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When he had walked a mile, he saw some wooden rails enclosing a kind of court, in which a few fruit-trees grew. Part of it was paved with stones, and on the pavement there were some very large high tables covered with matting. These tables were the altars. Upon them was a quantity of fruit, pigs, turtle, and fish, which had long lain there, and had become putrid.
In the midst of this court were a number of boards, about the height of a man, standing upright. These were called tiis. Each of them had been placed there by a different family, as a sign that they might worship in that marae.
In one corner of this court there were a house and two sheds, where some men lived. William entered the house. He found inside a very small house, about as high as a child of three years old. This was the ark of the idol. He found nothing in it but some pieces of cloth.
He asked where the god was. The people replied, "He was taken this morning to another marae by the sea; but we will go and fetch him, if you wish it."
They went, and returned with a great bundle of cloth. When they had laid it upon the ground, William Wilson, though very sorry for the poor heathens, could not help smiling at the sight of such a god. It was made of two bundles of cloth tied round with cord, and
was just small enough to be put into its little house. At the ends of the bundle, red and yellow feathers were fastened. They were the feathers of paroquets, and had been placed there by chiefs, for they alone could procure these rare feathers. The feathers became holy by being tied to the idol: they were afterwards exchanged by the chiefs for others, and taken home to hang in their houses to protect and bless them.
A GOD OF THE FEATHERS.
Though the heathen had laughed when they had seen William Wilson smile, yet they did not despise their idol. William said to them, "This cannot be a god; it is only made of cloth and cinet that you have made yourselves. It can no more speak, nor hear, nor do good or harm, than the cloth you wear."
At hearing this, they seemed at a loss what to answer, yet soon replied, "He is a great god; when he is angry, the trees bear no fruit, and we fall sick."
William wished to look between the two bundles of which the idol was made, to see what there was there; but the people told him that no one but Mane-mane and a few more durst open it. However, they said they knew that there was nothing inside but some red feathers, a plantain, and a bunch of young
How wonderful it seems that men should
AN EMBALMED BODY.
worship such an idol! It was a great sin to do so, because they might have known, from the sight of the sun, moon, and stars, the sea, the trees, and all God's creatures, that God himself could not be in a bundle of cloth. On account of this great sin, God had given them up to do other wicked things, such as to lie, steal, and commit murder.*
William stopped, on his way back to the chief's house, to see another very curious sight. It was the dead body of Pomare's brother, the husband of that Ina Madua, of whom you have already heard. The man had been dead several months, but his body had been preserved by pressing it, drying it in the sun, rubbing it daily with cocoa nut oil, and filling it with cloths dipped in the same. It was now lying on a sort of wooden bed, under a roof thatched with leaves.
A man who took care of it lived close by. It was his business to rub it with oil, and to feed it, that is, to put food to its mouth, which the man ate himself. There were little baskets of fruit hanging on the trees near, for the use of the dead man.
*Because that which may be known of God is manifest to them, for God hath showed it unto them; so that they are without excuse. As they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind. Rom. i. 19, 20, 28.
The man who took care of it asked William whether he would like to see the dead body, for, as it lay, nothing could be seen but its
He then pulled it out, and placing it upon a wooden table that was near, he began (laughing all the while) to take off its wrappers of cloth. The skin looked hard and dry like parchment, and the whole body seemed nothing but bones, for the flesh was dried up. It was a very unpleasant sight. None but chiefs were thus
THE NUMBER OF INHABITANTS.
embalmed after death; common men were put into the ground with their chin resting upon their knees, and their hands tied together under their legs.
William said to the man, 66
think his soul is gone?"
Where do you
He replied, "Gone to the night."
The travellers returned to the chief's house to dinner, and then went on in their canoe. They arrived that night at a little house belonging to Peter, and there they left the canoe, because the wind was too high to enable them to row easily. They continued their way on foot, and arrived that evening at the missionaries' house, having been absent about ten days.
William had inquired very diligently, as he went along, how many people lived in each part; he had particularly asked how many tiis (or upright boards) were in each marae, for by this means he knew how many families lived near. The number of inhabitants was much smaller than had been supposed; only sixteen thousand. A middle-sized town in England contains as many people, and yet Tahiti was (as you have heard) about forty miles long, and very fruitful; but as the natives killed many babies, and often engaged in war, it was not to be expected there could be many people in the island.