The vessel only left the island three days ago, so that we may chance to fall in with her. Both Captain Fuller and the supercargo declare that they will give the master a bit of their mind. "Suppose," say they, "we had chanced to call off that island directly after those fellows had perpetrated this rascality, not suspecting harm, what would have been our fate? Without doubt we should have been clubbed."
"So we might, indeed!" I observe, but I think to myself, what may other voyagers say who follow in our footsteps. Have we not shot down the poor savages, who have been defending their own shores? Well may the islanders be ready to destroy any white men they can get into their power.
Captain Fuller says that he never was in greater danger of losing his life than on this morning. If one of the party had wavered, the savages would have been encouraged to rush in on them and club them. He and Golding talk of looking for Raratonga in the hopes of trading with the natives, but we can by no means learn in what direction it is to be found. There is another group we hear of to the south of the Society Islands called the Austral Islands, but it would take up too much time to visit them, and so we shape a course for the Tonga or Friendly Islands. Rumours have reached us that the people do not quite deserve the character given of them by Captain Cook.
Steeling west, we again sight land. We stand in, and heave-to off the coast. It is Savage Island, justly so-called by Captain Cook. Several canoes, with uncouth, fierce-looking savages, come off to us, with painted faces and long hair, even more brutal than those of Aitutaki. Taro ascertains from them that another vessel with two masts has just called there, but gone away,—undoubtedly the brig which carried off the poor people from Raratonga, the unknown island. We may therefore overtake her. A calm comes on,—the savages surround the vessel, and contemplate an attack on us, it seems. The guns are loaded with langrage, and Captain Fuller issues orders to prepare for our defence. Their numbers increase. Taro warns us that they are about to commence an assault on the vessel. He signs to them that they had better not make the attempt; but by their gestures they show their contempt and boldness. Again with loud shouts they come on, shooting their arrows, and hurling darts, and spears, and stones.
"Depress the guns, and fire," cries Captain Fuller.
The order is obeyed. In an instant the sea is covered with the forms of human beings, some swimming from their canoes cut in two, others having jumped overboard through terror. The sea is red with the blood of those wounded. The captain orders that the guns be again loaded. Shrieks, and groans, and cries rise from the water. It is fear, I feel sure, prevents the poor wretches moving. I wish that I might beg the captain not again to fire; but he would not listen. He is about to lift his hand when I see the topsails fill, and the vessel glides out from among the crowd of canoes.
"Hold," cries the captain; "they have had enough of it."
Away we sail, following the setting sun. "A pretty day's work," I think to myself, as I get into my berth. "Yet how is it to be avoided?"
I drop asleep. I know that I am asleep, and yet I fancy that I am looking over the side of a vessel,—not the Mary Rose, though,—and I see the ocean covered with the forms of men, their skins brown, and white, and black, swimming towards all points of the compass. They swim strongly and boldly; each on his head wears a crown of gold, and in his right hand carries a book,—an open book. I look again,—it is the Bible. They read the book as they swim, and it gives them strength to persevere; for sharks rise up to threaten them, and other monsters of the deep. And now land appears, the very island we have left, and two or more swim towards it, and the savage inhabitants come out in their canoes to attack them, and I tremble for their fate; but the swimmers hold up their Bibles, and the savages let them pass, and follow slowly. Soon the swimmers land, and numbers collect round them and listen attentively while they read. Weapons are cast away,—the countenances of the islanders are no longer savage. They kneel,—they clasp their hands—they lift up their eyes towards heaven,—their lips move in prayer. They soon appear well clothed, parents with their children dwelling in neat cottages, and lo! a large edifice rises before my eyes: it is a house of God. A bell sounds, and from every side come men, women, and children all neatly clad; and then the words of a hymn strike my ear. The music is sweet, but the words are strange. It grows louder and louder, till I hear the cry of "All hands shorten sail!"
I spring on deck. The ship has been struck by a squall; she is almost on her beam-ends. It is blowing heavily, the thunder rolls along the sky, the lightning flashes vividly. Not without difficulty the canvas is got off her. Once more she rights, and now away she flies before the gale. The sea rises covered with foam. Still she flies on. We prepare to heave her to; for thus running on, with coral islands abounding, may prove our destruction. It is a moment of anxiety, for it is questioned whether the canvas will stand. It requires all hands, and even then our strength is scarce sufficient for the work. We, under circumstances like these, see the true character of men. Golding, hitherto so daring and boastful, trembles like an aspen leaf. He believes that the ship is going down, and dares not look death in the face. I may write what I feel: "Whoso putteth his trust in the Lord shall be safe," as says Solomon, and as his father David had often said in other words before him. It is this knowledge makes the truly bold and brave seaman at all times.
This night is one truly to make a stout heart sink not thus supported. At the main-mast-head appears a ball of fire. Now it descends,—now it runs along the main-yard-arm,—now it appears at the mizen-mast-head,— now there is a ball at each mast-head. The men declare that it is a spirit of evil come to guide us to destruction. Often while the foaming seas are roaring and hissing round us, and the wind is shrieking and whistling through the shrouds, and all is so dark that a hand held up at arm's length can scarcely be seen, flashes of lightning burst forth making it light as day, and revealing the pale and affrighted countenances of those standing around.
Day dawns at length. As I looked to leeward, not half a mile away, I see a vessel. She is dismasted, labouring heavily. We are drifting slowly down towards her. Now she rises, now she falls in the trough of the sea, and is hid from view. She is a brig, as we discover by the stumps of her two masts, and we do not doubt the very vessel of which we have lately heard. A signal of distress is flying from a staff lashed to the main-mast; but, with the sea now running, what help can we render her hapless crew?
We watch her anxiously; even Phineas Golding, his thoughts generally running on dollars, seems to commiserate the fate of those on board, especially when Tony Hinks remarks in his hearing that such may be ours ere long. The men are at the pumps, and we can see them working for their lives; but, by the way she labours, there seems but little chance that they will keep her afloat. We are gradually dropping down towards her; we can distinguish through our glasses the countenances of the crew, their hair streaming in the gale. What looks of horror, of hopeless despair are there! They know that we cannot help them, though so near. The vessel is sinking lower and lower; the crew desert the pumps, and hold out their hands imploringly towards us as we drive down towards them. Their boats have been all washed away: it were madness in us to attempt to lower one. Some with hatchets are cutting away at the bulwarks and companion hatch to form rafts, others run shrieking below to the spirit-room, or rush bewildered here and there; not one do I see on bended knees imploring aid from heaven. The vessel now labours more heavily than ever; a huge sea rolls towards her,—she gives a fearful plunge. Many of our people, rough and hardened as they are, utter cries of horror. I pass my hands across my eyes, and look, and look again. She is gone!—not a trace of her remains but a few struggling forms amid the white foam. One by one they disappear, till one alone remains clinging to a plank. We see him tossed to and fro, looking wildly towards us for help. Not another human being of those who stood on the deck of the foundered vessel remains alive. Will this one be saved? I feel a deep pity for him. As I watch him, I lift up my heart in prayer to God that he may be saved.
The gale has been decreasing, and the ship lies-to more easily. We hope in a short time to make sail. The seaman still floats in sight. At length I believe a boat would live. I ask Captain Fuller leave to go in search of the man, and sing out for volunteers. No lack of them. We must have drifted some way to leeward of the man; but still, as I took the bearings when I last saw him, I believe that I can find him. Away we pull; the seas are heavy, but long, and do not break much. I look out in vain for the seaman.
"He must have gone down before this," I hear one of the crew remark.
"But the plank would be floating still," I observe. "That man has a soul, whoever he may be. If we save his body, by God's grace his soul may be saved."
This thought encourages me to persevere. Often the boat is half full of water, but we bail her out, and pull on. Already we are at some distance from the ship, when I see a dark, speck rise on the crest of a sea and then disappear. My hopes rise that it is the person of whom we are in search. We hear a faint cry. He is still alive. The crew cheer, and pull lustily towards him. The stranger gazes at us eagerly: he if a youth, with long light hair hanging back in the water. His strength is evidently failing. I urge on my men. Even now I fear that he will let go his hold ere we can reach him. Again he cries out imploringly. A sea striking the boat half fills her with water, and I lose sight of the lad.
