Susan Warner.

The Old Helmet, Volume II online

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buried without the due honours of his position. Mr. Rhys and Mr.
Lefferts had staid to make their protest and offer their entreaties and
warnings, to the very last; and then heart-sick and almost faint with
the disgusting scene, had returned home.

Yet the influence of the truth was increasing and the good work was
spreading and growing around them, steadily and in every direction. A
great many had renounced heathenism; not a small number were earnest
Christians and shewed the truth of their religion in their changed
lives. A great number of reports proved this.

"It is work that tries what stuff men's hearts are of, however,"
remarked Mr. Morrison as he folded up one packet of letters. Neither of
his hearers made him any answer. Mrs. Caxton sat opposite to him,
deeply attentive but silent, with her hand always lying upon her own
particular packet. Eleanor had turned a little away and sat with her
side face towards Mr. Morrison, looking into the fire. Her work was
dropped; she sat motionless.

"I have a letter to read you now of a later date," Mr. Morrison went
on, - "from Mr. Rhys, which shews how well he has got hold of the people
and how much he is regarded by them already. It shews the influence
gained by the truth, too, which is working there fast."

After giving some details of business and of his labours, Mr. Rhys
wrote - "My last notable piece of work, has been in the character of an
ambassador of peace - not heavenly but earthly. News was brought four or
five days ago that the heathen inhabitants of two neighbouring
districts had engaged in open hostilities. Home business claimed me one
day; the next morning I set out on my mission, with one or two
Christian natives. The desolations of war soon met our eyes, in
destroyed crops and a deserted village. Nobody was to be seen. I and
those who were with me sat down in the shade of some trees, while a
native went to find the inhabitants who had hid themselves in a thicket
of mangroves. As soon as the chief heard that I was there, and what I
had come for, he declared he would be a Christian forthwith; and four
or five of his principal men followed his example. They came to me, and
entered fully into my object; and it was decided that we should go on
immediately to the fortress where those who wished to carry on war had
intrenched themselves. We got there just as the sun was setting; and
from that time till midnight I was engaged in what I saw now for the
first time; a savage council of war. Grim black warriors covered with
black powder sat or stood about, on a little clear spot of ground where
the moon shone down; muskets and clubs and spears lay on the glass and
were scattered about among the boles of the trees; a heathen-looking
scene. Till midnight we talked, and hard talking too; then it was ended
as I had prayed it might. The party with whom I was had suffered
already in battle and had not had their revenge; it was difficult to
give that up; but at last the chief got up and put his hand in mine. 'I
should like to be a heathen a little longer,' he said, 'but I will
_lotu_ as you so earnestly entreat me.' _Lotu_ is their name for
embracing Christianity. Another young warrior joined him; and there
under the midnight moon, we worshipped God; those two and those who
were with me. In another part of the village a dozen women for the
first time bowed the knee in the same worship.

"So far was well; but it yet remained to induce the opposite hostile
party to agree to peace; you understand only one side was yet
persuaded. Early the next morning I set about it. Here a difficulty met
me. The Christian chiefs made no objection to going with me to parley
with their enemies; but I wanted the company also of another, the chief
of this district; knowing it very important. And he was afraid to go.
He told me so plainly. 'If I do as you ask me,' said he, 'I am a dead
man this day.' I did my best to make him think differently; a hundred
men declared that they would die in defence of him; and at last I
gained my point. Tui Mbua agreed to go to the neighbourhood of the
hostile town, if I would bring its principal men to meet him at an
appointed place. So we went. This chosen place was a fine plot of
ground enclosed by magnificent chestnut trees. I went on to the town,
with a few unarmed men. The people received us well; but it was
difficult to make the old heathen, brought up on treachery and
falsehood, believe that I was to be trusted. But in the end the chief
and twenty of his men consented to go with us, and left their arms at
home. They did it with forebodings, for I overheard an old man say, as
we set out from the place, - 'We shall see death to-day.' I lifted my
voice and cried, 'To-day we live!' They took up the words, and heart at
the same time, and repeated, 'To-day we live' - to encourage themselves,
I suppose, as we went towards the chestnut-tree meeting ground.

