The Cannibal Islands, by R.M. Ballantyne.
This book describes some of the voyages of Captain Cook to Tahiti and other islands in the Pacific. Tahiti had been previously discovered by a Captain Wallis, and Cook was sent out there in order to make some astronomical observations that could not be done in Europe. The island was very verdant, and it was scarcely necessary for its people to work at all, so that they were very indolent. They were also inclined to steal, although they realised that it was wrong to do so.
There is a description of some of the more revolting habits of certain Pacific islanders, for instance preparing the body of a slain rival so that it could be "worn" by slipping the head through a hole made right in the middle of the body. There was also cannibalism on some of the islands, which of course laid people open to CJD and similar diseases that are slow to take effect, but very devastating when they do.
The book tells in great detail the final episode of his life when he was murdered by the islanders, whom he had been so glad to know.
THE CANNIBAL ISLANDS, BY R.M. BALLANTYNE.
A HERO WHO ROSE FROM THE RANKS.
More than a hundred years ago, there lived a man who dwelt in a mud cottage in the county of York; his name was Cook. He was a poor, honest labourer—a farm servant. This man was the father of that James Cook who lived to be a captain in the British Navy, and who, before he was killed, became one of the best and greatest navigators that ever spread his sails to the breeze and crossed the stormy sea.
Captain Cook was a true hero. His name is known throughout the whole world wherever books are read. He was born in the lowest condition of life, and raised himself to the highest point of fame. He was a self-taught man too. No large sums of money or long years of time were spent upon his schooling. No college education made him what he was. An old woman taught him his letters, but he was not sent to school till he was thirteen years of age. He remained only four years at the village school, where he learned a little writing and a little figuring. This was all he had to start with. The knowledge which he afterwards acquired, the great deeds that he performed, and the wonderful discoveries that he made, were all owing to the sound brain, the patient persevering spirit, the modest practical nature, and the good stout arm with which the Almighty had blessed him. It is the glory of England that many of her greatest men have risen from the ranks of those sons of toil who earn their daily bread in the sweat of their brow. Among all who have thus risen, few stand so high as Captain Cook.
Many bold things he did, many strange regions he visited, in his voyages round the world, the records of which fill bulky volumes. In this little book we shall confine our attention to some of the interesting discoveries that were made by him among the romantic islands of the South Pacific—islands which are so beautiful that they have been aptly styled "gems of ocean," but which, nevertheless, are inhabited by savage races so thoroughly addicted to the terrible practice of eating human flesh, that we have thought fit to adopt the other, and not less appropriate, name of the Cannibal Islands.
Before proceeding with the narrative, let us glance briefly at the early career of Captain James Cook. He was born in 1728. After receiving the very slight education already referred to, he was bound apprentice to a shopkeeper. But the roving spirit within him soon caused him to break away from an occupation so uncongenial. He passed little more than a year behind the counter, and then, in 1746, went to sea.
Young Cook's first voyages were in connection with the coasting trade. He began his career in a collier trading between London and Newcastle. In a very short time it became evident that he would soon be a rising man. Promotion came rapidly. Little more than three years after the expiry of his apprenticeship he became mate of the Friendship, but, a few years later, he turned a longing eye on the navy—"having," as he himself said, "a mind to try his fortune that way." In the year 1755 he entered the King's service on board the Eagle, a sixty-gun ship, commanded by Sir Hugh Palliser. This officer was one of Cook's warmest friends through life.
In the navy the young sailor displayed the same steady, thorough-going character that had won him advancement in the coasting trade. The secret of his good fortune (if secret it may be called) was his untiring perseverance and energy in the pursuit of one object at one time. His attention was never divided. He seemed to have the power of giving his whole soul to the work in hand, whatever that might be, without troubling himself about the future. Whatever his hand found to do he did it with all his might. The consequence was that he became a first-rate man. His superiors soon found that out. He did not require to boast or push himself forward. His work spoke for him, and the result was that he was promoted from the forecastle to the quarter-deck, and became a master on board the Mercury when he was about thirty years of age.
About this time he went with the fleet to the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, and took part in the war then raging between the British and French in Canada. Winter in that region is long and bitterly cold. The gulfs and rivers there are at that season covered with thick ice; ships cannot move about, and war cannot be carried on. Thus the fleet was for a long period inactive. Cook took advantage of this leisure time to study mathematics and astronomy, and, although he little thought it, was thus fitting himself for the great work of discovery which he afterwards undertook with signal success.
In this expedition to Canada Cook distinguished himself greatly— especially in his surveys of the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, and in piloting the fleet safely through the dangerous shoals and rocks of that inland sea. So careful and correct was he in all that he did, that men in power and in high places began to take special notice of him; and, finally, when, in the year 1767, an expedition of importance was about to be sent to the southern seas for scientific purposes, Cook was chosen to command it.
This was indeed a high honour, for the success of that expedition depended on the man who should be placed at its head. In order to mark the importance of the command, and at the same time invest the commander with proper authority, Cook was promoted to the rank of lieutenant in the Royal Navy. He had long been a gentleman in heart and conduct; he was now raised to the social position of one by the King's commission.
From this point in his career Cook's history as a great navigator and discoverer began. We shall now follow him more closely in his brilliant course over the world of waters. He was about forty years of age at this time; modest and unassuming in manners and appearance; upwards of six feet high, and good-looking, with quick piercing eyes and brown hair, which latter he wore, according to the fashion of the time, tied behind in a pig-tail. It was not until the end of his first voyage that he was promoted to the rank of captain.
SHOWS WHAT MEN WILL DO AND DARE IN THE CAUSE OF SCIENCE.
Men who study the stars tell us strange and wonderful things—things that the unlearned find it hard to understand, and harder still to believe, yet things that we are now as sure of as we are of the fact that two and two make four!
There was a time when men said that the sun moved round the earth; and very natural it was in men to say so, for, to the eye of sense, it looks as if this were really the case. But those who study the stars have found out that the earth moves round the sun—a discovery which has been of the greatest importance to mankind—though the importance thereof cannot be fully understood except by scientific men.
Among other difficult things, these astronomers have attempted to measure the distance of the sun, moon, and stars from our earth. Moreover, they have tried to ascertain the exact size of these celestial lights, and they have, to a considerable extent, been successful in their efforts. By their complicated calculations, the men who study the stars can tell the exact day, hour, and minute when certain events will happen, such as an eclipse of the sun or of the moon.
Now, about the year 1768 the attention of the scientific world was eagerly turned to an event which was to take place in the following year. This was the passage of the planet Venus across the face of the sun. Astronomers term this the Transit of Venus. It happens very seldom: it occurred in 1769, but not again till 1874, and 1882. By observing this passage—this transit—of Venus across the sun from different parts of our earth, it was hoped that such information could be obtained as would enable us to measure not only the distance of the sun from the earth with greater accuracy than heretofore, but also the extent of the whole host of stars that move with our earth around the sun and form what is called our Solar System.
An opportunity occurring so seldom was not to be lost. Learned men were sent to all parts of the world to observe the event. Among others, Captain Cook was sent to the south seas—there, among the far-off coral isles, to note the passage of a little star across the sun's face—an apparently trifling, though in reality important, event in the history of science.
So much for the object of Cook's first voyage. Let us now turn to the details thereof.
The vessel chosen by him for his long and dangerous voyage to unknown seas was a small one of only 370 tons burden. It was named the Endeavour. The crew consisted of forty-one seamen, twelve marines, and nine servants—these, with the officers and the scientific men of the expedition, made up a body of eighty-five persons.
The scientific men above mentioned were, Mr Green, an astronomer; Mr Banks, a naturalist, who afterwards became Sir Joseph Banks and a celebrated man; Doctor Solander, who was also a naturalist; and two draughtsmen, one of whom was skilled in drawing objects of natural history, the other in taking views of scenery.
The Endeavour was victualled for a cruise of eighteen months. She was a three-masted vessel of the barque rig, and carried twenty-two large guns, besides a store of small arms,—for the region of the world to which they were bound was inhabited by savages, against whom they might find it necessary to defend themselves.
When all was ready, Captain Cook hoisted his flag, and spread his sails, and, on the 26th of August 1768, the voyage began—England soon dropped out of sight astern, and ere long the blue sky above and the blue sea below were all that remained for the eyes of the navigators to rest upon.
It is a wonderful thought, when we come to consider it, the idea of going to sea! To sailors who are used to it, the thought, indeed, may be very commonplace, and to lazy minds that are not much given to think deeply upon any subject, the thought may not appear very wonderful; but it is so, nevertheless, to us, men of the land, when we calmly sit down and ponder the idea of making to ourselves a house of planks and beams of wood, launching it upon the sea, loading it with food and merchandise, setting up tall poles above its roof, spreading great sheets thereon, and then rushing out upon the troubled waters of the great deep, there, for days and nights, for weeks and months, and even years, to brave the fury of the winds and waves, with nothing between us and death except a wooden plank, some two or three inches thick!
