Visit from the Windward Islands—Opposition to the moral restraints of Christianity—Tatauing prohibited by the chiefs—Revival of the practice—Trial and penalty of the offenders—Rebellion against the laws and government—Public assembly—Address of Taua—Departure of the chiefs and people from the encampment of the king's son—Singularity of their dress and appearance—Interview between the rival parties—Return of Hautia and the captives—Arrival of the deputation at Tahiti—Account of Taaroarii—Encouraging circumstances connected with his early life—His marriage—Profligate associates—Effects of bad example—Disorderly conduct—His illness—Attention of the chiefs and people—Visits to his encampment—Last interview—Death of Taaroarii—Funeral procession—Impressive circumstances connected with his decease and interment—His monument and epitaph—Notice of his father—His widow and daughter—Institution of Christian burial—Dying expressions of native converts.
During the year 1821, besides going to Tahiti, I made three voyages to Raiatea, and spent several weeks with the Missionaries there. These voyages were not dangerous, although we were often out at sea all night, and sometimes for nights and days together.—The Hope, whose arrival at Tahiti in April had afforded us so much satisfaction, called at Huahine on her way to England, with a cargo she had taken in at Tahiti. Shortly page 216 after this, we were also favoured with a visit from Messrs. Darling and Bourne, who accompanied the captain of the Westmoreland from Tahiti, in the ship's long-boat. After meeting the Missionaries of the Leeward Islands at Raiatea, they passed some weeks with us in Huahine. Their visit was peculiarly gratifying, being the first we had received from any of the Missionaries in the Windward Islands, though we had been at Fare harbour upwards of three years. The season they spent with us was also distinguished by one or two important circumstances.
Paganism had been renounced in 1816, and a general profession of Christianity followed the commencement of the Mission here; there were, however, a number who felt the restraint Christianity imposed upon their evil propensities, to be exceedingly irksome. These were principally young persons; and though, from the influence of example, or the popularity of religion, they had attached themselves to the Christians, they were probably hoping that a change would take place in the sentiments of the nation more favourable to their wishes, and relax the restriction which the precepts of scripture had imposed. They did not, however, disturb the tranquillity of the community.
But when the chiefs intimated their intention of governing for the future according to the principles and maxims of the Bible, and that the new code of laws had received the sanction of Pomarevahine, as well as that of the ruling chiefs on the island, they began to be apprehensive that the existing state of things was likely to be permanent. They then first exhibited a disposition to oppose their application. Several who had transgressed had been by the chiefs admonished and dismissed; page 217 the latter, at the same time, firmly declaring their determination to enforce the laws which they had promulgated.
Among other prohibitions, that of tatauing, or staining the body, was included. The simple act of marking the skin was not a breach of the peace, but it was intimately connected with their former idolatry, always attended with the practice of abominable vices, and was on this account prohibited. In the month of July, it was discovered that a number, about forty-six young persons, had been marking themselves. The principal chiefs said, that formerly the disobedience of so numerous a party to any order of the chiefs, would have been considered equivalent to a declaration of war, and they should have sent armed men after them at once, and either have slain or banished the delinquents; but now, as they had laws, they wished to know whether it would be right that they should all be tried, and, if found guilty, have the sentence annexed to the crime pronounced against them.
We told the chiefs it would not be wrong, and the next morning attended the trial. It was conducted with the greatest candour and forbearance on the part of the magistrates and accusers, and an equal degree of submission on the part of the offenders, though it appeared they had supposed that from their numbers, and the circumstance of one or two young chiefs of distinction being among them, the government would not have noticed their conduct. They were sentenced to build a certain quantity of stone-work on the margin of the sea.
In a day or two afterwards, it was discovered that Taaroarii, the king's son, a youth about page 218 eighteen years of age, had also been tataued; and this being considered as an expression of his disapprobation of his father's proceedings, and of his determination as to the conduct he designed to pursue, produced a great sensation among the people. His venerable father was deeply affected, and the struggle between affection for his son, and his duty to the people, was evidently strong. The latter prevailed; he directed him to be tried, and attended him to the trial: here he affectionately admonished his son to profit by his experience, and warned the spectators, telling them not to be deceived, and suppose that the laws, by which they had mutually agreed to be governed, would be violated with impunity. Some of the latter observed, If the king's son does not escape, what will become of the common men?
Taaroarii, the chief of Sir Charles Sanders Island, and the expected successor to his father in the sovereignty of Huahine, now assisted in building the portion of stone-work allotted to him. His friends and attendants performed the greater part of the labour—still, there was a feeling of pride that would not allow him to stand altogether idle I visited his house one evening, and entered freely into conversation with him on the subject. He observed, that he was sorry for what he had done, but appeared to indicate, that he did not wish it to be thought that the work assigned him was any punishment.
Several unsteady young men and women, who followed the example of the first party, were also tried, and sentenced to similar punishments; and afterwards two principal personages in the island, by having their bodies tataued, joined their party: these two were, the son of the king of Raiatea, who page 219 was residing at Huahine—and his sister, who had been married to a member of Mahine's family. Their party was now strong, both in point of number and influence, and we expected that the simple circumstance of marking the person with tatau, was only one of the preliminaries of their design; and in this we were not mistaken.
