Project Canterbury

The Wake of the Southern Cross
Work and Adventures in the South Seas

By Cecil Wilson, D.D.
Bishop of Bunbury; sometime Bishop of Melanesia.

London: John Murray, [1932]

Chapter VI. Santa Cruz and the Reef Islands

I. Santa Cruz.

ABOUT a hundred and fifty miles to the north of the Torres Islands lie Vanikolo, the island on which La Perouse, the French explorer, was wrecked and lost with all his crew in 1788, and Utupua.

These are islands of considerable height, but not very large. Reefs lie out from them two miles from the land. On one occasion after running down to them on a stormy night we found ourselves in shoal water, although still four miles or more from the reef. Our first thought of danger was when we saw a wave break ahead of us. Captain Sinker, who was standing under the bridge, rushed up to the wheel, and put it hard over, but for a moment a big wave seemed to have us at its mercy; we could see the bottom plainly, and had we touched, the wave would certainly have rolled us over. Fortunately there was just enough water for the ship, and the wave did not break. At right angles to our course we steamed slowly across the discoloured water, and reached the blue again. Quite possibly it was through this same shoal that La Perouse met his fate.

In my early days in the islands we passed these people by because we had no teachers to give them at that time; partly, too, because they lay to [109/110] windward and were not easy to reach. They had a bad reputation, which they probably deserved. At any rate, they had murdered the three traders who had lived with them. Our system was always to make friends with the people, but not to put teachers ashore anywhere until they asked for them. When in 1903 we got our full-powered ten-knot steamer, we were able to visit these islands regularly, to thread our way through the channels off their reefs, and to make schools for them, giving them teachers from the Reef Islands who could talk their language. Once or twice I was given relics of La Perouse, such as coins, but all memory of that shipwreck of a hundred years before is lost.

Santa Cruz lies a hundred miles further to the north.

Spaniards formed a colony there four hundred years ago and tried to popularise it in Europe by giving it the name of Santa Cruz, and by saying that King Solomon found his gold there. The Spanish adventure came to nothing. The natives proved to be very strong in numbers, hostile and treacherous, and the colonists either perished by poisoned arrows or escaped in their ships two months after their arrival in 1606. All they left behind them were the names of Santa Cruz for the island and Graciosa for the Bay in which their expedition had ended its long voyage.

The Cruzians seem to be now exactly what they were then, except that their number is far smaller. It had not been hitherto a healthy place for the [110/111] white man. Patteson was attacked at one village, Otivi, when trying to become friends with the people, and two of his fellow-workers, Norfolkers--Fisher Young and Edwin Nobbs--were shot with arrows and died of tetanus. Commodore Goodenough, of H.M.S. Pearl, made a similar attempt in 1875, and he too was killed. It can scarcely have been a happy place for the people themselves; fighting and killing went on all the year round, and men poured their long arrows into each other's unprotected bodies, or into the women and children, with the natural result that now not many natives are left in Santa Cruz.

It was Bishop John Selwyn who won for us the people's goodwill by bringing back from Port Adam in the Solomons two Cruzians who had been blown away there, and who were on the point of being eaten when he rescued them. After that our men could go safely ashore anywhere, and on my first visit I was made much of by one of the great chiefs.

At least a hundred canoes would come off from the island to trade with us. The ship would lie half a mile off shore, surrounded by these canoes, which were wonderfully built out of hollowed-out logs painted white with lime. They had outriggers, on the platforms of which they carried small fowls, like bantams, for sale at two sticks of tobacco each, bundles of bows and arrows, bangles, and other things. The men would swarm up the ship's side. Like the Tikopeans, they are great thieves; we caught one of them trying with his teeth to screw an iron [111/112] bolt off the side of the ship. The din was always terrific, and none of us could understand a word they said.

Each man had over his shoulder a small net-bag, in which he carried his betel-nut, lime-pot and pepper leaf, and at all times their mouths were full of this mixture. The nose-ring falling across their mouths, and the betel-nut mess inside, has probably so influenced their language that perhaps it cannot be spoken with an empty mouth and undecorated nose. For other ornaments a man has a necklace of very small blue beads, a round fiat shell breastplate, from ten to twenty turtle earrings in each ear, half a dozen shell armlets on each arm, a shell girdle, and a tight-fitting waistband of fibre. This last holds up his home-made loin-cloth, which hangs like an apron in front of him and like the tails of a coat behind, leaving the hips bare. Almost all have their left wrist bandaged to protect it from the string of the bow when they shoot, and no one goes anywhere without his bow and bundle of long red arrows tipped with human bone--as poisonous as native science and magic can make them.

The villages in Santa Cruz are quite unlike any others. Thick, low stone walls divide up each village in order to give defence against arrows. The houses are round and have conical roofs, surmounted with a slab of coral. In the middle of the village is the dancing-ground, a level circular space walled in with coral, about eighteen yards in diameter, smooth and beaten flat by the feet of the dancers. [112/113] A man who inherits a dancing-ground is not to be envied, for his friends and acquaintances may come at any time and from any distance and ask for a dance, and it is incumbent on the owner on all occasions to provide a feast for all who come. One of our people was kept in a state of poverty owing to his father having aspired to the ownership of a dancing-ground. The gamal-houses (called here mandai), three or four in each village, are fairly large square buildings with low openings, through which an enemy can see but little of the men inside. In some villages there was a large ghost-house into which we would be invited. It was slightly higher than the rest, but of the same square build as the mandai. One crawled in through a hole hidden with banana leaves, and saw inside a heavy square structure on which gifts and sacrifices were placed, and in front of it a number of coloured and pointed white wooden stocks tied in a row to a rail; each stock representing a father, grandfather, or near relation of one who still cherished his memory and offered gifts to his ghost. On the matted floor were different parts of canoes, brought here to receive a ghostly blessing before a voyage. A few conch-shells were the only other things to be seen. The walls were painted with rough designs of canoes, pigs, and food, intimating requests for safe voyages and for plenty. Before a fleet of canoes started on an expedition the men lived in the ghost-house for some days to acquire power; but there was no sense of awe or. peculiar reverence for it, and the men who [113/114] took us into it chatted, laughed and smoked their pipes, as though it were a common mandai.

