THE NATIVE TEACHER
The voyage—The island, and a consultation in which danger is scouted as a thing unworthy of
consideration—Rats and cats—The native teacher—Awful revelations—Wonderful
effects of Christianity.
 OUR voyage during the next two weeks was most interesting and prosperous. The breeze continued
generally fair, and at all times enabled us to lie our course; for being, as I have said before,
clipper-built, the pirate schooner could lie very close to the wind and make little leeway. We had
no difficulty now in managing our sails, for Jack was heavy and powerful, while Peterkin was active
as a kitten. Still, however, we were a very insufficient crew for such a vessel, and if any one had
proposed to us to make such a voyage in it before we had been forced to go through so many hardships
from necessity, we would have turned away with pity from the individual making such proposal as from
a madman. I pondered this a good deal, and at last concluded that men do not know how much they are
capable of doing till they try, and that we should never give way to despair in any undertaking,
however difficult it may seem—always supposing, however, that our cause is a good one, and
that we can ask the Divine blessing on it.
Although, therefore, we could now manage our sails easily, we nevertheless found that my pulleys
 much service to us in some things; though Jack did laugh heartily at the uncouth arrangement of
ropes and blocks, which had, to a sailor's eye, a very lumbering and clumsy appearance. But I will
not drag my reader through the details of this voyage. Suffice it to say that, after an agreeable
sail of about three weeks, we arrived off the island of Mango, which I recognised at once from the
description that the pirate Bill had given me of it during one of our conversations.
As soon as we came within sight of it we hove the ship to and held a council of war.
"Now, boys," said Jack, as we seated ourselves beside him on the cabin skylight, "before we go
further in this business, we must go over the pros and cons of it; for although you have so
generously consented to stick by me through thick and thin, it would be unfair did I not see that
you thoroughly understand the danger of what we are about to attempt."
"Oh, bother the danger!" cried Peterkin. "I wonder to hear you, Jack, talk of danger. When a fellow
begins to talk about it, he'll soon come to magnify it to such a degree that he'll not be fit to
face it when it comes, no more than a suckin' baby."
"Nay, Peterkin," replied Jack gravely, "I won't be jested out of it. I grant you that when we've
once resolved to act, and have made up our minds what to do, we should think no more of danger. But
before we have so resolved it behoves us to look it straight in the face, and examine into it, and
walk round it; for if we flinch at a distant view, we're sure to run away when the danger is
near.—Now, I understand from you, Ralph, that the island is inhabited by thorough-going,
out-and-out cannibals, whose principal law is, 'Might is right, and the weakest goes to the wall'?"
 "Yes," said I; "so Bill gave me to understand. He told me, however, that at the southern side of it
the missionaries had obtained a footing amongst an insignificant tribe. A native teacher had been
sent there by the Wesleyans, who had succeeded in persuading the chief at that part to embrace
Christianity. But instead of that being of any advantage to our enterprise, it seems the very
reverse; for the chief Tararo is a determined heathen, and persecutes the Christians—who are
far too weak in numbers to offer any resistance—and looks with dislike upon all white men,
whom he regards as propagators of the new faith."
"Tis a pity," said Jack, "that the Christian tribe is so small, for we shall scarcely be safe under
their protection, I fear. If Tararo takes it into his head to wish for our vessel, or to kill
ourselves, he could take us from them by force. You say that the native missionary talks English?"
"So I believe."
"Then, what I propose is this," said Jack. "We will run round to the south side of the island, and
cast anchor off the Christian village. We are too far away just now to have been descried by any of
the savages, so we shall get there unobserved, and have time to arrange our plans before the heathen
tribes know of our presence. But in doing this we run the risk of being captured by the ill-disposed
tribes, and being very ill used, if not-a—"
"Roasted alive and eaten," cried Peterkin. "Come, out with it, Jack. According to your own showing,
it's well to look the danger straight in the face!"
"Well, that is the worst of it, certainly. Are you prepared, then, to take your chance of that?"
