Arrival in the South Sea Islands—Anchorage in Matavai—Visit from Pomare—Landing his horse—Interview with the queen and princess—Astonishment of the natives on viewing the horse and his rider—Voyage to Eimeo—Opunohu, or Taloo harbour—Landing at Eimeo—Welcome from the natives—First night on shore—Present from the chiefs—Visit to the schools—First Sabbath in the islands—Description of the native chapel—Appearance and behaviour of native congregations—Voyage to Afareaitu—Native meal—Description of Afareaitu—Removal thither—Means of conveyance—Arrival at the station.
In the interesting state described in the preceding chapter, we found the inhabitants on our arrival in the early part of 1817.
In the afternoon of the 4th of February we sailed from Tubuai; but, in consequence of unfavourable winds, did not reach Tahiti till the 10th. As we approached its southern shore, a canoe came off with some natives, who brought a pig and vegetables for sale; but the wind blowing fresh, we soon passed by, and had little more than a glance at the people. About sunset we found ourselves a short distance to the northward of Point Venus, having sailed along the east and northern shores of Tahiti, charmed with the rich and varied scenery of the island, justly denominated the queen of the page 194 Pacific, whose landscapes, though circumscribed in extent, are
“So lovely, so adorned
With hill, and dale, and lawn, and winding vale,
Woodland, and stream, and lake, and rolling seas,”
that they are seldom surpassed, even in the fairest portions of the world.
On the morning of the 16th of February, 1817, as the light of the day broke upon us, we discovered that during the night we had drifted to a considerable distance from the island; the canoes of the natives, however, soon surrounded our vessel; numbers of the people were admitted on board, and we had the long desired satisfaction of intercourse with them, through the medium of an interpreter. They were not altogether so prepossessing in person, as, from the different accounts I had read, I had been led to anticipate. The impression produced by our first interview was, notwithstanding, far from being unfavourable; we were at once gratified with their vivacity, and soon after with the simple indications of the piety which several exhibited. A good-looking native, about forty years of age, who said his name was Maine, and who came on board as a pilot, we invited to our breakfast. We had nearly finished, when he took his seat at the table; yet, before tasting his food, he modestly bent his head, and, shading his brow with his hand, implored the Divine blessing on the provision before him. Several of the officers were much affected at his seriousness; and though one attempted to raise a smile at his expense, it only elicited from him an expression of compassion. To me it was the most pleasing sight I had yet beheld, and imparted a higher zest to the enjoyment page 195 I experienced in gazing on the island, as we sailed along its shores.
Midday was past before we entered Matavai bay. As we sailed into the harbour, we passed near the coral reef, on which Captain Wallis struck on the 19th of June, 1767, when he first entered the bay. His ship remained stationary nearly an hour; and, in consequence of this circumstance, the reef has received the name of the Dolphin rock. As we passed by it, we felt grateful that the winds were fair and the weather calm, and that we had reached our anchorage in safety.
Matavai is rather an open bay, and although screened from the prevailing trade winds, is exposed to the southern and westerly gales, and also to a considerable swell from the sea. The long flat neck of land which forms its northern boundary, was the spot on which Captain Cook erected his tents, and fixed his instruments for observing the transit of Venus; on which account, it has ever since been called Point Venus. Excepting those parts enclosed as gardens or plantations, the land near the shore is covered with long grass, or a species of convolvulus, called by the natives pohue; numerous clumps of trees, and waving cocoa - nuts, add much to the beauty of its appearance. A fine stream, rising in the interior mountains, winds through the sinuosities of the head of the valley, and, fertilizing the district of Matavai, flows through the centre of this long neck of land, into the sea.
Such, without much alteration, in all probability, was the appearance of this beautiful bay, when discovered by Captain Wallis, in 1767; and two years after, when first visited by Capatain Cook; or when Captain Bligh, in the Bounty, spent six page 196 months at anchor here in 1788 and 1789; when Captain Vancouver arrived in 1792; Captain New, of the Dædalus, in 1793; and Captain Wilson, in the Duff, who anchored in the same bay on the 6th of March, 1797.
It was on the northern shores of this bay, that eighteen of the Missionaries, who left England in the Duff, first landed, upwards of thirty years ago.
