Project Canterbury

The Isles That Wait

By A Lady Member of the Melanesian Mission [Ellen Wilson]

London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1911.


THERE is yet one more island to speak of, and that is Ysabel, now the northern outpost of the mission. The best known part of it is the southern district, called Bugotu. It is, perhaps, the best organised of any, owing to the fact that Dr. Welchman was able to live there almost continuously for so great a number of years, and learned the workings of the native mind better perhaps than any one in the mission. He was not the first, however, to bring the message of peace into that turbulent district. Once again we find it was one of the early disciples who volunteered for a post very far distant from his native island, which was Nengone in the Loyalty group, now belonging to the French. While Wadrokal was at school in New Zealand he came one night to Bishop Patteson and said, "I have heard all kinds of words used, faith, repentance, praise, prayer, and I don't clearly understand what is the real great thing, the chief thing of all. Then I read that the Pharisees knew a great deal about the law and so did the scribes, and yet they were not good. Now I know something of the Bible, and I can write, and I fear very much, I am very much afraid, I am not good, I am not doing any good." And Bishop Patteson, with an insight into the fiery nature of the lad, gave him a class of boys which gave an outlet to his energy. His was a strange character, one of intense energy and full of evangelising zeal, but reading his history one wonders whether he ever in this life thoroughly understood what is the chief thing of all, i.e. Love. He began his evangelising work at Savo with a small colony from Bugotu, assisted ably [99/100] by his wife Carry, but moved before long to Bugotu. Here he was attacked with severe illness, but absolutely refused to leave, even for a change and rest at Norfolk Island. He had settled at Nuro, where the ground seemed very hopeless. The people were in too great dread of the head-hunters to give their attention to anything Wadrokal might have to say, and only felt comfortable when they were safely perched in those tree dwellings described in an earlier chapter. So worried did Wadrokal become that when Mr. Selwyn, who was not then consecrated Bishop, paid him a visit the next year, he begged him to remove a special chief and his followers to form a colony somewhere else. No doubt his illness had told upon him, and his courage was not at its usual high level. Indeed, he might well feel daunted, for Bugotu was at that time the happy hunting-ground for head-hunters from Rubiana and New Georgia, while the Bugotu chiefs had their own hunting expeditions, so that the people lived in perpetual terror. Wadrokal's courage soon revived, and the next year Mr. Selwyn found a wonderful change. Thirty people were attending school, and there were two candidates for baptism. Wadrokal had built himself a very good house with verandah open to the welcome trade winds. Mr. Selwyn, who was not at all well, must have found it very restful, and must have appreciated the attentions of Carry, who, no doubt, was only too proud to show that she knew how things ought to be done. We read of clean sheets, stewed pigeons for tea, chocolate first thing in the morning, and--a doubtful boon--scent for their handkerchiefs. Scent is a thing the natives delight in, and the storekeepers on Norfolk Island always are careful to keep it in stock. Fortunately it is kept as a treasure in their boxes for island use, so that the white people are not called on to endure its fragrance.

At that time the most powerful chief in the district was Bera, who had been a young man when Bishop Patteson had visited Bugotu in 1862, and had presented the Bishop with a white cockatoo. Bera seems [100/101] to have been a person who needed specially tactful dealing, and in this Wadrokal was unfortunately very deficient, being, one suspects, as peppery, touchy and self-important in his own Christian way as Bera was in his heathen fashion. Consequently there was soon a state of perpetual friction, and when the ship returned in 1878 Bishop Selwyn was presented with a bill for two lives lost on Bera's side. Conditions were so strained that it was thought wiser to take Wadrokal home for a time. But in the very same year he volunteered, or rather claimed the right as being one of Bishop Patteson's scholars, to work on Santa Cruz. There he worked splendidly, and there we will leave him, returning to Bugotu, where very shortly Bera's grandson Kikolo fell ill of that all-pervading disease, consumption, which carries off so many of the natives. The illness was put down at once to the influence of a "tidalo," for one of the striking contrasts between the old and the new religion is, that whereas a heathen if he fell ill said immediately, "an enemy hath done this," the Christian says, "it is my Father who has sent it." To get away, if possible, from this evil tidalo Bera moved poor Kikolo from place to place, but all in vain, and at last he was allowed to rest, for death took him. As Kikolo had attended school, a teacher hurried over from a neighbouring village hoping to give him a burial befitting one who was seeking after God. But his mother easily persuaded Bera to bury him after the barbarous heathen custom. The skull was set up in the ghost house, and Kikolo's wife and child dragged to the grave and killed. The Bishop arrived too late to do anything, but he spoke severe words to Bera, and told him that he was trying to fight against a Power which was stronger than that of any tidalo.

