Mrs. David Osbourne.

The World of Waters A Peaceful Progress o'er the Unpathed Sea online

. (page 16 of 22)
Online LibraryMrs. David OsbourneThe World of Waters A Peaceful Progress o'er the Unpathed Sea → online text (page 16 of 22)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


gratified with the hospitality and courtesy of the governor and his
friends'."

DORA. "It must have been a work of time to convert these people; for
their belief in the power of their idols was so strong, and had been
preserved through so many generations."

GRANDY. "The work was of God, my dear, and he made it to prosper.
Civilization once introduced, the way to Christianity was paved; and
the chiefs with their wives setting the example, the mission was
soon full of hopes for the future. The great women of the islands,
when converted themselves, endeavored to propagate the truths of the
Gospel; and amongst them, one of the most justly celebrated
Christians was Kapiolani. She wished to undeceive the natives
concerning their false gods; and knowing in what veneration Peli,
the goddess of the volcano, was held, she determined to climb the
mountain, descend into the crater, and by thus braving the volcanic
deities in their very homes, convince the inhabitants that God is
God alone, and that the false and subordinate deities existed only
in the fancies of their ignorant adorers. Thus determined, and
accompanied by a missionary, she, with part of her family, and a
number of followers, both of her own vassals, and those of other
chiefs, ascended Peli. At the edge of the first precipice that
bounds the sunken plain, many of her followers and companions lost
courage and turned back: at the second, the rest earnestly entreated
her to desist from her dangerous enterprise, and forbear to tempt
the powerful gods of the fires. But she proceeded; and, on the very
verge of the crater, caused a hut to be constructed for herself and
people. Here she was assailed anew by their entreaties to return
home; and their assurances, that, if she persisted in violating the
dwellings of the goddess, she would draw on herself, and those with
her, certain destruction. Her answer was noble: - 'I will descend
into the crater,' said she; 'and if I do not return safe, then
continue you to worship Peli; but, if I come back unhurt, you must
learn to adore the God who created Peli.' She accordingly went down
the steep and difficult side of the crater, accompanied by a
missionary, and by some whom love or duty induced to follow her.
Arrived at the bottom, she thrust a stick into the liquid lava, and
stirred the ashes of the burning lake. The charm of superstition was
at that moment broken. Those who had expected to see the goddess,
armed with flames and sulphurous smoke, burst forth and destroy the
daring heroine who thus braved her, in her very sanctuary, were
awe-struck when they saw the fire remain innocuous, and the flames
roll harmless, as though none were present. They acknowledged the
greatness of the God of Kapiolani; and from that time few indeed
have been the offerings, and little the reverence paid to the fires
of Peli."

CHARLES. "What delightful anecdotes concerning my island! but I have
one reserved for the conclusion, which illustrates the truth of the
assertion, that the women of the Sandwich Islands are superior to
the men in many exercises requiring skill, and also in their powers
of endurance. The latter quality may, I believe, be fairly adjudged
to the women of all countries. 'A man and his wife, both Christians,
were passengers in a schooner, which foundered at a considerable
distance from the land. All the natives on board promptly took
refuge in the sea; and the man in question, who had just celebrated
divine service in the ill-fated vessel, called his fellows (some of
them being converts as well as himself) around him, to offer up
another tribute of praise and supplication from the deep; exhorting
them, with a combination of courage and humility rarely equalled, to
worship God in that universal temple, under whose restless pavement
he and most of his hearers were destined to find their graves. It
was done: they called on God from the midst of the waves, and then
each struggled to save the life they valued. The man and his wife
had each succeeded in procuring the support of a covered bucket by
way of a buoy; and away they struck with the rest for Kahoolawe,
finding themselves next morning alone in the ocean, after a whole
afternoon and night of privation and toil. To aggravate their
misfortunes, the wife's bucket went to pieces soon after daylight,
so that she had to make the best of her way without assistance or
relief; and, in the course of the second afternoon, the man became
too weak to proceed; till his wife, to a certain extent, restored
his strength by shampooning him in the water. They had now Kahoolawe
in full view after having been about four-and-twenty hours on their
dreary voyage. In spite, however, of the cheering sight, the man
again fell into such a state of exhaustion, that the woman took his
bucket for herself, giving him at the same time the hair of her head
as a towing-line; and, when even this exertion proved too much for
him, the faithful creature, after trying in vain to rouse him to
prayer, took his arms round her neck, holding them together with one
hand, and making with the other for the shore When a very trifling
distance remained to be accomplished, she discovered that he was
dead, and dropping his corpse she reached the land before night,
having swam upwards of twenty-five miles during an exposure of
thirty hours! The only means of resting from her fatigue being by
floating on the top of the water."

