Project Canterbury











Published for



S. P. C. K.



Transcribed by the Right Reverend Dr. Terry Brown
Bishop of Malaita, Church of the Province of Melanesia, 2008

H. L. M. C.





THE year 1949 is the Centenary of the Church in Melanesia. It was in 1849 that Bishop George Augustus Selwyn, the first (and only) Bishop of all New Zealand, visited some of the Islands in a 21-ton yacht, the Undine. Mrs. Selwyn was wont to tell how she was awakened at midnight by the sound of excited voices in a strange tongue. Her husband had sailed his ship into Auckland Harbour by night, and arrived at his house, St. John's College, Auckland, with the first Melanesian boys to make the great adventure.

In 1854-5 Bishop Selwyn visited England, and returned to New Zealand with John Coleridge Patteson, whose name is enshrined as no other in Melanesian history. On St. Matthias Day, 1861, he was consecrated in St. Paul's Church, Auckland, to be the first Bishop of Melanesia. A full account of his life and work may be found in the Life of Bishop Patteson, by Miss Charlotte Yonge.

Bishop Patteson was joined by a small group of men, scholarly and deeply devoted, and together they laid the foundations of the Church in Melanesia. Bishop Patteson was himself a gifted linguist, and the Rev. R. H. Codrington even more so. Both had a reverence for native outlook and culture, and took infinite pains to bring the Gospel to Melanesia in a tongue "understanded of the people ". To their patient scholarship and sympathetic intimacy with their first Melanesian pupils, the present generation owe the translation of the whole Bible into the Mota lingua franca.

For many years all the Central Schools of the Mission, for boys, girls, and men, were at Norfolk Island. But during Bishop Steward's episcopate the move was finally made from Norfolk Island, and the Mission Headquarters established in the Central Solomons. There are now many centres of missionary education and medical work in a Diocese 2,000 miles long.

The "School Island", Bunana, is a tiny part of this great whole. It stands at the southern entrance to Tulagi Harbour [vii/viii] in the British Solomon Islands. Its whole extent is only 160 acres, but it has had a distinguished place in Melanesian history long before these chapters open. We hear of it first as a notable centre of shark worship. Part of the sacred grove of casuarina trees still stands, though many have been cut down for firewood, and because they had grown over-tall and were dangerous in a high wind. Even as late as the end of the 1930s a superstitious awe still hung about those casuarinas, and the Sisters were warned by their Gela neighbours that it would be unlucky to chop down any more of them!

Bunana became the property of the Melanesian Mission when Bishop Wilson purchased it for £10. The Gela people, now Christian, no longer desired to offer sacrifices to sharks upon its north-eastern shore, yet most would have hesitated to spend a night upon it. In the years that followed it has been well purged of its old associations. On the sands, once the centre of fear and heathen sacrifice, happy Christian children have played their games and sung their evening hymns, and Grace Delight has spent her blissful half-hours before bedtime.

Many Melanesian men, now of middle age, leading faithful Christian lives in obscure corners of the Solomon Islands, many too who are now the chief leaders of their people, look back to Bunana as the cradle of all that is best in their lives; for it was on Bunana that the Rev. R. P. Wilson and Miss Ellen Wilson established the School for boys which has borne fruit out of all proportion to its numbers and duration.

The Big House, now one of the casualties of war, was built with part of the offering made in St. Paul's Cathedral, London, in connexion with the first Pan-Anglican Congress. The large offering was devoted to missionary educational work in many parts of the world, and the portion for Melanesia started the School Island on its career.

Later on, schools for boys were established elsewhere, and Bunana became the inheritance of the girls. Miss Wench had brought the first girls' school in the Solomons through its early [xiii/ix] difficulties at Boromoli and Siota, and when Bunana became vacant, she urged the needs of the girls with such persistence that Bunana was given for them, at first temporarily, but finally without reserve.

The days recorded in the chapters that follow begin in August 1936, when the Community of the Cross was asked to take over the care of Bunana. But the peaceful life of the School Island, like that of many another happy home, was broken up by the war. The first Japanese to land there were sailors swimming ashore on the morning of 3 May 1942, when American carrier-based planes swooped down over the mountains of Guadalcanal, and took a Japanese fleet totally by surprise. On 7 August, when the Marines attacked the enemy on Guadalcanal, Tulagi, and Gavutu, the School Island was even more in the field of action. But before these things happened, the people of whom you read in these chapters were over the hills and far away, though most of them not so very far away. Now, some are back again on the Island, working to repair the devastation and open the way for a new School Village.


The songs in Chapter VII are a tiny part of much, much more that we owe to the Dohnavur Fellowship. The "Nursery Song" is also theirs, adapted with Amma's permission.

Native words. Every letter is pronounced, and the vowels are as in Italian. The italicized n has the "ng" sound as in "singer".

The designs at the end of the chapters are traditional sand patterns of Aoba and Raga in the New Hebrides. Children trace these patterns on the sand, marking out the "skeleton" first with lines or spots, and then tracing the pattern with the first two fingers. Some patterns are representations of living creatures; others have a story attached. In most cases the fingers trace the pattern continuously, in wavy lines and circles, and are not lifted until the pattern is complete.

The drawings are by Sister Veronica of the Cross.



Lo! God hath shown me, down the distant years,
The sons' sons of our sons, and their sons' sons,
Yea, and their daughters, faring overseas,
To other lands and other isles than these,
Lands of strange growth, and isles of balmy heat;
And there, too, islands set apart for schools,
And there, too, Christ's dear Name and beauty taught
By men sent forth like us.

St. Aidan in the Iona Scene of the Patteson Pageant: presented at the Diocesan High School, Auckland, on the fiftieth anniversary of the death of John Coleridge Patteson, first Bishop of Melanesia.

SEVEN o'clock on a lovely morning, and the Island lay bathed in sunshine--it was one of those perfect days, frequent in the south-east season, when even eight degrees from the Equator the temperature would not rise above 86 degrees. The fresh south-east trade wind was already blowing steadily, ruffling the blue sea channel between the eastern shore and the mainland of Gela, named Florida by the Spanish discoverers of the sixteenth century.

Just round the corner, facing north, the little bay in front of the School village was calm and clear. Beyond the rocky bluff there would be rough water breaking on the tiny islet named Pukunimbua by right, but "our full-stop" by affection. It was satisfactory, however, that the bay was calm, for this was a day of expectation. Akanina--"Our Ship" was due to arrive at any moment from dawn onwards. Here, too, was a title of affection. Officially she was the Southern Cross, the seventh of her name given by England for the service of Melanesia.

[2] Final preparations were going on all over the School village. Everything must be in complete readiness, for ships are impatient creatures, always anxious to be off. There would be new girls on board from many islands, for the Southern Cross had been her rounds, putting some down here, taking on others there, ministering to small isolated parts of the flock, giving such medical attention as was possible on a flying visit, taking on board cases for the Hospital, dropping stores and mail at the main centres.

There would be sadness at her departure, for she would take away a little group whose days on the Island were over, and it is hard to say good-bye, even though the school years have given fresh courage and hope for the business of life. Boxes and bundles were piled ready on the beach. How amusing it had been when Sister produced all the exercises they had ever written, even the first stumbling attempts, in small four-lined books, when they were only just learning to write script. There was the first tiny model skirt, too, when they were learning to sew, and many a piece of handwork and written work done since. Most precious of all was the record of the Gospel lessons given in the top class. These notes would not only remind the pupil herself of lessons learnt in happy fellowship, but they would almost certainly be used by her village teacher for the refreshment of his own soul and the preparation of his teaching.

All was now ready. The last loving exhortations had been given, and that morning there had been special meaning in the Prayer for Old Girls, repeated slowly in unison:

Keep, O Lord, in Thy love and discipline, all who were trained in our School; that seeking Thee with honest hearts they may be used of Thee for Thy service; to the glory of the Father. Amen.

"There she is!" No doubt about it--coming from the north of Guadalcanal. She must have been putting down schoolboys at Maravovo. Swiftly her white bulk loomed larger. She was doing her full seven knots, and there was no [2/3] lordly Burns Philp vessel about to dwarf her dignity, or to flash messages of friendly impudence such as, "Keep us in sight during the night!"

Now she was dropping anchor in the quiet bay. Down came the ship's boat and the gangway. The boat's crew were handling a motley collection of cargo, and down the gangway straggled a rather forlorn-looking group. Last came a broad bronzed figure, and the word was given to push off.

"Rather more than a quiver-full this time!" called the Bishop cheerily, as the boat grounded on the white sand. "There are more than you bargained for, but you know the need, and I just could not refuse them."

However there was no doubt of their welcome as the flock of new girls waded ashore. Almost every island in the Central and Southern Solomons was represented in the School, and there was only one new girl who had no fellow countryman to seize her by the hand--Helena--a wild-looking figure from Ontong Java, the largest coral atoll in the world. She was the first girl to come away to the School from that picturesque but terrible place. Yet even for her there were distant cousins, for the people of Ontong Java are Polynesian, not Melanesian, and so also were the schoolgirls from Sikaiana and Tikopeia. Three different branches of the Polynesian race and language were now represented in the School. With much laughter, and a certain amount of guesswork, they could "get through" to Helena, and make her feel less strange.

At the same time, other happy reunions were taking place in the shade of the big tree by the shore. A diminutive little person from San Cristoval, with sparkling eyes and the topknot coiffure of that island, was being cherished by some even more bright-eyed compatriots. A group of squat and sturdy Malaita girls were busy gathering another into their midst. Two tall shy giants from the Reef Islands were finally claimed by another shy giant.

Those two with the blackened sack of native almonds were from Savo. The nuts had been carefully dried over a smoky [3/4]

[5] fire for months. Those others, with only very small bundles, and well-worn clothes, were from Guadalcanal. Poorer than most in this world's goods, but generous-minded, sensible, and teachable they would no doubt be, like others from that Island.

But the most attractive group is landing now, and the School for a moment drops its other preoccupations to rejoice with them. It is Rosemary, returned from a six months' holiday, and with her three new girls from her island of Ugi. She introduces them, Susanna, Hilda, and Helen. "Susanna is small," she apologizes, "but she knows her letters and she can write a little. I've been teaching her, so that she could come back to school with me."

Very soon it was time for good-byes: the ship was in a hurry. Coloured handkerchiefs, reserved for such occasions, were produced; red, blue, green, yellow, white, and mauve. As the boat moved off, all waved these gay handkerchiefs rhythmically and sang, to a lilting Indian melody:

Good-bye, good-bye, to all of you,
May you go your ways in peace;
Good-bye, good-bye, to all of you,
Our love will never cease.
May God protect you, and His love enfold,
His Spirit guide you, and His power hold;
O follow, for He leads to joys untold,
In His presence is fullness of joy.

After this, new girls were led away by their young guardians, who helped them unroll their bed mats, and unpack their few belongings. Then they all cooked a delicious meal picnic fashion on the hot stones and embers in their play-huts--yam pudding mixed with coconut cream and wrapped in green leaves, toasted crab-claws, and shell fish garnished with a particularly luscious green seaweed. Cooking being an occupation familiar to every Melanesian girl from babyhood, everyone now felt comfortably at home.

[6] Then came a splash in the blue waters, followed by attendance at the dispensary. The Sister in charge of the dispensary and her three girl assistants would be busy every day for the next many weeks, clearing up skin complaints, symptoms of the poor health of too many home villages. But the time would come when ulcers would be healed, and dull unhealthy skins take on the smooth gloss of the average schoolgirl. Before the bell rang for Evensong each new girl was clothed like the others in the school uniform. Though this was only a short scarlet or check skirt, it filled them with a shy pride and pleasure, and made them feel that they had already taken their place in the School.




Lord, temper with tranquillity
Our manifold activity,
That we may do our work for Thee
With very great simplicity.

ABOVE the dark line of Gela hills to the east, the Morning Star is growing dim in the pale light that precedes the dawn. In ten minutes no star will be visible, so swiftly does light come, and fade, in these latitudes: ten minutes more and the sky will be aglow.

There is a stirring in the Big House. It is not missed by the sharp ears of' the girls in the two dormitories. Most of them are off their mats before the first clang of the bell. Then a few moments of silence, while each and all commit the opening day into the Hands of the Lord of all good life.

The new girls bestir themselves more slowly. Village life is seldom a business that requireth haste. Each shy newcomer finds a friend at her side, and they hasten off to the shore for the morning dip in the warm sea water. With lemon and sand for soap, and home-made wooden combs with four-inch teeth, they are soon well groomed, and ready to go into Chapel for the morning worship at sunrise. There, in common with every faithful Melanesian villager, they "come before His presence with a song ".

Melanesian comb

Then there is breakfast in the Dining [7/8] Hall, at home-made tables for seven. Some girls have a remnant of yesterday's feast, and most have a half-coconut and a shell scraper. This helps to make more appetising the large flat girdle scones, cooked the afternoon before on a long iron slab. They are made from sharps, coconut milk, salt, and soda.

Breakfast over, it is yet only seven o'clock, and the day will not be really hot till nine. These two hours are ideal for the outdoor work of what is really a small farm, supplying not only fresh food for the young farmers, but the discipline of steady work, corporate activity, and thankful care for the resources of nature. The "Fall in" for work sounds, and the teams sort themselves under their various leaders. All will be hard at it now for two hours.

The blast of the conch shell brings a joyous answering shout, spades and hoes are speedily returned to their niches, grass skirts, donned for digging, are exchanged for the brief garments used for bathing and sounds of "beating the sea" come up from the bathing pool. Only long practice can produce that desirable drumming sound, and there is not much time for perfecting the art just now; some must hurry to the dispensary, for soon there will be a whistle to go into school. Lessons occupy the hotter part of the day.

Let us look into each of the schoolrooms during this hot steamy morning. It is pleasant to come out of the white glare into the cool of a native-built house. The sago-palm thatch roof is beautifully cool, and walls of the same leaf give plenty of ventilation. The floor is white sand, and most of the desks and seats are home-made from old packing cases.

A chant in monotone is emerging from Class l, where a few new girls are being taught the elements of reading in a phonetic native language:

aka-- a: epa--e: iga--i: one--o: uwa--u:

then: la le li lo lu

[9] We go in to see a patient Melanesian Sister helping her pupils to see the connexion between the vowel chart she has drawn on the blackboard, and the picture she has drawn above each vowel to suggest its sound. Aka--a ship--suggests the sound of the first vowel, and so on.

You will ask, "But how does the teacher make herself understood? Her pupils come from half a dozen different islands, and speak as many languages." There you have touched on a central and ever-recurrent problem of education in the Pacific Islands. Sixteen different languages are represented on the School Island alone, and that by no means, exhausts all the languages of the Solomon group.

The language in which this class is being taught is not actually that of any one of the pupils, nor of the teacher. It is the language of Mota, a small island in the Banks group, chosen by Bishop Patteson in the 1860s as the lingua franca for the Melanesian Mission. A precious heritage it has been indeed, linking island with island and European with native, the language of friendship, as pidgin English is the language of business. Many of the girls have learnt to "hear" it, if not to speak it, in their home villages, and all will be sufficiently familiar with it for essential daily use in a few weeks.

We pass on to Class 2. They are so absorbed that they don't notice our entrance. Half the class is busy arranging specimens from the sea-shore. Others are cutting out traced drawings of large crabs, colouring them with orange spots, and pasting them into their Seashore Books. On the wall is a large frieze of tropical fish in all their many colours, and underneath is a big sand tray, which is the centre of most of the activity. There is abundance of coral; reef coral, red-organ-pipe, mushroom, lace, and star coral. Shells too, in plenty: cowrie with their highly polished browns and golds; trochus shell, the shell of commerce from which so many buttons are made; nautilus, the beautiful fine mother-of-pearl from which the tiny pieces for inlay work are cut; even a big clam shell, rescued from a considerable depth by a good diver.

[10] One child has contributed a few turtle eggs from her find in the hot sand. They look like a row of ping-pong balls. The whole School has already shared in the feast: there were well over a hundred of them in the one nest. Another has brought some hermit crab shells and a few small pieces of sponge and pumice. Another produces the cast-off skins of a sea-horse and a crayfish, and yet another has carefully dried a blue star-fish, which still retains a little of its original bright blue.

