JOHN WILLIAMS, THE MARTYR OF ERROMANGO.
Of Welsh extraction, and respectable though humble parentage, the pioneer and martyr of Polynesia, John Williams, was born at Tottenham High Court, London, in the year 1796. His parents were Nonconformists, and he was educated at a "commercial" school at Edmonton, where the teaching did not aim at much beyond writing and accounts, all that was supposed, at that time, to be needful for a young tradesman. The chief point remembered of his childhood was an aptitude and handiness which caused all little breakages to be kept for John to repair,--a small quality, but one of no small importance in the life of a missionary, who often finds ready resource essential to safety and to influence.
His mother was a good and religious woman, whose one great purpose in choosing a situation was to place him in a family where he might be influenced for good; and she was fortunate in finding a furnishing ironmonger whose care of his apprentices exactly met her views. While serving his time, John Williams was observed to delight in the hard practical work of the forge far more than in the easier and more popular employments of the shop, and he was always eager to be sent out to execute repairs, a task that was rather despised by his companions. He was not regarded as a religious youth till he was about eighteen; he considered that a serious direction had been given to his mind one Sunday evening, when his master's wife, finding him just about to enter a tea- garden with some idle companions, persuaded him to come with her to chapel, where he heard an impressive sermon that gave a colour to his life.
After this, distinct habits of piety were formed, Williams was admitted to full membership at the chapel called the Tabernacle, and, together with others of the more earnest young men of the congregation, formed a society called "The Youths' Class," one of those associations which, under whatever form, have, in all ages of Christianity, been found a most powerful and salutary means of quickening, uniting, and strengthening the young by the sense of fellowship. The lads met every Monday evening for discussion, and every eighteenth Monday was devoted to special prayer. The minister of the chapel did not naturally preside, but would often look in, say a few words on the subject in hand, and thus keep watch that the debates were properly conducted.
It was through this pastor, Mr. Wilks, that John Williams first imbibed his interest in the missionary cause,--an interest that gradually grew upon him so much, that in his twentieth year he decided upon devoting himself to the task. Good Mr. Wilks freely gave the young ironmonger assistance in supplying the deficiencies of his education, and in July 1816 he was presented to the directors of the London Missionary Society, and passed an examination, after which he was accepted, before he was out of his apprenticeship. According to rule, so young and so insufficiently instructed a man would ordinarily have had some years of training before actually undertaking to labour among the heathen, but there was at the moment an urgent call for aid from various branches, and it was decided, by a special vote of the committee, to send him out as soon as possible to the South Sea Islands. His master willingly released him from the seven months that remained of his term; nor had his time of apprenticeship been by any means wasted, for the mechanical skill he had acquired was of great importance to his success as a civilizer. Marriage was always recommended to the missionaries of the Baptist Societies, and Williams's fate was no sooner decided than he chose Mary Channer, a constant attendant at the Tabernacle, and a woman helpful, kind, and brave, as befitted a missionary's wife.
A great meeting was soon after held, as a sort of dedication of the new labourers, nine in number, who were thence to go forth,--five to South Africa, four to Polynesia. Among the Africans was Robert Moffat, a name memorable, both on his own account and as the father-in-law of Livingstone. An elderly minister stood forth and questioned the young men in the face of the congregation on their faith, their opinions, their motives, and their intentions; and then a Bible was solemnly presented to each by an elder minister, John Angell James, of Birmingham, one of the most able and highly reputed Nonconformists then living; and another minister, Dr. Waugh, addressing himself to Williams, who was much the youngest of the nine, said, "Go, my dear young brother, and if your tongue cleave to the roof of your mouth, let it be with telling poor sinners the love of JESUS CHRIST; and if your arms drop from their shoulders, let it be with knocking at men's hearts to gain admittance for Him there."
