Page:A Lady's Cruise in a French Man-of-War.djvu/153

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TEMPLE DESECRATION.

King George, who had long been a zealous Christian, and whose energetic nature had thrown itself heart and soul into the work of converting his people. Never did finer material exist. The Tongans have ever been noted for their strong, self-reliant, earnest character; and the same determination which in old days made them dreaded as the most daring pirates of the South Seas, was now called into play in quite a new manner, and the pushing ambitious men who were ever coming to the front in deeds of aggression, were henceforth the champions of the Christian faith and its most zealous pioneers.

At Tonga Mr Williams was the guest of Messrs Nathaniel Turner and Cross. The name of the latter is familiar to us, as having shared, with the Rev. David Cargill, the danger and honour of founding the Wesleyan Mission in Fiji. From them they heard with joy that Taufaahau, the chief of the Happai group,—a man of indomitable courage and determination,—had recently visited King George at Tongatabu, in order to judge for himself of the new religion. He then returned to his own dominions accompanied by Tongan native teachers, and proceeded to destroy all the idols and altars, exhorting the chiefs to follow his example. Many were naturally indignant at this proceeding, and determined to celebrate a great festival in honour of the gods. Turtle and other sacred fish had to be caught for the offerings; so the high-handed chief, Taufaahau, profited by the delay to desecrate the temple by driving a herd of pigs into the sacred enclosure, and converting the temple itself into a sleeping-room for his women-servants—the presence of a woman being considered pollution to a marae.

So utterly obnoxious to the gods was the female sex, that it was certain death for any woman to set foot in a temple—and when victims were about to be seized for sacrifice, the greatest care was taken to prevent the approach of any female relation, lest she should touch the corpse, and so render it unfit to be offered at the marae. When the worshippers arrived with their offerings of turtle, they found the poor gods all disrobed, hanging by the neck from the rafters; and knowing the stern resolution of their chief,