It seems a bold thing for man to act in this fashion, even when he is accustomed to it, and when he knows all about the sea which he sails over; but when, like Cook, he knows very little about the far-off ocean to which he is bound, his boldness seems and really is, much greater. It is this very uncertainty, however, that charms the minds of enterprising men, and gives interest to such voyages.
The Bible says, "They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters; these see the works of the Lord, and His wonders in the deep." Navigators in all ages have borne testimony to the truth of this. The very first pages in Cook's journal mention some of these wonders. He says that, while they were off the coast of Spain, Mr Banks and Dr Solander, the naturalists, had an opportunity of observing some very curious marine animals, some of which were like jelly, and so colourless that it was difficult to see them in the water except at night, when they became luminous, and glowed like pale liquid fire. One, that was carefully examined, was about three inches long, and an inch thick, with a hollow passing quite through it, and a brown spot at one end, which was supposed to be its stomach. Four of these, when first taken up out of the sea in a bucket, were found to be adhering together, and were supposed to be one animal; but on being put into a glass of water they separated and swam briskly about. Many of them resembled precious stones, and shone in the water with bright and beautiful colours. One little animal of this kind lived several hours in a glass of salt water, swimming about with great agility, and at every motion displaying a change of colours.
These Medusae, as they are called, have been spoken of by many travellers, who tell us that in some parts of the sea they are so numerous that the whole ocean is covered with them, and seems to be composed of liquid fire, usually of a pale blue or green colour. The appearance is described as being of great splendour. Even in the seas on our own coasts this beautiful light is often seen. It is called phosphoric light. Something of the same kind may be seen in the carcass of a decaying fish if taken into a dark room.
Not long after this, they saw flying-fish. Cook says that when seen from the cabin windows they were beautiful beyond imagination, their sides having the colour and brightness of burnished silver. When seen from the deck they did not look so beautiful, because their backs were of a dark colour. It must not be supposed that these fish could fly about in the air like birds. They can only fly a few yards at a time. They usually rise suddenly from the waves, fly as if in a great hurry, not more than a yard or two above the surface, and then drop as suddenly back into the sea as they rose out of it. The two fins near the shoulders of the fish are very long, so that they can be used as wings for these short flights. When chased by their enemy, the dolphin, flying-fish usually take a flight in order to escape. They do not, however, appear to be able to use their eyes when out of the water, for they have been seen to fly against ships at sea, get entangled in the rigging, and fall helpless on the deck. They are not quite so large as a herring, and are considered very good eating.
On drawing near to Cape Horn, on the extreme south of South America, the voyagers began to prepare for bad weather, for this Cape is notorious for its storms. Few mariners approach the Horn without some preparation, for many a good ship has gone to the bottom in the gales that blow there.
It was here that they first fell in with savages. The ship having approached close to that part of the land named Tierra del Fuego, natives were observed on shore. As Mr Banks and Dr Solander were anxious to visit them, a boat was lowered and sent ashore. They landed near a bay in the lee of some rocks where the water was smooth. Thirty or forty of the Indians soon made their appearance at the end of a sandy beach on the other side of the bay, but seeing that there were twelve Europeans in the boat they were afraid, and retreated. Mr Banks and Dr Solander then advanced about one hundred yards, on which two of the Indians returned, and, having advanced some paces, sat down. As soon as the gentlemen came up the savages rose and each threw away a small stick which he had carried in his hand. This was intended for a sign of peace. They then walked briskly towards their companions, who had halted about fifty yards behind them, and beckoned the gentlemen to follow, which they did. They were received with many uncouth signs of friendship, and, in return, gave the savages some beads and ribbons, which greatly delighted them.
A feeling of good-will having been thus established, the two parties joined and tried to hold converse by means of signs. Three of the Indians agreed to accompany them back to the ship, and when they got on board one of the wild visitors began to go through some extraordinary antics. When he was taken to any new part of the ship, or when he was shown any new thing, he shouted with all his force for some minutes, without directing his voice either to the people of the ship or to his companions.
Some beef and bread being given to them, they ate it, but did not seem to relish it much. Nevertheless, such of it as they did not eat they took away with them. But they would not swallow a drop either of wine or spirits. They put the glass to their lips, but, having tasted the liquor, they returned it with looks of disgust.
Cook says he was much surprised at the want of curiosity in these savages of the Cape, and seems to have formed a very low opinion of them. They were conducted all over the ship, yet, although they saw a vast number of beautiful and curious things that must have been quite new to them, they did not give vent to any expression of wonder or pleasure—for the howling above spoken of did not seem to be either,— and when they returned to land they did not seem anxious to tell what they had seen, neither did their comrades appear desirous of hearing anything about their visit to the ship. Altogether, they seemed a much lower race of people than the inhabitants of the South-Sea Islands whom Cook afterwards visited.
DESCRIBES AN ADVENTURE IN THE MOUNTAINS, AND TELLS OF TIERRA DEL FUEGO.
One of the main objects that Mr Banks and Dr Solander had in view in going with Captain Cook on this voyage was to collect specimens of plants and insects in the new countries they were about to visit. The country near Cape Horn was at that time almost unknown: indeed, it is not much known even at the present day. The two naturalists of the expedition were therefore anxious to land and explore the shore.
Accordingly, early one fine morning a party went ashore to ascend one of the mountains. It consisted of Mr Banks and Dr Solander with their servants, two of whom were negroes; Mr Buchan, the draughtsman; Mr Monkhouse, the surgeon of the ship; and Mr Green, the astronomer. These set off to push as far as they could into the country, intending to return before night. They were accompanied by two seamen, who carried their baggage.
The hills, when viewed from a distance, seemed to be partly wooded; above the wood there was a plain, and beyond that bare rocks. Mr Banks hoped to get through the woods, and made no doubt that beyond it he would find new sorts of plants which no botanists had ever yet heard of. They entered the wood full of hope, and with much of the excitement that men cannot but feel when exploring a country that has never been trodden by the foot of a civilised man since the world began.
It took them, however, much longer to get through the pathless wood than they had expected. It was afternoon before they reached what they had taken for a plain, but which, to their great disappointment, they found to be a swamp covered with low bushes, which were so stubborn that they could not break through them, and were therefore compelled to step over them, while at every step they sank up to the ankles in mud—a mode of progress so fatiguing that they were all very soon exhausted. To make matters worse, the weather became gloomy and cold, with sudden blasts of piercing wind accompanied by snow.
They pushed on vigorously notwithstanding, and had well-nigh crossed the swamp when Mr Buchan was suddenly seized with a fit. This compelled a halt. As he could not go further, a fire was kindled, and those who were most fatigued were left behind to take care of him, while the rest continued to advance. At last they reached the summit of the mountain, and were rewarded for their toil by the botanical specimens discovered there. It was late in the day by that time, and as it was impossible to get back to the ship that night, they were obliged to make up their minds to bivouac on the mountain, a necessity which caused them no little uneasiness, for it had now become bitterly cold. Sharp blasts of wind became so frequent, however, that they could not remain on the exposed mountain-side, and were obliged to make for the shelter of the woods in the nearest valley.
Mr Buchan having recovered, and the whole party having reassembled, they set out to recross the swamp, intending, when they should get into the woods, to build a hut of leaves and branches, kindle a fire, and pass the night there as well as they could. But an overpowering torpor had now begun to seize hold upon some of the party, and it was with the greatest difficulty the others could prevent the drowsy ones from lying down to sleep in the snow. This almost irresistible tendency to sleep is common in cold countries. It is one of the effects of extreme cold upon exhausted men, and is a very dangerous condition, because those who fall into it cannot resist giving way to it, even though they know that if they do so they will certainly die.
Dr Solander, who had formerly travelled on the snow-topped mountains of Norway, was aware of the danger of giving way to this feeling, and strove to prevent his companions from falling into the fatal rest. "Whoever sits down," said he, "will sleep, and whoever sleeps will awake no more."
Strange to say, Dr Solander was the first to disregard his own warning. While they were still pushing across the naked side of the mountain, the cold became suddenly so intense that it increased the effect they dreaded so much. The doctor found the desire to rest so irresistible that he insisted on being suffered to lie down. Mr Banks tried to prevent him, but in vain. Down he lay upon the ground, covered though it was with snow, and all that his friends could do was to keep shaking him, and so prevent him from falling into the fatal sleep. At the same time one of the negro servants became affected in a similar manner. Mr Banks, therefore, sent forward five of the company with orders to get a fire ready at the first convenient place they could find, while himself with four others remained with the doctor and the negro, whom partly by entreaty and partly by force, they roused up and brought on for some little distance. But when they had got through the greatest part of the swamp they both declared they could go no further. Again Mr Banks tried to reason with the two unfortunate men, pointing out their extreme danger, and beseeching them to make an effort to advance. But all he could say had no effect.
When the negro was told that if he would not go on he must, in a short time, be frozen to death, he answered that he desired nothing but to be allowed to lie down and die. Dr Solander, on being told the same thing, replied that he was willing to go on but that he must "first take some sleep," forgetting apparently that he had before told his comrades that to sleep was to perish.