And, although the scene before me was now one of loveliness and quietude, cheerful, yet placid as the smooth waters of the bay, that scarcely rippled by the vessel's side, it has often worn a very different aspect. Here the first Missionaries frequently heard the song accompanying the licentious Areois dance, the deafening noise of idol worship, and saw the human victim carried by for sacrifice: here, too, they often heard the startling cry of war, and saw their frighted neighbours fly before the murderous spear and plundering hand of lawless power. The invaders torch reduced the native hut to ashes, while the lurid flame seared the green foliage of the trees, and clouds of smoke, rising up among their groves, darkened for a time surrounding objects. On such occasions, and they were not infrequent, the contrast between the country and the inhabitants must have been most affecting, appearing as if the demons of darkness had lighted up infernal fires, even in the bowers of paradise.
Most of the islanders who had boarded us in the morning continued in the ship, others arrived as we approached the bay; and long before we anchored, our decks were crowded with natives. Our prepossessions in their favour continued to increase, and we viewed them with no ordinary page 197 interest, as those among whom we were to spend the remainder of our days. Many of them wore some article of European dress, and all were attired in native cloth, though several had only a maro, or broad girdle, round the waist. There was a degree of openness in their countenances, and vivacity in their manners, which was not unpleasing.
We had not been long at anchor, before Pomare sent us a large albicore, and a variety of provisions, and shortly after came on board. I was struck with his tall and almost gigantic appearance; he was upwards of six feet high, and seemed about forty years of age. His forehead was rather prominent and high, his eyebrows narrow, well defined, and nearly straight; his hair, which was combed back from his forehead, and the sides of his face, was of a glossy black colour, slightly curled behind; his eyes were small, sometimes appearing remarkably keen, at others rather heavy; his nose was straight, and the nostrils by no means large, his lips were thick, and his chin projecting. He was arrayed in a handsome tiputa, of native manufacture. His body was stout, but not disproportioned to his height; and his limbs, though well formed, were not firm and muscular. He welcomed me to Tahiti; but, at the same time, appeared disappointed when he learned that only one Missionary had arrived, having been led to expect several. His acquaintance with English was very partial, and mine with Tahitian much more so; our conversation was, consequently, neither free nor animated. He inquired after King George, Governor Macquarrie, and Mr. Marsden; the time of our departure from New Holland; the nature of our voyage, &c. These page 198 inquiries I answered, and handed him a number of small presents which I had brought from England, adding a curious penknife of my own, which he had appeared desirous to possess. He had a small English Bible, and, at his request, I read to him one or two chapters. He appeared to understand, in some degree, the English language, although unable to speak it. After spending some time in the cabin, the king went to see the cattle we had brought from New South Wales, and particularly a horse, which the owners of the ship had sent him as a present.
Pomare was greatly delighted with the horse; and, in the course of the afternoon, the poor animal, after having been hung in slings, and unable to lie down during the greater part of the voyage, was hoisted out of the hold, to be taken ashore in a large pair of canoes which the king had ordered alongside for that purpose. During this transition, while the horse was suspended midway between the gangway and the yard-arm, some of the bandages gave way; when the animal, after hanging some time by the neck and fore-legs, to the great terror both of Pomare and the captain, slipped through the slings, and, clearing the ship's side, fell into the sea. He instantly rose to the surface; and, snorting, as if glad, even under these circumstances, to gain his freedom, swam towards the shore; but the natives no sooner saw him at liberty, than they plunged into the water, and followed like a shoal of sharks or porpoises after him. Some seizing his mane, others his tail, endeavoured to hold him, till the terrified creature appeared in great danger of a watery grave. The captain lowered down the boat; the king shouting, directed the natives to leave the horse to himself; but page 199 his voice was lost amid the din and clamour of the crowds that accompanied the exhausted and frightened animal to the land. At length he reached the beach in safety; and, as he rose out of the water, the natives on the shore fled with precipitation, climbing the trees, or crouching behind the rocks and the bushes for security. When, however, they saw one of the seamen, who had landed with the captain from the ship, take hold of the halter that was on his neck, they returned, to gratify their curiosity. Most of them had heard of horses, and some of them had, perhaps, seen those belonging to Mai, (Omai,) landed on the island by Captain Cook, forty years before; but it was undoubtedly the first animal of the kind the greater part of them had ever seen.