Not long afterwards Bera himself sickened and died, and his last words showed that the Christian teaching had not been altogether without effect. He gave directions that they were to kill no one at his death, nor to do any damage to food or property as he had [101/102] done on coming into power; that his sons Soga and Von were to succeed him, and that he charged them to see that these commands were carried out. Of these two sons Soga possessed by far the stronger character, and Von retired quite into the shade.

No account of Bugotu would be complete without a short sketch of this remarkable man, Soga, whose conversion seems almost as miraculous as that of St. Paul's of old. Up to the time of Soga's accession he had lived the usual life of a head-hunter, had wiped out his full share of villages and had the bodyguard of executioners and the harem befitting a man of his rank. He was a very powerful character and a born ruler of men. Although Soga buried his father secretly with no killing of victims in obedience to Bera's dying commands, he did not omit to celebrate his own accession by a raid to the north, from which he returned with a fine show of forty heads. On the Bishop's next visit Soga excused himself on the plea that the people in the north had sent for him. There is something almost humorous in the excuse; one wonders what the circumstances could possibly have been to make the people of the north so exceedingly anxious to part with their heads as to send for Soga; doubtless, if the poor row of heads could have spoken, there would have been a chorus of indignant denial. Bishop Selwyn was not the man to listen quietly to such a tale, and as he had spoken strong words of warning to the father, so now he spoke with equal severity to the son; he told him that the duty of a chief was to save and to protect life, not to destroy; he told him, too, of God's judgment to which all men would be called. A few days after this uncomfortable interview Soga became ill, whereupon he moved at once to a small island to get out of reach of the malicious tidalo. The Bishop, hearing of his illness, went off to see him, and suggested the further remedy of quinine and brandy. Soga was quite willing to give the white man's power a chance, so the Bishop mixed and tasted it, followed by the others in [102/103] attendance, which must have made inroads on the bottles, and finally the dose reached and was swallowed by the royal patient. Then the Bishop knelt down and prayed that the medicine might be blessed, and the prayer was answered. The result was most happy: Soga, in his gratitude, not only sent a canoe full of presents to the Bishop, but gave permission for a school to be started, and from that time was a firm friend to the mission. He began to attend school and set himself to learn to read and write, not satisfied until he could do both really well; put away all his wives save one, and in 1889 was baptized with his wife and seventy of his people. It must have been an impressive sight, Soga at the head of the line of men and his wife at the head of the women. They received the names respectively of Monilaws [Footnote: Soga was named Monilaws after the Rev. R. Monilaws Turnbull, missionary in Bugotu, at the time of his baptism.] and Anika, but it was not likely that such a name as the former would ever come into daily use, and Soga he remained till the day of his death. But if his original name remained, the nature of the man was changed, or rather, like Saul, his character, strong as ever, was henceforth rooted in grace. And the effect of the Holy Spirit's working was soon seen as permeating and turning to gold his natural qualities.

Dr. Welchman relates how on his first introduction to his important parishioner, he found him just returned from a large dancing party, an account of which Soga proceeded to give. He had been to Gao, which he had visited some years before on a headhunting raid. The recollection of this raid was still fresh in the recollection of the Gao people, and the three chiefs with their followers, on seeing Soga's fleet of canoes bearing down on them, hastily remembered an engagement in the bush, leaving a trembling handful to receive the visitors. Their surprise was great when Soga, with friendly gestures, assured them that he had come in peace, and told them to fetch their chiefs. They went with Soga's message, and two of them returned, but not with much alacrity, [103/104] scenting danger, perhaps, in the honeyed words; while the greatest of the three still remained in the bush, deeming it the safer place. The astonishment of the two chiefs increased and their alarm vanished at the following speech from Soga: "Of old I came here to fight, but now you need fear me no longer; that is all done with, for I am a Christian now, and I want to be friends with you; I have brought my men to dance for you." On these words being reported to him in his hiding-place, the big chief felt he might venture forth and take the present the ex-ogre had brought. Then Soga said, "You three sit down, and I will tell you what Christianity has done for us in Bugotu." And so on that coral beach the once headhunter told of the Kingdom of God, and of the righteousness which maketh for peace.

There are many stories told of this great man; and perhaps some day his life may be written, for it is worthy of being recorded.