"I felt that the peace of the whole region depended on what was to be
done there, and for my part went praying that all might go well. It was
an anxious moment when we entered the open place; any ill-looks in
either party would chase away trust front the other. As we went in I
watched the chief who accompanied me. He gently bowed to Tui Mbua and
approached him with due and evidently honest respect. My heart leaped
at that moment. Tui Mbua looked at him keenly, sprang to his feet, and
casting his arms about his enemy's neck gave him a warm embrace. The
people around shouted for joy; I was still, I believe, for the very
depth of mine. One of the Christian chiefs spoke out and cried, 'We
thank thee, O Lord, for thus bringing thy creatures into the way of
life;' and he wept aloud for very gladness.

"After that we had speechifying; and I returned home very full of
thankful joy."

This was the last letter read. Mr. Morrison folded up his packet amid a
great silence. Mrs. Caxton seemed thoughtful; Eleanor was motionless.

"He is doing good work," remarked Mr. Morrison; "but it is hard work.
He is the right sort of man to go there - fears nothing, shirks nothing.
So are they all, I believe; but almost all the rest of them have their
wives with them. How came Rhys to go alone?"

"He does not write as if he felt lonely," said Mrs. Caxton.

"It is better for a man to take a wife, though," said Mr. Morrison. "He
wants so much of comfort and home as that. They get tired, and they get
sick, and to have no woman's hand about is something to be missed at
such times. O we are all dependent. Mr. Rhys is domesticated now with
Brother Lefferts and his family. I suppose he feels it less, because he
has not had a home of his own in a good while; that makes a difference."

"He knows he has a home of his own too," said Mrs. Caxton; "though he
has not reached it yet. I suppose the thought of that makes him

"Of course. But in a heathen land, with heathen desolation and dark
faces all around one, you have no idea how at times one's soul longs
for a taste of England. Brother Rhys too is a man to feel all such
things. He has a good deal of taste, and what you might call
sensitiveness to externals."

"A good deal," said Mrs. Caxton quietly. "Then he has some beautiful
externals around him."

"So they say. But the humanity is deplorable. Well, they will get their
reward when the Master comes. A man leaves everything indeed when he
goes to the South Seas as Rhys has done. He would have been very
popular in England."

"So he will in the islands."

"Well so it seems," said Mr. Morrison. "He has got the ear of those
wild creatures evidently. That's the man."

It was time for evening prayers; and afterwards the party separated;
Mrs. Caxton carrying off with her her packet of letters unbroken. The
morning brought its own business; the breakfast was somewhat hurried;
Mr. Morrison took his departure; and nothing more was said on the
subject of South Sea missionaries till the evening. Then the two ladies
were again alone together.

"Are you well to-day, Eleanor?" was Mrs. Caxton's first question at the

"Some headache, aunt Caxton."

"How is that? And I have noticed that your eyes were heavy all day."

"There is no harm, ma'am. I did not sleep very well."

"Why not?"

"I think the reading of those letters excited me, aunt Caxton."

Mrs. Caxton looked at a line of faint crimson which was stealing up
into Eleanor's cheeks, and for a moment stayed her words.

"My dear, there is as good work to be done here, as ever in Polynesia."

"I do not know, aunt Caxton," said Eleanor leaning her head on her hand
in thoughtful wise. "England has had the light a great while; it must
be grand to be the first torch-bearers into the darkness."

"So Mr. Rhys feels. But then, my dear, I think we are to do the work
given us - one here and one there; - and let the Lord place his servants,
and our service, as he will."

"I do not think otherwise, aunt Caxton."

"Would you like, to hear some of what Mr. Rhys has written to me? there
is a little difference between what is sent to a Committee and what is
for the private eye of a friend."

"Yes ma'am, I would like it," Eleanor said; but she did not say so at
all eagerly; and Mrs. Caxton looked at her once or twice before she
changed the subject and spoke of something else. She held to her offer,
however; and when the green cloth and the lamp were again in readiness,
she brought out the letters. Eleanor took some work and bent her head
over it.

"This is one of the latest dates," Mrs. Caxton said as she opened the
paper; "written after he had been there a good many months and had got
fairly acquainted with the language and with the people. It seems to me
he has been very quick about it."