The king had not been long on board, when the queen arrived, and was ushered into the cabin. Her person was about the middle stature; her complexion fairer than any other native I have seen; her form elegant, and her whole appearance prepossessing. Her voice, however, was by no means soft, and her manners were less engaging than those of several of her companions. She was habited in a light loose and flowing dress of beautifully white native cloth, tastefully fastened on the left shoulder, and reaching to the ankle: her hair was rather lighter than that of the natives in general; and on her head she wore a light and elegant native bonnet, of green and yellow cocoa-nut leaves; each ear was perforated, and in the perforation two or three flowers of the fragrant Cape jessamine were inserted. She was accompanied by her sister, Pomare-vahine. Aimata, the young princess, only daughter of Pomare and the queen, who appeared about six years of age, was brought by her nurse, and followed page 200 by her attendants into the cabin. We delivered the few presents we had brought for them, regretting that we could not enter into conversation. They spent about two hours on board; and then, followed by their numerous retinue, returned to the shore.
Soon after sunrise the next morning, our vessel was surrounded with canoes, and provisions in abundance were offered for barter. Pomare also sent us a present.
About nine o'clock, I saw crowds of natives repairing towards the place where the horse had been tied up, in charge of one of Pomare's favourite chiefs; and shortly afterwards he was led out, while the multitude gazed at him with great astonishment. Soon after breakfast, our captain landed with the saddle and bridle, and other presents, which Mr. Birnie, of Sydney, had sent out with the horse. They were delivered to Pomare, who requested that the saddle and bridle might be put on the horse, and that the captain would ride him. His wishes were complied with, and the multitude appeared highly delighted when they saw the animal walking and running along the beach, with the captain on his back. They called him buaa-horo-fenua and buaa-afai-taata; landrunning pig, and man-carrying pig. About midday the captain returned to the ship; and we shortly afterwards weighed anchor, and sailed for the island of Eimeo.
We enjoyed a most delightful sail along the northern part of Eimeo the next morning, and soon after twelve o'clock anchored in the spacious and charming bay of Opunohu, or, as it is usually called by foreigners, The harbour to Taloo.
Long before we anchored, Messrs. Bicknell, page 201 Wilson, Henry, and Davies, came on board, followed by the other members of the Mission, who greeted our arrival with satisfaction. We accompanied them to the shore, and landed on the western side of the bay, in the afternoon of the 13th of February, 1817, happy, under circumstances of health and comfort, to enter upon our field of future labour, and grateful for the merciful providence by which we had been conducted in safety to the end of our long and eventful voyage.
On reaching the habitations of the Missionaries, we were cordially welcomed to their society, and were rejoiced to behold them cheered by the intelligence we had brought, and the prospect of receiving a still greater accession to their numbers. The evening passed pleasantly and rapidly away; many of the pious inhabitants and chiefs, in the neighbourhood, came to greet our arrival, with evident emotions of delight; among them was one, whose salutation I shall never forget: “Ia ora na oe i te Atua, Ia ora oe i te haere raa mai io nei, no te Aroha o te Atua ce i tae mai ai;' “Blessing on you from God, peace to you in coming here, on account of the love of God are you come.” These were his words. His person was tall and commanding, his hair black and curling, his eyes benignant, and his whole countenance beamed with a joy that declared his tongue only obeyed the dictates of his heart. His name was AUNA, a native of Raiatea, formerly an Areoi and a warrior, who had arrived, with numbers of his countrymen, to the support of Pomare, after his expulsion from Tahiti, but whose heart had been changed by the power of the gospel of Christ. He was afterwards associated page 202 with us at Huahine, subsequently became my fellow-labourer in the Sandwich Islands, and was, when I last heard from the islands, about to be ordained pastor of a Christian church in Sir Charles Sander's Island.
