Page:A Lady's Cruise in a French Man-of-War.djvu/278

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.

whereby to separate their scholars from evil influence at home, organising churches, and, in short, doing all in their power to advance the good cause.

It was felt that a great step had been gained when the oppressive system of tabu had received its first blow by many of the high chiefs coming to a feast at the mission, in company with their wives, as heretofore it had been forbidden for father, mother, or grown-up child to eat one with another—all had to feed apart; and the same senseless prohibitions extended in endless ramifications through all actions of life. Now the system of tabu has fallen into neglect, and the Hawaiian Mission has gained ground, notwithstanding much hindrance from the opposition and interference of the Roman Catholic priests.

Nevertheless, to all intents and purposes, the majority of the people are still savages, and the present mission of the Seignelay is to inquire into recent cases of alleged cannibalism, said to have occurred in the interior of Dominica, where the hill-tribes and fisher-tribes still live at constant enmity. It is said to be the most fertile island in the group, and to have the largest population.

The French governor is supported by sundry officials, and a detachment of about sixty soldiers, a dozen gens d'armes, and a few native police.[1]

  1. Although the French have had possession of the group for so many years, the natives of some of the islands have never been really in subjection to the authorities until last year, when Admiral Bergasse du Petit Thouars visited the group, and with the aid of volunteers, natives of Tahiti, and of the friendly isles of Marquesas, succeeded in disarming and bringing into subjection the hostile tribes, and that without firing a shot.

    The admiral himself headed the troops across the mountains from village to village, arriving one night on the coast about midnight, having been conducted by natives who knew the passes: these passes were lighted up by the electric light from the frigate, which was anchored in the bay. The French took 600 muskets from the natives of the two islands, Hiva-oa and Fatuhiva. They say that the natives are really not a bad sort of people, but their curse, like that of all the islands, is "drink." This, and the conduct of unprincipled foreigners, has been the real cause of all the trouble.

    I affix a note which I copy from the 'Messager de Tahiti' for 30th of July 1880, which is all that has appeared in the paper on the subject:—

    "Le Contre-Amiral commandant en chef le corps expéditionnaire aux Marquises,