"Yes, I think so," Eleanor answered; "but that is his way."

Mrs. Caxton read.

"My dear friend,

"In spite of the world of ocean rolling between us, I yet have a
strange and sweet feeling of taking your hand, when I set myself to
write to you. Spirit and matter seem at odds; and far away as I am,
with the vegetation and the air of the tropics around me, as soon as I
begin upon this sheet of paper I seem to stand in Plassy again. The
dear old hills rear their wild outlines before me; the green wealth of
vegetation is at my feet, but cool and fresh as nothing looks to me
under the northerly wind which is blowing now; and your image is so
distinct, that I almost can grasp your hand, and almost hear you speak;
_see_ you speak, I do. Blessed be the Lord for imagination, as well as
for memory! Without it, how slowly we should mount to the conception of
heavenly things and the understanding of himself; and the distance
between friends would be a sundering of them indeed. But I must not
waste time or paper in telling you what you know already.

"By which you will conclude that I am busy. I am as busy as I can
possibly be. That is as I wish it. It is what I am here for. I would
not have a moment unused. On Sunday I have four or five services, of
different sorts. Week days I have an English school, a writing school,
one before and the other after mid-day; and later still, a school for
regular native instruction. Every moment of time that is free, or would
be, is needed for visiting the sick, whose demands upon us are
constant. But this gives great opportunity to preach the gospel and win
the hearts of the people.

"Some account of a little preaching and teaching journey in which I
took part some few months ago, I have a mind to give you. Our object
was specially an island between one and two hundred miles away, where
many have become Christians, and not in name only; but where up to this
time no missionary has been stationed. We visit them when we can. This
time we had the advantage of a brig to make the voyage in; the mission
ship was here with the Superintendent and he desired to visit the
place. We arrived at evening in the neighbourhood; at a little island
close by, where all the people are now Christian. Mr. Lefferts went
ashore in a canoe to make arrangements; and the next day we followed.
It was a beautiful day and as beautiful a sight as eyes could see. We
visited the houses of the native teachers, who were subjects of
admiration in every respect; met candidates for baptism and examined
them; married a couple; and Bro. Griffiths preached. There is a new
chapel, of very neat native workmanship; with a pulpit carved out of a
solid piece of wood, oiled to give it colour and gloss. In the chapel
the whole population of the island was assembled, dressed in new
dresses, attentive, and interested. So were we, you may believe, when
we remembered that only two years ago all these people were heathens. O
these islands are a glorious place now and then, in spots where the
devil's reign is broken. I wish you could have seen us afterwards, my
dear friend, at our native feast spread on the ground under the trees;
you who never saw a table set but with exact and elegant propriety. We
had no table; believe me, we were too happy and hungry to mind that. I
do not think you would have quarrelled with our dishes; they were no
other and no worse than the thick broad glossy leaves of the banana. No
fault could be found with their elegance; and our napkins were of the
green rind of the same tree. Cocoanut shells were our substitute for
flint glass, and I like it very well; especially when cocoanut milk is
the refreshment to be served in them. Knives and forks we had none!
What would you have said to that? Our meat was boiled fowls and baked
yams and fish dressed in various ways; and the fingers of the natives,
or our own, were our only dividers. But I have seen less pleasant
entertainments; and I only could wish you had been there, - so you might
have whisked back to England the next minute after it was over, on some
convenient fairy carpet such as I used to read of in Eastern tales when
I was a boy. For us, we had to make our way in haste back to the ship,
which lay in the offing, and could not come near on account of the reef
barrier. We got on board safely, passing the reefs where once an
American ship was wrecked and her crew killed and eaten by the people
of these parts.

