Schools erected in Huahine—Historical facts connected with the site of the former building—Account of Mai, (Omai)—His visit to England with Captain Furneux—Society to which he was introduced—Objects of his attention—Granville Sharp—His return with Captain Cook—Settlement in Huahine—His subsequent conduct—Present proprietors of the Beritani in Huahine—House for hidden prayer—Cowper's lines on Omai—Royal Mission Chapel in Tahiti—Its dimensions, furniture, and appearance—Motives of the king in its erection—Description of native chapels—Need of clocks and bells—Means resorted to for supplying their deficiency—Attendance on public worship.
As soon as the new building in Huahine was finished, and appropriated to the sacred use for which it had been reared, the original chapel was converted into a school, and was scarcely sufficient to accommodate the increasing number of scholars.
Two new places, upon the same plan as the chapel, and built with similar matcrials, were afterwards erected, one for the boys' school, and the other for the girls'; these, when finished, greatly facilitated the instruction of the people—the accommodation they afforded, encouraging those to attend who had before been deterred.
The spot on which the old chapel and subsequent school had been erected, was connected with an important event in the modern history, page 365 not only of Huahine, but of the several adjacent clusters of islands. In September, 1773, when Captains Cook and Furneux left Huahine, the latter was accompanied by a native, who had intimated his desire to proceed in the ship on a visit to Britain. He was a Raiatean; who, after a defeat which his countrymen had sustained in an engagement with the daring and warlike natives of Borabora, had taken shelter in Huahine. His inducement to undertake a voyage, of the incidents and exposures of which he could form no idea, does not appear to have resulted so much from a wish to gratify a restless and ardent curiosity, as from the desire to obtain the means of avenging his country, and regaining the hereditary possessions of his family, which were now occupied by the victors.
The name of this individual was Mai, usually called Omai, from the circumstance of the o being prefixed in the native language to nouns in the nominative case. Mai is the name of the present king of Borabora, though I am not certain of his having descended from the same family. The Mai who accompanied Captain Furneux does not appear to have been connected by birth or rank with the regal or sacerdotal class, although, among other accounts circulated respecting him while in England, it was stated that he was a priest of the sun, an office and title unknown in his native islands. He represented himself as a hoa, friend or attendant, on the king. In person he was tall and thin, easy and engaging in his manners, and polite in his address; but in symmetry of form, expression of countenance, general outline of feature, and shade of complexion, inferior to the majority of his countrymen. His conversation page 366 was said to be lively and facetious. He reached England when the interest of Captain Cook's first voyage, and the deep impression produced by his discoveries, were still vivid and universal, and anticipation was raised to the highest pitch, in reference to the developments expected from his second visit to that distant part of the world. Mai being the first native of the islands of the South Sea, brought to England, produced an excitement as unprecedented, in connexion with an untutored islander, as it was powerful and extensive, even in the most polished circles of society. Mai, on his arrival in London, was considered a sort of prodigy; he was introduced to fashionable parties, conducted to the splendid entertainments of the highest calsses, and presented at the British court amidst a brilliant assemblage of all that was illustrious in rank, and dignified in station. The Tahitians in general are good imitators of others; this talent he possessed in an eminent degree, and adopted that polite, elegant, and unembarrassed address, whereby the class with which he associated has ever been distinguished. Naturally quick in his perceptions, and lively in his conversaion, although the structure and idiom of his own language effectually prevented his speaking English with ease or fluency, he was soon able to make himself understood; and the embarrassment he occasionally felt, in giving utterance to his thoughts, perhaps added to the interest of those who were watching the effect which every object in a world so new to him must naturally occasion.
