Project Canterbury

From Heathen Boy to Christian Priest

By Arthur Innes Hopkins

London: SPCK, 1930.

Transcribed by the Right Reverend Dr. Terry Brown
Bishop of Malaita, Church of the Province of Melanesia, 2006



I will set down for you the story of a Melanesian boy, Jack Talo-fui-la, born a heathen on a wild islet in the Southern Seas, who is now a faithful Christian priest among his own people. He was one of the first light-bringers to that dark island.



About fifty years ago this boy was born, one of sixty thousand brown-skinned savages who inhabit the island called Mala, one of the Solomon Islands. Mala is a narrow island, nearly a hundred miles in length, with a high mountainous backbone in the middle. Round the north-east coast there stretches a coral reef, and a calm lagoon lies between the reef and the island

[6] A lagoon in the South Sea Islands is a saltwater lake which may be three or four miles wide and twenty miles long. It is enclosed on one side by the coast of an island and on the opposite side by a great coral barrier or breakwater, the work of millions and millions of coral insects during thousands of years. On one side the lagoon washes gently the side of the big island as the tide rises and falls, while outside, beyond the great natural wall of coral, a roaring surf dashes for ever, but cannot break through to ruffle the calm lagoon. The water, always warm, swarms with fish, many bright-coloured, some of the strangest shapes, and of all sizes. You look down into the clear water and see them darting about in the coral garden below, red and blue and gorgeous. Turtle float on the surface or dive below, sharks dart up and down with open jaws snapping up fish. But they do not, as a rule, attack any men and women and children as they fish or bathe in the waters. In some places the lagoon fringes white or black sand beaches; in others rocks; in others horrid, slimy, evil-smelling mangrove swamps, where crocodiles live among the twisted snake-like roots. Overhead fly flocks of booming pigeons and shrieking cockatoos and gay red-and-blue little parrots. And there hover also swarms of stinging mosquitoes and sand-flies.

The greater part of the island of Mala is [6/7] covered with dense "bush" or forest, and there are many mountains. It is divided up into many small districts occupied by different tribes, speaking many different dialects. When Talo-fui-la was born the people were more numer-ous and stronger and fiercer than those of any of the neighbouring islands. There were no wild animals on which they might spend their strength in hunting, but an agelong warfare had been carried on among them, between the people of the bush and the tribes living by the seashore. The bush people could always find shelter from their enemies among the forests and mountains, but the people of the shore, when hard pressed, could only seek safety in the canoes upon the sea. But a man cannot live for long in a canoe, and the sea people had therefore been driven to take refuge in islets of their own making.

About twenty little islets lie in the lagoon. Some of them are natural, but the greater number have been built by man. They were built up of blocks of coral broken from the reef or of pieces of rock from Mala piled upon each other in a shallow place in the lagoon until they rose above the water and formed a platform. Big wooden posts were set upright close together all around the stone platform to keep it fast by fencing the stones in. Cracks and crevices were filled with broken coral, crushed shells, sand, and chips of wood, and all kinds of rubbish, which were [7/8] mixed with salt water into a kind of cement, and at last a fairly flat surface was formed. Trees grew up in places, the precious cocoanut tree among others. Then the people brought from the big island bamboo canes and the strong stiff leaves of a tall palm tree that gives sago for food and leaves for thatch, and they brought also nuts for selling to the white man. They built huts of the bamboo canes and the leaves, and there they could shelter with the lagoon all round them for protection.



It was on such an islet, called Sula-fou, that the tribe lived to which Jack Talo-fui-la belonged.

About four hundred persons were packed together in the tiny space of the islet. It was a strange life for men and women to spend their days on earth in following. It led them nowhere. They lived from hand to mouth. They had quite a number of occupations and plenty of time for them. They did not think of days that were to come or know much of the days of their forefathers. They had no need of clothes, but wore many ornaments of stone and shell and wood which, until quite a short time ago, they [8/9] fashioned with only stone tools. They had to build their huts; they had gardens in which to grow some of their food, chiefly yams and taro two potato-like roots. They had many fish to catch, both for themselves and to exchange for food. Their enemies on the big island would not let them plant enough gardens there, but would give vegetables in exchange for fish. To catch fish the sea folk had to make nets--nets of many sizes, from great huge ones to tiny little ones. To travel about the waters of the lagoon they had to build canoes. A canoe might hold as many as a hundred and twenty men, and there were many, many small ones down to a tiny one that a little child could carry. These canoes needed paddles, and the paddles had to be cut out and made. They had a few precious guns smuggled in on schooners from Queensland, but for fighting purposes they must be always shaping bows and arrows, spears and clubs. These, like their canoes, their food bowls, and their images, were often made fine with ornamental work of pearl and shell and fibre and paint. Much time and great pains were devoted to the fashioning of ornaments for their arms, legs, necks, faces, ears, noses, lips, fingers, and waists.

The women had their work to do--garden work, fetching the firewood and the water every day--and their babies to look after, and they had money to make out of shells and fish teeth.

