Polynesia; A popular description of the physical features, inhabitants, natural history, and productions of the islands of the Pacific. With an account of their discovery, and the progress of civilisation and christianity amongst them.
Chapter XI. — The Tonga, or Friendly Islands; and Niue, or Savage Island
The Tonga, or Friendly
Islands; and Niue, or Savage Island.
The most southern group is known as the Tongatabu Islands, and was discovered by Tasman in 1643. Tonga, the largest of them, is about twenty miles long by twelve wide in its broadest part. The entire surface of the island is generally only a few feet above the level of the sea, with the exception of several hillocks from thirty to forty feet high, and the little mound of Nukualofa, which rises to a height of sixty feet. The soil is composed of a rich and fertile vegetable mould, and not of sand, as is the case in many of the low coral formations. The principal harbour of Tonga is that of Nukualofa, on the northern side of the island.
The central group called the Haabai Islands, is a cluster of small, fertile islands, some of which are low, whilst others are volcanic, and of considerable elevation. The most populous of them is Lefuka, which is nine miles long and four broad. Tofua is an active volcano, and has been referred to in a former chapter. Kao is a conical island nearly a thousand feet high, situated not far from Tofua. There are but few inhabitants, and but little food on these two islands.
The most northern group is that of Vavau, which has several islands larger and higher than those of Haabai. Vavau itself is a fine island, about thirtysix miles in circumference; its surface is uneven, and its northern side rises to a considerable height. Of the beautiful harbour of Vavau, Mr. Young says, in his journal, "The bay of Vavau is capacious, page 240full of beautiful islets, and would hardly be second to Port Jackson, did villas and gardens adorn its numerous sloping banks, and ornament its many coves." Funua-lai, once covered with verdure and fruit-trees, has been, since the eruption of 1846, a huge mass of lava and burnt sand, without a blade of grass, or vegetation of any kind.
The climate of the Friendly Islands is humid, and the heat at times oppressive. Much rain falls periodically. The trade-winds are not constant, westerly winds blowing occasionally in every season, which the natives call "matayo vale," or "foolish winds." Heavy dews fall at night, and the transitions from heat to cold are sudden and trying to the constitution. Hurricanes are of frequent occurrence, scarcely a season passing without them. Earthquakes are also more or less felt amongst these islands. Most of them are remarkable for their fertility, and the great variety of their vegetable productions; the island of Eooa, especially, being so fruitful as to be styled the "granary of Tongatabu."
Captain Wilkes estimates the total population of the Friendly Islands at 18,500; and it is generally supposed that the abandonment of polygamy amongst them, consequent upon their embracing Christianity, has tended of late to an increase of the population. The missionaries, however, consider the estimate of Captain Wilkes as far below the mark, and number the entire population at nearly 50,000.
The natives of the Friendly Islands (usually called the Tonguese), in habits, customs, physiognomy, page 241and general appearance, bear a considerable resemblance to those of the Samoan or Navigator's Islands. They are a little lighter in colour than the latter people, and the young children are nearly white. They are a fine-looking race, tall, well made, with fully-developed muscles; and the women as well as the men are equally remarkable for their personal beauty.
Dr. Seemann justly says, "When most people read of 'natives' they imagine them to be types of unsightliness, if not downright ugliness; of many races, not Caucasian, that may in some measure be true, but whoever goes to the South Seas will have reason to change his opinion entirely. Some of these islanders are really very handsome both in figure and face; and all entitled to pronounce an opinion on the subject, have agreed that there are few spots in the world where one sees so many handsome people together as in Tonga." Again, "When I looked at these Tonguese with their fine athletic bodies, symmetrical, handsome faces, and rich dark hair, I could not refrain from thinking what caricatures civilization has made us."
The Tonguese in personal appearance so closely resemble the Samoans, that at first sight they might easily be taken for the same people, more especially as their habit of tattooing the body from the hips to the knees is precisely similar.