Every place of public amusement, and every exhibition adapted to administer pleasure, was repeatedly visited; and the multiplicity of spectacles page 367 thus presented in rapid succession, kept his mind in a state of perpetual excitement and surprise. The impression made by one object, was obliterated by the exhibition of some new wonder, which prevented his paying particular regard to any. This constant variety deprived him of all useful knowledge, and diverted his attention from the important subjects that demanded his notice while residing in the metropolis of Britain. A most favourable opportunity was afforded for his acquiring that knowledge of our agriculture, arts, and manufactures, our civil and religious institutions, which would have enabled him to introduce the most salutary improvements among his countrymen. Thus he might have become a father to his nation; and his visit to England might have been rendered a blessing to its latest generations. But, as Forster, who accompanied him on his return, laments, “no friendly Mentor ever attempted to cherish and gratify this wish, much less to improve his moral character, to teach him our exalted ideas of virtue, and the sublime principles of revealed religion.” To the censure thus passed upon those, under whose care he spent the period of his residence in England, one exception at least must be made, and that in favour of a name that will ever be dear to every friend of humanity. Granville Sharp became acquainted with Mai, taught him the first principles of writing, and, so far as his knowledge of our language allowed, endeavoured to pour the light of divine truth into his ignorant and untutored mind. He made such progress in the use of letters, that on his voyage to the South Seas, while staying at the Cape of Good Hope, he wrote a letter to his friend Dr. Solander.
During the two years he spent in this country, page 368 he was inoculated for the smallpox, from which he happily recovered; and, loaded with presents profusely furnished by his friends, he embarked for his native island at Plymouth, in the summer of 1776. He accompanied Captain Cook to New Zealand, the Friendly Islands, and Tahiti, and, after an absence of rather more than four years, returned to Huahine on the twelfth of October, 1777.
In this island Captain Cook judged it most prudent to establish his fellow-voyager, and consequently solicited for him a grant of land from the chiefs. It was readily furnished, and a spot marked out, measuring about two hundred yards, along the sea-shore, and extending from the beach to the mountain. Here a garden was enclosed, and many valuable seeds and roots, which had been brought from England or the Cape of Good Hope, were planted. The carpenters of the vessels erected for him a house in the European style, and, on the 26th of October, the presents with which he had been so liberally supplied, were landed, and he took possession of his dwelling. In addition to the seeds and plants, a breed of horses, goats, and other useful animals, were brought on shore; but the greater part of the presents was comparatively useless, and many were bartered to the sailors for hatchests or iron tools. It does not appear that there was any implement of husbandry, or useful tool, included in the catalogue of his presents, though he landed with a coat of mail, a suit of armour, musket, pistols, cartouch-box, cutlasses, powder, and ball! Besides these, however, he was furnished with a portable organ, an electrical machine, fireworks, and numerous trinkets.
The estimate Captain Cook formed of his cha page 369 racter was correct: he appeared to have derived no permanent advantage from the voyage he had made, the attention he had received, or the civilized society with which he had been associated. He soon threw off his European dress, and adopted the costume, uncivilized manners, and indolent life, of his countrymen. Weakness and vanity, together with savage pride, appear to have been the most conspicuous traits of character he developed in subsequent life.
The horses, included among his presents, appear to have been regarded by Mai as mere objects of curiosity, and, when occasionally ridden, it was to inspire terror or excite admiration in the minds of the inhabitants. His implements of war, and especially the fire-arms, rendered his aid and co-operation a desideratum with the king of the island, who, in order more effectually to secure the advantage of his influence and arms, gave him one of his daughters in marriage, and honoured him with the name of Paari, (wise or instructed,) by which name he is now always spoken of among the natives; several of whom still remember him. He appears to have passed the remainder of his life in inglorious indolence or wanton crime, to have become the mere instrument of the caprice or cruelty of the king of the island, who not only availed himself of the effects of his fire-arms in periods of war, but frequently ordered him to shoot at a man at a certain distance, in order to see how far the musket would do execution; or to despatch with his pistol, in the presence of the king, the ill-fated objects of his deadly anger.
The majority of those whom I have heard speak of him, generally mentioned his name with execration rather than respect; and though some of the page 370 chiefs consider him as a man who had seen much of the world, and who possessed, according to their ideas, an amazing mass of information, his memory is certainly very lightly esteemed by his countrymen. As he does not, however, seem to have evinced, either on board the vessels in which he sailed, or among the company with which he mingled while in England, any latent malignity of character, or cruetly of disposition, he might perhaps have returned with very different sentiments and principles, had he fallen into other hands during his visit here.
