Chapter XI. Solomon Islands--Ysabel, Choiseul and New Georgia Islands
On the 19th of November, 1566, St. Isabel's Day, two Spanish ships left Callao in Peru, under the navigator Gallego. In his journal; which he long kept secret lest Drake should rob him of the new lands that he had discovered, Gallego wrote that the object of his voyage was to propagate the Christian faith and to open the way to Christian missionaries.
On February 7th, the eightieth day after they left port, they sighted a heavy mass of land, but when they tried to reach it they found themselves cut off by shoals. The two ships were in great danger, because they had drifted into broken water and were likely to strike at any moment. Gallego wrote: "Committing ourselves to God, I sent a man aloft to the foretop, and placed another on the bowsprit." The ship was then safely steered between the shoals into deeper water. Again he wrote: "Although it was midday, a star appeared to us over the entrance to the reef." They took this as a guide and good omen, and were cheered in spirit and became more hopeful. The water deepened; they entered the harbour with the star over the bow of the ship, and anchored. "The Indians called [227/228] the island 'Camba,'" Gallego wrote, "and their cacique or chief, 'Bellebanara.' "The Spaniards gave it the name of "Santa Isabel del Estrella," and the harbour into which they had with difficulty found their way is now known on the British chart as "Thousand Ships Bay."
The shoals that troubled the Spaniards were on one occasion encountered by the Southern Cross and we grounded on one of them. It was 6 o'clock in the evening, and Captain Bongard tried to pull her off, with a kedge and our engine. He was in great trouble because he believed it was high tide at the time, and that as the tide went down we should be left high and dry. Two of the Gela boys on board told me, however, that at this time last night it was low tide on their island, fifty miles south, and that therefore it was about low tide now off Ysabel Island. The captain said that by all the rules of the sea, the moon being full, it must be high tide at 6 o'clock and low at midnight, but he had enough faith in the boys' knowledge of the variations and vagaries of the tides around their own islands to give the order at 8 p.m. to stop working, and at n p.m. the ship floated off the reef with no damage done. In these waters, only 7 degrees south of the equator, the reefs grow at a prodigious pace, and at this time they were mostly uncharted. To the master of a vessel of any size they must be a nightmare.
The southern end of Ysabel, where Thousand Ships Bay lies, is, as has been said, called Bugotu, and a very remarkable man named Soga was [228/229] recognised throughout as paramount chief; in fact, I never heard of any other man in it claiming to be a chief at all. The people, who were blacker than the Gela folk, came off in good numbers to the ship, most of them with hair whitened, or tawny, with lime. Many of the men had streaks of white lime on their faces. Amongst them, in a large canoe, was Soga. It was my first visit to his land, and he came out to welcome me. He wanted also to ask my advice; was it absolutely necessary that he should punish a man with death because he had committed a serious crime? He said he himself had killed so many people in his time that he did not want, now that he had become a Christian, to kill any more. Soga was a man with the face and bearing of one greater than all his neighbours, and whose family seemed in a class by themselves. As a head-hunter his word had been law, and now as a Christian it was still so. I marvelled that a man who had been a savage, and had seen and done the things he had, could have so fine a face. The wiping out of the people on St. George's Island in this bay had been his doing; and it was only two years since he ordered one of his own people to be put to death to buy off certain head-hunters, his excuse being that one man must die for all. Now he was a Christian and still a great chief, and exercising his great authority to promote peace in the whole island.
A native living forty miles or more up the coast, accused of theft, was summoned by Soga to come to him. This man said to his friends, "Soga is [229/230] Christian now, and kills no one; I will not go, and still he will not punish me." Soga then sent off a canoe with forty men to cut down his fruit trees, eat up his food, burn his house, and bring him back. "Now," said the man, "he will kill me after all." But Soga decided that justice had been done, and let him go. I heard another story about him. Some sixty men came from Rubiana to get heads, and Soga sent a hundred to Perihandi Bay, some way up the coast, to cut off their retreat by sea; eighty others he put in the bush behind Perihandi, and so cut them off by land. Then he bade them lay down their axes and spears, and fire off their rifles. "Now," said he, "if I were what I once was, not one of you would go away alive. Why do you come here to harry our coasts? This time I give you food, and I let you go. If you come again I kill you." The raiders then gave him a present, and were shamed by receiving nothing in return. They went, and told the people of Russell Island on their way home: "We were all dead men before Soga."
