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Samoa Under the Sailing Gods


page 31


Malietoa, being anxious that four of the teachers should take up their abode with him, had sent repeated messages to that effect: to which the teachers replied, that, as the missionaries were expected on shore very shortly, they wished to defer a removal until then. The following morning, on being informed of this, the missionaries determined to place four of the teachers under Malietoa's care, and to give the others in charge to his brother, who had brought them on shore. Having made this arrangement, they thought it advisable to divide the present they intended to make into two equal parts: the one for the elder, the other for the younger brother. This consisted of one red and one white shirt, six or eight yards of English print, three axes, three hatchets, a few strings of sky-blue beads, some knives, two or three pairs of scissors, a few small looking-glasses, hammers, chisels, gimlets, fish-hooks, and some nails. Everything being prepared, they proceeded to the chief's large dancing-house, where they found a great concourse of people waiting to witness this important interview with le alii papalangi, or the heaven-bursting chiefs.

On the missionaries' arrival being announced, Malietoa sent two of his own daughters to spread mats for them to sit upon. They were fine-looking young women, about eighteen and twenty years of age, each wearing a beautiful mat about the waist, a wreath of flowers as a head-dress, and a string of blue beads around the neck. The upper part of their body was uncovered and anointed with scented coco-nut oil.

As soon as they had taken their seats Malietoa made his appearance, bringing in his hands two beautiful mats, and a large piece of native cloth, one end of which was wrapped round him and the other formed a train which an elderly female bore lightly from the ground. Having placed these with ceremony at Williams's feet, he returned, and shortly after came in the same manner and laid similar articles at the feet of his colleague. He then took his seat opposite to them, the people having formed a circle around.

The missionaries thanked him for his present, but added, that to obtain his property was not the object of their visit; for page 32they had come exclusively to bring him and his people the knowledge of the true God, and to place on their island persons to teach them the way of salvation; and they now wished to know whether he was willing that these should remain, and whether he would allow his people to be instructed? He replied that he was truly thankful to them for coming, and that he would receive the teachers, and treat them with kindness. The missionaries then explicitly inquired whether he and his people would consent to be instructed, or whether there would be any obstruction thrown in the way? To this he made answer that he and his people must now go over to Upolu to the war; but immediately after his return he would become a worshipper of Jehovah and place himself under the instruction of the teachers. In the meantime the house in which they were assembled—the largest building in the settlement, a kind of public property, in which all business was transacted and their dances and amusements performed—was theirs, as a temporary place in which to teach and worship; and when they came back from the war they would erect any building that might be required, and the people who remained at home could come to-morrow, if they pleased, and begin to learn about Jehovah and Jesus Christ.

After these assurances, the missionaries informed the chief that they would place their people under the special protection of himself and his brother, and expected that he would preserve the teachers' wives from insult, and their property from pillage. This both of them most readily promised to do. Malietoa then requested that four of the teachers might be desired to come and reside with him, and the others to reside with his brother; and this having been consented to, he pointed out two houses which he intended to present to them for their residence, and said, if they desired it, they could have another. Williams informed him that either Mr. Barff or himself would endeavour to visit them again in ten or twelve months, and, if they found he had fulfilled his promises, English missionaries would come to carry on the work, which those now settled among them might begin.

The missionaries then ordered one of their people to open a basket, and place before the two chiefs the articles they had brought as a present. As soon as the articles were laid out, the page 33chief took up first an axe, and placing it upon his head, exclaimed, "Faafetai le toi tele"—"Thank you for this large axe"; and, having observed the same ceremony with every other article, he concluded by saying, "Thank you for all, thank you for all." He then said that, delighted as he was with his valuable present, he thought far more of them than of their gift; that though he was always a great man, yet he felt himself a greater man that day than ever he was before, because two great English chiefs had come to form his acquaintance, and bring him good. The missionaries were greatly struck by the magnanimous behaviour of Tamalelangi, who endeavoured to pass his present to his elder brother, who, however, refused to accept it.