Old Natei, a great chief, at the time of my first visit to Santa Cruz lived near Nelua, some miles up the coast. This village then had a school, and it was very important that I should make friends with the old chief. Until recently he had lived in another village, and it had been his custom to hire men from a neighbouring place to come to shoot arrows into the houses of the school-people at Nelua. Taape, however, the village whence he had hired his men, had itself lately accepted a school, and now Natei was behaving better. He built a tiny village close to Nelua, and it remained very small indeed because so few men could live with him; he fined them too readily and too exhaustively. I was told that when his brother died he had asked one of the Christians if it were true that men live again after death. When he heard it was so, he said it was good news; nevertheless, he fined the whole school village heavily as a more immediate and tangible consolation for himself.

The old man was sitting outside the opening to his mandai waiting to receive me in state. There was an unmistakable air of dignity about him, as, indeed, there is about all these Santa Cruz chiefs. He was tall with grey hair, was perfectly dressed in Cruzian fashion and plainly accustomed to command. He sat and gave us welcome, and then asked us to follow him into the mandai, where he gave each of us a headrest and a fan, and made us lie down. It is not the [114/115] fashion to talk to your host on such occasions, and we talked amongst ourselves, I and my boys, and the Cruzians amongst themselves. We discussed the fittings of the, house, the great net for catching pigs, the shark-ropes, the heavy structure erected over the fire in the middle of the house on which were stored bags of nuts, the massive beams of the roof and other things; whilst Natei discussed my clothes and my appearance generally. Then he beckoned us to come and see his own private house. Here we found his eight wives, all very curious about us. On the platform over the fire were many bags containing red feather-money. There was so much of it that, when the village was burnt down, the people left their own dwellings to burn whilst they protected this wonderful treasure store. Again we sat on the matted floor and talked to one another, whilst Natei did the same with his wives. Then he began to throw presents to me of bags, mats, and food. I had been told that I must not look too closely at them or appear too pleased, as undue elation would mean, in Natei's eyes, that I was not a man of standing or accustomed to being treated in this way. Old Natei received my presents in exactly the same way. Then his wives began to throw me things, but they had no dignity to keep up and showed great anxiety to get something nice in return. When they had received some little gifts they all tried to say "Thank you," and giggled much over their efforts. This ended my interview with the old heathen chief; we had become friends, and that was all. I do not [115/116] think I ever saw him again, for he died soon afterwards.

It was very striking here in Santa Cruz, where there was so much fighting and bloodshed; where no trader yet (in 1894) had dared or cared to set up his store; where the leaders of the people were "sharks" of the type of old Natei; to see in the three places where we had schools (Nelua, Taape and Te Motu) great strapping men in their native dress humbly kneeling to say their prayers. On Sundays the little churches were filled, the men, of course, greatly outnumbering the women, because there was a feeling that it was not quite proper for men and women to go to one school; and if not to one school, then not to one church. There was no slackness on the women's part. Many of them swam the river in the morning on the way to their school, and when the river was in flood they swam out to sea, and reached the village in a roundabout way. I baptised five of their babies, who screamed with terror, no doubt at my white face, although at the time I supposed that it was from the discomfort of having large rings in their noses covering their mouths, and eight or nine turtle-shell earrings hanging like bunches of grapes from their ears. The people were all extremely friendly; every man gave me a present of some kind, and I, of course, did the same to them, and more than forty women came into my house for the same purpose. When all was finished the men said "Thank you," one after the other, rather as soldiers fire a feu de joie; but the women said it all together, like a volley.

[117] They are the cleanest natives in Melanesia and have no love for our clothes, and yet they are subject to pulmonary diseases, and if taken from their own island and ways of living generally die. In Norfolk Island they were delicate, and it was forbidden by law to take any Santa Cruzian or Reef Islander to Queensland.

I found more chest trouble in Santa Cruz than in any other island, and made mustard poultices until my stock of mustard ran out. After that I had to keep my patients alive by. faith. I visited one splendid specimen of Cruzian manhood for a fortnight. He was now very ill, and women were trying to relieve his bed-sores. I know that it was only his faith in me which kept him alive. The time came when I had to leave him, and then he seemed to die. He was painted red, and all his coils of red money were unwound and hung up around him, to be distributed later as legacies. He was carried on the women's heads to his grave, but on the way he coughed, and so was borne back to his house. There I saw him on my return a week later, lying with rings in nose and ears, his body still red with turmeric and unwashed, because the paint was too valuable to be lost. Thus miserably uncomfortable he remained for a few days, and then died.

In most of these islands the death-rate amongst the children was very high, and the reason seemed to be that the mothers cram their babies' mouths with yam and similar foods--sometimes, indeed, [117/118] first chewed by themselves, but often without even that preparation.

The Santa Cruz men are sometimes met miles out at sea fishing for sharks from their small canoes. The shark-ropes, which one saw in every mandai, are made of a tough fibre. Two men will paddle out to sea, and having lashed one end of the rope to the canoe and made a noose at the other, rattle a ring of dry coco-nut shells in the water to attract a shark. If successful, a bait of pig's flesh is lowered into the water to lead it into the noose; there, with luck, it is made fast. The canoe is probably upset in the struggle, and the men swim after it as it is drawn away from them; then, when the shark tires, the water is shaken out of the canoe by a backward and forward thrust, the men climb in and pull in their catch. Shark is considered a prime delicacy in Santa Cruz. When I asked some fishermen if sharks never ate them, they laughed at the idea, and said, "No, we eat the sharks!"