The impression never left John Williams, and the injunction was fulfilled to the utmost of his power. He was a man of strong and vigorous frame, well fitted to encounter the perils of climate; and with much enterprise, hardihood, and ingenuity. That his mind was in some degree narrowed by want of education, perhaps mattered less in the peculiar field of his labours, where he was seldom brought in contact with wide questions. He had the excellent quality of ready sympathy and adaptability to the persons around him, whether civilized or savage, and was so good-natured and yielding in unimportant matters, that the strength and firmness with which he would stand up for whatever he viewed as a matter of conscience, always took his opponents by surprise; but it was always long before this point was reached, and he was perhaps too ready to give up when it was judgment rather than right and wrong that came into play. Williams's face, as given in the portrait attached to his "History of Missionary Enterprise in the South Sea," curiously agrees with his history. There is much power about the brow, much enterprise in the strong, somewhat aquiline nose, great softness and sweetness in the eyes, but the thickness of the lips and chin betray the want of cultivation; indeed, the curious manner in which the mouth is pursed up, would seem to indicate that an eager temper naturally kept it unclosed, and that the restraint of sitting for a picture rendered the expression uncomfortably prim.
The Polynesian Mission on which John Williams was sent, had been commenced in 1796 by the London Missionary Society, partly in consequence of the death-bed entreaties of Selina, Countess of Huntingdon, who had been exceedingly interested by the accounts of the South Sea Islands in Captain Cook's Voyages. The subscriptions amounted to 10,000l., and were sufficient to purchase a ship called the Duff, which was commanded by that Captain Wilson whose wonderful history has been noticed in the lives of the Serampore body. Twenty-five missionaries were taken out, and received at Tahiti with grotesque dances and caperings. The dwelling, which had been erected when Captain Bligh was collecting bread- fruit, was given to them, and several were placed there, while the Duff carried others to the Friendly and Marquesan Islands, and, after visiting them all a second time, returned home for reinforcements.
On the next voyage, however, with a different captain, the Duff was captured by a French privateer, the captain of which, when he understood the purpose of the voyage, greatly regretted what he had done, and declared that he would rather have given 500l. than have interfered with it. He landed the missionaries at Monte Video, and assisted them in obtaining a passage home, in the course of which they were again captured by a Portuguese, whose treatment of them was a wretched contrast to that of the friendly Frenchman.
Meantime, many disasters had befallen the unassisted missionaries, who suffered from the hostility of a section of the natives, though the king, Pomare, always protected them. One of their number insisted on marrying a native woman still unconverted, separated from his brethren, and was soon after murdered by the natives. Another was lost in a still sadder way. He reasoned himself into doubts of the Divine power and of the immortality of the soul, and finally left the island, nor was he heard of again for many years, though prayer was constantly made for him, and at length it became known that he had wandered to Serampore, where the influence of Marshman and Carey had prevailed to bring back his faith, but he had since been lost at sea. What wonderful glimpses we get of strange wild lives!
But the Tahitian Mission had not included any one leading character, so that it may be enough to state that, after years of patient effort and often of danger, the missionaries beheld King Pomare II., the successor of him whom they had found on the throne, solemnly burn his idols, and profess himself a Christian.
From that time the island has been Christian. The standard of morality has been by no means as high as it ought to be, and there is much disappointment in dealing with any nation, with none more so than with an indolent and voluptuous people, in a climate disposing them to inertness, and in a part subject to the visits of lawless seamen of all nations. However, the mission kept its hold of Tahiti, until the French, in 1844, began a series of aggressions, which ended in their establishing a protectorate over the islands, introducing their Church, and doing all in their power to discourage the London Mission, to which, however, many of the natives still adhere.
This, however, is anticipating. When the five young men sailed in 1817, and after a kindly welcome on their way from Mr. Marsden at Sydney, things were in the full blush of promise. Eight hundred people worshipped at the chapel of Erineo, near the landing-place. It was a circular building, a good deal like a haystack, with walls of stakes, a thatch of large leaves, and a desk in the centre of the floor for the preacher. This was his first station, and whilst there he gave his assistance in building a ship, to enable King Pomare to open a trade with New South Wales. He stayed in this place till he had become familiar with the language, and his first child was born there.
