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- Life of John Coleridge Patteson - 110/144 -


with the Pitcairn people. He seemed quite at home in the hospital, almost always cheerful, always very tender, and generally very decided as to what was to be done. He was fond of doctoring, read a good deal of medical books, and knew a good deal of medical practice; but the weight of such a responsibility as belonged to the charge of many patients in a fever of this kind was certainly heavy upon him. The daily visit to the Pitcairn people on foot or on horseback was no doubt a relief, though hard work in itself. Of the four lads we lost, two, twins, had been some time christened, one was baptized before his death, the first who died had not been long with the Mission. It is characteristic of Bishop Patteson that I never heard him say a word that I remember of religion to one of the sick. On such things he would not, unless he was obliged, speak except with the patient alone.

'Before the sickness was quite over, the "Southern Cross" arrived for the winter voyage. The danger of carrying infection to the islands could not be incurred, and the vessel was sent back to Auckland for a time.'

The letters she carried back refer again to the growing anxiety about the 'labour traffic.'

'May 6th.--I am corresponding with a Wesleyan Missionary in Ovalau (Fiji) on a matter that you may see mentioned some day in the papers, a very questionable practice of importing from the Southern New Hebrides (principally Tanna) natives to work on the cotton plantations of white settlers in Fiji. It is all, as I am assured, under the regulation of the Consul at Ovalau, and "managed" properly. But I feel almost sure that there is, or will be, injuries done to the natives, who (I am sure) are taken away under false pretences. The traders don't know the Tannese language, and have no means of making the people understand any terms, and to talk of any contract is absurd. Yet, a large number of Tanna men, living on really well- conducted plantations, owned by good men, might lead to a nucleus of Christian Tannese. So says Mr. M. True, say I, if (!) you can find the good planters and well-conducted plantations. Mr. M. assures me that they (the Wesleyan Missionaries) are watching the whole thing carefully. He writes well and sensibly on the whole, and kindly asks me to visit his place, and judge for myself.

'Tanna is in the hands of the Nova Scotia Presbyterians--Mr. Greddie, Inglis, and others; but the adjacent islands we have always visited and considered ours, and of course a plague of this kind soon spreads. My letter to Mr. Attwood on the matter was read by Sir John Young and Commodore Lambert, and they expressed a warm interest in the matter. Mr. M. says that they think it would be well to accept some rule of conduct in the matter from the Commodore, which is, I think, likely to do good.'

By the 15th of June the glad intelligence was received that the hospital had been empty for a fortnight; and the house that was to have been carried to Mota was put up for the married couples, for whom it afforded separate sleeping rooms, though the large room was in common. Two weddings were preparing, and B---- and his wife had become reconciled.

'We may hope that this time it is not a case of two children, then unbaptized, living together, heathen fashion, obeying mere passion, ignorant of true love, but a sober, somewhat sad reunion of two clever and fairly-educated grown-up people, knowing much of life and its sad experience, understanding what they are about, and trying to begin again with prayer to God and purposes of a good life.'

This time of convalescence was a time of great progress. A deep impression had been made on many, and there was a strong spirit of enquiry among them. The Bishop then began a custom of preaching to his black scholars alone after the midday service, dismissing his five or six white companions after prayers, because he felt he could speak more freely and go more straight to the hearts of his converts and catechumens if he had no other audience.

The other inhabitants of the island suffered long after the St. Barnabas scholars were free, and deaths continued. It was impossible to enforce on such an undisciplined race the needful attention to cleanliness, or even care of the sick; the healthy were not kept apart, nor was the food properly prepared for the sick. It was impossible to stir or convince the easy-going tropical nature, and there was no authority to enforce sanitary measures, so the fever smouldered on, taking first one, then another victim, and causing entire separation from St. Barnabas, except as far as the Bishop was concerned.

Meantime, a house was being put up to receive Mr. Palmer's intended wife, the daughter of that Mr. Ashwell who had shared in the disastrous voyage when the 'Southern Cross' had been wrecked. She had been brought up to Mission work, and was likely to be valuable among the young girls. After this announcement, the Bishop continues:--

'My mind is now made up to take the great step of ordaining dear George Sarawia, for nine years my pupil, and for the last three or four my friend and helper. Codrington is only surprised that he is not ordained already. Humanly speaking, there can be no doubt of his steadfastness. He is, indeed, a thoroughly good conscientious man, humble without servility, friendly and at his ease without any forwardness, and he has a large share of good sense and clear judgment. Moreover, he has long held a recognised position with all here and in New Zealand, and for the last two years the Mota people and the neighbouring islanders have quite regarded him as one whom they recognise as their leader and teacher, one of our own race, yet not like us--different; he knows and does what we can't do and don't know."