At the time of my first visit we had a lay missionary on the island, the only white man who could ever talk the language. When he left, a young New Zealand doctor, Jack Williams, took charge, living at Te Motu, on the northern head of Graciosa Bay. In 1896 we arrived one night from the Solomons after a long, rough passage, and the doctor came off in his boat to meet us. He said: "I am so glad you've come; there is going to be an awful row in the morning." A heathen of Te Motu had done something wrong, and if he did not pay for it that night [118/119] another village was coming at daybreak to fight them. Our ship had come just in the nick of time, when the young doctor was feeling rather uncomfortable; they would not fight, probably, whilst we were there. I went ashore with him, and by two in the morning the money had been paid by the offender and we were all able to lie down and sleep. All was peace afterwards. I dedicated the new church for the Christians and baptised eighteen of them. I had been much troubled with fever and sleeplessness before our arrival; the excitement cleared these away too.

Nelua and Te Motu villages lay outside Graciosa Bay, and the people of both were enemies of all the people within it. In 1906 I went ashore from the Southern Cross inside the Bay, wishing to get at the crowd of people who lived there. I could get no one to come with me from Te Motu; had I picked up a boat's crew there the Bay people would probably have shot them. I landed, therefore, from the Southern Cross just inside the head, on the southern side, at a village called Neundang. My five crew-boys came from Rowa in the Banks Islands and, being neutrals, were safe. At first the people were friendly, believing that I was a trader, and that tobacco would be plentiful.

The following morning, however, one of the chiefs, Maplo, came with a few of his men to ask me if I were "going to walk about a-long coco-nut" or "a-long school." Much to their disappointment, for they would certainly get less tobacco than they [119/120] had hoped for, and, worse, their women would want to go to school--which would be very bad for everyone--I answered, "Along school." They therefore did not mince matters, but told me plainly I must go away. I left some gifts behind me, and retired across the Bay to Te Motu. There I was received with great joy and many reminders that they had "told me so"; their enemies had shown me how bad they were; besides which, and much more important, I must now stay with them, and my tobacco would gradually fall to them and to their villages instead of to their enemies. These motives for friendship were inevitable at first, no doubt. Yet I had some happy days with them and saw a good deal of their ways and customs.

The school village at Te Motu was one amongst many heathen villages, and whilst I was there the school-people came regularly to church, which I scarcely think was their usual custom under our Cruzian teachers. I counted eighteen women on one side of the church, each with a yellow shawl over her head--"out of respect for the men," I was told. A number of small boys with rings in their noses were in the middle aisle, and about thirty stalwart men, in native dress, by themselves. The teacher hoped that someone else would start the hymns, for it was many years since he was at Norfolk Island, and he had forgotten the tunes. As no one else did, he tried to do so himself, but I could detect only a far-off resemblance to tunes I had heard, and no more.

[121] Every day I stayed at Te Motu I went about seeing people in other villages. It was a time of peace for all. They were busy in their gardens or on the reef, and were glad to see me, although I could not talk to them. Te Motu is really part of an islet off Santa Cruz--Trevannion Island, which forms the northern side of Graciosa Bay. There was little Christianity on it so far, but everyone seemed to keep "Sunday" as a day of rest whenever it suited his purpose. Many, indeed, kept two "Sundays" each week, and explained that they were doing no work, nor anything in particular, because it was "Sunday." A few days after my arrival in Te Motu a man was killed a mile from the village. He had been a bad character from boyhood, and, being utterly lawless, had made himself a general nuisance; he refused to pay any fines for his misdeeds, and had lately killed someone's pigs, and the only satisfaction he could offer for this was to fight the owner. In the heathen parts of the New Hebrides he would have been killed and eaten, but here in the Santa Cruz group the people were not cannibals, and they had borne patiently with him, therefore, until now. The whole people were demanding his death, so some of them hunted him into the bush, put four arrows into him, then chased him down to the sea, where they finished him off.

A few days later I had a message from the people inside the Bay at Neundang, inviting me back, so I packed up my goods to try my luck again. Three Te Motu men started with us, but jumped out of [121/122] the boat after thinking it over, and swam back, preferring safety in their own village to the risk of being killed. This time the Neundang people wished me to remain and offered to sell me some land at a place called Namu close by. I paid sixty pounds of tobacco for an acre or two with a stream running behind it, and thirty more for all the fruit trees on it--which was at the rate of about four shillings for each coco-nut or fruit tree. The cost to me of this transaction was about £4 10s., a very good price for land that no one except myself wanted. I arranged for a leaf-house to be built and for the land to be cleared.

I visited a few villages along the coast outside the Bay, at one of which Commodore Goodenough had been killed, and at another Edwin Nobbs and Fisher Young.

At Nelua, now only a ruin, I had news that one of the teachers at Te Motu was dying, so I returned at once to look after him. He died that night, and the next day was spent by the people in mourning and preparing for his burial. I went to see him and found his body being prepared. His head lay on a wooden rest; his armlets had sweet-smelling herbs stuffed under them, and women sprinkled his body with red turmeric. He was red all over, whilst his friends had made themselves black with charcoal. Before the funeral everyone, or at any rate all the school-people, washed themselves, and the procession moved off to the grave, headed by a woman. Behind came the body wrapped in a [122/123] native cloth and lying on a bit of an old canoe carried on the heads of the women. After the service everyone threw leaves on the body. A small boy was frightened and tried to escape, but his father carried him to the grave and made him throw in a leaf. Then the heathen, many of whom had stayed beyond the graveyard wall, came over it and tore leaves from the trees and threw them in.

On my walk round Trevannion Island (Te Motu) all the people were glad to welcome me and my Banks Islands boys. Everywhere they invited us into their club-houses, and gave us mats to sit on and wooden head-rests, in case we wished to recline whilst they talked about us. In each village the chief, or chiefs--for there were generally at least two of them--sat before me smiling amiably as they chewed their betel-nut, wonderfully dignified in their carriage and all their movements. With their hair whitened by lime, their nose-rings and bunches of earrings, their chest and arm ornaments, and their very gracious manners, they were far from being savages. They had risen to their high rank, however, not by bravery in war, but by the accumulation of wealth. In fact, few warriors can ever attain to chieftainship because, either they are soon killed in fighting, or their own people kill them for thinking too much of themselves. The chiefs were in a class alone, and when speaking, or entertaining me in their mandai, all their men would keep silence. When royalty retired these would come round like a swarm [123/124] of bees, showing spoons made out of nautilus shell, which they wished me to buy with tobacco.