As Mr Banks and his companions could not carry them, there was no help for it—they were suffered to sit down, being partly supported by the bushes. In a few minutes they were both sound asleep. Providentially, just at that time, some of the people who had been sent forward returned with the welcome news that a fire had been lighted not more than a quarter of a mile off. Renewed attempts were therefore made to rouse the sleepers. But the negro was past help. Every effort failed to awaken him. With Dr Solander they were more successful, yet, though he had not slept five minutes he had almost lost the use of his limbs, and the muscles were so shrunken that the shoes fell off his feet. Staggering and stumbling among the slush and snow, more dead than alive, he was half carried, half dragged by his comrades to the fire.
Meanwhile the other negro and a seaman were left in charge of the unfortunate black servant, with directions to stay by him and do what they could for him until help should be sent. The moment Dr Solander was got to the fire, two of the strongest of the party who had been refreshed were sent back to bring in the negro. In half an hour, however, they had the mortification to see these two men return alone. They had been unable to find their comrades. This at first seemed unaccountable, but when it was discovered that the only bottle of rum belonging to the party was amissing, Mr Banks thought it probable that it had been in the knapsack of one of the absent men, that by means of it the sleeping negro had been revived, that they had then tried to reach the fire without waiting for assistance, and so had lost themselves.
It was by this time quite dark, another heavy fall of snow had come on, and continued for two hours, so that all hope of seeing them again alive was given up, for it must be remembered that the men remaining by the fire were so thoroughly knocked up that had they gone out to try to save their comrades they would in all probability have lost their own lives. Towards midnight, however, a shout was heard at some distance. Mr Banks, with four others, went out immediately, and found the seaman who had been left with the two negroes, staggering along with just strength enough to keep on his legs. He was quickly brought to the fire, and, having described where the other two were, Mr Banks proceeded in search of them. They were soon found. The first negro, who had sunk down at the same time with Dr Solander, was found standing on his legs, but unable to move. The other negro was lying on the snow as insensible as a stone.
All hands were now called from the fire, and an attempt was made to carry them to it, but every man was so weak from cold, hunger, and fatigue that the united strength of the whole party was not sufficient for this. The night was extremely dark, the snow was very deep, and although they were but a short distance from the fire, it was as much as each man could do to make his way back to it, stumbling and falling as he went through bogs and bushes.
Thus the poor negroes were left to their sad fate, and some of the others were so near sharing that fate with them that they began to lose their sense of feeling. One of Mr Banks's servants became so ill, that it was feared he would die before he could be got to the fire.
At the fire, however, they did eventually arrive, and beside it passed a dreadful night of anxiety, grief, and suffering. Of the twelve who had set out on this unfortunate expedition in health and good spirits two were dead; a third was so ill that it was doubtful whether he would be able to go forward in the morning; and a fourth, Mr Buchan, was in danger of a return of his fits. They were distant from the ship a long day's journey, while snow lay deep on the ground and still continued to fall. Moreover, as they had not expected to be out so long, they had no provisions left, except a vulture which chanced to be shot, and which was not large enough to afford each of them quarter of a meal.
When morning dawned nothing was to be seen, as far as the eye could reach, but snow, which seemed to lie as thick upon the trees as on the ground, and the wind came down in such sudden violent blasts, that they did not dare to resume their journey. How long this might last they knew not. Despair crept slowly over them, and they began gloomily to believe that they were doomed to perish of hunger and cold in that dreary waste. But the Almighty, who often affords help to man when his case seems most hopeless and desperate, sent deliverance in a way most agreeable and unexpected. He caused a soft, mild breeze to blow, under the influence of which the clouds began to clear away, the intense cold moderated, and the gladdening sun broke forth, so that with revived spirits and frames the wanderers were enabled to start on the return journey to the coast.
Before doing so, they cooked and ate the vulture, and it is probable that they devoured that meal with fully as much eagerness and satisfaction as the ravenous bird itself ever devoured its prey. It was but a light breakfast, however. After being skinned, the bird was divided into ten portions, and every man cooked his own as he thought fit, but each did not receive above three mouthfuls. Nevertheless it strengthened them enough to enable them to return to the ship, where they were received by their anxious friends with much joy and thankfulness.
The month of December is the middle of summer in the land at the extreme south of South America.
That land occupies much about the same position on the southern half of this world that we occupy on the northern half; so that, when it is winter with us, it is summer there. The climate is rigorous and stormy in the extreme, and the description given of the natives shows that they are a wretched and forlorn race of human beings. Captain Cook visited one of their villages before leaving the coast. It contained about a dozen dwellings of the poorest description. They were mere hovels; nothing more than a few poles set up in a circle and meeting together at the top, each forming a kind of cone. On the weather side each cone was covered with a few boughs and a little grass. The other side was left open to let the light in and the smoke out. Furniture they had none. A little grass on the floor served for chairs, tables, and beds. The only articles of manufacture to be seen among the people were a few rude baskets, and a sort of sack in which they carried the shell-fish which formed part of their food. They had also bows and arrows, which were rather neatly made—the arrows with flint heads cleverly fitted on.
The colour of those savages resembled iron-rust mixed with oil; their hair was long and black. The men were large but clumsy fellows, varying from five feet eight to five feet ten. The women were much smaller, few being above five feet. Their costume consisted of skins of wild animals. The women tied their fur cloaks about the waists with a thong of leather. One would imagine that among people so poor and miserably off there was not temptation to vain show, nevertheless they were fond of making themselves "look fine"! They painted their faces with various colours; white round the eyes, with stripes of red and black across the cheeks, but scarcely any two of them were painted alike. Both men and women wore bracelets of beads made of shells and bones, and, of course, they were greatly delighted with the beads which their visitors presented to them. Their language was harsh in sound; they seemed to have no form of government, and no sort of religion. Altogether they appeared to be the most destitute, as well as the most stupid, of all human beings.
EXPLAINS HOW CORAL ISLANDS ARE MADE.
Soon after this adventurous visit to the land of Tierra del Fuego, the Endeavour doubled Cape Horn—and entered the waters of the great Pacific Ocean; and now Cook began to traverse those unknown seas in which his fame as a discoverer was destined to be made. He sailed over this ocean for several weeks, however, before discovering any land. It was on Tuesday morning, the 10th of April, that he fell in with the first of the coral islands. Mr Banks's servant, Peter Briscoe, was the first to see it, bearing south, at the distance of about ten or twelve miles, and the ship was immediately run in that direction. It was found to be an island of an oval form, with a lake, or lagoon, in the middle of it. In fact, it was like an irregularly-formed ring of land, with the ocean outside and a lake inside. Coral islands vary a good deal in form and size, but the above description is true of many of them.
To this island the crew of the Endeavour now drew near with looks of eager interest, as may well be believed, for an unknown land necessarily excites feelings of lively curiosity in the breasts of those who discover it.
It was found to be very narrow in some places, and very low, almost on a level with the sea. Some parts were bare and rocky; others were covered with vegetation, while in several places there were clumps of trees— chiefly cocoa-nut palms. When the ship came within a mile of the breakers, the lead was hove, but no bottom was found with 130 fathoms of line! This was an extraordinary depth so near shore, but they afterwards found that most of the coral islands have great depth of water round them, close outside the breakers.
They now observed that the island was inhabited, and with the glass counted four-and-twenty natives walking on the beach. These all seemed to be quite naked. They were of a brown colour, and had long black hair. They carried spears of great length in their hands, also a smaller weapon, which appeared to be either a club or a paddle. The huts of these people were under the shade of some palm-trees, and Captain Cook says that to him and his men, who had seen nothing but water and sky for many long months, except the dreary shores of Tierra del Fuego, these groves appeared like paradise.
They called this Lagoon Island. As night came on soon after they reached it, however, they were compelled to sail away without attempting to land.
Not long afterwards another island was discovered. This one was in the shape of a bow, with the calm lake, or lagoon, lying between the cord and the bow. It was also inhabited, but Cook did not think it worth his while to land. The natives here had canoes, and the voyagers waited to give them an opportunity of putting off to the ship, but they seemed afraid to do so.
Now, good reader, you must know that these coral islands of the Pacific are not composed of ordinary rocks, like most other islands of the world, but are literally manufactured or built by millions of extremely small insects which merit particular notice. Let us examine this process of island-making which is carried on very extensively by the artisans of the great South-Sea Factory!
The coral insect is a small creature of the sea which has been gifted with the power of "secreting" or depositing a lime-like substance, with which it builds to itself a little cell or habitation. It fastens this house to a rock at the bottom of the sea. Like many other creatures the coral insect is sociable; it is fond of company, and is never found working except in connection with millions of its friends. Of all the creatures of earth it shows perhaps the best example of what mighty works can be accomplished by union. One man can do comparatively little, but hundreds of men, united in their work, can achieve wonders, as every one knows. They can erect palaces and cathedrals towering to the skies; they can cover hundred of miles of ground with cities, and connect continents with telegraphs, but, with all their union, all their wisdom, and all their power, men cannot build islands—yet this is done by the coral insect; a thing without hand or brain, a creature with little more than a body and a stomach. It is not much bigger than a pin-head, yet hundreds of the lovely, fertile islands of the Pacific Ocean are formed by this busy animalcule. Many of those islands would never have been there but for the coral insect!