Captain Erskine remarks, "Amongst this people one is struck with the marked superiority in stature, and the lightness of colour, on the part of the chiefs over the common people, betokening a great differ-page 242ence in the care bestowed on their nursing and food during childhood, and the degree of exposure they are subjected to afterwards. That this distinction is not a mere outward one is soon perceived, the authority of the chiefs, as well as the gradations of rank, being everywhere apparent. The effect on manners is also evident, although not exactly what one would expect from a system which exacts great ceremony and attention from inferiors towards superiors. The manners of the chiefs are certainly as polished as those of the Samoans, and not inferior in courtesy to any in civilized life; but the common people, when not in the immediate presence of their chiefs, are much more rude and boisterous than in Samoa, and less agreeable people to deal with generally."
The dress of both sexes is the graceful "gnatoo," which is a piece of tappa cloth, measuring about eight feet by five or six. This is worn in several different ways, but is generally fastened round the waist in several folds, the remaining portion forming a robe that descends to the ankles.
They are continually bathing, oiling, and dressing themselves; and the females delight in making wreaths of fresh and fragrant flowers with which to adorn their heads. The oil they use is made from the cocoa-nut, and is generally scented either with sandal-wood, or the leaves of sweet-smelling plants.
As is the clothing, so are the ornaments worn by both men and women, the same. Necklaces made of the fruit of the pandanus, or of sweet flowers, and page 243sometimes of shells or sharks' teeth, are commonly used, as are also rings and armlets of tortoise-shell, or ornaments of mother-of-pearl. The lobe of the ear is adorned with a cylindrical piece of whale's tooth, or a bit of hollow reed filled with turmeric powder. The women use the fine yellow colour of the turmeric as a pigment, with which they paint the upper portion of their bodies on festive occasions. At the period of Captain Cook's visit, the chiefs wore large red feather caps at particular feasts, and their garments were also decorated with feathers of the same colour.
Their largest canoes are all built in the Figis, and are some of them upwards of 100 feet in length. These are termed double canoes by Europeans, although the second or attached body is merely an outrigger, composed of a tree hollowed out for the sake of buoyancy, like the canoe itself. Even the hull of the main canoe is seldom occupied by crew or passengers, with the exception of one man, who, when at sea, is constantly employed in baling; the seams of the planks being only lashed together with cocoa-nut cord. Beams are laid across between the two hulls, as it were, on which is built a house with a shelving roof, to hold provisions. Over this, again, rises a platform, surrounded by a railing, which forms the deck or principal place of resort. These unwieldy and fragile vessels are navigated in the face of the usual trade-wind between 200 and 300 miles; and King George once paid a visit to the Navigator's Islands in one of them. A number of Tonguese are constantly employed amongst the page 244windward islands of the Figi group in building these great canoes, some of which occupy several years in their construction. The mat sails of these canoes are of the usual triangular form, and the stem and stern being alike, these vessels are never tacked. The small fishing canoes are similar to those of Samoa.
The common houses of the Tonguese are formed on the same plan as those of their neighbours the Samoans.
The Wesleyan chapel at Neiafu, the principal mission station at Vavau, is thus described by Captain Erskine:—"This building is of large dimensions, being one hundred feet long by forty-five wide, and twenty-eight or twenty-nine high. In general design it resembles those of Samoa, having curved ends and a high pitched roof. It differs from them in having two rows or orders of columns, every three of the lower supporting a short beam, from which springs the second order, bearing the ridge pole. This, as well as all the horizontal beams, is most beautifully ornamented with cocoa-nut plait, so arranged as to give the appearance of Grecian or Italian mouldings of infinite variety and delicate gradations of colour; black, with the different shades of red and yellow, being those employed. Different combinations of interlacing diamonds or rectangular figures formed the groundwork of these designs; but the same one was seldom twice repeated, and the size of the pattern being nicely proportioned to the distance from the spectator's eye, the effect was very artistic and pleasing."page 245
The ancient burying-places of the Tonguese chiefs, called "faitokas," were built of coral limestone, forming an oblong square platform several feet high, and surrounded by a wall, the interior being paved with coloured corals and pebbles, whilst a temple occupied the centre. The approach to these sacred places, which were once strictly "tabu," consists of several rows of stone steps; and their environs are usually surrounded by a grove of dark and shady trees.