The spot where Mai's house stood is still called Beritani, or Britain, by the inhabitants of Huahine. A shaddock tree, which the natives say was planted by Captain Cook himself while the vessels lay at anchor, is still growing on what was once part of his garden. The animals, with the exception of the goats and pigs, have all died; and in this instance, the benevolent intentions of the British government, in sending out horses, cattle, &c. proved abortive. The helmet, and some other parts of his armour, with several cutlasses, are still preserved, and, when we arrived in Huahine, were displayed on the sides of the house standing on the spot where Mai's dwelling was erected by Captain Cook. A few of the trinkets, such as a jack-in-a-box, a kind of serpent that darts out of a cylindrical case when the lid is removed, were preserved with care by one of the principal chiefs, who, when we first saw them, considered them great curiosities, and exhibited them, as a mark of his condescension, to particular favourites. What became of the organ and electrical machine, I never knew. Among the curiosities preserved by the young chief of Tahaa, there was an article that I was very glad to see; it was a large quarto English Bible, with numerous page 371 coloured engravings, which were the only objects of attraction with the natives. I was told it belonged to Paari, or Mai, and hope it was given him among the presents from England, although no mention whatever is made of a Bible, or any other book, among the various articles enumerated by those who conveyed him to his native shores.
Within the limits of the grant made to Captain Cook for his friend Mai, some of the Missionaries, who in 1809 took shelter in Huahine, after their expulsion from Tahiti in 1808, erected their temporary habitations. A few yards distant from the spot in which Mai's house stood, and immediately in front of the dark and glossy-leaved shaddocktree planted by Captain Cook, the first building for the worship of Jehovah was erected; and on the same spot the first school in Huahine was opened, in which the use of letters, and the principles of religion, were inculcated.
Nearly in front of the site of Mai's dwelling now stands the residence of Pohuetea and Teraimano, to whom by right of patrimony Beritani belongs. It was, when I was last there, in 1824, one of the most neat, substantial, and convenient modern houses in the settlement, containing two stories and eight apartments. The district around, which when we arrived was altogether uncultivated, and overrun with brushwood growing in wild luxuriance, has been cleared; the garden has been again enclosed, and planted with many useful vegetable productions of the tropical regions. It is cultivated by its proprietors, who, there is reason to hope, are decided Christians. They erected, within the precincts of their garden, a beautiful but rustic little summer-house or cottage, which they call a fare bure huna, or house for hidden page 372 prayer. I one day visited this garden, a few weeks after it had been enclosed and stocked with the most valuable indigenous plants of the islands. Towering above the plantains, papaws, &c., the shaddock planted by Captain Cook appeared, like an inhabitant of another country, in solitary exile; for though the climate is similar in point of temperature to that in which it is accustomed to thrive, its shoots are not so long and vigorous, its leaves are not so clear, dark, and glossy as those of the other plants, and the fruit, though large and abundant, falls prematurely to the ground. The place where it stands is rather damp, and this may, perhaps, have caused it to appear so sickly.
After wandering some time among the clustering sugar-cane, rows of pine-apples, plantains, and bananas, I approached this house for private devotion. A narrow path covered with sand and anaana, or branches of coral, led to the entrance. An elegant hibiscus spread its embowering shade on its rude and lowly roof. A native palm-leaf mat covered the earthen floor,—a rustic seat, a table standing by a little open window, with a portion of the Scripture, and a hymn-book in the native language, constituted its only furniture. The stillness of every thing around, the secluded retirement of the spot, and the varied objects of nature with which it was associated, seemed delightfully adapted to contemplation and devotion. The scene was one of diversified beauty, and the only sounds were those occasioned by the rustling among the sugar-canes, or the luxuriant and broad-leaved plantains, while the passing breezes swept gently through them.