We decide that Class 2 are fully occupied with their own affairs, and go on to Class 3. This is the "middle school". The technical difficulties of reading and writing in Mota have been already mastered. The pupils can now use these arts as tools for exploring further into the wonders of life, reading what others have experienced, and making their own small records.

This morning they are studying the life history of a peanut. They are writing notes in simple English, and drawing diagrams with the help of a Melanesian Sister, who has attended a previous course of similar lessons, made her own notes, and then practised giving the lessons in the time before school reserved for "teaching the teacher".

Now let us visit Class 4, who are having a Geography lesson with Sister Gwen. They are learning about the Eskimo, and the way he adapts himself to his environment, so different from their own. The teaching is now almost entirely in English, but it is at this stage that the full advantage of the background of a common native language is seen. The teacher is able to form her sentences simply, with the minimum of idiom, having in mind the native sentence construction; and the pupils, saved some of the confusion of our complicated tongue, are able to translate back with confidence into the familiar Mota.

We stay for a moment to admire the ingenuity of their Eskimo model. The igloo is built up round aa circular coconut shell, the snow blocks being made of lime and glue. There is [10/11] glass ice, and plenty of snow--powdered lime made of burnt coral. The dogs and sledge are of plasticine, the kayak of brown paper, and there are some attractive Eskimo figures pasted on three-ply wood and carefully cut out with a fret-saw.

Let us now go on to Class 5. They frequently share lessons with Class 4, but this morning they are having a class with Sister Veronica on the big shady verandah overlooking the school quadrangle. These are the senior girls. Most of them have been at school for four or five years. Soon they will be going home to face the full responsibilities of adult life. Their final course is a varied one, adapted year by year to their capabilities and needs.

To-day they are having a history lesson, of sorts. An English family has been traced through its changing generations, from a simplicity of life not so very different from Melanesian life to-day, through a medieval village, to the modern Mr. Smith, a motor mechanic, with his wife and family. A large scrap-book of pictures illustrates their daily activities. Nothing is of greater interest to educated Melanesians than the normal activities of English people.

An insurance company's advertisement supplies a poignant moment in the Smiths' experiences. Mr. Smith is obviously distraught with anxiety. His pretty wife is concerned chiefly for her husband's peace of mind, and is speaking soothing words. To-day's lesson explains the matter for concern, not as the insurance company intended.

The family accounts are being balanced. The Melanesian girls are first of all staggered at the wealth of their weekly income, and then still more staggered at the amazing list of their necessary expenses: ground rent, house rent, water rates, electric light dues, taxes, road rates, purchase of coal and other fuel, Lucy's school bills, books, and school uniform, John's football subscription, Mr. Smith's daily bus fare, doctor's and dentist's bills, the cost of house and furniture repairs, accounts due to the grocer, the butcher, the bootmaker, and the draper.

[12] When all these expenses have been met, the balance is so small that Mr. Smith finds he cannot afford to take his family for a seaside holiday this year. This tragedy produces "A-wo's" of sympathy from the Melanesian schoolgirls. It has never dawned on them before that the pleasure of playing in the sea, which they enjoy at least three times a day, has, in some countries, to be paid for by the careful economy of the parents.

As the schoolgirls compare the life of this English family, which they had thought so rolling in wealth, with their own experience, they begin to realize that, in all the essential provisions for life, they are blest indeed. Land is freely theirs, as much and more than they need. Houses, food, and firewood await only a reasonable amount of work and forethought. Water is there to be carried from the spring or river. Weekly work on the main roads, shared by all the villages which use them, keeps the tracks sufficiently open. Medical attention is a gift to them from Government and Mission. Their schooling, too, is a gift made possible by the contributions of hundreds of people like the Smith family. Only their cotton garments and their few precious books must be bought with silver shillings, and even these can sometimes be bartered for with yams and taro, eggs and fowls, or fish and fruit. They realize now why it is that English people must have such apparently lavish wages, for it is not all pocket-money, as in the case of their own fathers and brothers, whose essential needs are provided for apart from wages. It almost seems to them as though only the air is provided free in some lands!

While we are sympathizing with the Smith family, a whistle blows. It is the signal for a change of lesson. The last lesson this morning is singing, and for that all assemble in "Big School", and seat themselves on the long low benches according to whether they sing treble, alto, or a descant. Mother Margaret takes up her pointer and the class begins with some sol-fa practice. Now they sing "Our Home". It goes to the tune of "Drink to me only with thine eyes".

[13] 1. I now will sing a song to you
About my Home so dear;
'Tis built of wood and sago palm,
Not very far from here.
My father and his many friends
Went to the bush to find
The trees and creepers, leaves and reeds,
Put there by God so kind.

2. They buried deep the six strong trees,
On which the roof must stand,
Tall ones for centre, front and back,
Short ones on either hand.
Then many days they made the thatch,
All sitting in the shade,
And piled it up to wait until
Enough of it was made.

3. The rafters next, of bent bamboo,
On to the beams they tied,
And from the bottom tied the thatch,
First one, then th'other side.
On top of all a fine roof ridge,
Then walls, windows and door,
And last of all tables and beds,
And clean sand on the floor.

4. So now each day we sweep the house,
And keep it nice and clean;
No dust, no dirt, no old cobwebs
Can anywhere be seen;
Nice pictures hang upon the walls,
And good books will increase,
best of all, within my Home
Is love and .joy and peace.

The song is hardly finished, when eyes wander to the doorway, and a smile ripples over the assembled company. Mother Margaret turns round to find a tiny figure behind her. It is [13/14] Grace Delight, escaped from the Nursery at the sound of singing. She is standing ready with shining eyes, but suitable solemnity. She has picked up a little reed en route, and now plants her pointer firmly, if promiscuously on the blackboard, and sounds the key-note "Doh". It is part of the game that the whole School obediently responds, and Grace Delight, satisfied, takes her place at the end of a much gratified row of girls. After a few more songs in Mota and English, the singing lesson is over, and Grace Delight is duly returned to the Nursery.

Sprouting Coconut

It is now twelve o'clock and time for lunch. Rice has been cooked and left to steam. While that is being served, everyone [14/15] runs off to get a rara to eat with it. Coconuts have been put down in the shade to sprout. When, after three months, the sprout is about eighteen inches high, there is a white "apple" (the vara) inside. This feeds the growing shoot. It is a light and nourishing food, and is part of regular School diet.

Stinging ant



When Jesus was a Carpenter,
He held the saw and adze,
And learnt to work hard day by day,
Like other simple lads;
So let us not grow weary
Of honest work and sweat,
Remembering that a better Brow
Than ours was often wet.


THE two hours after midday are usually blazingly hot. This, however, is no hindrance to these children of the sunshine if their desires run in the direction of a fish or a crab. The sea, which feels warm in the early morning, seems cool and refreshing at noon. An equally pleasant pastime is nutting in the large shady trees. Few, if any, have the European desire to rest in company with a book.

At 2.15 activities begin again, so let us continue our round of the different classes and groups. They will all be busy at some form of handwork. It is Thursday. Yesterday was a half-holiday, but to-day we shall find Class 1 learning to handle a needle and having their first sewing lesson. Under the big banyan tree near by, Class 3 are making pandanus leaf mats, under the guidance of one of the Melanesian Sisters. The leaves have been drying in the sun for some days. A few girls are stretching them, making them soft, flat, and pliable, and others are doing the weaving.

Class 2 are with another Melanesian Sister down by the shore. They are learning to make string from the bark of the hibiscus tree. Retting is the first stage. The long strips of [16/17] bark have been in the sea for four or five days, and they will now be soft and workable, with all the sticky juices rotted and washed away, leaving the fine tough fibres which the girls are lifting carefully from the heavy stones pinning them to the sea bed. They will spread the fibre in the sun, and when it is dry, twist it into long threads for three-ply string.

Class 4 are also under a shady tree. They are making a kind of raffia from banana stems, and some are preparing brown dye of casuarina bark, and yellow turmeric from the ginger root. If you were to come back to the School Island in a few weeks, you would see the finished article, a charming native skirt, dyed brown and yellow, with a woven belt of fine pandanus strands.

Class 5 we shall find to-day in their schoolroom, writing up their song books. Many of the hymns and songs they learn at school have been written or adapted specially for them, and beside these there is a large variety culled from many sources, and from books to which they cannot have access. It is the delight of the children to write these out, with the sol-fa tunes beside them. A few of the more advanced can work out the sol-fa for themselves from the staff notation, though they understand nothing of the music except that the last sharp is always "te", and the last flat always "fah".

When the schoolgirls go home to their villages, these song books will be a great treasure. Few in a village have either lamps or kerosene, but all love to sit round a blazing fire and learn a new song, or sing over and over again some old favourite. Two very small children were once heard singing together for the thousandth time a song they had recently learnt. When asked why, they explained that their mothers had charged them to learn all the new songs very thoroughly, "because you must teach us when you come home".

"And if we don't know them well," said the dutiful pair, "they will be mero aneane--very cross."
By 3.30 the afternoon heat has become less intense, and there is another "Fall in" for an hour's work. The cooks [17/18] have their own special responsibilities, but for the others it is a popular job to-day. All are going to collect seaweed for manuring the gardens. The older girls carry the small fleet of canoes into the sea. They are going to paddle to the opposite Gela shore, whence the canoes will return piled high with the odorous but priceless manure. Every pair of diving glasses is requisitioned, and the cheerful parties paddle off. The younger ones collect a different variety of seaweed from near the Island shore. This, though less exciting than a real canoe expedition, is a cool and pleasant occupation.

Diving glasses

At 4.30 the conch-shell sounds the "cease work", and everyone concentrates on removing from her person the slime and smell of the richer types of seaweed. At this point a piece of scented soap is produced, and the girls cluster round the big cement tank with a row of buckets.

"Thank you, New Zealand!" says one girl, as she sniffs appreciatively at her lathered hands. She has recognized the soap as part of an Auckland tuck box which she helped to

[19] The next item on the day's timetable is attendance at the dispensary. There are two doors and a window, and each of these has its queue. At the window are those who have to drink medicine--quinine, cough mixture, or tonic. One of the Melanesian Sisters carefully measures these medicines. The first doorway admits to two exalted thrones made of packing cases, and each throne has its attendant from the top class. The occupant of a throne stretches out a bare foot to have sores and scratches dressed.

The other door has a queue for skin trouble. These are almost exclusively new girls. Some can rub on their own medicine, but all must have their names ticked off. Some of the young with unmedical minds and many interests are apt to think this a duty which can be skipped when convenient. Sister Madeline stands unobtrusively in the background. To her go girls with eye and ear trouble or anything else out of the ordinary routine.

The sun is by this time setting over the soft purple of the Guadalcanal mountains; a flaming sunset is lighting up both sky and sea. Such beauty is normally taken for granted by these children who see it so often, but some of them are beginning to observe with new eyes, through their own attempts to capture something of its beauty with pastels in a weekly drawing lesson.

The Church bell rings. The elder babies come joyfully from the Nursery. They are admitted to the sandy rear of the Chapel at Evensong, on condition of tolerably good behaviour. The girls file silently into their places. Even for those who cannot fully join in the service, not yet knowing the language, something sinks into their sub-conscious minds.

Supper is now ready. The cooks carry down the big wooden food bowls, and serve the evening meal of sweet potato and beans. Only an hour after this before bedtime, and once a week on fine nights there is "story time" on the wide sandy beach near the big tree. This evening Mother Margaret is [19/20] continuing from last week the lovely story of Arulai from Ploughed Under. A fire of driftwood lights up the circle, and gleaming eyes and still figures show how the story holds them. To some it is no more than a thrilling--and a true--story. All the stories they are told are true. At this stage of civilization and education, phantasy may be more confusing than enchanting, and nothing is more full of wonder than the truth.

There are some in the circle whose experience helps them to understand the background of the life of this Indian girl. To, them the end of the story may bring the dawning of a new ideal. For one, a Melanesian Sister, the story is in many ways a parallel to her own.

The story will continue for many a week, but it is bedtime now. Those who rise with the dawn sleep early and soundly. Before wending their way to the dormitories they sing softly their evening hymn, to the beautiful Welsh tune, "Ar hyd y nos".

God, who madest earth and Heaven,
Darkness and light;
Who the day for toil hast given,
For rest the night;
May Thine Angel-guards defend us,
Slumber sweet Thy mercy send us,
Holy dreams and hopes attend us,
All through the night.





"Croak, croak, croak!
Do you like your folk?"
"YES!" says the little jackdaw.


THIS chapter begins before the Community of the Cross went to the School Island. It was January 1936 at Siota. All night long the surf had been banging against the sea wall that protected the shore inside the wide reef. The usually tidy paths were strewn with leaves and coconut fronds. It was barely light, when a discreet cough on the verandah announced a visitor.

"Who is there?"


"Who's me?"

"John Selwyn."

"John Selwyn from where?" (Almost every village has one.)

"Salesapa. I want Mother."

Mother recognized an old friend, an ex-Maravovo schoolboy, who had for a few months been her pupil, a short but strongly built young man of about twenty-two. There was a look of anxiety behind his quiet Melanesian reserve. The trouble was his sister, the mother of twin babies, who was seriously ill. The boy had been walking since midnight along the fifteen miles of winding bush paths to ask for help.

While a hot breakfast was hastily cooked for the wet and weary boy, Sister Madeleine collected her medical kit, and Mother Margaret went off to consult with Bishop Dickinson, who was at the time in charge of the Siota College for village [21/22] teachers. The College men, when they heard what the trouble was, were full of concern. A journey by canoe would be much the speedier, they judged, and the sea was possible, though hardly comfortable. So they organized a crew, and the party set off. They would try the short cut, and if the canoe could shoot over the reef successfully, all should be well.

Most of Siota stood on the shore to watch this happen. The canoe was lifted high on a curling wave, the crew paddled like mad--cheers! they were over! Rapidly they disappeared round the point on the way to Salesapa.

Sister Madeleine tried to glean a few medical details. They were not reassuring; the chief hope lay in speed. John Selwyn had taken the matter into his own hands, and come for help on his own initiative, as soon as he saw that the grandmothers of the village were inadequate for the occasion. It was unlikely, Sister Madeleine gathered, that the old ladies would welcome her with open arms.

These forebodings were correct. As the canoe swung into the little sheltered bay, there was not a soul in sight; not a man was there to receive them. No one remarked it, but everyone knew that natural courtesy had succumbed to the women's tongues. Gela women have only one weapon, but it is a very effective one. John Selwyn, considerably embarrassed, helped the College men to haul up the canoe, and then conducted Sister Madeleine to his sister's house. The door was shut and firmly bolted, and there was no window. But if an Englishman's home is his castle, so is a Melanesian's hut. Professional jealousy preferred to sit in stuffy darkness than to admit strange "customs", and possibly adverse criticism.

Very apologetically, John Selwyn asked Sister if she would mind sitting under a tree, while he went and talked to the men in their meeting house.

"It is not for me to teach my elders," said the young man modestly, "but I do know these white women, and I have seen that they have much skill in sickness. When I was at Maravovo, Mrs. Warren saved the lives of some of my friends [22/23]

[24] when they were very ill. They would have died in their villages. Moreover she was very kind to them. This Sister has been trained in the same way, and she has taken a lot of trouble to come here to-day. We do not want to be ashamed of our village manners. She should at least be allowed into the house".

Convicted of discourtesy, a few of the braver men held a palaver with the women, and passed on these reasonable considerations. Presently the inside bars were removed, the door lifted aside, and Sister Madeleine was silently admitted.

She soon saw that the village medicos had done their worst, and that it was probably too late to save the woman's life. But comfort and relief she could give. While she worked, with quick skill and gentleness, the old women looked on. Afterwards they would compare notes, and not a word, not a movement, not a flicker of expression would have escaped their keenly observant eyes. It would be counted unto her for righteousness that there had been no hint of reproach for their ignorant but well-meaning efforts, and her delight in the newborn twins was a thing every woman in the village could appreciate.

When all had been done that was possible (in those days before sulfa drugs were available to missionaries) the College men paddled Sister Madeleine home again. Three days later John Selwyn came through to Siota to report that his sister was in a very high fever. He took back medicine for her, though all hope of saving her life had now gone. In two days he came again. His sister had died, and one thing she had asked of him when she knew that she was going.

"My brother, when I die go at once to the Sisters. Ask them to look after my babies; I do not want them to die too."

