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- The Little Savage - 40/51 -
painting the terrible fate that would befall them if they failed to kill the white stranger, who had insulted their gods; and they predicted hosts of calamities that were to happen, in consequence of their having allowed the teller of lies to work so much mischief against them.
"My husband then being called upon for his defence, first declared to the judges the attributes of the Deity he worshipped: that he created the vast heavens, the stars, the mountains, the rivers, and the sea; his voice spoke in the thunder, and his eye flashed in the lightning. He then dwelt on his goodness to man, especially to the Sandwich Islanders, whom he had created for the purpose of enjoying the fine country around them and of beholding the beauty of the heavens where he dwelt. Then he referred to the gods they had worshipped, and asked how they were made, and what such senseless things could do for them; commenting on their inability to serve them, in any way, or do them any harm; and went on to speak of the benefits he had been able to confer upon them, through the influence of the all powerful God he worshipped; and asked them if he had ever done them anything but good. Lastly, he promised them innumerable benefits, if they would leave their useless gods, and turn to the only God who had the power to serve them.
"It is impossible for me to do justice to the animated manner in which he delivered this discourse. It produced great effect upon the majority of his hearers; but there was a powerful minority it still more strongly influenced against him; and they continued to interrupt him with terrible outcries.
"Most of the leading chiefs were against his suffering any harm. They bore in mind the advantages he had conferred, by his skill in medicine, and superior wisdom in various other things, which the people would lose were he put to death. They also remembered the hope he held out of future benefits, which of course they could not expect, if they offered him any violence.
"The result was, that my husband was suffered to go harmless from the meeting, to the great disappointment of his enemies, who could scarcely be kept from laying violent hands upon him. The danger he had escaped, unfortunately, did not render him more prudent. Far from it. He believed that he was a chosen instrument of the Most High, to win these savages from the depths of idolatry and Paganism; and continued, on every occasion that presented itself, to endeavour to win souls to God.
"The school increased, several of the parents suffered themselves to be baptised, and there was a regular observance of the Lord's Day amongst those who belonged to our little flock. Even many of the islanders, although they did not become Christians, attended our religious services, and spoke well of us.
"We brought up the young people to be able to teach their brethren and sisters; and hoped to be able to establish missions in other parts of the island, to which we sometimes made excursions; preaching the inestimable blessings of the gospel to the islanders, and exhorting them to abandon their dark customs and heathen follies. I was not far behind my husband in this good work, and acquired as much influence among the women as he exercised over the men: indeed we were generally looked upon as holy people, who deserved to be treated with veneration and respect."
"Things went on in this flourishing way for several years; my husband, deeply impressed with the responsibility of his position, as a chosen servant of God, devoted himself so entirely to the great work he had undertaken, that he often seemed to overlook the claims upon his attention of her he had chosen as his partner, in his struggle against the Powers of Darkness. Sometimes I did not see him for several days; and often when we were together, he was so abstracted, he did not seem aware I was present. Whenever I could get him to speak of himself, he would dilate on the unspeakable felicity that he felt in drawing nearer to the end of his work. I affected not to know to what he alluded; but I always felt that he was referring to the impression he entertained of his own speedy dissolution, which he had taken up when he first embraced this mission.
"I tried to get rid of my misgivings by recalling the dangers and difficulties we had triumphantly passed, and referring to the encouraging state of things that existed at the present time; nevertheless, I could not prevent a sinking of the heart, whenever I heard him venture upon the subject; and when he was absent from me, I often experienced an agony of anxiety till his return. I saw, however, no real cause of apprehension, and endeavoured to persuade myself none existed; and very probably I should have succeeded, had not my husband so frequently indulged in references to our separation.
"Alas," she exclaimed, mournfully, "he was better informed than I was of the proximity of that Celestial Home, for which he had been so long and zealously preparing himself. He, doubtless, had his intimation from on high, that his translation to the realms of bliss, was no remote consequence of his undertaking the mission he had accepted; and he had familiarised his mind to it as a daily duty, and by his constant references had sought to prepare me for the catastrophe he knew to be inevitable."