As I spent my nights in these houses, in which all the men and boys slept, there was no getting away from them. Forty or fifty pairs of eyes watched every movement. If we fried sausages there was a rush to see the operation. The way we ate them with knife and fork interested them just as much. Pouring out coffee or getting milk out of a tin made a sensation; when sugar was added and butter spread on a biscuit, all eyes gazed. A tin of peaches was opened, and I offered some to them. Very wry faces were made at the idea of eating such stuff. Some, however, tasted and liked it. Presently my boys and I would read our Evensong by the light of two hurricane lamps, the bright eyes and white limed heads still all round us. In the morning when I washed they sat up to see yet another interesting performance. I asked them if they would retire outside, and they at once went, but took up positions whence they could watch my doings through the cracks of the walls. I was generally tired enough to sleep well, but at any time in the night a man might suddenly start singing, and in one mandai a. large pig came and lay down by my side. Sometimes the young men left the house, having seen all the "sights," and danced on the round dancing-ground just outside, singing, stamping and grunting until the early hours of the morning. The only really quiet period of the night was just before dawn.

[125] The villages were all so close together that I could visit half a dozen of them in one day. I watched the men weaving their mats with rough looms--very slow work indeed. Patterns were made by threading black banana leaf through white pandanus, with admirable effect. I saw other men making their beautiful feather-money. Pigeon feathers are glued together on a flat piece of wood three inches square. Each layer of these dark feathers is then tipped with the red feathers from the breast of a small bird of the Honey-eater family. The layers are bound together with string passed round them, so that only the red shows on the surface. A length of about fifteen feet is coiled up and preserved in a bag over the fire, to constitute a part of the wealth of a chief, or a less important member of the community. Some of it would be used as a part of the price of a wife--two red coils, and perhaps a hundred more, with the red more or less perished, being the average price of a girl. At a man's death it would be hung round the body to show his wealth. Again, I would watch men making string for their nets and fishing lines, rolling the fibre on their bare thighs; boys, with their delicate hands and fingers, forming marvellous cat's cradles with this string--schooners, houses, volcanoes, nuts, and all kinds of shapes; because I provided a market for them, men were spending hours on the reefs grinding nautilus-shell spoons. Whip-cracking, with tremendous reports, I found a nuisance in some places, but the greatest of all was the incessant craving to trade--that is, to buy my [125/126] tobacco with mats. It was considered very good business if they could palm off on me some rubbishy old thing, and get precious tobacco for it. Of course, I could actually say very little to them. I had an interpreter, but he was a bad one. When I began a short speech in a mandai with the words, "I don't want to deceive you," he translated it as, "Don't tell lies to me." Yet we made friends wherever we went, and time after time the people asked me to find teachers for them. It was impossible to teach them anything, but they watched us when we prayed. The village ghost-house was always just outside the mandai. The idea did not occur to them that their ghosts might object to us and make them sick as a punishment for sheltering the teachers of a rival religion.

Two villages at which we stayed were at war with each other. The people of Venga were keeping back a piece of money belonging to the village of Nemba. A Nemba man with his wife and another woman then went to Venga to recover the money, and the Vengans stole the other woman, whereupon he shot a Venga man (who recovered). The Venga people then shot a Nemba woman--which should have made things square; but she happened to be with child, and so there were two deaths to be paid for by Venga. The custom here was that, in order to make peace after fighting, the side which had killed the larger number must hand over to the other side sufficient babies or children to be shot to make the tally equal. I had to persuade the Nemba people to make peace without [126/127] killing Venga babies. They said they wanted a life, but, as they wished to follow the new way that I was teaching, they would make peace if Venga paid for the woman they had stolen. This was agreed to, and so we came away in good spirits.

There was a very large number of boys in all the villages, but few old men. Probably most of the men die by arrow before they attain to any great age. I saw little of the women or girls; they seemed to be dirty and untidy generally--a contrast to the men.

Two other white men were now in Santa Cruz, both traders, one working for the other, and the people asked me sometimes if they might kill them. Had I not very emphatically forbidden it, they would have done so, and said that I had ordered it. Once a chief, friendly to me, prevented one of the traders from being hacked down on the deck of his ship when the knife was already raised to strike. Passing down the Bay one day, my boat was surrounded by men in canoes, who said they were fighting the white men. I went ashore and found the white men's house in a state of defence, and themselves on guard with Winchester rifles and their ship's crew and about forty friendly natives. Two tables lay on their sides for defence, and a hole had been cut in a wall to fire through. All eyes were on the bush behind the house. The canoes had gathered in front, at some distance away. The traders asked me to stay, and I did so, until the canoes eventually paddled off, possibly because I was there, and all likelihood of attack was over. While at breakfast a native came [127/128] in to say a woman outside wanted to see one of them; thinking it to be a ruse, they rushed out with rifles, and the woman, alarmed, fled into the bush. This was the end of the "siege." Without doubt it cleaned up things and in some ways did good, for I heard no more complaints by Cruzians against the white men. Shortly afterwards the trader in charge went away and married. The other, a Russian, was, I believe, dismissed.

3. Reef Islands.

I went to Namu (where I had bought land), inside Graciosa Bay, to see how the men were getting on with my house, and found they had prepared all the posts and thatch, and had cut the bananas which they would eat while building. When these were ripe they would begin work.

As it would be quite a month before they finished my square, one-roomed mandai, I rowed up the coast eastwards to get as far in that direction as possible before hoisting sail to make for the Reef Islands, which lie forty miles to the north of Santa Cruz. The day was fine, but the waves fairly large. We ran up them and bumped down on the other side, throwing up fine clouds of spray. Steering by compass, we sailed out into the open sea. After travelling thirty miles, it seemed into nowhere, we sighted the tops of trees about ten miles away, showing we had made leeway and were well on our course. An hour and a half later we were ashore at Matema, a low-lying coral island, after a five and a half hours' [128/129] journey. For some reason Andrew Veleio had expected us, and the day before he gave his pupils as a writing lesson to copy from the blackboard these words: "Tamanina te ninga qarig" ("Our father will arrive to-day"). How he knew I was coming I have no idea.