"I've been prepared and had my mind made up long
 ago," cried Peterkin, swaggering about the deck with his hands thrust into his breeches pockets.
"The fact is, Jack, I don't believe that Tararo will be so ungrateful as to eat us; and I'm quite
sure that he'll be too happy to grant us whatever we ask, so the sooner we go in and win the
Peterkin was wrong, however, in his estimate of savage gratitude, as the sequel will show.
The schooner was now put before the wind, and after making a long run to the southward, we put about
and beat up for the south side of Mango, where we arrived before sunset, and hove-to off the coral
reef. Here we awaited the arrival of a canoe, which immediately put off on our rounding-to. When it
arrived, a mild-looking native, of apparently forty years of age, came on board, and, taking off his
straw hat, made us a low bow. He was clad in a respectable suit of European clothes; and the first
words he uttered, as he stepped up to Jack and shook hands with him, were—
"Good day, gentlemen. We are happy to see you at Mango; you are heartily welcome."
After returning his salutation, Jack exclaimed, "You must be the native missionary teacher of whom I
have heard; are you not?"
"I am. I have the joy to be a servant of the Lord Jesus at this station."
"You're the very man I want to see, then," replied Jack; "that's lucky. Come down to the cabin,
friend, and have a glass of wine. I wish particularly to speak with you. My men there," pointing to
Peterkin and me, "will look after your people."
"Thank you," said the teacher, as he followed Jack to the cabin; "I do not drink wine, or any strong
 [Oh! then there's lots of water, and you can have biscuit.]
"Now, 'pon my word, that's cool!" said Peterkin; "his men, forsooth! Well, since we are to be
men, we may as well come it as strong over these black chaps as we can.—Hallo, there!" he
cried to the half-dozen of natives who stood upon the deck, gazing in wonder at all they saw,
"here's for you;" and he handed them a tray of broken biscuit and a can of water. Then, thrusting
his hands into his pockets, he walked up and down the deck with an enormous swagger, whistling
In about half-an-hour Jack and the teacher came on deck, and the latter, bidding us a cheerful
good-evening, entered his canoe and paddled to the shore. When he was gone, Peterkin stepped up to
Jack, and, touching his cap, said—
"Well, captain, have you any communications to make to your men?"
"Yes," cried Jack; "ready about, mind the helm, and clew up your tongue, while I con the schooner
through the passage in the reef. The teacher, who seems a first-rate fellow, says it's quite deep,
and good anchorage within the lagoon close to the shore."
While the vessel was slowly advancing to her anchorage, under a light breeze, Jack explained to us
that Avatea was still on the island, living amongst the heathens; that she had expressed a strong
desire to join the Christians, but Tararo would not let her, and kept her constantly in close
"Moreover," continued Jack, "I find that she belongs to one of the Samoan Islands, where
Christianity had been introduced long before her capture by the heathens of a neighbouring island;
and the very day after she
 was taken she was to have joined the Church which had been planted there by that excellent body the
London Missionary Society. The teacher tells me, too, that the poor girl has fallen in love with a
Christian chief, who lives on an island some fifty miles or so to the south of this one, and that
she is meditating a desperate attempt at escape. So, you see, we have come in the nick of time. I
fancy that this chief is the fellow whom you heard of, Ralph, at the Island of Emo. Besides all
this, the heathen savages are at war among themselves, and there's to be a battle fought the day
after to-morrow, in which the principal leader is Tararo; so that we'll not be able to commence our
negotiations with the rascally chief till the day after."
The village off which we anchored was beautifully situated at the head of a small bay, from the
margin of which trees of every description peculiar to the tropics rose in the richest luxuriance to
the summit of a hilly ridge, which was the line of demarcation between the possessions of the
Christians and those of the neighbouring heathen chief.