Here was a new problem. It had to be quickly considered, but there could be only one answer. The gusty weather of the last few days had by now blown up into a gale and a canoe journey was out of the question. Could the launch do it? The crew said it could and would. Mother Margaret went [24/25] this time. She found a very different atmosphere, and a warm welcome. All the district had gathered for the funeral. The two tiny babies were being comforted by their grandmothers, shrewd old ladies who welcomed Mother as an ally. The twins were a great contrast from the first; one very dark and lively with little bird-like eyes; the other fair and round with a moon-like face and eyes like deep clear pools.

"Uncle Selwyn" had no cause for embarrassment this time as he brought the father and the Chief to consult with Mother Margaret and the grandmothers. Yes, it was true, the mother's dying request had been that the Sisters would care for the babies. Would the Sisters take them? Gladly would they take them, said Mother Margaret, until they needed milk no longer and could come back to their village. The Sisters would buy the milk, and show the Helpers and Melanesian Sisters how to look after the babies. But the father must remember his responsibilities. He should visit the babies, and bring gifts of food from his garden to help those who looked after them.

This arrangement was fairly well carried out, but Uncle Selwyn came much more often than the father, and watched with faithful dumb affection the growth of his little nieces.* [*John Selwyn's great interest in his sister's babies is explained by the fact that in Melanesia a man's sister's children are more closely related to him than are his own. A man and wife are always of different "divisions ". The children follow the mother's division.] The bird-like one was named Isolda, and her more passive sister Naomi.

Isolda and Naomi, and soon afterwards Mollie and Jane from Polomuhu and Belaga, became unconscious educational assets for the whole district. The boys and girls of the large day school, then flourishing at Siota, carried the details of the Nursery far and wide. They learnt to sing the Nursery Song, and their favourite playtime occupation was to creep on to the deep verandah of the leaf nursery, and "love" the babies, sleeping or waking.


1. There was snow on the hearts of the children of men,
There was cold like the cold of snow,
When the Child came down to Bethlehem town,
And asked for a place to go.
But they said, "Nay, we have no Nursery";
So He went to the place where the oxen be,
For they said they had no other Nursery.

2. But the dear good beasts they were glad and proud,
And did their Creator know,
And they wondered then at the ways of men,
That they should treat Him so.
And they said, "Ah, we have a poor Nursery,
But O He is welcome as welcome can be."
And they gave Him their straw for His Nursery.

3. But afterwards some of the children of men
Were sorry when they did know
How sore was the sin when men went to the inn,
And left Jesus with nowhere to go.
And they said, "Will He bless our Nursery,
For motherless babies who need one we see?"
And Jesus said, "Surely you do it for Me."

Visitors arrived at all hours to see for themselves, and they were always welcome. The most ordinary practices of an old-fashioned English Nursery were hailed with astonishment and delight.

"Look, they give them water to drink! We never do!"

"Boiled water," explained Sister Madeleine.

"Don't they ever cry?"

"Not very often," said Sister Madeleine,"but Naomi is beginning to cry now; she is tired of lying on her back and wants to be turned over."

"But you surely don't let them lie on their faces!" said the shocked visitors. "It is not our custom,"

[27] However, they watched Naomi's face uncrease into contentment as she sprawled Mowgli-like, and presently dropped her head and went peacefully to sleep.

"Come and look at Jane in her hammock," said the Helper whose special baby she was. "It is cooler and more comfortable than on someone's back. It is made of three yards of calico, and we tie it just so. It is the way they do it in South India. Dohnavur taught us. Look, Jane is smiling; she is saying, 'Thank you, Dohnavur!'"

"And they sleep when they are told to. It is very remarkable!" said one of the village matrons. The Helper laughed. "Sometimes they are naughty," she said. "Last Sunday we took Naomi and Isolda to Church in their little cart, and left them to sleep at the back of the Church. They had been fed, and it was time for them to sleep, but Naomi cried very loudly, and Mother had to take her outside and pat her to sleep."

At this excellent joke everyone laughed so heartily that Naomi opened a startled eye. One touch of nature makes the whole world kin, and apparently even the best-conducted babies are sometimes embarrassing to their mothers!

In August 1936 came a day of great exodus. The call came suddenly to move to the School Island, and the roots of seven years had to be pulled up in a few days. In the delightful way that things happen sometimes, the latest arrival at Siota was a master mariner, Mr. Hill. He could do things with a launch and two copra barges that no one else thought possible. It was an exhilarating sight for those who went in the first contingent, to see the launch with its two appendages sweeping round the point, hung with pots and pans and laden with all sorts of miscellaneous equipment from sections of leaf houses to hammers and tin-tacks.

The babies came with the last load, when a make-shift abode had been hastily prepared for them. Isolda rode triumphantly ashore on Mr. Hill's shoulder. Infant appreciation being the same all the world over, she was doubtless [27/28] thinking the same thoughts as four-year old Princess Margaret of J. M. Barrie: "I know that man. He is my best friend, and I'm his best friend."

For the next five years, until war in the Pacific scattered the school and nursery, one motherless baby after another was gathered into the family life of the School island. Many a home-sick new girl has smiled her first smile nursing dimpled Robin, or satin-skinned Mallory, stout Willoughby or the unblinking Pamela; here at least was something familiar and lovable. The older girls who were trained in the Nursery are now bringing up their own babies in the same way. Grace Delights have multiplied; the name has even spread to at least two islands in the New Hebrides.

When, five years after the evacuation, some of the Community returned to repair the desolation, almost the first visits were to their old babies. They steeled themselves for the inevitable shrieks at the approach of white strangers, but it was not so.

"They can't possibly remember us," said Mother Margaret, charmed, as Premie settled herself confidently in her lap; Jane, bustling and competent, set about making a native pudding; and Mollie cracked nuts for her delectation. "Yet they are not a bit afraid."

"Of course they are not afraid," said their gratified elders. "They know they belong to you; we are always telling them about those days, and they have been waiting for you to come home."

Pair of birds



Blessed be Thou, Jehovah our God, King of the world,
Who causest our food to come out of the earth.

Ancient Hebrew Grace.

EVERY Melanesian is a farmer, and his life is closely linked with the soil. Although the bush felling is done by the men, the greater part of the routine work, clearing, planting, weeding, harvesting, and carrying home the food that comes out of the earth, is part of the daily work of the women and girls.

A baby girl knows the smell of the soil from the time that she is carried out to the gardens slung on her mother's back, and comes home in the evening perched probably on top of the food and firewood. She early learns to imitate the activities of her elders, following them back to the village with her own small load from the gardens, or with a bundle of midget bamboo water carriers proudly and correctly balanced on her sturdy little back.

The village gardening methods have been handed down by tradition based on the wisdom and experience of past generations. But they take for granted unlimited land, unlimited time, and the labour of strong men for the felling of virgin bush.

On the School Island none of these conditions obtained. The whole island was only 160 acres; much of it was planted with coconuts, some was swamp, some barren red clay, and most of the rest had been exhausted by years of cultivation on the native plan. The time also that could be given to garden work was limited to three hours a day, and there were no men on the island to do the heavy work.

[30] Yet education without agriculture would be a poor preparation for a Melanesian woman's life, and moreover fresh food was a necessity. It was, therefore, an auspicious day when Sister Gwen announced that "someone" was coming to visit the Island who knew a great deal about gardens. The "Government" had sent him from England to help us. "Government" to a Melanesian is always personal. It must surely mean, said the girls among themselves, that our great King George knows about our gardens, and has said to one of his wise men, "You go and show them these new ways."

Next day the wise man duly arrived, in the person of Mr. Johns, afterwards a Director of Agriculture in the West Indies. He quickly took in the situation, saw what had been recently done in the way of rotation of crops and green manures, and prescribed a simple form of contour farming. He thereupon set to work to make a simple T instrument for measuring the heights and marking off the different terraces. Then he said, "I will go home and do some thinking."

His thinking took a very practical turn, and he shared his counsels with the Commissioner of Police, who happened to be particularly interested in agriculture. The result was an invasion of the School Island by an army of well-disciplined, and incidentally well-amused, Melanesian prisoners. They worked with vigour all the morning, and everyone was delighted when, shortly before lunch time, a shoal of fish with a shark upon their tails poured into the fish trap. All had as much fish as they could eat and some more to take "home". This was a change from prison diet and made the day all the more agreeable.

While excavation on the hillside was at its height, one of the younger prisoners managed to disentangle himself from the crowd, and with a charming smile said in Mota, "Sister Gwen, what shall I do about this tree stump, dig it out, or burn it?

"But who are you?" asked the astonished Sister Gwen.

"Don't you remember me? I'm Barnabas from Rerende."

[31] "Not the Barnabas I taught at Siota in 1930! But what are you doing here?"

"There was a fight," said Barnabas, impenitently, "and I went to help; so now I'm helping the 'Government'."

All this unexpected help was a great cheer, and every child on the island henceforth took a vigorous delight in working the heavy clay soil, and watching the gradual improvement of the various crops. The Garden Song, written at a later date for another school in the New Hebrides, holds memories that are common to both schools.

1. We are the School Land Army,
We work for daily food,
Remembering many men have died
That our life may be good.
We have strong tools to work with,
Spades, axes, knives, and hoes,
We plant two gardens every month
In straight and tidy rows.

So march, girls, to the gardens,
And clear and dig and hoe,
And thank our God in Heaven
Who makes the food to grow.

2. We plant crops in rotation,
For we must feed the soil.
We dig in heaps of green manure,
And do not grudge the toil
We know God's law for gardens,
We get, so we must give,
We must help those who have helped us,
That is the way to live.

So march, . . .

[32] 3. We get good sweet potatoes,
Our yams are big and long,
Bananas, melons, other fruits,
Too many for this song.
Tomago, taro, sugar-cane,
Our corn stands straight and tall,
Large pumpkins and good coconuts,
We give thanks for them all.

So march, . . .

(Tune: British Grenadiers.)

Even Grace Delight claimed her share in the exhilarating activities of the Land Army. The chief joy to her was being allowed to parade in company with a large garden knife.

"See that she doesn't lose it," said Sister Gwen to the leader of the team into which Grace Delight had inserted herself. There was no need to say, "See that she doesn't hurt herself." Every Melanesian baby seems to know by instinct how to handle a knife.

The team departed, and presently Mother Margaret followed with some pumpkin seeds.

"Grace Delight and I will plant a garden," she said. So the baby scratched the earth, and then dropped her knife to take the seeds. "Big girls always stand their knives straight up in the ground like this," said Mother, "and then they don't get lost. Now we'll put the seed in its soft bed. You put yours to bed, and I'll put mine; and don't forget the blanket."

Grace Delight imitated exactly, patted her "blanket" and murmured, "Good-night. Sleep well." Each day thereafter she visited her garden, and her wonder and delight at the sprouting pumpkin made everyone realize afresh the [32/33] gracious miracle when "out of the ground made the Lord God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food."




"OH, look, something is coming from Tulagi," cried Mango, as she paused in sweeping up fallen leaves in front of the Big House.

"Ask Novice Anika to look through the telescope," replied Mother Margaret, intent on getting a new book shelf up straight. "You'll find her sorting yams in the food store."

Mango dropped her whisk-broom made of mid-ribs of coconut fronds, and scampered off to find Novice Anika. She would have preferred to be invited to use the telescope herself, but such privileges could hardly be expected to fall on the head of a scatter-brained twelve-year-old, very recently arrived from Santa Cruz.

Novice Anika adjusted the telescope deliberately, and examined the tiny black speck, invisible to all but native eyes.

"It 's too big for the St. Mary Stafford, too low for the Mavis," she adjudged. "Oh, it has a little funnel; it's the Gavutu launch, and it's pointing straight here. Would you like to have a peep, Mango?"

Mango replied with dimples, which was exactly what Novice Anika was waiting for. She broke into her pretty rippling laugh, which often sounded to her European Sisters like the wind in the great trees of her native forest. She came from a thickly forested island in the New Hebrides, where the creeper-entwined trees reach down to the water's edge, and most of the villages nestle low and hidden beneath, their shelter, for it is in the hurricane belt.

Novice Anika had been a lover of the bush from childhood, when her mother had taught her to distinguish the cries of the birds, and to know the trees and plants by name. She could [34/35] tell you where to look for brush turkey eggs, and what leaves would soothe a headache, and how to make a poultice of grated seeds that would relieve somewhat the agony of a centipede bite.

For the next half hour Mango found there was much need of a tidier approach to the Big House, but when the launch drew near the anchorage, she decided frankly for the poet,

What is this life, if full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare!

"E--e--we! Rosemary!" she cried.

Her sharp eyes had observed truly, for into the dinghy climbed Mr. and Mrs. Groves and their three children, Wilma, Valerie, and Rosemary, aged five. The School had no idea that Mr. Groves had been sent by the Colonial Office to report on education in the Solomon Islands. They only knew that he always seemed to make their daily doings more interesting than before. They had never expected important white men to be interested in such ordinary things as the making of a basket. Yet, when Mr. Groves watched them at it, their small activities seemed to take on a new significance.

Their hearts had been won on the first day he came, and in the first class he went into.

"What is the Mota for good'?" he had enquired, before entering the schoolroom. "Wia," replied Sister Gwen. That one word was enough for him to make friends. It was a beginners' class, slowly and laboriously reading short Mota sentences from the blackboard. Mr. Groves watched for a few moments; then he took the pointer from the Melanesian Sister, and copied her method exactly. Each child doing her "bit" was astonished and delighted by a hearty "Wia". When the strange white man finally read a sentence himself, and then asked, "Is that wia?" they all exclaimed in chorus that it was "wia aneane--very good"

Mrs. Groves had come over too, and shown them how to make fascinating skirts of dyed banana stems, and best of all, [35/36] the three little girls had played with them. They would never forget that morning when they had been told to take special care of Rosemary. Almost before they had time to turn round, she was racing, a little white fairy figure, towards the sea, the wind in her curls and "sand between the toes ". To their horror she cast herself fearlessly into the surf before they had time to surround her with their protecting arms. They were not used to such independent babes, but Rosemary soon taught them that at five you are very far from considering yourself a baby.

The news of visitors soon reached Sister Gwen, who was supervising the planting of a new banana garden half a mile away over the main hill. She came back to hear sounds of merriment in the big centre room. A parcel of home-made toys and other kind presents had been sent by Mrs. Hobbs of Gavutu. All the toys except one were quickly hidden away for Christmas. The exception was a black velvet elephant. Mother Margaret took it out on the verandah, and called to a group of children coming back from work, "Do you know what this is?" They were completely mystified.

"Let's take it down to the Nursery and see what the babies think of it," someone suggested. Mallory screwed up his button nose and obviously thought it was some sort of bogey. Pamela regarded it with her famous unblinking stare. But Grace Delight, after a moment's puzzled scrutiny, threw out her arms; a chord of memory had stirred--the large black sow, in its enclosure where she was a daily visitor. With a cry of "Darding Piggy-sow!" she clasped it to her chest. From that day Grace Delight and "Piggy-sow" were inseparable companions. It slept comfortably warm in her arms, and the first sound in the morning was a sleepy murmur of "Piggysow!"

It was Saturday, a holiday, plenty of time for play. While the elders discussed what to them were weighty matters, the three little girls went off to join their Melanesian friends in the sea. Rosemary of Ugi was appointed as guardian of her small [36/37] white namesake, and that left Wilma and Valerie free to venture into deeper waters.

"Don't forget to show them the fish-trap," called Mother Margaret to the chattering schoolgirls.

"And may we climb up and look at the lighthouse?" shouted Wilma.

"It's a steep climb for about ten minutes," explained Mother Margaret to Wilma's mother, "but they'll get a wonderful view of Gela, Guadalcanal, and Savo from the top."

"Do you get much fish?" asked Mrs. Groves. "There seem to be plenty in the sea; we saw a large shoal just as we came in."

"It needs much skill and time to catch them," replied Mother Margaret. "They seldom come to a line. The most expert fishermen are our Helpers from Sikaiana. They are good divers, and they go out with spears and catch them under the rocks. But now that we have the fish trap, we are hoping that we may get enough to be a real addition to school diet. Last week a shoal came in, and we got 600 at one catch."

[38] "What sort of a trap is it?"

