Page:A Lady's Cruise in a French Man-of-War.djvu/338

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Accordingly, those who had themselves been most diligent in learning, were sent to teach these new inquirers, and proved faithful and earnest in their work. But so great was the demand for teachers, that they were altogether unable to meet it; and in many a remote village, the people, having destroyed their idol temple, built a new house of prayer, where they met together to worship the God of the Christians, concerning whom they as yet knew so little, beyond the mercy practised by His followers.

From this time forward, Christianity made steady progress; and when, in the year 1817, Mr Ellis arrived as a missionary in these isles, he found almost the entire population professing it, and apparently devout in their practice. Family worship was established in all the principal houses; and many had built in their gardens a small oratory, or, as they called it, fare bure huna—the house for hidden prayer.

Already the grosser crimes of heathenism had been abandoned—especially the practice of infanticide, which had prevailed to so frightful an extent. In every district the schools were crowded, and those who had mastered the arts of reading and writing assisted in teaching those less advanced. Strange pictures presented themselves in these classes, where bright, intelligent children were often the instructors of aged men and women, priests and warriors, to whom learning was a hard task, but one which they were determined to master, that they might read for themselves the wonderful book which had taught such wisdom to their king.

These were in truth earnest scholars. The only books that had as yet reached them, were a spelling-book, printed in England, and a summary of the Old and New Testaments, printed at Port Jackson. But of these there were few copies: and many of the people, in their anxiety to possess one, had prepared sheets of fine paper-mulberry fibre, on which, with a reed-pen, dipped in the sap of the banana-tree, they had carefully copied out whole pages of the reading-lessons, or fragments of the sacred Scriptures. Others had committed the whole to memory.

Great, therefore, was their excitement and delight when Mr Ellis arrived at Afareaitu, bringing with him a good printing-