little Cockney, who had
first clapped his eyes on the Monument.
The voice of Zeke, the Yankee, had a twang like a cracked viol; and
Shorty (as his comrade called him), clipped the aspirate from every
word beginning with one. The latter, though not the tallest man in
the world, was a good-looking young fellow of twenty-five. His cheeks
were dyed with the fine Saxon red, burned deeper from his roving
life: his blue eye opened well, and a profusion of fair hair curled
over a well-shaped head.
But Zeke was no beauty. A strong, ugly man, he was well adapted for
manual labour; and that was all. His eyes were made to see with, and
not for ogling. Compared with the Cockney, he was grave, and rather
taciturn; but there was a deal of good old humour bottled up in him,
after all. For the rest, he was frank, good-hearted, shrewd, and
resolute; and like Shorty, quite illiterate.
Though a curious conjunction, the pair got along together famously.
But, as no two men were ever united in any enterprise without one
getting the upper hand of the other, so in most matters Zeke had his
own way. Shorty, too, had imbibed from him a spirit of invincible
industry; and Heaven only knows what ideas of making a fortune on
We were much concerned at this; for the prospect of their setting us,
in their own persons, an example of downright hard labour, was
anything but agreeable. But it was now too late to repent what we had
The first day--thank fortune--we did nothing. Having treated us as
guests thus far, they no doubt thought it would be wanting in
delicacy to set us to work before the compliments of the occasion
were well over. The next morning, however, they both looked
business-like, and we were put to.
"Wall, b'ys" (boys), said Zeke, knocking the ashes out of his pipe,
after breakfast--"we must get at it. Shorty, give Peter there (the
doctor), the big hoe, and Paul the other, and let's be off." Going to
a corner, Shorty brought forth three of the implements; and
distributing them impartially, trudged on after his partner, who took
the lead with something in the shape of an axe.
For a moment left alone in the house, we looked at each other,
quaking. We were each equipped with a great, clumsy piece of a tree,
armed at one end with a heavy, flat mass of iron.
The cutlery part--especially adapted to a primitive soil--was an
importation from Sydney; the handles must have been of domestic
manufacture. "Hoes"--so called--we had heard of, and seen; but they
were harmless in comparison with the tools in our hands.
"What's to be done with them?" inquired I of Peter.
"Lift them up and down," he replied; "or put them in motion some way
or other. Paul, we are in a scrape--but hark! they are calling;" and
shouldering the hoes, off we marched.'
Our destination was the farther side of the plantation, where the
ground, cleared in part, had not yet been broken up; but they were
now setting about it. Upon halting, I asked why a plough was not
used; some of the young wild steers might be caught and trained for
Zeke replied that, for such a purpose, no cattle, to his knowledge,
had ever been used in any part of Polynesia. As for the soil of
Martair, so obstructed was it with roots, crossing and recrossing
each other at all points, that no kind of a plough could be used to
advantage. The heavy Sydney hoes were the only thing for such land.
Our work was now before us; but, previous to commencing operations, I
endeavoured to engage the Yankee in a little further friendly chat
concerning the nature of virgin soils in general, and that of the
valley of Martair in particular. So masterly a stratagem made Long
Ghost brighten up; and he stood by ready to join in. But what our
friend had to say about agriculture all referred to the particular
part of his plantation upon which we stood; and having communicated
enough on this head to enable us to set to work to the best
advantage, he fell to, himself; and Shorty, who had been looking on,
The surface, here and there, presented closely amputated branches of
what had once been a dense thicket. They seemed purposely left
projecting, as if to furnish a handle whereby to drag out the roots
beneath. After loosening the hard soil, by dint of much thumping and
pounding, the Yankee jerked one of the roots this way and that,
twisting it round and round, and then tugging at it horizontally.
"Come! lend us a hand!" he cried, at last; and running up, we all four
strained away in concert. The tough obstacle convulsed the surface
with throes and spasms; but stuck fast, notwithstanding.