On visiting a certain village Dr. Welchman received a complaint regarding the chief, who had made a serious assault upon a man. Dr. Welchman advised them to report the matter to Soga, who instantly took the matter in hand, appointed a day for his visit, and arrived in style befitting his rank. It must have been a beautiful sight to see his fleet of canoes with their graceful lines come racing through the water, each manned by thirty men paddling in perfect time.

As a great king Soga arrived with his bodyguard, armed with axes and shields and spears, in old days his executioners, but now turned to more peaceful service. And as a great king he was received with royal throne mat spread ready for him on the beach. The bodyguard struck their weapons into the ground forming a circle round the king, and the court began. The case was tried, and, the offender having owned his fault and expressed his regret, Soga let him off with no heavier punishment than a public rebuke. The rebuke was on somewhat the same lines as that [104/105] administered by Bishop John Selwyn to Soga himself in his unregenerate days, and Soga told the culprit that his position as chief should have prevented him from behaving as if he were still a mere heathen.

Soga had established himself at Sepi where a good school-house was built. He took the deepest interest in the translation of St. Luke's gospel, giving up a great part of the day to it, and not satisfied till he had got the exact equivalent in Bugotu, taking often two days to think till he found the word which satisfied him. This is the more noteworthy because to a Melanesian any sustained mental labour is very difficult, not to say impossible. As each piece stood corrected for the last time Dr. Welchman would read it over once more to him, and when they came to the Parable of the Prodigal Son, Soga laughed outright with exceeding satisfaction: "It is good," he cried, "it is very good."

Although with his new life came an exceeding horror of shedding blood, his people found that did not imply an era of disorder, as one man found to his cost when he had committed a theft and then refused to obey the summons sent him by Soga. He probably thought that as Soga had given up the practice of removing people's heads, nothing else would happen that was troublesome. His feelings received a shock one morning, when he found his house surrounded by forty men sent by Soga, and himself placed outside. The trembling sinner then watched all his own food being removed first, which was to serve as fee to the constabulary force. Then the stolen goods were removed and restored to their owners; lastly the house and all personal effects were burned, and his garden destroyed with the exception of the cocoa-nut trees. The sinner himself was carried away in the canoe to the triumphal blowing of conch-shells, was tried in court and fined a hundred porpoise teeth.

There were many heathen customs prevailing, such as attended the re-marriage of widows, and the period [105/106] of mourning, and to consider these a parliament was held at which it was decided by heathen and Christians alike to abolish those customs which were evil.

Bishop Montgomery has written an account of the Sunday which he spent at Soga's village, how he found him holding a class of women in his own house; of the large and reverent congregation gathered in the church, where Soga had his own special seat; of the kerosene case placed outside the church door, into which all pipes were stuck during the service; of the many magic stones (tidalos) which formed an ornamental path to the church.

So far Soga's life had been all brightness, but in 1896 a very bitter grief befell him in the death of his only little daughter Agnes from whooping cough. In his misery Soga wrote the following pathetic letter to his friend: "My father, I cannot write a long letter to you, because grief has come to me, for my child is dead with me, and I continue wretched. I have not done anything against God." It is the cry that has been wrung from broken hearts since the time of Job, for it is hard at the moment to recognise in the chastening the sign of Fatherly love. When Dr. Welchman arrived he found Soga and Anika mourning deeply, having left their own nice house to live uncomfortably in the canoe house; and around and upon the grave were placed all the child's little possessions and treasures. The epidemic was still raging, and despondency, if not despair, was in every heart. It was well for the people that a white priest was at hand to help. A day of fasting and prayer was appointed, and at the thought Soga roused himself and sent messages to all the villages round. It was a very thorough fast; from sunrise to sunset no fire burned, no food was touched, no pipe was smoked, but thronging congregations sent up prayer to God. The plague was stayed, and the hearts of the people rose again, while their faith was greatly strengthened.