The site of the settlement was an extensive plot of flat land, stretching in a gentle slope from the
sea to the mountain. The cottages stood several hundred yards from the beach, and were protected
from the glare of the sea by the rich foliage of rows of large Barringtonia and other trees which
girt the shore. The village was about a mile in length, and perfectly straight, with a wide road
down the middle, on either side of which were rows of the tufted-topped ti tree, whose delicate and
beautiful blossoms, hanging beneath their plume-crested tops, added richness to the scene. The
cottages of the natives were built beneath these trees, and were kept in the most excellent order,
each having a little garden in
 front, tastefully laid out and planted, while the walks were covered with black and white pebbles.
Every house had doors and Venetian windows, painted partly with lamp-black made from the candle-nut,
and partly with red ochre, which contrasted powerfully with the dazzling coral lime that covered the
walls. On a prominent position stood a handsome church, which was quite a curiosity in its way. It
was a hundred feet long by fifty broad, and was seated throughout to accommodate upwards of two
thousand persons. It had six large folding doors, and twelve windows with Venetian blinds; and
although a large and substantial edifice, it had been built, we were told by the teacher, in the
space of two months! There was not a single iron nail in the fabric, and the natives had constructed
it chiefly with their stone and bone axes and other tools, having only one or two axes or tools of
European manufacture. Everything around this beautiful spot wore an aspect of peace and plenty; and
as we dropped our anchor within a stone's cast of the substantial coral wharf, I could not avoid
contrasting it with the wretched village of Emo, where I had witnessed so many frightful scenes.
When the teacher afterwards told me that the people of this tribe had become converts only a year
previous to our arrival, and that they had been living before that in the practice of the most
bloody system of idolatry, I could not refrain from exclaiming, "What a convincing proof that
Christianity is of God!"
On landing from our little boat, we were received with a warm welcome by the teacher and his wife;
the latter being also a native, clothed in a simple European gown and a straw bonnet. The shore was
lined with hundreds of natives, whose persons were all more or less clothed with native cloth. Some
of the men had
 on a kind of poncho formed of this cloth, their legs being uncovered; others wore clumsily fashioned
trousers, and no upper garment except hats made of straw and cloth. Many of the dresses, both of
women and men, were grotesque enough, being very bad imitations of the European garb; but all wore a
dress of some sort or other. They seemed very glad to see us, and crowded round us as the teacher
led the way to his dwelling, where we were entertained, in the most sumptuous manner, on baked pig
and all the varieties of fruits and vegetables that the island produced. We were much annoyed,
however, by the rats: they seemed to run about the house like domestic animals. As we sat at table,
one of them peeped up at us over the edge of the cloth, close to Peterkin's elbow, who floored it
with a blow on the snout from his knife, exclaiming as he did so—
"I say, Mister Teacher, why don't you set traps for these brutes? Surely you are not fond of them!"
"No," replied the teacher with a smile; "we would be glad to get rid of them if we could; but if we
were to trap all the rats on the island, it would occupy our whole time."
"Are they, then, so numerous?" inquired Jack.
"They swarm everywhere. The poor heathens on the north side eat them, and think them very sweet. So
did my people formerly; but they do not eat so many now, because the missionary who was last here
expressed disgust at it. The poor people asked if it was wrong to eat rats; and he told them that it
was certainly not wrong, but that the people of England would be much disgusted were they asked to
We had not been an hour in the house of this kind-hearted man when we were convinced of the truth of
 his statement as to their numbers; for the rats ran about the floors in dozens, and during our meal
two men were stationed at the table to keep them off!
"What a pity you have no cats!" said Peterkin, and he aimed a blow at another reckless intruder, and
"We would indeed be glad to have a few," rejoined the teacher, "but they are difficult to be got.
The hogs, we find, are very good rat-killers, but they do not seem to be able to keep the numbers
down. I have heard that they are better than cats."
As the teacher said this, his good-natured black face was wrinkled with a smile of merriment.