"Dumn it!" cried Zeke, "we'll have to get a rope; run to the house,
Shorty, and fetch one."
The end of this being attached, we took plenty of room, and strained
away once more.
"Give us a song, Shorty," said the doctor; who was rather sociable, on
a short acquaintance. Where the work to be accomplished is any way
difficult, this mode of enlivening toil is quite efficacious among
sailors. So willing to make everything as cheerful as possible,
Shorty struck up, "Were you ever in Dumbarton?" a marvellously
inspiring, but somewhat indecorous windlass chorus.
At last, the Yankee cast a damper on his enthusiasm by exclaiming, in
a pet, "Oh! dumn your singing! keep quiet, and pull away!" This we
now did, in the most uninteresting silence; until, with a jerk that
made every elbow hum, the root dragged out; and most inelegantly, we
all landed upon the ground. The doctor, quite exhausted, stayed
there; and, deluded into believing that, after so doughty a
performance, we would be allowed a cessation of toil, took off his
hat, and fanned himself.
"Rayther a hard customer, that, Peter," observed the Yankee, going up
to him: "but it's no use for any on 'em to hang back; for I'm dumned
if they hain't got to come out, whether or no. Hurrah! let's get at
"Mercy!" ejaculated the doctor, rising slowly, and turning round.
"He'll be the death of us!"
Falling to with our hoes again, we worked singly, or together, as
occasion required, until "Nooning Time" came.
The period, so called by the planters, embraced about three hours in
the middle of the day; during which it was so excessively hot, in
this still, brooding valley, shut out from the Trades, and only open
toward the leeward side of the island, that labour in the sun was out
of the question. To use a hyperbolical phrase of Shorty's, "It was
'ot enough to melt the nose h'off a brass monkey."
Returning to the house, Shorty, assisted by old Tonoi, cooked the
dinner; and, after we had all partaken thereof, both the Cockney and
Zeke threw themselves into one of the hammocks, inviting us to occupy
the other. Thinking it no bad idea, we did so; and, after skirmishing
with the mosquitoes, managed to fall into a doze. As for the
planters, more accustomed to "Nooning," they, at once, presented a
nuptial back to each other; and were soon snoring away at a great
rate. Tonoi snoozed on a mat, in one corner.
At last, we were roused by Zeke's crying out, "Up b'ys; up! rise, and
shine; time to get at it agin!"
Looking at the doctor, I perceived, very plainly, that he had decided
In a languid voice, he told Zeke that he was not very well: indeed,
that he had not been himself for some time past; though a little
rest, no doubt, would recruit him. The Yankee thinking, from this,
that our valuable services might be lost to him altogether, were he
too hard upon us at the outset, at once begged us both to consult our
own feelings, and not exert ourselves for the present, unless we felt
like it. Then--without recognizing the fact that my comrade claimed
to be actually unwell--he simply suggested that, since he was so
tired, he had better, perhaps, swing in his hammock for the rest of
the day. If agreeable, however, I myself might accompany him upon a
little bullock-hunting excursion in the neighbouring hills. In this
proposition, I gladly acquiesced; though Peter, who was a great
sportsman, put on a long face. The muskets and ammunition were
forthwith got from overhead; and, everything being then ready, Zeke
cried out, "Tonoi! come; aramai! (get up) we want you for pilot.
Shorty, my lad, look arter things, you know; and if you likes, why,
there's them roots in the field yonder."
Having thus arranged his domestic affairs to please himself, though
little to Shorty's satisfaction, I thought, he slung his powder-horn
over his shoulder, and we started. Tonoi was, at once, sent on in
advance; and leaving the plantation, he struck into a path which led
toward the mountains.
After hurrying through the thickets for some time, we came out into
the sunlight, in an open glade, just under the shadow of the hills.
Here, Zeke pointed aloft to a beetling crag far distant, where a
bullock, with horns thrown back, stood like a statue.