In the month of August, we heard that Taaroarii, with a number of those whom the chiefs had sentenced to labour on the public works, had left their employment, and were gone to Parea, in the northern part of the island. They told the officers of the chief appointed to superintend them, that they intended in a few days to return. The people were greatly attached to the king's son, and the officers, willing to shew him every indulgence, did not oppose his removal; but reports were soon circulated, that he was employing emissaries to invite the disaffected to join him, with the assurance, that as soon as they were strong enough, he intended to assume the government of the island, and abolish the laws—that under his reign every one should follow his own inclinations, with regard to those customs which the laws prohibited. His father being absent at Raiatea, he had judged the present a favourable time for making a vigorous effort.
On the evening of the ninth of September, which was the Sabbath, a messenger came from the chiefs while we were engaged at family prayers, informing me that a large party of wild young men had gone to Parea, and that the son of the king of Raiatea was preparing to follow them. I went down to his dwelling; his wife and several of his principal men were persuading him to remain, and not unite himself with those whose designs were page 220 evidently unfavourable to peace. I mingled my entreaties with theirs, but it was of no avail. His own men, finding he could not be deterred unless by violence, desisted; while a number of young fellows, like-minded with himself, urging him to depart, he hastened after the party that had gone to Parea. As soon as Hautia, the deputy-governor of the island, heard it, he gave orders for the people to prepare to go, and fetch them back the next day.
On the following morning, accompanied by Messrs. Darling and Bourn, I went down to the settlement about sunrise, to witness the proceedings of an assembly convened to consider the events of the preceding day. It was one of the most interesting of the kind I ever attended. The public council was held in the open air, on the sea-beach, in the shade of several tamanu-trees, that grew in front of the governor's house. Hautia sat on a rustic native seat, near the trunk of the principal tree. The chiefs of the different districts, and the magistrates, were assembled near him, while most of the people of the settlement had gathered round, to witness their proceedings, full of anxiety for the result.
It appeared from the declarations of several, that the conduct of the young men, and especially the chiefs' sons, had not proceeded from any desire to ornament their persons with tatau, but from an impatience of the restraint the laws imposed; that they had merely selected that as a means of shewing their hostility to those laws, and their determination not to regard them; that if they might be allowed, without molestation, to follow their own inclinations, no disturbance of the present sort would be attempted; but that if page 221 the restraints of the laws were imposed, and their penalties enforced, they were determined to withstand them. It was also reported that they were armed, and intended to resist all attempts to enforce their obedience.
After a short declaration, it was proposed to go and address them first with kindness, but firmness, inviting them to return; that if they accepted the invitation, well; if not, that they should attempt to bind them, and bring them back; that if they resisted, to use force, but by no means to have recourse to arms, unless they should be first assaulted. This was acceded to by all present. The men repaired for their arms, and in half an hour the greater part of the inhabitants of the district assembled in front of the chief's house, ready to set out as soon as he should lead them.
Before they started, Taua, a tall well-made chief, who had formerly been a warrior and a priest, and who was one of their orators, stood up in the midst, and addressed the assembly. His person was commanding, his features masculine, his head uncovered, and his hair short, black, and slightly curled. A mantle of finely woven bark was thrown loosely over his shoulders, his loins were girded with a purau, and in his hand he held a light spear.
He spoke with considerable judgment and effect. They might as well, he said, leave their weapons at home, as to any use which he expected they would be required to make of them, but that still it was perhaps best to go prepared, and to shew these misguided young men, especially the king's two sons, that it was their determination to make the laws, to which they had openly agreed, the rule of public conduct, to maintain them as they page 222 were, and not to bend them to the views of those whose object was to introduce disorder and to foster crime; to let them know at once, that though they were chiefs, they, as well as their subjects, must respect the laws, or sustain the consequences. We think they will submit, (he added,) but perhaps we are mistaken, and the issue of this day is not altogether certain. God, who overrules all events, and sometimes uses the wicked to accomplish his purposes, may, perhaps, design by them to punish and to humble us, and to give them a temporary ascendency; we ought therefore to look to Him.
I do not vouch for the accuracy of the language, but these are the sentiments he expressed.
Drawing to a close, he turned towards us, as we were sitting on a rustic rail near the outside of the assembly, and observed, that though he apprehended there was no danger, it would be well to be prepared; for should they be overcome, although the young chiefs might be inclined to favour us, they could not restrain their followers; that our property would be a temptation; and that as we were supposed to have facilitated the introduction and enforced the observance of the laws, it might be necessary, in order to our safety, that we should leave the island, even before sunset. A degree of excited animation, attended with a lively and impressive action and an impassioned feeling, which greatly affected us, breathed through the whole of his harangue, and during the latter part we could not refrain from tears.
Shortly after Taua closed, Hautia, who was clad in a loose parau round his loins, a light and beaufully fringed purau mat thrown like a mantle loosely over his shoulders, and holding a light page 223 spear in his hand, arose, and came and took leave of us, and then set off towards Parea, surrounded by the chiefs, and followed by their adherents.
When he rose, and gave with his spear the signal to move onward, there was an evident indication of strong excitement, which continued till they had left the courtyard, not only among those who were going, but among the women, children, and others, who were spectators. Hautia's wife walked on by the side of her husband; many of the other women also went to see the issue of the rencounter. We remained till all had departed.