Cannibalism never seems to have been popular amongst the Tonguese, as in Figi. When first visited by Captain Cook, it was scarcely thought of amongst them; and Mariner tells us that they were taught to eat human flesh by the Figians, who instructed them in this practice, as well as in the art of war. During times of scarcity and famine, they are said to have waylaid and murdered one another for food, being driven to this necessity from sheer starvation. Some years before Mariner was taken prisoner by them, in 1806, the bodies of three seamen, belonging to an European vessel, who had been slain in an affray at Tonga, were cooked and eaten as pork. All those, however, who partook of this feast were seized with nausea and vomiting, whilst three of them actually died; which some of the natives attributed to an unwholesome quality in the flesh of white men; and others to the gods of the foreigners avenging their death. Generally speaking, cannibalism only found favour amongst a few young warriors, who were anxious to imitate the Figians in their fierce and warlike spirit: and the page 246term "man-eater" was applied as an epithet of opprobrium and contempt.
Reverence to the gods, the chiefs, and aged people, constituted a portion of their moral duties, when in a heathen state. Their women always occupy a distinguished place amongst them, and are as important in the social scale as the men. Nobility always descends by the female line; and some of the highest offices and dignities in connection with the tui-tonga have been held by sisters or aunts of the royal family.
The tui-tonga is a sort of mysterious and sacred personage, who is considered as highly favoured by the gods, and holding intercourse with them. The office of tui-tonga is hereditary, descending to female as well as male descendants. So high is the rank of tui-tonga, that it takes the precedence of the king on all public occasions.
The ranks of society amongst them are, the king, chiefs, matabooles, and tooas; the tamaioeikis, or slaves, having been made free since the introduction of Christianity. There were some individuals connected with the heathen priesthood who were considered superior in rank to the kings themselves, and to whom the kings paid homage. These persons were looked upon as sacred, and were regarded as having had much to do with the gods. The matabooles rank next to the chiefs, and are a sort of honourable attendants on them—their companions, counsellors, and advisers. They see that the orders and wishes of their chiefs are duly executed, and may not improperly be called their ministers. They are always looked up to as men of experience page 247and information: they attend to the good order of society, and look to the morals of the younger chiefs, who may be apt to run into excesses, and oppress the lower orders. The tooas are the commonalty or bulk of the people.
In the mythology of Tonga there were four principal gods, viz., Maui, who drew the islands out of the sea with a hook and line—Hikuleo, the god of spirits, and the younger brother of Maui, who lives in Bulotu or Hades, which he governs. He is a saucy god, and takes away the people to Bulotu. When his body goes about, his tail, which is very large, stays at home and watches. To prevent his destroying all the inhabitants of the world, he is kept in check by two of his brothers; a strong cord is fastened around him, one end of which is held by Maui under the earth, the other by Tangaloa in the sky. To him the spirits of the chiefs and matabooles go, become his servants, and are forced to do his will, and to serve him for whatever purpose he pleases. He even uses them, it is said, to make fences of, or to form bars for his gates. Tangaloa, who resides in the sky, sends forth the thunder and lightning, and is the god of carpenters, whose calling is held as the most honourable of any in the Friendly Islands. He is also supposed to be the god of all foreigners, whom he has instructed to form such beautiful vessels—Hea-moana-uli-uli, who governs the sea, and is worshipped under the form of the sea-serpent. All fishes are under the control of this god, and to him fishermen apply for success in their undertakings.page 248
They say there are several "bulotos," or places of departed spirits, and that the spirits of the chiefs and superior personages are admitted to that for which they are prepared by their conduct in this world. In one of the bulotus they eat the pink yam; but in all of them there are plenty of yams, and an abundance of wives.