SOME ACCOUNT OF THE WILD CATTLE IN POLYNESIA
BEFORE we proceed further, a word or two concerning these wild cattle,
and the way they came on the island.
Some fifty years ago, Vancouver left several bullocks, sheep and
goats, at various places in the Society group. He instructed the
natives to look after the animals carefully; and by no means to
slaughter any until a considerable stock had accumulated.
The sheep must have died off: for I never saw a solitary fleece in any
part of Polynesia. The pair left were an ill-assorted couple,
perhaps; separated in disgust, and died without issue.
As for the goats, occasionally you come across a black, misanthropic
ram, nibbling the scant herbage of some height inaccessible to man,
in preference to the sweet grasses of the valley below. The goats are
not very numerous.
The bullocks, coming of a prolific ancestry, are a hearty set, racing
over the island of Imeeo in considerable numbers, though in Tahiti
but few of them are seen. At the former place, the original pair must
have scampered off to the interior since it is now so thickly
populated by their wild progeny. The herds are the private property
of Queen Pomaree; from whom the planters had obtained permission to
shoot for their own use as many as they pleased.
The natives stand in great awe of these cattle; and for this reason
are excessively timid in crossing the island, preferring rather to
sail round to an opposite village in their canoes.
Tonoi abounded in bullock stories; most of which, by the bye, had a
spice of the marvellous. The following is one of these.
Once upon a time, he was going over the hills with a brother--now no
more--when a great bull came bellowing out of a wood, and both took
to their heels. The old chief sprang into a tree; his companion,
flying in an opposite direction, was pursued, and, in the very act of
reaching up to a bough, trampled underfoot. The unhappy man was then
gored--tossed in the air--and finally run away with on the bull's
horns. More dead than alive, Tonoi waited till all was over, and then
made the best of his way home. The neighbours, armed with two or
three muskets, at once started to recover, if possible, his
unfortunate brother's remains. At nightfall, they returned without
discovering any trace of him; but the next morning, Tonoi himself
caught a glimpse of the bullock, marching across the mountain's brow,
with a long dark object borne aloft on his horns.
Having referred to Vancouver's attempts to colonize the islands with
useful quadrupeds, we may as well say something concerning his
success upon Hawaii, one of the largest islands in the whole
Polynesian Archipelago; and which gives the native name to the
well-known cluster named by Cook in honour of Lord Sandwich.
Hawaii is some one hundred leagues in circuit, and covers an area of
over four thousand miles. Until within a few years past, its interior
was almost unknown, even to the inhabitants themselves, who, for
ages, had been prevented from wandering thither by certain strange
superstitions. Pelee, the terrific goddess of the volcanoes Mount Eoa
and Mount Kea, was supposed to guard all the passes to the extensive
valleys lying round their base. There are legends of her having chased
with streams of fire several impious adventurers. Near Hilo, a
jet-black cliff is shown, with the vitreous torrent apparently
pouring over into the sea: just as it cooled after one of these
To these inland valleys, and the adjoining hillsides, which are
clothed in the most luxuriant vegetation, Vancouver's bullocks soon
wandered; and unmolested for a long period, multiplied in vast herds.
Some twelve or fifteen years ago, the natives lost sight of their
superstitions, and learning the value of the hides in commerce, began
hunting the creatures that wore them; but being very fearful and
awkward in a business so novel, their success was small; and it was
not until the arrival of a party of Spanish hunters, men regularly
trained to their calling upon the plains of California, that the work
of slaughter was fairly begun.
The Spaniards were showy fellows, tricked out in gay blankets,
leggings worked with porcupine quills, and jingling spurs. Mounted
upon trained Indian mares, these heroes pursued their prey up to the
very base of the burning mountains; making the profoundest solitudes
ring with their shouts, and flinging the lasso under the very nose of
the vixen goddess Pelee. Hilo, a village upon the coast, was their
place of resort; and thither flocked roving whites from all the
islands of the group. As pupils of the dashing Spaniards, many of
these dissipated fellows, quaffing too freely of the stirrup-cup, and
riding headlong after the herds, when they reeled in the saddle, were
unhorsed and killed.