Soga's trouble now, on my first meeting him, was that one of his own men had committed a murder and ought himself to be killed. "What should I do?" Soga asked me. He had already made the . man work for him. I said, "Banish him for five years." He took my advice, and that evening I saw the fellow being taken in a canoe to Russell Island.
One was often struck by Soga's intelligence and good manners. He had set his heart upon having [230/231] the Gospels in his own language, and was not only, with unflagging zeal, helping Dr. Welchman to translate them, but he also taught his people in the school, and was able himself to accept discipline when it fell upon him. For, a year or two later, after the death of one of his children, it happened that he practised some old heathen custom, and I refused to confirm him. He saw the reason for it and was satisfied. When a son of his disgraced himself and he fined him, he saw that he must not himself touch the money, so gave it to the Church to buy a canoe for the school's use.
He died in 1898, and on the cross over his grave they carved the words Ke vonungia na dotho ("He was filled with love").
Soga's village, Sepi, lay on the flat by the shore at the foot of high hills. Along the beach was an avenue of palms, and behind the village a public garden, its walks fenced with white coral slabs and fringed with pineapple plants. All the houses were well built and clean. The church in the middle of the village was small, and had, as usual, two openings, one for men and the other for women, who sat on either side of a middle aisle. A teacher would start the singing, and the people take it up, the women singing the melody, the men the parts. Part-singing comes naturally to Melanesians and, after a little practice, they keep wonderful time and tune. Between the two doors was Soga's seat, a little raised above the others. The chancel was of split bamboo, and elevated well above the floor of the nave. The [231/232] altar, approached by two steps, had behind it a reredos formed of black-and-white-bamboo, split and interwoven, showing a cross worked in the centre. 'Here the people came to say their private prayers at sunrise, and for Mattins, and again later for Evensong. All knelt, and their reverence was wonderful.
A stream ran through the village, in which everyone must bathe every morning. Everywhere in Bugotu the people besieged me on my arrival to shake hands, and when I left, men, women and children rushed into the sea for the same purpose, even the babies on their mothers' backs being made to shake hands--very much as on Raga. The Gela people, on the other hand, regard hand-shaking as an absurd custom. Here in Bugotu they are more demonstrative towards their friends, and had they had sleeves, would have worn their hearts on them.
The Bugotu people had suffered severely from the raids of the head-hunters of Rubiana two hundred miles further west. They had, of course, been head-hunters themselves, and Soga one of the worst of them, but latterly they had been at a disadvantage at this game, because in Rubiana the traders were selling rifles to the head-hunters, whereas in Bugotu none could be had. Rubiana was within the British Protectorate, and the law forbidding the sale of firearms and ammunition was not strictly enforced; Ysabel and Bugotu were under the Germans, whose officials saw to it that the law was obeyed. So it was that these Bugotu natives were at the mercy of [232/233] their enemies. In old days, on the approach of an enemy, they would retire to houses built in the tops of the trees, where they had stores of stones to throw down on their invaders, and with a good food supply they could sometimes outlast the enemy's patience. But since the Rubiana head-hunters had been armed with Winchesters, the floors of the tree houses, made only of flimsy split bamboo, could be riddled with bullets. No longer was there safety in the trees. Choiseul, a large island beyond Bugotu, was in the same' defenceless condition. The Rubiana men, having mostly destroyed one another and the people of Choiseul, were now reaching out two hundred miles to Bugotu, to take heads where there still was a large population.
Captain Davies of H.M.S. Royalist, when he punished the raiders of Rubiana, burnt over three thousand skulls which they had taken as trophies. On a small scale raids on Bugotu were still being made in 1894, and in times of danger the people would now scatter into the bush, leaving their homes at the mercy of the foe.