"It was made by two elderly men from Sikaiana, expert divers and fishermen--built up of living coral rock from the sea bed. They first of all spent many days surveying. They observed the tides and currents, and the way the shoals came in, especially the shoals of buma, our local herring. They then decided on the best place for the trap. From then on they worked as though fascinated, spending day after day and week after week diving for the coral rock, and slowly building up the three long approaching arms, and the three chambers of the trap. The first chamber is a large roomy one, the second smaller, the third smaller still but very deep--the ocean bed was scooped out for it. A gradual built-up slope leads to each entrance, but inside the wall drops sheer."

"One of the things that interests me about your native Sisters," said Mr. Groves, "is the confidence with which they teach. They know just what they are going to do, and get straight on with it. How do you achieve that?"

Sister Gwen laughed. "If you were to pass by one of the schoolrooms between eight and nine on a school morning, you'd know," she said. "All the lessons for them must be planned in minutest detail in stages, when they first begin to teach. Then they must learn to follow the plan. It sounds simple, but it is not simple for a Melanesian. It is easy to miss out a stage and so muddle a whole lesson. It seems equally easy to them at first to begin with the last stage instead of the first. I go through a lesson with one of them. Then we change over. I become the pupil and she becomes the teacher. I can be the most inattentive and stupid of pupils. I copy all the mistakes which I think a class of girls is likely to make. I can be as dull as any of them. I can sit and gaze out of the window. I can add two and two and always make it three. I persist in these errors until the young teacher collapses into laughter with the remark that I have been waiting for, 'How can I correct this?' 'How can I make you understand?'

[39] "Then we sit down together to discover how the inattentive can be taught to attend, and how the dull can be made to see. To know how and what to correct is not a thing that I find comes easily to a Melanesian teacher. His natural tendency is simply to do the difficult thing himself for the pupil."

It was a sun-burnt party of three little girls, in spite of their big shady hats, that went back to Tulagi in the cool of the afternoon. It was not a harrowing farewell, for had not Wilma and Valerie each promised her "special" baby, to say nothing of the School Island in general, that they would be back again on another visit very soon.

Flying foxes



He who bends to himself a joy
Does the winged life destroy;
But he who kisses the joy as it flies,
Lives in Eternity's sunrise.


IT was 23 February 1939. There was a slight lull in the north-west storm that had been raging for several days. To the general astonishment, a canoe was seen bobbing up and down and disappearing in the trough of waves between the School Island and the opposite Gela village. Someone must be on urgent business indeed to venture out in such a sea. Three men were paddling for all they were worth, and presently the canoe grounded, and three drenched figures stepped oat and carried it up above high water mark.

Mother Margaret went down to the shore to meet them. She looked into the canoe, and there, lying in a pool of salt water, were two minute babies, each wrapped in one leg of a pair of shorts, which had been cut apart for the purpose--a most self-sacrificing act on the part of some Good Samaritan.

"Two of triplets," one of the men explained, laconically. "The mother died three days ago, and so did one baby. We have brought these two to you."

Sister Madeleine and the Nursery Helpers were quickly called . It seemed hardly possible that these tiny "drowned rats" could survive. They were welcomed into the Nursery with rapturous sympathy. The limp little baby girl was named "Grace Delight", and the even more fragile brother "Hugh Blessing ". Later on, when the father came over on [40/41] a visit, Mother Margaret told him of the suggested names and their meaning. Every baby is given a name at birth; so Mother asked, "What is Grace Delight's native name?" The father hesitated and replied, "The name we gave her was not a good one, and it doesn't fit with the new name. We must change it. We will call her Dolovia--Beloved."

After three weeks, in spite of the most loving care, the little Hugh Blessing flitted away. But Grace Delight clung tenaciously to this world. Her firm little character was evident from the first. She passed triumphantly, if at times tempestuously, through every babyhood stage, until she grew to be the "senior" baby in the Nursery. She learnt to talk early, for she was determined to take a full share in the interests of life. The use she made of her few words, and the speed with which she increased her vocabulary, were a constant astonishment to her nurses and many admirers.

Like baby Naomi before her, she early became a moon worshipper. If there were tears and woe at night, it was only necessary to carry her outside. Her eyes would search the quiet sky for her familiar friend, and presently there would be a soft worshipful murmur of "Oo-ah ", her baby version of vula--the moon. It was her first word. The full moon rising was to her the most awesome and soothing sight in the world, but even the sickle moon was welcomed. "Calling the new" in universal sailor fashion, was never missed by the schoolgirls, and someone usually remembered to run for Grace Delight, that she might put her little hand over her mouth and "Wa-wa-wa!" with the best of them.

Words had their own meaning in her small mind, and she could be surprising in the use of them. One of her favourites was "Loa titin". It was what she caught of Sister's remarks, when she carried her up to the Big House for her midday sleep in her cot beside Mother. It was always said, Grace Delight observed, just when she was comfortably in Sister's arms, and her curly head was being tucked protectingly under Sisters' white veil. To Sister Madeleine the words meant [41/42] "the sun is hot", but Grace Delight knew that they meant more than that to her. One noonday the sky was cloudy, and a cold wind was blowing; Sister seemed to have forgotten the comfortable word; so Grace Delight tucked herself under the veil remarking with a shiver, "Loa titin!"

She was a born lover of ritual, and had an almost Chinese regard for "sacred etiquette". She was well aware of her honourable position in the cot beside "Mudder". She also knew the rules of the game. If "Mudder" was lying with eyes closed, or reading a book, Grace Delight must be still as still and quiet as quiet, with only an occasional eye cocked to see if the statue was relenting. But when the statue did relent, even the tiniest bit, then the fun was fast and furious.

The bell for church, morning and evening, was as interesting to her as it was to baby John Ittai. Ittai was mainly interested in the bell itself (more particularly in doing stretch and squat with the bell rope), but Grace Delight was concerned for "Ti tuai ti tuai--for ever and ever". So soon as she could walk, and while the phase lasted, she would drop whatever she was doing at the first note of the bell, and hasten towards the church with an absorbed air, murmuring, "Ti tuai ti tuai." They were the first words of the service to emerge for her, and as the chorus seemed to be repeated rather frequently, it became a fascinating occupation to try and get in just before the last note died away. Surely the angels must have enjoyed that baby echo at least as much as the earthly worshippers did.

Grace Delight, being the "senior" baby, and also, at the request of the Chief of Gela, and for reasons outside the scope of this story, very much the adopted child of the Community, had special privileges of access to the Big House. But there were prohibited areas even for her. One was what she called in her best English, "Line no-no!" The line of boards along the edge of the verandah which ran round the house made a convenient limit for the safety of small venturesome feet. She would walk gingerly up to the line, a good eighteen inches [42/43] from the edge, where the boards ran at right angles, and with her toes planted exactly to the line, and a "dare I transgress look on her face, would say in a tone of righteous obedience mixed with regret, "Line no-no!" If another baby so much as approached the line, Grace Delight's powers as a disciplinarian were remarkable!

"Little monkey!" was a name she became familiar with at mischievous moments, but once she unexpectedly took her revenge. She was sitting up to table and "writing letters", wobbly circles on an old bit of paper. She paused in her composition, eyes twinkled wickedly; obviously she was in pursuit of a joke and searching for suitable expression. Then it came. Looking impishly up into Mother's face, she said slowly, "Mudder mong-gy!" Then, just in case the witticism should fall flat, she threw back her head and pealed with laughter.

Bedtime was usually preceded by half-an-hour's play on the seashore. It was a lovely playground in the fading evening light, with the stars coming out one by one, the Southern Cross shining down upon happy groups of children, the sand still warm, and little balls of phosphorescence beginning to float ashore on the dark rippling waves.

"You ask Mother," urged Rosemary, as she helped Grace Delight up the steps on to the verandah, and together they looked through the mosquito doors into the lamp-lit room.

"What do you want, Grace Delight?"

"Alo one--on the sand," said a baby voice, concisely.

"Who will look after you?"

"'Ose-melly," promptly and confidently.

"Grace Delight, come quickly," called the children on the beach. "The moon is coming up." There was a white radiance above the Gela hills, and presently an enormous full moon reared its silver rim. Grace Delight watched in fascinated silence as it rapidly rolled its full circle into the dark blue of the sky.

[44] "Look, the Glory Path is coming!" The long silver track lay across the water, and reached the baby feet at the water's edge.

"Let's run along and watch it follow us," said Rosemary.

"Do you remember what Mother said about it?" asked one of the older girls.

"Yes, the shining path always begins just where you are, even if that is a very dark place, and it always leads to the Light. Grace Delight, can you sing the Song of the Sea?"

Glory, glory, glory to God,
This is the song of the sea;
All the earth shall be filled, shall be filled,
With His Ma-jes-ty.

Glory, glory, glory to God,
Amen singeth the sea;
All the earth shall be filled, shall be filled,
With His Ma-jes-ty.

Grace Delight was sitting half buried under a blanket of warm sand, when Melody came out from the shadow of the big tree with a luminous mushroom glowing in the middle of her dark forehead.

"Oh! Darding!" begged Grace Delight, and the little mushroom was removed from Melody's forehead and stuck firmly on Grace Delight's moonlike countenance. Someone ran off to catch fireflies, and a glass tumbler to secure them in. Another brought a handful of shells; there was a song for them too.

God made the world,
Earth and sky and sea,
Little lovely shells,
And God made me.

[45] When "Mudder" came in to say good-night, it was to find a sleepy baby hugging "Piggy-sow" the black elephant, a circle of light glowing from her forehead, and half a dozen fireflies let loose inside her mosquito net.




Bear in mind that you are on a seaworthy ship, but that you are not in port.


The first necessity for progress is more and better Christians.


ANDREW had gone up into his ancestral mountains in search of a wife. His own village was near the steep bank of a river, about half a mile from the sea, on North Malaita. The partner of his youth had recently died, and a Melanesian man is lost without one. There was no one for him in the Christian villages near the coast; so he set off once more into the high bush, from which his family had originally come out that they might follow in peace the new Christian way.

Although he was an elderly man, he still had something of the prowess of a bushman. The intricate precipitous tracks were no difficulty to him. He could still scale the face of a waterfall, cross the swift rivers with sure footing, and stride rapidly along the mountain ridges.

His search was successful. He stipulated that his bride must be willing to come down to his riverside village and learn to be a Christian. After much bargaining with fathers (which includes uncles) and brothers (which includes cousins), and finally with the consent of the young woman herself, the necessary payments of shell-money and pigs were satisfactorily arranged, and the bride was escorted to her new home.

Andrew faithfully instructed her. He was not surprised that she remembered but little of his exhortations. She was [46/47] docile and good-tempered, and, as far as she could yet understand, thankful to the benignant Power under whose wings she had come to trust. After about a year she was baptized by the name of Daisy.

Daisy's sister sometimes came down with her husband from the high bush on a visit. They had a daughter, Taoa, a very precious only child, and it was not long before they decided that the best thing they could do was to put her under the guardianship of Uncle Andrew and Aunt Daisy, that she might go to school in the Christian village.

Taoa was a sturdy little person, and settled down very happily in her new surroundings. But her father and mother found life without their daughter a very bleak affair. When they saw how happy she was they could not take her back to the bush where more and more, as she grew up, the repressions that are the lot of heathen women would crush out the gaiety that so delighted them now.

The only thing was for them to cut their own cords and put themselves to school under Andrew. But first they must collect their few belongings, dig what food was ready in their gardens, and part as amicably as might be with their relations. So, once again, leaving Taoa with Aunt Daisy, they returned to the high bush to wind up their affairs. Hardly were they home again, when an epidemic swept over the district, and Taoa was left motherless and fatherless. Each died within a few days of the other.

Taoa had been in the riverside village for about a year when Mother Margaret and Sister Veronica, with two Melanesian Sisters, came to work in that district; their headquarters was only seven miles away. Wednesday was "injection day", when there was an extra large crowd at the dispensary, and opportunity for the Sisters to make contact with many surrounding villages. One Wednesday a cheerful party of girls came from the riverside village, and among them [47/48] was Taoa, the only one without a Christian name as yet. They had walked the seven miles carrying offerings of native food, which was the normal "payment" for an injection. Most of them brought the regulation two yams, but Taoa's basketful was well in excess of that.

Each week, until her large tropical ulcer was almost healed, Taoa arrived, always with the same generous offering. Then she was given dressings, and no one expected to see her again. But still, Wednesday after Wednesday, Taoa came, and never empty handed. Even when the ulcer was completely healed, she came and hung about the dispensary with a shy but friendly smile. Conversation was hardly possible, because she did not know Mota, but when Mother said, "Skulu?" she understood that it was an invitation. Up went her eyebrows in delighted assent, and Mother promised that she would go and talk to Andrew about it.

Next Saturday the Sisters set off for the riverside village. First down into the shadowed valley and along the muddy path with its odd accidental stepping-stones, on underneath the big nut tree, where the women eased their burdens and rested and gossiped awhile before climbing the final hill. Then out into an open space, and across a small river with its bridge of two poles, not over steady. On the other side was a village laid out with unusual charm on a carpet of green clover. The leaf and bamboo Church was surrounded with beds of zinnia and balsam, and the paths bordered with hibiscus and croton bushes.

Not far the other side was a spring, where the women filled their bamboo water-carriers. No people are more particular about the purity of their drinking water than Melanesian villagers; perhaps that is why typhoid is a disease unknown among them. Half a mile further on it was necessary to cross a wide river mouth. The tide was low, which was fortunate. On the way back it would be a choice between a leaky canoe for ferry, or a detour through the bush higher up.

[49] On the further bank vociferous barking announced a village well furnished with dogs of the lean and hardy kind used for pig-hunting. Here there was a pause for greetings and friendly enquiries all round. The smallest self-respecting infant on his mother's back stretched out a sticky paw for a dignified hand shake, and if it happened to be his right paw, his mother was justly proud.

Most of the way after this was along the "Government road". It would hardly be called a road in any other land, but at least the track was open, for, once a month if virtue reigned, groups of villagers came down from the bush, or climbed up from the shore, and cleared the sections for which they were responsible.

Several times the Sisters met other wayfarers; a family party going out to their gardens; a stray youth leaping along on some urgent errand; a group of beautifully built and scantily clad girls from the bush, escorted by a young brave of despotic countenance. All paused for the usual greetings and enquiries as to one another's destination. By noon they reached the big river, and sat down to rest awhile and have some lunch before climbing the steep slope to the village.

It was a sleepy village in the heat of the early afternoon. Most of the women were still out in their gardens, and would come home about four o'clock with food, firewood, and water for the week-end, and settle down to their evening cooking. But those who were at home made the visitors welcome, with the quiet, thoughtful, unfussy hospitality of the Melanesian. What they had not, they would not apologize for, but what they had they would delight to share--a shady leaf verandah, a new pandanus mat to sit upon, cool green coconuts to drink, a freshly-roasted taro if desired, and best of all, that indefinable sense of sitting down among friends.

Andrew was at home and gave his attention to the proposals for Taoa's education. Yes, Taoa might go away to school; [49/50] he and Aunt Daisy would not stand in her way. Would it not be good, urged Mother Margaret, that she come now, straight away, and start to learn Mota and reading with the Sisters and their Helpers? She would then be more ready to take her place in the big School when, in a few weeks' time, they all returned to the School Island. That was a more difficult matter, for it required instant action, not only benevolent intentions. But at last Andrew agreed that it was an opportunity not to be lost.

So Taoa returned with the home-going party. It did not take long for her to gather her few belongings--a pandanus sleeping mat, into which she had folded her one best skirt, and her most precious possession. This was a strongly woven coconut fibre ok (burden binder). Every Malaita woman carries, correctly balanced on her back, the heavy bundles of food and firewood, skilfully bound with an ok of bush vines or strips of hibiscus bark. Not many could boast an ok as durable as Taoa's. Always a practical-minded person, Taoa knew a valuable adjunct to life when she possessed it.

A week or two later, Andrew suddenly appeared at the Sisters' shack in a state of great agitation. He must take Taoa home at once, he explained. Her relations from the high bush had come down in a body and objected to her departure, and told him he must get her back at once. Andrew was a faithful soul, but he preferred a quiet life, and "the heathen speak very strong along me", he complained, breaking into pidgin.