"He is gone, he is gone!" some of the men cry out. But no; I see his hair far down, close under the stern of the boat I plunge in, and diving, grasp it and bring him to the surface. The boat has forged ahead. With difficulty I get him alongside, and we are hauled on board. The young man has still life in him, but cannot speak. We pull back to the ship, more than once narrowly escaping being swamped. It is some time before the stranger can speak. Even then he does not seem willing to say much. He does not mention the name of the brig to which he belonged, nor whether he was serving before the mast or as an officer; but he speaks like a lad of education. He is, however, so much exhausted, that it would be cruel to ask him questions. Indeed, from a remark he made, I suspect that he believes himself to be dying. I fear that he may be right; but, alas! it is without hope that he looks on death,—only with dark horror and despair. I speak to him of One who died to save all sinners who look to Him for salvation and repent; but my words seem to fall unheeded on the young man's car.
A LAND OF HORRORS.
The young man we picked up two days ago is better. He takes more to me than to any one else, yet he is reserved even to me. His name is, he says, Joseph Bent, and the brig was the Wanderer. I suspect that he is one of those castaways who have fled from the restraints of parents, or pastors and masters, and that he has been reaping the fruits of his folly, and found them bitter. The brig undoubtedly visited the island of which we have heard, and her crew were the men who committed those black deeds of which I have spoken, but do not here again describe.
How soon are they all sent to their dread accounts except this youth! Great is his astonishment when I speak to him of what was done, and of the poor natives so barbarously carried away.
"The vengeance of a pure and just God quickly finds out the doers of such deeds," I remark. "And, Joseph, my friend, where would you now have been had you not been rescued by the hand of mercy from the jaws of death?"
"In torment—in torment!" he shrieks out; "in everlasting torments! Rightly condemned—rightly condemned!"
"But, think you not, that the same loving hand which saved your life from destruction will preserve your far more precious soul from death eternal if you will but believe in His power and will to save you? Do not have any doubts on the subject. The most guilty are entreated to repent and to come to Jesus—the loving Saviour—the Friend of sinners."
"These are strange words you speak, mate," said the young man sitting up and looking earnestly at me.
"Not strange, friend," say I. "Thousands and thousands of times have they been spoken before to the saving of many a perishing soul. Let them not be spoken to you in vain."
Thus do I continue for some time, till I see tears starting into the eyes of the young man. The knowledge of a Saviour's love softens his heart, while his sins still make him afraid.
"I remember to have heard words like those you have been speaking, mate, long, long ago," he observes. "I forgot them till now. They sound sweetly to my ears."
"Never forget them again, friend," I answered, having now to go on deck to keep my watch.
Joseph Bent lives, and is gaining strength, but as he does so he seems to be hardening his heart, and avoids religious subjects; yet he speaks of the doings of his late shipmates at Raratonga. What must have been their feelings when their ship was going down, and the thoughts of their late evil deeds came rushing on their minds. If people would but reflect each morning as they rise, and say to themselves, "For what I do this day I must most assuredly account before the judgment-seat of the Almighty," how many a sin might be avoided; and yet, surely, the love of Jesus, the dread of grieving our blessed Master, will do more than that. With me love is the constraining power—with some men the fear of judgment may have more effect; fear may prevent sin, but love surely advances more the honour and glory of Christ's kingdom. It is love to his blessed Master which will make a man give up home and country, and go forth to preach the unsearchable riches of Christ to the perishing heathen; fear will keep him strictly observant of his religious duties at home: fear rules where the law exists; love reigns through the liberty of the gospel. Yes, I am sure, that love, and love alone, will make a man a persevering missionary of the truth.
We bring up at length on the north shore of Tongatabu, at the same spot where, many years back, Captain Cook anchored his ships, when he called the island Amsterdam. It is the largest by far of all the Friendly Islands, being some twenty miles long and twelve broad, and it is very beautiful, though not rising anywhere more that sixty feet above the level of the sea. Its beauty consists in the great variety of trees and shrubs with which it is covered, while few spots on the earth's surface are more productive; added to this there is a clearness and brightness in the atmosphere which is in itself lovely. Captain Cook bestowed the name of the Friendly Islands on this group, on account of the friendly way in which the natives received him. Captain Fuller says that he has heard certain reports which make him doubt as to the friendliness of the natives. They come off to us in large double canoes, unlike any we have before seen. They consist of two canoes secured side by side, though at some distance apart, by a strong platform, which serves as a deck. In the centre is a house with a flat roof on which the chiefs stand. The sail is triangular, and formed of matting, and long oars are also used, worked on either side. These canoes carry a hundred men or more, and make long voyages, often to Fiji, on the east, and lo! the Navigators Islands, on the north. When sailing forth for war covered with armed men, blowing conch-shells and flourishing their clubs and spears, they have a very formidable appearance. Many smaller single canoes came off to us ringing fruits and fowl of all sorts. They are a very fine race of men, taller than most Englishmen, and well formed and of a light healthy brown colour. They come on board in great numbers, and laugh, and appear to be well disposed. The Captain's suspicions are soon lulled, and so are Golding's. He wishes to trade with them for cocoa-nut oil and other articles. Several of our men ask leave to go on shore, and the captain allows them.
Just as they have gone off, Joseph Bent comes on deck. He has, he tells me, been living on shore here for some time, and knows the people. Notwithstanding their pleasant manners and handsome figures and countenances, they are treacherous in the extreme. He tells that of which I have not before heard, that missionaries have already been sent out to these seas; that some were landed on this very island, of whom three were killed, and the rest driven away. Some, strange to say, were in King George's Islands while we were there, but we heard not of them nor they of us. Indeed, I fear that our captain would have taken but little interest in the matter, though he might have shown those poor banished ones, as countrymen, some of the courtesies of life. Thus I see that people may visit a place, and fancy that they know all about it, and yet be very ignorant of what is going on within. Other missionaries have gone, so says Bent, to the Marquesas Islands. We heard nothing of them; indeed, our captain laughs at the notion of such savages being turned into Christians.
"Who can this Bent really be?" I have asked myself more than once. For one so young he knows much about these seas, and what has taken place here. While I have been thinking how good a thing it would be to have missionaries sent out among them, I find that people at home have already done so, though as yet to no purpose, as far as man can see. The people seem everywhere sunk in heathen darkness. When Bent sees that some of our men are going on shore, he urges that they may be at once recalled; but Captain Fuller says that the supercargo, Taro, and Tony Hinks, will take care they do not get into mischief. The half-naked chiefs, with their clubs in their hands, and many other people are wandering about the deck, examining everything they see, and now and then standing and talking, as if expressing their wonder. I observe Bent moving quietly among them. Soon afterwards he comes up to me.
"Mate," he says, in an ordinary tone, as if there was nothing the matter, "These men are plotting to take the ship. The fellows on shore will all be murdered, and so shall we unless we manage well. My advice is to get the chiefs into the cabin on pretence of giving them a feast, and then seize them and hold them as hostages. Directly that is done, run the after-guns inboard and clear the decks. It will be better to knock away the bulwarks than to be clubbed."
The captain seems unwilling to believe this.
"I have little to thank you for in saving my life if you do not now take my advice," says Bent, earnestly. "You, and I, and all on board may be numbered with the dead before many minutes are over. Look at those men's arms, and at their heavy clubs. Whose head would stand a single blow from one of them?"