'They quite look upon him as free from all the difficulties which attend a man's position as inheriting feuds, animosities, &c. He goes anywhere; when the island may be in a disturbed state, no one would hurt him; he is no partisan in their eyes, a man of other habits and thoughts and character, a teacher of all.

'I think, oh! with such feelings of thankfulness and hope too, of the first Melanesian clergyman! I should almost like to take him to Auckland, that the Bishop might ordain him; but he ought to be ordained here, in the presence of the Melanesians; and in the hasty confusion of the few weeks in New Zealand, George would be at a sad loss what to do, and the month of October is cold and raw. But you may get this just in time to think of his Ordination, and how you will pray for him! His wife Sara is a weakly body, but good, and she and I are, and always have been, great friends. She has plenty of good sense. Their one child, Simon, born in Norfolk Island some fourteen months ago, is a very nice-looking child, and healthy enough.

Meantime the spirit of enquiry and faith was making-marked progress. Mr. Codrington says: 'The stir in the hearts and minds of those already christened might be called a revival, and the enquiring and earnest spirit of many more seemed to be working towards conversions. During this time, there might be seen on the cliff or under the trees in the afternoon, or on Sundays, little groups gathered round some of the elder Christians, enquiring and getting help. It was the work that George evidently was enabled to do in this way that convinced everyone that the time had quite come for his Ordination. It is worth mentioning that the boys from one island, and one individual in particular, were much influenced by the last conversations of the first Christian who died here (Walter Hotaswol), who had told his friends to be "sure that all the Bishop had told them was true."'

This quickening and its results are further described in the ensuing letter, wherein is mention of the Bauro man Taroniara, the most remarkable of the present conversions, and destined three years after to die with the Bishop and Mr. Atkin.

'June 20, 9 P.M., 1868.

'My dear Sisters,--You know how I am thinking of him to-day. Seven years ago! I think that he seems more and more present to my mind than ever. How grateful it is to me to find the dear Bishop ever recurring to him in his sermons, &c.; but indeed we all have the great blessing and responsibility of being his children. The thought of meeting him again, if God be so merciful, comes over me sometimes in an almost overpowering way: I quite seem to see and feel as if kneeling by his side before the Great Glory, and even then thinking almost most of him. And then, so many others too--Mamma, Uncle James, Frank, &c., and you, dear Joan, think of your dear Mother. It seems almost too much. And then the mind goes on to think of the Saints of God in every generation, from one of the last gathered in (dear Mr. Keble) to the very first; and as we realise the fact that we may, by God's wonderful mercy, be companions, though far beneath the feet, of Patriarchs, and Apostles, and Martyrs, and even see Him as He is--it is too great for thought! and yet, thank God, it is truth.

'My heart is full too of other blessed thoughts. There seems to be a stirring of heart among our present set of scholars, the younger ones I mean; they come into my room after evening Chapel and school, one or two at a time, but very shy, sit silent, and at last say very softly, "Bishop, I wish to stop here for good."

'"Why?"

'"I do wish to be good, to learn, to be like George and Henry and the rest."

'This morning I baptized Charlotte and Joanna. Charlotte will be married to Fisher on Wednesday, when Benjamin and Marion will also be married. Oh, what blessings are these! I spoke earnestly of the service in my preachment.

'Taroniara, from San Cristoval, said to me the other night, "Bishop, why is it that now I think as I never thought before? I can't tell quite what I think. You know I used to be willing to learn, but I was easily led away on my own island; but I think that I shall never wish again to listen to anything but the Word of God. I know I may be wrong, but I think I shall never be inclined to listen to anything said to me by my people to keep me from you and from this teaching. I feel quite different: I like and wish for things I never really used to care for; I don't care for what I used to like and live for. What is it?"

'"What do you think it is?"

'"I think--but it is so (mava) great--I think it is the Spirit of God in my heart."

'As for the Mota and Matlavo fellows, and the girls too, they have now good examples before them, and one and all wish to stop here as long as I please. And that being so, the return to their homes not being a return to purely heathen islands, I trust that they may soon be baptized. So my heart is full of thankfulness and wonder and awe.


Life of John Coleridge Patteson - 110/144

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