Page:A Lady's Cruise in a French Man-of-War.djvu/279

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.
247
COTTON PLANTATIONS.

The Catholic Mission consists of a bishop, with a considerable number of priests, and a sisterhood like those on Tonga, Samoa, and Tahiti. The priests work hard, but apparently with small result. It is whispered that the presence of a large number of very irreligious white men has a highly demoralising influence on the natives—as we can well understand; and even the French Government, which took such a lively interest in the introduction of Catholicism to Tahiti, seems to take none in the progress of the mission in the Marquesas.

In the matter of stone and mortar a good deal has been done, well-built churches having been erected in all the principal valleys, in the proportion of one church to every 150 inhabitants. Unfortunately, however, the people show small disposition to adopt any form of Christianity. The queen Viakehu and a few of her household are devout Catholics; and a little flock, who profess to be Christians, rally round each of the missionaries, but the majority continue heathen, with a deeply rooted belief in their old superstitions. I have just received a photograph of one of the Marquesan stone idols, with two of its worshippers. It is singularly hideous, and the head is crowned with a circular cap-stone, resembling on a small scale the crowns of Easter Island.

But if the Catholic Mission has hitherto failed in its ostensible work, it has at least given the natives a good example of industry; for every available inch of ground within reach of the mission is under most careful cultivation, and is made to grow excellent cotton.

Though the Marquesans are too idle to do any sort of planting beyond what is actually necessary for the cultivation of their gardens, the example set by the mission has been followed by various settlers. Foremost among these is Captain Hart, a man of great energy, who has done much to advance the trading interest

    témoigne aux volontaires Tahitiens, aux volontaires Marquisiens, aux militaires de toutes armes, ainsi qu'aux marins qui ont pris part à l'expédition des Marquises, toute sa satisfaction.

    "Grâce à leur esprit militaire, à leur dévouement et à leur discipline, l'île de Hiva-oa et celle de Fatuhiva ont été rapidement soumises et désarmés, et la paix régne partout aux Marquises."