I urge the point with the captain, for I am convinced that Bent is right. He is still irresolute, when we see some more canoes coming off from the shore. This decides him. Fortunately the men's dinner is ready. The captain sends for it into the cabin, and the steward covers the table with all other food he has at hand. We then fix upon four of the leading chiefs whom Bent points out, and by signs invite them to feast below. They look suspicious, and, we are afraid, will not come. Bent stands by to hear what they say. He whispers to me that one of them proposes coming, as it will throw us more off our guard. Again, by signs, we press them to come below. When at length they comply, we endeavour not to show too much satisfaction. We treat them with great courtesy seemingly, keeping our eyes, however, constantly fixed on them. We have the steward and two other men concealed with ropes ready to spring out and secure them. The captain, Festing, and Bent, go below, while I remain in charge of the deck, and Festing hands me up a brace of pistols and a cutlass, through the companion hatch. The crew have been prepared, and stand ready to run in the after-guns and to slew them round the instant the chiefs are secured. I listen for the signal, anxiously watching the proceedings of the savages. Now I see them talking together; now they handle their clubs, and look towards the cabin, as if waiting for the return of their chiefs to begin the work of death. They eye our men askance. It is clear that both parties mistrust each other. The suspense is painful in the extreme. There is a sound of struggling, and shouts from the cabin; the savage warriors press aft. Just then the captain cries out that the chiefs are secured. I order the guns to be slewed round, and sign to the natives to keep back. They are about to make a rush, when Bent springs on deck, and shouts to them in their own language, warning them that if they move our war-fire will burst forth on them, and that their chiefs will be killed. The men, looking grim and fierce, stand match in hand at the guns. Bent now orders the savages to return to their canoes. Sulkily, and with many a glance of defiance at us, they stand, unwilling to obey, till Captain Fuller brings on deck, bound, one of their chiefs, holding a pistol to his ear. The chief speaks to them, and one by one they go down the ship's side. Bent now tells them that unless all our companions return in safety the lives of the chiefs will be taken. I bethink me of writing a note to the supercargo, telling him what has occurred, and urging him to return instantly. I give it to the last savage who leaves the deck, and Bent explains to whom the paper is to be delivered. We now use all haste to get ready for sailing. We have for the present escaped a great danger, but we tremble for the fate of our shipmates, and we are convinced that fear alone will keep these savages in order. The chiefs, finding that Bent can speak their language, endeavour to persuade him to let them go. "When our friends return you will be set at liberty," is his answer. It seems at present very doubtful whether they ever will return. Bent says that these people are treacherous in the extreme, worshippers of devils, offerers up of human sacrifices, and cannibals, though not so bad as the people of Fiji, the next islands we are to visit. The chiefs all this time are kept in durance below. I have seldom seen four finer men in figure and feature. The children, Bent says, are often quite white, like English children, but as heathens they are born, and as heathens they die, without hope.
A boat is now reported coming off from the shore. A large canoe follows. In the boat are fewer men than left the ship. What has been the fate of the rest? They come alongside, and we order the big canoe to keep off. The supercargo and Taro make their appearance on deck. Their escape has been most miraculous. Already had the clubs of the natives begun to play on the heads of their companions, and five had fallen. Golding tells me that he expected every moment to be his last. The man next him had been struck down, and lay writhing on the ground, when a cry was raised, and the canoes were seen hurrying away from the ship, the savages refrained from letting drop their uplifted clubs, and watched the approaching canoes.
When the messenger with the note arrived there was a long consultation. Golding says he never felt so uneasy. It was handed to Tony Hinks, who, unable to read, gave it to Golding. He assumed a tone of authority, and through Taro told the savages that if all the survivors were not released their chiefs would be carried away captives. They seemed to hesitate. Golding believed that they were balancing in their minds whether they loved their chiefs or the blood of the white strangers most. At last they decided to let Golding and Taro with three other men go, and to keep Tony Hinks, whom they take to be a chief, as a hostage. Tony was very unhappy at being left, and tried to escape, but the savages held him fast, and Taro, it seems, who owes him a grudge, would not help him. Thus we are placed in a difficulty to know how to get Tony back without first liberating the chiefs. If it were not for the boatswain, the captain says he would hang all four at the yard-arm. At last it is decided that one alone shall go, and Bent is instructed to tell him, that unless the boatswain instantly returns alive and unhurt, the other three shall be hung up. I put him on board a canoe, which comes out to meet our boat as we pull in.
Some time passes, and at length Tony appears on the beach. We make signals that he must be brought off in a canoe. As he steps into the boat, stout-hearted fellow as he generally is, he sinks down, overcome with the terror he has been in. Several of the crew cry out that now we have got him back, we must hang the savages we have in our power in revenge for our shipmates who have been clubbed. The captain says that we are bound to let one go. I plead that all should be let go, that on the faith of this Tony was returned to us, and that it is both our duty, and wise as a Christian and civilised people, to show clemency to the savages. With difficulty, however, I prevail, and Bent tells the chiefs that they may order a canoe to come alongside, and may go free. They appear very much astonished, and doubtful whether we are in earnest. I watch their eyes when they fully understand that they are free to go. Savages though they may be, there is human sympathy between us; they are grateful for the way we have treated them; and I feel sure that we should be far safer on shore should we return, than if we had hanged them as proposed. "We are well quit of these savages," observes Golding, as we get free of the reefs, and stand out to sea.
There is another group to the north of the Tongas called Samoa, or Navigators Islands. The people, Bent tells me, are very like those of the Tonga group. Of this Tonga group which we are leaving there are numerous islands—the first collection to the north, called the Haabai group, while further north is that of Vavau—all governed by different chiefs, who spend their time in fighting with each other.
While I am on deck in charge of the watch that night I see a bright light burst forth to the north-east, rising out of the sea and reaching to the sky. There is a noise at the same time as if there was distant thunder. I fancy at first that some hapless ship has caught fire, and I send below to ask leave of the captain that we may steer towards her to pick up any of the crew who may have escaped. The captain bids me come and examine the chart, and I see several islands with burning mountains on them marked down. The fire we see proceeds undoubtedly from one of them—Koa, perhaps. The matter is settled by finding our deck covered with fine ashes fallen from the sky.
Four days after leaving Tonga we find ourselves among islands of every size and shape and height, many of them having lofty mountains in their centres, while coral reefs are in all directions. Never has my eye rested on scenes of greater loveliness than these islands present; they are apparently fertile in the extreme, green gems dotting the blue ocean. If men could be perfectly happy and gentle and contented, loving each other and being loved, it would, I should think, be here. Each island looks like a paradise—the abode of peace and innocence. We are standing in towards a secure harbour formed by a coral reef, a native town appearing on the beach, with a hill covered with graceful trees rising above it, down which a waterfall tumbles and glitters in the sunbeams, forming a clear pool, from which we expect to fill our casks. I remark on its beauty to Bent.
"No doubt about that, Mr Harvey," he answers. "But we have more need to be on our guard against the natives here than in any islands of the Pacific. A more treacherous, fierce, and determined race of cannibals is not to be found. Of all the islands we see scattered around, and of many score more, the inhabitants of one dare not visit their nearest neighbours, for fear of being entrapped and killed and eaten. Their great chiefs and warriors boast of the number of people they have killed and devoured; and if they have no captives in their hands when they wish to make a feast, they will kill some of their own slaves, or will send a party of their warriors to any small island near, to knock as many people on the head as they may require."
I fancy that Bent is joking, though it is not a lively subject to joke about. The captain, however, says that he will be on his guard, and a strong party, well armed, will alone be allowed to go on shore. Still, as we require water and fuel and fresh meat and vegetables, we must put in here to obtain them.
We drop our anchor in a calm bay, with scarce a ripple on the surface of the clear blue waters, while against the outer edge of the coral reef the sea rolls in and breaks in masses of white foam. There is a town in sight, surrounded by a ditch and bank, and bamboo stockades, and full of cottages with high-thatched roofs. Above the town, on the hill, is a separate tall building with an exceedingly high-pitched roof, also thatched, the ridge-pole extending out on either side. It is a temple, Bent says, where human sacrifices are offered, and many other abominable things done. The god may be a whale's tooth, or a piece of cloth, or a hideous wooden idol. Soon after we have furled sails, two large double canoes make their appearance inside the reef, running for the town. They have vast mat sails, and on the deck of each are fully a hundred black warriors armed with clubs and spears and bows. They are painted hideously. Several have huge heads of hair, and all are gesticulating violently, as if recounting their deeds of valour. They pass close to our vessel, but do not seem to heed us much. We have our guns run out and the crew at quarters ready for them.