[10] Both men and women had market days to attend and visits to pay; they had hundreds of religious duties to perform, prayers and incantations to learn, sacrifices to offer, innumerable religious customs to follow blindly, birth customs, marriage customs, death and burial customs, and scores of others. They had feasts to prepare or to attend, and the dances and singings. There were thousands of things they must not do, things that were tapu--that is, forbidden. They lived always under a thick cloud of fear--fear of evil spirits, fear of witchcraft, fear of their enemies, and fear of being killed--and nearly always in a state of fighting, and so they were always liable to panic and excitement and to furious rages. Many a time the whole islet was buzzing for days like a frightened swarm of bees trying to sting. In reality they did not often- though quite often enough--kill many people or get killed themselves. But the warriors were for ever talking about the fight, expecting it; preparing to attack, or on the watch against being attacked; prowling about secretly in the bush at night, or sitting up keeping watch; sending messages of defiance or threats; demanding money, or paying it when forced to. Their enemies, as I have said, were the bush people or hill folk, who lived in thick woods on the big island in hundreds of tiny villages. Narrow tracks wound up and down hill to these villages, [10/11] so that enemies could not reach each other easily. On market days, because they needed food, they did not often fight, but met each other to exchanges fish for vegetables, all armed and watchful lest there should be treachery.

I was a missionary in Mala in those days and I used sometimes to go to these markets.

The hill folk brought down their yams, taro, bananas, pineapples, nuts, which the women carried in huge heavy loads upon their heads. The men walked, armed, in front and behind. The sea people arrived at the appointed place in their canoes with their men armed, and with loads of dried fish packed up in leaves. Then they met on a beach or a clear space in the woods and quickly exchanged their wares. Oh, the chattering!

"That fish is not worth ten yams; I'll give you eight."

"No but I'll take nine."

"Well, here are the nine."

"But you must give me bigger ones and count those two small ones as one."

"How much for that big bunch of bananas?"

"Ten porpoise teeth."

"I'll give you six for it."

"No, eight at least."

"Well, here you are--for eight."

""But look, this one is no good; the hole at the root is broken."

[12] The bartering was accompanied by a stream of gossip, most of it guess-work, and all eagerly believed.

How So-and-so had died through So-and-so's witchcraft.

How a certain tribe was coming to kill someone in their village.

All the scandal of the neighbourhood was flying about in confused excited talk.

If times seemed fairly quiet and the place of meeting was near, children were allowed to go. That was a great treat. The biggest marketing of all was when big canoes, two or three together, went off to the neighbouring island Gela to buy pigs. Gela was a Christian island, and so there was no need to carry weapons there.



What a proud little boy was Talo-fui-la when he grew big enough to sleep in the men's hut and to go sometimes in his uncle's canoes.

Qai-su-lea, his uncle, was a big sea chief, the head of all the sea folk. He lived on another islet close to Sula-fou, called Ade-gege. He was, as I knew him, and I had much to do with him, a man of great cruelty and cunning. He [12/13] had been to Queensland in his younger days, and knew about white men and their customs. He wanted to be friends with them and make money out of them; but at the same time to continue in his old heathen ways. When in a good temper he was often good-natured, especially to his own people, but no one could trust nor like him. He had five wives, all living in different places which he used to visit. He had engaged in many fights in his younger days, but now found it better to let others fight for him and put the blame upon them if any trouble arose afterwards about the fight.

Little Talo-fui-la soon learned to swim like a fish. He was in the warm water of the lagoon at intervals throughout the day and night. Soon he began to follow the men about when they went fishing or to their gardens. He learned to shoot with a small bow and arrows, to spear fish for himself in the pools left in the empty lagoon at low tide. By-and-by he became quite useful; he could go upon errands and help to paddle a canoe or build a hut. He learned all the tapus and to fear the spirits. Grown-up people were very angry if he broke a tapu, lest the offended spirit should do something spiteful to them.

People who broke a big tapu might be killed. The witch-doctor, who lived near the awful house where the skulls were kept, told them what to [13/14] do and when the signs were good or bad for fishing or fighting, and how to pray to the spirits and to sacrifice to them. Witchcraft was a dreadful thing. You might be made sick and die by magic. There was good magic to take away sickness and evil spirits. There were all sorts of prayers to learn and repeat: prayers to shark spirits and to the bonito fish spirit, to porpoise-giving spirits, to spirits of the wind or sunshine or rain, to spirits who made gardens fruitful or gave success in hunting, to spirits connected with images and ornaments, shells and stones. The most powerful spirits were connected with skulls of the dead. These were very powerful, and must be kept in a good temper by sacrifices on the altar of stones just outside the chief's big hut. There were dreadful sacred places that only the witch-doctor knew and could guide a man into.

These beliefs were all terribly frightening and very dark, although some of them were useful to keep wild folk in order and make them afraid to steal and fight and curse and quarrel quite at random. The gloomiest of all times was after a death, whether a death by accident, or murder, or disease. The face of every man and woman became dark and sullen and all hearts were full of vengeful feelings. The death, it was believed, must have been caused by somebody, and the witch-doctor would pretend to find out who [14/15] the guilty person was. Then there must be a killing in return, to "make square," to appease the dead man's spirit.