I naturally inferred that the house was appropriated to purposes of secret devotion; and meeting page 373 its proprietor, I asked its use. He informed me that it was devoted to that object, and spoke with apparent satisfaction of the happiness he enjoyed in the retirement it afforded.
The erection of their dwelling, culture of their garden, building the house for hidden prayer, &c. (the labours of the present proprietors of Beritani,) are very different from the erection of a boarded house merely as a fortress, in which are deposited, as the most valued treasures of its inhabitant, arms and ammunition. It does not appear that Mai's house was designed as a model by which the natives were to be encouraged to build their own, but a place of security for the property, which he was recommended to enclose with a spacious native building: and the pursuits of its present occupants are in delightful contrast with the childish exhibition of fireworks, or the display of those trinkets, by which it was endeavoured to impress the minds of the natives with ideas of English superiority. The events which have since transpired were but little anticipated by the distinguished navigator who conducted this simplehearted native from one end of the globe to the other, spared no pains to promote his welfare and comfort, and who, although mistaken in the means he employed, undoubtedly aimed at the prosperity of the interesting people whom he had introduced to the notice of the civilized world.
Visiting almost daily the spot, and living in habits of intercourse with the successors of Mai, I have been often led to compare the views and circumstances of the present inhabitants of Beritani with those of the resident originally left there by its discoverer; and in connexion with the circumstances of Mai after his return to his native islands, page 374 the following beautiful and pathetic lines have often occurred to my mind; and though perused on the spot with sensations probably unfelt elsewhere, I have nevertheless supposed, that could the poet have foreseen what has since taken place, not only in this island, but throughout the group—or had he lived in the present day—he would never, in anticipation of their abandonment so soon after their discovery, have recorded such mournful anticipations:—
“These I can pity,
But far beyond the rest, and with most cause,
Thee, gentle savage,∗ whom no love of thee
Or thine, but curiosity perhaps,
Or else vain-glory, prompted us to draw
Forth from the native bowers, to shew thee here
With what superior skill we can abuse
The gifts of Providence, and squander life.
The dream is past. And thou hast found again
Thy cocoas and bananas, palms and yams,
And homestall thatched with leaves. But hast thou found
Their former charms? And having seen our state,
Our palaces, our ladies, and our pomp
Of equipage, our gardens, and our sports,
And heard our music; and thy simple friends,
Thy simple fare, and all thy plain delights,
As dear to thee as once? And have thy joys
Lost nothing by comparison with ours?
Rude as thou art, (for we returned thee rude
And ignorant, except of outward show,)
I cannot think thee yet so dull of heart,
And spiritless, as never to regret
Sweets tasted here, and left as soon as known.
Methinks I see thee straying on the beach,
And asking of the surge that bathes thy foot,
If ever it has wash'd our distant shore.
Thus fancy paints thee, and, though apt to err,
Perhaps errs little when she paints thee thus.
She tells me too, that duly ev'ry morn
Thou climb'st the mountain-top, with eager eye
page 375 Exploring far and wide the wat'ry waste
For sight of ship from England. Ev'ry speck
Seen in the dim horizon turns thee pale
With conflict of contending hopes and fears;
But comes at last the dull and dusky eve,
And sends thee to thy cabin, well prepared
To dream all night of what the day denied.
Alas! expect it not. We found no bait
To tempt us in thy country. Doing good,
Disinterested good, is not our trade.
We travel far, 'its true, but not for nought;
And must be bribed to compass earth again
By other hopes, and richer fruits, than yours.”