Whilst the Figians extend the doctrine of immortality not only to all mankind, but to the animal and vegetable kingdom, and to stones and mineral substances, the Tonguese limit it to chiefs, matabooles, and, at furthest, to tooas. The souls of inferior persons are not supposed to have a conscious existence hereafter.
Formerly, children were frequently strangled by order of the heathen priests, to pacify the anger of their gods. Mariner gives the following account of one of these cruel sacrifices, consequent upon a chief having killed an enemy within the sacred precincts of a consecrated enclosure, and thereby given great offence to the gods. He says, "The priests, being inspired, said it was necessary a child should be strangled, to appease the anger of the gods. The chiefs hold a consultation, and came to the determination of sacrificing a child of Toobo Toa, by one of his female attendants. Toobo Toa was present, and gave his consent that his child (about two years old) should be immolated, to turn aside the vengeance of the gods for the sacrilege committed. The child was accordingly sought for; but its mother, thinking her child might be demanded, had concealed it. Being at length found by one of the page 249men who were in search of it, he took it up in his arms, smiling with delight at being noticed. Its poor mother wanted to follow, but was held back by those about her. On hearing its mother's voice, it began to cry; but, when it arrived at the fatal place of execution, it was pleased and delighted with the band of "gnatoo" that was put round its neck; and, looking up in the face of the man who was about to destroy it, displayed in its beautiful countenance a smile of ineffable pleasure. Such a sight inspired pity in the breast of every one; but veneration and fear of the gods was a sentiment superior to every other, and its destroyer could not help exclaiming, as he put on the fatal bandage, 'O iaooé chi vale!' (poor little innocent!) Two men then tightened the cord by pulling at each end, and the guiltless and unsuspecting victim was quickly relieved of its painful struggles. The body was then placed on a sort of hand-barrow, and carried in a procession of priests and chiefs, clothed in mats, with wreaths of green leaves round their necks. In this manner it was conveyed to various houses consecrated to the gods, the priests praying aloud that punishment might be withheld from the people."
The preparation of gnatoo, or tappa-cloth, from the inner bark of the paper-mulberry tree, occupies much of the time of the Tongan women. The bark, after being soaked in water, is beaten out by means of wooden mallets, which are grooved longitudinally. All parties who visit Tonga speak of the singular noise of tappa-beating arising from the page 250native villages. Mariner says, "Early in the morning, when the air is calm and still, the beating of 'gnatoo' at all the plantations about has a very pleasing effect; some sounds being near at hand, and others almost lost by the distance; some a little more acute, others more grave, and all with remarkable regularity, produce a musical variety that is very agreeable, and not a little heightened by the singing of the birds, and the cheerful influence of the scene."
In their wrestling and boxing matches the Tongans display great dexterity and power; and in these, as in all their other games and athletic exercises, they exhibit the utmost forbearance and goodhumour.
Their dances are accompanied by songs and music from various instruments, amongst which is a sort of flute, blown by the nose. Their night dances are very similar to those of the Samoans; and their songs are mostly descriptive of scenery or past events, often partaking of the witty and ludicrous. They have a great variety of games, such as throwing the spear, cup and ball, pitching beans at a centre, &c.