The last raid we know of in Bugotu took place on August 6th, 1899. It was a Sunday, and the people of the village of Perihandi, coming out of church, saw three strange canoes flying signals of friendship just outside the bay; so Julian, the second teacher, and five others put off to see who these friends were. Time passed and they did not return, but the canoes were seen going away. A search-party went to Cockatoo Island near-by, and there [233/234] they found the six headless bodies lying on the beach. After this the Government took the matter up, and by degrees brought to an end this particular kind of savagery. The High Commissioner of Fiji (Sir John Thurston), on my first visit to the Solomons, had just returned from Rubiana, where he had spent a week and greatly impressed the natives. The biggest chief had removed the tindalo from the head of his war canoe, and given it to him with two of his spears, and had promised that head-hunting should be no more.
In 1901, when the Germans handed over their islands to Britain, French Peter was deported by Mr. Woodford, the British Commissioner, for selling firearms to natives. But it took many years for the Government, and the Mission, to stamp out the custom.
Where these and other islands had become Christian, I often thought how happy the life of these simple people must be--far happier than are those of many in civilised countries. The conditions were not communistic, as some suppose, for everyone had his own private property, his gardens and his fruit trees, his house and canoe and other things. Some might be rich, like Soga, but none was poor. When once peace had come (and it was the desire for peace which induced the people to welcome the schools and teachers)--when belief in witchcraft had been overcome, the South Sea Island "Indian" arrived at a state of contentment which many millions in Europe might envy. I once had a message from a [234/235] man far up in the bush, asking, "What will it cost us to buy this new teaching which gives peace, for we are tired of fighting?"
It was a drawback to native life that sometimes food ran short before the new crop was grown, and you might ask for it, and be told, "We have none; we are hungry." At such times canoes travelled long distances to get enough for the people to keep themselves alive. Another drawback, since Christianity came, was that life tended to become dull to the more adventurous spirits. I felt that we ought to introduce to them some of our British games, but it was hard to do so in many of these places because of the rough corally ground and the mangrove swamps and the hills. Something is needed to take the place of fighting; yet the drawbacks to becoming peaceful, enlightened, and civilised are as nothing compared to those of remaining heathen. It is better that life should be uneventful than to be for ever in danger, chased and jagged with barbed spears, constantly on the watch against surprises, or subjected to merciless fleecing by one's local tyrant. The lives of these Bugotu people seemed to me not really dull, for to get their food they had to work hard in their gardens--generally three or four miles from their homes; they still built very fine canoes, large and small, decorating them with mother-of-pearl, and they had the constant occupation of fishing. Being at peace with their neighbours, they could travel where they would, visit their friends and trade. They were a merry, friendly lot; it was hard to believe [235/236] that they came of a race the greater part of which had destroyed itself by head-hunting.
In the year 1900 we followed the lee shore of Ysabel down, travelling north-west, in order to visit new schools which had lately sprung up; but the last seventy miles of the coast were bare of inhabitants--all had been wiped out by enemies or by each other. Natives said they remembered this coast once swarming with people like ants on an ant-hill. It was not Christianity, robbing the natives of employment and taking the interest out of their lives, that had done this. No villages remained, but probably many people lived in the bush. Near the northern end of the island was a channel called Port Praslin, having shoals everywhere in it, and reefs and islets, and deep water between them. A village called Kia was perched on the top of a hill, from which all trees had been cleared to prevent the village from being attacked by an enemy hiding in them. Although in the "German" Solomons, these men had rifles, and probably could not have existed without them. Some of them had taken part in the raid on Perihandi and, like the rest, were both head-hunters and head-hunted.
Two pearling vessels from Sydney lay in the Port, and their captains, Hamilton and Griffiths, came on board the Southern Cross to dine with us. The latter was an old Harrow boy, and his stories were enlivening. He told us how Captain A------ had been killed on the Narovo lagoon by his Malaita boys, and cooked in his own saucepans, and how, [236/237] when his accounts were later looked into, his debts to other traders were found struck off, with the words, added by himself, "Cooked, eaten, and so settled"; which showed his own fate was not uncommon. Griffiths told how he held at bay fifteen of his Malaita men with his Winchester until the others of his crew, Bougainville men, came to his help; and how he had then tied up and flogged the ringleaders. Also how two of his white companions were given green coco-nuts to v drink, and as they drank were tomahawked; how another was such a fool as to sell an axe with a handle to it, and was at once cut down by the man who bought it. These two pearlers said they had been waiting ever so long for the Mission to come along, and they advised where we should begin our work.
