CAPTAIN COOK'S THIRD VOYAGE, I
|Fête in Cook's honour at Tonga.|
Cook, after a stay of three months, thought it well to leave these enchanting islands, he distributed a share of the cattle he had bought at the Cape, and explained, through Mai, the way to feed them, and their utility. Before leaving, he visited a cemetery or "Fiatooka," belonging to the king, composed of three good-sized houses, placed on the edge of a sort of hill. The planks of these buildings, and the artificial hills which supported them, were covered with pretty movable pebbles, and flat stones, placed erect, surrounded the whole.
"One thing which we had not previously seen, was that the buildings were open on one side, and within there were two wooden busts, roughly carved, one at the entrance, and the other a little within. The natives followed us to the door, but dared not pass the threshold. We asked them the meaning of the busts: they assured us that they did not represent any divinity, but were intended to recall two chiefs who were buried in the 'Fiatooka.'"
Leaving Tonga Tabou on the 10th of July, Cook repaired to the small of Eoa, where his old friend Tai-One received him cordially. The captain learned from him that the property of the various islands in the archipelago belonged to the chiefs of Tonga Tabou, which was known as the land of the chiefs. Thus Poulaho had a hundred and fifty islands under his rule. The most important are Vavao and Hamao. As for the Viti Islands, which are comprised in this number, they were inhabited by a warlike race, very superior in intelligence to those of the Friendly Islands.
We can only refer to some of the many and interesting particulars collected by the captain and the naturalist Anderson, which relate to the gentleness and docility of the natives.
Cook could do nothing but praise the welcome accorded to him, each time he stayed in the archipelago. But then he did not guess the project entertained by Finaou, and the other chiefs, of assassinating him during the nocturnal feast of Hapaee, and of seizing his vessels.
The navigators who succeeded him were not lavish in their praises, and if we did not know his sincerity, we should be tempted to think that the illustrious mariner gave the name of Friendly Islands to this group satirically.
The inhabitants of Tonga Island always mourned the death of a relation, by hitting themselves on their cheeks, and by tearing them with whale's teeth, a custom which explains the many tumours and cicatrices they have on the face. If their friends are dangerously ill, they sacrifice one or two joints of their little finger, to propitiate the divinity, and Cook did not meet with one native in ten who was not mutilated.
The expression "tabu," he says, "which plays so great a part in the language of this people, has a very wide significance. When they are not allowed to touch anything they say it is tabu. They also told us that if the king enters a house belonging to one of his subjects, the house becomes 'tabu,' and the owner of it may not live in it any longer."
Cook fancied he had made out their religion. Their principal god was Kallafoutonga, and in his anger, he destroys plantations and scatters illness and death. The religious ideas of all the islands are not alike, but the immortality of the soul is unanimously admitted. Although they do not offer fruit or other productions of the earth to their divinity, they sacrifice human victims.
Cook lost sight of the Tonga Islands on the 17th of July, and the expedition arrived in sight of an island called Tabouai by the inhabitants, upon the 8th of August, after a series of tempestuous winds which caused serious damage to the Discovery. All the eloquence of the English failed to bring the natives on board. Nothing would induce them to leave their boats, and they contented themselves with inviting the strangers to visit them. But as time pressed, and Cook had no need of provisions, he passed the island without stopping, although it appeared to him fertile, and the natives assured him that it abounded in pigs and fowls. Strong, tall, and active, the natives had a hardy and savage appearance. They spoke the Tahitan language, which made intercourse with them easy.
Some days later, the verdant summits of Tahiti appeared on the horizon, and the two vessels were not slow in stopping opposite the peninsula of Tairabon, where the welcome Mai received from his compatriots was as indifferent as possible. His brother-in-law, chief Outi, would scarcely consent to recognize him, but when Mai showed him the treasures he brought back, amongst them all the famous red feathers, which had been so successful in Cook's last voyage, Oati changed his demeanour, treated Mai affably, and proposed to change names with him.
Mai was overcome by these demonstrations of tenderness, and, but for Cook's interference, would have been robbed of all his treasures.