Chapter I. Captain Allen F. Gardiner, R.N. "He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God,"--ROM. iv. 20.
AS the Missions here to be passed under review will ever be honourably associated with the name of Captain Allen Francis Gardiner, R.N., the Christian hero and martyr, a few of the more outstanding incidents in his eventful life may at the outset be furnished.
It was on the 28th day of the leafy month of June, 1794, at Basildon, Berks, where his parents were temporarily residing during the erection of the family mansion of Coombe Lodge, in the county of Oxford, that Captain Gardiner was born. The anxious parents had then no idea of the hardships, and trials, and honours that were in store for this infant of theirs. Still less did it enter into their minds that the destinies of an entire Continent were to be blessedly affected by his life and death. Yet such was the case. And in the successive steps by which these results were to be brought about, the history of the Church of Christ affords no more striking illustration of how God in His wonder-working providence leads the blind by a way that they know not.
While yet a mere child, it is said, young Gardiner exercised his ingenuity in drawing plans for cutting the French fleet out of Rochelle harbour. .Some time afterwards he copied a small vocabulary out of Mungo Park's Travels with the idea that it might one day be serviceable to him. And "on one occasion he was found asleep on the floor when he ought to have been in bed, giving as his reason, when aroused, that it was his intention to travel all over the world, and that he wished to accustom himself to hardships." Such being the bent of the boy's mind, it was only what might have been expected that he should have chosen the Navy as his profession.
Entering the Naval College at Portsmouth on February 13, 1808, Sir George Grey being then Commissioner of the Dockyard, he remained there two years. His first experience at sea, as a youth of sixteen, was as a volunteer in the Fortune. A year later he was transferred to the Phoebe, in which he served as midshipman until 1814, when, having distinguished himself in the action between that ship and the Essex, off Valparaiso, he was selected as one of the officers to be put in charge of the prize, and was sent home in the Essex as acting-lieutenant. Thereafter he served successively in the Ganymede, in the Leander, and in the Dauntless, in which last vessel Madras, Penang, Malacca, Singapore, Macao, Trincomalee, Port Jackson, Chili and Peru were visited. Returning to China, and touching on the way at the Marquesas and Tahiti, he passed on to Sydney, from which the vessel sailed via the Cape of Good Hope to England.
It was while serving in the Dauntless that he experienced the great change, and so thorough was it that, from that time onwards to the close of his earthly existence, the glory of God in the salvation of the souls of men was his supreme ambition.
Captain Gardiner had about this time serious thoughts of entering the Christian ministry, but after correspondence with the then Bishop of Gloucester he decided, in accordance with St. Paul's words, that it was better to "abide in the same calling wherein he was called."
After his marriage in 1823, Captain Gardiner lived successively at Maidenhead, Clifton, Southsea, Reading, and in the neighbourhood of Droxford. During the years spent at these places, and while engaged to a limited extent in the active duties of his profession, in the course of which he had been raised to the position of Commander, five children were born to him. Seven years thereafter, owing to Mrs. Gardiner's failing health, it became necessary for them to remove to the Isle of Wight, when not long after she died, full of hope and peace.
Captain Gardiner now decided to abandon the Navy and devote himself to the furtherance of the Gospel as a missionary pioneer, his fortune, as well as his energies, being consecrated to that great work. With this view he proceeded to South Africa, where at the port of Durban he commenced the first mission station in Natal. As mentioned by the late Hon. Charles Brownlee, the site now occupied by that thriving town was previously a jungle, one small store only having been erected at the Point. On the Berea Hill, a suburb now covered for two or three miles with beautiful villas and gardens, Captain Gardiner provided for himself a small two-roomed wattle and daub hut. For a period of three years he was engaged in learning the language and in exploring the country as far even as Zulu-land, when the breaking out of hostilities between the Zulus and the Boers compelled him to quit the field. Within recent years it was found that the natives still had his name Zuluized into something like "Kiun-gani," or "Kangani."