The following year Soga was suddenly called to Pirihadi. A party of head-hunters had arrived from [106/107] New Georgia, and, landing at the mouth of a river and hiding their canoes, lay watching for prey. They had not long to wait before two men came down to the beach, and separating, one went in quest of betel nut, while the other continued his stroll, a stroll cut short and for ever before he was aware of the presence of an enemy. His friend, returning, saw the headless body, and fled to give the alarm. Meanwhile the canoe proceeded to Pirihadi and asked for food. The absence of any boys in the canoe in itself aroused a feeling of distrust in the minds of the Pirihadi people, and in haste they sent off for Soga. Soga sent directions that they were to collect a body of armed men from the other villages and to lie concealed in the bush till he gave the signal. Soga himself, meanwhile, collected a party together and set out with a fleet of canoes for the bay. Arrived there he demanded speech with the chief, asking the reason of his coming and bidding him return at once. The chief answered by demonstrations with his spear, but perceiving that he was surrounded by a superior force, for on the given signal the hidden force made its appearance from the bush, he and his followers notified their submission by firing their rifles into the air until their ammunition was exhausted. Soga then landed, and, bidding the enemy assemble in the school-house, he addressed them at some length, and they feared greatly, knowing that they were now absolutely at Soga's mercy. But one among them, a relation of Soga's who had married and settled in New Georgia, tried to bluff, and said, "You are a friend of mine; you will not hurt me." The answer was not encouraging: "You are my relation," said Soga curtly, "and were my friend, but I will kill you as well as them," and reduced his relation to silence. Finally Soga summed up as follows: "Now, you know my mind, and I tell you that if it had been a few years ago not one of you would be living now to hear me speak; but I have learnt to know and serve God, and it will be well for you to come to know Him too, and, because I am a [107/108] changed man, I give you all your lives this time. Food shall be given you, and you shall go in peace, but if you come again you shall not get off so easily." And so the head-hunters returned to their country, feeling their heads probably now and again to make sure they were still on, and wondering, perhaps, about this extraordinary new religion, which could change a man's nature completely in so short a time. They might agree, possibly, that life bereft of sport would lose all its zest, and so decide to leave the new religion alone, and allow Bugotu to have the monopoly.

Only once Saga failed in the execution of justice and failed grievously, telling a lie to screen his son, who had fallen into sin; giving out publicly that he had been falsely accused by Dr. Welchman. It was a most base act committed against his best friend, and nothing can excuse it. Well for him if he had remembered in time his words to that other chief, "that his position as chief should have prevented him behaving as if he were a mere heathen still." It was a painful visit that Dr. Welchman had to pay after this, and one that needed all his strength of character; for to publicly denounce the reigning and powerful chief, and to excommunicate his son, was not a pleasant or easy programme to carry out. The result proved once more that the right and the strong course of action always wins respect, and Soga, brought to deep repentance, paid willingly the heavy fine imposed on him, and voluntarily absented himself from prayers for a time. In consequence of this serious lapse Soga's confirmation was postponed, but it took place in 1897. Wisely and well henceforth did Soga rule, strengthening the hands of Dr. Welchman and exercising a widespread influence.

In the meantime Bishop John Selwyn had gone home, crippled from his long years of labour, and, after seven years spent in England still working for the mission, passed beyond the reach of suffering to his rest. Only a few months later came the call to [108/109] his convert Soga. He contracted an illness when on an expedition to try and make peace between two distant tribes, and to induce them to accept a teacher. On the return journey he felt so ill that he pushed on home with his son Ellison and a few others, leaving the rest at Kaipito, where a feast had been prepared in his honour. When Soga reached home he felt that he was dying, but only at last would he allow Dr. Welchman to be sent for, saying, "It is so far for him to come." Dr. Welchman was then at Siota and Hugo Goravaka with him, and on hearing of Soga's illness they both started at once, but arrived only when all was over, as the black flag flying at the landing-place told them. No one came to greet them; complete silence reigned. Silently they made their way to the chief's house, which they found filled with people, Anika weeping quietly in a corner. Close by lay in state the body, with one watcher at the head and another at the foot; there was no wailing, only a silence full of unutterable grief; but when night fell "a subdued and almost stately coronach was chanted." Soga's son Ellison told afterwards of the few last days, how Soga had said, "'My sons, I do not know whether there is life or death in this sickness; but I am very ill, and I think I am going to leave you, but do not be grieved, I am quite content; keep peace in Bugotu. They all know you in the bush; see that you keep friends with them all. And do you look after the people, and see that they do not neglect the prayers and the school, for we stand upon those.' Next morning he said, 'Why do not the teachers come and help me with my soul? If Hugo had been here, he had not left me so long.' But he forgot he had told them to stay behind, and they had only just come back, and had not heard yet how ill he was. But we wrote letters, and they began to come very quickly; the people began to come as well. A great fear was upon them all. And when he knew they were there he called the chiefs and some of the leading people, and they stayed with us in the house. It was very full. He [109/110] could talk to them from his bed. He talked to them about their behaviour, and he said, 'My children, I am going to leave you, and after I am gone there will be troubles among you, but you must hear my word now. I put Lonsdale and Ellison in my place; they will rule over you, and you must obey them as you have obeyed me; and do not let jealousies arise among you. There are some among you who have not done well, and have given trouble. I ask you not to do it any more, but live so that you may not be ashamed when we meet again. Do not be afraid, I am going to leave you now, but we shall all meet again. I am not afraid to go, and you must not be afraid to meet me. Stick to the church and the school, and listen to what the Bishop and the doctor say, for they are your friends, and will tell you what is right.' He did not say this all at once, but at different times. On Sunday morning Joseph Benere came, and when he looked at him he said, 'Why have you not sent for the doctor?' And my father said, 'It is far for him to come; but he always said he would come if I sent for him, and I should like to see him again and Hugo. Send for them.' And Benere went out, and very quickly a large canoe went off to Siota. We were all sitting in the house with him, fanning him, for he had fainted once already, and he said, 'Why have you not gone to church?' And we said, 'They have not rung the bell yet.' We wanted to stay with him really, but he said, 'It is time for church, tell them to ring the bell, and go, all of you. Moffat will stay with me and read prayers for me.' But Anika was stubborn, and would not leave him. Two days before he had said to me, 'When it is church time you leave me, I want you all to help me with your prayers.' So we all went. Then we went back to him, and after a time he said, 'Have the people been to bathe?' And we said, 'No, they don't want to go, they are all sitting in the houses.' And he said, 'Go and tell them all to go and bathe as usual; I want everything to go on as it always does.' So we told them, and [110/111] some of them went. And in the evening we went to church again, and he had prayers in the house, as he had done morning and evening since he was taken ill. When we came back he said, ' I think I am better, for all my pains are gone, and I feel stronger,' and he rubbed his shoulders and his body, and laughed and said, 'there is nothing wrong here now. Tomorrow I shall bathe.' But we were doubtful, for he could not lie down, and his cough was very bad.