Not long after some allies of Pomare, from Huahime, struck with the benefits produced among the Tahitians by the missionaries, entreated that some might be sent to them likewise; and Williams, his wife and child, with two other married pairs, and an interpreter, were told off for the mission.
They were welcomed eagerly, had oval huts assigned to them, and no lack of pork and yams, but Mr. Williams did not long remain there, being called away by an invitation from Raiatea. This is one of the loveliest of tropical islands, the largest of the Society Islands. Huge mountain masses rise from the centre of an isle, about fifty miles in circumference, and give it the grandeur of the rock, the precipice, and the waterfall; but all around and below, the sides are clothed with the exquisite verdure of the southern clime, the palm, the bread-fruit, the yam, and all that can delight the eye; and both this and a little satellite islet are fenced in by an encircling coral reef, within which is clear still deep water, fit for navies to ride in, and approachable through numerous inlets in its natural breakwater. It was a spot of much distinction, containing the temple of the god Oro, who was revered by all the surrounding groups, as the god of war, to whom children were dedicated to make them courageous. There dreadful human sacrifices were offered, concluded by cannibal feasts. Whenever such a sacrifice was required, the priest and king despatched messengers to the chiefs of the districts around to inquire whether they had a broken calabash, or a rotten cocoa-nut. These terms indicated a man whom they would be willing to give up. The victim was then either knocked down with a blow of a small stone at the back of his head, or else speared in his own house; and when one man of a family had thus been sacrificed, all the rest had the same horrid preference.
The last human victim of Tahiti was verily a martyr. He was designated because he had begun to pray. The emissaries came to his house and asked his wife where he was. Then, borrowing from her the ironwood stick used for breaking open cocoa-nuts, they went after him, and knocked him down with it, binding him hand and foot, and placing him in a long basket made of cocoa-nut leaves. His wife rushed forward, but was kept away, as the touch or breath of a woman is considered to pollute a sacrifice. The man, however, recovered the blow, and spoke out boldly: "Friends, I know what you intend to do with me. You are about to kill me, and offer me up as a tabae to your savage gods. I know it is vain for me to beg for mercy, for you will not spare my life. You may kill my body, but you cannot hurt my soul, for I have begun to pray to JESUS."
On hearing this, his bearers set him on the ground, put one stone under his head, and beat out his brains with another, and thus died the last Tahitian sacrifice, truly baptized in his own blood. The other gods besides Oro were numerous, and there were also many animals supposed to be possessed with familiar spirits. A chief was once in the cabin of a ship where there was a talking cockatoo: the moment the bird spoke he rushed away in the utmost terror, leapt overboard, and swam for his life, convinced that he had heard the captain's demon.
The chief of Raiatea was named Tamatoa, and was a man of considerable power. Two years previously the Tahitian king, Pomare, nineteen of his subjects, and a missionary named Wilson had been driven thither in a canoe by stress of weather; and what Tamatoa had heard from them had so impressed him that he had persuaded his people to build a place of worship, observe the Sunday, and meet to repeat together the scant lessons they had been able to receive during the visit of the Tahitians. This led to a resolve to entreat for the presence of a missionary among them; and the chieftain himself came to Huahime to make the request. Williams longed to go, but, as the youngest minister, waited till all the rest had decided to the contrary, and then gladly accepted his lot to go with Tamatoa. There was a joyous welcome, and a feast was brought, consisting of five pigs for Mr. Williams, five for his wife, and five for their baby-boy; besides crates of yams, bananas, and cocoa-nuts, which, however, they were not required to eat themselves, only to see eaten in their house.