Next morning early we left the Southern Cross and rowed up a passage through the mangroves to Kia. It stood on a double hill, perhaps 500 feet high, on either side of its deep saddle. This also was for safety, one-half of the village probably being secure and able to rush to the succour, if necessary, of the other half. On our way up the swamp we came to a village whose two chiefs were Bugotu men, carried away as boys for slaves. At another, we found the "big" chief of this part, a one-eyed man named Rona, who for many years had sent out headhunting expeditions. We sat down and held a long palaver--ourselves and Rona, the two young Bugotu chiefs and others, the chiefs all wearing their native hats; whilst Rona's men and our boys stood round [237/238] intently listening to the arguments put for and against having schools and giving up the old ways. In the end Rona gave us his son. The pearlers had told us that we had "converts" already at this end of Ysabel of whom we had no knowledge. On our return to the ship five canoes followed us, which proved this, for on them the names had been painted by school-boys captured from Bugotu. These names, taken from newspapers, were: "Fry's Malted Cocoa," "Pears' Soap," "Eno's Fruit Salts," "Beecham's Pills," and "Monkey Brand."
Captain Hamilton asked me to take two of his Choiseul boys back to their homes. They were black as Nubians, as all these Western Solomon Islanders are. I was told that these very black people dislike the lighter-skinned ones (" dirty skins," as they call them), and regard it as their mission to destroy them. As we passed up the coast of Choiseul the two boys would point from time to time and say, "No more stop there; all finish," with an expressive chop at their necks with their hands. For eighty miles the coast seemed to have been quite cleared of inhabitants. Seventy miles away on our port side lay the New Georgia Group, of which Rubiana was one. From here latterly most of the mischief had been done, and many of their own New Georgian islands were without inhabitants owing to their head-hunting. All these islands were beautiful to look at, but the population was very small. We came at last to a place called Bambatana, just before night fell, and dropped anchor for the first time off Choiseul.
 The next day we spent at anchor; went ashore and found a few people, but they were very shy. Eight or nine men paddled singly round the ship in very narrow but well-built canoes, each with one leg dangling over the side in the water. One of these canoes I was able to buy for five axes, and later it was presented to the Duke of Cornwall and York--King George--who was then visiting Australia. It is now in the Victoria and Albert Museum. We put the two pearling boys ashore, and they reported well of us to their people, who thereupon became friendly. I had learnt a few words of their language from one, and he made me show his friends how well I could talk. They were delighted, and shouted like children at every word. The two boys showed us real affection and gratitude. Then two men went off with a message to the chief to come down to us from his hiding-place up in the hills. We waited about three hours, and then Bosi, the chief, arrived. We had to use two interpreters to change our Mota into Bugotu, and then again from Bugotu into Choiseul. We explained ourselves, who we were and why we had come. The chief enquired if the ship were a man-of-war, and when we said it was not, but a school ship, he asked, "What is a school?" We said, "It teaches, and we have a teaching which gives peace." It took a little time for Bosi to understand; then he said: "Why did you not come before? Two months ago the men of Bilhua over there (in New Georgia) came, and they killed thirty of my people and my three sons, and they took my wife and [239/240] children, and further up the coast they killed thirty more. Why did you not come before with this teaching of peace?"
They gave us two boys to take back to Siota, and we then went on to the Shortlands Group, where two traders welcomed us, and encouraged us to come and open up mission work. With their help I bought a small island called Lofankiki, which unfortunately I have never seen again.
Then we paid a visit to Treasury Island where again two boys were given to us. Here the little houses were perched on the side of a hill for security. We climbed about 800 feet, and visited some small villages and a larger one called Simbo, whose chief was Belangona. His men had, a year before, lain in wait on a small island until eleven women in a canoe came paddling by, singing as they returned home from their work. Going ashore on the island to bathe, they were surrounded by men, who cut all but two to pieces, and took their heads, the two survivors being kept as slaves. For this the chief was at the present time in gaol in Gela.