The chiefs and their people did not proceed in one unbroken column, but, after the departure of Hautia and his companions, followed in small detached parties, consisting of a chief, and three, four, or five of his dependants. Their appearance, equipment, and dress presented a singular spectacle. The symmetry of form, well-shaped and finely turned limbs and graceful steps of some, together with their tasteful, cumberless dress, the light spear in their hand, and the excitement of their countenance, presented a figure that could not be contemplated without admiration; and the only feelings of a different order, on beholding such an individual, were those of regret at the errand on which he was going.
There were others, however, very different in appearance, which made the contrast the more striking; some exceedingly corpulent and heavy, others spare in habit, all arrayed in a different kind of dress from that they ordinarily wore, and some presenting frightful figures. Many wore a kind of turban, others a bandage of human hair, page 224 across their forehead, and round the back of the head.
The most singular head-dress was that worn by Buhia, one of the chiefs of Maeva. It was a kind of wig, consisting of long and yellow beards, fastened in a sort of net-work fitted to the head. Whether they were the beards of vanquished enemies, that had been taken as trophies by his ancestors, as the Americans are accustomed to preserve the scalps of their prisoners, I did not learn. The singularity of his appearance was greatly increased by two or three small whales' teeth, the roots of which were fixed to the net-work, while the points projected through the hair like very short horns: one was placed over each eye, and, I think, one over one of the ears. The other parts of his dress were altogether those of an ancient warrior; and his appearance was so singular, that I could not forbear stopping him a moment, to examine his head-drees, and inquire about it. He informed me that the hair was the beards of men, and that the design of it was to excite terror. On my inquiring what the horny appearances were, I was informed that they were the neho or tara of taehae tahito, teeth or horns of ancient cannibals or wild men. I informed him they were young whales' teeth; but he seemed inclined to doubt it. I could not but think, as I looked at him, that he certainly had succeeded tolerably well in rendering himself a terrible object. One of his attendants, Maro, a plump-bodied, round-faced, good-natured looking man appeared in perfect contrast with his chief, and it was impossible to behold him without a smile. His person was rather stout and short, his hair was cut close to his head, the upper part of his body was uncovered, but round his waist he page 225 wore a pareu reaching to his knees. He had a drummer's jacket on, highly ornamented, and scarlet-coloured; it was, however, too small for him to get it on his back, or to pass his muscular arms through the sleeves; it was therefore fixed on the outside of his pareu, the body of the jacket hanging down in place of the skirts of a coat, while the sleeves, passing round his waist, were tied in a knot in front. His equipment was in perfect accordance with his uniform, for the only weapon that he had was a short brass-barrelled blunder-buss, called by the natives vaha raki, or great-mouth.
Although the events of the morning had been such as were adapted to awaken very different feelings, yet when he turned round his good-natured face to bid me farewell, I could not forbear smiling. His person, dress, arms, and a habit of leaning forwards, which, as he hastened by, exhibited very fully the scarlet jacket, rendered his appearance ludicrous in the extreme.
When the parties had all started, we returned to the valley to breakfast, but were surprised, as we passed through the settlement, to behold almost every house deserted. We inferred that those women and children who had not accompanied the men to Parea, had retired to places of greater security, or better observation. After breakfast, we spent some time in prayer that no blood might be shed, but that the issue of the interview between the rival parties might be conciliatory. We then launched our boat, fixed our masts and rudder, twisted up our matting sails, and waited, not without anxiety, the arrival of intelligence.
The chiefs, before they left, had appointed the following signals. If there was no resistance made page 226 by the young chiefs and their adherents, all would remain quiet till they returned. If they had to fight, they would send a man to fire a musket so near the valley that we might hear it. If the rival party was numerous, and there was danger, two would be fired.
We remained in a state of great suspense during the forenoon, and scarcely saw an individual in the settlement. About twelve o'clock we heard one musket fired, and very shortly afterwards another. This only increased our embarrassment, for although two had been fired, they had not been fired together, and, judging from the report, we inferred that one was much nearer than the other. We, therefore, determined to wait farther intimation, before we took any measures for personal security. In this state of uncertainty we continued, supposing a conflict had certainly commenced; and that the two shots we had heard had, perhaps, occasioned an equal loss of lives.
At two o'clock in the afternoon, however, our anxiety was relieved by the arrival of Tauira, whom the chiefs had sent to inform us that all was peace; that Moeore, the son of the king of Raiatea, and his adherents, had surrendered on the arrival of Hautia, and that the parties were retiring to the settlement. The messenger was almost breathless with speed; and while resting, he united with us in rendering grateful acknowledgments for the agreeable tidings. In an hour or two, Taauroa, one of our people, arrived, and told us the reports we heard were only random shots, fired as expressions of joy, and that it had been done without the knowledge of the chiefs.
Towards sunset we walked to the adjoining district of Haapape, where we were delighted to meet page 227 Hautia and his friends returning; the young chief, who was about six-and-twenty years of age, with his adherents, following in their train as captives. We mingled our congratulations for the issue of the events of the day. We were also thankful to learn, that although one individual had a very narrow escape, yet no life had been lost, and no person injured.