When corallines (as they are called) set about building an island, they lay the foundation on the top of a submarine mountain. The ordinary islands of the sea are neither more nor less than the tops of those mountains which rise from the bottom of the sea and project above the surface. Some of these sea-mountains rise high above the surface and form large islands; some only peep, so to speak, out of the waves, thus forming small islands; others again do not rise to the surface at all— their highest peaks being several feet below the level of the ocean. It is on these water-covered mountain-tops that the coral insects lay the foundations of their islands. As few mountain-peaks are level, however, whether above or below water, the insect finds it more convenient to form a ring round the sides of the mountain-top than to build on the exact top itself. Then they set to work with the busy industry of bees. Their talents are few; apparently they have received only one, but they turn that one to good account. They fulfil the work for which they were created. No creature can do more!
They begin to build, and the work advances rapidly, for they are active little masons. The ring round the mountain-top soon begins to shoot upwards and extend outwards. As the labourers continue their work their families increase. It is a thriving and a united community. There are neither wars nor disputes—no quarrelling, no mis-spent time, no misapplied talents. There is unity of action and design, hence the work advances quickly, steadily, and well. In process of time the coral ring becomes a solid wall, which gradually rises above the highest peak of the submarine mountain, and at length approaches the surface of the sea. When it reaches this point the work is done. The coral insect can only work under water. When its delicate head rises above the waves it ceases to build, and, having done its duty, it dies. Those which reach the surface first, die first. The others that are still below water work on, widening and strengthening the wall until they too reach the fatal surface, peep for one moment as it were on the upper world and then perish. Thus the active builders go on adding to the width of the structure, and dying by successive relays; working with their little might during their brief existence, and knowing nothing of the great end which is to result from their modest busy lives.
With the death of the coral insects the foundation-stone of the island is laid, in the form of a ring just peeping out of the ocean. Thenceforth other creatures continue the work. The waves lash and beat upon the uppermost coral cells and break them up into fine white sand. Currents of ocean throw upon this beach pieces of sea-weed and drifting marine substances of various kinds. The winds convey the lighter seeds of land plants to it, and sea-birds that alight upon it to rest do the same thing. Thus, little by little, things accumulate on the top of the coral ring until the summit rises above the reach and fury of the waves. No sooner is this accomplished than the genial sun of those regions calls the seeds into life. A few blades of green shoot up. These are the little tokens of life that give promise of the luxuriance yet to come. Soon the island ring is clothed with rich and beautiful vegetation, cocoa-nut palms begin to sprout and sea-fowl to find shelter where, in former days, the waves of the salt sea alone were to be found. In process of time the roving South-Sea islanders discover this little gem of ocean, and take up their abode on it; and when such a man as Cook sails past it, he sees, perchance, the naked savage on the beach gazing in wonder at his "big canoe," and the little children swimming like ducks in the calm waters of the lagoon or gambolling like porpoises among the huge breakers outside that roll like driven snow upon the strand.
During their formation, these islands are fraught with danger to ships, for sometimes, in parts of the ocean where charts show deep water, the sailor finds an unexpected coral reef, and, before he is aware, the good ship runs on this living wall and becomes a wreck. Many a noble vessel goes to sea well appointed and with a good brave crew, but never more returns;—who knows how many such have, when all on board thought themselves secure, been dashed to pieces suddenly, and lost upon the coral reefs of the Pacific?
These circular islets of coral never rise more than a few feet above the surface of the sea, but there are many other islands in the South Seas— some of which have been thrown up by the action of volcanoes, and are wild, rugged, mountainous, and of every conceivable shape and size.
The busy corallines before mentioned are so numerous in the South Seas that they build their coral walls everywhere. As they have an objection apparently to commence building in shallow water, they are obliged to keep off the shore a distance of a mile or more, so that when they reach the surface they enclose a belt of water of that width, which is guarded by the reef from the violence of the waves, and forms a splendid natural harbour. Almost every South-Sea island has its coral reef round it, and its harbour of still water between the reef and the shore.
It would seem as if the beneficent Creator had purposely formed those harbours for man's convenience, because narrow openings are found in all the reefs, without which, of course, the sheltered waters within could not have been entered. These openings are usually found to occur opposite valleys where the streams from the mountains enter the sea. It is therefore supposed that fresh water kills the coral insects at these places, thus preventing the reef from forming an unbroken circle. Low islets are usually formed on each side of the openings on which a few cocoa-nut trees grow; so that the mariner is thus furnished with a natural beacon by which to guide his vessel clear of the reef safely into the harbour.
One of the most interesting of the larger islands of the Pacific is Otaheite (now spelt and pronounced Tahiti), at which Captain Cook arrived on the 4th of April 1769. It had been discovered, however, nearly two years before the date of his visit—as the next chapter will show.
DISCOVERY BY CAPTAIN WALLIS OF OTAHEITE OR TAHITI.
The beautiful island of Tahiti was discovered by Captain Wallis in the year 1767.
It was on a bright day in June when he first saw it from the deck, but when his vessel (the Dolphin) came close to it, a thick mist descended like a veil and shut it out from view of the impatient mariners, who were compelled to lie to until the mist should clear away. At length it rolled off, and disclosed one of the most lovely and delightful scenes that could be imagined.
The Dolphin being the first ship that ever touched at Tahiti, the natives, as we may well imagine, were filled with amazement at its vast size and curious shape. No sooner did the ship draw near than she was surrounded by hundreds of canoes, containing altogether nearly a thousand naked savages. At first the poor creatures were afraid to draw near. They sat in their little barks gazing at the "big canoe" in silent wonder or talking to each other about her in low eager tones, but never for a moment taking their eyes off this great sight!
At last, after consulting together, they began to paddle slowly round the ship, and make signs of peace and friendship, which those on board were not slow to return, endeavouring to induce some of them to come on deck. This they were naturally afraid to do, but at length one fellow took heart and began by making a speech, which lasted for full fifteen minutes. As none of the sailors understood a word of it, they were not much enlightened; but the savage, who held a branch of the plantain-tree in his hand during his oration, concluded by casting this branch into the sea. This was meant as a sign of friendship, for soon after, a number of similar branches were thrown on the ship's deck, and then a few of the islanders ventured on board.
There was "much talk," however, on the part of the savages, before they began to feel at ease. Trinkets of various kinds were now offered to them, and they gazed around them with great interest, gradually losing their fears under the kindness of Captain Wallis and his companions. This happy state of things, however, was suddenly interrupted by a goat belonging to the ship, which, not liking the appearance of the strangers, attacked one of them unceremoniously, and butted at him with its head. Turning quickly round, the savage was filled with terror on beholding a creature, the like of which he had never seen before, reared on its hind legs, and preparing to repeat the blow. Without a moment's hesitation he rushed in consternation to the ship's side, and plunged into the sea, whither he was followed by all his countrymen in the twinkling of an eye. A storm of musket bullets could not have cleared the deck more quickly than did the attack of that pugnacious goat!
In a short time they recovered from their terrors, the ill-behaved goat was removed, and some of the natives were again induced to return on board, where they were treated with the utmost kindness, and presented with such trifling gifts as beads and nails, etcetera, much to their delight. Notwithstanding this, however, the visit terminated inharmoniously in consequence of one of the natives snatching a gold-laced hat from an officer's head, and jumping with it into the sea!
After this Wallis stood in-shore, intending to anchor, and sent his boats still closer to the land to take soundings. Here they were immediately surrounded by a great number of canoes, and the captain, suspecting the natives of hostile intentions, fired a nine-pounder over their heads. They were much startled by the unknown and terrible sound, but, seeing that no result followed, they proceeded to attack the boats, sending showers of stones into them, and wounding some of the men. It now became necessary to act in earnest, so a musket-shot was discharged at the savage who began the attack. The ball pierced his shoulder, whereupon the whole host paddled to the shore in great terror and confusion.
Notwithstanding this, the islanders soon returned to the ship with their boughs of peace: a speech was made by one of them. A few trinkets were given by the Europeans, and friendship was again restored; but next morning, when the boats were in-shore searching for fresh water, a second attack was made upon them. Three large canoes ran against the ship's cutter, and stove in some of her upper planks. The natives were about to leap on board when a volley was fired into them, and two of their number fell into the sea. On seeing this they instantly retired, and the wounded men were dragged into the canoes.
