Renewed endeavours to promote industry among the people—Arrival of Messrs. Blossom and Armitage—Establishment of the cotton factory—First cloth made in Eimeo—Prospects of success—Death of Mrs. Orsmond—Voyage to Raiatea—Sudden approach of a storm—Conduct of the natives—Appearance of waterspouts—Emotions awakened by the surrounding phenomena—Effects of waterspouts on the minds of the natives—Conduct of a party overtaken by one at sea—Deliverance during a voyage from the Sandwich Islands—Abatement of the storm—Arrival at Raiatea—Kindness of the inhabitants—District of Opoa—Visit to the settlement–Importance of education—Methods of instruction—Sabbath schools—Annual examination of the scholars—Public procession—Contrast between the present and former circumstances of the children.
Although the measures adopted by the Directors of the Missionary Society, for encouraging industry among the South Sea Islanders, and furnishing them with a source of productive labour in the manufacture of sugar, had not accomplished all that was designed, and Mr. Gyles had returned to England before the expiration of the period for which he had been engaged, the Directors still considered that it was their duty to endeavour to promote the temporal prosperity of the people—that the introduction of useful mechanic arts, and other means of advancing their civilization, though page 294 objects of only secondary importance, were not to be overlooked. Some stimulus to more regular employment than that to which the natives had been accustomed, during the indolent state of society from which they were emerging, was still necessary for their individual happiness, as well as their national prosperity.
The Directors of the Missionary Society were not influenced by their own choice, but by the necessities of the people, in making these and other secular arrangements, which were not contemplated in the original constitution and object of their association, but have resulted from the changes effected by their agents in the circumstances of those communities among which they have resided; and have sometimes involved an expense which could not always be met without difficulty. These collateral exertions often occasion embarrassment, and it would be highly gratifying, if other institutions were able to prosecute those departments of effort, which are rather appendages than proper parts of Missionary labour. Were the resources of those societies formed for the universal diffusion of education, and the means of the British and Foreign Bible Society such as to enable them to undertake entirely the instruction of the heathen, and the translation and circulation of the Scriptures, it would greatly facilitate the extension of Christianity. If, in addition to those already in existence, there was also an institution for the promotion of agriculture, mechanic arts, social order, and the general civilization of rude and barbarous tribes, such a society would exert a beneficial and powerful influence, and furnish an important agency, in conjunction with those now engaged. It would enable Missionary institutions page 295 to follow more energetically their simple and primary labours, in sending forth messengers to preach the gospel to the heathen.
Such a society, however, did not exist. The promotion of industry and civil improvement were important objects, and, in order to accomplish them, especially in reference to the rising generation, two artisans, Messrs. Blossom and Armitage, were sent out with the deputation who visited the South Seas in 1821. The former was a carpenter, acquainted with the construction of machinery and wood-work in general; a department of labour highly advantageous to a rude, or but partially civilized people, and at this time in great estimation among the Tahitians. Mr. Blossom has been engaged in teaching native youth, and others, these arts; and though not altogether so successful as he desired, has nevertheless seen two or three excellent workmen trained under his care.
The introduction among an indolent people, of any art that requires constant, and sometimes heavy labour, must be gradual; but as building, and the use of household furniture, &c., increases among the people, skill in these departments will be held in higher esteem, and the number of workmen will necessarily increase with the demand for their labour, and the remuneration it receives.
It was known, that with but slight attention the cotton-plant might be cultivated in the islands to almost any extent; and it was supposed, that although the smallness of the returns it had brought, when offered for sale in the raw state, together with the difficulties attending their first attempt, had deterred the people from persevering in its culture; yet that they might be induced to resume it, if taught on the spot to manufacture cotton page 296 cloth. This was an article in great and constant demand throughout the islands. Mr. Armitage was therefore sent to attempt to teach the natives to spin and weave the cotton grown in their own gardens. He was a native of Manchester, where the members of his family still reside. He was well qualified for the undertaking, possessing an intimate acquaintance with the various processes by which raw cotton is made into cloth, and having been overseer or foreman of an extensive manufactory.
In acceding to the proposal of the Directors, and engaging in this enterprise, he manifested a degree of devotedness seldom excelled. He exchanged inviting prospects of wealth, comfort, and usefulness at home, for the toil and self-denial inseparable from such an attempt. The gentleman who had hitherto been his employer had proposed to make him his partner, had arranged for the advance of a very considerable sum of money; part of the materials for commencing the new establishment were procured, and the results in that line of business have since been such, as to warrant the inference, that every advantage the parties anticipated might have been realized. This, however, he relinquished, and cheerfully engaged in an attempt to promote the industry of the islanders, with no other remuneration than the Missionaries receive—a bare supply of the necessaries of life.
It may, perhaps, be thought that I am trespassing the bounds of propriety in giving these particulars to the public; but, in this instance, and there are others that might also be adduced, I feel it due, not more to the individual than to the cause in which he is embarked; to the friends by whom page 297 it is supported; and even to those who, in consequence of mistaken views, and misrepresentation, may sometimes be induced to suppose mercenary motives influence those who engage in Missionary undertakings.
In the month of September, 1821, they reached Tahiti. The carding machine, looms, &c. were landed, and placed under the care of Paiti, a chief residing near the harbour of Taone; and in the adjacent village of Pirae, Messrs. Armitage and Blossom took up their abode.
Like every other undertaking that has yet been made to benefit the people, the cotton factory had to contend with great difficulty. At first the king and chiefs, under the recollection of the reported design and tendency of the sugar manufactory, expressed their wishes that the establishment should be formed near their principal residence, that all proceedings connected with it might be under their inspection. Subsequently, when they entered into its design, and began to consider that it would become a source of pecuniary advantage, although it was thought that Eimeo would be most eligible for its establishment, the chiefs of Pare and the adjoining districts refused to allow the machinery to be removed. In this state matters remained some time—several of the finer parts of the iron-work were destroyed by the rust, and the whole greatly injured.