This was about the year 1835, when the present king, Tammahamaha III.,
was a lad. With royal impudence laying claim to the sole property of
the cattle, he was delighted with the idea of receiving one of every
two silver dollars paid down for their hides; so, with no thought for
the future, the work of extermination went madly on. In three years'
time, eighteen thousand bullocks were slain, almost entirely upon the
single island of Hawaii.
The herds being thus nearly destroyed, the sagacious young prince
imposed a rigorous "taboo" upon the few surviving cattle, which was
to remain in force for ten years. During this period--not yet expired
--all hunting is forbidden, unless directly authorized by the king.
The massacre of the cattle extended to the hapless goats. In one year,
three thousand of their skins were sold to the merchants of Honolulu,
fetching a quartila, or a shilling sterling apiece.
After this digression, it is time to run on after Tonoi and the
A HUNTING RAMBLE WITH ZEKE
AT THE foot of the mountain, a steep path went up among rocks and
clefts mantled with verdure. Here and there were green gulfs, down
which it made one giddy to peep. At last we gained an overhanging,
wooded shelf of land which crowned the heights; and along this, the
path, well shaded, ran like a gallery.
In every direction the scenery was enchanting. There was a low,
rustling breeze; and below, in the vale, the leaves were quivering;
the sea lay, blue and serene, in the distance; and inland the surface
swelled up, ridge after ridge, and peak upon peak, all bathed in the
Indian haze of the Tropics, and dreamy to look upon. Still valleys,
leagues away, reposed in the deep shadows of the mountains; and here
and there, waterfalls lifted up their voices in the solitude. High
above all, and central, the "Marling-spike" lifted its finger. Upon
the hillsides, small groups of bullocks were seen; some quietly
browsing; others slowly winding into the valleys.
We went on, directing our course for a slope of these hills, a mile or
two further, where the nearest bullocks were seen.
We were cautious in keeping to the windward of them; their sense of
smell and hearing being, like those of all wild creatures,
As there was no knowing that we might not surprise some other kind of
game in the coverts through which we were passing, we crept along
The wild hogs of the island are uncommonly fierce; and as they often
attack the natives, I could not help following Tonoi's example of
once in a while peeping in under the foliage. Frequent retrospective
glances also served to assure me that our retreat was not cut off.
As we rounded a clump of bushes, a noise behind them, like the
crackling of dry branches, broke the stillness. In an instant,
Tonoi's hand was on a bough, ready for a spring, and Zeke's finger
touched the trigger of his piece. Again the stillness was broken; and
thinking it high time to get ready, I brought my musket to my
"Look sharp!" cried the Yankee; and dropping on one knee, he brushed
the twigs aside. Presently, off went his piece; and with a wild
snort, a black, bristling boar--his cherry red lip curled up by two
glittering tusks--dashed, unharmed, across the path, and crashed
through the opposite thicket. I saluted him with a charge as he
disappeared; but not the slightest notice was taken of the civility.
By this time, Tonoi, the illustrious descendant of the Bishops of
Imeeo, was twenty feet from the ground. "Aramai! come down, you old
fool!" cried the Yankee; "the pesky critter's on t'other side of the
island afore this."
"I rayther guess," he continued, as we began reloading, "that we've
spoiled sport by firing at that 'ere tarnal hog. Them bullocks heard
the racket, and are flinging their tails about now on the keen jump.
Quick, Paul, and let's climb that rock yonder, and see if so be
there's any in sight."
But none were to be seen, except at such a distance that they looked
As evening was now at hand, my companion proposed our returning home
forthwith; and then, after a sound night's rest, starting in the
morning upon a good day's hunt with the whole force of the
Following another pass in descending into the valley, we passed
through some nobly wooded land on the face of the mountain.