Gardiner is next found on the coast of New Guinea, endeavouring to effect an entrance on that large heathen island. But the door there was closed against him, as it was also in the various islands of the Indian Archipelago, which were visited in succession, his project being strongly opposed alike by governors, magistrates, and natives. Thus baffled, he turned his steps in the direction of the Indians of the Pampas and Chili. In particular, he longed to do something for the warlike Araucanian tribes inhabiting the country lying between the Biobio at Concepcion and Valdivia. Until a few years since these tribes heroically maintained their independence against the power of Spain and the armies of Chili. Yet were they sunk in pagan darkness. It was on the occasion of his visit to Chili in the Dauntless in 1822 that his sympathies for the aborigines of the South American Continent were first excited, and the interest then felt in them was only strengthened with the lapse of years. Accordingly, in 1838, having contracted a second marriage two years before, he proceeded with his family to Rio Janeiro, thence to Buenos Ayres, and across the Pampas to Mendoza in Argentina. From this point he crossed the Cordillera into Chili, embracing a band of country from north to south lying between the Pacific Ocean and the Andes, which separate it from Bolivia, Argentina, and Patagonia, and containing a population of about 2,530,000. When within sight of the river Biobio, he thus wrote in December of that year:--
Being now within a short distance of what is generally reported as the territory of the Araucanian Indians, it was with much interest that we viewed the beautiful wooded hills on the opposite side of the Biobio; and in the hope that it might not be long before we were located among them, I hastened to make the necessary preparations for a journey of inspection, in order to acquire that information for our guidance which could not otherwise be obtained. . . .
His first endeavour was to reach the nearest independent native chief of any note, who resided at a place called Piligen, distant about twenty-four miles. An impediment, however, stood in the way. How it was overcome is best told in Gardiner's own words:--
The Biobio, still a respectable stream, and in this part exceedingly rapid, had to be crossed, and the raft, by which alone it was fordable, was adrift, and a new one had to be prepared. It consisted merely of four trunks of trees about eighteen feet long, closely lashed together by hide thongs to two transverse poles, one at each extremity, and when laden with ourselves and our saddles it was scarcely an inch, in the highest part, above the surface o£ the water. As a matter of precaution, I not only took off my shoes and stockings, but also my coat and waistcoat, a measure which seemed to be regarded by the rest of the party as by no means unnecessary; for I had scarcely stepped upon the yielding raft when an inquiry was made whether I could swim or not. But the real novelty was the method of navigation. One of my horses, which was noted as an excellent swimmer, had not escaped observation by the way, and his powers were now to be tried in a most ludicrous manner. His tail was first smoothed out, and, the hair being doubled back, was firmly knotted to the end of the tow rope; a naked lad then sprang upon his back, and in plunged the horse and his rider. By a simultaneous effort of those on the shore, the raft he was destined to tow was at the same instant pushed off into deep water. Partly by swimming, partly by riding, now on one side, now on the other of the horse, firmly grasping throughout a lock of long hair always left for this purpose, the boy succeeded, by the aid of his heels, his hand, and his voice, in urging on the half-affrighted animal until he conveyed us to the opposite bank, where he was immediately disengaged, and the raft secured by the rope until we landed.
On the way to Piligen, which was duly reached, Gardiner was met by the Chief Corbalan, who escorted him to his house and showed much hospitality. He arranged with the neighbouring chiefs to assemble on the following day as many of their people as were at hand to welcome the arrival of the missionary. Forty-five men turned out, among whom were five inferior chiefs, who each presented him with a boiled fowl. Having explained his object in desiring to settle among them, they expressed themselves in a friendly way. With the chief's consent, he selected a spot for the mission within a short distance of the chief's residence. But it had no sooner been pointed out than Gardiner was given to understand that, notwithstanding what had been said before, he could not be allowed to remain. The risk of offending a large and warlike neighbouring tribe was the reason assigned. With great regret he took his leave of Corbalan, not without an earnest desire that the time might not be far distant when the dayspring from on high might visit these Araucanian Indian tribes. That day has happily dawned, as will be shown later on.
For the next two years Gardiner is engaged in fruitless attempts to accomplish his object. A journey to Arauco, a voyage to Valdivia. and passage up the river Calle-Calle to Quinchilca, a visit to the Indians on Lake Ranco, then a long, tedious, fatiguing journey from Antilque to Cruces, and from Cruces Queule through a tangled jungle of bamboo--proceeding thereafter to Talca in the hope of crossing the Cordillera, in order to reach the Indian tribes residing on the eastern side, thence to Chiloe, in the belief that there were many Indians on the opposite side of the Cordillera, fronting Osorno and Chiloe. These various exploratory journeys, with their manifold dangers, anxieties, hardships, and numberless petty, but harassing annoyances, proved utterly barren in result, notwithstanding that he was furnished with passports and letters of introduction, and had interviews with apparently friendly chiefs and people.