The deputation and the Missionaries, however, considering that the island of Eimeo afforded the greatest facilities for carrying on the work, removed it thither, and with great expense and labour Messrs. Armitage and Blossom erected the machinery, and commenced their work. Shortly after this was completed, Mr. Blossom removed to the page 298 opposite side of the island, to take charge of the secular concerns of the South Sea Academy, and the work has since been carried on by Mr. Armitage alone.
The machinery, &c. were considered as belonging to the Missionary Society, but at a public meeting held in Eimeo, in May 1824, for the purpose of arranging the principles upon which its future operations should be conducted, it was distinctly stated by the deputation, and recognized by the Missionaries, “That the Society contemplates no other advantage in promoting the manufacture of cloth by this machinery, than the good of the inhabitants of these islands;” “That no charges by way of profit shall be made upon the cloth manufactured and sold to the inhabitants, more than is merely necessary to defray the expenses attending it,” and “That all the inhabitants of the islands connected with both the Windward and Leeward Missions, shall be allowed to share alike in the advantages of this manufactory.” At the same time it was recommended, that two young men and two young women from each island, should be sent, to learn the art of making looms, spinning, weaving, &c.
The work commenced with cotton belonging to the native Missionary Societies. Mr. Armitage taught them to card the cotton, and Mrs. Armitage instructed them in spinning. Their first attempts, as might be expected, were exceedingly awkward, and the warp they furnished was difficult to weave. One piece of cloth, however, fifty yards in length, was finished, and presented to the king. Its appearance was coarse, and inferior to the imported calicoes of British manufacture; it was nevertheless grateful to the chiefs, from the fact of its page 299 being the first ever manufactured in their own islands.
Cotton for another piece was prepared, and the natives commenced spinning; but the confinemen required being irksome, and their expectation rather lowered, as to the quality of the cloth they were to receive as wages for their labour,—before the warp was ready for the loom, they simultaneously discontinued their work. When interrogated as to their reasons for this sudden change in their conduct, it was found that they had not indeed struck for higher wages, but had left off to think about it, and that, until their minds were made up, they could not return. The spinning-wheels and the loom now stood still, excepting that Mrs. Armitage and Mrs. Blossom, with the assistance of their own servants, spun the cotton, which Mr. Armitage wove into about fifty yards of cloth, for the use of the academy.
Nothwithstanding the inferior appearance of the cloth manufactured in Eimeo, it was soon found to be more durable than that procured from the ships. Yet the disappointment which the natives had experienced prevented their cultivating the cotton; and but little was available for the establishment, excepting that subscribed by the members of the native Missionary Societies: the people declined coming to learn, and prospects were most unpromising. This, however, was not the only source of discouragement.
Traders, influenced by the narrow views and interested motives which too frequently regulate the proceedings of those who traffic with uncivilized nations, employed a variety of inducements to prevent the natives affording any encouragement to the establishment. At one time they assured them page 300 that it would be injurious to their interest, and, if successful, prevent their being visited by shipping, &c., offering, at the same time, to give them for their raw cotton twice as much cloth as they could procure at the factory. At other times they threatened Mr. Armitage with ruin, and announced their determination to oppose him. Sometimes they endeavoured to persuade him to abandon so hopeless a project, as that of attempting to train the people to habits of industry.
Their threatenings to seek his ruin, by opposing his efforts, are rather amusing. They doubtless supposed the attempt was on his part a speculation for the accumulation of wealth; the only end which most propose, who visit those island; and which, when pursued on fair upright principles, is not to be condemned. These proceedings, however, must have originated in very contracted views of the influence of such an establishment, which, while it may induce and encourage habits of more regular employment, can never diminish the demand for British calicoes, which will be superior in texture, pattern, &c. to any that can be made in the islands. It will also tend to encourage the more extensive culture of the cotton, and, in the raw state, the natives will never decline disposing of it to him who offers the best price.
Notwithstanding these and various other discouragements, Mr. Armitage was able to persevere; and as there was little prospect of the females he had taught to spin making up their minds to return, another party was selected. Nearly twenty girls, and eight or ten boys, engaged to learn to spin and weave. The conditions on which they were instructed were almost such as they or their friends chose to propose, both as to page 301 the time they should continue, and the hours they should labour; and instead of receiving a premium for teaching them, Mr. Armitage agreed to pay them for every ounce of cotton they should spin.
In every undertaking of this kind, the greatest embarrassments attend its outset, and the same difficulties that had suspended the instruction of the two former parties, were again to be overcome. The indolent habits of these young persons, their impatience of control, and the fugitive mode of life to which many had been accustomed, were not to be at once removed. Recent accounts, however, convey the intelligence, that the prospect of ultimately introducing this branch of labour extensively among the people, is more encouraging than formerly. The females were able to spin strong and regular thread, or yarn; one or two of the boys had been taught to make, all things considered, very good cloth. Mr. Armitage has also succeeded in dying the cloth, and thus furnishing different patterns and colours, which has greatly increased its value in their estimation. While the hands of the parties spinning or weaving are employed, the improvement of their minds is not neglected. Reading-lessons and passages of scripture are affixed to the walls and different parts of the factory.
The carding engine, and some of the other parts of the machinery, were turned by a large waterwheel, but the work has often been retarded by the repairs that the wheel or its appendages have required.
Several of the best native carpenters have, however, readily come forward to repair the wheel, and have received their payment in cloth made at the page 302 factory. The derangement of the machinery suspending the work of the spinners, some of them requested to take the cotton home, to prepare and spin at their own houses. The experiment has succeeded beyond what was anticipated, and the natives now bring to the factory for sale the cotton-yarn spun at their own dwellings, and ready for the loom.
