Page:A Lady's Cruise in a French Man-of-War.djvu/335

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303
THE BLOOD OF THE MARTYRS.

delivered by the priest to the man who craved some special boon, as a symbol that the god required a human sacrifice. Well did the doomed man know how useless was resistance. His neighbours knew no pity, and a brief struggle invariably resulted in his being clubbed and carried to the marae.

Now the supply of victims was furnished from among those known to favour the new faith; and many a pathetic story is still told of the unflinching courage with which those brave martyrs met their fate, only pleading with their murderers that they too should renounce their idols and worship the living God.

As in the early days of the Church, so now, homes were divided: the believing wife was beaten by her heathen husband, children were driven from their parents' roofs, and friends were turned to foes—all in the name of the gods.

Those who worshipped the Saviour were distinguished by the name of Bure Atua (from bure, to pray, and Atua, God).

In spite of the persecution, their numbers steadily increased, and at last three of the principal chiefs of Tahiti, who had hitherto been sworn foes, resolved to unite their forces for the total annihilation of the Bure Atua sect. A midnight meeting was appointed when the conspirators were suddenly to fall on their sleeping, unsuspecting neighbours, and slaughter great and small. Happily, a few hours before the massacre was to have taken place, the Christians received a secret hint of what was in store for them, and were able to reach the shore, launch their canoes, and sail for Eimeo. When, at the midnight hour, their foes reached the trysting-place, and found their victims flown, their rage knew no bounds, and angry recriminations commenced, which soon passed on to blows, ending in a free fight, in which one of the principal chiefs was killed, and his followers compelled to fly.

In those turbulent days, it needed but a beginning to kindle a fierce war, and so it now proved. The heathen tribes having fallen out amongst themselves, seemed to forget their enmity to the Christians, and fought blindly among themselves. Beautiful and richly cultivated districts were reduced to desolation, houses burnt and property plundered, and numbers of the vanquished fled to Eimeo,