The islanders were ready to give up their idols and call themselves Christians, to hear Mr. Williams preach, and to observe the Sabbath; being, in fact, like the Red Indians of Eliot's experience, so idle that a day of no work made no difference to them. Their indolence, the effect of their enervating climate, was well-nigh invincible; they preferred hunger to trouble, and withal their customs were abhorrent to Christian morality. Most islets of the South Seas have much the same experience. The people, taken on their best side, show themselves gentle and intelligent, and their chiefs are dignified gentlemen; but there is a horrible background of ferocity and barbarism--often cannibalism. It generally proves comparatively easy to obtain a recognition of Christianity, and the cruelty and violence are usually laid aside; but to bring purity and morality to bear upon these races is a much more difficult thing, and the apparent failures have been at once the grief and reproach of missionaries, while those who assail them with scoffs forget the difficulty of dealing with the inveterate customs of a whole people, in a luxurious climate, and with little or no inducement to such industrial occupations or refinements of mind, as are the best auxiliaries of religion in raising the tone.
Lands where cold is unknown, and where fruit grows as freely as in Paradise, offer no inducement to labour; and the missionaries, striving in vain to lead the people to think occupation a duty, were deserted as being troublesome when they bade them to work. A school which the Williams's set up was more popular; the Polynesians had no lack of brains, and reading and writing were pleasanter than digging and building, or carrying logs.
Thinking that examples of the civilization that the islanders had never seen would do more for their advance than anything else, Mr. Williams, with such assistance as he could obtain from the natives, built himself a house with eight rooms, sash windows with Venetian blinds, a verandah, and a most beautiful garden, and filled it with polished furniture, made by his own clever mechanical hands. With the assistance of one or two other missionaries who joined him, he succeeded in thus exciting a certain emulation among the natives. The king had a house built for him like that of the white men, others followed, and thus a very important step was made out of the degraded customs encouraged by the old oval huts. The coral, made into lime, afforded excellent material for plaster, and trades began to be fostered among the natives; they became carpenters, blacksmiths, plasterers, boat-builders, and acquired some ideas of agriculture. By the end of the second year, the chapel and school stood in the midst of white cottages; the population still wore clothing made of their own bark cloth, but in imitation of that of their teachers, and the open savagery of the island was gone. The congregation assembled three times on Sunday, and there was family prayer in almost every house. Cannibalism was ended, and so was infanticide, one of the most terrible customs of the island, for there was scarcely a woman above thirty who had not put to death several of her infants. Much had been done, although the good man to whom so much was owing did not feel satisfied that the profession in many cases was thoroughly deep, and he still knew of many an inveterate evil, that only time, discipline, and above all heartfelt religion, could uproot.
A large chapel, built with all the taste and ornament that he could achieve, was erected, the sides wattled, the roof supported by pillars of tree-trunks, and the floors and pews, the pulpit and desk, which were all to which the young ironmonger at the Tabernacle attached the notion of a worthy place of worship, were solid and well finished. He even fashioned some chandeliers for evening service, and these so astonished the Raiateans, that on first entering the chapel, they broke out into a cry of amaze, "Oh, Britannia! Britannia!" and gave the name to England of "the land whose customs were without end."
The opening of this chapel was one great step in Mr. Williams's work; the next was the inducing Tamatoa and the other chiefs to bind themselves to govern by a code of Christian laws, not complex, but based on the Ten Commandments, and agreeing with those newly established by Pomare in Tahiti, but with this difference, that Williams ventured to introduce trial by jury, in the hope that it would tend to qualify the despotic power of the chiefs. Tamatoa's brother, Pahi, was appointed judge, and the community was arranged on a Christian basis. The congregation was likewise put under regular discipline after the example of the Independents in England, with ruling pastors and elders appointed from among the people; and an auxiliary Missionary Society was formed for assisting in the conversion of the other isles.
Just as this was thoroughly arranged, in about the fourth year of his mission, Williams suffered from a malady which seemed to him and his companion, Mr. Threlkeld, to necessitate his return home. The information was received by the islanders with something like despair. Old King Tamatoa came to him and said, "Viriamu, I have been thinking you are a strange man. JESUS did not take care of His body. He did not even shrink from death, and now you are afflicted you are going to leave us."