Never having seen the effects of fire-arms before, the astonished savages apparently could not understand what was wrong with their comrades. They set them on their feet, but finding they could not stand, they tried to make them sit upright. One of them being only wounded, was able to remain in this position, but the other was dead, so they had to lay him in the bottom of their canoe. Once again they made peaceful signs, and Wallis, who was most anxious to avoid bloodshed, met them more than half-way. Traffic was speedily opened, and a considerable quantity of fruit, fowls, and hogs was obtained in exchange for scissors, knives, beads, and small trinkets of little value. But this did not last long. Warlike preparations were renewed by the natives, and many of their canoes were seen to be filled with large pebbles. At last an attack was made on the ship itself, and a regular battle was fought.
This happened early in the morning when the sailors were engaged trafficking with the people in the canoes that contained provisions. Captain Wallis observed, with some anxiety, that, besides those provision canoes, many others of large size and filled with stones were gradually crowding round the ship; he therefore kept part of the crew armed, and loaded his guns. More canoes were putting off from shore and crowding round until there were about three hundred of them, with upwards of two thousand men, some of whom sang a gruff sort of war-song, while others blew into a shell as if it were a trumpet, and some played on an instrument resembling a flute.
In the midst of these discordant noises one canoe, larger than the others, and with a canopy over it, pushed alongside, and a naked warrior handed up a bunch of red and yellow feathers. This was, of course, supposed to be a sign of peace, but such was not the case. Immediately afterwards the canoe pushed off and the leader threw into the air the branch of a cocoa-nut tree. This was the signal. A general shout burst from the savages; the canoes made for the ship, and showers of stones were thrown on board. Many of these stones were fully two pounds weight, and as they were thrown with great force, some of the sailors were severely wounded.
The crew of the Dolphin rushed to quarters. The watch on deck instantly opened a fire of musketry on those nearest the ship, and two of the quarter-deck swivel guns, which happened to be loaded with small-shot, were also discharged. This warm and vigorous reception checked the attack for a few minutes; but the courage of the savages was aroused. They quickly renewed the assault, coming on in all directions, and receiving constant reinforcements from the shore. But now the great guns of the ship were brought into play; the thunder of artillery echoed, for the first time, from the mountain-sides of Tahiti; and, as the heavy balls tore up the sea and crashed upon the shore, the terrified natives in the canoes nearest the ship took to flight.
Seeing this, the Captain at once ordered the fire to cease, being anxious to do as little harm as possible. This, however, had the effect of restoring confidence to the natives, who lay for some time gazing at the ship from a considerable distance. They had evidently profited by their short experience in this new style of warfare, for, observing that the terrible iron shower came thundering only from the sides of the ship, they made their next attack on the bow and stern—advancing with much daring, and throwing their stones with great violence and good aim, insomuch that some more of the men were severely hurt.
There is no saying what might have been the end of this fight, had not a lucky cannon-shot, fired from one of the great guns that had been run out at the bow, hit the canoe of the savage chief, and cut it in two. A result so tremendous had the effect of filling the hearts of the savages with terror. Every canoe turned tail and made for the shore in dire confusion, while the people who had crowded the beach took to their heels and ran over the hills in the utmost haste, as if they felt their only safety lay in placing the mountains between them and the terrible strangers in the big canoe. In half an hour not a single canoe was to be seen!
Captain Wallis now hoped that the natives would feel his immense superiority, and cease a useless contest, but he was mistaken. He was not yet done with them. They were a very determined set of men. Soon after this fight they were observed making preparations for a renewed attack. They could be seen pouring over the hills in all directions, and lurking in the thickets, while, round the point, numbers of war-canoes came paddling to the beach, where fresh warriors and bags of stones were embarked. It was evident that a grand attack was to be made; so Wallis prepared to repel it. Soon after, the bay was crowded with canoes as they paddled straight and swift toward the ship. At once the great guns opened with terrible effect, and so tremendous a fire was kept up that the entire flotilla was almost instantly dispersed. Many of the canoes were run ashore and deserted; others fled round the point, and the savages took to the woods. Into these the fire was then directed, and the natives, who doubtless imagined that no danger could penetrate from such a distance into the heart of their thick bushes, were driven, astonished and horrified, up a hill on which thousands of women and children had taken up their position to witness the fight.
Here they deemed themselves quite safe, but Captain Wallis resolved to show them that they were not so. He thought that the best thing he could do would be to inspire them with a wholesome dread of his tremendous artillery, so he ordered the guns to be fired at the crowded hill. The shots tore up the earth near a tree under which a dense crowd was collected. It need scarcely be added that the whole host fled on the wings of terror, and in less than two minutes not a man, woman, or child was to be seen.
The natives now at length submitted. Not many hours after the close of this fight, a few of them came down to the beach carrying green boughs which they stuck into the sand, and placed beside them a peace-offering of hogs and dogs and bundles of native cloth. Of course Wallis was right glad to accept it, and in return gave them presents of hatchets, nails, and other things. Peace was now thoroughly established, and the two parties engaged in amicable traffic with as much good-will as if they had neither quarrelled nor fought. The queen of the island visited the ship, and from that time till the Dolphin left everything went smoothly.
The ignorance of the natives as to the relative value of various metals was curiously shown one day. In order to find out what things they liked best, Captain Wallis spread before them a coin called a johannes, a guinea, a crown piece, a Spanish dollar, a few shillings, some new halfpence, and two large nails, and made a sign to them to help themselves. The nails were first seized with great eagerness, and then a few of the glittering new halfpence, but the silver and gold lay neglected!
The friendship thus established continued to increase as long as Wallis remained there, and when at length he took his departure the natives exhibited every sign of extreme regret—the queen especially was inconsolable, and wept bitterly when she bade them farewell.
Such were a few of the scenes that occurred at the discovery of Tahiti, an island which has since become famous as the scene of the residence of the mutineers of the Bounty, and the field of much earnest and deeply interesting missionary labour.
CAPTAIN COOK'S VISIT TO TAHITI.
Less than two years after the discovery of Tahiti by Wallis, Captain Cook arrived in the Endeavour at the same island. He first saw its high mountains rise on the horizon on the 11th of June 1769, and soon afterwards a few canoes came off to the ship, but the natives were timid at first. They evidently had not forgotten the thundering guns and crashing shot of the Dolphin.
In every canoe there were young plantains and branches of trees, which latter were intended as tokens of peace and friendship. The people in one of the canoes ventured to the ship, and handed these branches up the side, making signals at the same time with great earnestness. At first the sailors were unable to make out their meaning, but at length, guessing that they wished those symbols to be placed in some conspicuous part of the ship, they immediately stuck them about the rigging, upon which the natives expressed the greatest satisfaction. Cook then purchased the cargoes of the canoes, consisting of cocoa-nuts and various kinds of fruits, which, after their long voyage, were most acceptable.
Next morning the Endeavour was safely anchored in a bay called by the natives Matavai. Here the visitors were received with much kindness. The natives regarded them with great respect and awe; the first man who approached them crouching so low that he almost crept on his hands and knees. Then two of the chiefs came forward, and each selected his friend. One chose Cook, and the other selected Mr Banks, and each, taking off the greater part of his clothes, put them solemnly on his chosen friend.
On visiting their houses afterwards, they passed through delightful groves of trees which were loaded with cocoa-nuts and bread-fruit. These were found to be most excellent food. Before becoming quite ripe the liquid inside the cocoa-nut is said to resemble lemonade, when riper it is more like milk; and the bread-fruit nut, when properly dressed, is like the crumb of wheaten bread; so that it may be said of those favoured regions, with some degree of truth, that the people find something like bread and milk growing on the trees! There is indeed little occasion there for men to work. The fruits of the earth grow luxuriantly in a wild state; hence the natives, although a strong and active race, are habitually indolent. It has been proved, however, that when the blessed influence of the Christian religion is brought to bear on them, the South-Sea islanders are, in mind and body, good specimens of mankind.
One of the houses visited by Cook, in company with Messrs. Banks and Monkhouse, Dr Solander and others, on his first landing, was that of Tootahah, a middle-aged man, who seemed to be a person of rank. He received them hospitably, spread mats for the party, desired them to sit down by his side, and gave them an excellent dinner of bread-fruit, cocoa-nuts, plantains, and fish—the latter raw as well as dressed. Cook naturally preferred his fish cooked, but the natives seemed to relish it raw! Thereafter Tootahah presented Mr Banks and Captain Cook with a cock and hen, which curious gifts they accepted with many thanks, and in return gave Tootahah a laced silk neckcloth and a pocket handkerchief, in which he immediately dressed himself with immense satisfaction. Mr Banks seems to have been a favourite with the savage ladies, for they plied him earnestly with cocoa-nut milk. He, as well as Cook, received a further gift of native cloth, which, although rough in texture, was agreeably perfumed.
