Page:A Lady's Cruise in a French Man-of-War.djvu/331

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299
A RELIGIOUS WAR.

ordered, lest Oro should resent this very cavalier treatment; and as no captive was at hand, one of the king's own servants was slain, and offered as an atonement. Of course the despoiled chiefs flew to arms, and prepared to revenge themselves, and recapture their god. About 300 warriors came from the isle of Eimeo, now called Moorea, to the aid of the king, and bloody battles were fought, in which the chiefs' army was almost invariably successful.

There does not appear to have been any trace of cannibalism on either side, but the bodies of the slain were offered in sacrifice to Oro by the victors; while, on the other hand, the king's party did not cease offering human sacrifices, and propitiating the idol by every means in their power. It was recaptured by the chiefs of Atehuru, who, however, with singular religious chivalry, allowed the king to land and deposit his offerings near the temple, though they naturally would not admit him within its precincts.

Happily for the mission party, it so happened that just at this crisis a trading vessel came into harbour and landed some men; and about the same time another small vessel was driven ashore, with a crew of seventeen Englishmen. Thus they mustered a force of twenty-three Europeans, who not only put the mission-house into a state of defence, but lending their aid to the king, rendered him material aid—a service which they must have regretted on seeing that all prisoners of war were immediately put to death, and their bodies savagely mutilated. Finally, the chiefs agreed to resign the custody of the idol to the king; and so, for a while, ended one of the many bloody struggles by which the various nations of the earth have drained their heart's blood for the possession of some bit of so-called sacred wood or bone.

Thenceforward the young King Otu carried the precious god with him, whenever he sailed from one isle to another; and the sacred canoe on which its ark was borne, was always deposited at some marae shaded by sombre trees, from whose boughs human victims offered sacrificially were immediately suspended.

While such scenes as these were the incidents of daily life, the mission party had hardships enough to contend with. Five whole years elapsed without either letters or supplies reaching them from