All the Reef Islands, the tops of sunken mountains covered with coral, are small and low-lying in a cluster in the open sea. There are no anchorages, the sea being very deep on all sides of them, even between those which lie quite close to one another. The people are light-brown Polynesians, or have a strong strain of Polynesian blood in them. From time to time the traders at Santa Cruz would visit them; otherwise they had no dealings with any ship or white man except the Southern Cross and ourselves.

Of these Reef Islands, Nukapu, the one in which Bishop Patteson was killed in 1871, is to us the most interesting. It is very small, and I found one easily walked around it on the beach in twenty-five minutes. Scarcely twenty natives were left on it, but there were the remains of at least three villages. It has great and beautiful trees with large leaves, under which one could sit in the heat of the day. To the north is a wide lagoon enclosed in a reef which stretches some distance out to sea. Across this reef Patteson had found his way alone, and paddled himself to the shore, on the day of his murder. A small mandai stands just above the beach, having taken the place of the large one in which Teanduli killed him with his club.

[130] Outside it is the iron cross which Bishop John Selwyn erected to his memory some years afterwards. Upon it are the words: "In memory of John Coleridge Patteson, Missionary Bishop, whose life was here taken by men for whom he would gladly have given it. September 20, 1871."

The story, as I heard it on the spot, was that the Bishop came a few days after a kidnapping ship had been there, in the hold of which there had been a desperate struggle when the hatches were put on to keep the natives down. One man. Teanduli, held by the leg, escaped after receiving a severe blow on the head. Five, however, were carried away, wounded, after they had tried to cut a hole in the side of the ship. When the Bishop came to Nukapu, Teanduli's relations had already planned to kill him if he should land by himself. He did so, because the unfriendly conduct of the men in canoes outside the reef convinced him that something was wrong ashore. In the mandai he stretched himself out, with his head towards the door on a wooden rest. Teanduli came in. No one in the house noticed that the hand behind his back held a short club. They remarked that each time he moved he came closer to the Bishop. Suddenly he struck him a blow on the forehead. Everyone, surprised, rushed out of the house. The chief came in with bow and arrows to kill the murderer, but he had escaped to the bush. Teanduli's relations had also arranged to attack the boat which was waiting for the Bishop beyond the reef, and this they did from their canoes, wounding [130/131] with their arrows three of the crew, including Joseph Atkin, a young New Zealander; all died of tetanus within ten days. Probably it was also Teanduli's friends who wounded the Bishop's dead body with arrows. They carried it outside the mandai, and the women prepared it for burial, whilst men dug a grave for it near a point of the island. Covered with coco-nut leaves, one of which had five knots tied in its fronds for the five men who had been stolen, it was placed by the women in a canoe to be conveyed to the grave. Then the ship's boat was seen coming across the reef--for the tide having now risen, the boat could float over it into the lagoon--and the people fled into the bush. The Captain took the Bishop's body and buried it at sea.

The chief was furious with the murderer for killing the one man who might have got back for them those who had been stolen. The quarrel between these two ended, however, by Teanduli paying four pieces of feather-money as a fine. A month or two later a warship came. A man who thought himself a brave stood on the south-west point shaking his bow and arrows at the ship. The people say there was a puff of smoke on the ship's side and a shot carried off the man's head. Then six boats came in and "sowed" the island with bullets. The coco-nut trees still show the marks of them. Every canoe and house and all the money in them were destroyed. Cannon shots passed right through the island and fell into the sea beyond. Teanduli later went to Santa Cruz, and was shot there by a native of Matema [131/132] in a fight. Of the five who had been kidnapped only three returned, and they brought with them dysentery, from which almost everyone in the island died.

The first of the Reef Islands on which I stayed, Matema, one could walk round in ten minutes. Except for hollowing out trees for canoes and fishing, the people of the island have little to do; and whilst I was with them they did nothing at all, except lie on their backs in the school-house, where I was, and sing hymns or converse. After a time their chatter and laughter, the spitting out of red betel-nut juice, the smoke of their vile tobacco, and the smell of the fish they had either been eating or had brought in to eat, would get on my nerves, and I would ask them to go out for a time. Poor souls, they were greatly surprised; they had been treating me with special courtesy according to their ideas, by never leaving me alone! I would escape three or four times a day and take refuge under the trees. The heat even there was great, and I had a touch of fever consequent upon their polite treatment.

In the next island, Pileni, again there was no getting away from the people: they sat and watched me all day. Every village has its mandai, one of which serves as a ghost-house, always with memorial white-painted stocks (here called Duka), fastened to a rail, some having little stocks attached to them in memory of children who had died. A sailing canoe dips its sail as it passes one of these, that its ghosts may give the passengers good weather. The people of Pileni are more Polynesian than Melanesian, and [132/133] on starting their school afresh I found them very intelligent. The school had collapsed some time before because of a murder committed by two of these Pileni men in Nukapu. Kulingi, the victim, was a braggart and claimed to be braver and stronger than anyone else. Nothing annoys these people more, so the school-going people punished him by expulsion. He then threatened to break their bell, and it was decided to kill him. He quarrelled with his wife, who had taunted him with fearing the men who were seeking his life. He would show her that he was not afraid to die. "Very well," he said, "it shall be to-day." He went to the mandai and called out, "Let us go, brothers!" Domo, a Pileni man, cried out from inside, "It is his day!" Two other Pileni men went and joined Domo on the reef where Kulingi stood, and each fired an arrow into him. He said, "It is finished now, my brothers; I am dying. Let me go and see my children." But they thrust him through the chest with a fishing spear.