Two days afterwards we attended the trial of the rebels, at a special court, held in the open air. The conduct of each was candidly and impartially examined; and, as many, it was found, had gone merely to accompany the chief, or to procure food, without any intention of joining in the rebellion, they were liberated. The others, who had not only designed but commenced hostilities, by plundering the plantations, killing and eating the hogs of the party favourable to the laws, were sentenced to public labour, and were set to work in small parties, with police-officers to attend them. Although they were repeatedly interrogated as to the reasons for their conduct, they said but little in reply. In the evening of the same day, great numbers of the people attended our weekly service, when I endeavoured suitably to impress their minds in reference to the recent painful events, by directing them to the history of Absalom's rebellion.
There have been two or three slight insurrections in Tahiti since the promulgation of the laws, but they have affected only a small number. They have not been recent, and the laws seem firmly established; but there are many, in all the islands, who find them an irksome restraint, and would most willingly, if an opportunity offered, abrogate them. Such individuals desire page 228 the return of the time when there was no law, and every one followed his own inclinations. In Huahine, though they have been frequently violated, I do not think any attempt has been made to disannul them, since the one above alluded to.
The South Sea Islanders are generally addicted to war. It occurred very frequently, prior to the introduction of Christianity. During the fifteen years Mr. Nott spent in the islands, while the people were pagans, the island of Tahiti was involved in actual war ten different times. The Missionaries were painfully familiar with it. It surrounded their dwellings; and the wounded in battle have often, with the wounds fresh and bleeding, repaired to their houses for relief. This, however, was the only time that I saw any thing like it, though we often heard its rumours. Reports of war have indeed been heard, especially at Tahiti—where, since the death of the late king, very powerful interests, and perhaps some latent feelings of ancient rivalship, have been brought into collision, and where the conduct of some, in the highest authority, has not been at all times the most honourable or conciliatory—but no actual hostility has yet existed. In the Leeward Islands, also, reports of war, and warlike preparations, have appeared—more particularly in reference to the bold and martial chieftain of Tahaa, and some of the restless spirits among the inhabitants of Borabora, once celebrated for their military prowess, and masters of most of the Leeward group—but it has been only rumour.
The transient affair at Huahine, in connexion with which these remarks have been introduced, and similar occurrences in Raiatea and Tahaa— page 229 between the chiefs, together with a great body of the people, on the one side; and those dissatisfied with the moral restraints to which under idolatry they had been unaccustomed, on the other—are the only public disturbances that have occurred. A few disaffected and lawless young fellows in Raiatea, supposing the Missionaries were chiefly instrumental in the adoption and maintenance of the laws, formed a plan for murdering them, and overturning the government. Mr. Williams, who was to have been the first object of their vengeance, averted the threatened danger by what appeared to him, at the time, a circumstance entirely accidental, but which afterwards proved a remarkable interposition of Providence for the preservation of his life. With these exceptions, the inhabitants have, since their adoption of Christianity, enjoyed uninterrupted peace during a longer period than was ever known before.
Noble instances of calm determination not to appeal to arms, have been given by Utami and other governors; the love and the culture of peace having indeed succeeded their delight in the practice of war, even in the most turbulent and fighting districts. It is well known, Mr. Darling observes, in reference to the district of Atehuru, that the inhabitants of this part of Tahiti were always the first for war. False reports having reached the ear of the king's party, that the people of Atehuru entertained evil designs against the royal family, rumours of war were spread by the adherents of the king, but, instead of rejoicing, as they would formerly have done, every one appeared to dread it as the greatest calamity. They gathered round the house of the Missionary, declaring that, if attacked, they would not fight, but would willingly page 230 become prisoners or slaves, rather than go to war. The mischief was thus prevented—those with whom the reports had originated were sought out—an appeal was made to the laws, instead of the spear. The punishment annexed to the circulation of false and injurious reports was inflicted on the offenders, and the parties united in amity and friendship.
As they feel the blessings of peace increase with its continuance, their desires to perpetuate it appear stronger. Its prevalence and extent are often surprising, even to themselves; and some of the most striking illustrations of the advantages of true religion, and appeals for its support and extension, are drawn from this fact, and expressed in terms like these: Let our hands forget how to hi te omore, or vero ti patia, lift the club, or throw the spear: Let our guns decay with rust, we want them not; for though we have been pierced with balls or spears, if we pierce each other now, let it be with the word of God: How happy are we now! we sleep not with our cartridges under our heads, our muskets by our side, and our hearts palpitating with alarm: We have the Bible, we know the Saviour; and if all knew him, if all obeyed him, there would be no more war.