In every village was a little shrine in which skulls of the great men were kept, with all their charms hung up before them. At one place, near our anchorage, was an islet upon which stood a long black box on four legs, with birds engraved on its sides; through a carved piece of wood at one end of it could be seen many white skulls inside. In front of it were the remains of pineapple and other fruits which had been offered as sacrifices to the spirits of the dead men. [240/241] These people kept the skulls of their great men as objects of worship, but they went head-hunting in order to decorate their canoe-houses with hundreds of others, thereby hoping to establish such a reputation for bravery as might frighten off their enemies. In all this part of the Solomons it was a dangerous thing for a village to lose its population and dwindle, since every small village was marked out for destruction sooner or later. A raiding-party of a hundred men would land at some distance from it and hide for a week or more, until, one morning at dawn, the villagers would find themselves surrounded by their yelling enemies, and be shot down and their heads taken. Some might be kept alive as prisoners and be carried on poles, as the natives carry live pigs. Some, who were to provide a meal on the journey, would have their arms and legs broken to prevent escape. No new canoe was launched without bloodshed, nor allowed to return ashore unless it had at least one fresh head in it. No canoe-house was put up without the sacrifice of some slaves. For this poor wretches spared at a village massacre would some day be suddenly clubbed when a big canoe was launched, or thrown alive into the holes in which the great posts of the new canoe-house were to be planted.
We next found our way to New Georgia, a group of beautiful islands, with no history but of bloodshed. One island, Kolumbangara, had wiped out the population of another called Gizo, and become a terror to all its neighbours. These then combined against [241/242] it and so devastated it that there were now not a hundred people left, and they scattered; having no longer villages to raid, head-hunters now passed this island by in disdain. A few years before our visit every village in the Narovo lagoon in Rubiana could have fitted out two great war canoes, and twenty of them at a time would coast out from these shores on their expeditions to take heads. We left our ship in Haythorn Sound and rowed fourteen miles down to a channel which opens out on to Rubiana lagoon, a beautiful stretch of water ten miles or more in length. We called in upon Hingava, the most important chief on the lagoon; but seeing Mr. Mahaffy, the Deputy Commissioner of the Solomon Islands, with us, Hingava and his people became frightened and sullen. The Government was determined to stop head-hunting, and the old man was thinking of his consequent late losses in men and canoes. The Perihandi raid (in which our teacher Julian was killed), had been his affair, and it had resulted in reprisals by the Government; three of Hingava's men had been killed and many canoes and houses gone up in smoke. We found three traders in the lagoon, one of them an enthusiastic Wesleyan. They told us this was the only safe place in the Western Solomons to live in, because the people here never fought one another; they were merely allied to fight everyone else. Every man and boy had as a charm round his neck a piece of string attached to a small bone or tooth, generally one of his own grandfather's. There was no mission [242/243] of any sort in New Georgia, Shortlands, or Choiseul, and we made it quite plain that we should return and begin work in the following year.
The next year, 1901, we took our Bambatana (Choiseul) boys back from Siota to Choiseul, and were able to use them as interpreters. Thus the Melanesian Mission had now started at the extreme end of its sphere of work, and was beginning to pay the debt we felt we owed to these people. However, it was not to be, for the Wesleyans in Melbourne had chosen this as a new field of work for themselves, and very soon we found our Bugotu teachers clashing with their Fijians. We thought it to be wisest and best on the whole to give to them the child and not to divide it; and so in 1907 we abandoned the Western Solomons, to concentrate on Ysabel and the islands further east.
Kia, at the extreme northern end of Ysabel, soon became settled, and its men sold their rifles to the bushmen, one of the three chiefs becoming a teacher in the school, just as he had led his people in headhunting. Numbers of bushmen came down from the hills to a place along the denuded coast, called Kaipito. These were men of small stature, and brought with them hundreds of small black wicker bags, "charmed" in a deadly manner like the vele in Guadalcanar, which they gave us to take away. Their villages were far back in the hills, but when they sent us two boys for Norfolk Island they also built a church, or school, down by the sea. I remember going ashore there for a service one morning long before [243/244] the sun rose, and seeing their lights--lanterns and torches--moving down the hills from all directions; when the service began the church was full of dark forms, but full of light from their lanterns. One of these two boys, Benjamin Hageria, has been a Christian priest for many years now among his own people.
In 1905 we opened a new Mission station on Bugotu for Dr. Welchman at Maranatabu, the southeast end of the island. The people came in rapidly, and nearly the whole island was Christian when, in 1909, Welchman, who had done so much for Bugotu, died at Kaipito.