In the visit of Mai, the experiment, in reference to the effect of refinement, civilization, and philosophy, upon the ignorant and uncivilized, was tried under circumstances the most favourable for producing sympathy in one party, and impression on the other:—the result was affecting. The individual who had been brought from the ends of the earth, and shewn whatever England could furnish, suited to impress his wondering mind, returned, and became as rude and indolent a barbarian as before. With one solitary exception, the humanizing and elevating principles of the Bible do not appear to have been presented to his notice, and he seemed to have derived no benefit from his voyage. Well might the poet lament his fate.— But the ship Duff had not sailed, and the spirit of Missionary enterprise was not aroused in the British churches. Institutions, the ornament and the glory of our country, had not arisen. The schoolmaster was not abroad in the earth, and, proceeding onward with the tide of commerce that rolled round the world, the progress of discovery and science penetrating every remote, inhospitable section of our globe; the Bible and the Missionary had not been sent. Had Cowper witnessed these page 376 operations of Christian benevolence, he would have cheered, with his own numbers, those who had gone out from Britain, and other lands, not only to civilize, but to attempt the moral renovation of the heathen.
The regularly framed and plastered chapels in Huahine and Raiatea were the first of the kind in the Leeward or Windward Islands; they were not, however, the only large buildings erected for public worship. Pomare had, ever since our arrival, been engaged in preparing materials, and erecting a chapel, at Papaoa, by far the largest ever built in the islands; it had been opened twelve months before those in the Leeward Islands were finished.
This building, which is called the Royal Mission Chapel, and might, not inappropriately, be termed the cathedral of Tahiti, is certainly, when we consider the imperfect skill of the artificers, their rude tools, the amazing quantity of materials used, and the manner in which its workmanship is completed, an astonishing structure. It is seven hundred and twelve feet in length, and fifty-four wide. Thirty-six massy cylindrical pillars of the bread-fruit tree sustain the centre of the roof, and two hundred and eighty smaller ones, of the same material, support the wall-plate along the sides, and around the circular ends, of the building. The sides or walls around are composed of planks of the bread-fruit tree, fixed perpendicularly in square sleepers. The whole either smoothed with a carpenter's plane, or polished, according to the practice of the natives, by rubbing the timber with smooth coral and sand. One hundred and thirty-three windows or apertures, furnished with sliding shutters, admit both light and air, and twenty-nine doors afford page 377 ingress and egress to the congregation. The building was covered with the leaves of the pandanus, enclosed with a strong and neat, low aumoa, or boarded fence; and the area within the enclosure was filled with basaltic pebbles, or broken coral. The roof was too low, and the width and elevation of the building too disproportioned to its length, to allow of its appearing either stupendous or magnificent.
The interior was at once singular and striking. The bottom was covered, in the native fashion, with long grass, and, with the exception of a small space around each pulpit, was filled with plain, but substantial forms or benches. The rafters were bound with braided cord, coloured in native dyes, or covered nearly to the top of the roof with finely woven matting, made of the white bark of the purau, or hibiscus, and often presenting a chequered mixture of opposite colours, by no means unplesing to the eye. The end of the matting usually hung down from the upper part of the rafter three, six, or nine feet, and terminated in a fine broad fringe or border.
The most singular circumstance, however, connected with the interior of the Royal Mission Chapel, is the number of pulpits. There are no fewer than three. They are nearly two hundred and sixty feet apart, but without any partition between. The east and west pulpits are about a hundred feet from the corresponding extremities of the chapel. They are substantially built, and though destitute of any thing very elegant in shape or execution, answer exceedingly well the purpose for which they were erected.
This immense building was opened for divine service on the 11th of May, 1819, when the encampment page 378 of the multitudes assembled stretched along the sea-beach, on both sides of the chapel, to the extent of four miles. On this occasion, three distinct sermons, from different texts, were preached at the same time, to three distinct congregations. Each audience, consisting of upwards of two thousand hearers, assembled round the respective pulpits within the same building. The king and principal chiefs appeared at the east, which, contrary to the order observed in their antipodes, is considered the court end. The whole number of hearers, according to the nearest calculation, was about seven thousand; and, notwithstanding this number assembled, a space remained between the different congregations.
I have occasionally preached in the Royal Mission Chapel, but never when any other person besides was engaged; consequently, I cannot say what effect is produced on the ear by the delivery of more than one discourse at the same time. In the account the Missionaries give of its opening, they say, the pulpits being at so great a distance from each other, no confusion ensued from the speakers preaching at once in the same house. To an individual who could have stood at one end of the building, a little above the assembly, and directed his glance to the other, the three pulpits and preachers—the seven thousand hearers assembled around in all the variety, and form, and colour of their different costume—must have presented an imposing and a deeply interesting spectacle.