Beads and other ornaments were presented to the women, and altogether the new friends were becoming mutually delighted with each other when a sudden interruption to the harmonious meeting was caused by the discovery that some of the savages had acquired the art of picking pockets. A snuff-box belonging to Mr Monkhouse disappeared, and an opera-glass in a shagreen case, the property of Dr Solander, vanished. To pass over a first act of this kind lightly would have led to interminable pilferings and quarrellings. Mr Banks therefore started up angrily and struck the butt of his musket violently on the ground. Whereupon the most of the natives were panic-stricken, and darted out of the hut with the utmost precipitation. The chief endeavoured to appease the wrath of his guests by offering them gifts of cloth; but they were not thus to be silenced. They insisted on the restoration of the stolen articles, so the chief went out and shortly after returned with a beaming countenance—he had found them both; but his countenance fell when, on opening the case of the opera-glass, the glass itself was not there. With immense energy he resumed his detective duties, and was so fortunate as to recover the glass in a short time. Thus peace was restored, and the natives were taught to feel that their propensity to steal would prove a source of great annoyance and some danger to them, should they venture to give way to it in future.
Soon after this Cook selected a spot on the beach, not far from the ship, and, pitching his tent there, began to arrange for making the astronomical observations which had brought him to the South Seas. They had not remained long, however, before they found that the islanders were all addicted to stealing. Cook tells us that men and women of all ranks were the "arrantest thieves upon the face of the earth," yet they seemed to feel that the act of theft was wrong, for if charged with being guilty when they were in reality innocent, they were often moved to passionate indignation.
One day, when a large number of natives visited the ship, the chiefs employed themselves in stealing what they could in the cabin, while their dependants were no less industrious in other parts of the ship. They snatched up everything that it was possible for them to secrete till they got on shore. Two knives had been lost on shore, one of them belonging to Mr Banks, who taxed a man named Tubourai Tamaide, whom he suspected, with the theft. The man denied it stoutly, but upon Mr Banks saying firmly that, no matter who had taken it, he was determined to have it back, another native, feeling alarmed for his own safety, stepped forward and produced a rag in which three knives were tied up. One belonged to Dr Solander, another to Captain Cook; the owner of the third was not known. Mr Banks continued to charge Tubourai Tamaide with the theft of his knife, and the poor man continued to deny it indignantly. Not long after, it was discovered to have been mislaid by Mr Banks's own servant, who at length found it. Upon this demonstration of his innocence, Tubourai expressed strong emotions of mind. The fellow was, doubtless, as great a thief as the rest of his comrades, but on this occasion he felt himself to be an injured innocent, and refused to be comforted until Mr Banks expressed great sorrow for his unjust accusation, and made him a few trifling presents, whereupon he immediately forgot his wrongs and was perfectly reconciled!
In his dealings with these natives Captain Cook invariably acted with the gentleness, firmness, and wisdom of a truly great man, and at all times treated evil-doers with impartial justice.
One day a chief came to the tent on the beach in a state of intense excitement, and, hastily seizing Mr Banks by the arm, made signs that he should follow him. Mr Banks immediately complied, and soon came to a place where they found the ship's butcher with a reaping-hook in his hand. Here the chief stopped, and in a transport of rage explained, as well as he could by signs, that the butcher had threatened to cut his wife's throat with the hook. Mr Banks assured him that, if he could fully explain the offence, the man should be punished. Upon this he became calm, and explained that the offender, having taken a fancy to a stone hatchet which lay in his house, had offered to purchase it of his wife for a nail; that she having refused to part with it, he had seized it, and, throwing down the nail, threatened to cut her throat if she made any resistance. As the nail and hatchet were produced in proof of this charge, and the butcher had little to say in his defence, there was no reason to doubt its truth.
On the matter being reported to Cook, he took the opportunity of the chief and his wives with a number of natives being on board the ship, to call up the butcher, and, after repeating the charge and proof, he gave orders that the man should be punished. The natives looked on with fixed attention while the man was being stripped and tied up to the rigging, waiting in silent suspense for the event; but as soon as the first stroke was given they interfered with great agitation, earnestly entreating that he might be forgiven. Cook, however, did not think it advisable to agree to this. He would not consent, and, when they found that their entreaties were of no avail, they gave vent to their pity in tears.
SHOWS WHAT VANITY WILL INDUCE MEN AND WOMEN TO DO.
It fills one with wonder to think of the strange and absurd things that men, in all ages and in all parts of the world, have done to themselves in order to improve their personal appearance. The flat-head Indian of North America squeezes his forehead out of shape; the Eastern beauty blackens her teeth and nails; the Chinaman shaves the hair off his head, leaving a tuft on the top; the Englishman shaves the hair off his face, leaving a tuft on each cheek,—and all of these deluded mortals run thus deliberately in the face of nature, under the impression that by so doing they are improving their personal appearance!
Not to be behindhand, the South-Sea islanders tattoo themselves. In other words, they prick a multitude of little holes in their skins, and rub into these some colouring matter, which, when thoroughly fixed, cannot again be washed out. The ornamental devices with which they thus, more or less, cover their persons are sometimes very cleverly and tastefully done, and they would be really admirable if depicted on a piece of wood or a sheet of paper; but when applied to the human body they are altogether ridiculous.
The operation of tattooing is a very painful one; so much so, that a great deal of it cannot be done at one time, and it is said that persons sometimes die during the process. The inhabitants of nearly all the islands practise it. Usually it is commenced at the age of eight or ten, and continued at intervals till the individual is between twenty and thirty years of age.
So important and difficult is the art of tattooing, that men devote themselves to it professionally, and these professors are well paid for their work. Here is an account of the operation.
The professor, having his victim on the ground before him, takes up his instrument of torture. This consists of a small piece of stick with sharp bones of birds or fishes attached to it. Having previously sketched with a piece of charcoal the pattern intended to be tattooed, he dips the points of the sharp bones into a colouring matter (which is a beautiful jet black, procured from the kernel of the candle-nut), applies it to the surface of the skin, and strikes it smartly with a piece of stick held in his right hand. The skin is punctured in this way, and the dye injected. With the calmness of an operator, and the gravity of an artist, the professor proceeds as long as his patient can endure the pain. Then he ceases, and when the part is sufficiently recovered, the operation is continued until the device or pattern is finished.
These patterns vary among different islanders. They consist of circular and curving lines, and representations of palm-trees, animals, etcetera, on the face and body; and to such an extent is tattooing carried, that the whole body is sometimes covered so as nearly to conceal the original colour of the skin.
Mr Ellis, who wrote long after the gallant Cook was in his grave, tells us in his most interesting work on the South-Sea Islands, (Ellis's Polynesian Researches), that the inhabitants of Tahiti were more simple in their tattooing, and displayed greater taste and elegance than some of the other islanders. "Though some of the figures are arbitrary, such as stars, circles, lozenges, etcetera, the patterns are usually taken from nature, and are often some of the most graceful. A cocoa-nut tree is a favourite object; and I have often admired the taste displayed in the marking of a chief's leg, on which I have seen a cocoa-nut tree correctly and distinctly drawn; its roots spreading at the heel, its elastic stalk pencilled as it were along the tendon, and its waving plume gracefully spread out on the broad part of the calf. Sometimes a couple of stems would be twined up from the heel and divide on the calf, each bearing a plume of leaves.
"The ornaments round the ankle and upon the instep, make them often appear as if they wore the elegant Eastern sandal. The sides of the legs are sometimes tattooed from the ankle upward, which gives the appearance of wearing pantaloons with ornamental seams. From the lower part of the back, a number of straight, waved, or zigzag lines rise in the direction of the spine, and branch off regularly towards the shoulder. But, of the upper part of the body, the chest is the most tattooed. Every variety of figure is to be seen here,—cocoa-nut and bread-fruit trees, with convolvulus wreaths hanging round them, boys gathering fruit, men engaged in battle, in the manual exercise, triumphing over a fallen foe; or, as I have frequently seen it, they are represented as carrying a human sacrifice to the temple. Every kind of animal—goats, dogs, fowls, and fish—may at times be seen on this part of the body; muskets, swords, pistols, clubs, spears, and other weapons of war are also stamped upon their arms and chest."
These figures are not all crowded upon the same person, but each man makes a selection according to his fancy. The women also tattoo their persons, but not to such an extent as the men, and their designs and figures are usually more tasteful.
Cook says that Mr Banks saw this operation performed on the back of a girl about thirteen years old. The instrument used upon this occasion had thirty teeth; about a hundred strokes were given in the minute, and each stroke drew a little blood. The girl bore it bravely for about a quarter of an hour; but at the end of that time the pain of so many hundred punctures became unbearable. She first complained in murmurs, then wept, and at last burst into loud lamentations, earnestly beseeching the operator to stop. He, however, firmly refused, and when she began to struggle, she was held down by two women, who sometimes soothed and sometimes scolded her, and, now and then, when she became very unruly, gave her a smart blow. Mr Banks stayed in a neighbouring house an hour, and the operation was not over when he went away, yet it was performed only on one side of the back; the other had been tattooed some time before, and the loins had still to be done.
Tahiti is now one of the civilised islands of the South Seas. At the time of Cook's visit the natives were absolutely savages. They lived in a state of partial nakedness, and their manners and customs were of the grossest description. Their religion and superstitions were degrading in the extreme, and, until Christianity obtained a hold upon them, they delighted in war, and practised horrible cruelties on their enemies.