One variety of tree particularly attracted my attention. The dark
mossy stem, over seventy feet high, was perfectly branchless for many
feet above the ground, when it shot out in broad boughs laden with
lustrous leaves of the deepest green. And all round the lower part of
the trunk, thin, slab-like buttresses of bark, perfectly smooth, and
radiating from a common centre, projected along the ground for at
least two yards. From below, these natural props tapered upward until
gradually blended with the trunk itself. There were signs of the wild
cattle having sheltered themselves behind them. Zeke called this the
canoe tree; as in old times it supplied the navies of the Kings of
Tahiti. For canoe building, the woods is still used. Being extremely
dense, and impervious to worms, it is very durable.
Emerging from the forest, when half-way down the hillside, we came
upon an open space, covered with ferns and grass, over which a few
lonely trees were casting long shadows in the setting sun. Here, a
piece of ground some hundred feet square, covered with weeds and
brambles, and sounding hollow to the tread, was inclosed by a ruinous
wall of stones. Tonoi said it was an almost forgotten burial-place, of
great antiquity, where no one had been interred since the islanders
had been Christians. Sealed up in dry, deep vaults, many a dead
heathen was lying here.
Curious to prove the old man's statement, I was anxious to get a peep
at the catacombs; but hermetically overgrown with vegetation as they
were, no aperture was visible.
Before gaining the level of the valley, we passed by the site of a
village, near a watercourse, long since deserted. There was nothing
but stone walls, and rude dismantled foundations of houses,
constructed of the same material. Large trees and brushwood were
growing rankly among them.
I asked Tonoi how long it was since anyone had lived here. "Me,
tammaree (boy)--plenty kannaker (men) Martair," he replied. "Now,
only poor pehe kannaka (fishermen) left--me born here."
Going down the valley, vegetation of every kind presented a different
aspect from that of the high land.
Chief among the trees of the plain on this island is the "Ati," large
and lofty, with a massive trunk, and broad, laurel-shaped leaves. The
wood is splendid. In Tahiti, I was shown a narrow, polished plank fit
to make a cabinet for a king. Taken from the heart of the tree, it
was of a deep, rich scarlet, traced with yellow veins, and in some
places clouded with hazel.
In the same grove with the regal "AH" you may see the beautiful
flowering "Hotoo"; its pyramid of shining leaves diversified with
numberless small, white blossoms.
Planted with trees as the valley is almost throughout its entire
length, I was astonished to observe so very few which were useful to
the natives: not one in a hundred was a cocoa-nut or bread-fruit
But here Tonoi again enlightened me. In the sanguinary religious
hostilities which ensued upon the conversion of Christianity of the
first Pomaree, a war-party from Tahiti destroyed (by "girdling" the
bark) entire groves of these invaluable trees. For some time
afterwards they stood stark and leafless in the sun; sad monuments of
the fate which befell the inhabitants of the valley.
THE NIGHT following the hunting trip, Long Ghost and myself, after a
valiant defence, had to fly the house on account of the mosquitoes.
And here I cannot avoid relating a story, rife among the natives,
concerning the manner in which these insects were introduced upon the
Some years previous, a whaling captain, touching at an adjoining bay,
got into difficulty with its inhabitants, and at last carried his
complaint before one of the native tribunals; but receiving no
satisfaction, and deeming himself aggrieved, he resolved upon taking
signal revenge. One night, he towed a rotten old water-cask ashore,
and left it in a neglected Taro patch where the ground was warm and
moist. Hence the mosquitoes.
I tried my best to learn the name of this man; and hereby do what I
can to hand it down to posterity. It was Coleman--Nathan Cole-man.
The ship belonged to Nantucket.
When tormented by the mosquitoes, I found much relief in coupling the
word "Coleman" with another of one syllable, and pronouncing them
The doctor suggested a walk to the beach, where there was a long, low
shed tumbling to pieces, but open lengthwise to a current of air
which he thought might keep off the mosquitoes. So thither we went.
