Page:A Lady's Cruise in a French Man-of-War.djvu/33

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13
TORTOISE-SHELL BONNETS!

There the distracting "care for raiment" is reduced to a minimum, and all the people kneel together devoutly, on the soft accustomed mats, in houses of the same type as their cool pleasant homes, without a thought that a building of a European type, with hard uncomfortable seats, and unbecoming foreign clothes, can render their prayer and praise more acceptable to their Father in heaven.

Nothing astonishes me more, in reading any of the early missionary records of grand work done in these seas, than the frequent laudatory allusions to the general adoption by the converts of some fearful and wonderful head-dress, in imitation of the hideous bonnets of our grandmothers, and worn by the wives of the early missionaries. Immense praise was bestowed on the ingenious females who, under the direction of those excellent women, succeeded in manufacturing coal-scuttle bonnets of cocoa-palm leaves. Still more startling was the same monstrous form, when cunningly joined pieces of thin tortoise-shell were the materials used to imitate the brown silk bonnet of England! We may well rejoice that these horrors are no longer an integral feature of Christianity in the South Seas! It is sufficiently dreadful to see the ultra "respectable" classes donning coats, waistcoats, and trousers.

Immediately after service I returned to luncheon on board, to be ready to start with Monseigneur Elloi for Mua, which is the principal Roman Catholic station here, distant about twelve miles. A large man-of-war boat with twelve rowers carried the bishop's party, which consisted of two Fathers, and four of the ship's officers. Several others got horses and rode across the isle. A party of Tongan students filled another boat. Wind, tide, and current being against us, the journey took three hours. It is a dreary coast, everywhere bound by a wide expanse of villanous shore-reef, which makes landing simply impossible. The approach to Mua is by a channel which seemed to me several miles long, and is like a river cut through the reef, which edges it on either side. Here we rowed against a sweeping current, and the men had hard work to make way.

On reaching Mua we found the riders awaiting us, and a great procession of priests, headed by Père Chevron, a fine grey-haired