As I look through my glass I see in the bows of each some twenty dead bodies arranged in rows—men, women, and children. "Alas! were these taken in war?" I ask. The canoes reach the beach, and crowds come down with loud shouting and wild leaps, and the canoes are hauled on shore, and then the dead bodies are dragged up the hill towards the temple, all the men shouting and shrieking louder than ever. They appear truly like a horde of evil spirits let loose on earth. I accompany the captain and supercargo with Bent, Taro, and a boat's crew, all well armed, on shore. Taro explains that we come as friends, and as the people see that we are well prepared for war, no opposition is offered. We enter the house of a chief who has just died; his body lies at one end of a long hall full of people. Among them are some twenty women, most of them young and fine-looking persons. Their hair is adorned with flowers, and their bodies are oiled. Some look dull and indifferent to what is taking place, others are weeping, and others look well pleased. Taro tells us that they are the wives of the king. Several men stand near them; ropes are cast round their necks, and suddenly, before we have time to rescue them, as we feel inclined to do, five of them are strangled, and fall dead corpses on the ground. Their bodies are quickly carried off, with that of the chief, and all are buried in one common grave. The new king now appears, and the crowd come to do him honour. He is a tall, stout young man—every inch a savage. We look with horror at what we witness—the bodies are dragged up the hill, and thrust into huge ovens. Some of the captives not yet dead are blackened and bound in a sitting posture, and thus, horrible to relate, are placed in the ovens to be baked alive.
It is too sickening to write what afterwards follows. None of us can longer doubt that these people are the most terrible of cannibals. I feel inclined to charge forward to rescue them, but the captain orders us all to stand fast, or we may chance to be treated in the same way ourselves.
We now, through Taro, tell the chief that we require water and fruit and vegetables and hogs and fowls, and that we will pay for all. He receives the message somewhat haughtily, and informs us with the air of an emperor, that though he is one of the greatest sovereigns on earth, and that all men bow down to and fear him, he will grant our request. There he sits, a naked black savage, benighted and ignorant in the extreme; and yet such is his opinion of himself. I cannot help thinking, as I look at him, that I have seen civilised men almost as well contented with themselves with as little cause. We do not find any of our men inclined to straggle, after what they have seen. We hurry down to the beach. The boat has been left hauled off at some distance, under charge of three men, well armed. They pull in when they see us, and say that they are not a little glad to find us safe, for that many canoes with fierce-looking savages have been paddling round and round them, the cannibals showing their white teeth, and making signs that they would like to eat them. Whether this is only the fancy of our men I cannot say. Even Golding, when we get on board, looks pale and says little. It seems to me as if Satan had truly taken possession of the people of these islands, for Bent tells me that the scenes we have witnessed are only such as occur constantly.
We keep a watchful look-out all night, ready for action at a moment's notice. Again we visit the shore, armed as yesterday. Preparations are making to build a house for the new chief. The four uprights for the corners are already placed in large holes dug deep into the earth. In each hole stands a living man bound to the post, with upturned eyes gazing at the light of day. What is our horror to see parties of savages begin to throw in the earth upon them. It covers their breasts, their shoulders, and rises up, the hapless wretches still breathing, till the tops of their heads are concealed, and then with eager haste the murderous wretches stamp down the ground over them. Taro tells us the savages say that the spirits of the dead men will guard the house, so that no evil will befall its inmates. Truly I shall be glad to be clear of this land of horrors, yet it is a fruitful land, and one producing a variety of articles for barter. With cocoa-nut oil alone we could quickly load our vessel, and with the population these islands possess, what numberless other tropical productions might they not furnish, if means could be found to civilise the people!
IN PERILS VARIOUS.
Again we go on shore, armed as yesterday. The men cast uneasy glances around, and show no inclination to separate from each other. We meet the chief, who looks taller and fiercer than ever. His black hair is frizzled out in the most extraordinary manner, and on the top he wears twisted round it a piece of smoke-coloured native cloth like a turban. He has rings round his arms and legs, and a small piece of cloth round his loins, but otherwise this great king, as he believes himself, is entirely naked. He carries in his hand a richly carved black club—so heavy, that to strike with it is to kill. He receives us in the same haughty manner as before, as if he wished to impress us with his importance. As he strides along, the people fly on either side, or bow down before him, though he does not in the slightest degree heed them. He is on his way to witness the launching a large new war-canoe, and which, now decked with streamers, we see at some distance from the beach. Conch-shells are sounding, and there is much shouting and dancing. As we draw near, a band of prisoners, with downcast looks of horror, are driven along towards the canoe. Men stand ready with long ropes to drag her to the water. Before she is moved, the captives, bound hand and foot, are cast down before her; then loud shouts arise— the men haul at the ropes—the canoe moves, and is dragged over the bodies of the slaves, crushing them to death. No one pities them. This night the cannibal chiefs will feast on their bodies. Even now the ovens in the great square are heating to cook them. It strikes me that these people take a pride in showing to us the enormities they dare to commit.
As later in the day we are passing through the town, we see two people, a man and woman, wrangling. The man grows more and more angry. A young child is near them; it runs to its mother's arms, but the man seizes it, and in an instant he has killed the poor little creature, and with a fierce gesture thrown the yet panting body on the ground. He gazes for a few seconds moodily at the dead child. The mother does not attempt to touch it; then he orders her to bring a spade. He digs a hole in the floor; the still warm body is thrust in; the earth is thrown back; both stamp it down, and then return to their seats as if nothing had happened.
We see another day a young man buried alive by his own parents. Taro says he had grown weary of life, and they did it to please him. We see very few old people, and we hear that when people get weak and ill from age, their children either strangle them or bury them alive. Bent tells me that human sacrifices are often made to their gods, when the priests and chiefs feast on the victims. We see many people with fingers cut off, and we hear that they have been devoted as offerings to their chiefs who have died, or may only have been ill. No crime is more common than that of killing children, especially girls, indeed, it is remarkable that these people do not seem at all sensible that they are committing crimes. At all events they glory in their shame.
I might note down many more things we see and hear during our stay in this group, but I feel sick at heart as I write and think of all that is told me; and every day, as I tread these blood-stained shores, the very air seems polluted, and the shrieks of the wretched victims of their fellows cruelty, ring in my ears. Wars seem never to cease among them. One tribe is always attacking another, and those inhabiting islands within two or three miles of each other cannot live at peace. The desire to retaliate is the great cause of all their quarrels. If a man is killed by those of another tribe, his friends are not content till they have killed some of that tribe; then the people of that tribe do not rest till they have avenged the death of their relations; and so it goes on, each murder producing another, till there is not a man among all their tribes who does not feel that there are numbers ready to take his life, while he is also on the watch to kill certain people with whom he is at feud.
Of another thing I hear, which, had I not seen so many horrible things they do, I could scarcely credit. If the people of a small island offend a chief, he does not kill them at once, but he takes away all their canoes, so that they cannot escape. Then, whenever he wants victims to offer in his temples, or to feast any friendly chief who may visit him unexpectedly, he sends and brings off one or more families, or parts of families, from the doomed island. No one knows who will be next taken, but they live on with the full consciousness of what their fate will be. They see their relatives and friends taken and carried off to be baked, and they know that, perhaps, their turn may come next. Bent was some time among them, protected by one of their chiefs, to whom he made himself useful, yet he says that he never felt sure of his life an hour together; and whenever he saw the chief handling his club, he could not help fancying that it might come down on his head.
Dreadful as these accounts are, we can speak of little else on board. "It would be as easy to wash a blackamoor white, as to make these men Christians," observed Phineas, one evening, as we sit in the cabin. "What say you, Mr Bent; would you like to make the attempt?"
Bent casts his eyes on the deck, and does not answer. Golding looks at me. "I'll tell you my opinion," I reply. "If man alone had to accomplish the work, I would say, it is impossible. But man works not alone. God's Holy Spirit is on his side. We are all by nature vile; we have all gone astray. All our natural hearts are of stone. God's grace can alone soften our stony hearts, can alone bring us back to Himself, and as He surely is all-powerful, to my mind He can just as easily shed His grace on the hearts of these black heathen cannibals, and soften them, and bring them to love and worship Him, as He can work the same change in any white man; and so I see no reason to doubt that if the gospel is put before them some will hear it gladly and accept it."
The captain, as I speak, begins to grow angry. Golding bursts into a fit of laughter.
"You're talking Greek to me," says he. "How could these black savages, who have never seen a book in their lives, understand the Bible, even if you gave it them? It's hard enough for civilised white people to comprehend, eh, Captain Fuller! You find it a tough job? I'm sure I do."
"As to that, I don't pretend to much learning in that line—like my second mate here, but I always leave such matters to the parson."
