Page:A Lady's Cruise in a French Man-of-War.djvu/32

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friendly priests, too, were hard to recognise in their richly brocaded vestments; and I confess that to my irreverent eyes the predominance of yellow and scarlet, and a good many other things besides, forcibly recalled the last gorgeous ritualistic services I had witnessed in many Buddhist temples in Ceylon, and on the borders of Thibet. Such impressions tend to wandering thoughts, and mine, I fear, are apt to become rather "mixed." Anyhow it was a relief when the scarlet and gold vestments were replaced by purple, with beautiful white lace. All the accessories were excellent. A native played the harmonium well, and Tongan enfants de chœur chanted the service admirably. Altogether the scenic effect was striking.

Chairs had been provided for all the foreigners present, and of course I sat with the Sisters, though it would have seemed more natural to curl up on a mat beside the native women, as we do in Fiji. These Catholic Tongans so far retain their former customs, that they continue to sit on the ground, although the polished wooden floor, which has replaced the soft grass and mats of old days, is not exactly a luxurious seat.

In the Wesleyan churches, which are here built as much as possible on ugly foreign models, regular benches are the rule. I trust it will be long ere our simple and suitable churches in Fiji are replaced by buildings of that sort. I grieve to say that this is by no means the only point in which the natives here have departed from primitive custom. Not content with the noble work of utterly exterminating idolatry and cannibalism, the teachers in these isles are afflicted with an unwholesome belief in foreign garments, and by every means in their power encourage the adoption of European cloth and unbecoming dresses; consequently many of the Tongan men glory in full suits of black, while some of the girls appear in gaudy and vulgar hats, trimmed with artificial flowers. Imagine these surmounting a halo of spiral curls!

Is it not strange that this admirable mission, which has done such magnificent work in these isles, cannot be content to allow its Tongan converts the same liberty in outer matters as its wise representatives in Fiji allow their congregations? Here the "gold ring and goodly apparel" are promoted to the foremost stiff benches.