It is not in public only that they manifest these sentiments; in ordinary life at home they act upon them. The most affectionate and friendly intercourse is cultivated between the parties who formerly cherished the most implacable hatred, and often vowed each other's extermination. Offices of kindness and affection are performed with promptitude and cheerfulness; and though by some their weapons are retained as relics of past days, or securities against invasion, by many they page 231 are destroyed. Often have I seen a gun-barrel, or other iron weapon, that has been carried to the forge, committed to the fire, laid upon the anvil, and beaten, not exactly into a plough-share or a pruning-hook, (for the vine does not stretch its luxuriant branches along the sides of their sunny hills,) but beaten into an implement of husbandry, and used by its proprietor in the culture of his plantation or his garden. Their weapons of wood also have often been employed as handles for their tools; and their implements of war have been converted with promptitude into the furniture of the earthly sanctuary of the Prince of peace. The last pulpit I ascended in the South Sea Islands was at Rurutu. I had ministered to a large congregation, in a spacious and well-built chapel, of native architecture, over which the natives conducted me at the close of the service. The floor was boarded, and a considerable portion of the interior space fitted up with seats or forms. The pulpit was firmly, though rudely constructed; the stairs that led to it were guarded by rails, surmounted by a bannister of mahogany-coloured tamanu wood; the rails were of dark aito wood, and highly polished. I asked my companions where they had procured these rails; and they replied, that they had made them with the handles of warriors' spears!
Our friends from the Windward Islands, who were with us when the disturbance at Huahine occurred, had been with us a month, when Pomare's vessel called at Huahine, on her way from New South Wales to Tahiti. Circumstances requiring, that as many of the Missionaries in the Leeward Islands as could leave their stations should meet those of the Windward group, Mr. and Mrs. Williams, page 232 Mrs. Ellis, and myself, accompanied our friends on board the Governor Macquarie.
After five days at sea, finding ourselves near the land, we entered our boat, which had been towed at the stern of the vessel, and, rowing to the shore, landed a few miles to the southward of the settlement at Burder's Point. No effort had been wanting on the part of the captain, to render our voyage agreeable; but, from the smallness of the cabin, number of the passengers, frequent rains, and contrary winds, it had been tedious and unpleasant, and we were glad to find ourselves on shore again. Exhausted by the fatigues of the voyage, we found the walk to the settlement laborious; but on reaching the dwellings of our friends, the welcome, the refreshment, and the rest, we there received, soon recruited our strength and spirits.
We had accomplished our business, and were at Papeete preparing to return, when, on the 24th of September, about three o'clock in the afternoon, a vessel of considerable size was seen approaching Point Venus. By the aid of a glass, we perceived that it was a three-masted vessel, and, in endeavouring to ascertain its signal, we were surprised on beholding a large white triangular banner flying at the top-gallant-mast head. The ship was too distant to allow of our reading the motto, or perceiving with distinctness the device, and we could only conjecture the character of the vessel, or the object of the visit.
The next morning, a note from Mr. Nott conveyed to us the gratifying intelligence, that the ship was direct from England, and that G. Bennet, Esq. the Rev. D. Tyerman, a deputation from the Society, with three Missionaries, had arrived. The page 233 captain had come over in his boat, and, anxious to welcome our newly arrived friends, I accompanied him in his return to the ship. On reaching the Tuscan, we were happy to see Messrs. Jones, Armitage, and Blossom, with their wives, and, afterwards proceeding to the shore, had an opportunity of greeting the arrival of the deputation.
The next morning the ship proceeded to Papeete; and, in the forenoon of the same day, Messrs. Williams and Darling, having returned from Eimeo, we met the deputation, read the letters from the Directors, acknowledged the appointment of the deputation as a proof of their attachment, and expressed our sense of their kindness in forwarding supplies.
The letters they had brought, and the accounts of their intercourse with our friends, were cheering; and after spending upwards of a week very pleasantly in their society, I returned to Eimeo in my own boat, Mr. and Mrs. Williams, and Mrs. Ellis, having sailed to Huahine a week before, in the Westmoreland. Contrary winds detained me another week at Eimeo, during which I visited Pomare. On the 12th of October we set sail, and, after passing two nights at sea, reached Fare harbour in safety on the fourteenth.
The year 1821 was an eventful period in the political annals of Huahine, not only in reference to the promulgation of the new code of laws, but also in regard to the death of Taaroarii, the king's only son, the chief of Sir Charles Sanders' Island, and the heir to the government of Huahine. This event took place very soon after my return from Tahiti.
The circumstances preceding his death were distressing.page 234
The young chieftain was in his nineteenth year; his rank and influence led us to indulge cheering anticipations; and, during his juvenile years, he was greatly beloved by the people. He had also, when it was supposed he could scarcely have arrived at years of discretion, shewn his contempt for the idols of his country, his desire to be instructed concerning the true God, and had prohibited the licentious and idolatrous ceremonies of the Areois, when few were favourable to Christianity. Subsequently, Taaroarii had become a diligent pupil of the Missionaries. We could not but hope that Divine Providence was raising him up to succeed his father, and to govern the islands under his authority, for the stability of the Christian faith, and the advancement of the people's best interest.
These hopes, however, were disappointed. He treated Christianity and the worship of God with respect, was a steady enemy to the introduction or use of ardent spirits by chiefs or people, and was not a profligate man; but, soon after our establishment in Huahine, a number of the most abandoned young men, of that and other islands, attached themselves to his retinue, which was always numerous, became his companions, flattered his pride, and, in many respects ministering to his wishes, they infused their own evil principles into his mind.
Being naturally cheerful and good-natured, he was induced by his companions, first to neglect instruction, then the public worship of God, and, subsequently, to patronize and support his followers. His venerable father beheld the change with poignant grief, and used all the affection, influence, and authority of a parent, to lead him page 235 from those evil courses; but his efforts, and those of other friends, failed.
