Page images

villages. This sanguinary war continued for several months, and the country was so desolated that for miles together not a house was left standing; and even the villages which escaped were full of the sound of wailing and mourning for the dead, in whose honour the living lacerated their own flesh with broken shells and sharks' teeth. When, finally, one party triumphed, they made huge bonfires, into which they threw many of the vanquished. Though the Samoans were never guilty of cannibalism, still there was enough of barbarous cruelty in their warfare to make a residence among them a very anxious experiment. Having done what they could to smooth the way for the teachers, Mr Williams and his colleague were obliged to leave them, in devout trust that their work might prosper.

Twenty months elapsed ere they were again able to return to Samoa, and marvellous, far beyond their highest hopes, was the change they found. On their first visit they had only touched at Savaii and Upolu, the most westerly of the Navigator group. Now the first land they sighted was Manua, the most easterly, about 250 miles distant from that on which the teachers were established. To their astonishment a number of canoes came out to meet them, and as they neared the vessel several natives stood up and declared themselves to be

[merged small][ocr errors]

Christians, and that they were waiting for a falu lotu—a religion-ship—to bring them a teacher who could tell them about Jesus Christ. Great was their disappointment when they heard that Mr Williams had only been able to secure one teacher, whom he had promised to leave on another isle.

These people had received such knowledge as they possessed from a canoe which had drifted all the way from Rairavae, an island upwards of 300 miles to the south of Tahiti, and fully 2000 miles from that where it at length arrived, after a three months' voyage, in the course of which twenty of the party died of the hardships they underwent. But the survivors had carefully preserved their copy of the Tahitian translation of the Scriptures; and on reaching the unknown isle they built a reed-hut for their chapel, and there met daily for worship. Thus, among the strange and precious treasures which from time to time are cast up by the ocean on far-away isles, did the people of Manua receive the Word of Life.

Among those who had heard it gladly was a fine young fellow, a native of Leone, in the Isle Tutuila, to which he begged to be conveyed in the foreign ship, that he might teach his brethren what he had learnt. Thither they sailed, touching at the Isles Orosenga and Ofu, where as yet no rumour of the new teaching had been heard.

As they approached Tutuila, they were surrounded by a vast number of canoes filled with excessively wild-looking men, clamouring for powder and muskets, as they were on the eve of a great war with a neighbouring chief. No sign there of any leaven of good—in fact, the presence among them of a resident Englishman of the "beachcombing" fraternity, was anything but a hopeful indication. The amount of mischief done by even the average specimens of this class has been incalculable; but many have been miscreants of the deepest dye, whose crimes have aroused the horror of even the vilest heathen. Many of them were desperadoes—convicts escaped from New South Wales in stolen vessels, which they scuttled on reaching any desirable isle, where they generally contrived to make themselves useful in war, and so secure the protection of some chief. One of these men, who made his way to Samoa, was said to have shot 200 persons with his musket, smearing himself with charcoal and oil to enable him to creep within range undetected. His delight at the end of such a day's sport was to seat himself on a sort of litter, smeared with blood, surrounded by the heads of his victims, and so be carried home by his followers, yelling savage songs of triumph. Such men as these were not exactly calculated to improve the morals of the Pacific!


Passing on to beautiful Leone, which bore an evil character for savage cruelty and treachery, and the massacre of various boats' crews, the mission party beheld the people drawn up on the beach, in what appeared a formidable array. They, however, lowered the boat and neared the shore, when the chief, bidding his people sit down, waded up to his neck till he reached the strangers, and explained that he and his followers were no longer savage, but " sons of the word ;" and went on to tell how, twenty moons previously, some of his people had been at Savaii when the white chief Williams had arrived there with some tama-fai-lotu, "workers of religion," and, having learnt a little, they had returned home with the news, and already fifty of the people had become Christians. Pointing to a group who sat somewhat apart, under the shade of the bread-fruit trees, and who each wore a strip of white native cloth tied round one arm, he said that those were the Christians, who had adopted that badge to distinguish them from the heathen; that they had built a place for prayer, in a thicket of bananas; and that one of their number from time to time crossed over to Savaii in his little canoe, to "get some more religion" from the teachers1 to bring back to his own people.

1 The thought of this poor savage, week by week imperilling his life by crossing that stormy sea in his frail canoe, has often come

On learning that the man he was addressing was the identical " white chief" who had visited Savaii, he made a sign to his people, who rushed into the sea, and carried the boat and all who were in it high and dry on the beach in their enthusiastic welcome; but when they learnt that the religionship had brought no teacher for them, their disappointment was unbounded; and so, we may well believe, was that of the zealous apostle who had discovered these isles "white to the harvest," but had failed to find reapers.

So eager was the desire to know about the better way, that there were many places in the isles where the people, having only heard a dim rumour of what others had learnt, had actually built places for the worship of the unknown God, and, having prepared their food on the Saturday, assembled there at six o'clock each Sabbath morning, and again twice in the day, not for service, because none knew what to say, but to sit together in reverent silence, waiting for some revelation of His will. It seemed a strangely literal illustration of

vividly to my mind as an illustration of the words in Deut. xxx. 11-14: "This commandment which I command thee this day, it is not hidden from thee, neither is it far off. It is not .... beyond the sea, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go over the sea for us, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it 1 But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it."

« PreviousContinue »