This circumstance, though insignificant, is interesting and important. The natives are now convinced that they can make cloth; others, besides those taught in the factory, we may expect will desire to learn; and as they can prepare and spin the cotton at their own dwellings, this employment, which is certainly adapted to their climate and habits, as they can take it up and lay it down at their convenience, will probably be very extensively followed through the islands. The native carpenters will be able to make looms, as they have made turning-lathes, which, though rude, will be such as to answer their purpose. The spinning-wheel will also become an article of furniture in their houses; and the father, the brother, and the son, will have the satisfaction of wearing native or home-spun garments, made with cotton grown in their own gardens or plantations, and spun by their wives' or sisters' or daughters' hands. The Tahitian, like the Indian weaver, may, perhaps, at some future day, be seen fixing his rude and simple loom under the shadow of the cocoanut or the banana tree, whilst the objects that often give such a charm to rural village scenery, and awaken so many ideas of contentment and happy simplicity in connexion with the peasantry of England, may be witnessed throughout the South Sea Islands. At any rate, there is reason page 303 to hope that whatever difficulties may yet be encountered, the efforts made to introduce this branch of labour will be advantageous to the natives.
In the month of December, 1818, when the Haweis sailed from Huahine, on her first voyage to New South Wales, Mr. and Mrs. Orsmond left us, as we mutually supposed, on a visit of a few months to the island of Raiatea, for the purpose of receiving Mr. Threlkeld's attentions at a season of domestic anxiety. For two or three months contrary winds prevented any intercourse between us, when at length Mr. Orsmond's boat arrived, with the unexpected and melancholy tidings of the death of Mrs. Orsmond, which had taken place on the 6th of January, 1819. She had survived but a few hours the birth of an infant daughter, by whom, in the space of five short days, she was followed to the eternal world, and, we believe, to the abodes of holy and unending rest. The disconsolate partner of her days was thus left a widower and childless, far from all the alleviation which the sympathies and attentions of kindred and friends in such seasons impart. The kindness and the sympathy of his fellow-labourers mitigated, however, in a great degree, the poignancy of his distress; and the consolations of religion supported his mind under a bereavement, which he had sustained in circumstances unusually distressing. The people around were touched with a feeling of compassion; but although their commiseration was fully appreciated, there was not that reciprocity of feeling which could lessen, if any considerable degree, the burden of his grief. In the family of Mr. Williams he spent the greater part of his time, when not engaged in public page 304 duties, and experienced from its members every attention which kindness and attachment could bestow.
Early in 1819, circumstances rendered it desirable for us to visit Raiatea. We were anxious, also, to mingle our sympathies with those of our companions there, in that bereavement by which all were so deeply affected. We had been acquainted with Mr. and Mrs. Orsmond before leaving England. We had all left our native land about the same period, and had spent the greater part of our time, since arriving in the islands, either at the same station or under one roof, and felt deeply the first breach now made by death, in the little circle with which we were more immediately connected. We therefore availed ourselves of the return of Mr. Orsmond's boat, to visit the station.
About nine o'clock in the morning, Mr. Barff and myself, accompanied by five natives, and an English sailor who had charge of the boat, embarked from Huahine. Though the settlements were about thirty miles apart, yet, as the width of the channel was not much more than twenty miles, the mountains, and coast of the opposite island, were distinctly seen. The wind being fair, we expected to reach the Raiatean shore in three or four hours, and to arrive at the residence of our friends long before the close of day. We had not, however, been an hour at sea, when the heavens began to gather blackness, and lowering clouds intercepted our view of the shore we had left, and that to which we were bound. The wind became unsteady and boisterous, the sea rose, and in long heavy billows, but in short, cross, and broken waves. We had no compass on board. page 305 The dark and heavy atmosphere obscuring the sun, prevented our discerning the land, and rendered us unconscious of the direction in which the storm was driving us. We took down our large sails, leaving only a small one in the forepart of the boat, merely to keep it steady.
The tempest increasing, the natives were alarmed, and during the occasional intervals in which the wind abated its violence, the rain came down in tremendous torrents. The rain calmed in a degree the broken and agitated surface of the ocean, that raged with threatening violence. Our boat being but small, not above eighteen feet long, and her edge, when the sea had been smooth, not more than a foot or eighteen inches above its surface; every wave that broke near, threw its spray over us, and each billow, in striking our little bark, forced part of its foaming waters over the bow or the sides. Happily, we had a bucket on board, by means of which we were able to bale out the water.
In this state we continued, I suppose, about two hours, hoping that the clouds would disperse, and the winds abate; but, instead of this, the storm seemed to increase, and with it our danger. Most of the natives sat down in the bottom of the boat; and, under the influence of fear, either shut their eyes, or covered them with their hands, expecting every moment that the waves would close over us. We were not unconscious of our peril, and, as a last resort, took down our little sail and our mast, tied the masts, bowsprit, and oars together in a bundle, with one end of a strong rope, and, fastening the other end to the bow of our boat, threw them into the sea. The bundle of masts, oars, &c., acted as a kind of buoy, or floating anchor; and page 306 not only broke the force of the billows that were rolling towards the boat, but kept it tolerable steady, while we were dashed on the broken wave, or wafted we knew not whither by the raging tempest.
The rain soon abated, and the northern horizon became somewhat clear, but the joyful anticipation with which we viewed this change was soon superseded by a new train of feelings. Ure ure, tia moana! exclaimed one of the natives; and, looking in the direction to which he pointed, we saw a large cylindrical waterspout, extending, like a massive column, from the ocean to the dark and impending clouds. It was not very distant, and seemed moving towards our apparently devoted boat.