In order to draw him from this influence, a matrimonial connexion was arranged, and he was united in marriage with the daughter of Hautia, who, next to Mahine, was the highest chief, and deputy-governor of the island. His daughter was near the age of the king's son; and though rather inferior in rank, she was in every other respect a suitable partner, and proved a faithful and affectionate wife.
A house was built for him near the dwelling of his wife's family, and a more commodious one for the youthful couple, adjacent to his father's residence. It was, however, soon manifest that the baneful influence of his former associates was not destroyed. They gathered around him again, and he gave himself up to their guidance and control.
His wife was treated with cruelty, but still continued attentive to his comfort. A number of the most profligate of the young men attached to his establishment, having tataued themselves, he was induced to submit to the same, it is supposed, with a view to screen them from punishment. They imagined the magistrates would not bring him to public trial; and if he was exempted, they knew they should escape.
When it was found that the young chief had actually violated the laws, the magistrates came to the king, to ask him whether he should be tried. The struggle was severe; but, under the influence of a patriotism worthy of his station, he said he wished the laws to be regarded, rather than those feelings which would lead him to spare his son the disgrace to which he had subjected himself. To page 236 convince the people that the government would act according to the laws, and to deter others from their violation, he directed that his son should be tried. Taaroarii received the sentence with apparent indifference, but was so exasperated with his father, that he more than once threatened to murder him, or to cause his destruction.
Some months after this he broke a blood-vessel, it is supposed, with over-exertion at the public work appointed as a penalty for his crime. After this, he laid aside his labour; his people would at the first have performed the work for him, but he would not allow it, and appeared to identify himself with them, in the humiliating situation to which they had reduced themselves. In the conversations we sometimes had with him, he seemed to regret having connected himself with the party who now considered him as their leader.
Shortly after this event, symptoms of rapid consumption appeared, and assumed an alarming character. All available means were promptly employed, but without effect. His father frequently visited him, and his wife was his constant attendant. In order to try the effect of change of air, he was laid upon a litter, and brought on men's shoulders into the valley, where a temporary encampment had been erected near our dwelling. The chiefs of the island, with their guards, attended, and, when they reached the valley, fired three volleys of musketry, indicative of their sympathy.
While he remained here, we often saw him; he was generally communicative, and sometimes cheerful, excepting when the topic of religion was introduced, and then an evident change of feeling took place; he would attend to our observations, page 237 but seldom utter a syllable in reply, and seemed unwilling to have the subject brought under consideration. This was the most distressing circumstance attending his illness, and to none more painfully affecting than to his aged father.
On the last day of his life, Mrs. Ellis and our two elder children, to whom he had always been partial, went to see him; he appeared comparatively cheerful, listened to all that was said, and shook the children by the hand very affectionately, when they said, Ia ora na, or, Farewell. I spent some time with him during the same afternoon, and it was the most affecting intercourse I ever had with a dying fellow-creature.
The encampment was fixed on an elevated part of the plain, near which the river, that flowed from the interior mountain to the sea, formed a considerable curvature. The adjacent parts of the valley were covered with shrubs, but the margin of the river was overgrown with slender branching purau, and ancient chesnut-trees, that reared their stately heads far above the rest, and shed their grateful shade on the waters, and on the shore. Near the edge of the cool stream that rippled over the pebbles, and at the root of one of these stately trees, I found the young chieftain, lying on a portable couch, surrounded by his sorrowing friends and attendants.
I asked why they had brought him there: they said that he complained of heat or want of air, and they had brought him to that spot that he might enjoy the refreshing coolness of the stream and the shade. I could not but admire their choice as I sat beside him, and felt, after leaving the portions of the valley exposed to the sun's rays, as if I had entered another climate. The page 238 gentle but elastic current of air swept along the course of the river, beneath foliage that often formed beautiful natural arches over the water, and through which a straggling sun-beam was here and there seen sparkling in the ripple of the stream.
After mingling my sympathy with the friends around, I spoke at some length to the young man, whose visage had considerably altered since the preceding day. I endeavoured to direct his mind to God, for mercy through Christ, and affectionately urged a personal and immediate application, by faith, to him who is able to save even to the uttermost, and willing to receive even at the eleventh hour, &c.
All prospect of his recovery had ceased; our solicitude was therefore especially directed to his preparation for that state on which he was so soon to enter. This indeed had been our principal aim in all our intercourse with him. On this occasion he made no reply, (indeed I suppose he was unable, had he been disposed,) but he raised his head after I had done speaking, and gazed stedfastly upon me, with an expression of anguish in his whole countenance, which I never shall forget, and which is altogether indescribable. Whether it arose from bodily or mental agony, I am not able to say, but I never beheld so affecting a spectacle.