In 1911, on my last visit to Bugotu, I bought an island called Kumaigola, on the north side. A trader living close to it came on board. He told how his Malaita boys had not long before tied his hands and covered his head with a sheet, and lashed him to his bed whilst they rifled the store. Each time one of them came in he expected to be killed. When they had taken his boat and decamped, he gnawed through the ropes that bound him, and soon after school-boys from Bulla arrived, and were delighted to find him alive. He gave us his opinion of our Church boys, as contrasted with his late Malaita friends. "They are as honest as the day," he said, "and the only thing I have against them is that they want to shake hands so often."
One never heard stories of sharks from the Bugotu natives, for they seemed not to count, not being supposed to "bite" here--so our white men used [244/245] to dive in and swim round the ship. Crocodiles were, however, a menace. Bugotu streams were said to swarm with them, and it was dangerous to set a foot in the water; yet I heard of a man caught by the foot who escaped. He had shot a bird which fell into a stream, and while trying to pick it out with his toe his foot was seized; he pressed down as hard as he could with it on the brute's under-jaw, which opened its mouth wide, and so he escaped. "That is just what would happen," said one of the elders of Bugotu. R. B. Comins told of a man he knew who was grabbed in the water by a crocodile and carried off, with its teeth perforating his lung and one of his arms down its throat; but with that hand he got hold of the beast's tongue, and screwed it round till the mouth opened and he got away.
Crocodiles were reported to swim round the bays all night, listening for dogs and pigs, barking like a dog and grunting like a pig to attract them, or, it was said, they lay on a bank with their mouths open to draw their prey to them by the stench they emitted. If a dog should come near enough, a crocodile would sweep him off his feet with its tail, and catch him in its mouth. In Guadalcanar crocodile flesh is considered a great delicacy. I was offered it sometimes at feasts, but never tasted it.
The natives say that crocodiles are very knowing, and will lie under water all day while the men are about, but when these go off and only women and children are left, they come up and take possession of the village. A man with a gun will never see one; [245/246] they know all about guns. They are said only to be strong when they can grip the ground, or support their tails on something solid; weak when swimming in deep water. I heard of six boys somewhere in the Western Solomons who, seeing one asleep on the bottom of the sea, dived in, raised it by their hands from the ground, brought it to the surface, tied it to a pole, and swam with it to shore. The same people used to catch the giant clam-fish by spreading a pole across its gaping jaws, which closed upon it; unable to raise it swimming, they would walk with it out of deep water to the shore. When first I knew Bugotu I was told it was quite common for a man to dive alone into a pool in which a crocodile was known to be. He would fix a long piece of rattan to its neck, and others haul it out. I was able to ask men about it who had themselves taken part in such a hunt. It needs the man who has the right mana to catch crocodiles; he puts on all his charms, and dives in and adjusts the rattan. The villagers then tug and haul the beast out. "And why does the crocodile not bite him?" I asked. "He has on his charms," they said.
Bishop George Augustus Selwyn in 1849 had taken as the field of work of the Church of England in the Western Pacific all the islands from the Northern New Hebrides to the end of the Solomons in which no other Christian Mission had made any beginning. This arrangement worked very happily for half a [246/247] century until, far away in the Eastern Pacific, Bishop Willis, on the annexation of his diocese in Honolulu by the United States, opened up a Mission in Tonga, which was under Wesleyan influence; and the Wesleyans thereupon thought themselves justified in opening up a Mission in what we considered "Anglican territory" in the Western Solomons. We were notified by them that this Mission would be sent to the further end of Bugotu (Ysabel Island), or to Choiseul, or New Georgia. When it came to the two latter we, as I have said, in 1909, withdrew our Bugotu teachers.
It seemed a pity to disturb our fraternal relations after so many years, and more particularly when we had just bought our new ship, partly for the purpose of reaching out to the further end of our diocese. There has, however, been no bitterness between us and the Wesleyans on account of this. We withdrew for the time being from the Western Solomons and concentrated our forces in Bugotu, Guadalcanar, and Malaita; but when the opportunity came, our Mission leapt across the disputed territory and opened up work in New Britain and New Ireland, with the entire approval of the strong Wesleyan and other Missionary Societies already working in some parts of those large islands.