Yet, even in their low condition, there were good points about those islanders. Cook says that they were as large as the largest-sized Europeans. The men were tall, strong, well-limbed, and finely shaped. The tallest he saw, on a neighbouring island, was a man who measured six feet three inches and a half. The women of the superior rank were above our middle stature, but those of the inferior class rather below it. Their complexion was a kind of clear olive or brunette, and the skin of the women was smooth and soft. They had no colour in their cheeks, but their faces were comely; the cheekbones were not high, neither were the eyes hollow. Their eyes were sparkling and full of expression, and their teeth good, but their noses being flat did not correspond with his ideas of beauty. Their hair was black and coarse. The men had beards, which they wore in many fashions, always, however, plucking out great part of them, and keeping the rest perfectly clean and neat.
In most countries it is the custom of the men to wear short and the women long hair. Here, however, Cook found this custom reversed. The women cut it short round the ears, and the men—except the fishermen, who were almost continually in the water—suffered it to flow in large waves over their shoulders, or tied it up in a bunch on the top of their heads. They were in the habit of anointing it with cocoa-nut oil, which had the effect of rendering their heads very filthy; but in other respects the natives of Tahiti were remarkable for cleanliness.
Their clothing consisted of native-made cloth or matting, and was very scanty, but in many cases was tastefully put on and intermingled with flowers. Some of the men wore a feather in their hair; others wore a wig made of the hair of men and dogs. Both sexes wore ear-rings made of pieces of stones, shells, or berries, which were speedily exchanged, however, for the beads given them by the sailors, for, like all other savages, they delighted in gay ornaments.
The houses of these people were very simple. They consisted of nothing more than a thatched roof mounted upon pillars. They had no walls whatever, and were open to every wind of heaven, but in so warm a climate this was not considered a disadvantage. There were no rooms or partitions of any kind in them, and they were usually large. Some belonged to families, others were the public property of a district, and these last were sometimes two hundred feet long by thirty broad.
All the houses were built in the woods that lay between the sea and the mountains. No more ground was cleared for each house than was just sufficient to prevent the droppings of the branches from falling on the roof; so that the inhabitant could step at once from his cottage into the shade of the forest, which was the most delightful and romantic that could be imagined. It consisted of groves of bread-fruit and cocoa-nut trees without underwood, and paths led in all directions through it from one house to another. Only those travellers who have experienced the intense overpowering heat of tropical countries can form a just conception of the enjoyableness of a ramble through the shady groves of Tahiti.
The food eaten by the natives was chiefly vegetable. They had tame hogs, dogs, and poultry, but these were not plentiful, and the visit of Cook's ship soon diminished the numbers of animals very considerably. When a chief killed a hog it was divided almost equally amongst his dependants, and as these were numerous, the share of each individual at a feast was not large. Dogs and fowls fell to the lot of the lower classes. Cook says that he could not commend the flavour of their fowls, but he and his crew unanimously agreed that a South-Sea dog was little inferior to English lamb! He conjectured that their excellence was owing to the fact that they were fed exclusively upon vegetables.
Like everything else in Tahiti, the art of cooking was somewhat peculiar. The preparation of a dog for dinner is thus described:—
"The dog, which was very fat, we consigned over to Tupia, who undertook to perform the double office of butcher and cook. He killed him by holding his hands close over his mouth and nose, an operation which continued above a quarter of an hour. While this was going on, a hole was made in the ground about a foot deep, in which a fire was kindled, and some small stones were placed in layers alternately with the wood to get heated. The dog was then singed by holding him over the fire, and by scraping him with a shell the hair came off as clean as if he had been scalded in hot water. He was then cut up with the same instrument, and his entrails being taken out, were sent to the sea, where, being carefully washed, they were put into cocoa-nut shells with what blood came from the body.
"When the hole was sufficiently heated, the fire was removed, and some of the stones,—which were not so hot as to discolour anything that touched them,—being placed in the bottom, were covered with green leaves. The dog and the entrails were then placed upon the leaves, other leaves were placed above them, the whole was covered up with the remainder of the hot stones, and the mouth of the hole was closed with mould. In somewhat less than four hours it was again opened and the dog taken out excellently baked. Nearly all the fish and flesh eaten by the inhabitants is dressed in this way."
The sea in those regions affords the natives great variety of fish; the smaller of which they usually eat raw. They have also lobsters, crabs, and other shell-fish, all of which they are very fond of. Indeed, nothing seems to come amiss to them. They even eat what sailors call blubbers, though some of these are so tough that they have to allow them to become putrid before they can chew them.
Their chief vegetable, the bread-fruit, is so curious a plant that it merits particular notice. It costs them no more trouble or labour to procure it than the climbing of a tree. In regard to this tree Cook says that it does not indeed shoot up spontaneously, but if a man plants ten of them in his lifetime, which he may do in about an hour, he will sufficiently fulfil his duty to his own and to future generations. True, the bread-fruit is not always in season; but when its ready-made loaves are not to be had, the South-Sea islander has plenty of cocoa-nuts, bananas, plantains, and other fruits to supply its place.
The bread-fruit tree is large and beautiful. Its trunk, which is light-coloured and rough, grows to a height of twelve or twenty feet, and is sometimes three feet in diameter. Its leaves are broad, dark green, and a foot or eighteen inches long. The fruit, about the size of a child's head, is round, covered with a rough rind, and is at first of a light pea-green hue; subsequently it changes to brown, and when fully ripe, assumes a rich yellow colour. It hangs to the branches singly, or in clusters of two or three together. One of these magnificent trees, clothed with its dark shining leaves and loaded with many hundreds of large light green or yellowish fruit, is one of the most beautiful objects to be met with among the islands of the south.
The pulp of the bread-fruit between the rind and the core is all eatable. The core itself, which is about the size and shape of the handle of a knife, is uneatable. The bread-fruit is never eaten raw. The usual mode of dressing it is to remove the rind and the core, divide the pulp into three or four pieces, and bake it in an oven similar to the one just described. When taken out, in somewhat less than an hour, the outside of the fruit is nicely browned, and the inner part so strongly resembles the crumb of wheaten bread as to have suggested the name of the tree. It is not, however, quite so pleasant to the taste, being rather insipid and slightly sweet. Nevertheless it is extremely good for food, and is much prized by the natives, to whom it may almost be said to be the staff of life.
The tree on which this excellent fruit grows, besides producing two, and, in some cases, three crops in a year, furnishes a species of gum, or resin, which oozes from the bark when cut, and hardens when exposed to the sun. It is used for pitching the seams of canoes. The bark of the young branches is employed in making several varieties of native cloth. The wood of the tree is also valuable for building houses and canoes. There are nearly fifty varieties of the bread-fruit tree, for which the natives have distinct names, and as these varieties ripen at different times, there are few months in the year in which the fruit is not to be had.
Not less valuable to the natives of these islands is the cocoa-nut tree, the stem of which is three or four feet in diameter at the root, whence it tapers gradually without branch or leaf to the top, where it terminates in a beautiful tuft or plume of long green leaves which wave gracefully in every breeze.
One of the singular peculiarities of this tree is its power of flourishing in almost any soil. It grows equally well on the mountain-side, in the rich valleys beside the streams, and on the barren sea-beach of the coral reefs, where its only soil is sand, and where its roots are watered by the waves of every rising tide. Another peculiarity is, that fruit in every stage may be seen on the same tree at one time—from the first formation, after the falling of the blossom, to the ripe nut. As the tree is slow in growth, the nuts do not probably come to perfection until twelve months after the blossoms have fallen. The successive ripening of the nuts, therefore, seems to have been purposely arranged by our beneficent Creator, with a special view to the comfort of man. Each nut is surrounded by a tough husk, or shell, nearly two inches thick, and when it has reached its full size it contains a pint, or a pint and a half, of the juice usually called cocoa-nut milk.
The kernels of the tough outer husks, above referred to, are the "cocoa-nuts" which we see exposed for sale in this country, but these nuts give no idea of the delightful fruit when plucked from the tree. They are old and dry, and the milk is comparatively rancid. In the state in which we usually see cocoa-nuts they are never used by the natives except as seed, or for the extraction of oil.
Some varieties of this tree grow to a height of sixty or seventy feet. As all the nuts are at the top the gathering of them would be an extremely difficult matter were it not for an ingenious contrivance by which the natives manage to climb the trees; for it may be easily understood that to shin up an exceedingly rough pole of seventy feet high, with bare legs, would try the mettle of most men—civilised as well as savage. The plan is simple. The native strips off a piece of tough bark from a branch, and therewith ties his feet together, leaving them, however, several inches apart, grasping the trunk with his arms he presses his feet against each side of the tree so that the piece of bark between them catches in the roughnesses of the stem; this gives him a purchase by which he is enabled to leap or vault up like a monkey.
