Page:A Lady's Cruise in a French Man-of-War.djvu/352

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the same race whom we now see so gentle and loving; but heathenism always tended to cruelty.

In nothing was this more apparent than in the treatment of the sick. Generally speaking, the best a sick man could hope for was simple neglect. As soon as it was evident that his illness would be protracted, a hut of cocoa-palm leaves was built for him at a little distance, and he was carried there. For a while he was supplied with food and drink; but his friends soon grew careless, and so often forgot him, that he very probably died of starvation. Should he be possessed of property coveted by his neighbours, he was very likely murdered with the most wanton barbarity. His "friends" having determined on his death, proceeded to his hut, armed with their spears; and, unheeding of his cries for mercy, they treated him as a target, trying who could take best aim, till at length some one, more merciful than the others, rushed in and pierced him through the heart.

At other times the sick were buried alive. Their relations dug a pit, and then, pretending that they would carry the sufferer to the river to bathe, they threw him into the ready-made grave, and drowned his cries by quickly throwing in stones and earth. Sometimes the victim perceived what was in store for him, and endeavoured to escape; but he was invariably captured by his murderers, and carried to his untimely grave.

Almost the first great change wrought by Christianity was in the care of the sick, who now are nursed with the utmost tenderness, the natives having, many years ago, formed themselves into societies for the express purpose of building houses, where the aged and helpless, who have no friends or children to tend them at home, may be fed and clothed, and comforted by the ministrations of Christian teachers.

In one respect, the people of Tahiti, like those of Samoa, proved superior to most other Pacific islanders. There is no evidence of their having ever been cannibals. While their neighbours in the Paumotus and the Marquesas, in the Hervey Isles and New Zealand, and in nearly every group throughout the Western Pacific, never lost a chance of feasting on human flesh, these gentler savages,