The word, "Resist the devil and he will flee from you", was strong meat for him, and he could not take it. So Mother Margaret suggested that he go back and tell them that he had tried, but that he could do nothing. Taoa's father and mother had already put her into the kingdom of God, and she no longer belonged to their kingdom. Moreover, she was now in Mother Margaret's guardianship for school, and Mother also "speak very strong along me". This was to Andrew a satisfactory solution, chiefly because it enabled him [50/51] to shelve all responsibility. The high bush, not feeling inclined to tackle Mother Margaret themselves, dropped the matter for a season, though they would return to the attack when schooldays were over.

The next three years were a time of peaceful growth for Taoa. Her schooldays seemed uneventful, but she was gathering strength which would be needed later, and she was learning wherein lay the root of her confidence. She and Mango were baptized together Petrina and Marigold. The sturdy name suited her, as the sunny flower name suited the little imp from Santa Cruz.

Petrina had always a certain independence of character. Unlike most other Malaita girls, she was not at all clannish. Her best friend was Susy Tivi, a Gela girl from Belaga. One incident stands out in her school days. Some of those strange sub-conscious fears, which grip children born in heathendom, began to disturb her at night. Several times she awoke screaming and alarmed others in her dormitory.

On Malaita, if there has been some untoward happening, especially sickness or death, the superstition lingers that whoever calls out in sleep is the guilty originator of the trouble. So it was urgent that Petrina should be helped to conquer her fears. One of the good-night hymns often sung on the School Island will always bring her to mind, for it was written chiefly for her strengthening, that she might learn to lie down confident in the love that casteth out fear.

At last it was time for Petrina to return to Malaita. For some months all went well. She was left in peace with Uncle Andrew and Aunt Daisy. Her nearest European neighbour was Mr. Robert Vance of the South Sea Evangelical Mission, a good friend. He gave the Sisters news of Petrina from time to time. "She still has the Oxford accent, the old school tie and all that!" he reported once.

Then came news that the relations in the high bush had reclaimed her, and meant to marry her to one of their own folk. [51/52] Andrew had let her go on the understanding that it was to be for a short visit; but the visit grew longer and longer, and the apprehensions of her friends increased. The Sisters remembered some dark episodes they had witnessed during their stay on Malaita, and they realized how helpless one girl would be in the hands of heathen men.

So the Sisters wrote to the native priest of that district, George Kiriau, who had that combination of gentleness and strength which always wins respect. He went up at once into the bush and returned with Petrina to his own village, where she was to remain in his guardianship until the Southern Cross should arrive to take her back to the School Island for a course in the Nursery School.

But the Southern Cross was late, and after some weeks George felt he could wait no longer. So he went off to visit his district, leaving Petrina with his new young wife. The "coconut wireless" soon published in the bush the news of George's absence. The bushmen seized their opportunity, came down in a body, and carried off a weeping Petrina. George wrote to the Sisters, full of distress, and doubting whether he could achieve her rescue a second time.

It now seemed a case when British justice might interfere; so Mother Margaret wrote to the District Officer of Malaita. Mr. Bengough had 40,000 Malaita people of different tribes, customs, and languages under his jurisdiction, but the attention he gave to the liberty of the subject in the case of one Malaita girl goes far to explain the respect in which his regime was held from end to end of that somewhat turbulent island. He sent a body of police-boys to the high bush, to tell all concerned to come down to meet him at a half-way house on an appointed day. They were to bring Petrina with them.

The result of that pow-wow was that the bushmen accepted the dictum that a young woman must not be held as a prisoner, and Petrina was escorted back to Uncle Andrew. By this time war had come to the Pacific, and all hopes of further schooling [52/53] had to be abandoned. It would be an exaggeration to say that the rescued damsel now lived happily ever after, but the claims of the bushmen have been dropped, and Petrina is now happily married and building up a Christian home in a village on the opposite bank of the river she knew as a child.

Cray fish



Think glorious things of God, and serve Him with a perfect service.


AWAY back in 1911 the loving providence of "the God who arranges things" was preparing to link together in His service some of His children who had as yet no inkling of the pattern into which their lives would be drawn. In England a girl offered herself to God in the fellowship of a religious Community. While she was leaving her father's home, the old Canon's residence in Worcester, a serious minded schoolgirl in one of the famous London Grammar Schools was applying herself to her studies with characteristic ardour. At the same time, 12,000 miles away, another schoolgirl from the "back blocks" of New Zealand was entering, with a mixture of pride and alarm, the rather new Auckland Diocesan High School. On the same side of the world, in a corner of Western Australia, a very little girl in a typically Scots family was being hoisted on to her pony to follow her elder sisters to school. In that same year a baby girl was born on the tiny unevangelized island of Sikaiana, in the Central Solomons, and given the name of Takaua (pronounced Tah-kah-oo-ah).

This chapter is mainly about the child from Sikaiana, who became the first Melanesian Sister in the Community. She has finished her course with joy, but she lived long enough to wonder and be glad that she had opened the way for others. Although the little Takaua was born among those to whom the Gospel had not yet been brought, true indeed for her were the words of the hymn:

[55] O Love, Who ere life's earliest dawn
On me Thy choice hast gently laid. . . .

Her mother, Notana, was a notable woman among these tall fair-skinned people, an isolated clan of the great Polynesian family. Her husband deserted her before Takaua was born, and friends urged her to do away with the baby. But Notana could hold her own. She had the dignity of a duchess and a tongue that she knew how to wield.

"I love this baby," she declared, "and I want it." So Takaua's childhood was protected, and she grew up among the other children, slim gay little sprites, clad only in their golden brown skins, their natural habitat the sea.

But Takaua did not "just grow", like most of the other small Topsies. Notana was something of a disciplinarian, and her beloved Takaua was brought up with unusual care and strictness. Palm toddy was the curse of the island. It was made from the fermented juice of the young coconut spathe. When fresh this juice is pleasant and nourishing, but fermented it is a maddening drug. Yet most of the children started drinking it very early in life. Notana kept it from her little daughter until she was about eight or ten years old. Soon after this the child saw one of the miserable results of drunkenness, and then and there she resolved that she would not touch it. She never did. She was like that to the end. When she saw a straight path she walked straight along it.

About this time a man returned to Sikaiana after working in Fiji for many years. All his stories seemed very wonderful to those whose whole world was limited to their small island, lying flat as a pancake within its coral circled lagoon. There was one tale that Takaua was never tired of hearing, as they sat round the fires at night, roasting their fish and taro. It was of the Marist Sisters who spent their lives helping the poor and the sick and the lepers.

"Oh, how I want to be a Sister like that," thought the child.

[56] As she grew older she clung to that idea, and there was always something separate, reserved, and serious about her. She consistently refused to agree to any plans for her marriage. Notana was bewildered, but both she and the new stepfather continued to protect her, though they were hard put to it to justify such a departure from custom.

In 1929, when Takaua was eighteen, great things began to happen. The Chief and the Council of Elders made a big decision. They told the Bishop of Melanesia that Sikaiana wanted to "school". Towards the end of that year three of the native Brotherhood, including its two leaders, Ini Kopuria and Daniel Sande, were put down from the Southern Cross to evangelize the island.

But all was not plain sailing. Takaua was forbidden to go to school. Whereupon she wept so continuously day and night that her stepfather and mother relented, thinking that she would make herself ill. The first question she asked Brother Ini, to his considerable astonishment, was, "Can I be a Sister in this Mission?"

If she had asked that question a year earlier the answer must have been "no". But God's timings are very wonderful. To go back some years, the London schoolgirl had also gone to the Community where the first Sister was her Novice Mistress. They had been teaching together in India, where their greatest joy had been the training of the first members of a native Sisterhood for the ancient Syrian Church of Malabar. When asked to pull up their roots in order to found a new Community which should have its home and centre right in the midst of Melanesia, it seemed very hard to be sure that this really was of God, but during the following two years there were many and convincing signs. At last the way was clear, and with the greatly prized blessing of Bishop Palmer of Bombay, they set off on their venture. It is not usual for missionary Bishops lightly to bestow their workers on other dioceses, but Bishop Palmer said:

[57] "If it were any other Diocese but Melanesia. I would say no; but I can't say no to Melanesia. My father was at school with Bishop Patteson, and as a very little boy he told me about his friend and his venture. From then on, Melanesia has had a special place in my heart. I can't say no to Melanesia."

On May Day 1928 the habits for the new Community were blessed, though the dedication to the Cross was a leading that came later. The following May Day is also one of treasured memories. The Southern Cross, having broken her rudder, had landed her passengers on Norfolk Island. The May Day Eucharist in the Patteson Memorial Chapel was indeed one of great thanksgiving. It was a blessed thing to receive Communion at the outset of a new venture in a spot hallowed by the prayers of the missionaries, white and brown, who had laid the foundation of the Church in Melanesia.

While Captain Burgess skilfully manoeuvred the ship back to Auckland with a jury-rudder, the passengers were left to the care of the kindly Norfolkers. The adventure ended with a safe arrival at Siota, then the Headquarters of the Mission. The two Sisters settled in to the work they had been given to do just three months before the Brothers set off from there to Sikaiana. A year later it was a joyful day when the one from New Zealand, who had been teaching in her old school, arrived to join the infant Community. Not long afterwards the Scots-Australian heard the same voice in the midst of her work in a big Hospital.

All these happenings made Ini's answer possible. "Yes, there are Sisters in the Mission--white ones," but he added that he did not know whether there could be brown ones. That did not worry Takaua at all. There were Sisters, and this wonderful Lord she was learning about could do anything. Without doubt He would bring her to the Sisters at Siota.

There was a long wait, partly owing to the sinking of Southern Cross VI, but at last, early in 1934, Bishop Baddeley [57/58] arrived to confirm the many who were waiting for him. One of the first things he was told on landing was that two of the Confirmation candidates wanted to go to the Sisters at Siota. Ann Takaua had persuaded her cousin Marie to accompany her. The Bishop gladly consented, and on that day of great rejoicing no one could say no to anyone; so the stepfather and mother (that day baptized Moses and Zipporah) cheerfully gave the permission which could hardly have been wrenched from them at any other time.

It was on St. Benedict's Day 1934 that two very dishevelled objects stood shyly on the Siota wharf. Ann was suffering her first bout of fever, for there was no malaria on Sikaiana. Always slow to adapt herself to new conditions, she seemed more lost at first than her vivacious cousin. Yet once the fever was over, and she was surrounded by the comforting welcome of her new home, there were flashes now and again of that radiance which towards the end of her life was constant and unfailing.

From the very first she had a hungry eagerness to learn.

"I understand the words, but don't really understand the thought," she would say wistfully, and when the "thought" at last got home, her whole face would light up with the joy of it. "Taina" Ann she was called. "Taina" is the word for "sister" in her language. Now that there are no native Sisters from Sikaiana that title has been dropped, and the forms, Helper, Novice, and Sister are used.

Less than a year later, more aspirants came from Sikaiana, and presently girls from other islands, even from far away Raga in the New Hebrides, began to ask if they might join this small company in their way of life and service. It used to delight Taina Ann to watch the varying ways in which God called those of such very different backgrounds, temperaments, and capacities into a unity of heart and mind for His sake. About half of those who offered have "continued with [58/59] us", and the others, including Taina Ann's cousin, returned to their homes, taking with them many happy memories and such wisdom and training as their varying lengths of time in the Community had given them.

For several years there have been twice as many Melanesians as English Sisters. The way has not been easy for them. In almost every case there have been searching tests, and strong opposition from a bewildered family. But with prayer and patience the way has opened. To some deliverance has come in a way that was little short of miraculous.

One of those whose call was "for a season" was Monica Ruth. Her great-uncle Peter was, so far as is known, the first Christian on North Malaita. He became rooted in grace during many years on a Queensland sugar plantation. When, towards the end of the century, he returned to his old home, he found himself a stranger in a strange land. His clan would not receive him because he was a Christian, nor would they even allow him to build a house. He lived under a nut tree, and day by day he prayed there, often hungry, for he was given no ground for a garden. The very strangeness of it brought people to see him, and he never lost an opportunity to preach the Word. When, not long afterwards, white missionaries occasionally visited that area, old Peter was better treated. In time, as the Church grew, he came to be regarded as the saint he was, and the tree under which he lived is still pointed out, truly a sacred spot.

Peter's great-niece, Monica Ruth, had something of the same sweetness and perseverance and desire to help others. She had had only a very little village schooling when she asked to come to the Community. She had heard of it first from Annie Kiriau (the first wife of Petrina's rescuer), who had been a close friend of the Community since she was at Siota, with her well brought up family, when George was training for ordination.

[60] Annie was doing a cheerful and vigorous work among the women and children of that district, and it was her sudden death which turned Monica Ruth's thoughts back to her own people. She had learnt how to do some elementary teaching, and her simple steadfastness had made her a real influence on the School Island. She now felt that she must take these gains to help the bereft people. Her sacrifice, for it was that, cannot have been in vain, but outwardly the result was disappointing. She found she could do so much less alone than when one of a body. She inevitably married, but her husband was unsympathetic. It was not long before she became a victim of tuberculosis. That germ has been a heavy price to pay for European contact.

It was the same disease which attacked Taina Ann. She was such a diligent worker at everything that she undertook, and her joy was so radiant, that it hid the development of the phthisis which had been contracted previously on Sikaiana. For more than three years her little breezy hut on the shore was the very centre of the School Island. Old and young, all went there for counsel and comfort and peace. Her mother, Zipporah, came on a long visit, and mother and daughter grew closer together than ever before. In the evenings fascinated groups would often gather round the hut to listen to the gramophone, one of Taina Ann's great joys. "O for the wings of a dove" and the music of the great Oratorios were the favourites. The "Hallelujah Chorus" was invariably the finale.

Taina Ann's courage was unbroken all through. That, like everything else, grew out of her love. She could not bear that her sufferings should sadden others. The last sacrifices came near the end of her life. Duty called Mother Margaret to leave her, to take charge of the Girls' School in the New Hebrides. It hit them both very hard to be parted then, but Taina Ann did all she could to make it easier. We hope she knows now that that sacrifice of hers meant a home and most [60/61] blessed opportunities for work for all the Community in wartime; and that some girls from the southern school have joined the Community. These Novices promise to be as joyful and faithful as herself.

Out-rigger canoe



There ain't no 'appiness in this world, so we must just be 'appy without it.


ON 1 December 1941 the School Island said good-bye to Mother Margaret who, with two of the Melanesian Sisters, was going to look after the school in the New Hebrides. Less than a week later the war with Japan started. The School Island was only a quarter of a square mile, but it was so placed in Tulagi Harbour as to be of strategic importance.

As soon as there was danger, the Bishop advised the speedy departure of the whole School. It was not an easy business. There were more than eighty people with all their possessions. In less than twenty-four hours from the Bishop's word the Patteson had moved all the party to the mainland at Taroaniara, the Bishop's headquarters. Some girls could be sent from there to their homes, and several babies went to relations. All who remained were told to be ready to cross the island on foot, should the Japanese take Tulagi.

A launch was taking some Sikaiana girls to their relations on Maranatabu, off Ysabel. Taina Ann knew that, of course, a Sister would stay with her whatever happened. That one of her beloveds should be in danger for her sake was not to be borne; better the pain of parting. All agreed that it was best for her to go to the Sikaiana colony on Maranatabu. A Helper of her own island went with her, and the treasured baby Grace Delight, then almost three years old, to cheer them both.

During the early half of January 1942, school was continued in very cramped and awkward conditions. But the Melanesian rivals the London charwoman in making the best of a [62/63] bad situation, and the girls found many cheerful compensations. Crab-hunting was one. It was the month when land crabs come down from the bush to lay their eggs in the sea, and at night the place was alive with them, great monsters climbing up the mosquito nets and scrabbling in every corner. Another delight was a row of very derelict cook huts behind the houses which had previously been occupied by the College men and their families. They looked homely, and the girls happily toasted their crabs and had picnic meals therein. There were frequent expeditions to the School Island, an hour's canoe journey away, when parties went off for the day to keep the gardens going and bring back such produce as the canoes could carry.

During this time Japanese reconnaisance planes sometimes came over flying very high, but it was not until noon of 22 January that the bombing of Tulagi began. Sister Gwen and Sister Madeleine had been shopping that morning; they bought the last pair of shoes ever purchased in Tulagi, and had an extra pair pressed upon them as a gift. Ten minutes after they arrived back at Taroaniara the first bomber came over. The School, in their khaki skirts, faded into the bush near by. No one can do that more silently and speedily than a Melanesian.