The roughness of the sea forbade our attempting to hoist a sail in order to avoid it; and as we had no other means of safety at command, we endeavoured calmly to wait its approach. The natives abandoned themselves to despair, and either threw themselves along in the bottom of the boat, or sat crouching on the keel, with their faces downwards, and their eyes covered with their hands. The sailor kept at the helm, Mr. Barff sat on one side of the stern, and I on the other, watching the alarming object before us! While thus employed, we saw two other waterspouts, and subsequently a third, if not more, so that we seemed almost surrounded with them. Some were well defined, extending in an unbroken line from the sea to the sky, like pillars resting on the ocean as their basis, and supporting the clouds; others assuming the shape of a funnel or inverted cone, attached to the clouds, and extending towards the waters beneath. Form the distinctness page 307 with which we saw them, notwithstanding the density of the atmosphere, the farthest could not have been many miles distant. In some, we imagined we could trace the spiral motion of the water as it was drawn to the clouds, which were every moment augmenting their portentous darkness. The sense, however, of personal danger, and immediate destruction, if brought within the vortex of their influence, restrained in a great degree all curious, and what, in other circumstances, would have been interesting observation, on the wonderful phenomena around us, the mighty agitation of the elements, and the terrific sublimity of these wonders of the deep.
The roaring of the tempest, and the hollow sounds that murmured on the ear, as the heavy billow rolled in foam, or broke in contact with opposing billows, seemed as if deep called unto deep; and the noise of waterspouts might almost be heard, while we were momentarily expecting that the mighty waves would sweep over us.
I had once before, when seized with the cramp while bathing at a distance from my companions, been, as I supposed, on the verge of eternity. The danger then came upon me suddenly, and my thoughts, while in peril, were but few. The danger now appeared more imminent, and a watery grave every moment more probable; yet there was leisure afforded for reflection, and the sensibilities and powers of the mind were roused to an unusual state of excitement by the conflicting elements on every side.
A retrospect of life, now perhaps about to close, presented all the scenes through which I had passed, in rapid succession and in varied colours, each page 308 exhibiting the lights and shades by which it has been distinguished. Present circumstances and connexions claimed a thought. The sorrow of the people— the dearest objects of earthly attachment, left but a few hours before in health and comfort on the receding shore—those unconscious infants that would soon, perhaps, be left fatherless, and dependent on their widowed mother, who, in cheerless loneliness, far from friends, and home, and country, might remain an exile among a race emerging from the rudest barbarism;—these reflections awakened a train of feelings not to be described. But the most impressive exercise of mind was that referring to the awful change approaching. The struggle and the gasp, as the wearied arm should attempt to resist the impetuous waves, the straining vision that should linger on the last ray of retiring light, as the deepening veil of water would gradually conceal it for ever, and the rolling billows heaving over the sinking and dying body, which, perhaps ere life should be extinct, might become the prey of voracious inhabitants of the deep, caused scarcely a thought, compared with the appearance of the disembodied spirit in the appearance of its Maker, the account to be rendered, and the awful and unalterable density that would await it there. These momentous objects absorbed all the powers of the mind, and produced an intensity of feeling, which for a long time rendered me almost insensible to the storm, or the liquid columns which threatened our destruction.
The hours that followed were some of the most solemn I have ever passed in my life. Although much recurred to memory that demanded deep regret and most sincere repentance, yet I could page 309 look back upon that mercy that had first brought me to a knowledge of the Saviour, with a gratitude never perhaps exceeded. Him, and Him alone, I found to be a refuge, a rock in the storm of contending feelings, on which my soul could cast the anchor of its hope for pardon and acceptance before God; and although not visibly present, as with his disciples on the sea of Tiberias, we could not but hope that He was spiritually present, and that, should our bodies rest till the morning of the resurrection in the unfathomed caverns of the ocean, our souls would be by Him admitted to the abodes of blessedness and rest. I could not but think how awful would my state have been, had I in that hour been ignorant of Christ, or had I neglected and despised the offers of his mercy; and while this reflection induced thankfulness to Him through whom alone we had been made to share a hope of immortality, it awakened a tender sympathy for our fellow-voyagers, who sat in mournful silence at the helm or in the bottom of the boat, and seemed averse to conversation. Our prayers were offered to Him who is a present help in every time of danger—for ourselves—and those who sailed with us; and under these, or similar exercises, several hours passed away. The storm continued during the day. At intervals we beheld, through the clouds and rain, one or other of the waterspouts, the whole of which appeared almost stationary, until at length we lost sight of them altogether, when the spirits of our native voyagers evidently revived.
The natives of the South Sea Islands, although scarcely alarmed at thunder and lightning, are at sea greatly terrified by the appearance of waterspouts. page 310 They occur more frequently in the South than in the North Pacific, and although often seen among the Society Islands, are more rarely met with in the Sandwich group. But throughout the Pacific, waterspouts of varied form and size are among the most frequent of the splendid phenomena, and mighty works of the Lord, which those behold who go down to the sea in ships, and do business upon the great waters. They are sublime objects of unusual interest, when viewed from the shore; but when beheld at sea, especially if near, and from a small and fragile bark, as we had seen them, it is almost impossible so to divest the mind of a sense of personal danger, as to contemplate with composure their stately movement, or the rapid internal circular eddy of the waters.
Nor is it easy for an individual, who has never beheld them in such a situation, to realize the sensation produced, when the solitary voyagers, from their light canoe, or deckless boat, dancing on every undulating wave, descry them towering from the surface of the water, uniting the ocean and the heavens, while the powerful agitation of the former indicates the mighty process by which they are sustained. Sometimes they have approached the shore, and although I do not recollect any instance of their actually destroying persons at sea, I am inclined to presume such a calamity must have occurred, or they would not be such objects of terror to the people.