There was one horrible thing, so Talo-fui-la learned, that the sea people did not do. They were not cannibals, as were the bush people, who ate their dead enemies. It was a terrible disgrace to a tribe if one of their folk were killed in a fight, and the body carried away and cooked and parts of it eaten in triumph.

In spite of all these teachings, Talo-fui-la grew up a kind, good-natured boy, brave and energetic, but in his ignorance he would have become in time cruel and revengeful, without joy or peace in his life. There were two big things he looked forward to doing some day when he was a man. The first was to going in a war canoe, when he would help to paddle it on its fighting errand and later would become one of the fighters himself. The month of April was a favourite time for going out on such expeditions. How often he had seen, as I have often seen, a war party, all decorated, coming back in their big canoes, sometimes in triumph, sometimes quietly, with perhaps a man missing.

Very often in the bottom of one of those canoes a boy would be lying tied hand and foot, thrown down like a pig. That boy had been taken away from his home, given up to be handed over to another tribe to be killed in order to make peace [15/16] between two tribes. Qai-su-lea was taking him from one tribe to the other by canoe, money being given by each side. Then Qai-su-lea would say, "See what a peacemaker I am!" On such days Talo-fui-la, like other children, had screamed for joy, welcoming the war party back. I have heard the children yell and seen them dance till they felt full of blood-thirst, and even children in a new Christian village would yell back at them in sympathy.

Many a time, too, in the lagoon or far ashore in the gardens, Talo-fui-la had paddled or scampered back as fast as his canoe or his legs could carry him to his islet in panic. A shot had been heard banging somewhere in the bush not far away. It might mean--oh, joy!--that some bushman had been killed. If so, there would be feasting and the spirits would be quiet for a time and kindly disposed. Or it might be that the shot meant that a sea-man had been caught off his guard, alone in his garden perhaps, and killed. There would be a wild clamour, and commotion. Every weapon in the place would be seized, every little boy would clutch in his hands a stick or a bow and arrows. Everyone would rush about wildly, faces would be black and scowling, eyes bloodshot, and the fighting men would prepare to rush off into the bush. But wait a bit! Soon Lao-inao, the quick runner, the news-bringer, who lives in the bush, [16/17] but is the seamen's ally, will be here to tell what has happened and to plan what is to be done in revenge or for protection.

So days of turmoil would pass, confusion gradually dying down, and peace prevailed until the next exciting event occurred.



Porpoise hunting was the second great pursuit in which Talo-fui-la looked forward to being allowed to take part in some day. Only the grown men could go porpoise hunting for two or three months once a year, or perhaps once in two, or even three years. Talo-fui-la would have to be made a man first before he could join in the hunt. He would be shut up in a dark hut for a month and have his teeth blackened, and go through some very nasty ceremonies.

The season of porpoise hunting meant a very empty islet, with only old men and women and children left behind, and a few active men coming and going as they took their turns in the hunt. The majority of them remained miles away camped on the beach of a harbour. There was [17/18] one very favourite harbour called Bitama, about twenty miles away from Sula-fou, outside the lagoon. Early every morning scouting canoes would leave the camp and put out to sea to look for a school of porpoise that might be rolling about outside the harbour. If they sighted one, all the canoes would be called out and draw up in a great semicircle behind the porpoises. Then their crews would shout and bang their paddles on the side of the canoes and try to drive the porpoises into the harbour. They had to be skilful lest the porpoises should suddenly turn and break through a gap in the semicircle and escape into the open sea. But if they managed well they drove them headlong into the harbour. Then, when close to the beach, the men would jump out, seize the porpoises, drag them ashore and spear them. Great fires were made in which to cook them (you could smell the cooking for miles), and they sold most of the meat to the bush people, but they kept the teeth. Each tooth--and a porpoise has about two hundred neat, sharp, small teeth--was worth about 1d.

In a good year they would kill about six hundred porpoises. Out of every five, Qai-su-lea as a rule took three for himself and gave two to the men who killed the porpoises. During the time of hunting there was a truce between the people of the bush and of the coast, although the bush people went on with their own fights [18/19] among themselves I used to enjoy these times of quiet, and I am sure the children of the sea folks on the islets did so also.



One day when Talo-fui-la was about sixteen years old an exciting thing happened which changed his whole life.

Suddenly there was a loud cry from the lagoon, "Sail, oh! Sail, oh!!, Sail, oh!!!"

Some sharp eyes had seen far out at sea the white sails of a schooner. It looked as if one were making for the entrance through the reef into the lagoon. The natives knew well what that meant. It was a schooner from Queensland in Australia, two thousand miles away, bringing back some of their brothers and their friends, who had gone away years ago to work on the sugar plantations. The schooner hoped to secure many more young men to take back to Queensland for at least one three-years spell of work. Already the bush people had seen her coming from their hill villages and were rushing down the tracks. On she came slowly, nearer and [19/20] nearer, and passed through the opening into the lagoon. Down went the anchor with a loud rattle. Two boats were lowered full of men and boxes, with two armed white men in charge of each. They were backed towards the landing-place, in order that they might get out again quickly without having to turn around. One kept guard while the other was run ashore. Canoes had darted out to meet them and to visit the schooner.

