Life of John Coleridge Patteson
by Charlotte M. Yonge
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John Coleridge Patteson was forty-four years and a half old.

Joseph Atkin, twenty-nine.

Stephen Taroniara probably twenty-five—as he was about eighteen when he joined the Mission in 1864. His little girl will be brought up at Norfolk Island; his wife Tara, to whom he had been married only just before his voyage, became consumptive, and died January, 1873, only twenty minutes after her Baptism. As one of the scholars said, "Had the songs of the angels for joy of her being made a child of God finished before they were again singing to welcome her an inheritor of the kingdom of heaven?'

John Nonono showed no symptoms of tetanus, but was landed at Mota to recover under more favourable circumstances than the crowded cabin could afford.

Calms and baffling winds made the return to this island trying and difficult, and Mota was not reached till the 4th of October. George Sarawia was still perfectly satisfactory; and his community, on the whole, going on hopefully. Want of provisions, which Mota could not supply, made the stay very brief; and after obtaining the necessary supplies at Aurora, the 'Southern Cross' brought her sad tidings to Norfolk Island on the 17th. That day Mrs. Palmer wrote:—

'On Monday afternoon, 15th, Mr. Codrington went for a ride to the other side of the island, and there espied the schooner, eight miles off. He rode home quickly, and soon the shouting and racing of the boys told us that the vessel had come. They were all at arrowroot- making. Never, I think, had the whole party, English and natives, seemed in higher spirits. Mr. Bice walked to the settlement, to see if she was far in enough to land that night; we asked him to call and tell us on his way home.

'Next morning Mr. Bice rode down to see if it really was the schooner, and was back to breakfast, all thinking we should soon see them come up.

'Mr. Codrington and Mr. Bice got their horses ready to ride down, and I got the rooms ready, when, in an hour, a Norfolk Island boy rode up to say the flag was half-mast high.'

'We told the boys and girls something was wrong, to stop their joyous shouting and laughing; and then I waited till Mr. Jackson returned, and all he could say was, "Only Brooke has come!"'

What more shall I tell? Comments on such a life and such a death are superfluous; and to repeat the testimonies of friends, outpourings of grief, and utterances in sermons is but to weaken the impression of the reality!

There is pain too in telling the further fate of Nukapu. H.M.S. 'Rosario,' Commander Markham, then cruising in the Southern Pacific, touched at Norfolk Island, and Captain Markham undertook at once to go to the island and make enquiries.

A protest was drawn up and signed by all the members of the Mission against any attempt to punish the natives for the murder; and Captain Markham, a kind, humane, and conscientious man, as no one can doubt, promised that nothing of the kind should be attempted.

But the natives could not but expect retaliation for what they had done. There was no interpreter. They knew nothing of flags of truce; and when they saw a boat approaching, full of white men, armed, what could they apprehend but vengeance for 'Bisope'? So they discharged a volley of arrows, and a sergeant of marines was killed. This was an attack on the British flag, and it was severely chastised with British firearms. It is very much to be doubted whether Nukapu will ever understand that her natives were shot, not for killing the Bishop, but for firing on the British flag. For the present the way is closed, and we can only echo Fisher Young's sigh, 'Poor Santa Cruz people!'

Bishop Patteson's will bequeathed his whole inheritance to the Melanesian Mission, and appointed that the senior Priest should take charge of it until another Bishop should be chosen.

The Rev. Robert Codrington, therefore, took the management, though refusing the Episcopate; and considering the peculiar qualifications needful for a Melanesian Bishop, which can only be tested by actual experiment on physical as well as moral and spiritual abilities, it has, up to the present moment (May 1873), been thought better to leave the See vacant, obtaining episcopal aid from the Bishop of Auckland.

But this implies no slackness nor falling off in the Mission. By God's good providence, Coleridge Patteson had so matured his system that it could work without him. Mr. Codrington and the other clergy make their periodic voyages in the 'Southern Cross.' Kohimarama flourishes under George Sarawia, who was ordained Priest at Auckland on St. Barnabas Day, 1873. Bishop Cowie has paid a visit to Norfolk Island, and ordained as Deacons, Edward Wogale, Robert Pantatun, Henry Tagalana, to work in Mota, Santa Maria, and Ara. Joseph Wate remains the chief teacher of the lads from Bauro; but there is much to be done before the work in that island can be carried on. The people there seem peculiarly devoid of earnestness; and it is remarkable that though they were among the first visited, and their scholars the very earliest favourites, Stephen has been the only one whose Christianity seems to have been substantial. But the sight of his patient endurance had the same effect on those who were with him in the ship as Walter Hotaswol's exhortations had had on himself, and several of them began in earnest to prepare for Baptism.

The English staff of the Mission has been recruited by the Rev. John R. Selwyn, and the Rev. John Still, as well as by Mr. Kenny from New Zealand. And there is good hope that 'He who hath begun a good work will perform it unto the day of the Lord.'

As to the crimes connected with the murder, the Queen herself directed the attention of Parliament to it in her Speech at the commencement of the Session of 1872. The Admiralty do what in them lies to keep watch over the labour vessels by means of Queen's ships; and in Queensland, regulations are made; in Fiji, the British Consul endeavours to examine the newly arrived, whether they have been taken away by force. But it may be feared that it will not be possible entirely to prevent atrocities over so wide a range; though if, as Bishop Patteson suggested, all vessels unregistered, and not committed to trustworthy masters, were liable to be seized and confiscated, much of the shameless deceit and horrible skull-hunting would be prevented.

Perhaps the fittest conclusion to the Bishop's history will be the words written by Henry Tagalana, translated literally by Mr. Codrington:—

'As he taught, he confirmed his word with his good life among us, as we all know; and also that he perfectly well helped anyone who might be unhappy about anything, and spoke comfort to him about it; and about his character and conduct, they are consistent with the law of God. He gave the evidence of it in his practice, for he did nothing carelessly, lest he should make anyone stumble and turn from the good way; and again he did nothing to gain anything for himself alone, but he sought what he might keep others with, and then he worked with it: and the reason was his pitifulness and his love. And again, he did not despise anyone, nor reject anyone with scorn; whether it were a white or a black person he thought them all as one, and he loved them all alike.'

'He loved them all alike!' That was the secret of John Coleridge Patteson's history and his labours.

Need more be said of him? Surely the simple islander's summary of his character is the honour he would prefer.


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