During our abode in Huahine, a number of natives were on a voyage from the Leeward to the Windward Islands, in a boat belonging to Mr. Williams, when a waterspout approached them. They had heard that, when seen by navigators, they sometimes page 311 averted the threatened danger by discharging their artillery at the waterspout. Having a loaded musket in the boat, they at first thought of firing at the advancing column; but as it approached, the agitation of the water was so great, and the phenomenon so appalling, that their hearts failed; and when it was, according to their own account, within a hundred yards of their boat, and advancing directly upon them, they laid the musket down. The man at the helm now shut his eyes, and his companions threw themselves flat on their faces in the bottom of the boat. This is the exact position in which a captive, doomed to death, awaited the fatal stroke of a victor by whom he had been overcome in battle. After waiting in fearful suspense several minutes, the helmsman, hearing a rushing noise, involuntarily opened his eyes, and saw the column passing, with great velocity, at a distance from the stern of boat. He immediately called his companions, who joined not only in watching its receding progress, but in acknowledging the protection of the Almighty in their preservation.
When returning from the Sandwich Islands on board the ship Russell, in 1825, we experienced a happy deliverance from one of these wonderful and alarming objects. Our Sabbath afternoon worship on the quarter-deck had just terminated; Mrs. Ellis was lying on a sofa, and, observing unusual indications of terror in the countenance of the boy at the helm, she said, “What is it that alarms you?” He answered, in hurried accents, “I see a whirlwind coming,” pointing to a cloud a little to the windward of the ship. His actions attracted the notice of the officer on deck, who instantly sent an able seaman to the helm, and called the page 312 captain. I had taken the books down into the cabin, and was putting them by, when I heard the officer, in a tone of unusual earnestness, ask the captain to come on deck. I hastily followed, and my attention was instantly directed to the waterspout.
The breeze was fresh, and as the object of alarm was still at some distance, it was possible we might avoid coming in contact with it. The captain, therefore, took in none of the sails, but called all hands on deck, ordered them to stand by the halyards, or ropes by which the sails are pulled up, so that, if necessary, they might let them go in an instant, and thus lower down the sails. We all marked its approach with great anxiety. The column was well defined, extending in an unbroken line from the sea to the clouds, which were neither dense nor lowering. Around the outside of the liquid cylinder was a kind of thick mist, and, within, a substance resembling steam, ascending apparently with a spiral motion. We could not perceive that much effect was produced on the cloud attached to the upper part of the column, but the water at its base was considerably agitated with a whirling motion; while the spray, which was thrown off from the circle formed by the lower part of the column, rose several feet above the level of the sea. After watching in breathless suspense for some time its advance in a line towards our ship, we had the satisfaction to see it incline in its course towards the starboard quarter, and ultimately pass by about a mile distant from the stern. The sail ropes were again fastened, and we pursued our way under the influence of thankfulness for the deliverance we had experienced. page 313 But to return to our voyage to Raiatea: the storm, which had raged with violence ever since an hour after our departure from Huahine, began to abate towards the close of the day: we did not, however, see the land, and knew not whither we had drifted; but soon after the setting of the sun, the clouds dispersed, and a streak of light lingering in the western sky, indicated the direction in which we ought to proceed. The rain now ceased; the wind subsided; and although the surface of the sea was considerably agitated, it was no longer that quick dashing conflict of the waves to which we had been exposed, while “a war of mountains raged upon its surface,” but a long and heavy sluggish sort of motion. We pulled in our bundle of masts and oars—the natives manned the oars, and rowed towards the west.
The moon rose soon after the light of the sun had departed, and although she shone not at first in cloudless majesty through an untroubled sky, yet the night was a perfect contrast to the day. The light fleecy clouds that passed over the surface of the sky, fringed with the moon's light, gave a pleasing animation to the scene, and
“With scarce inferior lustre gleamed the sea,
Whose waves were spangled with phosphoric fire,
As though the lightnings there had spent their shafts,
And left the fragments glittering on the field.”
After rowing some time, we heard the hoarse roaring of the surf, as it broke upon the coral reef surrounding the shore. To us this was a most welcome sound, indicating our approach to the land. Shortly afterwards we saw a small island with two or three cocoa-nut trees upon it, and subsequently the coral reef appeared in view. We now found ourselves near the Ava Moa, page 314 Sacred Passage, leading to Opoa, the southernmost harbour in the island of Raiatea; and after rowing two or three miles, landed about midnight. Weary and famished, drenched with the rain, and suffering much from the cold occasioned by the wetness of our clothes, we were truly thankful, after the incidents of the day, to find ourselves once again on shore. The inhabitants of the dwelling which we entered soon rose from their beds, kindled a large fire in the centre of the floor, cooked us some provisions, and furnished us with warm and clean native cloth, to wear while our own clothes were dried. Having refreshed ourselves, and united in grateful thanksgiving to the Preserver of our lives, we lay down upon our mats, and enjoyed several hours of refreshing repose. I have often been overtaken with storms when at sea in European vessels, boats, and native canoes, but, to whatever real danger I may have been exposed, I never was surrounded by so much that was apparent, as during this voyage.
After a few hours of unbroken rest, we arose recruited the next morning, found our dried clothes comfortable, united with our host and his family in the morning devotions, and then, while they were preparing refreshments, took a view of the district. We found it not very extensive, though the land is rich and good. The gardens were large, and, at this time, well stocked with indigenous roots and vegetables. Raiatea is not only the most important island of the Leeward group, from its central situation and its geographical extent, but on account of its identity, in tradition, with the origin of the people, and their preservation in the general deluge. It has been page 315 distinguished as the cradle of their mythology, the birth-place and residence of Oro, the region to which disembodied spirits resorted, the seat of their oracle, and the abode of those priests whose predictions for many generations regulated the expectations of the nation. It is also intimately connected with the most important matters in the traditionary history and ancient religion of the people. Opoa is the most remarkable place in Raiatea; of its earth, according to some of their traditions, the first pair were made by Tii or Taaroa, and on its soil they fixed their abode, Here Oro held his court. It was called Hawaii; and as distant colonies are said to have proceeded from it, it was probably the place at which some of the first inhabitants of the South Sea Island arrived. It has also long been a place of celebrity, not only in Raiatea, but throughout the whole of the Society Islands. It was the hereditary land of the reigning family, and the usual residence of the king and his household. But the most remarkable object connected with Opoa, was the large marae, or temple, where the national idol worshipped, and human victims were sacrificed. These offerings were not only brought from the districts of Raiatea and the adjacent islands, but also from the windward group, and even from the more distant islands to the south and south-east.