MR. WILTON. "Very good, Charles; but if our notes of all the other
islands in Polynesia be as extensive as those of the Sandwich Isles,
I fear we shall not cross the equator before midnight."

EMMA. "I can soon quiet your fears, dear papa; for the description
of the remaining isles in North Polynesia rests with the elder
members, and of course they are at liberty to abridge them if they
please."

MR. WILTON. "In that case I will undertake to run over the Ladrones,
sometimes called the Marianne Isles. There are twenty of them; but
only five are inhabited, and they lie in the south extremity of the
cluster. They are so close together, and so broken and irregular in
their form and position, as to appear like fragments disjointed from
each other, at remote periods, by some sudden convulsion of nature.
The coasts consist for the most part of dark brown rocks,
honey-combed in many places by the action of the waves. The islands
are fertile, abounding in hogs, cattle, horses, mules, and many
other agreeable things; while in order that, like other countries in
this sublunary world, they may lay claim to a portion of
disagreeables, they are infested with mosquitoes and endless
varieties of loathsome insects; and the fish that are found around
the coasts are not fit for food. So much for the country - now for
the natives: - They are tall, robust, and active; the men wear
scarcely any covering, and the women only a petticoat of matting.
Both sexes stain their teeth black, and many of them tattoo their
bodies. The Ladrone Islands were originally discovered by Magellan,
who called them 'las Islas de las Ladrones' or the islands of
thieves; because the Indians stole everything made of iron within
their reach. At the latter end of the seventeenth century, they
obtained the name of Marianne from the Queen of Spain, who sent
missionaries thither to propagate the Christian religion. Guajan is
the largest island of the group. Near the Ladrones lies the famous
pyramidal rock called 'Lot's wife.' A sea neither broken nor
interrupted for an immense space in all directions, here dashes with
sublime violence on the solid mass which rises almost
perpendicularly to a height of 350 feet. On the south-east side is a
deep cavern, where the waves resound with a prodigious noise."

MR. BARRAUD. "The Philippine Isles fall to my share. They are,
correctly speaking, in the Eastern Archipelago. Luzon, the most
northerly, is the largest: it is a long narrow island, and, like all
the others, abounding in volcanoes. Gold, iron, and copper have been
found in the mountains, and rock salt is so abundant in some parts
as to be an article of export. These islands are exceedingly
mountainous and fertile, but from the large swamps are very
unhealthy. There are no beasts of prey, but numerous herds of
cattle; the inhabitants, however, are too indolent to profit by
these gifts of nature; they are actually too idle to make their
cow's milk into butter, and throughout the islands use hog's lard
instead, because they will not be at the trouble of keeping and
milking the cows. Rice is the chief support of the population.
Sugar, coffee, and many other delightful things grow here, and
cotton shrubs thrive well. Manilla is the only port of trade in the
Philippines: it is a fortified city inhabited by people from all
parts of the world. This city is entered by six gates. The streets
have carriage ways and footpaths, and are lighted at night. The
houses are solidly constructed, but, on account of earthquakes,
seldom more than one story above the ground floor. Most of the
houses are furnished with balconies and verandahs; the place of
glass in the windows is supplied by thin semi transparent pieces of
shell, which though more opaque repel heat better. In the year 1762
Manilla was taken by the English; but ransomed by Spain for 1,000
000_l_. sterling. There! who can compete with my islands in value?"

MRS. WILTON. "Quantity must compensate for the loss of quality. Here
are the Caroline or New Philippines, - forty-six groups of them,
comprising several hundred islands. A few of them are high, rising
in peaks, but by far the greater number are merely volcanic
formations. They were discovered in 1686, by a Spaniard, who named
them after Charles II. of Spain. There are no hogs on these islands,
and the inhabitants subsist chiefly on fish. They are reputed to be
the most expert sailors and fishermen in Polynesia; and,
notwithstanding the tremendous sea by which they are surrounded,
they have a considerable trading intercourse with the Ladrone and
many other islands."