At the close of this interview, Malietoa informed his people that a large quantity of valuable property had been given to him, and that the English chiefs, to whom he was indebted for it, would want something to eat on their return; "for," he said, "there are no pigs running about on the sea, neither is there any bread-fruit growing there." Upon hearing this, the whole company instantly arose and departed, and in about an hour they returned, bringing with them fifteen pigs of various sizes, with a large quantity of bread-fruit, yams, and other vegetables, the whole of which the chief presented, and observed that it would have been much more but for the war, during which everything was quickly consumed.

That night the missionaries' rest was disturbed by a company of warriors, who had just arrived from some other parts of the island, and who kept up a "rude and noisy dance, to still ruder music," during the whole of the night.

Early the next morning, Malietoa sent a messenger, requesting them to come to his house. They obeyed the summons, and found his majesty seated on the pavement which surrounded his residence. A mat being spread for them, the missionaries sat down, and inquired the business for which they were summoned; when he replied that, having been informed that their water-casks were empty, as it would be inconvenient to fill them at his settlement, where there was no safe anchorage, he wished to acquaint them that there was a fine harbour at Upolu, where they could obtain, with ease, as much water as they required. They thanked him for his information; but intimated page 34that, as it was the seat of war, they might be exposed to danger from both parties, for, at the islands with which they were acquainted, it was a common thing to strip a friend of all that he possessed, to prevent his property from falling into the hands of his enemies, and this might also be a Samoan practice. He replied, that there was no danger, and that he himself would go to protect them, and assist in procuring all that they wanted, but they must wait a day or two, as he could not possibly accompany them immediately.

The missionaries were anxious to learn the cause of the delay: when they were informed that he had sent some axes and other things, which they had given him, to purchase a handsome young wife, who had just arrived, and that the ceremony of marriage was now about to begin.

A group of women, seated under the shade of a noble tree which stood at a short distance from the house, now chanted, in a pleasing and lively air, the heroic deeds of the old chieftain and his ancestors; and opposite to them, beneath the spreading branches of a breadfruit-tree, sat the newly purchased bride, a tall and beautiful young woman, about eighteen years of age. Her dress was a fine mat, fastened round the waist, reaching nearly to her ankles; while a wreath of leaves and flowers, ingeniously and tastefully entwined, decorated her brow. The upper part of her person was anointed with sweet-scented coco-nut oil, and tinged partially with a rouge prepared from the turmeric-root, and round her neck were two rows of large blue beads. Her whole deportment was pleasingly modest. While listening to the chanters, and looking upon the novel scene before them, the missionaries' attention was attracted by another company of women, who were following each other in single file, and chanting as they came the praises of their chief.

Sitting down with the company who had preceded them, they united in one general chorus, which appeared to be a recital of the valorous deeds of Malietoa and his progenitors. This ended, a dance in honour of the marriage was begun, considered one of their grandest exhibitions, and held in high estimation by the people. The performers were four young women, all daughters of chiefs of the highest rank, who took their stations at right angles on the fine mats with which the page break
"Beneath the Spreading Branches of a Breadfruit-Tree"

"Beneath the Spreading Branches of a Breadfruit-Tree"

page 35dancing-house was spread for the occasion, and then interchanged positions with slow and graceful movements, both of their hands and feet, while the bride recited some of the mighty doings of her forefathers. To the motions of the dancers, and to the recital of the bride, three or four elderly women were beating time upon the mat with short sticks, and occasionally joining in chorus with the recitative.

The missionaries saw nothing in the performance worthy of admiration, "except the absence of anything indelicate." They hated the idea of wives being bought.

Having now accomplished all they could, they thought of their beloved wives and families at home, and prepared for their departure. After commending their friends to the gracious protection of God, and supplicating His special blessing upon their labours, they walked down to the beach, accompanied by the teachers, their wives, and children, who wept bitterly at parting from them.