Next day the bombers came again at the same time, flew much lower, stayed longer, and did more damage. Rabaul had already fallen, and the occupation of Tulagi seemed imminent. That day was spent in putting as many stores as possible on board the schooner Mendana, ready for moving house and home to North Malaita on the 25th. But on the morning of the 24th the news came that there was a Japanese aircraft carrier and six cruisers off Gizo in New Georgia. It was expected that Tulagi would be occupied that evening. All launches were immediately commandeered by the Government, and the Boli Passage was alive with small craft moving east. The Mendana, in addition to the cargo already aboard, was laden with medical stores and sent to Fauabu Hospital.

[64] At 9 a.m. the Bishop came up the hill and said, "Be ready to leave for Siota in ten minutes in the St. Mary Stafford and every canoe you've got." Thirty-six girls got off at once in canoes. There was just room for the remaining population on the already laden St. Mary Stafford. By a blessed foresight, sixteen girls, whose homes were on Savo and Guadalcanal, had been only the afternoon before put into the guardianship of reliable Gela friends, who promised to see them safely to their homes. This promise was carried out in every case. If those sixteen had been still with the main body, the problem of their safe conduct would have been an exceedingly difficult one. The last to come down the hill on to the St. Mary Stafford were Sister Veronica and her assistant cook, bearing the camp oven between them. The cake finished cooking on the launch, and was enjoyed by a houseful of refugees at Siota that afternoon.

The girls who had gone by canoe were tightly packed with their mats and blankets and as many clothes as they could possibly wear at one time. But at the last moment they had found that there was no room for their boxes--those wooden boxes with their chiming "safety" locks, which held their treasures, few but precious. In Siota that evening Sister Gwen, in the midst of many plans and arrangements, was concerned about those boxes, all the more because the children had so uncomplainingly abandoned them. What could be done about them at this eleventh hour?

Some "old boys" of Holy Cross School solved the problem. They had come into Siota to see what was happening, and to be offered the chance of a piratical expedition with a halo of virtue attached was a chance not to be missed. The girls gave meticulous directions--"Mine is a small brown box, under the bed, in the fifth hut from the schoolroom." The boys memorized the lot, took the canoes, paddled back by night to Taroaniara under the shadow of the mangroves, crept up by a back path in case the Japanese should be already in possession, recovered the boxes, and arrived back triumphantly at Siota in the early dawn. Not a box was missing.

[65] At 5 a.m. the Mendana returned from Fauabu. She had discharged her cargo. There was plenty more waiting for her on the Siota wharf, and a load of passengers twice the number she was normally allowed to carry. When the last of the fifty-nine was wedged on board like a sardine, the schooner's gunwale was about six inches from the water.

The strait between Gela and Malaita is usually a rough forty miles of the Pacific Ocean, but on this day it was a flat pond. During the seven hours' journey the girls sang over and over again every hymn and song they had ever learnt. They were going straight into the path of the enemy bomber who had been coming over at noon daily from the Gilbert Islands; but on this day no bomber came. By 2 p.m. they were in the anchorage at Fauabu, where Dr. Thompson was already expecting them.

A large number of Chinese refugees from Tulagi's Chinatown had arrived a few hours before, and a big ward was full of their family parties. They, too, showed an affinity with the London charwoman. Some were contriving cunningly made cooking-stoves out of biscuit tins; others were placidly washing their clothes or preparing their evening meal. Somehow all, even the small children, looked clean, cool, and contented.

The anticipated invasion of Tulagi that January did not happen--it was not until 3 May that Tulagi was taken and the School Island occupied. During the rest of January and February every sea-worthy craft was busy getting as many people as possible to their own districts. Girls from South Malaita, Ugi, Ulawa, and San Cristoval all got safely home in this way. North Malaita girls were escorted overland. Finally, six girls were left, from Sikaiana, Utupua, and the Reef Islands, who would almost certainly be cut off from their homes until the war was over.

When news came of the fall of Singapore all realized that the evacuation to Malaita was likely to be prolonged. The Hospital at Fauabu had its own particular work of mercy to [65/66] perform, and had its normal complement of staff. The Sisters of the Cross, therefore, asked the Bishop if they might go up into the hills with the remnant of their school, and do what they could for the people there. Permission had also to be obtained from the Government, for there was a law protecting native villages from white "squatters".

The village selected was Aisasale, on the top-most ridge, a full day's journey from Fauabu. It was a large village for North Malaita with about twenty families, and it was within walking distance of many other villages, some Christian, others obstinately heathen. The Chief's daughter and another little girl from Aisasale had been for a short time on the School Island; some of the young men were recently home from the schools at Pawa and Alangaula on Ugi. The Chief and the teacher called a meeting of the whole village, and the result was an invitation to the Sisters and their girls to come and live among them.

The next business was to arrange for the carrying up into the hills of all the things which had been rescued from the School Island, and the stores to support a party of twelve for an indefinite time. Everything would have to go up precipitous paths and over many wide rivers on the backs of men and women who offered their services as bearers--sacks of rice and flour, pots and pans and a camp oven, lamps and kerosene, chairs and bedding, tubs and buckets, spades and axes, blackboards and books, salt and sugar, milk and matches, clothes and calico, medical stores, tinned meat, and all the many things that complicate the life of English folk in a land where there are no shops round the corner.

The hero of this occasion was a young teacher in a new village two hours' journey on the way to Aisasale. Kaspar of Oneone bore a strong resemblance to "Uncle Selwyn"--the same short sturdy build, the same silent determination, the same rare independence of public chatter when there was something helpful to be done. Like "Uncle Selwyn", his education had gone no further than the preparatory school [66/67] at Maravovo, but he had an alert mind, and a short spell as a member of the crew of Southern Cross VI had taught him many things.

He offered to store the "cargo" in his house and the church at Oncone, and also to hire the bearers from the surrounding villages; about 180 would be needed. One morning when the school remnant at Fauabu were busy weaving transport baskets from coconut fronds, Kaspar turned up with a long list of unpronounceable names, all consenting to a day's carrying at a shilling a head. Then he modestly produced a map, of his own drawing, showing the rivers, villages, and main tracks for the whole of North Malaita. In spite of being the "strong silent man", he was obviously warmed by the admiration his map aroused.

A fortnight after arrival at Fauabu the move up into the hills began. On the morning of Quinquagesima Sunday Kaspar came down for the first party, Sister Veronica and three girls, and conducted them to his village. During the afternoon Oneone filled up with about forty bearers, who came to sleep there in readiness for carrying the loads next morning. The little church was filled to overflowing at Evensong, and the carefully stacked "cargo" in the corner of the chancel looked as though it were apologizing for its presence. But to the worshippers it was not at all incongruous, any more than the camp bed in the tiny vestry.

The roof was a bit insecure, Kaspar explained, but he had just mended it by stuffing in some more thatch. It was well to be warned. In the night a storm of wind and rain arose. The thatch blew up and finally blew off, and the rain poured in. Sister Veronica moved into the church, while the rain continued to come down in torrents.

"That settles to-morrow's expedition," she thought. "The rivers will be impossible." But with the dawn the sky cleared. After morning prayers and breakfast the bearers began to get busy. On Malaita, if you don't move in the mud you'd never move at all.

[68] A pile of boxes, baskets, and bundles had been set aside to go up with the first contingent. But the bearers did not approve of the way they were packed. A Malaita man or woman can take up a load of fifty pounds or more and run uphill with it, but it must be balanced just so. Wherefore many of the packages were taken to pieces and re-distributed with much laughter and banter. The same thing happened on the next two days also. It was impossible to know who was carrying what, and many of the bearers were somewhat ferocious-looking heathen. But when, at the end, everything was sorted out, there was not a thing missing, and only one or two glass jars were cracked.

About 8 o'clock the trek began. The women and children of Oneone followed to the village boundary, the first river. It was running fast, waist high after last night's rain, but the sure-footed bearers lifted their loads aloft and got over without a stumble. Sister Veronica needed a strong arm on each side.

The next bit of the track led up the face of a waterfall, a breathless and slippery climb and a good education in digging in toes and heels like a true Malaita woman. After that, a level ridge with a glorious view of range upon range of sun-steeped bush-covered mountains. Then down a greasy slide into the next ravine, and across the next bend of the river. In the middle there was a shout.

"What's the matter? Is it a crocodile?"

'No, a saucepan has gone downstream! It's all right. David has stamped on it!"

That saucepan bore the dint of David's heel for the rest of its life.

Then a long climb up again to the next ridge, and down again into a similar ravine. By noon they reached the halfway rendezvous where the people from Aisasale and surrounding villages had come down and were waiting. The Oneone bearers returned to be ready for the repeat performance next day, and Aisasale carried on.

[69] The next four hours was a repetition of the last, except for the frequent assurance of being "close up now", an assurance prompted more by kindliness than by a delicate regard for truth. When at last the village was reached on a knoll of red clay with a ravine down two sides, the visitors were introduced to the "big house" which had been prepared for them.

It was a large 50-foot one-roomed house with three beds made of poles and reeds, and a large platform along one side. It had been the men's meeting-house, open all round, but rough walls of unwoven coconut fronds had been put up for the visitors. The village had given of its best, but there was a slight atmosphere of watchful anxiety as to whether their efforts would be appreciated. The house did not look quite at its best with packages thrown down everywhere and forty or fifty porters lounging at ease. But an exclamation of "What a lovely big house! Thank you very, very much!" broke the slight tension.

The teacher's wife brought some bamboos of water. The teacher, confident of his skill with a primus, set about making a cup of tea. The primus nipple was blocked, and the pricker no one knew where (though it was on the list all right, if only one hadn't mislaid that). However, mighty pumping and main force achieved its purpose without an explosion, and the resulting cup of tea and boiled rice was very welcome.

A bath was even more desirable. Half a bucket of cold water in a corner screened off with blankets was hardly sufficient to remove the mud, and Sister Veronica made a mental note that, if she did nothing else the next day, she'd get a bathroom built before the next contingent arrived. That evening Paul, the Chief, paid a formal visit. There will be more about that fine old figure in the next chapter.

Next day at 2 p.m. Sister Madeleine arrived. She had prayed for "hind's feet", and the answer was "Yes". The bathroom with its mat walls was ready, and hot water. The primus pricker had meanwhile been found.

[70] On Ash Wednesday Sister Gwen and the last group made the trek from Oneone, with more bearers than ever. That morning, before setting out, Kaspar had preached a short sermon. He explained to his simple flock that "Arsh" Wednesday was not like other Wednesdays, but a very important Wednesday; just as "Arsh"-Bishops are very important Bishops, and "Arsh"-Angels very important Angels!

So, with the beginning of Lent, began a ten months' sojourn of which the next chapter will tell more in detail. Looking back afterwards the Sisters felt that it was a time in which they had learnt much, and grown closer perhaps than ever before to their fellow pilgrims of Melanesia.

Pig tusks

Mother Margaret

Novice Nesta

Ro Ada Arulai

Grace Delight

Mollie bathing John Ittai



Blessed of the Lord be his land . . . for the chief things of the ancient mountains, and for the precious things of the lasting hills . . . and for the good will of him that dwelt in the bush.

Deuteronomy 33. 13-16

AISASALE was a typical bush village. It had been founded like many another by a group who wanted to live Christian lives and found it impossible to do so surrounded by heathen associations, fears, superstitions, and degrading customs. The Christian group had failed to carry their fellow villagers with them; so they moved out, made a new village, and asked for a teacher to come and live amongst them. "Come out from among them and be ye separate" was a word of Scripture probably unknown to them at that time, but they realized that, in that early stage of their faith, it was the only way for faith to be established.

Melanesian life is communal, not individualistic. The instinct of generations keeps them in a narrow groove of custom. If they move out of it, they usually move as a body. They hold a meeting at which anyone at all, even a woman or a child, is free to raise a voice. But women and children are modest, and usually listen in silence. All sit round on their heels in the evening firelight. No one takes the chair or keeps minutes. No one brings forward a motion or seconds it. It is not always the most eloquent or the most violent who carries the meeting with him. One sentence shot out of a dark corner may produce universal grunts and nods of approval. At the end, no one sums up, but everyone is satisfied. A matter which concerned them all has been aired, [71/72] nothing has been done in secret. They know one another's weaknesses too well to trust decisions imposed upon them without consultation. At least this is how it seemed to the Sisters, who several times attended such meetings as recognized members of the village. It is the way village children get a large part of their education for good or ill.

Aisasale had been founded by the Chief, Paul, and his family. Paul had been converted in middle life after a violent youth in which he had a great reputation as a fighter. Now he was growing old, but his authority was unquestioned, and he was revered by a large family of sons. He took his responsibility for the Sisters very seriously, and the chivalry of the young men of the village was largely due to his influence.

Sister Madeleine, whose ministries of mercy took her to many a neighbouring village, always had to ask the Chief's permission before she went. Paul never objected, but dignity demanded a certain amount of ceremony. An "audience" would be requested through his eldest son, Manasseh, who acted as interpreter, for Paul knew neither Mota nor English. Paul would sit very erect in his house, though his throne was no more than a log or an old kerosene case. Sister Madeleine, standing humbly before him, would explain that such-and-such a village had asked her to visit them, for they had sick people there who could not walk in to the dispensary at Aisasale. They had offered to send men to carry her things on any day that she could come. A long pause while Paul considered this. Then an enquiry:

"When do you want to go?"

"I think Wednesday would be a good day," replied Sister Madeleine meekly.

Another pause, then the verdict, interpreted apologetically by Manasseh, "Go on Thursday."

This pardonable show of authority was appreciated by Sister Madeleine, who next time requested her permit for a day earlier than she wanted it.

[73] Paul had little confidence in the guardianship of any village but his own, and he always appointed a bodyguard of young men to accompany Sister Madeleine. Woe betide any one of them who returned home before his charge. Sometimes the high-spirited Manasseh was chief attendant, sometimes his younger brother Herbert--grave, simple and faithful. Herbert had for a short time been "John Mark" to a household of the native Brotherhood. When they went seeking to carry their message to a heathen village, Herbert's job was usually to "tarry by the stuff". He knew all that was to be known about packing up, and it was perhaps the one talent upon which he prided himself.

On one occasion, when he had accompanied Sister Madeleine to a distant village, her last morning there was a particularly busy one. Other villages had heard of her whereabouts and come in for medicine just as she had planned to leave in order to reach Aisasale before nightfall. The faithful Herbert thereupon silently packed her haversack, rolled up her rubber mattress and blanket and had everything complete and ready when Sister Madeleine had finished a queue of injections. When she unpacked at Aisasale she found that Herbert had rolled his none too cleanly shirt among her clothes to "catch her smell" as he said in all simplicity!

Most Melanesians love scent. The "island odour", compact of damp and mildew, soon clings to everything kept in a native house. Soap is a rare commodity. Clothes are washed at the bathing stream in hard limey water. But a Melanesian mother, no less than a European one, loves to sniff the sweetness of her baby whom she has just bathed with a precious piece of scented soap. The Sisters, happily, had brought a good supply of soap up into the hills, and on high days like Easter and the Community Festival of Holy Cross Day on 14 September, when presents were distributed all round the village, the babies were not forgotten.

At the village "Moot" before the Sisters' arrival, it had been decided to give hospitality without accepting money [73/74] payments. This made for particularly happy relationships. As a business man a Melanesian is expert at "nicely calculated less or more", but as a friend he loves to give. The Sisters also could take delight in giving without danger of spoiling--not to odd people at odd times, for that would have created jealousies, but at times of special rejoicing. The calico which they had rescued from the School Island was specially valuable, for the war had cut off the supply from Sydney, and the village was hard pressed for clothing. Another very useful thing was common salt. The bushmen make periodic expeditions to the coast in order to carry up a few bamboos full of sea water. A tablespoon of salt all round saved them two days' journey and was specially appreciated by the sick to whom the monotonous diet of taro was a difficulty.

Life in a village is not as formless as it seems at first sight, though the pace is slow. An average day at Aisasale had a certain regularity. After morning prayers in the village church, there was school for about forty minutes; then breakfast of taro or sweet potatoes. After this, on most days, all went out to their gardens, some of which were two or three miles away. The village had been fourteen years on this spot, and the garden ground near by had been exhausted and was going back to bush to recover itself. The people must go further and further away for the growing of their food, and they were beginning to talk about clearing a site nearer to their gardens and building a new village there.