Although divested of every thing like stateliness or grandeur, the first visit I paid to the chapel left a strong impression on my mind. I entered from the west; and the perspective of a vista, extending page 379 upwards of seven hundred feet, partially illuminated by the bright glow of strong noon-day light entering through the windows, which were opened at distant intervals, along the lengthened line of pillars that support the rafters—the clean rustic appearance of the grass-spread floor—the uniformity of the simple and rude forms extending throughout the whole building—the pulpits raised above them—heightened the effect of their perspective. Beside these, the singular novel, light, waving, and not inelegant adornments of the roof, all combined to increase the effect. The reflections also associated with the purpose for which it had been erected, and the recent events in the history of the people, whose first national Christian temple we were visiting, awakened a train of solemn and grateful emotions. How it might be when the house was filled, I do not know; but when empty, the human voice could be distinctly heard from one end to the other, without any great effort on the part of those who at this distance called or answered.
A long aisle or passage, between the forms, extends from one end to the other. In walking along this aisle on my first visit, I was surprised to see a watercourse five or six feet wide, crossing, in an oblique direction, the floor of the chapel. On inquiry of the people who accompanied our party, they said it was a natural watercourse from the mountains to the sea; and that, as they could not divert its channel so as to avoid the building without great additional labour, and judged it best to make a grating at each side under the wall, and allow it to pass in its accustomed course. As it was not during the rainy season that we were page 380 there, it was dry; the sides were walled, and the bottom neatly paved; but in the rainy season, when the water is constantly flowing through, its effect must be rather singular on the minds of those sitting near it during public worship.
One end of the building was used by the inhabitants for divine service every Sabbath; the other parts are only occupied at the annual meetings of the Tahitian Missionary Society, or on similar occasions, when large national assemblies are convened. In 1822, when I last visited it, the roof had already begun to decay. The labour of keeping so large a place in repair would be very great; and the occasions for its use so seldom occur, that no repairs have been made since the king's death; and the exposure being constant, it will not probably last many years longer. The texture of the palm-leaves composing the thatch is not such as to resist for any protracted period and the intense heat of the climate.
It has appeared matter of surprise to many, that the natives should desire, or the Missionaries recommend, the erection of such large places of worship; and I have often been asked, how we came to build such immense houses. The Royal Chapel at Papaoa, however, is the only one of the kind in the islands. It originated entirely with the king, and in its erection the Misionaries took no part. The king, determined in his purpose, levied a requisition for materials and labour on the chiefs and people of Tahiti and Eimeo, by whose combined efforts it was ultimately finished. The Missionaries were far from approving of the scale on which Pomare was proceeding; and, on more than one occasion, some of them expressed their regret that so much time and property should be page 381 appropriated to the erection of a building which would be of far less general utility than one of smaller dimensions. But the king was not thus to be diverted from his original design; and however injudicious the plan he pursued might be, the motives by which he was influenced were certainly commendable. He frequently observed, that the heaviest labour and the most spacious and enduring buildings ever erected, were in connexion with the worship of their former deities, illustrating his remarks by allusion to the national maraes at Atehuru, Tautira, and other parts; declaring, at the same time, his conviction that the religion of the Bible was so much superior to that under which they formerly lived, and the service of the true God so happy and beneficial in its influence, that they ought to erect a much better place for the homage of Jehovah than had ever been reared for the worship of their idols.
In this statement of his motives, we have every reason to believe the king was sincere, and we consequently felt less inclined to object. It is probable, also, that considering the Tahitians as a Christian people, he had some desire to emulate the conduct of Solomon in building a temple, as well as surpassing in knowledge the kings and chieftains of the islands. When, in the course of conversation, the building was mentioned, or he was asked why he reared one so large, he inquired whether Solomon was not a good king, and whether he did not erect a house for Jehovah superior to every building in Judea, or the surrounding countries.