This was the kind of brutal murder which, with dysentery added, has reduced the Reef Islands, once well peopled, to a mere remnant.

The little island of Nifololi was in trouble when I called, for a boy of another small island, called Banga, had died during his stay at Norfolk Island, and Banga people were therefore fleecing Nifololi, which, being a school-island, might be considered responsible for his death. Others were helping Banga, and poor little Nifololi was having a bad time and expecting an attack.

[134] In one of the villages of a long island called Fenualoa, to which I next came, there had been a wanton murder, and the man who did it, a fine-looking young fellow, sat beside me in the mandai. A sailing canoe from here had been lost at sea, so someone had to suffer for it. A party of men from Matema happened to call in; they soon knew they were in danger (although they had nothing to do with the canoe) because no food was given to them. Presently one was seized from behind and killed.

In one of these islands I met the father of a boy named Kesi. He had nearly shot two of our teachers when the news of the death of his son at Norfolk Island reached him, and when I myself arrived on the Southern 'Cross and tried to comfort him, he foamed at the mouth, fingering his bow and arrows, and I thought he would shoot me. He now, a year or two later, took me to his house, and gave me and my boys a good feed. I said to him, "The last time we met I thought you were going to shoot me." He laughed and answered, "And so did I!"

They are just like children in some ways, tremendously angry and foaming at the mouth at one moment, and laughing the next. I made friends with one old fellow who had a long beard consisting of only about twelve hairs growing from the point of his chin and reaching down to his waist, with a large blue bead in the middle of it and another at the end. It was a common thing to see men shave themselves by pulling out the hairs with two shells in each hand.

[135] No food is grown in most of these islands, because in the coral soil nothing can be persuaded to grow. The people fish, and make nets and sailing canoes which they sell to the natives of the Duff Group, fifty miles off, or, when the wind is fair, they go in their big sailing canoes to Santa Cruz. They can only go before the wind, and if they meet a land breeze, even though only a short distance from their destination, they are obliged to turn round and go home, however hungry they may be. They have shallow wells of good water which fill up as the tide comes in, but are empty when it is low. The women come with their babies and coco-nut shells and sit round as the water gradually rises. Many of the trees bear fruit, which prevents actual starvation, although at times the whole population is hungry. Rats abound, but are not eaten. One sees them everywhere, and on three successive nights the poultices that I put on my patients were eaten off them by the rats. Frequently I would hear the note of a bird which the people called a koko, no doubt some kind of cuckoo. Large pigeons settled in the branches of the high trees could be brought down with a gun by my boys, whose sharp eyes could see them when I could not.

There are two little islands called Banga Netepa and Banga Nendi. The first is a lovely little place raised possibly eighty feet above the sea. It is entirely of coral formation, and the road to its village leads through a limestone tunnel with stalactites hanging from the roof. The only water [135/136] in the island is to be found in the holes which the natives scoop out of the stems of the coco-nut trees. The rain runs down the stem from the leaves, and is caught in these reservoirs, which sometimes hold two or three gallons. Yams, bananas and tomago all grow here, besides the fruit-bearing trees which are common in the larger islands. A walk of a mile took us to the other side of the island, where from the top of the cliff we looked down on a tremendous swell rolling in, the result of a few days' strong wind. Terrific seas were breaking on the rocks below us, yet the sea beyond was a deep blue and without a ripple. We could see a large shoal of fish a little way from the shore--light blue, in the deep blue of the ocean--and a large shark with a little one, lying in the very midst of the shoal, occasionally perhaps snapping up an unwary fish when it came within reach, though unable to catch a single one in a fair chase. Then came a big fat turtle, to lie sprawling on the top of the sea above them all.

In a fenced-in graveyard on the shore near the little village in which I passed the night was a large platform above a grave, on which old pieces of feather-money were rotting. The custom is to place a roll of money over the grave of each rich man, and food over that of every other man, immediately after death, in case his soul should be hungry. Afterwards they protect the graves, but do not offer sacrifices to the ghosts. There are a great many spirits to whom sacrifices are offered, each man having a special one. But sacrifices to [136/137] the ghosts of the dead so commonly offered throughout these islands, are, I was told, not made here.

I spent my time in the Reefs in making new schools and reviving old ones. In all of them it was now held that if they had schools, that would stop the fighting and perhaps lessen the sickness; in practically every village, therefore, my crew-boys were asked to stay and teach. There was a longing for schools everywhere, though in some places probably the chiefs wished things might remain as they were. The chief was in all cases the richest man in the village, and so had great influence; if his son were rich he would succeed him, but, if not, someone else would who was richer. As their wealth came very largely from immoral sources, which the acceptance of Christianity would remove, it was natural that the chiefs should prefer things to remain unaltered. But the young men were all for change. When we visited the Duff Group, these surrounded one of the chiefs, who was refusing my offer of a teacher and a school, and in great excitement asked him why he refused "this thing which will be our life."

During my stay in the Reefs I went, at each village, into the mandai, and sat down for a friendly talk. Betel-nuts were thrown to my crew-boys, and they made a small present in return. I gave three or four sticks of tobacco to the chief, and ten or more to his men; out they went then, and returned with kits of dried bread fruit or tomago. A big dish containing balls of tomago swimming in [137/138] coco-nut oil was nearly always ready, and was excellent in its way. Then the chief would call me out of the mandai that I might see the women in his house. They gave me more pudding and more kits of food, and I gave them sticks of tobacco and received small mats in return.

Where there was no school-house, as in Fenualoa, I slept in the mandai. One night as I lay on the floor a dog and its puppy came and lay beside me, and a pig ate up a bag of my cooked food. I was quite ready to start early the next morning.

