Page:A Lady's Cruise in a French Man-of-War.djvu/34

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old man, who has been toiling here for thirty-five years. Scarlet and white-robed acolytes and others, carried really handsome flags and banners. Their chanting was excellent. They escorted the bishop to the beautiful Tongan church, which is a building of purely native type, with heavy thatch, and all the posts, beams, and other timbers are fastened together without the use of a single nail. All are tied with strong vines from the forests, and plaited over with sennit—i.e., string of divers fibres,—of hybiscus, cocoa-palm, pandanus, and other plants, ranging in colour through all shades of yellow, brown, and black. These are laid on in beautiful and most intricate patterns, and form a very effective and essentially Polynesian style of decoration. The altar, which is entirely of native manufacture, is really very fine. It is made of various island woods, inlaid with whales'-tooth ivory and mother-of-pearl. All the decorations in this church are in excellent taste, and bespeak most loving care. Here, as at Maofanga, comfort is sacrificed to appearance by the substitution of a polished wooden floor for the accustomed mats. I cannot say I think this an improvement, as it is a hard seat during a long service.

However, on this occasion I did not experience its discomfort, for, shocking to say, in view of the example to the natives, none of us attended the service, but all went off at once, guided by M. Pinart (whose antiquarian instincts had already led him thither), to the tombs of the Toui-Tongas, the old kings of Tonga. They are formed of gigantic blocks of volcanic rock, said to have been brought to these flat isles from the Wallis group. They are laid in three courses of straight lines, like cyclopean walls, and lie at intervals through the bush. They are much overgrown with tangled vegetation, especially with the widespreading roots of many banyan trees, and though wonderful, are not sketchable.

In olden days, when the Toui-Tonga was here laid to his rest, his favourite wife and most valued possessions were buried with him. All his subjects, young and old, male and female, shaved their heads and mourned for four months. Those engaged in preparing his sacred body for the grave were obliged to live apart for ten months, as being tabu or sacred.