Excepting its lengthened vista, and the singular appearance of the ornamented roof, there is nothing very prepossessing in the interior of the page 382 Royal Mission Chapel; and its length is so very disproportioned to its width and elevation, that the exterior is neither elegant nor imposing; and although it breaks the uniformity and loneliness of the landscape, it can hardly be said that its introduction has been an improvement. Pomare, however, appeared to experience great satisfaction in superintending its erection, and in marking its progress. He was present, surrounded by not fewer than seven thousand of his subjects, when it was for the first time appropriated to the sacred purpose for which it had been built, and his feelings on that occasion were, no doubt, of a superior and delighful kind—very different from those of his predecessors in the government of Tahiti, and especially of his father, who, when the Missionaries built their little chapel at Matavai, for which he had furnished the timber, sent a large fish, requesting it might be suspended in the temple of the God of Britain, that he might share his favour, and secure his aid, as well as that of the gods of Tahiti.
The first places of worship erected by the natives, after the subversion of idolatry, were comparatively small in size, and differed but little from the common native houses, excepting in the manner in which the interior was fitted up. This was generally done by fixing benches from one end to the other, and erecting a kind of desk or table equally distant from both extremities, and near one of the sides. These chapels were formerly numerous, and the inhabitants of each district had their own fare bure, or house of prayer, in which they were accustomed to assemble twice on the Sabbath, and once during the week, for reading the scriptures and prayer. Such was the rapidity page 383 with which places for public worship were erected, that at the close of 1818, twelve months only after the battle of Narii, near Bunaauïa, there were sixty-six in the island of Tahiti alone.
Since the establishment of the stations in Huahine and the other islands, the number has been greatly diminished; the people in many parts have resorted to the Missionary settlement, particularly on the Sabbath; and the places formerly used as chapels have been converted into schools. Places now used for worship in the islands, although not so numerous as formerly, are much more convenient and substantial. The walls are either of plank or plaster, the floors are boarded, and the area within is fitted up with a pulpit, desk, and pews, or seats. Some have neat and commodious galleries; and in the island of Eimeo, on the site of the temple in which Patii was priest, a neat and substantial chapel has been built with white hewn coral.
I have not heard that glass windows have been introduced into the chapels of any of the stations. Cushions have not yet intruded into any of the pews, and only into one of the pulpits.
No native chapel is yet furnished with a public clock; and although it would be a valuable article, there is not such a thing in the South Sea Islands. The stations have also been hitherto but indifferently supplied with a far more useful appendage to their places of public worship than even a dial, namely, a bell. Whatever may be said of the inutility of bells in churches or chapels in civilized countries, where public clocks are numerous, and watches almost universal—the same objections will not apply to a people destitute of these, and having no means of denoting the hour of the day, page 384 except by mentioning the situation of the sun in the heavens. In the South Sea Islands they certainly are not a needless article, and we found it impossible to induce the people to attend the schools, or assemble for public worship, at any regular or appointed season, without some such method of calling them together. For several years there was, in all the islands, only one small handbell, not so large as that ordinarily used by the belman in an English market-town.
As the number of stations increased, bells were sent from England, but they were either too small, badly made, or carelessly used, and were frequently broken a few days after their arrival. Various were the expedients resorted to for supplying the deficiency thus occasioned, and I have often been amused at beholding the singular substitutes employed. In the Sandwich Islands they sometimes used a bullock's horn, or a long tin horn resembling that used by a mail-coach guard; but, in general, a far more classic instrument, a beautiful marine shell, a species of turbo, or trumpet-shell, varying in size according to the power of the individual by whom it might be sounded. This, in fact, was the trumpet carried by the king's messenger; and I have often been delighted to see a tall and active man, or a lively and almost ruddy boy, with a light cloak or scarf thrown loosely over his shoulder, a wreath of flowers on his head, and a maro or girdle around loins,—a shell, suspended by a braided cord, carelessly hanging on his arm,—going round the village, stopping at intervals to sound his shell, and afterwards, perhaps, inviting the listening throng to hasten to the school, or to attend the place of worship. I procured a trumpet-shell page 385 actually used for these purposes in Oahu, during my residence there, and consider it one of the most interesting curiosities which I was enabled to deposit in the Missionary Museum.