When Captain Cook first visited Tongatabu, in 1773, he found it highly cultivated, and with good broad roads intersecting the island in every direction. So much gratified was he at the pleasant and agreeable reception experienced by himself, officers, and crew, from the natives, that he designated the entire group by the name of the Friendly Islands. Under all this show of friendliness there page 251were, however, doubts of treachery on both sides. After a little time, the frequent pilfering of the natives induced Captain Cook to seize three of the native canoes, and to put a guard over the king and some of his chiefs, until the missing articles should be restored. The people, resenting the indignity put upon the sacred persons of their chiefs, armed themselves in their defence; the stolen goods were, however, brought back, and friendly relations again resumed. When Captain Cook left Tonga he still entertained a high opinion of these islanders, little suspecting, what afterwards proved to be the case, that his professed friends had laid a plot to invite him and his officers to a feast, and then to kill them and seize their vessels. Disputes arising amongst them about the best method of carrying out this treacherous scheme, Captain Cook sailed before they were able to accomplish their purpose. After the date of Cook's visit, these islands became a frequent calling-place for English, French, and other vessels. In 1792 two French ships of war, under Admiral D'Entrecasteaux, visited the Friendly Islands, and remained there for several weeks. Towards the close of their visit quarrels with the natives became numerous; a few of the French were wounded, and several of the natives were killed. After this period the Tonguese were a terror to captains visiting the South Seas; they either openly attacked foreign vessels, and murdered their crews; or, being admitted on their decks under pretence of barter, would suddenly turn upon the unsuspecting seamen, and kill them with clubs or capstan bars, as was the page 252case with the "Supply" whaler, the American ship "Duke of Portland," and especially the "Port au Prince," in the year 1806. This latter vessel was captured at Lifuka, one of the Haabai group: she was an English privateer, of twenty-four guns and sixty men; but, through want of caution on the part of those in command, combined with the mutiny of a portion of her crew, she fell into the hands of the natives. Nearly all the crew were barbarously murdered, being knocked down and killed by the clubs of the natives as they were strolling about on shore. A young man named Mariner, who was in the cabin, at the time of the attack, was spared, and became a great favourite with the principal chief; a few others also escaped with their lives, and were employed to bring the vessel on shore. The arms and ammunition belonging to the privateer were seized by the natives; who, headed by their chief Finau, went across in their canoes to Tongatabu, to engage their enemies in battle. Mariner accompanied his friends, and had the management of the cannon committed to his care. The Tongans encamped themselves on the summit of the little mound of Nukualofa, where a chapel now stands, and entrenched themselves by digging two deep ditches around it. Upon the top of these embankments they erected strong reed fences, and thus fortified and entrenched, they confidently awaited the attack of their besiegers. No sooner was the action commenced than they found, to their dismay, that not only their houses, but their canoes, which they had taken into the entrenchment for safety, page 253were all knocked to pieces, and the splinters flying about, killing and wounding them in all directions. Here the affrighted Tonguese first hoard the thunder of cannon directed against them by a British subject: their frail defences were worse than useless; and those who were not killed by the guns or the splinters, were indiscriminately butchered by the conquering party. After this exploit, Mariner was held in higher estimation than ever by the chief Finau, and became his constant companion during the four years of his residence in the island.
From the period of Mariner's sojourn until about the year 1826, the political history of the Tonga islands appears to have been one of struggles for power on the part of different chiefs. At that time, the influence the missionaries were beginning to exercise over the minds of the people, produced in an unexpected way the re-establishment of the dignity of tui-kanukubolu, or supreme ruler; and the sovereign authority of the entire group was again, as formerly, vested in the hands of a single individual. The heathen portion of the community in Tongatabu were, however, disaffected to the government of the king, who had joined the Christian party; and a desultory warfare was carried on amongst them for some years.
An unfortunate interference in favour of the Christians took place in 1840, on the part of Commander Croker, of H.M.S. "Favourite." Captain Erskine, who visited Tonga ten years afterwards, says, "Urged by Josiah Tobou (the late king) and George (the present king), and encouraged by the page 254missionaries, he attacked the heathen fort of Bea, and received a disastrous defeat, Captain Croker himself falling in the attack. Although discouraged for a time, the Christian party soon resumed their ascendancy, and, Josiah Tobou dying a few years afterwards, George, who claims to be the representative of the tui-kanukubolu who was massacred at the end of last century, was inaugurated as the king of all the islands in December, 1845, under the name of George Tobou." Of his visit to the fortress of Bea, where Commander Croker fell, Captain Erskine writes—"At eight o'clock I set off, accompanied by a party of officers and two gentlemen of the mission, who were so good as to act as our guides, for the heathen fortress of Bea, which is distant about four miles from Nukualofa. The walk was through a country which, as at Lifuka, would have been monotonous but for the richness of the vegetation; crops of maize, with bananas and cocoa-nut trees, mingling with the hibiscus and jasmine, as well as the wild pea, and other creepers, and limiting our view to a few yards on either side of the level path. An hour's walk took us to the village, which is surrounded by a ditch, nearly dry, of about twelve feet wide, and protected by a mud wall of the same thickness, and fifteen feet in height. This wall is pierced by loopholes for musketry, made of hollow wooden pipes, and is strengthened internally by trunks of cocoa-nut trees, driven firmly into the ground, the whole being surmounted by a high reed fence. The gate by which we entered is in about the centre of the eastern face, and is defended by a page 255kind of portcullis and flank defences of rough, logs, pierced with loopholes. This gate is commanded by a small eminence on the right of the path, about 200 yards distant; and the whole works offer no defence against a regular attack, especially if made with any description of artillery. A branch of a lagoon communicates between the village and the sea, affording the besieged the means of evacuation, if hard pressed from the land side; and we saw hauled up, under sheds in the village, several very large canoes."