Before I left his couch, I again attempted to direct his mind to the compassionate Redeemer, and, I think, engaged in prayer with him. The evening was advancing when I took leave, and the conviction was strongly impressed on my mind, that it was the last day he would spend on earth. My eye lingered on him with intense and mingled page 239 interest, as I stood at his feet, and watched his short and laborious respiration; his restless and feverish head had been long pillowed on the lap of his affectionate wife, whose face, with that of every other friend, was suffused with tears. His eye rolling its keen fitful glance on every object, but resting on none, spoke a state of feeling remote indeed from tranquillity and ease. I could not help supposing that his agitated sould was, through this her natural window, looking wishfully on all she then was leaving; and as I saw his eye rest on his wife, his father, his friends around; and then glancing to the green boughs that waved gently in the passing breeze, the bright and clear blue sky that appeared at intervals through the foliage, and the distant hills whose summits were burnished with the splendour of the retiring sun—I almost imagined the intensity and rapidity of his glance indicated an impression that he would never gaze on them again. Such was the conviction of my own mind; and I reluctantly retired, more deeply than ever impressed with the necessity of early and habitual preparation for death.
O ! how different would the scene have been, had this interesting youth, as earth with all its associations receded, experienced the consolations and the hopes of the gospel. I presume not to say that in his last hours, in those emotions of the soul which nature was too much exhausted to allow him to declare, and which were known only to God and to himself, he was not cheered by these anticipations. I would try to hope it was so: for indications of such feelings, his sorrowing and surviving friends anxiously waited.
How striking the contrast between his last day page 240 on earth, and that of Teivaiva, another youth of Huahine, and, like Taaroarii, an only son and an only child, who, when he saw his sorrowing parents weeping by the side of the couch on which he lay, collected his remaining strength, and, rousing himself, said— “I am in pain, but I am not unhappy; Jesus Christ is with me, and he supports me: we must part, but we shall not be parted long; in heaven we shall meet, and never die. Father, don't weep for me. Mother, don't weep for me. We shall never die in heaven.” But the latter of these, while in health and comfort, had been happy in the ways of religion, seeking the favour of God: the former had neglected and departed from those ways, and had lived in the practice of sin.
About nine o'clock in the evening, Mahine sent word that his son was worse. Mr. Barff and myself hastened to the encampment, and found him apparently dying, but quite sensible. We remained with them some time, endeavoured to administer a small portion of medicine, and then returned. A short time before midnight, on the 25th of October, 1821, he breathed his last.
When the messenger brought us the tidings of his death, we repaired to the tent, found his parents, his wife, and an aunt who was exceedingly fond of him, sobbing and weeping bitterly by the side of the corpse. The attendants joined in the lamentation; it was not the wild and frantic grief of paganism, formerly so universal on such occasions, but the expression of deep anguish chastened by submission to the Divine will. We mingled our sympathies with the mourners, spent a considerable time with them, endeavouring to impart consolation to their minds, and then returned to rest, but not to sleep.page 241
The sudden departure of the young chieftain, and the circumstances connected with it, powerfully affected our minds. We had been intimate with him ever since our arrival in the islands, had received many tokens of kindness from him, had watched his progress with no ordinary interest, especially since his removal to Huahine in 1818. We had considered him as the future sovereign of the island in which we should probably spend our days, but he was now for ever removed. We hoped we had been faithful to him. But at times such as this, when one and another was removed from the people amongst whom we laboured, we were led to reflect on the state into which they had entered; and when their prospects had been dark, and their character doubtful, we could not but fear that we perhaps had not manifested all the solicitude which we ought to have done, nor used means available for the purpose of leading them to Him, who alone could deliver from the fear of death, and all the consequences of conscious guilt. Reflections of this kind were now solemn and intense, and I trust profitable.
The funeral was conducted in the Christian manner: a coffin was made for the body, and a new substantial stone vault was built in the south-west angle of the chapel-yard; on account of which, his interment was deferred until five days after his decease.
About three o'clock in the afternoon of the 30th of October, we repaired to the encampment of the king, and found most of the people of the island assembled. About four the procession left the tent. Mr. Barff and myself walked in front, followed by a few of the favourite attendants of the young chief. The coffin was borne by six of his page 242 own men; it was covered with a rich yellow pall, of thick native cloth, with a deep black border. Six young chiefs, in European suits of mouring, bore the pall; amongst them was the son of the king of Raiatea. His wife, his father, and near relations, followed, wearing also deep European mourning. Mrs. Barff and Mrs. Ellis, with our children, walked after these; the tenantry of his own district, and servants of his household, came next; and after them, the greater part of the population of the island.
When we reached the place of sepulture, I turned, and looking towards the valley, beheld, I think, a scene of the most solemn interest that ever I witnessed. Before us stood the bier, on which was laid the corpse of the individual of brightest hopes among all I beheld, destined for the highest distinction the nation knew, whose tall, and, for his years, gigantic form, open and manly brow, had promised fair for many years of most commanding influence, an influence which we once hoped would have advanced his country's welfare. Beside that bier stood his youthful widow, weeping, we have reason to believe, tears of unfeigned sorrow; and who, in addition to the loss she had sustained, was on the eve of becoming a mother. Near her stood his venerable sire, gray with age, and bending with infirmities, taking a last sad look of all that now remained of what had once been the stay of his declining years, his hope and joy; towards whom, in all his wayward courses, he had exercised the affection of a father.