What the captain meant I cannot tell. On looking up, I see Bent's eyes full of tears, and he says nothing. I do not press the subject now as it will only provoke hostility, but I resolve to speak privately to Bent whenever I can. Yes, I am sure, by God's grace, and through the instrumentality of human ministers and His book, these dark heathens may become enlightened worshippers of Him.
We hear that there is a port at the great island of Vanua Levu, where sandal-wood is to be procured, and we accordingly forthwith sail there.
Truly it is dangerous work navigating these seas among coral banks in every direction, some just above water, others three, four, and fifteen feet below it. It is only when the sun is shining and the sea blue that we can distinguish the coral, which gives a green tinge to it, under water. One of us is always stationed aloft to pilot the ship. We have hitherto escaped. I pray we may, for if we were to wreck the good ship, these savages would spare the lives of none of us.
Once more we drop our anchor, and canoes come off to us. We make known that we have come for sandal-wood, and have axes, and knives, and nails, to give in exchange. The natives seem so ready to trade that Golding is quite enamoured of them, but the captain wisely will allow no one to go on shore. We keep a careful watch as before. The natives, however, seem very peaceable. They tell Taro that they wish to trade with us, and be our friends, and tempt us to come back again. The first mate, Tony Hinks, and others, declare that the captain's regulations are too strict, and that they ought to be allowed to go on shore.
Two days pass by, and we are almost ready once more to sail. I am below talking with Bent and the doctor. Most of the men are forward at their dinner, the captain, and the first mate, and the watch only being on deck. There is a loud sound like a blow given on the deck, then a shout and a piercing shriek. Something is the matter. We seize cutlasses and pistols, and any weapons we can lay hands on, and spring on deck. Upwards of a dozen savages are collected there with heavy clubs in their hands uplifted, and our men are righting desperately with them, but almost overpowered. The first mate lies dead on the deck near the companion, and further forward are Tony Hinks and a seaman with their heads beaten in. The supercargo is defending himself with a capstan-bar against several savages, while the captain stands in one of the quarter boats, which has been lowered partly down, pointing a telescope at the savages, who look at it as if they think it some sort of firearm. Most of the cannibals turn upon us, and advance furiously with their heavy clubs. We have, I deem, but little chance of contending with numbers so overpowering. I hand a cutlass and a pistol to the captain, who springs out of the boat on deck. Bent stands wonderfully cool, and levelling his pistols kills two of our assailants almost at the same moment. The rest hesitate; they have not thought of putting on the hatches, and to our great relief we see the crew springing up from the forepeak armed with axes, knives, and harpoons. With loud shouts and threats of vengeance they rush at the savages, some of whom they cut down, others they hurl overboard; we from aft join in the onslaught, till the savages take fright, and in another instant our decks are clear. The guns are always kept loaded—the captain orders them to be depressed and fired at the canoes, towards which our late assailants are swimming. Many are struck, and several of the canoes are knocked to pieces. The greater number of the people swim to the shore with the greatest ease, diving when they see the guns fired, or the levelling of the muskets. We make sail and stand out of the harbour to the west, intending to bury our chief mate and boatswain in deep water, out of sight of these cannibal regions.
Truly it makes me sad to think of these two men thus suddenly cut off, utterly unprepared to go into the presence of a holy God. They trusted not to Him who alone could washed them clean. They were good seamen, but they were nothing else. The captain comes on deck, as their bodies lie near the gangway, lashed in their hammocks, with that of the other man killed, and covered up with flags. We read a portion of the burial service, and commit them to the deep, till "the sea shall give up her dead."
The next island we make, sailing north, is Tutuila, one of the Navigators', or Samoan group. The harbour we enter is Pango Pango. It is the most curious we have seen. It runs deep into the land, and on either side are high precipices, some a thousand feet high, with two or three breaks, by which the waters of the harbour are approached from the shore. The people come off to us with great confidence in their large dug-out canoes. They are a brown race, like those of Tahiti. They are evidently a better disposed people than those we have just left. We have no fear about going on shore, and meet with civil treatment. Yet they are great thieves and beggars—the greatest chiefs asking for anything to which they take a fancy. They are also debased idolaters; and Taro says they worship fish, and eels, and all sorts of creeping things. They are also savage and cruel, and constantly fighting among each other. As to their morals, they are undoubtedly superior to the people of Tahiti, yet, from the style of their dances, we cannot argue much in their favour.
There is much wild and beautiful scenery in the islands of this group, and as far as we are able to judge, the climate is good. We keep as usual on our guard, and from what we hear, not without reason, for numerous articles of dress, and carpenters tools, and iron work, and chests, and parts of a vessel, have been seen among the people, which leaves no doubt that some unfortunate ship's company have been wrecked on their shores or put off by them. Indeed, it is worthy of remark that, with the exception of Tahiti, there is not a single group at which we have touched where we have not had evidence that ships had been attacked or wrecked, and a part, if not the whole, of the ship's company cut off. In some, only boats' crews have been destroyed, as was the fate of Captain Cook and his companions, but at several of the islands several ships' crews have been captured, and the greater number of the people killed and eaten. Indeed, such is the barbarous heathen and debased condition of the countless inhabitants of this island-world of the Pacific, that the navigation of these seas is indeed an undertaking of great peril. No man can tell when he is safe, or at what moment the treacherous islanders may not turn round and destroy him, just as they did Captain Cook, and just as they have treated many other unfortunate Englishmen since his time. Truly, it may be said, that these islands lie in darkness and in the shadow of death. There is but one means by which they can be changed—the sending to them the gospel. Yet my brother seamen and the traders laugh at such a notion, and people at home, who ought to know better, call it fanatical nonsense. I do not wish to set my opinion up against that of others, but there are certain points where a man can feel that he is right and others wrong, and this is one of them. The gospel has power to change the evil heart. Nothing else can do it. That never fails if accepted. God has said it. Why should we doubt?
We hear that the people of this place are carrying on war with those of another island. Some of the chiefs come and invite Captain Fuller to help them, but he replies, that if they wish to fight, they must fight among themselves. I would rather he had tried to dissuade them not to fight at all. We make sail out of the harbour, and are becalmed not far off a fortress on the summit of a high cliff which is to be attacked.
It is crowded with the whole population of the island. With our glasses we can see clearly what is taking place. Soon the canoes from Pango Pango, and of other tribes, their allies, appear. The people land, and begin to scale the rock. Numbers are hurled down and killed, but others climb up. Higher and higher they get. They seem determined to conquer. I tremble for the fate of the hapless defenders if they succeed. We can hear their shouts and cries. Some of the assailants have gone round on the land side. We observe the multitude inside rushing here and there. Those scaling the rock on our side have reached the summit; several fall, but now the rest break through the stockade, and rush with their clubs and spears against the shrieking crowd. The rest of the invaders have succeeded in gaining an entrance on the opposite side. The work of death goes on. All are indiscriminately slaughtered—men, women, and children. The warriors hold together, and fight despairingly. One by one they fall before the victors' clubs. A breeze springs up, and we stand clear of the reefs and once more out to sea. In the last glimpse we obtain of the fort the fighting is still going on, and thus it continues till the scene fades in the distance.
"Such is the warfare carried on among these savages," observes Bent. "Those who are victorious to-day will be attacked by other tribes before long, and in like manner cut to pieces. In a few years not one of these numberless tribes will remain. War kills many; but in war, crops are destroyed, and famine ensues, and kills many more; and disease, with no sparing hand, destroys numberless others also. A few years hence, those navigating these seas will find none alive to welcome them."
The carpenters declare the ship in such good condition that the captain and supercargo resolve to explore the Loyalty and New Hebrides, and other groups in that direction, before seeking our final port. These islands are especially rich in sandal-wood, with which it is resolved we shall fill up. The first land we make is Mare—one of the Loyalty Islands—a low coral island, about seventy miles in circumference. The inhabitants are almost black, and a more brutalised savage race we have not yet seen. There are four tribes constantly at war with each other— the victors always eating their captives.
Hence we steer north, and bring up in a fine harbour in the island of Fate, or Sandwich Island. It is a large, mountainous, and fertile island, with great beauty of scenery. The inhabitants are tall, fine-looking people, but most debased savages and terrible cannibals. Here sandal-wood is to be had in abundance, and very fine, so that Golding is highly delighted, and declares that it is the finest country he has yet been in. More than once, however, our suspicions are aroused with regard to the natives, who are, we think, meditating an attack on us on board, or when we go on shore to bring off the wood. While here I will write down a brief account of some of these numberless islands in the Western Pacific, among which we are cruising.