The first attempt to introduce Christianity into the Friendly Islands was made in the year 1797, when Captain Wilson, of the "Duff," left ten mechanics at Hihifo, on Tongatabu, in the capacity of missionaries. Their labours, however, proved unsuccessful. The chief under whose protection they resided was murdered by his own brother, and the island involved in a long and sanguinary war. Three of these people were murdered by the natives, and the others obliged to take refuge amongst the rocks and dens of the island. The natives stole everything they possessed; and eventually, in the year 1800, an English vessel arriving amongst these islands, they managed to effect their escape, and to proceed to New South Wales. In 1822 the Wesleyans commenced their labours as missionaries to the Tonguese, but for some years they met with indifferent success only. Latterly, under the protection and care of King George, the mission has nourished throughout the three groups, and it may be fairly said that the Tonguese are now a Christianized people.page 256
The present king of these islands, George Tobou, usually known as King George of Tonga, is a fine intelligent man about fifty-five years of age, and a person of great influence throughout Tonga and the neighbouring islands. He is not only a professing Christian and a great supporter of the missionaries, but he is a preacher himself. Some few years back he visited Sydney, together with several of his chiefs, for the purpose of making himself better acquainted with the arts and social condition of the Europeans, from whom his people have already derived so many advantages in their progress towards civilization.
Captain Erskine gives the following interesting description of his visit to King George at the island of Lifuka, the scene of the magnificent entertainment given by Finau to Captain Cook. He says, "One or two very large canoe sheds on the dazzling white beach betoken the sites of villages; the vegetation being in general so dense as to conceal the houses, which are situated at some little distance from the sea. On landing near the village off which we had anchored, and walking to the king's residence, called Mua, a distance of a mile or two, we were astonished with the richness of the country, cultivated like a large garden. The broad pathway, admirably kept, is bordered by the 'ti' plant and other evergreens, regularly planted, whilst behind them are seen the provision-grounds of bread-fruit and bananas. On nearing the village, we found these enclosed with reed fences, the 'malai,' or large space surrounding the chapel and common-house being alone left open. None of the natives had been encouraged to come page 257off to the ship until communication had taken place with the king; but we were surrounded here by crowds of men, women, and children, loudly greeting us. We were conducted to the chapel, resembling that at Yavau, but even more beautifully ornamented with cocoa-nut plait, and the common-house, lately given to the public by the king, to replace one accidentally burnt. Two of the missionaries, and an Englishman residing here, who seems to act as a kind of secretary to King George, then accompanied us to pay our respects to him. Entering a large inclosure, we found George and his wife seated in a house of moderate dimensions, which, it is understood, he only occupies during the construction of a larger one, on a European model. This house differs from those of his subjects in being closed nearly all round with reed work resembling the fences of the country, and in being divided into two separate rooms. Although both George and the queen were seated on the ground in the usual manner, there was a table and one or two chairs in the room; and on shelves around were ranged some dishes and plates of English crockery, with a few decanters and bottles of clear glass containing scented cocoa-nut oil. The king himself is a very fine-looking man, above the ordinary size, even of his own people, and apparently of great personal strength. He was lightly clothed in native cloth, as was his wife, a stout, handsome woman, with her only son, an intelligent boy of seven or eight years old, seated by