The worship of Oro, in the marae here, appears to have been of the most sanguinary kind; human immolation was frequent, and, in addition to the bones and other relics of the former sacrifices, now scattered among the ruins of the temple, there is still a large enclosure, the walls of which are formed entirely of human skulls. The horrid page 316 piles of skulls, in their various stages of decay, exhibit a ghastly spectacle. They are principally, if not entirely, the skulls of those who have been slain in battle. A number of beautiful trees grow around, especially the tamanu, callophyllum inophyllum, and the aoa, ficus prolixa, resembling, in its growth and appearance, one of the varieties of the banian in India.
In the inland part of the district there is a celebrated pare, or natural fortress, frequently resorted to by the inhabitants in seasons of war; and with a little attention it might easily be made impregnable, at least to such forces or machines as the natives could bring against it.
A fine quay, or causeway, of coral rock, had been raised along the edge of the southern side of the bay, on which the natives had erected the frame of a large and substantial place of worship. It appeared to have remained in the state in which we saw it for some months past. The king and chiefs, with their numerous attendants, had removed to the vicinity of the Missionary station on the other side of the island, and the district was comparatively deserted. The frame of the building had been prepared with great care, several of the pillars being of polished aito, or casuarina.
Early in the afternoon we left our kind friends, and enjoyed a pleasant sail within the reef, along the eastern shore of the island; which was remarkably broken, and beautiful in mountain scenery, as well as rich and verdant in the foliage with which the woody parts of the country were clothed. We passed between Tahaa and Raiatea, and arrived at the new Missionary settlement on the north-west side of the latter, about page 317 noon. Here we received a cordial welcome from our friends Messrs. Orsmond, Williams, and Threlkeld, who were fully occupied in their new sphere of labour, and attached to the people; by whom they were respected, and among whom they had reason to believe they were usefully employed.
Mr. Orsmond appeared to sustain his bereavement with Christian fortitude. We visited the grave of the first labourer that had been called from our little band, and (with mingled feelings of regret at her early departure from the field we had unitedly cultivated, and sympathy with him whom she had left behind,) beheld the humble mound under which her mortal remains were reposing, and around which a number of indigenous and exotic flowers had been planted.—Mr. Williams and Mr. Orsmond had for some time past preached in the native language. They were not only anxious to instruct the people in religion, but to improve their present condition by encouraging them to build comfortable houses after our example, and to bring under cultivation a larger portion of the soil than they had hitherto been accustomed to enclose. While we remained, we visited the different parts of the district, and called upon the king,—whom we were delighted to find in a neat plastered house,—and, after spending two or three days with them at Vaóaara, we returned to Huahine.
No circumstances connected with the station at Raiatea afforded us more satisfaction, than the favourable appearance under which the education of the inhabitants had been commenced.
Next to the direct communication of the gospel by the living voice, the schools have been considered page 318 as the most important department of regular instruction. We have always superintended the schools, and generally taught the higher classes. In some stations, the boys and the men have been educated in one school, and the women and girls in another; in others, the different sexes have been taught at different times; and in some, they have assembled in the same schools. This, however, has not been general. We have been favoured, in most of the stations, with valuable native teachers, in both the male and female schools. To this method of instruction we have looked for the perpetuity of the work, of which we had been privileged to witness the commencement; and from its influence on the rising generation, we have derived encouragement in reference to the stability and increase of the Christian church.
In the island of Huahine, we had, during the latter part of our residence there, two district schools, one for the males and the other for the females, which we found more conducive to their improvement, than the method of instructing both sexes in the same school. After the departure of Mr. Davies in 1820, the superintendence of the school had devolved entirely on Mr. Barff. The female school in Huahine was under the management of Mrs. Barff and Mrs. Ellis; and those at several of the other stations were also superintended by the wives of the Missionaries.
The habits of the people did not allow of their attending school with that regularity which scholars observe in England. Many of the pupils being adults, had other engagements. In order, however, to ensure as regular and punctual an attendance as possible, the principal instruction page 319 was given at an early hour every morning, that the people might attend the school before engaging in their ordinary avocations. The natives, therefore, assembled soon after sunrise: Mr. Barff usually repaired to the school for the men and boys about half past six o'clock in the morning, and, during the latter part of our residence in Huahine, Mrs. Barff and Mrs. Ellis, either unitedly or alternately, visited the female school at the same hour. It closed in general about eight, after which the people repaired to their daily employments. The boys' school was open at two o'clock in the afternoon, but it was principally for the instruction of children. Many of the adults received instruction more readily than the children, and acquired a knowledge of reading with much greater facility than persons of the same age would do in England. With many, however, more advanced in life, if was a difficult task; and some, after two or three years', application, were unable to advance beyond the alphabet, or the first syllables of the spelling-book. Another source of perplexity resulted from the injudicious methods of the native teachers, who at first, in their zeal to encourage their scholars, repeated to them every word in the columns of spelling, and lessons, so frequently, that many of their pupils could repeat from memory, perhaps, the whole of the book, without being able to read a single line. When they took the book, it was only necessary for them to be told the first word or sentence in a chapter, in order to their repeating the whole correctly, even though the book should be open at some other part, or the page be placed bottom upwards. Such individuals did not always like to go back to the lowest classes; yet it was necessary. page 320 In order to convince them of the propriety of this, they were told we should only distribute copies of the Scriptures to those who could read any part on looking at it.
The native teachers had fallen into this practice, from the influence of former habits. All their knowledge, traditions, songs, &c. were preserved by memory; and the preceptor recited them to his pupil, till the latter could repeat them correctly. The matter of the lessons, they also thought was the great thing to be remembered; and this, together with a desire to facilitate the advancement of those under their care, led them to adopt the method of teaching the scholars to repeat lessons without due attention to the words of the book. It has been, however, discontinued.
