Page images
PDF
EPUB

RETURN TO TAHITI.

293

and oil to Port Jackson, to exchange for other articles. *

One of the brethren, removed almost immediately to Matavai, in Tahiti, where the missionaries had at first resided. This was Mr: Wilson, who took with him his wife, and four little children. It was a joyful day to many of the people in Tahiti, when they again saw the face of a teacher, come to live amongst them; for nine years had passed away since the brethren had fled from their island. No part of Tahiti was so ungodly as Matavai, on account of the number of wicked sailors that visited it in the English ships, and sold spirits, and set a bad example. Yet, even here, there were a few that really loved God. I will give you an instance of one. After the Monday evening meeting, a man once followed Mr. Wilson to his house, and said to him, “ Is it right for people to weep, when they go to pray in the bushes ? for I cannot help weeping when I pray. Do other people weep?"

Mr. Wilson replied, “ Why do you weep?"

“It is,” said the man," the thought of God's great goodness to me, of the love of Christ in dying for sinners, and of the return that I have made, (only bad behaviour,) that makes me

* The ship was seventy tons burthen. It proved of no use in trading, on account of the expense of the voyages, and therefore, in the course of a year or two, it was sold.

294

TRANSLATION OF LUKE.

weep.” Mr. Wilson rejoiced over this penitent sinner, well knowing how acceptable his tears were to Him, who permitted his feet to be washed with the tears of humble, grateful love. Luke vii.

CHAPTER XXXI.

1818.

WHAT THE NATIVES VALUED AS MUCH AS THEY

HAD ONCE VALUED RED FEATHERS.

The natives were now looking forward to receiving a more precious book than any they had yet obtained. Though this book would not contain the whole of the Bible, but only the Gospel of Luke, yet the idea of possessing it, filled the natives with such delight, that many could not sleep for joy.

For many years past, Mr. Nott had been employed in translating the Gospel of Luke into Tahitian, and Pomare had been very useful in assisting him, and copying it out for him.

The six missionaries lately arrived had brought with them an immense quantity of paper, so that Mr. Ellis determined to print three thousand copies of Luke; yet these he

PRICE OF THE BOOKS.

295

was

feared would not be enough to supply all who could read.

Hitherto the brethren had given away the little books they had printed; they now agreed to sell the book of Luke, because with the price they might buy more paper, and print more books. The price they fixed on three gallons of cocoa-nut oil. Some months before the books were ready, they advised the natives to begin to prepare the oil.*

While the book was in the press, the natives who visited the printing-house read different parts of it with great interest, and asked so many questions about what they read, that Mr. Ellis was often obliged to stop printing to explain it to them. Not only did visiters generally fill the printing-house, but they even thronged the windows, and those who could not get near in any other way, sat upon the top of a high fence placed round the house, or climbed upon the backs of their companions.

When the books were nearly finished, the crowds increased. Numbers came from distant parts, so that the sea-shore was covered with canoes, and the land dotted with tents.

The missionaries, however, did not like to distribute the books, till they were bound.

* This was the manner of preparing the oil. The kernel of the cocoa-nut was scraped, placed in a trough, and exposed to the sun, when the heat caused oil to flow from it.

296

BINDING THE BOOKS.

At first they used mill-board and sheep-skins from England, and when these were exhausted, they were obliged to make covers of native cloth, covered with old newspapers, dyed with purple juice. They bound the book intended for the king in a more handsome manner, even in red morocco.

At last the people grew so impatient, that the brethren gave up binding the books. They were pleased to find that the natives did not suffer the precious books to remain without covers. The lives of dogs, cats, and goats, were now very unsafe, for the natives caught them for the sake of their skins; they then scraped, pressed, and dried the skins in the prepare

them for covers. The brethren were amused to see the trees all round the printing-house, thickly hung with skins stretched on wooden frames. Meanwhile the people were careful not to injure their books, and as they could not refrain from reading them, they placed them between thin pieces of boards, till the skins were ready. They were not even satisfied when they had bound them, but carried them about either in bags or baskets. They scarcely knew what to do with them when they left their houses for a short time, as they were afraid that they should hurt their treasures, if they took them with them, and that, if they left them at home, some accident would occur in their absence.

sun, to

ANXIETY TO PURCHASE THEM.

297

I will mention one instance of the anxiety that the natives showed to obtain the books, that afterwards they preserved so carefully.

One evening five men from Tahiti landed at Afareaitu, and hastened to Mr. Ellis's dwelling. Mr. Ellis met them at the door, and asked them what they wanted.

They replied all together, “ The word of Luke," and then showed their bamboos of cocoa-nut oil.*

Mr. Ellis told them that he had no books ready that night, but that if they would come the next day, he would give them as many as they wanted, and he advised them to go and lodge with some friend in the village. Then, as it was almost dark, he wished them goodnight, and went into his house. When the sun rose, Mr. Ellis looked out of his window, and was surprised to see these men lying on the ground outside his house, their only bed being some platted cocoa-nut leaves, and their only covering the cloth, they usually wore over their shoulders. Mr. Ellis went out, and said, “ Have you been here all night ?”

They said that they had.

* A bamboo is a hollow stick. It is not hollow throughout, but is divided by notches at short distances. The natives cut the bamboos at the notches, and used each piece as a bottle. Each piece contains nearly three quarts.

« PreviousContinue »