At a late hour we retired to rest, but not to sleep. We needed and sought repose, but the incidents of the day had produced a degree of excitement that did not speedily subside; in addition to which, the constant and loud roaring of the surf kept us awake till nearly daybreak. The house in which we lodged was near the shore; and the long heavy billows of the sea rolling in successive surges over the coral reefs that surround the island, kept up, through the night, a hollow and heavy sound, resembling that produced by the rumbling of carriages in a vast city, heard at a distance in the stillness of evening. The wall, or outside of the dwelling, was composed only of large sticks, or poles, placed perpendicularly from the floor to the roof, two or three inches apart, so that we could see the ocean on one side, and the dark outline of the inland mountains on the other; while looking up through the roof, which was, in this respect, like Ossian's ghost, we discerned the stars twinkling in a blue and cloudless sky. We did not, however, feel the air too cool; and our lodging was quite as good as that in which the Missionaries to the Sandwhich Islands passed their first night in Honoruru; and much better than Mr. Marsden, and his companion, procured in New Zealand. The first night he passed on shore, he slept on the earthen floor, by the side of a warrior, the murder of the crew of the Boyd, and a cannibal; and the spot on which he lay was encircled by native spears fixed in the ground.page 203
In the morning we arose somewhat refreshed; and, in the course of the day, landed our goods from the vessel. A house had been prepared, by the king, for the expected Missionaries; but, as it was damp, and our residence at Papetoai was not likely to be permanent, we took up our abode in a dwelling already occupied in part by Mr. Crook and his family.
I was astonished at the accounts I now received, of the change that had taken place among the people. The profession of Christianity was general, many had learned to read, and were teaching others; all were regular in their exercises of devotion; and, in many of the small gardents attached to the native houses, it was pleasing to see the little fare bure huna, house for hidden prayer. The Missionaries, who, in 1812, had returned from Port Jackson, were joined in 1816 by Mr. Crook, who had been formerly stationed by Captain Wilson in the Marquesas. They had visited Tahiti, for the purpose of preaching to the inhabitants, but they had not been able to re-establish the Mission in their original station, and were, consequently, all residing at Eimeo when we arrived.
The chiefs of the district, and island, soon visited us, received a few articles as presents, and appeared highly gratified with what they saw, especially with some engravings of natural history. They sent us a present of food; or, as they call it, “faaamua,” a feeding; consisting of two or three large pigs, which were dragged along by force, squalling all the way, and tied to a stick near the door; a number of bunches of plantains, bananas, cocoa-nuts, and bread-fruit, were also brought, and piled up in three heaps on the sand, near the pigs. I was then called out, and a native repeated page 204 the names of the chiefs who had sent us the food; and, pointing to the heaps of fruit and the pigs, said one was for me, and another for Mrs. Ellis, and the third for our infant daughter. He then directed the native servants of the house to take care of it, and departed.
Soon after my arrival, I visited the school, and was greatly delighted to behold numbers of adults, as well as children, under the direction of Messrs. Davies and Tessier, learning their alphabet and their spelling, or reading with distinctness their lessons, which were principally extracts from Scripture.
The building, in which they were taught, stood near the sea-beach, under the shade of a clump of cocoa-nut trees. Though of no very durable kind, it appeared well adapted for the purpose to which it was appropriated. It was upwards of sixty feet long, but rather narrow. The thatch was composed of the leaves of the pandanus, neatly fastened on rafters of purau or hibiscus, and the walls, or sides and ends, were formed with straight branches resembling the rafters, and planted in the ground about two inches asunder. There was a door at each end; windows were altogether unnecessary in such a building, as the space between the poles, forming the outside, admitted light and air in abundance; and wind, with rain, sometimes in larger quantities than was quite agreeable. The floor, which was of sand, was covered with long dry grass. A rustic sort of table, or desk, between three and four feet high, stood on one side, equally distant from each end, and the whole of the building was filled with low forms, on which the natives were sitting; while on one side I saw one or two forms longer and page 205 broader than the rest, with small ledges on the sides, filled with sand, for the purpose of teaching writing after the manner of the national schools in England. A number of pillars in the centre supported the ridge-pole, or rather the different ridge-poles, which unitedly sustained the roof. The different joints in these, and the narrow horizontal boards supporting the bottoms of the rafters, presented a kind of chronological index to the history of the place. It was first erected by the liberality of a gentleman in London. He presented to Tapioi, the Marquesan youth who accompanied Mr. Bicknell to England, the articles with which the natives were hired to build this first school and chapel in Eimeo. It was then much more compact, and the width better proportioned than it now appeared. It had always been employed, not only as a school, but also as a chapel. When the number of scholars and worshippers of the true God increased, so as to render accommodation difficult, one of the ends had been taken down, a new piece of timber joined to the ridgepole, the building lengthened about twelve or fifteen feet, and the end then closed up. When the place became again too small, a similar enlargement had been made; and, as the new piece which supported the roof, was laid upon the former ridge-pole, it distinctly marked the increase of Christian worshippers at the place within the last four or five years.