At Eimeo, a thick hoop of iron, resembling the tier of a small carriage-wheel, suspended by a rope of twisted bark, and struck with an iron bolt, was substituted for a bell. At Huahine, during the greater part of my residence there, we had a square bar of iron, hanging by a cord of parau bark, from a high cocoa-nut tree that grew near the chapel; and our only means of calling the inhabitants of the settlement together was, by appointing a person, at the proper hour, to strike it several minutes with a hard stone. It had been so long in use, that the bar of iron was considerably battered by the blows.
The Missionaries at Raiatea procured what is called a pig of cast-iron ballast, a solid piece about three or four feet long, and six or nine inches square, with a hole through one end. Near the chapel they erected a low frame, consisting of two upright posts, and a cross-piece at the top, resembling a gallows, from the centre of which the pig of iron was suspended; and when used, struck with a stone. What the natives thought of it I do not know, but to those who were accustomed to associate with a gallows, and any object so attached to it, only ideas of an execution, or of a criminal hung in irons, its appearance was not adapted to awaken very gratifying feelings.
At Borabora, for a long time after Mr. Orsmond's settlement there, their only substitute for a bell was a broad carpenter's axe. The handle was taken out, a string passed through the eye, and when the inhabitants were to page 386 assemble, a native boy went through the settlement, holding it up by the string with one hand, and striking it with a stone which he held in the other. When I last saw the boy going his accustomed rounds, I perceived that, in consequence of frequent and continued use, the side he struck had actually become concave, the opposite exhibiting a corresponding convexity.
But the most rude and simple expedient I ever beheld was at Raivavai, or High Island, where every implement of iron was as precious and as scarce as bells or clocks were at the other stations. At Raiatea, a sun-dial was erected, by which the natives, when the sun shone, were informed of the proper time for ringing their bell: at the other stations they usually applied to the Missionaries, by whose watches the meetings were regulated, but here they had neither dial nor watch: they therefor regulated their time of assembling in the school or the chapel by the situation of the sun. At the appointed time, the person whose office it was to call them together, went to the green-spreading tree, from one of whose lower branches their rude unpolished bell was suspended. It was a rough flat oval-shaped stone, about three feet long, and twelve or eighteen inches wide. A piece of twisted bark was tied across it, and fastened to the tree. A number of small round stones lay underneath, with which, when it was necessary to call the people together, the large one was struck. I could not imagine its use, until, in answer to my inquiry, the native teacher said, “It is the bell with which we call the people to prayers.” It appeared metallic to a great degree, as the sound produced by striking it was considerable; but not, I should think, such as could page 387 be heard at a distance. These circumstances appear trivial, but they serve to shew the expedients resorted to in a state of society so peculiar as that now prevailing in the South Sea Islands.
For school the bell is rung, the shell sounded, or the bar of iron beaten, only once; which is about a quarter of an hour before it commences. For public worship it is repeated a second time—once at a quarter before the commencement, and again immediately preceding the service; and indifferent as the means of giving public notice are there is no cause to complain of delay or interruption, from the late attendance of the people. They are punctual in repairing to the house of prayer after the first intimation, and are usually all assembled before the period for the service to commence has arrived. Their ready and early attendance is a circumstance cheering to their teachers, who often receive a message, informing them, that though it may not be time to ring the second bell, the house is full, and the people are waiting. This is not only manifested with regard to their Sabbath-day services, but their lecture on Wednesday evening, and their monthly Missionary prayer-meetings. It is true, their occupations at home are seldom very urgent, and they have not much to neglect; it is nevertheless encouraging to notice, that they do not wish to avoid a place of worship, when a public service is held.