"When it was quite dark outside he said, 'Put out the light, and all of you go to sleep, for I shall sleep, too.' And they all lay down and slept; but we three still kept watch. He did not sleep much, for his cough kept him awake; but he lay back, propped up behind, and was quite quiet. In the middle of the night he startled us by saying, 'Who is this? There is a white man beside me, ruddy and beautiful? Who is it? I do not know him.' With that he got up and went to where Ben was lying, and he found him asleep, and then he came to me, and I helped him to get back to the bed, for he was very weak. It was quite dark, and we saw nothing, and we did not answer him, for we did not know what to say. We thought perhaps he had seen a spirit. He sat up a little and said, 'Let me have the matches, I will smoke a little,' and we gave him his pipe. He did not smoke long, but gave the pipe back to me, and he lay back. And then he began to talk again about this man. 'I do not know him, he is very beautiful,' and very soon he lay quiet. I was fanning him, and then I lay down a little. Kohuga took the fan. Presently he said, 'Children, do not grieve, and do not be troubled, this is my day.' And I got up and went to him. It was just about cock-crow, and I saw a change in him. I called out, 'Anika, my father!' and with that they all came running in, and they lit the lamp, and we saw that he was breathing his last. It was not like the death we know; it was just as if he were falling asleep."

So passed away the great Christian chief, and they laid him to rest, according to custom, in a new canoe [111/112] beautifully decorated with mother-of-pearl, symbolical of that last voyage to the land that is very far off; and on the cross which marks the spot where his body awaits the Resurrection Day are inscribed the words, "He was filled with love." A wonderful testimony to the converting power of the Holy Spirit, that such words should be used to describe the once dreaded head-hunter of Bugotu.

Soga's death must have been a great loss to Dr. Welchman. His "day" was not to come for another ten years. An abler pen will tell of his life and of his work up to the day when in the midst of his people and watched by the two boys he loved so well, he too passed away amid a mourning as great as that for his friend. "We ate no food for three days," said Katherine Devi, "when we heard that he was dead, and when I next went to work in the garden and cut my hand badly and we thought it was poisoned, I did not care whether I died or lived, I only thought of him." Counted worthy to receive his call while yet at his work, surely Dr. Welchman's was a lot that all might envy.