Observing that I had noticed it, he said—
"I smiled just now when I remembered the fate of the first cat that was taken to Rarotonga. This is
one of the stations of the London Missionary Society. It, like our own, is infested with rats, and a
cat was brought at last to the island. It was a large black one. On being turned loose, instead of
being content to stay among men, the cat took to the mountains, and lived in a wild state, sometimes
paying visits during the night to the houses of the natives; some of whom, living at a distance from
the settlement, had not heard of the cat's arrival, and were dreadfully frightened in consequence,
calling it a 'monster of the deep,' and flying in terror away from it. One night the
cat—feeling a desire for company, I suppose—took its way to the house of a chief who had
recently been converted to Christianity, and had begun to learn to read and pray. The chief's wife,
who was sitting awake at his side while he slept, beheld with horror two fires glistening in the
doorway, and heard with surprise a mysterious voice. Almost petrified with fear, she awoke her
husband, and began to upbraid him
 for forsaking his old religion and burning his god, who, she declared, was now come to be avenged of
them. 'Get up and pray! get up and pray!' she cried. The chief arose, and on opening his eyes beheld
the same glaring lights and heard the same ominous sound. Impelled by the extreme urgency of the
case, he commenced, with all possible vehemence, to vociferate the alphabet, as a prayer to God to
deliver them from the vengeance of Satan! On hearing this, the cat, as much alarmed as themselves,
fled precipitately away, leaving the chief and his wife congratulating themselves on the efficacy of
We were much diverted with this anecdote, which the teacher related in English so good that we
certainly could not have supposed him a native but for the colour of his face and the foreign accent
in his tone. Next day we walked out with this interesting man, and were much entertained and
instructed by his conversation, as we rambled through the cool, shady groves of bananas, citrons,
limes, and other trees, or sauntered among the cottages of the natives, and watched them while they
laboured diligently in the taro beds or manufactured the tapa or native cloth. To some of these Jack
put questions through the medium of the missionary; and the replies were such as to surprise us at
the extent of their knowledge. Indeed, Peterkin very truly remarked that "they seemed to know a
considerable deal more than Jack himself!"
Among other pieces of interesting information that we obtained was the following, in regard to coral
"The islands of the Pacific," said our friend, "are of three different kinds or classes. Those of
the first class are volcanic, mountainous, and wild; some shooting their jagged peaks into the
clouds at an elevation of ten
 and fifteen thousand feet. Those of the second class are of crystallised limestone, and vary in
height from one hundred to five hundred feet. The hills on these are not so wild or broken as those
of the first class, but are richly clothed with vegetation, and very beautiful. I have no doubt that
the Coral Island on which you were wrecked was one of this class. They are supposed to have been
upheaved from the bottom of the sea by volcanic agency, but they are not themselves volcanic in
their nature, neither are they of coral formation. Those of the third class are the low coralline
islands, usually having lagoons of water in their midst; they are very numerous.
"As to the manner in which coral islands and reefs are formed, there are various opinions on this
point. I will give you what seems to me the most probable theory—a theory, I may add, which is
held by some of the good and scientific missionaries. It is well known that there is much lime in
salt water; it is also known that coral is composed of lime. It is supposed that the polypes, or
coral insects, have the power of attracting this lime to their bodies; and with this material they
build their little cells or habitations. They choose the summit of a volcano, or the top of a
submarine mountain, as a foundation on which to build; for it is found that they never work at any
great depth below the surface. On this they work; the polypes on the mountain top, of course, reach
the surface first, then those at the outer edges reach the top sooner than the others between them
and the centre, thus forming the coral reef surrounding the lagoon of water and the central island;
after that the insects within the lagoon cease working. When the surface of the water is reached,
these myriads of wonderful creatures die. Then birds visit the spot, and seeds are
 thus conveyed thither, which take root, and spring up, and flourish. Thus are commenced those
coralline islets of which you have seen so many in these seas. The reefs round the large islands are
formed in a similar manner. When we consider," added the missionary, "the smallness of the
architects used by our heavenly Father in order to form those lovely and innumerable islands, we are
filled with much of that feeling which induced the ancient king to exclaim, 'How manifold, O Lord,
are Thy works! in wisdom hast Thou made them all.'"