Prayer was offered all over the island, and in the midst of all the preparations for departure the disease began to ameliorate, and Mr. Williams recovered for a time, though the next year a recurrence of the attack made him resolve upon a visit to Sydney, not only for the sake of advice, but in the hope of establishing a market for the produce of the Society Isles, which might give a motive to the industry he was so anxious to promote, and likewise to obtain a vessel to be used for the missions.
Two Raiatean teachers instructed by him were landed at the island of Aitutake on the way, after the chiefs had pledged themselves to support and protect them, and the voyage was continued to Australia, where there was as usual a warm reception from Mr. Marsden. It was a very important visit. Parts of the Holy Scriptures, catechisms, and spelling-books, were printed; the ship, with the assistance of the Society of which Marsden was agent, was purchased, a schooner of ninety tons, and named Te Matama, the Beginner; a person named Scott secured, at 150l. per annum, to instruct the natives in the cultivation of sugar and tobacco, and stores laid in of presents for the natives, clothes for the women, shoes, stockings, tea-kettles, tea-cups, saucers, and tea. The natives had a great liking for tea, and as they could not cherish cups and saucers without shelves to put them on, all this was an indirect mode of introducing European comforts and decencies. As to shoes, there can be no spade husbandry with an unshod foot, and thus the system of hoeing- women doing all the labour was attacked.
On the way back to Raiatea, Mr. Williams visited New Zealand, but not at a favourable moment, for the chiefs were at war, and he had to hurry away. The cargo was gladly welcomed at Raiatea, and the desire to purchase European dress was found a great incentive to industry.
In 1823, Mr. Williams began a series of missionary voyages. The events of these have almost too much sameness for description, though full of interest in detail. The people, when taken on their right side, were almost always ready to admit teachers, and adopt certain externals, though the true essentials of Christianity were of much slower growth. Our limits prevent us from giving much of detail of his intercourse with these isles. Raiatea was his first home, Rarotonga his second. There he placed his family, which long consisted of his one boy, John, born in Tahiti, all Mrs. Williams's subsequent babes scarcely living to see the light, until, in the sixteenth year of her Polynesian life, another son rejoiced her. She became a centre and pattern of domestic life, and instructed the women in feminine habits, and she patiently encountered the anxieties and perils, chiefly from storm and hurricane, that beset her life. The chief troubles that Mr. Williams encountered at Raiatea, were the vices that civilization brought. After old Tamatoa's death, his son allowed a distillery to be established, and drunkenness threatened to overthrow the habits so diligently taught. May be, the Puritanical form of religion and the acquired tastes of the London tradesman did not allow brightness and beauty enough to these children of the South, and tempted them by proscribing things innocent, but there is no telling: nothing but strictness seemed a sufficient protection from the foul rites of idolatry, and all that his judgment or devotion could devise for these people Williams and his fellows did.
The Samoan group of islands was one of those where the people showed the most intelligence. They were already great cultivators of the toilette. A Samoan beau glistened from the head to the hips with sweet-scented oil, and was tastefully tattooed from the hips to the knees; he wore a bandage of red leaves oiled and shining, a head-dress formed of a pearly disk of nautilus-shell, and a string of small white shells round each arm. His lady was not tattooed, but spotted all over, and when in full attire, wore a beautiful white silky mat at her waist, a wreath of sweet flowers round her head, rows of large blue beads round her neck, and the upper part of her person was tinged with turmeric rouge.
These Samoans, though they deified many animals, had no temples, idols, priests, nor sacrifices, and thus were more than usually amenable to Christian ideas; and on Mr. Williams's second visit to the island, he had a numerous congregation, but so arranged that he could hardly keep his countenance. Some had their long hair greased and stiffened into separate locks, standing erect like quills upon the fretful porcupine; while others wore it cultivated into one huge bush, stiffened with coral line, diversified with turmeric. Indeed, there is no rest for such heads as these--none of their wearers dares to sleep without a little stool to support his neck, so as not to crush his chevelure against the ground.
These fine gentlemen had a readiness and intelligence about them that warmed to the first rays of light. They listened eagerly, and their attachment to the missionary was expressed in a song sung in what they called a "heavenly dance" of the ladies in his honour, when he had remained with them long enough to plant the good seed of a growing church.