Usually the men and boys were the first to go off to work in the morning. They all had gardens of their own as well as family gardens. The chopping down of trees was their job and they would often carry home a great log or a long branch over one shoulder. They never carried bundles of chopped firewood: that would be womanish. For some reason obscure to English intelligence the planting of taro, the staple food of the Malaita bush, was the prerogative of the men, though the women cleared the ground, tended the crop, and carried home [74/75] the harvest. But the men's farming was irregular. There might be a house to build, a pig enclosure to make, or an expedition to distant relatives, and they were always ready for some diversion. It was good to see them go leaping over the slippery red clay and up and down the muddy tracks as agile as goats. To an English person it was like learning to skate and the penalty for a slide was rich red mud and the knowledge that you had provided a village joke which would he enjoyed (in strict privacy, for their manners were perfect) for many a long day.

The women and girls followed to the gardens more slowly. They had their houses to sweep first. The very small children were often left in the village in the care of a slightly older sister but it was the ambition of every four-year-old to follow its elders, rain or shine. The former was much more frequent than the latter, for Aisasale was in the rain belt and must have had nearer 300 than 200 inches a year.

Until 4 p.m. the village would be almost deserted; then groups would begin to straggle back. The women had weeded the gardens, collected the food, cooking-leaves, and firewood for the family, filled the bamboos with water, taking the opportunity to bathe and wash their clothes meanwhile. Then they had helped one another to adjust their ok, and came home like patient beasts of burden to cook the evening meal on the clay floor of their houses. Smoke would begin to seep out of the walls and roofs, very acrid smoke unless the firewood was of just the right kind and thoroughly dry.

About sunset the big wooden drum summoned the village to evening prayers. Then came the leisurely evening meal with the firelight playing on the faces of family groups. Afterwards, if it was a moonlight night, perhaps the boys did a vigorous stamping dance in the open space in the middle of the village. The women and girls sat in a group and sang or clapped rhythmically or just looking on: dancing is not considered seemly for girls on Malaita, though on other islands the women have some really beautiful traditional dances.

[76] Twice a week while the Sisters were at Aisasale, the village met in their house to learn new songs and hymns. The sol-fa was written on a blackboard in parts and the words learnt by heart. These community singing times were much enjoyed. The boys especially were eager to learn English hymns, and were at the stage of education where they prized this accomplishment disproportionately. Some of their own native melodies and harmonies were hauntingly beautiful.

And so to bed, a firestick or a bamboo torch lighting the way to their several homes in the darkness. Some had beds, platforms made of betel nut wood, but most spread their tough pandanus mats on the floor dried by many fires and beaten flat with trodden ash. All that a Malaita man asks of his house is that it shall provide a spot warm and protected from the weather. Fresh air is his birthright by day, but at night he likes to lie with his feet to the fire--three or four logs with their glowing ends meeting. If he wakes in the night he pushes them together again, gives a few well directed puffs (and the ash does not fly in all directions as it would with the unskilled) and goes to sleep until the dawn. The crowing cocks are his alarm-clock, and he needs no matches for the morning cooking for the village fires never go out. Embers buried in ash will still be alive many hours later.

Food bowl



I come in little things, saith the Lord.


THE Sisters and their household endeavoured to merge as helpfully as possible into the village scheme. While the village teacher taught his group of boys, Sister Gwen had a class of young men, Sister Veronica the village girls, and Sister Madeleine the girls of the "family". After breakfast the family had another lesson with Sister Gwen while Sister Madeleine and one of the village boys as orderly attended to minor ailments in the dispensary.

By about 9 o'clock the household were ready for the morning's work. It might be washing day. A row of tubs and buckets stood in a perpetual line under the eaves; the rain was so constant and heavy that even a gutterless leaf roof provided a fair supply of soft water for washing clothes and bathing. Usually:

"After a drought of half an hour,
We had a most refreshing shower."

But if the sun shone for two or three days in succession the household was dependent on a pile of bamboos holding about a gallon apiece. These were used for drinking and cooking. Drinking water had to be carried from a mile or more away, but ten minutes' scramble down a slippery precipitous slope brought one to the stream where the village bathed and washed their clothes on days "at home". A tank would have been a boon if there had been roofing iron for catchment. In some villages the church is built with an iron roof, partly for this beneficent purpose.

[78] Friday was "Village day", when no one went to the gardens, but all worked at special tidying or beautifying of the church and village. The Sisters' household always entered into the corporate effort. One of their contributions was a new altar frontal for the church. This unfortunately went the way of many village hangings and was chewed by dogs. However, even patched, it was treasured and kept henceforth in a box safe from dogs, rats, cockroaches, and moths, and produced on special days.

The most usual morning's work was in the gardens, either helping one or other of the village women or tending the plot just outside the village which Paul had considerately presented to the household.

As often as possible some went to help the poorest and most hard pressed of all the village women. Her name was Miriam. She was illiterate and slummy in the extreme. They did not think much of her in Aisasale. She was a woman from the shore and never quite "accepted"--for, alas, there is snobbery even in the bush. She had married a shiftless husband who could never bring himself to the sticking point, and was constantly being dragged back to heathen ways by relatives in a neighbouring village. Miriam mourned over him, loved him and forgave him, and struggled to bring up a family of small children.

Baby Silas was born a day or two after the Sisters arrived. Miriam was worn out when Sister Madeleine came to her in the dark little hut. She had never before had such loving care lavished upon her, and never surely was there more pathetic gratitude than hers. As soon as she was strong again she worked harder than ever in her garden, carried home enormous loads, bent double under the weight, and always insisted on giving her best taro for the Sisters' larder. It was one thing she could give, and the giving was such joy to her that no one could do other than accept it.

Miriam was Sister Madeleine's sata--in the bush language a "special friend". At a village meeting soon after the [78/79] Sisters' arrival, various women and girls announced a desire to adopt sata in the household. Next day a group of shy women were brought along to the Sisters' house by Daisy O. who had been on the School Island and could speak Mota. She explained the sata custom. "It 's a good idea," she said. "They give you things!" Thereupon each one of the group went up to her chosen sata and gave a present of taro. Later on, of course, the friendship was cemented by some small return gift, a necklace, a handkerchief, a picture, a needle, or some such.

Baby Silas was a great satisfaction to his mother. When she went out to the gardens Silas stayed with the Sisters. She would come back to find him cosily in his hammock, or playing on a mat on the floor, or sometimes lustily demanding her return.

When later on there was a Japanese camp five miles away, and rumours that they might come up into the hills, all the women and most of the men left the village and lived in rough. huts buried deeper in the bush. The Sisters remained with a bodyguard appointed by Paul. After some exhilarating rehearsals they were prepared to dive into the bush if need be. Miriam went with the rest, but after a day or two Sister Madeleine saw smoke coming from her house and went to investigate. There was Miriam, calmly preparing her oven of hot stones, with Silas slung contentedly on her back.

"Miriam! Why have you come home?" said Sister Madeleine. Miriam looked up and her tired eyes smiled. "Silas wanted to come back to you," she said.

In the middle of March news came from Maranatabu on Ysabel. Our merciful Lord had taken Taina Ann to His Kingdom of peace. On the last day she woke up smiling and told the Taina who was with her that the Lord would come for her that day. She was completely free from pain, and until a few minutes before her death she dictated her loving farewells to the Community. Then smiling more radiantly than ever, she was safe Home. Truly she did not taste of death.

[80] A few weeks before the enemy poured into Thousand Ships' Bay opposite Maranatabu, the Taina and Grace Delight had been brought home. They were escorted up to Aisasale on the last day of March. It was soon obvious that the perfect age for being a refugee was three-and-a-bit. Grace Delight, although she strongly disapproved of the slippery clay everywhere where (even in the house) was soon singing "All things bright and beautiful" to spiders, caterpillars, rainbows, and of course her beloved moon. She would call ecstatically, "Come and look at the little bells!"--some dank unsavoury fungus under the bed. She found pretty leaves and flowers and stuffed them into the leaf wall beside a photograph of Mother Margaret "ape Mudder te ilo--for Mother to look at ". Once while she was doing this she caught her own reflection in the glass frame and exclaimed, "Who's in Mudder? ME!"

While the Sisters rather ponderously attempted to learn the language of the bush, Grace Delight picked it up in the abbreviated form of everyday chatter. She had no difficulty in switching from Mota to English to Kwara'ae (the northern bush language, one of several on Malaita). She could turn her limited vocabulary to new uses. A Malaita mother quieting a crying baby puts her hand over its mouth and, as it were, pats back the impending wail saying, "Tua nene! Tua nene!" Grace Delight, trying vainly to make her voice heard in a talkative assembly, finally had a bright idea. "Tua nerve!" she commanded with uplifted hand, and the result was so satisfactory that she often tried it again, not always with such conspicuous success.

There was one family of model children in the village. They never cried or quarrelled, and were clean and obedient. "Just the right companions for Grace Delight," thought the Sisters. But Grace Delight attached herself firmly to the village squawker, Miriam's Jocelyn. They made mud pies together, collected frogs and grasshoppers, had frequent battles and hugged each other afterwards. When Grace Delight began [80/81] to imitate Jocelyn's long sustained howls, someone made disparaging remarks about her friend. Grace Delight defended her vehemently, declaring that she was "very, very nice!"

Jocelyn and Grace Delight were the leading spirits in the children's singing games. A variety of time-honoured nursery games had been "done into Kwara'ae" with the help of an amused ex-schoolboy. The open space in the middle of the village made a good playground. In the late afternoon, if it was fine, Grace Delight and Sister Veronica would go down the village, Grace Delight running ahead crying, "Nwela titii! Leka masa!--Little children, come out to play!" You might have thought that the Pied Piper of Hamelin had appeared. Boys and girls and babies came tumbling together, while mothers left their cooking for a moment to smile indulgently. The games gave the elders almost as much pleasure as the youngsters.

On one occasion Grace Delight and Jocelyn both wanted the same place in the ring. A battle ensued, and Jocelyn won. Grace Delight's fury soon subsided, but when the games were over she had not forgotten.

"Come on, Grace Delight-time to go home now."

"But I haven't sollied Jocelyn yet."

She ran and said sorry to the offended party, flinging loving arms round her neck. Jocelyn at that stage was not familiar with the peace-making word, and accepted the apology rather ungraciously.

Grace Delight's hero was Paul's grown-up son Manasseh, On singing evenings she was allowed to stay up later, and she would whisper to Sister Madeleine, "I want to sit with Manasseh." Manasseh was equally devoted and even more shy about showing his feelings. He would take her, as she was handed over to him, with an unmoved expression; but presently, when no one was looking, he would bend down and nuzzle her soft curls.

[82] She would perhaps be nestled half asleep in his arms when the company began to sing, "Who is on the Lord's side?" But when it came to the words

"By Thy call of mercy,
By Thy grace divine . . . "

she opened wondering eyes, and looked up in Manasseh's face with an enquiring echo, "Grace Divine? Who's that?"

One morning she came in radiantly hugging an enormous red cock. "Wherever did you get that?" "Manasseh!" she said blissfully. Yet no doubt she had accepted the present in the off hand way of native good manners. This way often seemed so surprisingly ungracious that a Sister once asked the reason for it. She was told that effusive thanks seemed too much like a hint that the present should be repeated.

Coming back with one of her elders from picking ladybirds off the cucumber seedlings, Grace Delight passed Manasseh going out of the village. She looked straight ahead without a flicker, but when well out of earshot said, "Did you see him? That was Manasseh!"

In the escape rehearsals each one of the household had a special member of the "Home Guard" as her rescuer. Grace Delight had not liked the early part of proceedings. While almost everything that could give evidence of European habitation was being rushed off to the bush (lest reprisals should fall upon the people) Grace Delight walked disconsolately about enquiring anxiously, "Has anybody seen my teeny weeny cook tin?" Fortunately, someone realized that a favourite tin was quite as important as a sewing machine or a typewriter!

But the thrilling moment of the rehearsal was when the sentry beside the track below the village hoisted his signal, the watcher beside the village drum beat a hasty tattoo, the [82/83] rescuers ran each for his lady in distress and plunged with her down the opposite ravine. In a breathless second Grace Delight was hoisted on her hero's shoulder and galloped triumphantly into safety. Even the disappearance of a cook tin faded into insignificance at such a glorious moment!

Village enclosure



Thy people is scattered upon the mountains, and no man gathereth them.

Nahum 3. 18

THE population of Malaita is reckoned at 40,000, but for the most part the people live in small scattered villages divided from one another by deep ravines and dense bush. The "salt water people" living along the shore have some larger villages, and the artificial islands in the lagoons are still crowded, though the protection of British law together with the leaven of Christian life has done away with the necessity for a refuge from the warlike bush tribes.

Large numbers of the people, especially in the mountain villages, are still heathen, and thousands who are taking their early steps in Christian faith and life are for the most part very inadequately shepherded. There are not enough truly Christian leaders to go round. The difficulty of keeping in touch with tiny hamlets divided from one another by miles of difficult country is a problem shared with many another missionary diocese. As the famous Archdeacon Johnson of Nyasaland wrote, "There are always the scattered people calling to us to help them, and how are we to reach them?"

The full answer to that question is outside the scope of this small book. But to realize the problem and be concerned about it is the first step towards solving it. Ten months at Aisasale gave the Sisters a glimpse of the situation, but only those who have lived intimately among heathen people know the darkness of their life, the devilish use of power, the fear, the [84/85] oppression, the hopelessness. They know, too, the transforming power of God's grace when those who have been "tied and bound" turn towards the Light.

The nearest village to Aisasale, only half an hour's walk away, was Rakafalu, a stronghold of heathendom. Part of the land belonging to Aisasale had been bought from Rakafalu, and each village kept a close eye on the other's doings. The old chief had retired, but was still a power in the place. He wore embedded in his nose a small circular shell ornament, which his son and successor, Ando, explained was a sign that he had killed many men, but "long time back--all finish now."

Ando was by nature a generous-minded man. He often co-operated with his Christian neighbours. "If he were a Christian, he'd be a real one," said the Aisasale teacher. Ando with his brother Maiti and others from the village had been among the bearers who carried up the Sisters' "cargo". But on the last evening, after depositing their loads, they stayed behind in the village instead of going home before nightfall. There was obviously some disturbance, and the teacher came along with an anxious countenance to say that Rakafalu was raising objections to white visitors, and it would be well to have a meeting that evening and explain matters.

They were well aware of the recent law against white "quatters ", and were afraid that the presence of Europeans would bring Japanese scouting parties up into the bush. The meeting lasted a long time, but in the end Ando's fears were set at rest and more generous counsels prevailed.

During the months that followed Rakafalu became more and more friendly. The power of heathendom still held them--or was it fear of the old ex-warrior? In sickness they turned to Sister Madeleine's little dispensary. Return visits were made to Rakafalu. At first they would not allow treatments to be given in their village, lest the spirits be offended, but when they saw the inconvenience for Sister Madeleine outside it, some instincts of courtesy stirred.

[86] One day, several months after the Sisters' arrival, six police boys came striding into Aisasale, sent by the District Officer. He had heard rumours that the Sisters had been robbed by the heathen, and sent up this detachment to investigate There was no foundation for the rumour, but the Rakafalu people were indignant. "Do they think we'd rob you, when you are here to help us!" they said.

The heathen women were pathetically hungry for something more than medicine. They used to come in with their small children and talk to the Aisasale women, telling of their longings. Language difficulties barred the Sisters from any real conversation with them, but the expression of their faces showed much, and the way they lingered on the open verandah.

Grace Delight took up her missionary work with vigour. She had a book of "holy pictures", each one of which had its appropriate verse of a hymn. She would sit on a log with a group of heathen children round her, open her book at a favourite picture, and proceed to teach matapulea--(recitation) beloved of all Melanesians. Ando's family of little girls were her most appreciative pupils. "Ngu! Ngu!" they would say, "Sing! Sing!" These lessons lasted about three minutes, until other diversions suggested themselves. It was hardly surprising that, at the end of the Aisasale sojourn, Ando begged to adopt Grace Delight!

Quite the favourite picture in the book was "sick man". That was the name she gave to the picture of the Good Samaritan. Yet it was never the central figures that she attended to. She would point an accusing finger at a tiny Levite disappearing in the distance and say emphatically in the Kwara'ae language, "Ru ta'a! (bad thing!)"