After the conclusion of the usual school exercises, Mr. Barff appropriated half an hour to the instruction of the natives in the art of singing. The islanders in general are fond of singing, and always ready to learn. They have not such sweet melodious voices as the natives of Africa have, yet learn to sing, considering their circumstances, remarkably well. Many of the female voices are clear and soft, without being weak; and they usually perform parts appropriated to the female voice better than the men do theirs.
Translations of the most approved psalms and hymns, with a number that are original, have been prepared in the native language, in almost every variety of metre. To these the most popular English tunes are affixed; and with most of those sung by ordinary congregations in England, the natives are acquainted. Mr. Davies, I believe, first taught them to sing, and a tune usually called “George's” was the first they learned. On our page 321 arrival in the islands in 1817, it was in general use; and whenever we walked among the habitations of the people, some parts of it broken upon the ear. It is now, however, very seldom heard. The “Old Hundredth Psalm,” “Denmark.” “Sicilian Mariners,” and others of a more moderate data, are among their greatest favourites.
The Bible has been the basis of the greater part of the instruction given in the schools, but not to the exclusion of other departments of knowledge. In addition to the various portions of Scripture, and numerous tracts that have been printed, a system of arithmetic has been prepared by Mr. Davies, and a table of chronology, which is extensively used; and, so soon as the entire volume of Scripture shall be completed, other useful works will be translated. Although a work on geography has not yet been printed, many of the natives have a tolerably correct idea of the extent, population, and relative positions of the most important countries of the world. They are fond of calculations, and make themselves familiar with figures, so far as their books enable them to proceed. The schools are important appendages o every Missionary station, and are considered such by the most intelligent and influential of the people.
As it respects the spiritual improvement of the rising generation, the understanding of the Scriptures, and the extension of Christianity, Sabbath-schools are the most interesting and encouraging sections of this department. The scholars are the same as in the day-schools, but the mode of instruction pursued is different. Writing, reading, and spelling are not taught, but the time is devoted to the religious instruction of the children. Each class is under the care of a native instructor, page 322 and we have in several of the stations been highly favoured in the co-operation of valuable Sabbath-school teachers. In Huahine we found able assistants among them, especially the teachers in the girls' school. They were not satisfied with attending during the hours of school, and merely imparting the ordinary instruction, or hearing the usual recitals, but identified themselves with the advancement of the children, and exercised an affectionate care over them during the intervals between the Sabbaths.
By this means they gained the confidence and love of many of their pupils, and were resorted to for guidance and counsel in every engagement of importance or difficulty. Frequently one of these teachers, in order to greater quietude, and more unreserved converse with the children, would take her little class to some retired spot in one of the valleys behind the settlement, for the purpose of talking in the most affectionate manner to each individually, and then uniting with them in prayer to the Most High. I cannot imagine a more cheering and affecting scene, than must often have been presented, when a native Sabbath-school teacher has seated herself on the grass, under the shade of a spreading tree, or by the side of a winding stream, and has there gathered her little class around her, for the purpose of unfolding, and impressing on their tender minds, the pure and sacred precepts of inspired truth; or has, under these circumstances, engaged with them in prayer to that God, who is not confined to temples made with hands, and who regards the sincerity of those who call upon him, rather than the circumstances under which their petitions are offered. Their delightful labours in this department of instruction page 323 have not been in vain. Several children and young persons, who have died, have left behind them the most consoling and satisfactory evidence, that they had departed to be with Christ; and others have been at an early age admitted members of the Christian church.
The annual examinations of these schools are among the most exhilarating and interesting festivities now observed in the islands. They are usually held in the chapel, in order to afford accommodation to a greater number of persons than could gain admittance to the schools. Sometimes the adults are examined as well as the children, but, in general, only the latter. Their parents attend, and witness the procedure with great satisfaction. An entertainment and a procession usually terminate the exercises of the day. The change that has taken place has not rendered the people unsocial or melancholy, but has introduced to their families, and more general intercourse, a degree of cheerfulness and reasonable enjoyment unknown before, especially in reference to the rising generation.
One of these anniversaries, held at Burder's Point, the Missionary station in the district of Atehuru, in the year 1824, was unusually interesting. This district had formerly been distinguished for the turbulent and warlike dispositions of its inhabitants, and the ardour of their zeal in the service of their idols—the magnitude of the idol temples—the sanguinary character of their worship—and the presence of Oro, the war-god of the South Sea Islanders. Within the precincts of the Missionary station, not far from the place of worship, one of the great national maraes formerly stood,—where the image of Oro had often page 324 been kept, where human sacrifices were offered, where the inauguration of the last heathen king who reigned in Tahiti took place, and where every cruelty and every abomination connected with paganism had been practised for ages. After the subversion of idolatry, this marae was divested of its glory, stripped of all its idolatrous appendages, and robbed of its gods, while the houses they occupied were committed to the flames. Still the massy pile of solid stonework, constituting one end of the area which the marae included, remained in a state of partial dilapidation—an imposing monument of the hau riaria, reign of error, as they denominated idolatry. The natives where, however, determined to remove even this vestige of the system of which they so long had been the vassals, and therefore levelled, for this occasion, the extensive pile, and with the materials formed a spacious solid platform, measuring three feet high, one hundred and ninety-four feet long, and one hundred and fifty-seven feet wide; the whole surrounded with a stone wall cemented with lime. Here a festival was held on the 11th of June, 1824. Upon this platform ninety tables were prepared, after the manner of preparation for a feast in England. Seats, usually native-made sofas or chairs, were arranged along the sides of the tables, and all the children in the school, about two hundred and forty, dined together.