There was a tremendous shouting and chattering. Who had come back? Who had not come back, although had been expected? Had he died, or was he staying on in Queensland for another three years? Who had (but keep that secret while white men are still about) brought A GUN AND CARTRIDGES? Whose box was the heaviest with the most calico, axes, knives, and all sorts of useful things to be divided, perhaps at once upon the beach?

Talo-fui-la wondered what his share would be. A shirt perhaps? Or trousers? Or a hat? Or a handkerchief? Were there any bush people to be landed whose people had not gone down to meet them and to carry their boxes up to their villages. If one were alone and no one to meet him, what fun to seize his box and all its goods. He might think himself lucky to be allowed to get away to his village alive. See, there was Uncle Daomai stepping ashore first. That [20/21] blanket roll of his shoulders might have a gun hidden in it, or there might be one in the false bottom of his big box made for him by a cunning Chinaman. He had put on his finest things, as they all do, to show himself off in for a few hours on his return home: his hat and white suit and tie and collar and shining boots. It was a great day in his life. The schooner would stay on for perhaps two or three days waiting to get new recruits for Queensland. Talo-fui-la wanted very much to be one of them. To his joy Qai-su-lea said that he might go. He was given a big present of tobacco and other things for each boy that he sent, and he received a lot out of all the things that they brought back. And each smuggled gun and cartridge made him more powerful. They made much of him, too, on board the schooner as he sat on the deck hour after hour, fed on their best food and smoking, arranging to collect every boy that he could hear of anywhere near. But he was very angry about those who had died or stayed on in Queensland. For anyone of importance dead he would pay pigs and porpoise teeth and shell money to get a white man killed in revenge. Then by-and-by a man-of-war would come to enquire and to punish. He would tell them that the wicked bush people far away in the hills had done it. So they had, but he had paid them to do it. He was so cunning that they never found him out.

[22] So Qai-su-lea let Talo-fui-la go away. What a big wonderful canoe that schooner seemed to Jack, for so the white men at once called him. The strange food he was given seemed good to him, and it was fine fun, too, seeing so many islands and new places, and after he had recovered from sea-sickness he spent long hours squatting on the deck, smoking and yarning, and picking up queer pidgin-English. There were many different languages talked on board, so to understand each other they had to use pidgin-English. He was soon useful in a boat or on the schooner helping to row and to set full sail.



At last they arrived at Brisbane, the capital of Queensland, and Jack found out that there were more white people in one place than he thought that there were in all the world.

How wonderful the streets and the houses and the ships were! How rich everybody seemed to be, and how bustling and busy and masterful! He soon became engaged to work for a first term of three years on a sugar plantation at a place [22/23] called Mackay. It was hot there, as in his own country, with bananas and sugar-cane growing and other things that he know. He liked, too, the new food; bread and meat and cake seemed good, and a blanket at night very soft and comfortable. The hours of work seemed long, and it was trying having them fixed for each day. But he was willing, obedient and strong, and soon grew used to this. He won a good character with his first master and mistress, and also with all those he worked for later on after his first three years were up, and he was free for other engagements. From midday each Saturday until Monday morning he could go where he liked; he was, as the Melanesians said, "free to walk about." Some of them went to the town and gambled and drank and quarreled with other Melanesians, and had fights with them and with the police, and found themselves lodged in prison. But a friend introduced Jack Talo-fui-la to a much better way of spending his leisure time.

He invited him to go with some other Mala boys to see a white lady who was a very good "missus," especially to Mala boys. She had a school for them and helped those in trouble, and visited those in prison and the sick. Some of the evilly-disposed among them tried all they could to spoil her work, because she interfered with their bad ways and customs, but she [23/24] persuaded more and more to come regularly to her school in the evenings and to the church on Sundays. Jack joined this school and liked it much, and grew devoted to the white lady and tried to help her in every way. He was not at all clever, but he was very keen. He learned slowly to read and write, but the English language was terribly hard to master. He began, however, to understand what he was taught, and a new light began to shine in his heart and in his face also, as he heard of God, our Father, and His love, and of Jesus Christ, the Saviour, and of the Holy Spirit, who was stronger than all those spirits of which he was afraid. He much wanted to be a Christian in truth and not only in name, and he joined those who were being prepared for baptism.

There was a great deal that he could not understand, but he began to respond to the teaching, and a Christian life began to show itself in deeds. In time he was baptized, and the day of baptism was indeed a wonderful day when he with others become Christians and put the old heathenism openly away. He took the name of Jack as his Christian name, for he was already known to everyone by that name. He rose in the school and at last reached the top, was confirmed, and knelt every Sunday at God's altar. He began to teach the new chums, for whom he was always on the look-out, and he was the right hand of the white "missus." He was bold and [24/25] strong in standing up for the right, both on the various plantations, where he worked for many years, and among his fellow-Christians.

And so time passed happily and usefully, and it seemed likely that Jack, like others, would settle down in Queensland for life and perhaps in time have a little sugar plantation of his own that would be rather a garden for one man to work than a plantation. But there was other and higher work in store for him to do.