The first Sabbath I spent in the islands, was a day of deep and delightful interest. The Missionaries were accustomed to meet for prayer at sunrise, on the morning of the Sabbath. This service I attended, and was also gratified to find, that not fewer than four of five hundred of the natives, page 206 imitating their teachers in this respect, met for the purpose of praise and supplication to the true God, during the interval of public worship, which was held early in the morning, and at four in the afternoon.
About a quarter before nine in the morning, I accompanied Mr. Crook to the public worship of the natives, held in the same house in which I had visited the school a day or two before. It was, indeed, a rude and perishable building, totally destitute of every thing imposing in effect, or exquisite in workmanship; yet I beheld it with emotions of pleasure, as the first roof under which the natives of Tahiti had assembled, in any number, to receive the elements of useful knowledge, to listen with attention and satisfaction to the word of God, and to render publicly unto Him their grateful praise; for,
“Though gilded domes, and splendid fanes,
And costly robes, and choral strains,
And altars richly dress'd;
And sculptur'd saints, and sparkling gems,
And mitred priests, and diadems,
Inspire with awe the breast:
“'Tis not the pageantry of show
That can impart devotion's glow,
Nor sanctify a prayer.
The soul enlarged, devout, sincere,
With equal piety draws near
The holy house of God,
That rudely rears its rustic head,
Scarce higher than the Indian's shed;
By Indians only trod.”
The place was thronged with people, and numbers were standing or sitting round the doors and the outside of the building. When we arrived, they readily made way for us to enter; when a scene, page 207 destitute indeed of magnificence and splendour as to the structure itself, or the richness in personal adornment of its inmates, but certainly the most delghtful and affecting I had ever beheld, appeared before me. Between five and six hundred native Christians were there assembled, to worship the true God. Their persons were cleanly, their apparel neat, their countenances either thoughtful, or beaming with serenity and gladness. The heads of the men were uncovered, their hair cut and combed, and their beards shaven. Their dress was generally a pareu round the waist; and a native tiputa over their shoulders, which covered the upper part of the body, excepting the arms. The appearance of the females was equally interesting; most of them wore a neat and tasteful bonnet, made with the rich yellow-tinted cocoa-nut leaf. Their countenances were open and lively; many had a small bunch of the fragrant and delicately white gradinia, or Cape jessamine flowers, in their hair; in addition to which, several of their chief women wore two or three fine native pearls fastened together with finely braided human hair, and hanging pendent from one of their ears, while the other was adorned with a native flower. Their dress was remarkably modest and becoming, being generally what they term ahu bu, which consists of large quantities of beautifully white native cloth, wound round the body, then passed under one arm, and fastened on the other shoulder, leaving uncovered only the neck and face, and part of one arm.
The assembly maintained the most perfect silence, until Mr. Davies, who officiated on the occasion, and was seated behind the table, which answered the double purpose of a desk for the schoolmaster, page 208 and a pulpit for the minister, rose, and gave out a hymn in the native language. The whole congregation now stood, and many of them joined in the singing. A prayer was then offered, during which the congregation remained standing; another hymn was sung; the people then sat down, and listened attentively to a discourse, delivered by the Missionary standing on the ground behind the desk. When this was ended, a short prayer was offered, the benediction pronounced, and the service closed. The assembly dispersed with the utmost propriety and order; many of them, as they passed by, cordially shook me by the hand, and expressed their joy at seeing me among them. My joy, and excitement of feeling, was not less than theirs. There was something so pleasing and novel in their appearance, so peculiar in their voices when singing, and in their native language, both during the prayers and sermon, and something so solemn and earnest in their attention, with such an air of sincerity and devotion during the whole service, that it deeply affected my heart. I was desirous of speaking to them in return, and expressing the grateful satisfaction with which I had beheld their worship; but the scene before me had taken such a powerful hold of my feelings, that I returned home in silence, filled with astonishment at the change that had taken place, and deeply impressed with the evidence it afforded of the efficacy of the gospel, and the power of the Almighty. At eleven o'clock I attended public worship in the English language.