"The next day we made the land we sought; and got ashore through a
tremendous surf. Here we found the island had lately been the seat of
war - some of the heathen having resolved to put an end by violence to
the Christian religion there, or as they call it, the _lotu_. The
Christians had gained the victory, and then had treated their enemies
with the utmost kindness; which had produced a great effect upon them.
The rest of the day after our landing was spent in making thorough
inquiry into this matter; and in a somewhat extended preaching service.
At night we slept on a mat laid for us, or tried to sleep; but my
thoughts were too busy; and the clear night sky was witness to a great
many restless movements, I am afraid, before I lost them in
forgetfulness. The occasion of which, I suppose, was the near prospect
of sending letters home to England by the ship. At any rate, England
and the South Seas were very near together that night; and I was fain
to remember that heaven is nearer yet. But the remembrance carne, and
with it sleep. The next day was a day of business. Marrying couples
(over forty of them) baptizing converts, preaching; then meeting the
teachers and class-leaders and examining them as to their Christian
experience, etc. From dawn till long past mid-day we were busy so; and
then were ready for another feast in the open air like that one I
described to you - for we had had no breakfast. We had done all the work
we could do at that time at One, and sought our ship immediately after
dinner; passing through a surf too heavy for the canoes to weather.

"Let me tell you some of the testimony given by these converts from
heathenism; given simply and heartily, by men who have not learned
their religion by book nor copied it out of other men's mouths. It was
a very thrilling thing to hear them, these poor enterers into the
light, who have but just passed the line of darkness. One said, 'I love
the Lord, and I know he loves me; not for anything in me, or for
anything I have done; but for Christ's sake alone. I trust in Christ
and am happy. I listen to God, that he may do with me as he pleases. I
am thankful to have lived until the Lord's work has begun. I feel it in
my heart! I hold Jesus! I am happy! My heart is full of love to God!'

"Another said, 'One good thing I know, - the sacred blood of Jesus. I
desire nothing else.'

"Another, - 'I know that God has justified me through the sacred blood
of Jesus. I know assuredly that I am reconciled to God. I know of the
work of God in my soul. The sacred Spirit makes it clear to me. I wish
to preach the gospel, that others also may know Jesus.'

"All these have been engaged the past year in teaching or proclaiming
the truth in various ways. Another of their number who was dying, one
or two of us went to see. One of us asked him if he was afraid to die?
'No,' he said, 'I am sheltered. The great Saviour died for me. The
Lord's wrath is removed. I am his.' And another time he remarked,
'Death is a fearfully great thing, but I fear it not. There is a
_Saviour_ below the skies.'

"So there is a helmet of salvation for the poor Fijian as well as for
the favoured people at home. Praise be to the Lord! Did I tell you, my
dear friend, I was restless at the thought of sending letters home? Let
me tell you now, I am happy; as happy as I could be in any place in the
world; and I would not be in any other place, by my own choice, for all
the things in the world. I need only to be made more holy. Just in
proportion as I am that, I am happy and I am useful. I want to be
perfectly holy. But there is the same way of trusting for the poor
Fijian and for me; and I believe in that same precious blood I shall be
made clean, even as they. I want to preach Christ a thousand times more
than I do. I long to make his love known to these poor people. I
rejoice in being here, where every minute may tell actively for him. My
dear friend, when we get home, do what we will, we shall not think we
have done enough.

"Our life here is full of curious contrasts. Within doors, what our old
habits have stereotyped as propriety, is sadly trenched upon. Before
the ship came, Mrs. Lefferts' stock of comfort in one line was reduced
to a single tea-cup; and in other stores, the demands of the natives
had caused us to run very short. You know it is only by payment of
various useful articles that we secure any service done or purchase any
native produce. Money is unknown. Fruit and vegetables, figs, fish,
crabs, fowls, we buy with iron tools, pieces of calico, and the like;
and if our supply of these gives out, we have to draw upon the store of
things needed by ourselves; and blankets and hardware come to be minus.
Then, forgetting this, which it is easy to do, all the world without is
a world of glorious beauty. How I wish I could shew it to you! These
islands are of very various character, and many of them like the garden
of Eden for natural loveliness; shewing almost every kind of scenery
within a small area. Most of them are girdled more or less entirely by
what is called a _barrier reef_ - an outside and independent coral
formation, sometimes narrow, sometimes miles in width, on the outer
edge of which the sea breaks in an endless line of white foam. Within
the reef the lagoon, as it is called, is perfectly still and clear; and
such glories of the animal and vegetable world as lie beneath its
surface I have no time to describe to you now. I have had little time
to examine them; but once or twice I have taken a canoe and a piece of
rest, gliding over this submarine garden, and rejoicing in the Lord who
has made everything so beautiful in its time. My writing hour is over
for to-day. I am going five or six miles to see a man who is said to be
very ill.