The wood of the tree is excellent. The natives make pillars for their houses and their best spears from it. A species of what we may call natural cloth is found, ready-made, on its leaves, with which they make sacks, and shirts, and jackets. Plaited leaflets form coverings for their floors. Baskets are made from the leaves, matting and cordage of the fibrous husk, and oil is extracted from the nut. Besides all this, the shells of the old nuts are used as water-bottles, and, when carved and highly polished, they form elegant drinking-cups.
The perfect adaptation of the bread-fruit and cocoa-nut trees to the varied wants of the South-sea islanders tells, more eloquently than could be told in words, of the wisdom and benevolence with which the Almighty cares for His creatures, even while those creatures are living in the habitual neglect of Himself, and in the violation of all His laws.
TREATS OF SAVAGE WARFARE AND SOME OF ITS CONSEQUENCES.
It has been said that the natives of the innumerable islands of the South Seas are fond of war.
All travellers to those regions bear witness to this fact. When Cook went there, the natives of all of them were absolute savages. At the present time a great number of the islands have been blessed with the light of Christianity, but some of them are still lying in the state of degradation in which they were first found.
At this moment, reader, while you ponder these lines, there are men of the South Seas who wander about in a state of nudity and idleness; who practise every species of abomination, and kill, roast, and eat each other, just as they did a hundred years ago.
The eating of human beings, or, as it is called, cannibalism, is no idle tale invented by travellers. Men of the highest character for truth, who have had ample opportunity for observation, from the time of Cook to the present day, have assured us that the natives of those lovely regions are cannibals: that they not only eat the bodies of enemies slain in war, but even kill and eat their own slaves. Of this you shall hear more anon; meanwhile, let us turn aside to see how these savage warriors go forth to battle.
When it has been decided that they shall go to war, the natives of the South-Sea islands commence their preparations with human sacrifices to the god of war. After many strange, bloody, and superstitious rites, the warriors arm themselves and prepare for the fight.
Their weapons, which they use with great dexterity, are slings for throwing heavy stones, pikes headed with the bones of sting-rays, and clubs about six or seven feet long, made of a very hard and heavy wood. In some instances these are richly carved. The chief of each district leads his own subjects to the field, and reports the number of his men to the leading chief. When all are assembled they sally forth. If the fight is to take place on land, it is sometimes begun by the celebrated warriors of each army marching to the front of their respective lines, and sitting down on the ground. Several of these then step forward, and boastfully challenge each other to combat. The challenge is usually accepted at once, and after taunting each other for some time, they engage in furious battle. When one falls, a man from his side rises and steps forward to fill his place and continue the fight. If either party gives way, then the main body of the army to which it belongs rushes forward to its support. The opposing army of course springs forward to meet them, and thus the fight becomes general. The main bodies advance in ranks four deep. In the first rank are the bravest men, armed with spears; in the second rank they are armed with clubs to defend the spearmen. The third row consists of young men with slings, and the fourth is composed of women, who carry baskets of stones for the slingers, and clubs and spears for the other combatants.
There is no science displayed in their mode of fighting. The opposing armies rush upon each other with terrible fury, dealing deadly blows and thrusts with their murderous weapons. The din and clamour of the fray is increased by a class of men whose duty it is to animate the troops by voice and gesture. These may be styled the orators of battle, and are usually men of commanding stature and well-tried courage. They mingle in the thickest of the fight; hurry to and fro, cheering the men with the passionate recital of heroic deeds, and, in every possible way, rousing their courage and urging them on to deeds of valour. Pressing through the host with flashing eyes and thundering voice, they shout such abrupt sentences as the following:—
"Roll onward like the billows! Break on them with the ocean's foam and roar when bursting on the reefs! Hang on them as the forked lightning plays above the foaming surf! Give out the vigilance; give out the anger—the anger of the devouring wild dog—till their line is broken; till they flow back like the receding tide!"
Amid such cries, mingled with the shouts of maddened combatants, and the yells of stricken men, the fight goes on. They use no shields. Believing that the gods direct their weapons, they make no attempt to guard, but lay about them with fury. Blows do not often require to be repeated. Skulls are cleft or battered in; and hearts are pierced with one blow or thrust, and, when noted warriors fall on either side, shouts of triumph echo along the line and strike a panic through the enemy's ranks.
The first wounded man who can be seized before being quite dead is offered in sacrifice by his foes. He is not taken to their temple for that purpose, but his head is bound round with sacred cinet brought from the temple, and he is then laid alive on a number of spears and borne on men's shoulders along the ranks, the priest of the god of war walking alongside and watching the writhings of the dying man. If a tear falls from his eye it is said he is weeping for his land. If he should clench his fist it is supposed to be a sign that his party will resist to the last.
If a great chief falls, the party to which he belongs retires a short distance, collects some of the bravest men, and then rushes with incredible fury and yells of vengeance upon the foe to "clear away the blood." The shock is terrific when the contending parties meet, and numbers usually fall on both sides.
During the battle the armies sometimes separate a little distance for a time, leaving a space between them; then the slingers of stones advance. The most expert of these slingers are renowned warriors, and when they are recognised a shout arises from the opposite ranks, "Beware! a powerful stone is such an one." At short range the stones about the size of a hen's egg are thrown straight at the enemy with such force that it is almost impossible to avoid them, so that they do much execution. But soon again the lines close and the fight is renewed hand to hand.
At length one of the lines begins to waver. Seeing this, the others are encouraged to renewed efforts; their enemies at last break and fly, and then a scene of terrible carnage follows. The vanquished rush to their canoes, or fly to the strongholds of the mountains. The victors continue the pursuit, slaughtering men and women indiscriminately. A fallen warrior perchance cries for mercy, "Spare me! may I live?" says he. If the name of his conqueror's chief or king is invoked, the request is sometimes granted; if not, the only reply is a taunt, followed by a thrust or a deadly blow. Thus the scene of murder and blood goes on until the fugitives have reached their strongholds, or until the shades of evening put an end to the pursuit.
Such were the scenes that took place in the days of Captain Cook, and such or similar scenes still occur frequently at the present time on the coral isles of the Pacific.
When their wars are conducted on the sea, the islanders embark in war-canoes, which are so large as to be able to carry from sixty to eighty and even a hundred men. Captain Cook tells us that the ingenuity of these people appears in nothing more than in their canoes. They are long and narrow. One that he measured was sixty-eight and a half feet long, five feet broad, and three feet and a half deep. The bottom was sharp, with straight sides like a wedge. Each side consisted of one entire plank sixty-three feet long, ten or twelve inches broad, and an inch and a quarter thick. The bottom part of the canoe was hollowed out, and these planks were lashed to it with strong plaiting. A grotesque ornament projected six feet beyond the head, and it had a sort of stern-post that rose to a height of about fourteen feet. Both the head and the stern-post were beautifully carved, and the canoe was propelled by means of short paddles, the men sitting with their faces in the direction in which they were going. The heads of many of the canoes were curious, in some cases it was the figure of a man with a face as ugly as can well be conceived, with a monstrous tongue thrust out of the mouth, and white shells stuck in for eyes.
In such canoes they went forth to war upon the water, and their sea-fights were not less sanguinary than those of the land. In one battle that was fought between the people of Huahine and those of Raiatea immense slaughter took place. The fleet of one side consisted of ninety war-canoes, each about a hundred feet long, and filled with men. They met near a place called Hooroto, when a most obstinate and bloody engagement ensued. Both parties lost so many men that, when piled up on the day after the battle, the dead bodies formed a heap "as high as the young cocoa-nut trees."
The captives taken in these wars are usually murdered on the spot, unless reserved for slaves to their conquerors.
One of the results of these sanguinary fights is the existence of a number of what may be called wild men in the mountains of the islands. Ellis, in his Polynesian Researches, tells us that he once saw one of these men who had been caught in the mountains and was at that time comparatively tame, yet his appearance was very remarkable. He was about the middle size, large boned, but not fleshy. His features and countenance were strongly marked. His complexion was dark, and his aspect agitated and wild. His beard was long, and the hair of his head upwards of a foot and a half in length. It was parted on his forehead, but was matted and dishevelled. The colour of his hair was singular. At the roots it was black, six inches from his head it was light brown, and the extremities were light yellow. He was quite naked, with the exception of a maro or girdle round the loins. This poor creature had been driven to the mountains in time of war, and had remained in solitude for many years. Probably extreme terror had affected his mind, for he was gloomy, and seemed to take no interest in anything going on around him. Evidently those "wild men" were poor creatures whose misfortunes had driven them mad.
One of them was captured on another occasion by a party which had gone into the mountains to collect the bark of a certain tree which is used for dyeing cloth. On their way they perceived a man lying asleep on the ground. They surrounded him with as little noise as possible, but when they approached he awoke. Leaping up, he flung his wild locks over his shoulders and gazed at them with a startled look; then he darted into the woods, where he was caught by one of the men and secured. Had he not been enfeebled from recent illness, they could neither have caught nor retained this man.