Page:A Lady's Cruise in a French Man-of-War.djvu/133

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DISEASE-MAKERS.

language is understood throughout a whole group, with only such variations as occur between Yorkshire and Somerset. But in the New Hebrides, each island speaks a totally different dialect, and though within sight one of another (as Fortuna, Aneiteum, Tanna, and Eromanga) they cannot understand one another; and the books printed for one would be totally useless for the next. Even on the same island the different tribes are so isolated by war and jealousies that their language remains as totally distinct as that of the Celts and Saxons in Scotland or Wales.

This circumstance, added to the intense jealousies of the tribes, made it a matter of extreme difficulty, as well as danger, to attempt visiting different villages, in which endeavour Mr Turner and Mr Nisbet nevertheless persevered, always at the risk of their lives, being inspired with an intense belief in the reality of their Lord's command (to go into all the world and preach to all His human creatures), and also in His protecting care.

So when a vessel touched the isle, and offered to carry them all away, the mission band refused to desert their post, and for seven months contrived to maintain their ground. But it was a constant struggle and never-ceasing danger. During five months out of the seven the tribes were at war, and at last the whole powerful body of sacred medicine-men—the rain-makers and thunder-makers, and especially the disease-makers—were filled with such jealousy of the foreigners who gave away medicines, and so diminished their gains, that they stirred up the islanders generally to believe that the dysentery, coughs, and influenza which had recently, for the first time, appeared in the group, were all produced by the white men; and, strangely enough, their assertion seemed confirmed by the fact that the tribe among whom the missionaries were living, actually escaped these illnesses.

So about two thousand wild savages united for a more determined onslaught on this friendly tribe; and at last, seeing matters were desperate, the little band of Christians, nineteen in all, were compelled to fly for their lives. They accordingly embarked at dead of night in an open boat and a canoe, hoping to reach the Isle Aneiteum, preferring to face the certain hardships of such a