GEORGE. "Papa, it is your turn again. - Pelew Isles."

MR. WILTON. "They are chiefly known from the accounts of Captain
Wilson, who was wrecked on them in 1783. He describes the
inhabitants as hospitable, friendly, and humane; and they are a gay
and comparatively innocent people; but they do not appear to have
any form of religion, although they conceive that the soul survives
the body. These islands are covered with close woods. Ebony grows
in the forests. Bread-fruit and cocoa-nut trees are in abundance.
Cattle, goats, poultry, &c., have been sent there and thrive well.
The Pelews have a considerable trade with China.

"Now it seems to me that we had better cross the equator with all
expedition, for there are so many islands up here, we cannot
possibly go to all, and I think we have noticed the most important."

DORA. "South Polynesia then. Papua or New Guinea is my portion, and
it happens to lie near the Pelew Isles. It is supposed to be the
first part of Australia discovered by Europeans, and is the favorite
residence of the superb and singular birds of paradise, of which
there are ten or twelve kinds. There are three kinds reckoned the
most gorgeous: viz., the King, which has two detached feathers
parallel to the tail, ending in an elegant curl with a tuft: the
Magnificent, which has also two detached feathers of the same length
with the body, very slender, and ending in a tuft: the Golden
Throat, which has three long and straight feathers proceeding from
each side of the head. These birds are considered the best, but they
are all arrayed in brilliant colors, and all superbly magnificent.
They are caught chiefly in the Aroo Isles, either by means of
bird-lime, or shot with blunted arrows. After being dried with smoke
and sulphur, they are sold for nuts or pieces of iron and carried to
Bunda."

EMMA. "The New Hebrides are in my course, but the Friendly Isles are
allotted to me."

MRS. WILTON. "Nevertheless, the New Hebrides claim a few words.
They were discovered in 1506, and so named by Captain Cook. They are
considerably hilly, and well clothed with timber. The valleys are
extremely abundant, producing figs, nutmegs, and oranges, besides
the fruits common to the rest of Polynesia. The inhabitants present
the most ugly specimen extant of the Papuan race; the men wear no
covering, and the women, who are used as mere beasts of burden; wear
only a petticoat, made from the plantain leaf. Their canoes are more
rudely constructed than in most of the other islands; and, on the
whole, these people seem to be among the most degraded of the
islanders of the Pacific."

EMMA. "I should not like to live with such people; therefore we will
pass on to my _Friendly_ Islands. They are low and encircled by
dangerous coral reefs; the soil is almost throughout exceedingly
rich, producing with very little care, the banana, bread-fruit, and
yam. The population may amount to about 90,000; but the natives,
though favorably mentioned by Captain Cook, appear to be as
treacherous, savage, and superstitious as any in the worst parts of
Polynesia. The Wesleyan Missionaries established themselves in these
islands in 1821, and are reported to have met with considerable
success. The leading island is that which is called Tongataboo, or
the 'consecrated island.' The name is properly two words 'Tonga
Taboo,' signifying 'Sacred Island,' the reason of which appellative
will appear, when I tell you that the priest of this island, whose
name was Diatonga, was reverenced and resorted to by all the
surrounding islands. Earthquakes are very frequent here; but the
islands display a spectacle of the most abundant fertility. The
foundations of this group are coral rocks, and there is scarcely any
other kind of stone to be found. Tongataboo has a large and
excellent harbor, which admits of being well fortified."

GRANDY. "You wisely passed the Feejees, Emma; and I will explain why
I say _wisely_. They have the reputation of being cannibals; but
they are industrious, and at times kindly; and their islands are
tolerably fertile. A missionary ship was nearly lost here, in broad
daylight and calm weather, by coming in contact with a reef, of
which no previous warning was presented. George, my child, you are
next; what have you selected for your display?"

GEORGE. "The Society Islands, Grandy. They consist of six large and
several smaller islands. The principal is called Otaheite, or more
properly, Tahiti; which is often styled the 'Queen of the Pacific.'
The whole circumference of this royal isle is 180 miles; on all
sides, rivers are seen descending in beautiful cascades, and the
entire land is clothed, from the water's edge to its topmost heights
with continual verdure, which for luxuriance and picturesque effect,
is certainly unparalleled."