At four in the afternoon the natives again assembled, and I attended at their worship. Though I could not understand their language, I was pleased with the large attendance, and the serious and page 209 earnest manner in which the people listened to an animated discourse delivered by Mr. Nott. In the evening several of the Missionaries met for social worship, and with this sacred exercise we closed our first Sabbath in the Society Islands, under a deep impression of the advantages of Christianity, and the pleasing effects, which we had that day witnessed, of Divine influence over the hearts of the most profligate idolaters.
In the afternoon of the succeeding Sabbaths, I visited a number of Christian chiefs at their own houses. We usually found them either reading together, conversing on the contents of their books, or some other religious subject. At Hitoti's dwelling, which I visited on the second Sabbath after my arrival, the household were about to kneel down for prayer when we entered; we joined them, and several of the petitions which the chief offered up to God, appeared, when interpreted by my companion, remarkably appropriate and expressive.
In the course of my first week on shore, I made several excursions in different parts of the district. The soil, in all the level part of the valley, was a rich vegetable mould, with a small portion of alluvial, washed down from the surrounding hills, which are generally covered with a stiff kind of loam or brownish-red ochre. Several large plantations were well stocked with the different productions of the island; but a large portion of the valleys adjacent to the settlement, were uncultivated, and covered with grass or brush-wood, growing with all the rank luxuriance that a humid atmosphere, a tropical sun, and a fertile soil, would combine to produce.
I also accompanied one of the Missionaries on page 210 voyage to the opposite side of the island, about twenty miles distant from the settlement at Papetoai. Two natives paddled our light single canoe along the smooth water within the reefs, till we reached Moru, where we landed, to take some refreshment at the house of a friendly chief. This was the first native meal I had sat down to, and it was served up in true Tahitian style. When the food was ready, we were requested to seat ourselves on the dry grass that covered the floor of the house. A number of the broad leaves of the purau, hibiscus tileaceus, having the stalks plucked off close to the leaf, were then spread on the ground, in two or three successive layers, with the downy or under side upwards, and two or three were handed by a servant to each individual, instead of a plate. By the side of these vegetable plates, a small cocoa-nut shell of salt water was placed for each person. Quantities of fine large bread-fruit, roasted on hot stones, were now peeled and brought in, and a number of fish that had been wrapped in plantain leaves, and broiled on the embers, were placed beside them. A bread-fruit and a fish was handed to each individual, and, having implored a blessing, we began to eat, dipping every mouthful of bread-fruit or fish into the small vessel of salt water,—without which, to the natives, it would have been unsavoury and tasteless. I opened the leaves, and found the fish nicely broiled; and, imitating the practice of those around me, dipped several of the first pieces I took into the dish placed by my side: but there was a bitterness in the sea water which rendered it rather unpalatable, I therefore dispensed with the further use of it, and finished my meal with the bread-fruit and fish.page 211
About two o'clock in the afternoon we resumed our journey; travelling sometimes along the seabeach, and at other times availing ourselves of the canoe until near sunset, when we reached Afareaitu, and created by our arrival no small stir among the people.
The next morning we examined the district, and were delighted with its fertility, extent, and resource. Afareaitu is on the eastern side of Eimeo, opposite the district of Atehuru in Tahiti, and is certainly one of the finest districts in the island. It comprises two valleys, or rather one large valley partially divided by a narrow hilly ridge extending from the mountains in the interior, towards the shore. The soil of the bottom of the valley is rich and fertile, well stocked with cocoa-nuts and breadfruit trees. The surrounding hills are clothed with shrubs or grass, and the lofty and romantic mountains, forming the central boundary, are adorned with trees or bushes even to their summits. Several broad cascades flowed in silvery sterams down the sides of the mountain, and, broken occasionally by a jutting rock, presented their sparkling waters in beautiful contrast with the rich and dark foliage of the stately trees, and the flowering shrubs that bordered their progress. A number of streams originating in these water-falls pursued their course through the valley, and one, receiving in its way the tributary waters of a number of sequestered streamlets, swelled at times into what in these islands might be called a river, and flowed along the most fertile portions of the district to the sea.
