Page:A Lady's Cruise in a French Man-of-War.djvu/156

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.

waiting for a falu lotu—a religion-ship—to bring them a teacher who could tell them about Jesus Christ. Great was their disappointment when they heard that Mr Williams had only been able to secure one teacher, whom he had promised to leave on another isle.

These people had received such knowledge as they possessed from a canoe which had drifted all the way from Rairavae, an island upwards of 300 miles to the south of Tahiti, and fully 2000 miles from that where it at length arrived, after a three months' voyage, in the course of which twenty of the party died of the hardships they underwent. But the survivors had carefully preserved their copy of the Tahitian translation of the Scriptures; and on reaching the unknown isle they built a reed-hut for their chapel, and there met daily for worship. Thus, among the strange and precious treasures which from time to time are cast up by the ocean on far-away isles, did the people of Manua receive the Word of Life.

Among those who had heard it gladly was a fine young fellow, a native of Leone, in the Isle Tutuila, to which he begged to be conveyed in the foreign ship, that he might teach his brethren what he had learnt. Thither they sailed, touching at the Isles Orosenga and Ofu, where as yet no rumour of the new teaching had been heard.

As they approached Tutuila, they were surrounded by a vast number of canoes filled with excessively wild-looking men, clamouring for powder and muskets, as they were on the eve of a great war with a neighbouring chief. No sign there of any leaven of good—in fact, the presence among them of a resident Englishman of the "beach-combing" fraternity, was anything but a hopeful indication. The amount of mischief done by even the average specimens of this class has been incalculable; but many have been miscreants of the deepest dye, whose crimes have aroused the horror of even the vilest heathen. Many of them were desperadoes—convicts escaped from New South Wales in stolen vessels, which they scuttled on reaching any desirable isle, where they generally contrived to make themselves useful in war, and so