After a good many years in Queensland--I think about sixteen--there came to the plantation boys what they called "big news." It was that no more Melanesians were to come to Queensland, and that soon all Melanesians in Queensland, except those who had been there for twenty years at least, were to be sent back to their islands.

What were the Christians of the great heathen island of Mala to do now? Could they be Christians in their old homes? Some of them, sixteen of the picked ones, joined the Bishop of New Guinea in order to help him as teachers [25/26] there, but Jack said "No." He ought, he maintained, to go to his own people to help them and bring to them the good news of God's love. A few others said that they would go with him. But what could they do by themselves? They would be scattered, perhaps killed, and very helpless. And so they asked for a white missionary to be sent to Mala to lead them and keep them together.

They were sent first to Sydney and then across to Auckland in New Zealand, and from there by the little Melanesian mission ship, The Southern Cross, to Norfolk Island, half-way between New Zealand and Melanesia, where already two hundred boys were being trained to be teachers.

Jack felt rather strange in Norfolk Island. He was a good deal older than the other boys; he did not know the language of "Mota" that they all talked there, and they were much quicker at lessons in school than he was. He stayed there happily enough, however, for two years, and although he did not do much in the school, he worked hard on the farm and at other outdoor jobs. He learned most from the services in the chapel and from the life that was lived outside the class-room. In this life he was a powerful influence for good, especially among the lads from his own island of Mala, who needed much taming to fit them for school.

[27] IX


At last the day came for the mission ship, The Southern Cross, to make a voyage to the islands, and Jack was chosen to be one of those to leave Norfolk Island for their island homes.

He was to go to Mala to his old home. He had been away for so long that he had almost forgotten the language that the sea people talked. He had left his home a heathen; he came back a Christian. How would he be received after so great a change? A few Christians who had already come back from Queensland and Fiji were having a very bad time. The heathen were trying to drive them out and destroy the three tiny places, Christian villages, where they were trying to make schools. Some had already been killed and a good many others were in danger, some of whom were killed soon afterwards. I had been among them as missionary for about two years, and was still in the middle of many troubles. There were always daily and nightly watchings against attacks and turmoil all round. But the few men held on staunchly, and with their wives and children and a few friends were gradually making villages of their own.

There was one village, Ngore-fou, about five [27/28] miles from Jack's home, that was having a very hard time. Qai-su-lea when the Christians arrived there had seized their boxes and thrown their books into the sea. The bush people had killed Amasia, their leader. Jas Ivo, a teacher from the Christian island of Gela near Mala, had been shot; money had been offered for anyone who would kill a white man. How would Jack be received? He was quite cheery about it. He belonged to Qai-su-lea's tribe, and therefore they could not well attack him; he had a right to a share of their land on the big island of Mala, opposite Sula-fou, and on that land he proposed to make a start at a place called Fou-ia. Qai-su-lea promised the Bishop that he would allow this, for Jack was his man, and the more gardens there were on the shore the better he was pleased, especially if a new settlement meant land cleared and a village opposite his islet. He liked, too, to be outwardly the white man's friend. He wanted really to secure all the he could of the white man's money and goods, and to keep him to himself away from other tribes.

Jack therefore began his work as teacher at Fou-ia, the name of which in English might be written as "Fishington."

[29] X


Trees were cut down, huts put up, gardens made; a neat little church was built and daily teaching services were begun. Soon a few people came ashore to Fou-ia to live there with Jack. He had five married brothers, and some of them and their families came, and after many years all of them joined him

Many others of the natives were quite friendly, but would not give up their old habits and superstitions, as they must do if they came to Fou-ia. The bush people around were very angry, but they were a little afraid of Qai-su-lea. They dare not make open attacks, as they did in other places like Ngore-fou. But if they chanced to find Jack or any of his people alone and unarmed, with no one nearby as witness, let them beware of club or spear or bullet. The bush people prowled about at night in the thick bush round Fou-ia, and by day sent spies upon pretended errands on the chance of doing some mischief or of finding out how best they could reach Jack and his followers. Every time I went to visit Jack, or he came to Ngore-fou, he was confident and cheerful. He felt quite sure that he was [29/30] under the protection of God, who had given him this work to do.

Not very far from Fou-ia, wandering to and fro over many parts of Mala with about ten men in his train, lived a man called Iro-qata. He was the greatest of all the Mala "strong men," and always ready to sally out and kill for money. He generally killed those who were accused of witchcraft, as he did poor Joe Sili at Ngore-fou on my verandah. He was brave and truthful and quite pleasant to talk to. I always think that in his mind he considered that those he killed deserved their fate.

If he had thought this of me, I myself might easily have been a victim. The bush people arranged with Iro-qata to kill Jack. As usual, there was a great fuss over the arrangements and the news leaked out.

A message came to Fou-ia, picked up, I expect, at one of the market places:

"Take care, Jack; tonight Iro-qata is coming to kill you. You and your people had better run away in canoes across to Sula-fou, your old home."

Jack sent every one of his people across the lagoon to Sula-fou, but he said to them:

"I cannot go. This is my place, and here I must stay. If God wants me to die, I am ready. If He does not, Iro-qata cannot do anything."