The largest is New Guinea, to the north of Australia, the inhabitants of which resemble the negroes of Africa, but are more barbarous. Next, to the south-east of it, is New Caledonia, also a very large island, with barbarous inhabitants. To the south-east is the Isle of Pines, and to the north-east is the Loyalty group, of which Mare is one, and Livu, and Uea. North-east again, we come to the considerable islands of Aneiteum, Tana, Eromanga, and Fate. North again, we fall in with the Shepherds' Islands and the New Hebrides, of which Malicolo and Espiritu Santo are the largest; and then there are the Northern New Hebrides and the Santa Cruz group, and the Solomon Islands, and New Britain, and New Ireland, between where we now are and New Guinea. Then there are the Caroline group—the isles as thick as the stars in the milky way; and the Ladrone Islands, and Gilbert Islands, and many others, too many indeed to write down. I do not say, however, that the countless inhabitants of these islands do not differ from each other in appearance, and manners, and customs. Some are almost jet black, and others only of a dark brown, but in one thing they are similar—they are all equally fierce heathen savages, and mostly cannibals.
We have now a full cargo, and Golding rejoicingly calculates that he will make several hundreds per cent, on the original outlay. He does not, methinks, reckon the lives of those who have been lost in the adventure. Having laid in a supply of yams, taro, bread-fruit, cocoa-nuts, and other roots, fruits, and vegetables, we raise our anchor for the last time we hope till our voyage is over. The captain and Golding can talk of nothing but their plans for the future—how they will return and load the ship with sandal-wood and other valuables. Whether the captain is thinking more of his speculations than of our reckoning I know not. He has insisted that we are clear of all danger, and we are running on at night under all sail before a fresh breeze, when the cry of "breakers ahead" makes me spring from my berth. Before the ship can be rounded to she strikes heavily. Again and again she strikes, and I can hear the coral grinding through the bottom; the masts go by the board, and the ship lies a helpless wreck on the reef. The wind has fallen, and, being sheltered by another part of the reef, we have no fear of her yet going to pieces. We wait anxiously for day, not knowing whether we may not be near one of those cannibal islands from whose inhabitants we may expect little mercy.
Another day has passed. We find a sand-bank some eighty yards across, close inside the reef. On this, having saved one small boat, we are landing our stores, and provisions, and arms.
We set to work to build a small vessel. The men labour diligently, though they grumble. We, the officers, keep watch over the spirit casks. Our great want is water. We dig deep, but the little we find is brackish.
The schooner is finished, and Captain Fuller proposes steering for Port Jackson, where there is a convict settlement.
The schooner is launched, but when we search for a passage to take her over the reef, none is to be found. In vain we make the attempt. Everywhere we are baffled. Some of our people almost go mad with despair. I propose building a large flat-bottomed punt from the deck of the ship, which can pass over the reef. All agree.
Our punt is almost completed. We see three objects in the distance, which prove to be canoes. We are discovered, for they approach. They are filled with black savages, who keep at a little distance, shouting and flourishing their spears. We make signs of friendship, but they still come on. We stand to our arms, and as they begin to hurl their spears at us, we are compelled to fire; several fall. With loud howls they paddle off to a distance, watching us. We have little doubt that they will return.
The punt is completed and provisioned. We get her over the reef, and try again to get the schooner across. In vain. We abandon her on the reef. It is time to be away, for we see a fleet of canoes approaching from the north. We hoist sail. The sea is smooth, and we glide rapidly over it, but on come the canoes still faster. They may overwhelm us with their numbers. Much of our powder has got wet. The men do not know it though. Happily the savages catch sight of the schooner and our tent left on the sand-bank. Their eagerness to secure the plunder from the wreck overcomes every other consideration, and they dash over the reef, and allow us to proceed unmolested.
We have been many days at sea; frequent calms and little progress made. The men are becoming discontented, and several are sick. We have avoided nearing any land. Several islands have been seen, but were we to touch the shore, our prospect of escape would be small indeed. Far better, we agree, to trust to the fickle ocean. No, strange as it may seem, there is not among all these rich and lovely islands one on which we dare set foot.
Several of our men have died; the rest are in a state of insubordination. We are on a short allowance of water, and we fear that our provisions will not hold out. Our frail punt has been so damaged by a gale that we can never cease baling.
[Port Jackson.] When almost despairing that one of our company would escape to tell the tale of our disasters, a ship hove in sight, took us on board, and brought us hither. Thus ends our voyage, and all the bright anticipations of wealth enjoyed so long by Golding and our old captain—not a log of sandal-wood, not a string of pearls preserved. ... Bent has told me his history. He feels his heart warmed with gratitude to the Almighty, who by His grace has preserved him from death of body and soul, and his whole mind is bent on going home with me forthwith, and returning to carry the gospel of salvation to the perishing heathen of the wide-spreading islands we have visited. Surely he could not devote his strength and life to a more glorious purpose.
A NOBLE RESOLVE.
I must ask the reader to return to the scene described in the introductory chapter, where we commenced hearing the extracts from the sea journal of old John Harvey. It will be remembered that at our family gathering at my father's house my brother John was the reader.
"Father," said my brother John, pausing awhile after he had finished reading our uncle's journal, "God willing, and with your permission, I will go and preach the gospel to the heathen of those Pacific Islands."
"Go, my son," said our father, promptly. "You shall have my prayers that your preaching may not be in vain."
"What! go off at once, dear John, and leave us all?" exclaimed several of the younger members of the family in chorus.
"I think not," answered John, calmly, with that sweet smile and gentle voice which gained him so many hearts; "I have much to learn and much to do before I shall be fitted for the office of a missionary. It is not a task to be undertaken lightly and without consideration. When a man charges among a host of foes, he must be armed at all points. A missionary, too, should be like a light shining amid the surrounding darkness; he should be able to show the heathen how to improve their moral and physical, as well as their spiritual condition. He should be fairly versed in the most useful mechanical arts, and possess especially some knowledge of medicine and surgical skill."
"Well, it will take you a good many years before you can do all that, and perhaps you will change your mind before the time comes," said one of the younger ones, who did not, as indeed they could not be expected to do, enter into John's thoughts and feelings on the subject.
I may say from that very moment John devoted all the energies of his mind and body to preparing himself for the high and holy calling he had undertaken. Long, I know, that night he knelt in prayer for grace, and wisdom, and strength to direct, fit, and support him for the work. Besides giving much time to his studies at the theological college, he gained a considerable knowledge of medicine and surgery, and was to be seen now with saw and plane labouring with a carpenter,—at the blacksmith's anvil, with hammer in hand, forming a bolt, or hinge, or axe,—and now at the gardener's, with hoe or spade, planting or digging, or pruning. Many wondered how his mind could take in so many new things, or his slight frame undergo so much labour. Few could comprehend the spirit which sustained him. He grew indeed stronger and more robust than any one would have supposed he would become.
I had since my childhood wished to go to sea, and my father allowed me to follow the bent of my inclinations. I now and then thought that I ought to go forth as a missionary also; but when I compared myself with John, and considered his great superiority to me, I gave up the idea, which I had mentioned to no one, as preposterous. My first two voyages were to India and China, and when I came back from the second John was still at college. I remember thinking that he was losing a great deal of time in preparation. He, however, said that he was gaining time. "A blunt tool can never properly perform the work. I am getting sharpened, that I may be used to advantage," was his remark.
On my return home from my third voyage, he had gone to the Pacific. Where he was to be stationed was not known. He had not gone alone, for he had taken a wife to support and solace him. I had never seen her; but I was told that her heart was bound up with his in the work in which he was engaged.