A small bay was formed by an elliptical indentation of the coast; an opening in the reef opposite the bay admitted small vessels to enter, and a picturesque little coral island, adorned with two or page 212 three clumps of hibiscus and cocoa-nut trees, added greatly to the beauty of its appearance. There was no swamp or marshy land between the shore and the mountains; the ground was high, and the whole district not only remarkably beautiful, but apparently dry and healthy. The abundance of natural productions, the apparent salubrity of the air, the convenience of the stream of water, the facility of the harbour, combined to recommend it as an eligible spot for at least the temporary residence of a part of the Missionaries. We therefore waited on the principal chiefs, one of whom had accompanied us from Papetoai, and inquired if it would be agreeable to them for us to come and reside there. They expressed themselves pleased with the prospect of such an event, and promised every assistance in the erection of our houses, &c. Having accomplished the object of our visit, we left Afareaitu, and returned to Papetoai the same evening.
The circumstances of the inhabitants of the windward and leeward islands, most of whom had renounced idolatry, and their earnest desire to receive religious instruction, rendered it exceedingly desirable that the Missionaries should no longer remain altogether at Papetoai, but establish themselves in the different islands; but the vessel which they had commenced building in 1813, being still unfinished, and the anticipation of a considerable accession to their numbers, induced them to defer forming any new station, until such reinforcement should arrive.
The natives in the several islands were in want, not only of teachers, but also of books. I had taken out a printing-press and types, and having, at the request of the Directors, learned the art of page 213 printing in England, it was proposed, that, as a temporary measure, to supply the existing demand for books, the press should be set up at Afareaitu. By this arrangement two stations would be formed in Eimeo, and the whole of the inhabitants be brought more fully under religious instruction. In order to carry these plans into effect, we left Papetoai on the 25th of March, with Mr. Davies, Mr. and Mrs. Crook, and family. Mrs. Ellis, and myself, with an infant and her nurse, set out in a native canoe, having most of our goods and luggage on board. Mr. Crook and family preceded us in a fine large double canoe, called Tiaitoerau, literally, “wait for the west wind,” from tiai to wait, and toerau west wind.
The wind was contrary when we started; and, after proceeding only five miles, we landed at Tiataepuaa, the usual residence of the chiefs of Eimeo. Here we found Mr. Crook and his family waiting our arrival, to join in partaking of the breakfast they had prepared.
As soon as our men had refreshed themselves, we embarked in our respective canoes, and, resuming our voyage, proceeded along the smooth surface of the sea between the reefs and the shore. The wind died away, and a perfect calm succeeded. The heat of the sun was intense, and its scorching effect on our faces was increased by the reflection of the sea. This considerably diminished the pleasure we derived from watching, through the perfectly transparent waters, the playful movement of the shoals of small and variegated rockfish, of every rich and glowing hue, which often shone in brilliant contrast with the novel and beautiful groves of many-coloured coral, that rendered the sandy bottom of the sea, though frequently page 214 several fathoms beneath us, in appearance at least, an extensive and charming submarine shrubbery, or flower-garden. The corallines were spread out with all the endless variety and wild independence exhibited in the verdant landscape of the adjacent shore.
The heat of the sun, and the oppresiveness of the atmosphere, with the labour of rowing with their paddles our heavily laden canoes every inch of the way, had so fatigued our men, that when we reached A-ti-ma-ha, fifteen miles from the place whence we started in the morning, we deemed in expedient to land for the night.
I took a ramble through the district a short time before sunset, and was delighted with the wild and romantic beauty of the surrounding scenery,—the luxuriant groves of trees, and the shrubs, that now covered the fertile parts of this almost uninhabited district. In every part I met with sections of pavement, and other vestiges of former inhabitants; and was deeply affected, witnessing the depopulation thus indicated, and which is found to have taken place throughout the island.