"Let us talk of Viriamu, Let cocoa-nuts glow in peace for months; When strong the east winds blow, our hearts forget him not. Let us greatly love the Christian land of the great white chief. All victors are we now, for we all have one God. No food is sacred now. All kinds of fish we catch and eat, Even the sting-ray.
The birds are crying for Viriamu, His ship has sailed another way. The birds are crying for Viriamu, Long time is he in coming. Will he ever come again? Will he ever come again?"
It was some time before he could come again; for, after eighteen years of unremitting labour in the isles of Raiatea and Rarotonga, and of voyages touching on many other isles, he had made up his mind to visit England.
He came home in 1834, and remained about four years, doing much for his cause by his personal narratives and vivid accounts of the people to whom he had devoted his life. Curiously enough, his son, now a youth of twenty, was introduced to Earl Fitzwilliam's gardener, who proved to have been one of the mission party who had been captured in the Duff on the second voyage, and who was delighted to hear of the wonderful progress of the cause from which he himself had been turned back.
A subscription was raised for the purchase of a mission ship, exceeding in size and suitability such craft as could be purchased or hired in Australia; and the Camden, a vessel admirably fitted for the purpose, was obtained and equipped at a cost of 2,600l., the command of her given to Captain Morgan, who was well experienced in the navigation of the Polynesian seas, and had, moreover, such a reputation for piety, that the natives termed his vessel "the praying ship."
In this vessel a large reinforcement of missionaries was taken out, including a married pair for Samoa, and likewise young John Williams, who had found himself an English wife; but his little brother was left at home for education. The intention of Williams was to station the missionaries upon the friendly isles, and himself circulate among them in the Camden, breaking fresh ground in yet unvisited isles, and stationing first native and then English teachers, as they were prepared for them.
Among the Samoans he remained a good while. He estimated the population at 60,000, of whom nearly 50,000 were under instruction. Several places of worship were opened with feasts, at which huge hecatombs of swine were consumed--1,370 at one festival. One young chief under instruction became so good a preacher, that Williams called him the Whitfield of Samoa; and these islands have, under the training then set on foot, furnished many a missionary and even martyr to the isles around, and are, to the present day, one of the happiest specimens of the effects of missionary labour.
The want of extended views in good Mr. Williams was shown in his manner of regarding the expected arrival of some Roman Catholic priests in the Polynesian seas. He set to work to translate Foxe's "Book of Martyrs," and begged that a present offered him for his people might be expended in slides illustrating it for a beautiful magic lantern which he already possessed, and whose Scripture scenes drew tears from the natives. He had not Church knowledge enough to rise above the ordinary popular view of "Popery," and did not understand its Christianity enough to see the evils of sowing the bitterest seeds of the Protestant controversy among scarcely reclaimed heathens.
On their side, the Roman Catholics would have done better to enter on untrodden ground, of which there was such an infinity, than to force themselves where, if they did not find their Church, at least they found faith in the Saviour. But the Society Isles were coveted, for political reasons, by the existing French Government, and the struggle was there beginning, of which Mr. Williams was not destined to see the unfortunate conclusion.
Raiatea he found much improving; and at Rarotonga civilization had made such progress, that the chiefs house was two storeys high, with ten bedrooms, and good furniture made in imitation of English, and any linen Mr. Williams left in his room was immediately washed, ironed, and laid ready for use. Much of the lurking heathenism was giving way, and fair progress being made in religious feeling, when, after a stay in Samoa, where Mrs. Williams now chiefly resided, John Williams set out on an exploring voyage in the Camden.
Strangely enough, his last text in preaching to the Samoans was, "Sorrowing most of all for the words which he spake, that they should see his face no more;" and the people, who always grieved whenever he left them, wept as bitterly at the words as if they had known them to be an omen. He was bent on an attempt on the heathen isle of Erromango, which his wife viewed with a foreboding terror, that made her in vain try to extract a promise from him not to land there.