A birth or a death in Aisasale would keep Rakafalu away for several weeks. Once after a very long time of seeing no one from there, the Sisters enquired the reason. It was their long fast-time, they were told, a fast which fell most heavily on the women, for they were debarred from taro, the staple food of [86/87] the bush. The fast was reported to last for six months but that may have been an exaggeration, for notions of time in the bush are very vague. At the end of the fast which, from all accounts, only really applied to the women, the men had an orgy with pigs, and there was a corporate meal at which the women were each given a tiny piece of taro, the symbol of breaking the fast. After this period it was noticeable that the faces of the men were much harder and darker than before.

There was another type of village even more difficult to reach spiritually than the Rakafalu type. It was made up of people who wanted to escape the rigours of heathen life, and had no desire for the Christian way. These were largely returned plantation labourers. During their time of indenture they had known steady work and discipline of that sort; their physical needs had been well provided for, but in most cases that was all. No one had cared for their souls. When they came home again the links that bound them to their Chief and heathen ceremonies had been broken. They were determined not to put their necks under that yoke again, neither would they accept the easy yoke of Christ. A village made up of ex-plantation labourers, joined by lapsed Christians, is one without loyalties, discipline, or aim.

The Christian villages, whether shepherded by the Melanesian Mission or the South Sea Evangelical Mission, differed widely in their tone and vitality. Some were very sleepy hollows, others weakened by quarrels. But some were shiningly Christian, and in these one would always find that the teacher was a man whose whole life was centred upon God. One such, Adriel, had been house boy some years back to the Resident Commissioner, Mr. Ashley, and when the Sisters give news of him, it was good to hear the cry, "Ah, my good

In an S.S.E.M. village Sister Madeleine was called to do what she could for a woman desperately ill. The husband had done everything in his power for her comfort. The village women were each and all eager to do anything to help, [87/88] however contrary to their natural feelings or traditions. All through the night, while Sister Madeleine watched over the sick woman, she heard the voices of women in the next house rising and falling in prayer. When the woman turned the corner and began to recover, supported by the love of her friends, the village, was full of joy and thanksgiving. If that had been a heathen village the woman would have been left in a lonely hut in the bush to live or die.

The heathen round about watched the Christian villages closely. Nominal Christians were a great stumbling block to them--"All same me-fellow!" they would say contemptuously. But a really Christian village was a strong attraction. Sometimes an individual heathen might come along with his family and ask to be received into a Christian village. Such a "coming out" was practically impossible for a woman unless she married into a Christian family.

Sometimes these individual conversions were the result of a "voice in the wilderness" raised in the hubbub of a market. The markets were held twice a week in certain clearings near the shore villages. The bush people brought down their taro and exchanged it for the smoked fish of the "salt water" folk. The women did the bartering, while their male protectors sat in two companies, bush and shore, and watched proceedings closely. The air was always somewhat electric. It was not a pleasant sight, at least on the occasion when Mother Margaret and Sister Veronica, in the days told of in Chapter VIII, went with job to a market near the north-east coast. Few people are at their best when bent on striking a bargain.

The fish wives of the coast, with their shrill voices, would flap their fish in the faces of the more timid bush women. "He no fit!" they would scream, when offered so much taro in exchange. Often the clatter and confusion would cause the bush woman to part with her taro for a small exchange--anything to get rid of the torrent of words which she only half understood, for the shore people speak a different language from the bush, and much of the bartering was in "pidgin".

[89] In one corner of the market Job put up his tattered picture on its wooden board. One thought of St. Augustine and his wooden banner of the Crucifixion on the shores of Kent. Job was making the same appeal. Now and again someone would look and listen for a few moments. Job went steadily on till his message was delivered. "Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit: saith the Lord," was a word in which he put his trust.

An experienced missionary in those parts told how it frequently happened that a word or two, or something in the picture, stuck like a barb in some heathen heart. Months afterwards perhaps he would come down saying that he couldn't get the memory out of his mind, and asking what it all meant. The seed, which is the Word of God, is not unfruitful.

But more often, among these corporate-minded people, a village desiring to be taught would ask for a teacher. Then the difficulty was to provide someone who had a real message to give. The young men of Aisasale had an average amount of keenness, but when a tiny hamlet about an hour's journey away asked the head teacher to send someone to pray with them and teach them, no one was willing to go.

"Wouldn't you go and try, David?" But David had no heart for the enterprise. It was too far from his garden--he had no relations there--there were lots of other reasons he could think of.

So he continued attending Sister Gwen's classes, day by day and Sunday by Sunday. On Sundays they were studying St. John's Gospel, putting the Mota Bible alongside the English. These precious English Gospels had come, a present from the Scripture Gift Mission, in the last mail that reached the Solomons before the Japanese occupation. Archbishop Temple's Readings in St. John's Gospel was one of the most treasured books rescued from the School Island in the evacuation.

[90] The Sisters had prepared a very simple course of religious instruction. These outlines were in a form which made it possible for a village teacher to use them. This typed book was studied by the young men on week days. A typewriter which had been brought up into the hills, and another which the Bishop lent, ticked busily while the women were working in their gardens, and produced a number of copies which were greatly prized. A small "primer" in Kwara'ae was also produced, when the Sisters had gleaned enough of the language, and this was a help in teaching children to read.

One day David came along and said simply, "I'm going to that village." When Sister Gwen enquired what had brought him to this decision he said, "I've got something to teach them now."

That is so often the case. It is not goodwill that is lacking, but spiritual equipment. They are themselves hungry for the Gospel in a form which speaks to their need. When they are sure of the grounds of their faith, and have a clear idea how to bring it home to their people, then they go gladly. Many have worked as missionaries year after year, often far from their own people and their father's house. They are the brown net, which still needs the support of white floats if the harvest of the seas is to be gathered in.




ON 26 July some of the Aisasale boys went down to the coast to work on the section of road near Fauabu for which the village was responsible. Two days later they returned with wide eyes.

"Jap he come," said David. It was true. Japanese vessels had dropped anchor in Coleridge Bay, in front of the Hospital, on Sunday morning at 2 a.m. Two Malaita boys from a shore village had been forced to pilot the vessels in. The Doctor and Mr. Buffet were sleeping in a hut on the hill above the Hospital, and boys ran up to tell them of the strange vessel. Being calm mortals, they returned to sleep until the morning. The Japanese waited till dawn before landing. Some of the Hospital orderlies, impelled by curiosity, came down to the beach. One of the Malaita pilots shouted a warning in his own language, and was immediately shot.

The Japanese then questioned the orderlies, very roughly, in pidgin English. The boys understood perfectly, but they put on their most dense, stupid and bewildered expressions, and said nothing but, "Me no savvy." The Japanese already knew that the Doctor and three nurses were somewhere in the vicinity, and knocked about the engine boy until he was frightened into saying that they were a day's journey in the bush. (Actually they were respectively ten minutes and two hours' journey away.) It is typical of a faithful Melanesian friend that that same boy ran all the way to Oneone, arrived bruised and exhausted, and panted out his news with shamed apologies.

As for the other missionaries and Government officials on Malaita, the Japanese apparently had no inkling of their [91/92] existence. Gela people had had many weeks of opportunity to inform against them, and to their eternal credit not one did so.

The Japanese stayed only a few days at Fauabu and then made their camp some miles away. They did little damage, for they expected soon to take over the place intact.

There was little real likelihood that the detachment would attempt to pursue a few white women in the bush. Their own position was too precarious, and the intricate bush paths impossible without a guide. But the old Chief Paul was taking no risks. He gave instructions to the young men of the village to organize sentries night and day. It was as well that their efforts were not necessary for long, for their methods were somewhat exhausting. The first night the whole company kept watch together. They lit fires, shouted, sang, and cooked a midnight supper. They climbed coconuts and hilariously knocked down green coconuts to drink. If the Japanese had been climbing the hill they would have had an excellent idea what direction to make for! However, it kept the boys in high spirits and the Sisters smiling through the night watches.

But the most touching thing of all was when the dear old Chief came home from the bush retreat where the women and children and old people had been hidden.

"Out there on those mountains," he said, pointing to dense jungle-covered heights away to the south-east, "I have two huts for our village women. If the Japanese begin to climb this hill, I shall take you and your girls there with our women."

It was a wonderful offer. There could hardly have been a greater testimony to the unity of brown and white.

At the end of August the Bishop warned his staff that military authorities were tending towards insistence on the removal south of the remaining white women. On 20 October the call came to move to the village of Ususua nearer the coast, and wait there in readiness for sudden orders expected within the next few days. The orders did not come for over a month. No one needed telling that a very critical battle for the Solomons was going on. There was heavy firing day [92/93] and night, and people living in villages overlooking the coast told with puzzled horrified faces of a naval battle fought out in the blue sea below them, as they came out of their churches on a Sunday morning.

Plans for the future had to be made. The three girls from the Reef Islands could not be left behind. If the Sisters were evacuated to the New Hebrides they must go too, for there was no possible chance of their being restored to their homes until the war was over. The Bishop held out hopes that the Sikaiana girls might be repatriated to their homes, seventy miles from Malaita, fairly soon, and in any case they had relations and friends from their island in Government employ nearby. Their guardianship was a not insoluble problem.

The beloved Grace Delight was to remain with them, in the care of the most reliable native woman to be found, until Mama Willie Au, that large-hearted Malaita Priest, could come and collect her to be the companion of his own slightly older Margaret Delight. Even at Ususua, Grace Delight continued to be the family sunbeam. She and Sister Veronica shared a rough bench at night under the verandah eaves. They slept head to head, so that first thing in the morning they could clasp hands above and give the Kwara'ae greeting, "Samu sata!" (pronounced "Sahm-saht").

One day Sister Madeleine took Grace Delight on her knee and they had a long talk. It was explained that the Sisters had to go far away, and that it would be a long time before
they came back. "Far away" had romantic associations for Grace Delight. She had once gone "far away" with Sister Madeleine to Kunususu, riding on Manasseh's shoulder, clutching his hair with one hand and gathering leaves and flowers in the other. Were the Sisters going "far away like Kunususu?" she asked. No, it was much farther than that.

At the end of that talk she set her firm little mouth and said, "I won't cry. Jesus will look after me." And indeed the Good Shepherd has been mindful of His lamb. At the time of writing she is still with Mama Willie. She is just [93/94] eight years old, and Mama Willie writes that she often goes with him on his journeys and helps to cook for him and is "very useful!"

Early in November came the joy of a letter from Mother Margaret, the first news for ten months. Her previous letter written early in December 1941, had announced that they hoped to leave Vila, New Hebrides, for Selwyn School at Torgil on Aoba in a "nice little Japanese steamer". It was due to leave Vila on 9 December. If Pearl Harbour had happened two or three days later, part of the Community might have found itself in Tokyo! As it was, the war came on the 7th, and they were brought on their way in a small launch by courtesy of another Mission.

Ten days after the Savo action the long expected order was received at Ususua. The Sisters and their party were to be at the Government Headquarters at Auki by 6 p.m. ready to leave next morning for Guadalcanal. The Sikaiana girls and Grace Delight came as far as the cross-road to Fiu. Grace Delight was holding tightly to the hand of tall Rosina. Her baby resolve still held, and others kept back their tears for her sake.

At 6 a.m. on 25 November the Bishop saw three Nurses, three Sisters, and five Melanesians on board the launch which was to take them to the transport. First came four hours' journey down the Malaita coast to take on board the Sisters of the Roman Catholic Mission; then west to Guadalcanal. At 4 p.m. the launch anchored off Aola on the south-east coast, and the Australian colonel in charge of the launch handed his party over to an American chaplain.

It was extraordinary to see the transformation of Guadalcanal, with huge lorries tearing perpetually up and down a wide dusty road, camouflaged huts and tents among the trees and coconuts, cheerful American voices everywhere. The memory of that chaplain still shines. He was one whose very presence was a benediction. He seemed to know every man [94/95] by name, and there were lots of tiny indications of the love and respect they had for him.

He led the party of travellers up the hill to the cool roomy leaf house belonging to the British District Officer, and there he fed them with "K" Rations and soft drinks and finally, since it was "Thanksgiving Day", with something resembling mince pies--if memory holds it was called Thanksgiving Pie.

As it began to grow dark the party returned to the launch. "What is the password for to-night?" the chaplain enquired, as he led his charges through the camp.

"Lullaby, Sir," someone told him.

It was an American "shibboleth". Passwords were always well sprinkled with "L's"; no Japanese could get his tongue round them. "Sleepless Mildred" one night in Tulagi cost the life of a Japanese who knew the password and tried to get entrance into the camp.

Next morning came the long chug-chug up the Guadalcanal coast to Lunga, near which was the Henderson Airfield. Many abandoned Japanese barges lay tossed up here and there on the beach. As the launch drew near Lunga a squadron of fighters shot up from the airfield and went roaring north.

"There's going to be a raid," said the chaplain. But the fighters must have seen to that, for no raid happened.

Those hours from 7 p.m. to noon next day seemed very long and the weary travellers were full of thankfulness when at last they were on board the large transport Barnett.

The Barnett was unloading stores and taking on board wounded men and prisoners and Marines due for a rest. She had several days' work yet to do before going south to her base at Santo in the New Hebrides. Each evening she left the open roadstead of Lunga and slept inside the submarine nets of Tulagi Harbour. There was not much left of the once pretty little township. The friendly island of [95/96] Gavutu, once the Solomon Islands headquarters of Lever Bros., had fared still worse. There was not a house standing and only bare trunks of coconuts. The School Island five miles to the south lay dark and deserted. It was not possible to see what was left among the underbush that had grown up in the last ten months. Later, when the American occupation was complete, the Bishop visited the island and wrote that "not a match stick remains of the Girls' School on Bunana".

The Barnett took all the party as far as Espiritu Santo and some went on from there to Australia. The Sisters' destination was Lolowai on Aoba. That was easily arranged. A picket boat would call for them at 9 o'clock next morning.

It was 1 December, exactly a year after Mother Margaret's departure from the School Island. The small picket boat with its powerful engine went cleaving its rapid way to Aoba. It seemed to the thankful Sisters that if the experience of the last year could be summed up in a sentence, it would be found in the words of an old illiterate Indian woman, speaking encouragement to one who had just heard the call to follow.

"He will wonderfully lead you. In every least thing He will wonderfully lead you.* [*Mimosa, by Amy Carmichael.]

About 4 o'clock someone came running to Torgil.

"The Sisters are landing at Lolowai from an American boat," he reported. Mother Margaret ran most of the way to Lolowai.

"Have you brought any stores with you?" was almost the first enquiry. "My stores were lost last steamer. Skim milk powder was the only thing that arrived."

"Not a thing," laughed the Sisters.

But in that matter, as already in so many others, provision was made. The generosity of fellow missionaries who offered to share stores, and the gifts of American visitors, helped the [96/97] situation. It happened that the Americans had a huge surplus of flour, more than their warehouses could shelter. They offered it to the British Commissioner for distribution among the Mission Stations. The two foods which had been most missed in the bush were bread and fruit. Now there was bread in abundance, and pawpaws, pineapples, oranges and pomelos, custard apples and mangoes.

The doings of the next five years lie outside the scope of this book. The joyfully reunited family found many new opportunities of sharing the light with the terribly needy souls of the people round them. Someone looking at a sketch of Maewo as seen from the Selwyn School, Torgil, said wistfully, "How very peaceful it all seems." It is true; there are days of great peace; but just as a tropical storm rises suddenly and lashes the landscape in a way unknown in cooler climes, so it is sometimes in human relationships. Storm and stress, hopelessness and cruelty, can lie hidden in these peaceful-seeming villages. The answer to all human ills is the same for every man--white, brown, black or yellow. A twelve year old at Selwyn School knew that answer. In a little carol book that she did not expect to be seen she wrote under her name:

My lovely words--
Abide in Me and I will abide in you.

[98] Further information about "School Island" may be obtained from:

The Mother Margaret of the Cross,
Melanesian Mission,
British Solomon Islands.

Books about the Mission, and general information, may be had from:

The Melanesian Mission,
33 Southampton Street,
London, W.C. 2,

The Melanesian Mission,
41 Shortland Street,
Auckland, N.Z.

and from:

The Australian Board of Missions,
16-20 Bridge Street,

Printed at the Church Army Press, Cowley, Oxford.

Project Canterbury