It turned out that the difficulties met with in securing a settlement among the Indians were due mainly to the opposition of the Romish priests and friars, who sedulously prejudiced the natives against him. Abandoning all hope of reaching the Indian population, Captain Gardiner wit deep regret--for he had felt greatly drawn to them--quitted the shores of Chili for
THE FALKLAND ISLANDS
which, being under the British flag, seemed a likely place from which to operate on the Tierra del Fuégian territories. There, accordingly, in Berkeley Sound, he with his family anchored on December 23, 1841. A more treeless, cheerless, miserable place could hardly be imagined. It was simply a naval station, with a population of some five-and-twenty, mostly men, who were accommodated in a few scattered cottages, the best of the lot being dignified by the name of Government House!
TIERRA DEL FUÉGO.
The name Tierra del Fuego was given to this region by the early Spanish navigators, from the appearance which the entire coast presented of recent volcanic action. This, however, was mere surmise on their part, there being, it is said, no evidence to bear out the supposition.
It is doubtful whether in any part of the world, not excepting even "dreary Labrador," a more uninviting region is to be found than the most southerly portion of the South American Continent, terminating at Cape Horn. In particular, the Tierra del Fuégian Archipelago, with its innumerable small islands, has been described as "a land of darkness, a country of gloom, a scene of wild desolation"--withal so bleak and cold and tempestuous--navigation, especially in stormy weather, so intricate and dangerous--islands and mainland alike so utterly destitute of the ordinary comforts of life--food supplies so uncertain and meagre in quantity--exposed as the natives are to so many and varied dangers and privations on land and sea--living in wretched wigwams in the primeval forests, in caves, or sheltered only by overhanging rocks--and almost entirely cut off from intercourse with civilized society, as well as from friendly help, especially in time of sickness--such was the region which drew to it the missionary sympathies of this devoted man.
In the account of the voyage of the Pelican under the command of Sir Francis Drake (1578), it is stated that when for twenty-three days among the islands of Tierra del Fuego "the winds were such as if the bowels of the earth had set all at libertie." No wonder that in such a stormy sea, with broken anchors, there was no alternative but that of "committing the distressed ship and helpless men to the uncertain and rolling seas, which tossed them like a ball on a racket."
The natives of the Archipelago were until recently among the most degraded of the human race. So low indeed had they sunk that Captain Cook and Charles Darwin doubted whether they possessed what could in any proper sense be called an articulate language, their utterances being accompanied by such hoarse, guttural, jerky, and clicking sounds as to be all but unintelligible. Yet there, as in other heathen lands, missionaries have made even that barbarous language articulate, conveying to the natives through it not only secular instruction, but also the knowledge that makes wise unto salvation.
Nor was it discordant voices alone. Their stunted growth, ill-shapen figures, filthy greasy skins, long tangled hair, hideous paint-bedaubed faces, violent gestures, treacherous and pilfering habits, plundering and massacring of shipwrecked crews, and generally savage conduct--all combined to mark these Fuégians out as about the most repulsive specimens of humanity. So much so, that when the distinguished naturalist already named first beheld them he stood aghast at the spectacle, and declared his belief that they were incapable of being civilized, not to say Christianized. In his opinion they were even below some of the animal creation.
In all heathen lands man has sunk deep in his debasement. But however dark, superstitious, and degraded, there have been found in the case of most some vestiges of religion. It was not so with these Fuégians, who seemed to have lost all knowledge of the very idea of God. Their language, such as it was, contained no term expressive of the existence in any form of a Supreme Being. Yet was it to this degraded race that Captain Gardiner was by irresistible impulse from on high drawn. He had seen not a little of heathenism among various peoples in other lands. But great as were their spiritual necessities, it was those of South America that most deeply stirred his feelings of compassion. The material he had to work upon was raw certainly to the last degree. But he had the firm conviction that, notwithstanding their deep debasement, the Fuégians and Patagonians had minds capable of being enlightened, and souls of being saved, and hearts of being purified, and that, as nothing was too hard for the Lord, they might yet by the Spirit's grace have the Divine image stamped upon them, and become living epistles of Christ, known and read of all men. In the sequel it will be seen how far the gallant Captain's convictions have been realized.