The Missionaries, and many of the parents of the children, were present—delighted to witness the cheerfulness of the boys and the girls, as they sat together, and unitedly partook of the bounties of Providence. Mr. Darling, the indefatigable Missionary of the station, remarks, “This was on page 325 the very spot where Satan's throne stood, and where, a few years ago, if a female had eaten but a mouthful, so sacred was the place considered, that she would have been put to death.” What a spectacle of loveliness and peace must the platform have on this day exhibited, when compared with the scenes of abomination, absurdity, and cruelty, that had often been presented, when the very materials of which it was composed had formed part of an idolatrous temple. The children afterwards walked in procession through the settlement, halted at each of the extremities, sung a hymn, and then repaired to the chapel, where a suitable address was delivered to them by the pastor. These annual examinations and festivals are not peculiar to Bunaauïa, but are instituted in several other stations of the Georgian group.
In the Leeward of Society Islands the remembrance of these exercises are among the most pleasing recollections I retain of my intercourse with the people. In Huahine they are usually held at the close of the public services connected with the Missionary anniversaries.
On the 11th of May 1821, a large chapel was nearly filled with spectators. The school contained four or five hundred children. Several from each class were examined, and manifested that they had been neither indolent nor careless. I beheld, with no common interest, a number of fine, healthy, and sprightly-looking children on that occasion assembled together, and saw a little boy, seven or eight years of age, with a little fringed mat wound round his waist, and a light scarf thrown over the shoulder, stand upon a form, and repeat aloud two or three chapters of one of page 326 the Gospels, answer a variety of questions, and pass through the whole of his examination with scarcely a single mistake. This was the case with several on that occasion. At the close of the examination, the children were rewarded by Mr. Barff, who, on delivering the presents, which were different books in the native language, accompanied each by a suitable remark to the favoured proprietor. Often, as the little boy has walked back to the seat with his prize—perhaps a copy of one of the Gospels—I have seen the mother's eye follow the child with all a parent's emotion beaming in her eye, while the tear of pleasure has sparkled there; and, in striking contrast with this, the childless mother might be seen weeping at the recollection of the infants, which, under the influence of idolatry, she had destroyed – and which, but for her own murderous hands, might have mingled in the throng she then beheld before her. On the occasion above alluded to, when the examinations in the place of worship had terminated, the children walked, in the same order in which they were accustomed to proceed from the school to the chapel, to a rising ground in the vicinity of the governor's house. Here an entertainment had been provided for them by the chiefs. We followed, amid the multitude of their parents and friends; and, on reaching the place of assemblage, beheld about three hundred boys sitting in classes on the grass on the right-hand side of the rising ground, each teacher presiding at the head of his class. On the left-hand, about two hundred girls were arranged in the same manner. A plentiful repast had been prepared, which was carved, and handed to them as they sat upon the green turf. In the page 327 centre, tables were spread for the chiefs, and the parents and friends of the children: we sat down with them, gratified with their hospitality, but deriving far more pleasure from gazing on the spectacle on either side, than in partaking of the provision. Before the assembly departed, I gave a short address to the parents, teachers, and children. When I concluded, they all stoop up; the boys formed a circle on one side, and the girls on the other, and sang alternately the verses of a hymn in the native language; after which, one of the teachers offered a short prayer,—and we retired, under the influence of emotions of satisfaction; but it was not easy to say whether joy was most powerfully exhibited in the countenances of the children or their parents.
Towards the evening of the day, the children walked two and two, hand in hand, from one end of the settlement to the other, preceded by the flag belonging to the schools. The best boy in school carried the flag; which was not of silk emblazoned with letters of gold, but of less costly materials. The banners of the schools attached to the different stations were various; some of white native cloth, with the word “Hosanna” impressed upon it in scarlet dye; another was of light, but woven cloth, with the following sentiment inscribed upon it, Ia ora te hui arii e ia maoro teienei hau, “Life and blessing to the Reigning Family, and long be this peaceful reign !” The one at Huahine was of blue cloth, with a white dove and olive branch in the centre, beneath which was inscribed the Angels' Song, as the motto of the school.∗ Sometimes the children, as they passed along, would sing, page 328 “Long be this peaceful reign,” or any other motto that might be inscribed upon the banner. And when they walked through the district, a father or mother, or both, have been seen coming from the door of their cottages, gazing with pleasure on them as they passed by, walking beside them, or following them with their eye until some clump of trees, or winding in the road, hid them from their view.
∗Luke ii. 74.
The meeting at Raiatea in the year 1824 was deeply affecting. It was held on a kind of pier or quay built in the sea. Six hundred children assembled to partake of the feast their parents had provided. The boys afterwards delivered public addresses. A religious service in the chapel closed the exercises of the day, and all retired to their respective homes, apparently delighted. Mr. Williams, in reference to this interesting spectacle, questions whether, but for the influence of Christianity, one-third of the children would have been in existence, and states his opinion, that they would not, and that “the hands of their mothers would have been imbrued in their blood.” This was not a groundless opinion, but an inference authorized by the most melancholy but unquestionable facts. At a former meeting held on the spot where the chapel stood, in which the children were examined, he was present. A venerable chief rose, and addressed the assembly, with impressive action, and strongly excited feeling. Comparing the past with the present state of the people, he said, “I was a mighty chief; the spot on which we are now assembled was by me made sacred for myself and family; large was my family, but I alone remain; all have died in the service of Satan—they knew not this good word page 329 which I am spared to see; my heart is longing for them, and often says within me, Oh ! that they had not died so soon: great are my crimes; I am the father of nineteen children; all of them I have murdered—now my heart longs for them. —Had they been spared, they would have been men and women—learning and knowing the word of the true God. But while I was thus destroying them, no one, not even my own cousin, (pointing to Tamatoa the king, who presided at the meeting,) stayed my hand, or said, Spare them. No one said, The good word, the true word is coming, spare your children; and now my heart is repenting—is weeping for them!”