Page:A Lady's Cruise in a French Man-of-War.djvu/139

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115
STRANGE GODS.

cannibals, without a rag of clothing, but whitewashed from head to foot to improve their beauty. This was the height of fashion on Maré. On his return in 1859, he found that perhaps one side of an island had adopted Christianity, and that clean, decently clad congregations of men and women assembled on the shore to meet him, eager that he should hear them read the Scriptures from books printed in their own dialect,—a strange contrast to the other side of the same isle, still plunged in heathen degradation, engaged in ceaseless war, feasting on the bodies of the slain, and occasionally capturing a Christian teacher, whose zeal led him to adventure within their reach.

Much the same state of things prevailed on some of the New Hebrides, where the isle of Aneiteum was the most hopeful centre of operations, its population of upwards of 3000 persons having all professedly become Christians, and 300 being actually church members. Fifty-six different villages had built schools for their own use, and eleven had chapels. Sixty of the more advanced natives ranked as teachers, and several had gone to work on the hostile isles around. On these, also, two white missionaries had established themselves, though still enduring a hard struggle, and making very little way apparently.

More recent incidents have proved how slow and difficult has been their work.

On the voyage I speak of, the converts presented Dr Turner with upwards of a hundred of their discarded idols—storm-gods and rain-gods, gods of war and of sickness, gods of the land and of the sea, of the fruits of the earth and of all living things,—a strange motley collection of poor dishonoured images, each of which had been an object of awe through many a dark year, now all huddled together in the hold of the foreign ship.

Amongst the simpler idols of Samoa were a number of smooth water-worn stones, more or less egg-shaped—precisely similar to those still reverenced in Indian temples, and which were so long held in honour in the British Isles.[1] One of those was the Samoan

  1. For a few examples, to which many more might be added, see From the Hebrides to the Himalayas,' vol. i. pp. 16, 74, 130-134.