We have been speaking till now of the Bugotu end of Ysabel; let us now take a look at the north end, Kia, from whence the head-hunters made their raids. As the Southern Cross of to-day cruises along the hundred miles of coastline, she passes a large district absolutely depopulated by these raids of the past. The policy of the raiders was to carry back a certain number of men with their heads still attached to their bodies that they might serve as guides in future expeditions. The men were given wives from among the women of Kia, and the captive women were supplied with husbands from among the Kia men, so that there soon arose a tie of blood. There was plenty of food in Kia, for the people bartered turtle-shell and mother-of-pearl for goods from the trading ships.

The chiefs and people were strongly averse to the new religion, of which reports reached them now and again, knowing that wherever Christianity made an [112/113] entrance, head-hunting perforce disappeared. The closed door, however, was opened at last, and in a quite unusual manner; especially in Melanesia, where Love is not supposed to play an important part. But undoubtedly the hand of a wilful love-stricken maiden opened the door into Kia, and it fell out in this manner. Rona, the chief of Kia, had a son named Sagevaka, who was in the habit of occasionally visiting Bugotu on peaceful errands. On one of these visits, paid in 1904, a Christian girl named Janet fell violently in love with Sagevaka. The passion seems to have been all on her side; but, being a determined girl, the lack of advances on his part did not deter Janet, and she even went the length of getting a mutual friend to urge the suit, and even offer money to the unimpassioned swain. To pay, instead of being paid for, was enough to make the hair of all the Bugotu nations stand on end with horror, had not nature already made it erect. Sagevaka is not the only man who finds himself married to the girl to whom he has assured his male friends that nothing would induce him to propose; and it ended in Sagevaka finding himself setting out on his return journey possessed of wife number two. He also found very soon that wife number two had a considerable force of character, and, although a stranger, was quite prepared to hold her own among her new relations. As a Christian, Janet knew perfectly well that of two wives only one can be legitimate, so she promptly proceeded to eject her rival. When Sagevaka was asked by his wondering friends why he did not keep both wives, he laughed, and said one wife was as much as he could manage.

Before long Janet began to feel the want of church and school, so she bided her time, and soon managed to obtain Rona's consent to receive a teacher, provided the school were two miles off. This suited Janet exactly, for there was no love lost between herself and her father-in-law, and one suspects that the prospect of two miles distance between himself and Janet may have weighed with Rona in giving his consent to the [113/114] school. It ended in the arrival of Ambrose Iputu and his wife Selina, a friend of Janet's, and presently a little village grew up and a school was built. When Rona found that the village was growing and likely to become a power, he changed round and gave it his patronage; and when the Bishop came on a visit of inspection Rona endeavoured to make it clear that it was only the opposition of his people that had prevented his founding a school long before. Later he expressed a wish to learn, and Ambrose used to walk the two miles to his house to give him instruction. The next year Rona died, and died without imputing his death to any charm, which removed any need for taking off heads in expiation. He also told his people to continue in the new teaching, and even regretted that he had not listened sooner himself. He forbade any heathen customs at his death, and so was buried in the light of day on an island in full view of all, instead of being buried at night in a secret place known only to the few.

In 1907 Dr. Welshman found the school in a satisfactory state, and many candidates for baptism, of whom, after examination, he accepted nine conditionally, as he wished to put their sincerity to a severe test. He has left us a most interesting account of how they stood that test.

"I called the three chiefs together and told them that knowing their past lives as I did, I should require them to show that their profession of faith and repentance was not merely verbal; and that they must take me to the nearest most sacred place, and in my presence begin to destroy the signs of superstition and cruelty. A momentary glance passed between them, and then they said very quietly, 'We will do whatever you think right.' I told them I wished to burn all the skulls which were trophies of past crimes, and to desecrate the tombs of the tidathos, or saints; that it would be well to take only a few men, so that it might be as serious as possible, and that I should suggest that the work should be done by the very men that had formerly committed the murders. It was [114/115] rather a large order, and I fully expected to have some objections raised; but their minds had been made up that they would have to do something of the sort, and they agreed to -everything. I sent them away to make their choice of men.

"Next morning, Saturday, directly after morning service, the canoes were got ready, and we started. I was beset by a small crowd asking to be allowed to come too, but it was not to be a matter for levity, and I forbade any boys or even young men who had not yet shed blood to come with us. All the candidates for baptism were there, except one who was ill, and he sent a deputy, three Catechumens and one or two heathen, whom I had not expected to see. They brought axes and firesticks with them. We soon ran round a point into a beautiful bay, and waded ashore on the encircling reef. Then we climbed up the precipitous sides of a hill about fifty feet high. The ridge was very narrow, only about four feet wide, and in the sixty or seventy feet of its length were four well-built tombs; two of them very old, and two newer ones. They were covered with flat slabs of coral, on one of which were marks of fire; round the bases were ranged in disorder some twenty skulls, each of which had a wound in it. One had been shorn in two, evidently with a tomahawk, it was such a clean cut; the others had been made with a club.