We all heartily agreed with the missionary in this sentiment, and felt not a little gratified to
find that the opinions which Jack and I had been led to form from personal observation on our Coral
Island were thus to a great extent corroborated.
The missionary also gave us an account of the manner in which Christianity had been introduced among
them. He said: "When missionaries were first sent here, three years ago, a small vessel brought
them; and the chief, who is now dead, promised to treat well the two native teachers who were left
with their wives on the island. But scarcely had the boat which landed them returned to the ship,
than the natives began to maltreat their guests, taking away all they possessed, and offering them
further violence, so that, when the boat was sent in haste to fetch them away, the clothes of both
men and women were torn nearly off their backs.
"Two years after this the vessel visited them again, and I, being in her, volunteered to land alone,
without any goods whatever, begging that my wife might be brought to me the following
year—that is, this year; and, as you see, she is with me. But the surf was so high that
the boat could not land me; so with nothing on but my trousers and shirt, and with a few catechisms
 and a Bible, besides some portions of the Scripture translated into the Mango tongue, I sprang into
the sea, and swam ashore on the crest of a breaker. I was instantly dragged up the beach by the
natives; who, on finding I had nothing worth having upon me, let me alone. I then made signs to my
friends in the ship to leave me; which they did. At first the natives listened to me in silence, but
laughed at what I said while I preached the Gospel of our blessed Saviour Jesus Christ to them.
Afterwards they treated me ill sometimes; but I persevered, and continued to dwell among them, and
dispute, and exhort them to give up their sinful ways of life, burn their idols, and come to Jesus.
"About a month after I landed, I heard that the chief was dead. He was the father of the present
chief, who is now a most consistent member of the Church. It is a custom here that when a chief dies
his wives are strangled and buried with him. Knowing this, I hastened to his house to endeavour to
prevent such cruelty if possible. When I arrived, I found two of the wives had already been killed,
while another was in the act of being strangled. I pleaded hard for her, but it was too late; she
was already dead. I then entreated the son to spare the fourth wife, and after much hesitation my
prayer was granted; but in half-an-hour afterwards this poor woman repented of being unfaithful, as
she termed it, to her husband, and insisted on being strangled; which was accordingly done.
"All this time the chief's son was walking up and down before his father's house with a brow black
as thunder. When he entered I went in with him, and found, to my surprise, that his father was
not dead! The old man was sitting on a mat in a corner, with an expression of placid
resignation on his face.
 "'Why,' said I, 'have you strangled your father's wives before he is dead?'
"To this the son replied, 'He is dead. That is no longer my father. He is as good as dead now. He is
to be buried alive.'
"I now remembered having heard that it is a custom among the Feejee Islanders, that when the
reigning chief grows old or infirm, the heir to the chieftainship has a right to depose his father;
in which case he is considered as dead, and is buried alive. The young chief was now about to follow
this custom, and despite my earnest entreaties and pleadings, the old chief was buried that day
before my eyes in the same grave with his four strangled wives! Oh, my heart groaned when I saw
this! and I prayed to God to open the hearts of these poor creatures, as He had already opened mine,
and pour into them the light and the love of the Gospel of Jesus. My prayer was answered very soon.
A week afterwards, the son, who was now chief of the tribe, came to me, bearing his god on his
shoulders, and groaning beneath its weight. Flinging it down at my feet, he desired me to burn it!