Around them stood the friends, and, along the margin of the placid ocean, and emerging from the shadowy paths that wound along the distant page 243 valley, the mourning tribes, the father, and the mother, with their children, were seen advancing slowly to the spot. Each individual in the whole procession, which, as they walked only two abreast, extended from the sepulchre to the valley, wore some badge of mourning; frequently it was a white tiputa, or mantle, with a wide black fringe.
When the greater part had reached the chapel yard, Mr. Barff addressed the spectators, and I offered a prayer to the Almighty, that the mournful event might be made a blessing to the survivors. The body was then deposited in the tomb—the pall left on the coffin. The father, the widow, and several other friends, entered, took a last glance, and retired in silence, under strong and painful emotion. When we withdrew, the servants placed a large stone against the entrance, and left it till the following day, when it was walled up. The tomb was whitewashed, and a small coral stone placed perpendicularly, at the end towards the sea, on which was inscribed in the native language, this simple epitaph, “Taaroarii died October 25th, 1821.” On the following Sabbath, a discourse was delivered from 2 Kings xx. 1. in reference to the solemn event.
I never saw persons more deeply affected than the friends of the deceased had been during his illness, especially his excellent father, and his wife. For many days prior to his death, the latter sat by his couch, supporting his aching head in her lap, wiping the cold perspiration from his brow, or refreshing him with her fan, watching with fondest solicitude his look, and aiming, if possible, to anticipate his wishes. It ended not with his decease. She scarcely left his body until it was interred, sitting on one side, while his aunt, page 244 or some other relative, sat on the other, through the day; and when overcome with fatigue and watching, falling asleep in the same station at night; yet I never heard the least murmur or repining word against the dealings of God. It was but the excess of sorrow, on account of the bereavement. Two months afterwards she became a mother; and, during our continuance on the island, Mrs. Ellis was considered as the guardian of her infant daughter. Since our departure, the child has been trained, by its mother, according to the direction of Mrs. Barff, and will probably succeed to the government of the island at its grandfather's death.
Mahine, the pious and venerable chief, still lives to be an ornament to the Christian religion, a nursing father to the infant churches established in his country, and the greatest blessing to the people whom he governs. His daughter-in-law, who it was hoped would have supplied to him the place of his departed son, has been removed by death, and disappointed those hopes. The orphan princess, an interesting and amiable child, is under the christian guardianship of Maihara, the daughter of the king of Raiatea, and sister to the nominal queen of the island.
Many barbarous ceremonies attended pagan interment, but, since the abolition of idolatry, the rites and usages of Christian burial, as far as they seemed desirable, or the circumstances of the people would admit, have been introduced, and are generally observed. At each of the Missionary stations, a piece of ground near the sea-shore, and at some distance from the houses, has been devoted by the government to the purposes of interment, and all who die near are buried there.page 245
Those who die in the remote districts are buried by their friends near the place; sometimes in the vicinity of their little rustic chapel, at others in the garden near their dwelling. They are not always deposited in a coffin, as the survivors are often destitute of boards and nails; they are, however, decently interred, usually wrapped in native cloth and matting, and placed in the keel or lower part of a canoe.
If there be a native Missionary or teacher near, he is called to officiate at the interment; if not, a male branch of the family usually offers up a prayer when the body is committed to the earth. Some inconvenience was sustained when the natives first embraced Christianity, with regard to the burial of those who died at a distance from the Missionary station. The heat of the climate was often such as rendered it necessary to inter them on the day of their decease, or on that which followed, and they had not time to send for a native teacher. To obviate this, a prayer suitable to be offered up at the time of interment was written, and distributed among the natives, for the use of those who resided at a distance. This appeared not only according to Christian propriety, but necessary, to guard against any latent influence of the former superstitions, which might lurk in the minds of those who, though they renounced idolatry, were but very partially instructed in many points of Christian doctrine.
At the Missionary stations, the corpse has seldom been brought to the place of worship. We in general repair to the house, and, offering up a prayer with the family, accompany the procession to the place of interment; our practice, however, page 246 in this respect is not uniform, but is regulated by circumstances.
On reaching the burying-ground, we stand by the side of the grave, which is usually about six feet deep, and when the coffin is lowered down, address the friends of the deceased, and the spectators, and conclude the service with a short prayer.
At first they believed that the deceased must be in some degree benefited by this service; and that such should occasionally have been their ideas, is not surprising, when we consider the mass of delusion from which they had been so recently delivered. This, however, rendered it necessary for us to be more explicit in impressing upon their minds, that the state of the dead was unalterably fixed, and that our own benefit alone could be advanced by attending it.—But the views and ceremonies connected with death, and with the disposal of the body, either in the pagan or Christian manner, are unimportant in comparison with the change in the individuals who have died, and the views and anticipations which, under these systems, different individuals have entertained. “One thing, of all I have read or heard,” said the aged and venerable Matahira, “now supports my mind—Christ has said, ‘I am the way.’”
“He the beloved Son,
The Son beloved, Jesus Christ,
The Father gave,
That we through him might live,”
was sung by another in the native language, with the last breath she drew. “I am happy, I am happy,” were among the last words of the late distinguished regent of the Sandwich Islands.page 247
These are expressions no pagan ever used, in looking forward to his dissolution. They result alone from the effects which the mercy of God in Christ is adapted to kindle in our hearts, augmented by gratitude to Him who hath brought life and immortality to light.