The ruin partially sheltered a relic of times gone by, which, a few
days after, we examined with much curiosity. It was an old war-canoe,
crumbling to dust. Being supported by the same rude blocks upon
which, apparently, it had years before been hollowed out, in all
probability it had never been afloat.
Outside, it seemed originally stained of a green colour, which, here
and there, was now changed into a dingy purple. The prow terminated
in a high, blunt beak; both sides were covered with carving; and upon
the stern, was something which Long Ghost maintained to be the arms
of the royal House of Pomaree. The device had an heraldic look,
certainly--being two sharks with the talons of hawks clawing a knot
left projecting from the wood.
The canoe was at least forty feet long, about two wide, and four deep.
The upper part--consisting of narrow planks laced together with cords
of sinnate--had in many places fallen off, and lay decaying upon the
ground. Still, there were ample accommodations left for sleeping; and
in we sprang--the doctor into the bow, and I into the stern. I soon
fell asleep; but waking suddenly, cramped in every joint from my
constrained posture, I thought, for an instant, that I must have been
prematurely screwed down in my coffin.
Presenting my compliments to Long Ghost, I asked how it fared with
"Bad enough," he replied, as he tossed about in the outlandish rubbish
lying in the bottom of our couch. "Pah! how these old mats smell!"
As he continued talking in this exciting strain for some time, I at
last made no reply, having resumed certain mathematical reveries to
induce repose. But finding the multiplication table of no avail, I
summoned up a grayish image of chaos in a sort of sliding fluidity,
and was just falling into a nap on the strength of it, when I heard a
solitary and distinct buzz. The hour of my calamity was at hand. One
blended hum, the creature darted into the canoe like a small
swordfish; and I out of it.
Upon getting into the open air, to my surprise, there was Long Ghost,
fanning himself wildly with an old paddle. He had just made a
noiseless escape from a swarm which had attacked his own end of the
It was now proposed to try the water; so a small fishing canoe, hauled
up near by, was quickly launched; and paddling a good distance off,
we dropped overboard the native contrivance for an anchor--a heavy
stone, attached to a cable of braided bark. At this part of the
island the encircling reef was close to the shore, leaving the water
within smooth, and extremely shallow.
It was a blessed thought! We knew nothing till sunrise, when the
motion of our aquatic cot awakened us. I looked up, and beheld Zeke
wading toward the shore, and towing us after him by the bark cable.
Pointing to the reef, he told us we had had a narrow escape.
It was true enough; the water-sprites had rolled our stone out of its
noose, and we had floated away.
THE SECOND HUNT IN THE MOUNTAINS
FAIR dawned, over the hills of Martair, the jocund morning of our
Everything had been prepared for it overnight; and, when we arrived at
the house, a good breakfast was spread by Shorty: and old Tonoi was
bustling about like an innkeeper. Several of his men, also, were in
attendance to accompany us with calabashes of food; and, in case we
met with any success, to officiate as bearers of burdens on our
Apprised, the evening previous, of the meditated sport, the doctor had
announced his willingness to take part therein.
Now, subsequent events made us regard this expedition as a shrewd
device of the Yankee's. Once get us off on a pleasure trip, and with
what face could we afterward refuse to work? Beside, he enjoyed all
the credit of giving us a holiday. Nor did he omit assuring us that,
work or play, our wages were all the while running on.
A dilapidated old musket of Tonoi's was borrowed for the doctor. It
was exceedingly short and heavy, with a clumsy lock, which required a
strong finger to pull the trigger. On trying the piece by firing at
a mark, Long Ghost was satisfied that it could not fail of doing
execution: the charge went one way, and he the other.
Upon this, he endeavoured to negotiate an exchange of muskets with
Shorty; but the Cockney was proof against his blandishments; at last,
he intrusted his weapon to one of the natives to carry for him.
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