So he stayed on -- alone, and when night came, [30/31] went into his hut and slept. Think of this courage! A Melanesian is brought up never to be alone and is always afraid of the dark. But Jack, though a Melanesian, was a Christian and, in his simple faith, the master of old heathen fears.

Morning dawned. The canoes came creeping back, those who paddled them peeping and peering about eagerly. They expected to find Jack's body, perhaps headless, on the beach. But there he was alive and smiling, ready to welcome them back. Iro-qata had not come, after all. We never knew what had prevented him; he was not easily held back from any enterprise.

Henceforth the settlement at Fou-ia became firmly rooted and began to grow. There were still dangerous times, but more peaceful days came gradually. I found some teachers to help Jack; a new church was begun, much larger and more elaborate than the little hut in which he and his fellow-Christians had begun to worship God. New schools, too, were started at places near Fou-ia.

One of the teachers at Fou-ia was a very clever man, James Dao-suki; he could teach and preach much better than Jack, but he was of a timid nature and easily frightened. From various causes he became so scared that he ran away from Fou-ia, joined himself to some bush people, and, relapsing in their companionship into old pagan [31/32] ways, sacrificed a pig on a heathen altar. "He gave a pig to Satan," the Fou-ia people said. What a fall for a teacher and a communicant, and what a triumph for the heathen! But no other Christian followed his example. The chief cause that had driven him away was the cruel murder of his wife. She was caught and killed by two men in the bush on her way to market. Jack, I remember, took a spade, went to the place where the unburied body lay, and laid it with prayer in the grave which he dug there. No one else dare go with him. Poor timid James, away in the bush, had a terrible sore on his arm. It grew and grew until the arm was all withered up, and he was very weak and ill indeed. This made him think over his conduct. He had been ashamed of it all the time. Now he began to be really penitent. Jack heard of this and went to see him, and brought him back into Fou-ia to look after him there. James recovered, although his arm remained quite useless, and he was very grateful. After a time he was received back again into Church, making open confession of his sin and repentance. Eventually, I think, he was allowed to help again in the teaching at another village. There he did in peace, a grateful and penitent man.

After some years the Government sent a Resident-Magistrate with some native police to Mala, and this helped to make for peace and a [32/33] beginning of law and order in the island, though even to-day there remains a great deal to be done. Each Christian village was a great help to the work of pacification by bringing peace not by force from outside, but into the hearts and lives of the people. Both kinds of peace are needed, as we know at home.



An event that helped to bring quieter days was Jack's marriage.

Far away in the bush up in the hills lived a bush chief whose way down to the sea led him to Fou-ia. Jack's people and his met sometimes on market days. This chief had a daughter. Jack noticed how willing and obedient she was, kind and gentle and a good worker, and one who did not gossip or make mischief. She was not pretty, nor clever, but that was not of main importance. He began to think that she was the kind of girl who might make a good wife. But she was a heathen, and he could not marry a heathen. So he proposed that she should come to Fou-ia and live in the house of one of his brothers and prepare for baptism. Then, if all [33/34] seemed right, he would marry her. Her father agreed to this proposal. Jack had to promise to give a big sum--English money and native money, pigs and tobacco. Qai-su-lea was willing. It was a favourite plan of his to get bush and coast people to intermarry, so as to make safe places ashore for the coast people.

The girl came to live at Fou-ia and joined the class preparing for baptism. Jack had hard work in teaching her, but he took much pains over it. I remember how slowly she learned the Catechism by heart. Some of us, perhaps, can sympathise with her troubles over it; the long commandments and the "Duty to my Neighbour" were great stumbling-blocks, and, I think, she could never learn to say the "I Desire" correctly. Her brain worked very slowly, but her heart was willing and she tried hard. After about two years the day came when, with others, she walked in procession from the church to a large pool of fresh water in a stream not far away, and there, before all the Christians and heathen gathered round, took this threefold vow in the Name of God our Father:

"Nau gu wiania," I throw away (renounce).

"Nau gu manata mamana," I think true (believe).

"Nau gu rono-suli," I hear accordingly (obey).

Then followed the baptism, and I gave her the name "Mary." A little later I married her to [34/35] Jack in the church at Fou-ia, and they settled together most happily. Mary went on attending lessons in the school, and at home prepared for Confirmation and to kneel at God's altar side by side with Jack. She must at first have felt very shy in doing so, for it would have seemed more natural to her to have approached the altar after all the men, not with her husband.

This marriage helped to make peace. Mary could go to her people and her people come to Fou-ia freely. Her father was rather an important chief and a useful friend.



Mary was gentle and obedient. Jack was masterful, but kind. One day he said to Mary:

"We are very short of food here at Fou-ia. Go to your village and buy some taro."

Taro is one of the chief foods of the Melanesians, a very good solid kind of potato. It has a curious taste all of its own, looks something like a turnip, is highly coloured, a deep violet shade, and makes a very good pudding when mashed up with nuts. White people like [35/36] to eat it roasted and eaten with plenty of butter or jam.