But he viewed the New Hebrides as an important link, leading perhaps to reaching the Papuan race in New Guinea. He hoped to gain a footing there, and make the spot such a centre as Tahiti, Raiatea, Rarotonga, and Samoa had successively been; and, as the Camden glided along the shores of the island, he talked of his schemes, and of a certain sense of fear that they gave him, lest they were too vast to be accomplished by his means and in his lifetime, but with the sanguine buoyancy of a man still in full vigour, and who had met with almost unmixed success.
On the 20th of November, 1839, the vessel entered Dillon's Bay, and a canoe with three men paddled up to her. A boat was lowered, in which Mr. Williams, two other missionaries named Harris and Cunningham, Captain Morgan, and four sailors seated themselves. They tried to converse with the natives, but the language proved to be unlike any in use in Polynesia (it is, in fact, one of the Melanesian dialects), and not a word could be made out.
Pulling into a creek, some beads and a small looking-glass were thrown to the natives, and water asked for by signs. It was brought, and this gave more confidence. Harris then waded ashore. At first the people ran away, but Mr. Williams called to him to sit down, and, on his doing so, they came nearer, and offered him some cocoa-nut milk. Mr. Williams observed little boys at play, and thought it a good sign. Captain Morgan wished they had been women, because the natives always send their wives out of the way when they mean violence. However, Williams landed, and divided some cloth among those who stood nearest. Then Harris began to walk forward into the bush, Williams following, and, with a crowd of natives round him, was counting in Samoan, trying whether the boys around would recognize the names of the figures. Cunningham did not like the countenances of the natives, and remarked it to him, but was not heard. Stooping to pick up a shell, Cunningham was startled by a yell, and Harris came rushing along, pursued by a native. Williams turned and looked, a blast on a shell was heard, and he too fled. Cunningham reached the boat in safety, but Harris fell in crossing a small brook, and the natives were at once upon him with their clubs. Williams had made for the sea, apparently intending to swim off and let the boat pick him up, but the beach was stony; he fell as he reached the water, and the natives with their clubs and arrows had fallen upon him before Morgan could turn his boat's head to the spot, under a shower of arrows, which forced him to put off.
He saw the body lying on the beach, and fired a gun, loaded with powder, in hopes of driving away the natives and rescuing it; but they dragged it away into the bush, and all that was left for him to do was to sail for Sydney, whence a Queen's ship, the Favourite, was despatched to endeavour to recover the remains, and to convey the tidings to Samoa.
By the 26th of February the vessel arrived. The war-conch was heard, and the savages were seen flying in all directions; but, as there was no intention of exacting a revenge, means of communication were at last arranged, and it was discovered that these two good men had furnished a cannibal feast, but that their skulls and many of their bones had been preserved, and these were recovered and carried on board ship. The Erromangans have always been an exceptionally treacherous and savage race, and, even to the present day, are more hostile to white men, and more addicted to cannibalism, than any of the other islanders.
The Favourite then proceeded to Samoa, where the weeping and wailing of the tender-hearted race was overwhelming. Mrs. Williams, in her silent English sorrow, was made the centre of a multitude of frantic mourners. "Aue kriamu, aue Viriamu, our father, our father! He has turned his face from us! We shall never see him more! He that brought us the good word of salvation is gone! Oh, cruel heathen, they knew not what they did. How great a man they have destroyed!"
Such laments went on round the widow in the wild poetic language of the poor Samoans, till the other teachers, by their prayers and sermons, had produced a somewhat calmer tone; and the funeral took place beside the chapel, attended by the officers and crew of the Favourite, and a great concourse of natives.
"Alas, Viriamu!" was the cry in every Christian Polynesian island for many a day; and well it might be, for, in spite of the shortcomings of a poorly-educated ministry and a tropical and feeble race, there are few who ever turned more men from darkness to light, from cannibal fury to Christian love, than the Martyr of Erromango,--John Williams,--one of the happiest of missionaries, in that to him was given the martyr's crown, in the full tide of his success and hope.