Notwithstanding the total absence of every thing resembling accommodation in our lodging, where we spread our bed upon the ground, we should probably have enjoyed a night of refreshing sleep, but for the musquitoes. In these thinly peopled, damp, and woody districts, they are exceedingly numerous and annoying, especially to those who have recently arrived; and although during my subsequent residence in the island, I was less in commoded by them, I was on this occasion glad to escape their noise, &c. by leaving the house soon after midnight, and walking along the shore, or sitting on the beach until day-break.page 215
Heavy showers detained us at Atimaha until ten o'clock in the forenoon, when we pursued our voyage. At Maatea I landed about twelve o'clock, and walked through the district of Haume to Afareaitu. The wind was contrary throughout the day, and it was near sunset before Mrs. Ellis and our little girl, with her nurse, arrived in the canoe. We had suffered much from exposure to the sun, and from the fatigue of our tedious voyage; we were, however, thankful to have reached our destination in safety. The natives cheerfully gave up a large oval-shaped house for our accommodation: Mr. and Mrs. Crook occupied one end of it, and we took up our abode in the other. The floor was of earth; upon this we spread some clean white sand, which was covered over with plaited leaves of the cocoa-nut tree. There were no partitions; but by hanging up some mats and native cloth, we soon succeeded in partitioning off a comfortable bed-room, sitting-room, and store-room. Our kitchen was the open yard behind the dwelling; and its only fixtures were a couple of a large stones placed in the ground, parallel to each other, and about six inches apart. This was our stove, or fire-place, and, during the dry season, answered tolerably well.
With the study of the language, the erection of a printing-office and a dwelling-house now demanded my attention. A spot near the principal stream was selected for their site; the inhabitants of the district undertook ot build the printing-office, while the king's people, and the inhabitants of Maatea, agreed to put up the frame of my dwelling-house. The acquisition of the language I commenced with Mr. Crook, and was happy to avail myself of the aid of Mr. Davies, who was page 216 well acquainted with it, and willing to render us every assistance which his other avocations would admit.
The natives of Afareaitu, and the neighbouring districts, were rejoiced at our coming among them; they seemed a people predisposed to receive instruction. A spacious chapel was erected prior to our arrival, and a large school was subsequently built; multitudes from other parts of the island took up their abode in the settlement, the school was filled with scholars, and the chapel well attended.
The indigenous productions of the island were abundant in the neighbourhood, and were comparatively cheap, as this part of the island had been but little visited by foreigners. When the flour, and other foreign articles of provision which we had brought from Port Jackson, were nearly expended, we subsisted almost entirely on native food; and though most of it was rather unsavoury at first, it afterwards became tolerably palatable. Wheat is not grown in any of the islands; it has often been tried, but, either form the heat of the climate, the exceeding fertility of the soil, or the absence of regular seasons, it has always failed. No other kind of grain, with the exception of a small quantity of maize, or Indian corn, is cultivated. Flour is, consequently, now only to be obtained from vessels visiting the islands. It is however, frequently brought from New South Wales, and from South or North America, and a tolerably good supply may, in general, be obtained.
From the enumeration already given of the articles of diet procurable among the islands, it will be evident, that though neither wheat, oats, page 217 barley, pease, and beans, nor other pulse and grain, are grown, yet the aborigines with a moderate degree of labour may obtain the necessaries, and many of what are by them esteemed the luxuries, of life. Their diet and modes of living are, however, still very different from those to which a European has been accustomed, and which he finds, even in their altered climate, most conducive to his health. In this respect, the first Missionaries endured far greater privations than those who have since joined them. They were often without tea and sugar, had no other animal food than that which they procured in common with the natives, and but seldom obtained flour. For some years after our arrival in the islands, the supply of this last article was very inadequate and uncertain; we have been months at a time without tasting it, either in the form of bread or any other preparation. The supply now procured is, however, more regular, and the introduction of goats furnishing milk, and the flesh of the kid, the feeding of cattle, by which means the residents are able to make butter, and occasionally to kill an ox, has greatly improved their circumstances.