CHAPTER 16. 1776 TO 1777. THIRD VOYAGE.
At their last visit an expedition was being prepared against the revolted island of Eimeo, but it did not seem to have been very successful in its object, for there were still disturbances going on between the two nations, and on 30th August news came that the Otaheitans had been driven up into the hills. A grand meeting was held to discuss matters, and great efforts were made to enlist the services of Cook; but he would not assist in any way, as he did not understand the cause of the quarrel, and he had always found the inhabitants of Eimeo friendly towards him. Having heard that a chief named Towha had killed a man as a sacrifice to their God, Cook obtained permission to witness the remaining ceremonies as he thought it offered an opportunity to learn something of the religion of this people. He therefore started with Dr. Anderson, Mr. Webber, and the chief Potatow in a boat, accompanied by Omai in a canoe, for the scene of action. On their arrival the sailors were instructed to remain in the boat, and the gentlemen were requested to remove their hats as soon as they reached the Morai where the ceremonial was to take place. When they got there the body of the victim was seen in a small canoe in front of the Morai and just in the wash of the sea, in charge of four priests and their attendants, the king and his party some twenty or thirty paces away, and the rest of the spectators a little further still. Two priests came forward to Otoo, one placing a young plantain tree in front of him, and the other touching his foot with a bunch of red feathers, and then rejoining the others, who immediately went off to a smaller Morai near, and, seating themselves facing the sea, one commenced reciting a long prayer, occasionally sending one of his attendants to place a young plantain on the body. Whilst this recitation was going on an attendant stood near holding two small bundles "seemingly of cloth; in one, as we afterwards found, was the Royal Maro, and the other, if I may be allowed the expression, was the ark of the Eatua" [God].
This prayer being ended, the priests returned to the beach, and more prayers were said, the plantains being moved, one by one, from the body and placed in front of the priests. Then the body, wrapped in leaves, was put on the beach, with the feet to the sea, and the priests gathered round, some sitting, some standing, the prayers still going on. The leaves were then stripped off the body, and it was turned sideways on to the sea, and one priest standing at the feet repeated another long prayer in which he was occasionally joined by the others. Each priest at this time held in his hand a bunch of the red feathers. Some hair was now pulled from the head of the corpse, and an eye taken out, wrapped in leaves and presented to Otoo, who did not touch them, but sent them back with a bunch of feathers, soon after sending a second bunch he had asked Cook to put in his pocket for him when starting. At this time a king-fisher made a noise in some trees near, and Otoo remarked, "That is the Eatua," evidently looking on it as a good omen.
The body was now moved away to the foot of one of the small Morais, the two bundles of cloth being placed on the Morai at its head and the tufts of feathers at its feet, the priests surrounding the body and the people gathering in closer. More speeches were made, and a second lock of hair plucked from the head and placed on the Morai. Then the red feathers were placed on the cloth bundles, which were carried over to the great Morai and laid against a pile of stones, to which the body was also brought, and the attendants proceeded to dig a grave, whilst the priests continued their recitations. The body was then buried, and a dog Towha had sent over (a very poor one, says Cook) was partially cooked and presented to the priests, who called on Eatua to come and see what was prepared for him, at the same time putting it on a small altar on which were the remains of two dogs and three pigs, which smelt so intolerably that the white men were compelled to move further away than they wished. This ended the ceremony for the day.
THE KING'S MARO.