CHARLES. "Excuse me interrupting you, George; but how do you
contrive to remember all those long words?"

MR. WILTON. "I have heard of honorable members being taken to task
for ignorance, but never for possessing superior abilities, and I
suggest that the learned member be allowed to proceed with his
account, without further interruption."

GEORGE. "There, Charles, you are called to 'order,' and I hope you
will not commit yourself again, by trying to break the thread of my
narrative."

CHARLES. "I am full of contrition; pray proceed, and I trust you
will find no great difficulty in joining your _thread_ again. If you
are disposed to retaliate, I give you free permission to criticize
me to any extent when my turn comes."

GEORGE. "Never fear but I will watch for an opportunity. The Society
Islanders are light-hearted, merry, and fond of social enjoyment,
but, at the same time, indolent, deceitful, thievish, and addicted
to the excessive use of ardent spirits. The highest ambition of an
Otaheitan is to have a splendid 'morai,' or family tomb. The
funerals, especially those of the chiefs, have a solemn and
affecting character. Songs are sung; the mourners, with sharks'
teeth, draw blood from their bodies, which, as it flows, mingles
with their tears. An apron, or _maro_ of red feathers, is the badge
of royal dignity, and great deference is paid to the chiefs. These
people manufacture handsome cloths and mats; but the commerce
consisting of pearl-shells, sugar, cocoa-nut oil, and arrow-root, in
exchange for European manufactures, is carried on chiefly by
foreigners, as the natives have no vessels larger than their double
canoes. Otaheite is a fine place, but not so important a commercial
station as Oahu, in the Sandwich Islands. There, Charles, I am at
the end of my thread."

GRANDY. "And very well you have spun it, George; but as you have not
informed us on the subject of the religion of these islanders, I
presume it is unknown to you. They believe in a sort of deity, that
he resides in the palace of heaven, with a number of other
divinities, who are all designated 'children of the night.' The
forms of Christian worship are enforced here as rigidly as in the
Sandwich Islands; but civilization is considerably less advanced;
although I am happy to add, in conclusion, that the people are
undergoing a remarkable change, and Christianity is certainly
gaining ground; for the idols are being destroyed, and the labors of
the zealous missionaries are now sanctioned by the highest
authorities. We will make no more remarks on the Society Islands;
for they have formed the subject of more writings, perhaps, than
many a kingdom of Europe, and the Otaheitans are positively better
known to us than the inhabitants of Sardinia or Corsica."

GEORGE. "Thanks, dear Grandy, for winding up my subject so
beautifully. Now, friend Charles, perhaps you will spin _your_
yarn?"

CHARLES. "Most willingly; but it will be a short one, as I have very
little material. Pitcairn's Island stands alone near the eastern
extremity of Polynesia. It is chiefly interesting on account of its
having been the refuge of the mutinous crew of Captain Bligh's ship,
the 'Bounty.' The mutineers, after having turned their captain and a
few of the crew out in an open boat, tried to make a settlement in
the Society Islands; but failing, they, accompanied by some
Otaheitans, fixed themselves in this isolated spot. They landed here
in 1790, fifteen men, and twelve women. Nine of the men were
mutineers; all the others were Otaheitans. Captain Beachey visited
the island in 1825, and found about sixty persons on it, the
descendants of Captain Bligh's men. Pitcairn's Isle is a little spot
not more than seven miles in circumference, with an abrupt rocky
coast. I believe the reason there are so few persons on the island,
is accounted for by the dismal fate of the original settlers. The
sailors had married Otaheitan women, whose brothers in one night
murdered them, only one escaping, whose name was Adams. On the
following night, the Otaheitan widows of the English inflicted
dreadful vengeance, by murdering all their brothers who had
committed the first frightful deed. Their children grew up under the
fostering care of Adams, who officiated as a sort of patriarch. The
present population comprises about eighty individuals, who form an
interesting link between the European and Polynesian races."

MR. WILTON. "In a Bermuda paper of August, 1848, there is an
interesting letter from a school-master named Nobbs, which is so
replete with information, that I will read it all to you, as it is
not so remarkable for its length as its interest: -

"More than twenty years ago, I left England for the express purpose
of visiting Pitcairn's Island, and to remain there if I could render
my talents available to the inhabitants. The proprietor of a small
vessel of but eighteen tons' burthen, hearing me express my anxiety
to obtain a passage to Pitcairn's Island, remarked, it was a spot he
had long desired to visit, and if I would assist him in fitting out
his vessel, he would go with me. I accepted his proposal advanced
him what money I could command, and embarked from Callao de Lima,
with no other person than the owner of the little cutter; and in six
weeks arrived here (Pitcairn's Island) in safety.