"The heads were all collected and heaped in the middle of the ridge, while the axemen cut firewood. Then came the work on the tombs. Here there was a hesitation, for it is not a pretty matter nor a trifling one for a man to desecrate the tomb of his ancestor. And this one was that of the great-grandfather or uncle of Tivo, whose name had long been held in reverence. It was but momentary; I took the first slab and threw it down the hill into the sea, thus uncovering the tomb; then the others joined, and I had no more to do. Stone after stone tumbled down the hill, and in a few minutes nothing was left but the foundation. All the bones were taken out and added to the [115/116] heap of skulls; and the other tombs were treated in like manner. Then they made a large bonfire over the relics of saints and victims, conquerors and conquered, and as the smoke ascended into the bright sky, we gathered round the pyre and offered up a prayer to the Father of all men that He would accept the sacrifice. It was a solemn business altogether, and nobody talked much, there was no idle chatter, and what was said was grave. They seemed thoroughly to understand the utter break with heathenism which they had made by their own act. When we returned to the village there was a large crowd assembled to watch the smoke; that was all they could see, for the island was hidden from the mainland. But they too were quiet; there was no joking.

"On the following morning, Sunday, I baptized nine of them, one being a woman. We used the new church for the first time, since we can now say that there is a nucleus of a church there. Surely we may now say, ' Kia has come to the Light.'

"Pray God that they may stand true to their baptismal vows, and that the Lord may add to the church such as shall be saved."

One last journey Dr. Welchman was to pay to Kia, and with the report of that this little sketch of Bugotu may fittingly close.

"As soon as school had broken up at Mara na Tabu, which happened with rather a flourish, for we had a teachers' meeting at the end of the term, the village was very desolate. For four days we had some hundred people in the place, and on the Monday between noon and three o'clock they were all gone home except fifteen. Five or six belonged to Samuel Deir's household, and ten workmen were waiting to be my crew to go down to Kia. I was not quite ready for them, for I wanted to give Ambrose and Sagevaka a good start. Ambrose had been up here for the teachers' meeting, and to get his pay. He gets four pounds a year, being a little more highly paid than most, as being in an out-station and among a strange [116/117] people; then, as it was near breaking-up time, he waited for Sagevaka and Janet, who have been here since January. Wilson Sagevaka has done very well. He could read fairly well when he came, and perhaps he is not as much improved in this as he is in other things. He could neither write nor do figures, and he had to begin at the beginning, like all the rest, chief though he is, and do pothooks and hangers on a slate. Now he has got into the pen and ink stage, and makes a very tolerable copy. In arithmetic he has advanced as far as subtractions of a row of five figures, and is beginning to get over the crux of borrowed tens. . . . It is a four days' journey to Kia, under the most favourable circumstances, and may be lengthened out to anything. On Monday morning we made our start, directly after morning prayers. There was a good lot of stuff in the canoe; my own personal belongings and food for a fortnight, and in addition there was rice and biscuit for eleven men for the same time. For four days each way we should be dependent on our own stores. There are no shops and no villages all the way. But the canoe is large and roomy--forty-five feet long, four in beam, and over three feet deep, so there was plenty of room for all of us without being cramped by the cargo."

They had a quick voyage, and at the last resting-place Dr. Welchman speaks of the pleasure of sitting out on the beach shaded from the setting sun by the thick trees.