Having now become a fair seaman, I determined to seek a berth as a mate. An old shipmate and friend had just got command of a fine ship bound round Cape Horn; and though I had had no previous intention of going to the Pacific, I was glad to ship with him as third officer. My sisters had copied out our uncle's journal for John; they now kindly performed the same task for me. My ship was the Golden Crown a South-sea whaler, and Mr Richard Buxton was master, belonging to Liverpool. Things had changed greatly since the days of my uncle John. We had a definite object: no supercargo was required, and every spot we were likely to visit was well known, and mapped down in the charts. We had several passengers—two missionaries and their wives, newly married. I thought them inferior to John; but they were good men, humble too, with their hearts in the work. We had also another gentleman, a merchant or speculator of some sort. What he was going to do I could never make out. His heart was in his business, and he seemed to consider it of greater importance than anything else. This made him look down with undisguised contempt on the missionaries and their work, nor could he comprehend their objects. "If people want to go to church, let them," he more than once remarked: "but I don't see why you two should be gadding about the world to teach savages, who would know nothing about chapels, nor wish to build them, if you would let them alone, and stay quietly at home and mind a shop, or some other useful business."
The missionaries seldom answered his remarks. They continued perseveringly studying the language of the natives among whom they were to labour, and prayed with and expounded the Scriptures to all on board who would join them. I am writing an account of certain events, and not a journal, so I must suppose the Horn rounded, Chili visited, and Raratonga, where we were to land the missionaries, reached. This was the island whose very position was unknown when my uncle visited those seas, and for long afterwards lay sunk in heathen darkness. It had now become the very centre of Christianising influences, whence rays of bright light were emanating and reaching the farthest islands of the Pacific Ocean.
I have seldom seen a more attractive-looking spot than Raratonga appeared as we came off it. In the centre rise mountains four thousand feet above the level of the sea, with lower hills and beautiful valleys around them, clothed with every variety of tropical tree and shrub. At the foot of the hills is a taro swamp, and then a belt of rich country covered with cocoa-nut, bread-fruit, and banana trees; and then a broad white sandy beach, and a band of blue water; and next a black broad coral reef, like a gigantic wall, against which the swell of the Pacific comes thundering, and rising majestically to the height of twenty feet, curls over and breaks into masses of sparkling foam. The openings in the reef are few and narrow, so that no ship can anchor near the coral-girt isle. Canoes, however came off to us with natives on board, well clothed, and gentle in their manners, who welcomed the missionaries with a warmth and affection which must have been very gratifying to them.
I accompanied the captain on shore to obtain supplies. We took with us a chest of suitable goods for barter. An officer met us on the beach, the appointed salesman of the place, and putting out his hand, said, "Blessing on you." He then led us to the market-house, where we found collected a large store of all the chief productions of the island,— cocoa-nuts, bananas, potatoes, yams, pumpkins, hops, fowls, eggs, and many other things. We selected all we required, payment was made, and the salesman engaged four canoes to carry them off at once to the ship.
I was but a short time on shore, but I saw enough to wonder at. Everybody was well clothed,—the men in jackets, shirts, waistcoats, and trousers, with straw hats, and many had shoes and socks; the women in gowns, shawls or mantles, and bonnets. There were many stone cottages, neatly furnished, and others of a less enduring character. There was a handsome stone church, and an institution, a substantial stone building, for training native youths for the ministry, surrounded by cottages, the residences of those who were married; while gardens and cultivated fields were seen on every side. Such, I was assured, was the condition of the whole island, there being ample church and school accommodation for all the inhabitants, provided entirely by themselves. I saw also an excellent printing-press, at which several editions of the whole Bible had been printed, as well as commentaries, and numerous other works, and issued well bound, almost the whole work being performed by native youths, whose fathers were wild savage cannibals, as indeed were all the natives when first visited by the Reverend J Williams, in 1823, and such they would have remained, had not Christian missionaries arrived among them.
I have fallen in with many seafaring men who have abused the missionaries in no measured terms, and I have read books written by educated men who have done the same, and I was not quite decided whether they were right or wrong till I went to the Pacific. Then I discovered why those men abused the missionaries. Where the missionary has laboured faithfully, the natives will not desecrate the sabbath, and will not pander to the gross desires of their civilised visitors. That is the secret of their dislike to the missionaries.
Again, however, I have met many masters of whalers and numerous officers of the Royal Navy who have spoken and written in the highest terms of the missionaries, and acknowledged that the change which has been wrought through their instrumentality has been most beneficial to the cause of commerce as well as humanity; and that whereas where formerly, if a ship was wrecked, the destruction of her crew was almost inevitable, now through nearly the whole of Eastern, and a considerable portion of Western Polynesia, they would receive succour, and sympathy, and kindness. Still there are many—very many—dark places both in Eastern and Western Polynesia, and no Christian soldier need sigh, like Alexander, that no more worlds remain to be conquered.
During our voyage to Raratonga I learned a great deal more about the progress made by the missionaries of the gospel in these seas, which, while the Golden Crown lies off the island, I will briefly describe.
The London Missionary Society was established in 1795, and in the following year it sent forth, on board the Duff, a band of twenty-nine missionaries, who landed at Tahiti, one of the Society Islands, March, 1797. Some went on to Tongatabu, the chief of the Friendly Islands, and two to Christina, one of the Marquesas. The savage character of the inhabitants of the two last-named groups prevented success. At Tongatabu three missionaries were murdered, and the rest made their escape, as did those at the Marquesas. At Tahiti they were received at first in a friendly way by the chiefs and people; but for several years very little real progress was made in instructing the people in the truths of Christianity. Indeed, at one time all the missionaries, in despair of success, in consequence of the unceasing wars of the natives, sailed for New South Wales. Favourable reports, however, reaching them, some returned, and from that time forward slow but steady progress was made, though it was not till the year 1815 that Christianity was firmly established, and idolatry almost completely abolished. The year 1817 was memorable on account of the arrival of two of the most distinguished missionaries who have laboured among the isles of the Pacific—the Reverend J Williams and the Reverend W Ellis.
Mr Williams, who combined a wonderful mechanical talent with the most ardent zeal for the propagation of the gospel, soon after took up his abode at the island of Raiatea where by his example he advanced the natives in the arts of civilisation, at the same time that he instructed them in the truths of Christianity. The natives of the Society Islands having sincerely accepted Christianity, became anxious to spread the good tidings among their heathen neighbours. A considerable number prepared themselves for the office of teachers. Some went forth to the Paumotu Group, or Low Archipelago, to the east; others to the Austral Isles, to the south; and others, among whom was Papehia, accompanied Mr Williams on a voyage to the Hervey group. His first visit was to Aitutaki, where some native teachers were left, by whose means the natives became Christians.
After paying a second visit to Aitutaki, Mr Williams sailed in search of Raratonga, of the position of which even he was uncertain. He was accompanied by Papehia, and by some natives of Raratonga, who had been carried away by a trading vessel from their own island, and cruelly deserted on Aitutaki. Among them was Tapaeru, the daughter of a chief, who had become impressed with the truth of Christianity. At length Raratonga was discovered, and the native teachers were landed; but had it not been for the courage and constancy of Tapaeru, they and their wives would have been destroyed on the first night they were on shore. Sadly disconcerted, they returned next morning on board, and the enterprise was about to be abandoned, when the devoted Papehia stepped forward and volunteered to return on shore.
"Whether the natives spare me or kill me, I will land among them," he exclaimed. "Jehovah is my Shepherd—I am in His hand." Clothed in a shirt, with a few yards of calico in which he had wrapped some portions of the holy Scriptures, the intrepid pioneer landed alone among a host of heathen warriors, who stood on the reef with their spears poised ready to hurl at him. He had not trusted in vain. He persevered, and soon a powerful chief, Tinomana, turned to the truth, and burned his idols.
Again Mr Williams came to Raratonga—this time to remain for many months, to see Christianity established, to erect a large place of worship, and to perform one of the most wonderful tasks I have ever heard of a man single-handed doing. It was to build in three months a schooner of eighty tons, without one single portion of her being in readiness. He taught the natives to cut down, and saw, and plane the wood; then he erected a bellows and forge for the smith's work, which he performed himself; a lathe to turn the blocks, a rope-making machine, and a loom to manufacture the sail-cloth. All the time he laboured, he taught the wondering natives in the truths of Christianity. In three months from the day the keel was laid, this prodigy of a vessel was safely launched, and named "The Messenger of Peace." She proved a seaworthy, trusty little vessel, and from island to island, across many thousand miles of water, she was the means of conveying numerous missionaries of the gospel of peace to their benighted inhabitants.