"'Five months after my arrival, John Adams departed this life. After
his decease, the superintendence of the spiritual affairs of the
island, and the education of the children, devolved on me chiefly;
and from that time to the present (with the exception of ten months,
during which period I was banished from the island by brute force,
and recalled by letters of penitential apology), I have been with
them, and have lived to see the labor of my hands prosper; for there
is not a person on the island, between the ages of six years and
twenty-five, who has not received, or is not receiving, a tolerable
education.

"'There is one untoward but prominent object on the horizon of
paternal affection, and which, though imperceptibly, yet rapidly
approaches our increasing colony, and that is the imperious
necessity of a separation; for so very limited are the available
portions of the island, that some families who number ten or twelve
persons, have not five acres of arable land to divide among them.

"'Animal food is a luxury obtained with difficulty once or twice in
the week; and though we have, by dint of very hard labor, been
enabled to obtain cloth and other indispensable necessaries from
whale-ships, in exchange for potatoes, yet this resource is
beginning to fail us; not from scarcity of visitors, but from
inability on our part to supply them.

"'This is the exact state of affairs at present: how much it will be
aggravated ten years from this, may be imagined, but cannot be fully
realized even by ourselves. Whether the British Government will
again interest itself in our behalf, is doubtful; if it does not,
despite the most assiduous industry, a scanty allowance of potatoes
and salt must be the result, and the "Tibuta" and "Maro," will be
the unchanging food and raiment of the rising generation.'"

GEORGE. "What a pity the coral insects have not been at work there,
and enlarged these poor peoples' island; then they could have all
remained together, and brought up their families. As it is, some
_must_ migrate. Charles, you are very ingenious; cannot you contrive
a plan for overcoming these difficulties."

CHARLES. "Much as I should glory in benefiting mankind, I could not
by any effort or sacrifice ameliorate the condition of these poor
people, although I would willingly do anything in my power to
testify my sorrow for their wretched destitution."

DORA. "I fear none of us can accord them more than our sympathy; so
we must needs journey on to the Marquesas, which were discovered by
the Spaniards in 1595. There are thirteen. The largest, Nukahiva, is
about seventy miles in circumference, and is the only one generally
frequented by shipping. The coast scenery is neither picturesque nor
inviting; its principal features being black, naked cliffs, or
barren hills; but in the interior are grassy plains and forests
filled with birds of elegant plumage. The inhabitants, with regard
to personal beauty, are superior to most of the Polynesian tribes,
some of the women being almost as fair as a European; in
civilization, however, they are far behind the Sandwich Islanders.
They have steadily resisted all attempts to convert them to
Christianity, and have practised cannibalism within a very recent
period. The tattooing of the Marquesans is remarkable for its
regularity and good taste."

CHARLES. "You call them Marquesans, Dora? I thought they were
Kannaks."

DORA. "So they denominate themselves: but I have more to tell you
yet. They are all excellent swimmers; men, women, and children. They
throw themselves fearlessly into the water several times a day, and,
although in a state of perspiration, they suffer no harm. They are
also dexterous climbers of trees; making the ascent like monkeys,
with the hands and feet only. But their treatment of their sick is,
in the highest degree, cruel and unnatural. Instead of giving
assistance, every one shuns the invalid; and if he is thought to be
at all in the way, he is taken to some distant spot, whither it is
thought sufficient to carry him food at intervals. It is also their
custom to prepare the dying man's coffin before his eyes; and what
is still more incredible, when they see him about to render up his
last sigh, they place a bit of moistened 'tapa'[17] in his mouth,
whilst the fingers of some _friend_ are employed in closing the lips
and nostrils!"

[Footnote 17: Tapa is a species of stuff made from the inner bark of
the mulberry-tree.]

GRANDY. "All this appears very unfeeling to us my dear; but cruelty


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 16 18 19 20 21 22

Online LibraryMrs. David OsbourneThe World of Waters A Peaceful Progress o'er the Unpathed Sea → online text (page 16 of 22)