Page:A Lady's Cruise in a French Man-of-War.djvu/356

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lofty crags, so veiled with trailing vines as to resemble green waterfalls.

After breakfast we got a canoe and rowed back for a considerable distance along the shore to a fine old marae—an immense platform of huge blocks of hewn coral, on a pyramidal base, which in olden days was a heathen altar, and also a tomb. Close by it are two smaller marais and a large sacrificial stone, enclosed by a wall of small coral-blocks. The whole place is overgrown by grand old iron-wood trees (casuarina). After we had left it, we were told of a stone image, four or five feet high, which has somehow escaped the general destruction of its fellows; and I was very sorry to have missed seeing so interesting a survivor of a past so recent and yet so thoroughly extinguished.

This is the only marae I have seen, the majority having been destroyed, together with the temples and the altars, when the people, in the zeal of first love, endeavoured to sweep away every trace of the old idolatry.

Mr Ellis has recorded that one huge marae having been destroyed, the natives used the stones composing it to build an immense platform, on which was spread a great feast for all the children of the school (both boys and girls, in number about 240) and their parents. The point of interest lay in the fact that in heathen times it would have been death for a girl or a woman to set foot in the marae, or to taste the food which was there offered. Indeed all the better sorts of food, such as pig and fowl, were reserved exclusively for the men and the gods; and the fire with which men's food was cooked was also sacred; no woman dared to use it—her simpler fare must be cooked apart, and eaten in a separate hut. So a united festival, such as that held on the ruins of the marae, was in every sense a Christian love-feast, and strangely in contrast with the hideous scenes previously enacted on the spot, when the coral-walls were dyed with the blood of human victims offered to the cruel war-gods, and where, in every crevice of the noble old trees, were seen bleaching human bones, skeletons hanging from the boughs, and beneath them, ghastly heaps of skulls, generally those of warriors slain in battle.