In my time, the Bishop's duties kept him ordinarily for four months of the year at Norfolk Island, helping to train the future native clergy and teachers; during the other eight months he was in the islands, making two long voyages in the Southern Cross, in which he [247/248] visited a hundred and fifty schools; and spending some months alone in one of the groups, or on one of the larger islands, such as Florida or Santa Cruz. But, of course, it was necessary sometimes to visit New Zealand, Australia, or England to keep up our lines of communication and find more men and money for our growing needs. My experience on arrival at Home as a Missionary Bishop after five years or more of absence was to receive a list of some seventy engagements already made for me, and there would be very many more that I should have to make for myself. Parishes which had been supporting scholars or "islands" for years would write to me to say that only by a personal visit could their interest in us be any longer kept alive. It meant a great loss of money and interest if one did not go, and a great deal of fatigue if one did. There was little spare time for one's family and old friends, and how many of the delights of England in summer-time after years away were missed, it would be unwise to count up. Probably all missionary bishops find that the most exhausting work they ever do is done when they go Home for a holiday. But it is absolutely necessary, as things now are, and I am sure that they make the sacrifice with a glad heart.
Towards the end of my time in the Mission we had unfortunately become involved in some of the disputes which constantly divided the Norfolkers, and Norfolk Island was a less desirable home for the Mission than hitherto. Besides which, it was eight hundred miles away from the nearest part of the rest [248/249] of my Diocese, and twice as far from the furthest part of it. I had come to think that the Bishop ought now to live altogether in the most populous part of our field of work, the Solomon Islands, and that our headquarters--the chief centre for training future teachers--should no longer be so far away. By this time we had eighteen missionaries working in the islands the whole year round, and six living permanently at Norfolk Island. The men in the islands were of the same mind as myself, but those in Norfolk Island were opposed to any change. Yet it seemed to be so much needed that I decided to give up my work in order that an unmarried bishop might come in my place and plant his headquarters, if he thought fit, in the Solomons. In 1911, therefore, I resigned with a very heavy heart. A few years later the Mission moved with many of its buildings to Siota, on the southern shore of Boli Harbour, in the island of Gela and in the centre of the Solomons, and there the Bishop now has his home.
The income of the Melanesian Mission has risen from £8,000 to £28,000 a year, and the staff of clergy from eight white priests and two natives to twenty-three white and twenty-six native; and the growth of the other Anglican Missions has been at a similar rate. [The Australian Church is now spending over £70,000 a year on missionary work, and New Zealand a very large sum also.]
In 1900 a Bishop had been consecrated for New Guinea; in 1923 another for Polynesia with Fiji in [249/250] it; and in 1928 a third for the Mandated Territory of New Britain and New Ireland.
The most vivid impression left on my mind by my years in Melanesia is of a battle royal going on between two fiercely opposing forces or kingdoms. One seems to be almost entirely evil, and it has had a stranglehold upon a child-race as capable of happiness, and as lovable, as any in the world. The peoples of Melanesia have been dying out because the rain-makers told them to die; and because they fought and murdered one another without ceasing; and because, while men fought, women had the hard work to do, and if they bore children stifled them rather than add babies to the burdens they must carry to and from their gardens each day. Fear of the unseen more than of the seen robbed life of almost all its joy. Upon this stage came the advance-guard of another kingdom, which brought them faith in God, and this faith was casting out fear. A new spirit abroad made men do good instead of evil; a new Teaching was inducing them to forgive instead of taking revenge; at last mercy and peace looked in on a world stained with immemorial bloodshed. People could now travel about in safety, and make their homes by the sea instead of in tree-tops and on high hills and islets. In villages where a child had been rare there might now be as many as sixty. As I look back I know that I saw the stranglehold being released and a vision of the incoming of Life, in Christ.
If any think that Christianity has had its best days [250/251] and outlived its usefulness, I could wish him nothing better than to go down to the islands on our Mission ship and see what it is doing there; and, for ourselves, if we suffered the loss of many things by becoming missionaries, we gained more by witnessing the true meaning and power of Christianity as many of us might not have done had we stayed in our own country.