Off went Mary with a great bag all ready for the heavy load which she would carry back on her head. It was a whole day's trudge by narrow winding tracks up hill and down hill -- more up than down -- over streams and through clearings to where gardens were growing.

Back again she returned the next day, but with nothing in the bag.

"Where is the taro?" said hungry Jack.

"Oh! I've forgotten it," said poor Mary, much frightened.

"But," said Jack, in telling me joyously about the matter, "I didn't scold or strike her, because she brought back three souls, and I liked that better than any taro."

Three of Mary's tribe had indeed come with her to live at Fou-ia and learn to be Christians. More followed them later. Other new villages sprang up near Fou-ia, asking for teachers to be given them, that they might become homes in which Christians could live peacefully.



A bad time followed. Jack was brought to me at Ngore-fou in a canoe and carried up the hill to my little house very ill indeed.

As usual, they had postponed coming for help until almost too late. There was one good place I could nurse him in, for it was both clean and warm, and that was the kitchen. There he lay day after day struggling with double pneumonia. He was a very good patient; he trusted me and trusted still more in God. Every day parties of his people came to hear how he was faring, and to see him, if this were allowed. Every day their faces grew longer and they were much troubled and gave up hope. His temperature remained very high and he became very weak, and was often wandering and unconscious. Always in delirium one kind of talk came from his lips about his people and his work and the heathen he hoped to win and what was happening at Fou-ia. All his thoughts were for God and His glory.

At last, after many anxious days and nights, the tide turned, and he began to come back from the gates of death. To his people, it was a miracle; to Jack, a simple answer to prayer; to [37/38] all of us, a joy. I kept him awhile at Gnore-fou to feed him up, till he was strong enough to go back to his work.



Then followed another time of trouble. Qai-su-lea went out fishing in a new boat that he had lately bought. He took with him some smuggled cartridges of dynamite. The fishing is carried out in this way. When a shoal of fish is sighted it looks like a dark patch in the sea; the boat creeps up, the cartridge is lit with a very short fuse, about two inches in length, and thrown into the shoal. The fuse is so short because the cartridge must explode at once, or the shoal gets away. The explosion throws up to the surface hundreds of stunned fish. In jump the men and throw them into the boat as fast as they can grab them. Round swarm the sharks, gobbling up the fish as fast as they can. Neither men nor sharks take any notice of each other, and I do not know which gets the most fish.

Qai-su-lea lit a cartridge and then held it to his ear to hear if it were fizzing. Before he threw it on to the fish it exploded in his hand, and the great sea-chief fell dead at the bottom [38/39] of his boat. And death frightens a Melanesian: the death of a chief is very bad; a sudden or accidental death worst of all. And the worst sudden death is one by suicide. There was, therefore, overwhelming excitement at the death of Qai-su-lea. His boat could never be used again; it was broken up to make the coffin. His people blackened their faces and howled with grief; they cut down cocoanut trees and ruined gardens to show their grief; the greater the damage committed the greater the grief. All the enemy tribes were on the look-out for an opportunity of doing what damage they could. He who had caused the death of Qai-su-lea must be found, and vengeance for the death carried out upon him or his tribe. Some evil spirit must have made Qai-su-lea deaf, so that he did not hear the cartridge fizz. But who had invoked the evil spirit? A witch-doctor must learn this by magic.

Johnson Kai-figi, Qai-su-lea's son, was the new chief. He had been baptized years ago in Fiji, but had relapsed into heathenism on his return home. He knew quite well that his father had killed himself, but dare not say so. He was an enormously big and fat man, good-natured, and desirous of peace and quite, but too weak and stupid to resist his heathen people. The witch-doctor accused an elderly man, a minor chief on Sula-fou, Jack's old home close to Fou-ia. This [39/40] was strange, because the peoples of Sula-fou and Ade-gege were really one people, and the two isles were only a few hundred yards apart.

Jack sent for me to help him through the uproar, and I went to stay at Fou-ia in order to do what was possible. Those were strange days. Every morning at low tide a troop of armed Ade-gege people marched out across the dry reef at Sula-fou and called out, demanding the accused man or a fight; the people of Sula-fou kept quiet on their island, refusing to give up their man or to fight. Then, as the tide returned, the Ade-gege troop marched back. A little later Jack and I would go across in my boat to Ade-gege to see Kai-figi and try to bring him to reason. He veered about like a weather-cock. His face was dark and sulky and his mind full of plans for revenge when we arrived. Gradually it would clear and brighten and he would promise to do all he could to settle things.

Next day the same events would again take place. Meantime each side was robbing and spoiling the gardens of the other. Each side was sending daily messages to bush villages to try to secure allies for the proposed fight. The Sula-fou people after a while took their man secretly across to Jack at Fou-ia, hoping to hide him there for a time. But this move became known. Jack therefore planned to carry him off to the Government station about fifty miles [40/41] away. One night he slipped out with him in his canoe. But he was seen and chased by Ade-gege war canoes. He drew close in an islet called Manoba, and, when out of sight behind a corner, he slipped into a harbour there and hid. The canoes dashed past the harbour mouth in hot pursuit. When they had disappeared Jack doubled back to Fou-ia with his man. Then he got a message sent to the Government, and a Government schooner arrived and took the man away. The Government authorities kept him on a supposed charge of practicing witchcraft for about six months. In reality they were protecting him from being killed.