I asked a native teacher, Andrew, to tell me something of the "religion" of the Reef Islanders generally. He said they offer sacrifices to spirits, but they have no altars. A pig is killed anywhere and distributed near the duka, the desire of everyone, men, women and children, being to have communion with the spirits of the village as a means of protection. They have no fixed seasons for these sacrificial feasts. If a man wishes to give a dance he gives it, and sacrifices afterwards. There are no prayers, sacrifices, or thanksgivings in connection with the fruits or seasons. The heathen mother of Andrew, the Reef Island teacher, when there was a lack of food, asked her son as a Christian to pray to God, which she could not do, that the fruit-trees might bear. Nor are there offerings before meals. But a sacrifice is offered when a new dancing-ground is opened; the duka are then placed in the middle of the dancing-ground, and a pig is tied up in front of them and killed. Their [138/139] belief is that the spirit sees the sacrifice and is pleased, and will help the offerer. Propitiatory sacrifices are offered before starting on canoe voyages, to ward off calamities by sea and by land. A duka is carried in the "cabin" of a sailing canoe, and a piece of food is thrown on the roof of the cabin before starting. During the voyage the men talk to the spirit, as they would speak to a man, asking for a fair wind. It is not customary to offer sacrifices for rain or drought, but to pay money for them to a rain-maker.

There are no sacrifices to the spirits on account of sin; in fact, there is no conception of sin except as an offence against man which brings retaliation. Theft, for instance, is a sin against the man whose goods are stolen, and dangerous to the thief, because the injured man will invoke his spirit's aid, who may punish him. Murder, again, is a sin, because the dead man's ghost may avenge it. To avoid this danger a murderer goes to a rain-maker and buys medicine which makes him invisible to the ghost. The duka in the ghost-house may injure anyone who fails in respect to them, for each represents a dead man, woman or child, and their ghosts resent any careless handling of their effigies, or any undipped sail as a canoe goes by. It is not safe to go for too long without offering a sacrifice. The spirit will then enter into someone who speaks thus: "I have heard that the spirit is angry, and will kill you." The man asks why he is angry. "Because you have offered no sacrifice to him." Then he offers, and [139/140] the anger passes away. When Patteson was killed, the murderer gave four pieces of money to his chief because he had killed the man who might have got justice done for the stealing of the Nukapu men. The sin here was against the chief, and not against any abstract sense of good.

Every village has its own spirits, one for each walled-in group of houses, of which there may be two or three in a village. But it is only the men who pay any regard to them; the reason for this is that the women and girls will marry men outside the wall within which they have been brought up, and therefore will live beyond reach of the spirit of their own native village. The spirit of their adopted home also will be nothing to them because they had not belonged to it. Thus women have none whom they can propitiate. But they have souls, just as men have. If ill, they do not themselves call on a spirit to help them, but on a rain-maker, who invokes the woman's dead relations, asking them, because they are strong, to help the woman, who is weak.

Souls of both men and women live again after death. The body is buried, but the soul is driven by spirits into the sea. A large fish bites it, and the blood bubbles up. All the dead relatives of the deceased catch the drops of blood, and with these make new ghosts. Each puts the drop of blood he has caught in a bowl, and covers it over with leaves. After five days they lift up the leaves, and they see that a change has taken place. Five days later they lift the leaves again, and find a human ghost, but [140/141] weak. In five days more it is strong, and five days later it is able to go about by itself.

We had a glorious day for our return from the Reefs to Santa Cruz, with a fair wind and smooth sea. I had an easy landing, too, at Te Motu, and sixty men carried my goods to my house at half a stick of tobacco each.

This good landing remains in my memory because of the many bad ones that I had there. The jagged reef ends in an abrupt fall into deep water, and there is therefore no means of running the boat ashore. I would take the long steer-oar while the boat's crew sat ready with the oars, and a crowd of men stood on the reef showing the exact place where to land. Then we waited until a succession of large waves had dashed themselves on the reef and a short calm succeeded. "Row!" I cried, and the crew pulled with all their might. On the swirling waters we would rush over the edge of the reef, and the boat be caught by fifty pairs of hands, carried beyond the reach of the waves, and, as the water receded, be lowered on to the sharp coral. The same process, but reversed, was the rule when we embarked on a rough day. The Cruzians would hold the boat--a whale-boat, pointed at both ends--until there was a lull, her stern outwards towards the sea, and then the crew, sitting with faces towards the shore, pulled as hard as they could to get away from the reef before the big waves rolled in, whilst I with the steer-oar kept her stern to the seas. Had she been allowed to turn sideways on to them, we must have [141/142] been rolled over and dashed on the reef; it is not wonderful, then, that one remembers a smooth landing.

We had been away for seven weeks, and it was like coming home to return to Te Motu, where, to some extent at any rate, Christianity had a hold on the people. There were a great many sore legs for me to doctor, and I rested and visited the villages on this side of the Bay. People came from all sides to beg for medicine and tobacco. I read and wrote letters, bought numbers of shell spoons, and found plenty to do. Then two men arrived from Namu to say that the roof was on my new house, and that the walls would be finished in a day or two. Many of the school-people at Te Motu came to me with presents, because I had stayed with them. I baptised half a dozen babies, and had seventy people present at our last service together, as many women as men, which was unusual. Then I tried to get off, with my load of boxes heavy with shell spoons and my supplies of food, but the surf at the landing-place was so big that the boat had to be unpacked again and the start postponed until the next day. Next morning we attempted an early start before the surf got up, and my goods were carried down to the reef and the boat dragged towards the reef edge. Then came a tropical deluge of rain, and all hands left the boat on the reef and took shelter. By the time it had finished the tide had gone down, and the landing become too bad for us to make a start. Again everything had to be carried back to [142/143] the mandai. In the afternoon the sea was calm and the weather fine, and we got off without a wetting, but for myself a scraped ankle, which--like all scrapes and sores in this climate--might become a festering wound if not attended to.

We rowed across the Bay, possibly three miles, and took possession of my new home at Namu. The place looked a little rough, having just been cleared, and of course there were no paths. The house was a good-sized one, square, with two doors to windward and one to the west, but with no verandah. We got everything ashore and had a glorious bathe in my own stream. Soon many men came from the village in a friendly way, and I felt a great happiness in having won at last a foothold in Graciosa Bay.