her. The complexions of both were a clear brown, differing very little, if at all, from page 258the hue of the Samoans; the boy, as is usually the case with the children, being a good deal lighter in colour. On presenting his hand to shake, I remarked that George had one joint of the little finger amputated, an operation which, under the name of 'tutuunima,' it is well known is still common, and was formerly almost universal as a sign of mourning, or of deprecation of sickness or misfortune. Our reception was very kind and pleasing; but I made my visit short, as its principal object was to invite George to see the ship, and dine with me on the following day, which I knew he was inclined to do. I added also an invitation to the queen and his son, which was accepted with some hesitation on the part of the lady. In the afternoon of the next day the king came on board, attended by several chiefs, and bringing his son. He apologized for the queen's absence on the plea of indisposition; but I was told he had some doubts as to the propriety of bringing her on board, and, at all events, felt more at ease in her absence. He was received with a guard of honour; and on his leaving the ship a salute of thirteen guns was fired, an attention which has been shown to him by several British ships of war, and which he is said to prize, as an acknowledgment of his sovereign authority. No stipulation had been made with me, however, on the subject of honours to be paid to him; nor could the simple dignity of his manner have been excelled by the most powerful monarch accustomed daily to such marks of respect. George sat on a chair during dinner, and followed all our English customs: but page 259he asked if his little boy might have a mat at his feet, and he instructed him to use his knife and fork, which the boy did with great cleverness. After dinner I made the king a present of shirts, cotton cloth, axes, and other useful articles, adding a gay silk shawl with a reticule and some ribands for the queen. A Samoan chief would have made a long speech on such an occasion; but George, although very much pleased, said only a few words, ending very earnestly with 'Faka fetai, faka fetai,' 'Thank you, thank you.' He inspected the ship, the largest he had ever seen, or, as his attendants said, 'the only ship that had ever been at Tonga,' with great interest, and was much pleased with the exhibition of a diving dress and helmet. He was easily made to understand the principle of the apparatus, and remarked, turning to his courtiers, 'How useless is strength unaccompanied by wisdom!' He departed after dark amidst a salute of rockets, expressing himself much gratified with his entertainment."
A short distance to the southward of Vavau is the small island of Hoonga, celebrated for a peculiar cavern, the entrance to which is some feet beneath the surface of the sea, even at low water. This submarine cave was first discovered by a young chief as he was diving after a turtle; and the traditionary tale the natives give in connection with it has furnished some of the incidents interwoven in Lord Byron's poem of "The Island." When Mariner was on this island one day, shooting rats with Finau and his party, they proposed on a sudden to go into this cavern and drink "kava." Mariner was not page 260with them at the moment this suggestion was made, and on coming to the shore and seeing several of the young chiefs diving into the sea one after another, and not rising again, he was puzzled as to where they had disappeared. Following one of his companions who dived into the water, he, guided by the light reflected from his heels, entered the opening in the rock; and, having dived through the passage, which is eight or nine feet long, rose into the cavern, where he heard the voices of his friends and the king. All the light in this grotto was reflected from the bottom, but it was sufficient, after remaining for a few minutes, to show objects pretty clearly. The roof is hung with stalactites, and around the sides are masses of stalagmite and rocks, affording seats to those who enter. Its height is supposed to be about forty feet, with a medium width of from thirty to forty feet.