First, several islands of the Hervey group were visited by her, and then she sailed for Raiatea; whence, after remaining some time, she once more sailed with a party of English missionaries and native teachers on a long voyage, calling at the Hervey Islands, then at Savage Island, where an unsuccessful attempt was made to land teachers. Next, she called at Tongatabu, already occupied by missionaries of the Wesleyan Missionary Society. Then she steered north for Samoa, known as the Navigators Islands. Here Mr Williams and his companions met with a most cordial reception from the chiefs and people, and teachers were soon established on several of the islands. The Wesleyans had before sent some missionaries to Samoa, but in a truly Christian spirit, worthy of imitation, they agreed to yield the group to the care of the London Missionary Society, while they devoted their exclusive attention to the Friendly and Fiji groups. They had made great progress among the Friendly Islanders, and the king himself had become a Christian, when it was resolved to attempt the conversion of the Fijians. Between Tonga and Fiji a constant intercourse was kept up, and thus the way seemed opened to carry the gospel to the latter group. There was also no lack of interpreters, an important advantage at the first. The first missionaries to Fiji were established on the island of Lakemba, where, in spite of great opposition, they laboured on faithfully and steadily, extending their efforts to other islands, till finally the Cross was triumphant even at Mbau, the blood-stained capital of the group, where the cannibal monarch himself, the dreaded Thakombau, became a Christian.
In the meantime, the inhabitants of the Sandwich Islands had heard of the gospel from English and American ships visiting the group. No sooner did King Rihoriho ascend the throne than he decreed that idolatry should be abandoned, because he had discovered that his idols could not benefit him; but he knew little or nothing of the Christian religion. At that very time, however, the American Board of Missions had sent out a band of missionaries to them, who on arriving to their joy heard that the idols of Hawaii were overthrown. They were, I believe, chiefly Episcopalians.
While these glorious events were taking place in Eastern Polynesia, the Church Missionary Society had sent forth missionaries among the fierce cannibals of New Zealand. They were joined by several Wesleyans, who together laboured with so much perseverance and success, that a very large number of the inhabitants became acquainted with the truths of the gospel. Numerous well-trained native teachers have gone forth from Tahiti and Raratonga to the surrounding isles, and many of them to the Loyalty and New Hebrides groups, and other parts of Western Polynesia. Following this example, the Bishop of New Zealand has brought natives from a large number of the islands in Western Polynesia, which he has visited, and having instructed them, at a college he has established near Auckland, is sending them back, to spread among their countrymen the truths they have learned. Thus Christianity has begun to spread among the dark-skinned races of those almost countless islands. To carry the gospel to them had been one of the energetic Williams's darling schemes; and it was while carrying it out that, landing at Eromanga, he, with a young missionary, Mr Harris, was barbarously murdered by the savage natives. Still the Society persevered, and missionaries have been established at several of the islands, and many of the natives have become Christians. Among these islands several Presbyterian missionaries have been established, who have laboured steadily and successfully in the Lord's vineyard. Thus several sections of the Protestant Church have been engaged cordially together in instructing the heathen nations of the Pacific in a knowledge of the truth, and in many instances the Holy Spirit has richly blessed their efforts. Still there are many hundred islands the inhabitants of which remain in gross darkness, while a large portion of those who have been converted require instruction, support, and the correction of errors. Much is done through native agency, but still the superintendence of well-educated and well-trained English missionaries is required at even the most advanced settlements to act as overseers or superintendents.
Having now given a very brief account of the progress of Christianity since those midnight hours when my uncle sailed in these seas, I may commence my personal narrative. It must be understood that I have somewhat anticipated events in the above account. At the time my narrative commences, Christianity, though advancing, had not made the great progress it has since done, and many of the islands which are now entirely Christian, were then only partially so, heathen practices prevailed, and the heathen chiefs had still influence and power. It is daylight over these regions, but nearer the dawn than noon. Many a year must pass away before the full blaze of the light of truth will shine from east to west across the vast Pacific. I must not forget to mention the impediments which the priests of Rome, chiefly Frenchmen, endeavour to throw in the way of the progress of the pure faith in Christ. To gain an influence with the natives they wink at many of their vices, they teach them an idolatrous faith, and try to prejudice them against the Protestants.
Having performed our contract at Raratonga, landing the missionaries and their goods, we sailed for our fishing ground in the south, where we were tolerably successful. Whale catching is very hard work, and at length it became necessary to return north, to obtain fresh provisions and to recruit our crew. Our captain had resolved also to try his fortune on the fishing grounds in the neighbourhood of the New Hebrides and the other Western Archipelago.
"A sail on the starboard bow," cried the look-out man, from aloft. I was officer of the watch. We were far away from land, and meeting with a strange sail is always a matter of interest in those seas. I went to the mast-head with my glass, and made out that the sail was that of a large double canoe. We kept away for her, not doubting that she had been driven far out of her course. Of this the sad spectacle which met our eyes as we drew near convinced us. On her deck were numerous savages—some grouped together in the after part, others lying about in different places, or leaning against the mast, and some apart in every variety of attitude. Many appeared to be dead or in the last stage of existence. Some few lifted up their hands imploringly towards us. Others shook their spears and clubs, which they held in their fast-failing grasp, possibly unconscious of what they were doing—the ruling passion being, with them as with others, strong in death. The ropes of their mat sail had given way, and it no longer urged them on. It was necessary to approach them cautiously, for, though the savages had but little strength left, they might, in their madness, attack us. We lowered two boats, and, with our men well armed, pulled up to them. As we got nearly alongside, some of the people in the after group rose from their seats, and one endeavoured to drag himself towards us. He was a young man—a light-coloured Indian—tall and handsome, and, unlike most of the rest, clothed in jacket and trousers. The others moving, showed us a young girl of the same light hue, reclining on a pile of mats. She was clothed; her head was adorned with a wreath of coral, and her arms and ankles with strings of beads. She struck me at once as being very beautiful, though, as I saw her nearer, I perceived that her eye had lost its lustre, and that her face was wan and emaciated. The canoe was a very large one, capable of carrying a hundred and fifty people, though not more than sixty were on board, and of that number nearly half lay dead or dying on the deck. It was easy to divine what had become of the rest. The young man made a sign that he would speak, and pointing to the girl, he said, in a husky voice, "Save her, save her! she Christian!" and then sunk exhausted on the deck.
THE DESTRUCTION OF THE IDOLS.
The canoe, it was evident, had met with some severe weather, and she could scarcely, we considered, have held together had she encountered another gale. We lost no time in getting the survivors into the boats. The suspicions of the warriors were soon calmed by the explanations of the young man, and they allowed us without resistance to lift them on board. The chief's daughter, or young princess, she might have been called, was less exhausted than many of the strong men. I lifted her up with care, and placed her on her mats in the stern sheets, and pulled back as fast as we could to the ship, that the sufferers might have the advantage of our surgeon's assistance. Having removed the sinnets, mats, and other articles with which she was loaded, we abandoned the ill-fated canoe, and stood on our course. I asked the doctor what he thought of the state of the Indians. "The princess and her attendants require careful nursing, and so does that young man, but for the rest who are still alive I have no fear," he answered. "The greater number died for want of water. They had no lack of food, I suspect." I looked in his face, and shuddered at the answer he gave. Several days passed by before the young man who had addressed us in English was again able to speak. He spoke but a few words of English, but enough to let me understand that his name was John Vihala, that he was related to the young girl, daughter of the chief or king of one of the islands; that her name was Alea; that she had become a Christian; but that her father and most of the family remained heathens. She had been betrothed (as is the custom, at an early age) to a powerful chief of a distant island, still a heathen and a cannibal; and, notwithstanding all her prayers and entreaties, her father insisted on her fulfilling the contract. She, in due state, accompanied by several of her relations and female attendants, was placed on board the canoe, which sailed for its destination. At first the wind was propitious, but a fierce gale arose, which drove the canoe out of her course for many days before it, till those on board were unable to tell in what direction to steer to regain their own island. Another gale sprang up, which drove them still farther away, and then famine began, and sickness, and then water failed, and death followed, and despair took possession of even the bravest. Alea's chief relations died, but she and Vihala were wonderfully supported. While their heathen companions lost all hope, they encouraged them, spoke to them of their own religion, and endeavoured to teach the truths of the gospel.