My dreams that night should have been sweet, but the mosquitoes were terrible. As soon as the light went out they came in their millions. My four boys lay on the floor, buried under the sail of the boat and trying to ward them off. Under my mosquito-net I was fairly safe, but the boys kept me awake by slapping themselves continually under the sail, and next morning their arms were enormously swollen. Except for this it was a beautiful spot, with the smooth waters of the Bay in front and the bush with its little stream running through it behind. Maplo, the chief who had driven me out when I first landed, brought a present of arrows, and all the other chiefs in the neighbourhood came to see me with gifts. I opened a very small school, and men and boys came [143/144] to it and sat around, but did more chewing of betel-nut and smoking than anything else. I got out my boat and went visiting the villages in the Bay. All the people professed to want schools--except one which had a fight on, and they were certain they did not. They were all waiting in their villages for my coming; everywhere I was made welcome, and my boys had enough pudding and fowls given them every day to fill the bows of the boat. I gave the men tobacco and the boys fish-hooks, and on leaving would throw a handful of tobacco sticks into the sea, and watch the whole village with shouts and screams rush down the beach into the water to dive and scramble for it. We lived sumptuously every day, with gar-fish for breakfast, and teal, pigeons, and pineapple for supper. These people, who were almost unknown to us, were most friendly, and I got to know their boys quite well.

While we were at Namu there was a fight on Sunday at Neundang, the village close by, but it went off so quietly--there being no weapons other than arrows in the island--that I knew nothing about it. One day a chief brought a pig as a present, and my boys spent the whole day killing, cooking, and eating it. On another day I had to arbitrate at Neundang between two parties that had fallen out, and to decide what the fine should be and settle up their differences. Morning and evening the women passed by Namu, carrying their babies and all that they needed for gardening, and returning in the evening heavily burdened with food, the men having [144/145] spent the whole day doing nothing at all but talk and smoke in my house. It was evident that the women did almost all the work here, and the men's part was to fight and fish.

One night two boys came across from Te Motu to invite us to a great feast which was being prepared. We crossed the Bay in a calm, the chief of Neundang and five of his men coming with us. Hitherto Namu and Neundang had been outside the circle of Te Motu's friends, and they were now the only villagers in the Bay invited. Fifty-four villages outside it received invitations, but the Bay had no dealings with people in other parts of Santa Cruz. On our arrival we found great preparations going on. Some weeks before a large circular pig fence had been erected, and a hundred and thirty pigs were now in it. The occasion for the feast was that six boys were to assume the loin-cloth and no longer to go stark-naked. Eleven poor little wretches were to have their noses and ears bored. When we landed the men had just begun to kill the pigs by drowning them, and to cut them up. Large ovens, each to hold five, had been dug in the ground. Later, the pigs, cut up and wrapped in leaves, were to be placed in these--the liver and lights being cooked on hot stones separately, to be eaten at once. The six boys who were to put on loin-cloths were particularly busy. All the villages round Te Motu were helping to cook the pigs, and everyone was smiling and jolly. The next day large numbers of people came in from these neighbouring villages, and many honoured me with [145/146] a visit, remembering mine to them, and hoping that I might have some pipes and "tambacker" for them. They were all very friendly as usual, and one or two" pressed me to give them schools.

At about noon the ovens were opened, and men filled the dancing-ground and allotted pig and yam in parcels to fifty-five different mandai. Stretched across the dancing-ground overhead were two long cords, each covered with bands of banana-leaf, representing the coils of money which had been spent in buying all the pigs. Suspended to these lines were also toy canoes, signifying the persons who had made voyages in canoes to get the pigs; also shark-ropes, indicating the sharks caught and sold for money to buy the pigs; twisted leaves, showing the turtles that had been taken for the same purpose; toy bundles of faggots, toy fish, nets and other things. When the food had been allotted, bundles for the various villages at a distance were despatched by carriers on foot or in canoes. Soon after sunset the dance began--nothing beautiful in it nor anything bad, some eighty men and boys and forty women and girls walking round the ground, singing and stamping their feet. The men wore their native finery, carried bows and arrows, and had their heads beautifully dressed and their hair whitened. The boys had made their heads red, and the women covered theirs with shawls. The dance went on for most of the night.

On the following day I went to the dancing-ground at about ten o'clock in the morning, and saw red [146/147] mats and money laid out on the ground. Babies lay in their fathers' arms, and the operation of boring noses and ears was just beginning. Every candidate, babies and boys alike, was painted red. One man held the baby's ear, and another clipped on it a turtle-shell ring, the sharpened points of which met through the lobe of the ear, piercing it from both sides; the children cried a little, but not very much. Then the small boys came and knelt down while their nostrils were bored in the same way. They too cried a little, but knowing that now they could wear a string of small blue beads in each nostril, they lightly brushed their tears aside. Some children had the nose bored to hold the accustomed ring. Each operation is a separate one, and is performed at a certain time of the child's life. The fathers pay three or four pigs in advance in each case, and the little red children for the next few days keep the clips on their noses and ears to ensure that the holes shall be permanent. The ceremonies were very solemnly performed, and as kindly as possible. The last step in a boy's progress is to put on a loin-cloth, and for this also he is painted red, and is henceforth regarded as a man.

The Namu men who had come with me had, previously to this, sat and watched us at our prayers each day. Here at Te Motu for the first time they knelt down and took part. We returned to our home across the Bay after the feast, and found that the people had given me a verandah and made improvements to the house. I paid a call on the trader and [147/148] his young wife about three miles down, visited some more villages along the shore at the bottom of the Bay, received visits from chiefs who brought me presents, and went on with our school. We rigged up a mast and made a flag of turkey-twill with a white cross on it, that the captain of the Southern Cross might be able to find us when he came.

My plans for making a good show, however, were all frustrated, for when we heard the whistle of the ship early one very wet morning, my flag was sticking to the mast, the clearing at Namu could not be seen from the sea, and so the ship slipped past us. A hundred canoes soon surrounded her, and she was brought back to our new station as though she now belonged to its people.

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