"You may conceive how overjoyed I was at this. I sprang up and embraced him, while I shed tears of
joy. Then we made a fire, and burned the god to ashes, amid an immense concourse of the people, who
seemed terrified at what was being done, and shrank back when we burned the god, expecting some
signal vengeance to be taken upon us; but seeing that nothing happened, they changed their minds,
and thought that our God must be the true one after all. From that time the mission prospered
steadily; and now, while there is not a single man in the tribe who has not burned his household
gods and become a convert to Christianity, there are
 not a few, I hope, who are true followers of the Lamb, having been plucked as brands from the
burning by Him who can save unto the uttermost. I will not tell you more of our progress at this
time; but you see," he said, waving his hand around him, "the village and the church did not exist a
We were indeed much interested in this account, and I could not help again in my heart praying to
God to prosper those missionary societies that send such inestimable blessings to these islands of
dark and bloody idolatry. The teacher also added that the other tribes were very indignant at this
one for having burned its gods, and threatened to destroy it altogether, but they had done nothing
yet. "And if they should," said the teacher, "the Lord is on our side; of whom shall we be afraid?"
"Have the missionaries many stations in these seas?" inquired Jack.
"Oh yes. The London Missionary Society have a great many in the Tahiti group, and other islands in
that quarter. Then the Wesleyans have the Feejee Islands all to themselves, and the Americans have
many stations in other groups. But still, my friend, there are hundreds of islands here the natives
of which have never heard of Jesus, or the good word of God, or the Holy Spirit; and thousands are
living and dying in the practice of those terrible sins and bloody murders of which you have already
heard. I trust, my friends," he added, looking earnestly into our faces—"I trust that if you
ever return to England, you will tell your Christian friends that the horrors which they hear of in
regard to these islands are literally true, and that when they have heard the worst, the
'half has not been told them;' for there are perpetrated here foul deeds of darkness of
 which man may not speak. You may also tell them," he said, looking around with a smile, while a tear
of gratitude trembled in his eye and rolled down his coal-black cheek—"tell them of the
blessings that the Gospel has wrought here!"
We assured our friend that we would certainly not forget his request. On returning towards the
village, about noon, we remarked on the beautiful whiteness of the cottages.
"That is owing to the lime with which they are plastered," said the teacher. "When the natives were
converted, as I have described, I set them to work to build cottages for themselves, and also this
handsome church which you see. When the framework and other parts of the house were up, I sent the
people to fetch coral from the sea. They brought immense quantities. Then I made them cut wood, and
piling the coral above it, set it on fire.
"'Look! look!' cried the poor people in amazement, 'what wonderful people the Christians are! He is
roasting stones. We shall not need taro or bread-fruit any more; we may eat stones!'
"But their surprise was still greater when the coral was reduced to a fine, soft white powder. They
immediately set up a great shout, and mingling the lime with water, rubbed their faces and their
bodies all over with it, and ran through the village screaming with delight. They were also much
surprised at another thing they saw me do. I wished to make some household furniture, and
constructed a turning-lathe to assist me. The first thing that I turned was the leg of a sofa; which
was no sooner finished than the chief seized it with wonder and delight, and ran through the village
exhibiting it to the people, who
 looked upon it with great admiration. The chief then, tying a string to it, hung it round his neck
as an ornament! He afterwards told me that if he had seen it before he became a Christian, he would
have made it his god!"
As the teacher concluded this anecdote we reached his door. Saying that he had business to attend
to, he left us to amuse ourselves as we best could.
"Now, lads," said Jack, turning abruptly towards us, and buttoning up his jacket as he spoke, "I'm
off to see the battle. I've no particular fondness for seein' bloodshed, but I must find out the
nature o' these fellows and see their customs with my own eyes, so that I may be able to speak of it
again, if need be, authoritatively. It's only six miles off, and we don't run much more risk than
that of getting a rap with a stray stone or an overshot arrow. Will you go?"
"To be sure we will," said Peterkin.
"If they chance to see us we'll cut and run for it," added Jack.
"Dear me!" cried Peterkin—"you run! I thought you would scorn to run from any one."
"So I would, if it were my duty to fight," returned Jack coolly; "but as I don't want to fight, and
don't intend to fight, if they offer to attack us I'll run away like the veriest coward that ever
went by the name of Peterkin. So come along."