"Feb. 16. The man had very little the matter with him. I had my walk
for nothing, so far as my character of doctor or nurse was concerned.

"I will give you a little notion of the beauty of these islands, in the
description of one that I visited a short time ago. It is one of our
out-stations - too small to have a teacher given it; so it is visited
from time to time by Mr. Lefferts and myself. With a fair wind the
distance is hardly a day's journey; but sometimes as in this case it
consumes two days. The voyage was made in a native canoe, manned by
native sailors, some Christian, some heathen. They are good navigators,
for savages; and need to be, for the character of the seas here,
threaded with a network of coral reefs, makes navigation a delicate
matter. Our voyage proceeded very well, until we got to the entrance of
the island. That seems a strange sentence; but the island itself is a
circle, nearly; a band of volcanic rock, not very wide, enclosing a
lake or lagoon within its compass. There is only a rather narrow
channel of entrance. Here we were met by difficulty. The surf breaking
shorewards was tremendously high; and meeting and struggling with it
came a rush of the current from within. Between the two opposing waters
the canoe was tossed and swayed like a reed. It was, for a few moments,
a scene to be remembered, and not a little terrific. The shoutings and
exertions of the men, who felt the danger of their position, added to
the roar and the power of the waters, which tossed us hither and
thither as a thing of no consequence, made it a strange wild
minute, - till we emerged from all that struggle and roar into the still
beautiful quiet of the lagoon inside. Imagine it, surrounded with its
border of rocky land covered with noble trees, and spotted with islets
covered in like manner. The whole island is of volcanic formation, and
its rocks are of black scoria. The theory is, I believe, that a volcano
once occupied the whole centre of such islands; which sinking
afterwards away left its place to the occupancy of a lake instead.
However produced, the effect is singular in its wild beauty. The soil
of this island is poor for any purpose but growing timber; the
inhabitants consequently are not many, and they live on roots and fish
and what we should think still poorer food - a great wood maggot, which
is found in plenty. There are but four villages, two of them Christian.
I staid there one night and the next day, giving them all I could; and
it was a good time to me. The day after I returned home. O sweet gospel
of Christ! which is lighting up these dark places; and O my blessed
Master, who stands by his servants and gives them his own presence and
love, when they are about his work and the world is far from them, and
men would call them lonely. There is no loneliness where Christ is. I
must finish this long letter with giving you the dying testimony of a
Tongan preacher who has just gone to his home. He came here as a
missionary from his own land, and has worked hard and successfully. He
said to Mr. Calvert the day before his death, 'I have long _enjoyed_
religion and felt its _power_. In my former illness I was happy; but
now I am greatly blessed. The Lord has come down with mighty power into
my soul, and I feel the blessedness of _full rest of soul_ in God. I
feel religion to be peculiarly sweet, and my rejoicing is great. I see
more fully and clearly the truth of the word and Spirit of God, and the
suitableness of the Saviour. The whole of Christianity I see as
exceedingly excellent.'

"With this testimony I close, my dear friend. It is mine; I can ask no
better for you than that it may be yours."

Mrs. Caxton ended her reading and looked at Eleanor. She had done that
several times in the course of the reading. Eleanor was always bent
over her work, and busily attentive to it; but on each cheek a spot of
colour had been fixed and deepening, till now it had reached a broad
flush. Silence fell as the reading ceased; Eleanor did not look up;
Mrs. Caxton did not take her eyes from her niece's face. It was with a
kind of subdued sigh that at last she turned from the table and put her
papers away.

"Mr. Morrison is not altogether in the wrong," she remarked at length.
"It is better for a man in those far-off regions, and amidst so many
labours and trials, to have the comfort of his own home."

"Do you think Mr. Rhys writes as if he felt the want?"

"It is hard to tell what a man wants, by his writing. I am not quite at
rest on that point."

"How happened it that he did not marry, like everybody else, before
going there?"

"He is a fastidious man," said Mrs. Caxton; "one of those men that are
rather difficult to please, I fancy; and that are apt enough to meet

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Online LibrarySusan WarnerThe Old Helmet, Volume II → online text (page 11 of 25)