Here Mrs Reichardt became so sensibly affected, that it was some time before she could proceed with her narrative. She, however, did so at last, yet I could see by the tears that traced each other down her wan cheeks, how much her soul was moved by the terrible details into which she was obliged to enter.
"In the midst of our success," she presently resumed, "when we had established a congregation, had baptised hundreds of men, women, and children, had completed a regular place of worship, and an extensive school-house, both of which were fully and regularly attended, some European vessel paid us a short visit, soon after which, that dreadful scourge the small-pox, broke out amongst the people. Both children and adults were seized, and as soon as one died a dozen were attacked.
"Soon the greatest alarm pervaded the natives; my husband was implored to stop the pestilence, which power they felt convinced he had in his hands. He did all that was possible for him to do, but that unfortunately was very little. His recommendation of remedial measures was rarely attended with the desired results. Death was very busy. The people died in scores, and the survivors, excited by the vindictive men who had formerly sought his death for disparaging their gods, began not only to fall off rapidly in their regard and reverence for my husband, but murmurs first, and execrations afterwards, and violent menaces subsequently, attended him whenever he appeared.
"He preached to them resignation to the Divine Will; but resignation was not a savage virtue. He was indefatigable in his attentions to the sick; but those of whom he was most careful seemed the speediest to die. The popular feeling against him increased every hour; he appeared, however, to defy his fate--walking unconcernedly amongst crowds of infuriated savages brandishing heavy clubs, and threatening him with the points of their sharp spears; but his eye never blinked, and his cheek never blanched, and he walked on his way inwardly praising God, careless of the evil passions that raged around him.
"It was on a Sabbath morn--our service had far advanced; we could boast of but a limited congregation, for many had died, some had fled from the pestilence into the interior; others had avoided the place in consequence of the threats of their countrymen. A few children, and two or three women, were all their teacher had to address.
"We were engaged in singing a Psalm, when a furious crowd, mad with rage, as it seemed, screaming and yelling in the most frightful manner, and brandishing their weapons as though about to attack an enemy, burst into our little chapel, and seized my husband in the midst of his devotions.
"I rushed forward to protect him from the numerous weapons that were aimed at his life, but was dragged back by the hair of my head; and with infuriate cries and gestures, that made them look like demons broke loose from hell, they fell upon him with their clubs and spears.
"Reichardt made no resistance, he merely clasped his hands the more firmly, and looked up to Heaven the more devoutly, as he continued the Psalm he had commenced before they entered. This did not delay his fate.
"They beat out his brains so close to me, that I was covered with his blood, and I believe I should have shared the same fate, had I not fainted with terror at the horrible scene of which I was a forced spectator.
"I learned afterwards that some powerful chief interfered, and I was carried away more dead than alive, in which state I long remained. As soon as I became sufficiently strong to be moved, I took advantage of a whaler calling at the island, homeward bound, to beg a passage. The captain heard my lamentable story, took me on board as soon as he could, and shewed a seaman's sympathy for my sufferings.
"I was to have returned to England with him, but off this place we encountered a terrible storm, in which we were obliged to take to the boats, as the only chance of saving our lives. What became of him I know not, as the two boats parted company soon after leaving the wreck. I trust he managed to reach the land in safety, and is now in his own country, enjoying all the comforts that can make life covetable.
"What became of that part of the crew that brought me here in the other boat, led by the fires you had lighted, I am in doubt. But I think on quitting the island, crowded as their boat was, and in the state of its crew, it was scarcely possible for them to have made the distant island for which they steered."
Mrs Reichardt's story made a sensible impression on me. I no longer wondered at the pallor of her countenance, or the air of melancholy that at first seemed so remarkable; she had suffered most severely, and her sufferings were too recent not to have left their effects upon her frame.
I thought a good deal about her narrative, and wondered much that men could be got to leave their comfortable homes, and travel thousands and thousands of miles across the fathomless seas, with the
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