The legend of the cave of Hoonga runs thus: Once upon a time a cruel chief governed in Vavau; and at length some other chief raised up an insurrection against him; his plot was however discovered, and he was condemned to be massacred with all his family. His daughter, a beautiful girl, was beloved by the young chieftain who had a short time before discovered the cavern, which discovery he had kept a profound secret. He effected her escape through the woods at night, and conducted her to a small canoe at a lonely part of the beach. Here they embarked, and soon reached the rock of Hoonga, where he leaped into the water, and instructing her to follow him, they both rose into the page 261cave. In this strange asylum lie kept his betrothed, bringing her mats and food, sandal-wood, and oil, and cocoa-nuts, and everything he could obtain for her comfort and support, always paying his visits in the dead of night, for fear he should be watched by his neighbours. At last an opportunity occurred for restoring her to the light of day, and escaping with her to the Figis, where they lived under the protection of a certain chief for two years; at the end of which period, the Vavau tyrant having died, they were enabled to return home again, where they lived in peace and happiness for many years. To accomplish her release, the young chief persuaded his inferior chiefs and their families to accompany him on a voyage to Figi, and a large canoe being prepared, they put to sea. They asked him if he was not going to take a wife with him from Tonga; but he replied he would find one in the sea. Approaching the shores of Hoonga he steered close to the rock, and springing into the water, disappeared. The people on board the canoe thought him insane, and feared he must have been seized by a shark. Whilst debating as to what had become of him, he rose to the surface of the sea, and came into the canoe with a beautiful female, whom they at first mistook for a goddess. The legend goes on to say that they soon recognized in the lovely creature so strangely brought amongst them, the features of her whom they had believed to have been put to death; and amidst great rejoicings at once pursued their voyage to Figi, where the happy couple and their people landed in safety.page 262
To the eastward of the Tonga Islands, and almost due south from the Navigator's, lies the solitary island of Niue, the Savage Island of Captain Cook, which was discovered by him in 1774. It is situated in 19° 8' south latitude, and 169° 50' west longitude, and is a lagoon island, about thirty miles in circumference, with a population of nearly 4000 souls. Captain Cook was unable to open any communication with the inhabitants, whom he described as coming upon his party "with the ferocity of wild boars." In 1830, John Williams, the Wesleyan Missionary, attempted to establish a mission at Niue, but was unsuccessful: he, however, persuaded two native lads to accompany him; who, after receiving some education at the missionary establishment at Raietea, were sent home. An epidemic disease shortly afterwards visited the island; and the natives, ascribing it to their contact with the white men, the two unfortunate youths were put to death.
Captain Erskine, who visited Niue, or Savage Island, in her H.M.S. "Havannah," in 1849, says of the inhabitants, "The men were, in general, perfectly naked, though a few wore a narrow waist-belt, and a square patch of some kind of cloth, their colour being a clear brown, with what appeared at first a scrofulous eruption on their backs, but which proved to be but the salt water showing on the cocoa-nut oil with which their bodies were rubbed, and immense quantities of flies, which, indeed, remained on board after they had left us. They were not, in any instance, tattooed; and I only remarked page 263one or two who had daubed their faces with streaks of black paint. The hair of some was crisp, but of others, particularly the few boys we saw, perfectly smooth, from which it is probable the former had curled theirs artificially; and several had the hair tied up into a large top-knot, coloured yellow, as if with lime. Some of the older men had long beards, plaited, and ornamented with pieces of oyster or clam shells, and a few wore moustaches. They were, as far as we could see, cleaned-limbed and well made, but of small stature; and, with few exceptions, the expression of their countenances was intelligent and prepossessing. Their weapons were spears, single and double headed, nicely ornamented with feathers; also rounded staves, seven or eight feet long; and a sort of double-handed wooden sabre, with a flat blade like that of a canoe paddle.
Missionary efforts have, of late, been wonderfully successful in Niue. As a contrast to the state of the inhabitants not many years since, we would quote from the account given of them by the Rev. Mr. Lawes, who, with his wife, is stationed there. He says, "On reaching our destination, the people were ready to smother us with kindness; they thronged around us with every demonstration of gratitude and joy, and it was with difficulty we could make our way through the crowd. As soon as the excitement of landing had subsided a little, a joyful sound broke upon our ears in the stillness of the evening hour. It was the voice of prayer and praise ascending from around the page 264family altars of a people, who, but fifteen years ago, were degraded savages." "Never, in the history of evangelical efforts, has a change been wrought more marked or marvellous than in this island."