The storm gradually blew itself out, and after a long time the man was able to return to his islet. Kai-figi never really wished to kill him; he was carried away by his people's desire for revenge. He kept things quiet by promising a number of death-feasts in honour of his father. One hundred pigs were to be killed and eaten at these feasts and much food and money distributed. Big stout Kai-figi never gained much influence; a quick, lively cousin of his, called Jackson, was the real ruler of his people.

[42] XV


This was about the last of the many big disturbances through which Jack passed. Much more peaceful days followed. Jack was able to go steadily on with his work, and more and more Christian villages were started. One great event in his life was when a son, whom he named Robert, was born. From very early days little Robert was never far away from his father, who took him about with him wherever he went. In those days travelling about with a little boy was a gesture of peace and confidence. I remember a chief named Ramfola who was for ever stirring up trouble. But whenever he appeared with his two little boys; people did not worry. It meant "I do not come to fight, and I am not afraid that you will attack me."

There was a glad day for Jack when the last of his five brothers came with his wife and family to school at Fou-ia. And when I left Mala I was very thankful to think that the stormy days were nearly over and that days of peace were increasing in number throughout the island.

[43] XVI


During all these years the Bishop knew of Jack's work and had seen it from time to time when he came to Mala for a Confirmation, perhaps, or for the consecration of a new church. He saw Jack and his people at such times, and what a difference becoming Christians made to the whole of their lives, and how much better and happier they were than in their old heathen state.

And therefore, although Jack did not know so much as those who had been trained as boys for years in the mission's schools, the Bishop felt that God was calling him to higher work, first as deacon and then as priest in His Church. He took Jack away from his work to be prepared at the college at Siota to be made Deacon. Siota was not far away from Mala and was on the Christian island of Florida. The preparation was not a long one, and there was no written examination to pass. It was the college life that was the important thing, especially the celebrations of Holy Communion and the other daily and Sunday services. It was most refreshing for Jack to get away for a time with his wife and child from heathen Mala and its daily trials into another atmosphere and to share in the college [43/44] life. It was a great chance for his wife also to learn form the white women at Siota many things that she had no chance of learning in Mala, but could watch and could herself share in at the mission headquarters.

And so Jack came back to Mala a Deacon, and he was placed in general charge of all the schools on his side of the island. Now, too, he could help the white priest when he came to celebrate Holy Communion on that side. He had also to look after the teachers and their villages, arrange whom to send to new places, and try to keep them true and active in their work. He fulfilled these duties well and diligently for about a year, and then went again to Siota to be prepared for priest's orders.

This was in 1919, ten years ago. Think of those ten years and we hope there will be a good many years yet to come of his faithful work as a priest. The once little heathen boy is beginning to grow into an elderly man. He lives close to where he was born. The lagoon looks just the same; the gardens, too, and the cocoanut trees, and canoes and the fishing-nets, the food-bowls and the huts. But how changed is all in reality! Think of little Jack in his boyhood days and of his boy Robert in the present day. One was a naturally good boy, brought up in a dark prison, fed on unwholesome food, with occasional exciting days outside. The other is a good boy too; [44/45] he has a good character, I know, but lives in the open day, fed on good things, and has nothing to be afraid of by day and night He has learned to pray to God, not to evil spirits.

The church and the school house are open to him, not the dreadful skull house. Men come and go every day into his village without guns or spears or clubs or threatenings of killings. He can fish and feast and dance and sing as his father did, but in peace, and not in order to stir up evil, vengeful feelings. He can read and write, and his mind can be open to things outside the gossip of a little village. He has lately gone to a boarding-school for small boys at Pamua on the island on San Cristoval. Then he will begin to be trained as a teacher. He will have an education and a preparation for life that Jack, his father, never had, but is eager that his boy should have.



You can picture to yourself the wonderful change and thank God for it. The once little heathen savage boy is now a Christian priest. He is still a sea-man. He has a large canoe, a peace canoe, not a war canoe. As he goes about he is armed, not with guns, clubs, and spears, but [45/46] with his case of Communion vessels and a bag of vestments, and the young men who paddle the canoe are eager not to hunt for heads, but to help to win hearts. Jack's hair is turning grey and soon he will be called an old man. But he will be quite fit, we hope, for many years to go on with his work as a priest, his simple earnest service to God and man. He is a Melanesian among Melanesians, a Mala man among Mala men; he knows their ways and their feelings, as no white man could ever do.

Suppose Jack Talo-fui-la had never heard or listened to the good news he now tells to others. What would he have been now? I cannot picture him as a ferocious savage; he would never had been fierce or blood-thirsty. He would more likely have been just a very ignorant, superstitious, good-natured fellow, of no particular use to anybody, just living like a good-natured animal from day to day, never surly or snappy or dangerous, but without faith or hope or love. Now he a good man, happy in his work for God, a blessing to others, a guide to lead them out of darkness to the light in which he himself lives.

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