Page:A Lady's Cruise in a French Man-of-War.djvu/200

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path lay over the great waters would fail to propitiate so powerful and cruel a foe. Terrible are the stories of canoes which have been disabled and water-logged, and of the hungry sharks that have gathered round in shoals, and picked off the crew one by one, till the canoe, thus lightened, could float again; and perhaps one survivor has escaped to tell of his comrades' fate.

When Pomare II. determined to become a Christian, his first decided act was to show the people with what contempt he now regarded the gods of his ancestors, to whom the turtle had ever been held sacred. It was invariably cooked with sacred fire within the precincts of the temple, and a portion was always offered to the idol. A turtle having been presented to the king, his followers were about to carry it to the marae, when he called them back, and bade them prepare an oven and bake it like ordinary food, without regard to the idol. Great was the consternation of the attendants, who tremblingly obeyed, and watched the king himself cut up the turtle and begin to eat. He vainly endeavoured to induce those who were with him to share this impious feast: they looked for some immediate manifestation of divine anger, and expected to see the king stricken before their eyes. Great was their wonder when no harm befell him, either on that day or on the morrow; and thus the first step was taken towards the overthrow of the old superstition.

It was a simple but effectual test, and one which required considerable courage on the part of him who first dared to try it. Pomare, on this occasion, did for the people of Tahiti what Queen Kapiolani did for those of Hawaii, when, descending to the brink of the awesome crater, she defied the goddess Pélé by eating the blue berries held sacred to her, and which none dared to taste without first throwing a handful as an offering to Pélé.

In like manner did Pomare-Vahine, daughter of the King of Raiatea, teach the same lesson to the chiefs of Eimeo, who had brought her a great faamuraa, or feeding—i.e., a gift of roasted pigs, fowls, fish, fruit, and vegetables. According to custom, the priests were present to crave the blessing of the gods on the whole feast, by first selecting the portions to be offered on the altars.