"I filled up the time," he writes, "by translating some of the psalms which are still missing from our Prayer Book. The canoe was so steady that I had done a good deal on the way. And all the circumstances were so fitly in harmony for such an occupation. The glory of the sun was the proper setting for the wonderful hymns of praise in the last psalms, the beautiful scenery spoke of the lovingkindness of the Father to His children, and the almost Sabbath stillness was but the world before the God who was in His Holy Temple. If there are hardships in a missionary's life, they sink into nothing in such [117/118] compensation. That night the rain came down with a will. Unfortunately we had not renewed all the ligatures of the old skeleton, and the end of my house came down, and with it a shower bath. Not a complete one, however, so the crew just pulled everything into a drier corner, and we finished the night in peace. But the rain came down steadily, and at 6.30 we started. The poor cook was much agitated, for all his teacloths were wet, and when he began to wrap them up to prevent them from getting wetter, I am afraid we all laughed. From their looks, a little extra wet would do them no harm. He had not washed them since we left home; water was too scarce. In a couple of hours the sun came out, and the crew rather wished it hadn't, for we were pretty well roasted. It did not matter, for we were well on our way, and were in still water for the last ten miles. We pulled under a shady tree, and the crew all had a refresher so as to finish in style, working their paddles for all they were worth, and so we arrived at Nin Nivas about 3 p.m., a really quick passage, for we had covered 105 miles. Nin Nivas is the name of the site of the church and school compound. We always talk of going to Kia, and that stands for the district, but the real Kia is a few miles away. A pleasant friendly greeting awaited me. It is really astonishing how different the people are from what they used to be. I thought it might be partiality on my part, but a few days ago, six months after this visit, a planter, with whom they used to be always quarrelling, anchored at Mara na Tabu and spent the evening with me. Talking about his neighbourhood, he said: 'I don't know what you've done to Kia, but they are not the same people. They don't swagger as they used to do, and I have two of them on board as crew.' It was cheering to know that it was not only I who saw the difference, and there was only one answer, 'that the people were becoming Christians by the grace of God.' No man could possibly do it."

The pleasure of the visit, however, was speedily dashed by hearing that Ambrose had fallen into sin; [118/119] and although Dr. Welchman had in any case intended to remove him and to put a stronger man in his place, yet the manner of his removal came as a great blow.

"It was close upon the nutting season, when the whole village is scattered for four or five months, and no school can be held. This was convenient for my purpose. Wilson Sagevaka would be able to have another term at Mara na Tabu, and it gave me time to choose a fit man for Kia, one who would be acceptable to them. If they do not take to a teacher, he might as well be away for all the good he will be able to do. In my plan I had not reckoned on the defection of Ambrose, and I had to modify the details. I have found one for them, and he has gone down with Sagevaka to be introduced.

"The ministrations of Ambrose having ceased, I had to take charge, for Sagevaka, to whom I had committed the charge of the school, was much too shy to give orders. The first thing was the repair of the school-house, which was in a ruinous condition. The posts were all sound, and only thatch was needed. They responded freely, and next day all the men were either bringing in leaves or sewing them into tiles ten feet by three, and on the day following they set to work directly after school; by four in the afternoon it was roofed and new walls put in, and they have practically a new school; next day the seats were set up. All their energy had been expended in building the church, and they had not yet recovered from the strain. But they woke up at the call. The church is improved by a readjustment of their somewhat barbaric reredos; they have cut out the last of the heathen symbols, and the only ornamentation is geometrical or Christian; they have copied a floriated cross from the frontal in such a fashion as that it looks quite different. One night I was awakened by a noise in the next house a few yards away-irregular, heavy strokes, followed by a stifled exclamation. I called out to know what it was, for it sounded very much as if Ambrose was beating his wife. No answer came, but two or three [119/120] heavier blows and a louder cry. I called out again loudly, and got the answer at my door, 'Poli, thehe,' and Selina held up the lantern to show me the snake that Ambrose had just killed in their house and had brought in for inspection. I pronounced it harmless, and we turned in again. I was awakened again in about an hour by a bumping among the piles of my house. I thought a pig had got in there, but remembered it was high tide about then. Then came the sounds of big bits of wood striking the house, and finally the rattle of an empty kerosene tin cannoning against the piles with great effect. Being of an inquisitive turn of mind, I wanted to know what it all meant, and got the laconic reply, 'Vua, taviti' (alligator, gone). And we went to bed again. It seemed that the beast had come prowling round and had got in a sort of trap, for there was a wall at the sea end of the house, and logs on one side, over which he must climb to escape the missiles on the other side.

"Immediately after my departure they were going to start the rutting season. As soon as the almonds are ripe they go off in parties of five or six far away into the forest and gather the nuts, which they store for use during the time when the gardens are not bearing, which is about Christmas time. Some of them would be twenty miles from home for a couple of months at a time. We arranged this year that they should make camps at various places to which they could resort for Sunday, so that they might not live altogether a heathen life. We fixed upon four, and appointed a boy of the first class to each as captain. They liked the idea, and it is to be hoped that they will profit by it. About November they are all home again.

"Taking all things into consideration, it was not advisable to baptize any of them; the few I did examine were certainly not fit. . . ."

Here the journal breaks off abruptly. It is the last of those graphic and humorous reports that will ever reach us, for when the nutting season was over and the party returned, the writer also was "home again."

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