Page:A Lady's Cruise in a French Man-of-War.djvu/147

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123
A ZEALOUS CONVERT.

banana stumps to act as rollers, and so protect the canoes from injury. The rollers now used were living naked men and women, tied together hand and foot, and over their writhing bodies were the heavy canoes drawn in triumph.

The same terrible fate had overtaken the neighbouring isle of Mauke, when the arrival of the mission-ship brought to these isles the blessed Gospel of peace. The first man to step on board at Atiu was the terrible chief, Romatane, who had led the expeditions against Mitiaro and Mauke: he was a man of strikingly commanding aspect, with beautiful long black hair. He was eagerly welcomed by the chief of Aitutaki, who had already destroyed his idols and accepted the new faith; and so earnestly did this zealous convert plead all through the long night with his brother chief, that, ere the morrow dawned, the truth of his words seemed borne in upon the mind of Romatane, and he vowed that never again would he worship any God save Jehovah. He returned ashore to announce this decision to his people, and his intention of immediately destroying his idols and their temples. Then returning on board, he agreed to direct the course of the vessel to the then unknown isles of Mitiaro and Mauke, which hitherto he had visited only with fire and sword. Now it was his voice that proclaimed the truths he had just learned, and that exhorted the people to destroy all their idols and build a house for the worship of the true God. At each isle he himself escorted the Tahitian teachers and their wives to the house of the principal chief, and charged him to care for them and hearken to their instructions.

Thus in one short day was this mighty revolution wrought in three isles, which had never before even seen a foreign ship. Romatane and his brother Mana proved themselves true to their first convictions; and among their stanch fellow-workers was one who, to this day, tells how, at the massacre of his kinsfolk on Mauke, when he was carried away captive, he was laid on the baskets containing the baked flesh of his uncles and fellow-countrymen, and narrowly escaped being himself consigned to the oven.

The mission work progressed without a drawback. The people, almost without demur, determined to destroy the idols they had