« PreviousContinue »
the tender mercies of Him who has especial promises of good for the orphan and the widow; but it was a rough and a painful and a short voyage over the waves of this life. Better for him if he had taken the easy yoke of Christ, and walked patiently in paths of pleasantness and peace.
FRAGMENTS FROM MEMORY.
BY A RETURNED MISSIONARY.
THE STRANGE LAND. We had been at sea nine weeks ;-nine long, weary weeks, had we been confined on board a barque of three hundred tons burden. We had been a very happy company, and a shade of sadness accompanied the thought of separation as we came in sight of the mountain tops of the tropic island in which we were so soon to enter upon our new life in the service of the Redeemer. Our voyage had not been marked by any special incidents. We had been terribly tossed about in the Downs; had suffered very rough weather in the Bay of Biscay; had been delighted and refreshed by a run on shore at Madeira ; and then, getting within the trade winds, had learned to enjoy our sea life except when tantalised by calms, which are quite as disagreeable, though not so dangerous as storms.
We had watched the gambolling of porpoises, the flights of flying fish, and admired the beautiful forms and hues of the dolphins, which often congregated in large shoals about the vessel's bows, and which we found were not at all like the dolphins of which we had seen pictures in books: we had watched with no very amiable feelings the huge sharks which occasionally followed us, waiting, the sailors said, for some one to die, or for the chance of picking up any one who might fall overboard ; but obstinately refusing to be caught with the bait of a huge piece of salt pork which was hung by a line and hook in the wake of the vessel ; we had seen whales“ spouting” in the distance, and the bright-hued, flower-shaped nautilus floating past us, and at night had stood on deck in the bright moonlight watching the phosphorescent waves breaking, as with flame, against our vessel's bows. I well remember how body and mind were braced and exhilarated by that long sea-voyage. It was all new to me, and with a profounder awe, and a more
loving trust, I thought of Him, the wonders of whose power
I now saw for the first time in the great waters. It was, on the whole, a very happy voyage-the captain and first mate were kind, quiet, gentlemanly men, and the crew efficient and orderly sailors. We had family worship every day in the cabin, and Divine service on deck every Sunday, weather permitting. By the exercise of Christian forbearance, unbroken harmony and much of really pleasant and profitable intercourse was maintained throughout the voyage ; and now that the last day of our companionship had come we anticipated our separation with regret.
Those of us who composed the missionary party landed sooner than we expected to do. We were sailing smoothly down the north side of Jamaica, admiring the panorama of mountains piercing the clouds at an elevation of seven thousand feet, the dark patches of woodland, and the bright green cane-fields, with the white buildings glowing in the sunlight, when we observed a sailing boat making towards us. There were in it three negroes and a white man, who was standing up in the middle of the boat, and making signals that he wished to speak to us. In a few minutes the boat was within hail, and we were informed by its white occupant that he had come off to take the missionaries ashore at the harbour opposite, as the missionary at the port for which we were bound had been compelled by illness to leave home, and there would consequently be no one there to receive us.
The ship was “ hove to," and without delay we and our wives, in the undress in which we had been lounging about on shipboard since we had entered the tropics, were lowered into the boat and were “standing in shore," the ship which had for weeks been our happy home pursuing her way to the more distant port, taking on our baggage
“ to be left till called for.” We were soon landed at the wharf in the harbour of F— in the parish of T— The sun poured down on us his burning rays, the sands into which our feet sunk at every step were glowing hot, and from every object about us came gleaming heat and blinding glare. This was the land of which we had often thought by day and dreamed by night, and not without some emotion did we realize the fact that we were at length treading on the
strange land.” We were conducted to the centre of the town, and received a hearty welcome at the Mission House, where several members of the “mission family”
had assembled to greet us, some from “stations” at a considerable distance ; and very soon we felt that “ though in a foreign land” we were surrounded by loving hearts, and for Christ's sake had already been adopted by our newfound friends as members of the family. That loving, smiling group has long since been dispersed. The senior member of it, a man of noble form, and nobler mind, has entered upon his everlasting rest; his widow is now awaiting in another home the summons to rejoin her noble husband; one only of the group still lives and labours on the island; the others are scattered, but in different parts of the world are still pursuing the Lord's work. Each one of us has seen many changes since then; one more change, and we shall meet again, and gratefully review “the way by which the Lord our God has led us”—the “right way doubtless. The friendly greetings over, we were soon seated at the hospitable board of our kind hosts. I mention this only because it is connected with some of our earliest impressions of strangeness in this "strange land.” It was about noon, and the meal of which we were invited to partake was termed “second breakfast.” The “ first breakfast” I found consisted usually of coffee or tea, with salt fish, fried or boiled, and bread, if it could be obtained, or unripe plantain roasted. The second breakfast"
was more substantial-salt beef, salt pork, plantain, captain's biscuit, oranges, mangoes, bananas, pine apple, and other tropical fruits. Dinner, at which the only variation from the foregoing bill of fare was fresh fish, or fresh meat when it could be obtained, was usually served about three o'clock, after which nothing more would be taken except a cup of coffee. Tea and supper were unknown, except in the instance of a few imprudent people who will persist in living in every country and climate precisely as they have been accustomed to live in England.
The houses were of all dimensions, and most diverse in appearance, and constructed of a great variety of material. Some were framed with rough wood, boarded outside and plastered within. Some were posts and
wattle, daubed with mud, and only one story high; and, in many instances, had no foundation except posts about two feet from the ground, and in some cases even rested on old flour barrels. A few of the larger, two-storied houses were built of stone or brick, but the greater num. ber of them were entirely constructed of wood, and elevated three or four feet from the ground on brick pillars. The site of the town had been redeemed from a swamp; and underneath almost every house, the Mission House not excepted, was a quantity of slimy stagnant water. This is one cause, without doubt, of the extreme unhealthiness of the place. About many of the houses were large umbrageous trees, flowering shrubs, and luxuriant climbers, and in all directions clumps, or rows of cocoa-nut palms rising to the height of from thirty to sixty feet, crowned with the long, graceful feathery leaf bunch, and the clusters of delicious fruit. We were soon supplied with green cocoa-nuts, and found the cool liquid, of which each nut contains nearly a pint, a most grateful beverage, and the jelly a fine substitute for ice cream.
Our attention was speedily canght by a huge ugly bird which flapped his great mud-coloured wings as he descended on to the housetops or into the streets, or sat with others in groups on the ridges of the various buildings spreading out his feathers and blinking his great filmy eyes in the sunshine. These we were told were the turkey buzzards or John crows,” the scavengers of the island. They are most useful in picking up the refuse and filth cast into the streets, which would otherwise become intolerably Offensive. These useful birds are under the protection of the legislature, any person wantonly killing one of them being liable to a heavy fine. We were somewhat surprised, and annoyed to find the floors of the rooms, and even the tables, covered with ants, black, brown, and red, and occasionally were a little startled at the sharp pinches we received from the keen mandibles of these lively and voracious insects; but we soon learned that these were among the useful and industrious workers for human benefit, being house scavengers as the John crows were the scavengers of the highway. We were not so satisfied to learn that we should find the mosquitoes very troublesome, and must have patience until we got used to them. On first making acquaintance with these troublesome gentry I was surprised to see a small-winged insect, who approached me through a series of concentric circles, sounding his minute shrill trumpet as he advanced to the charge, and finally settled himself down on my face or hands in the shape of a maniacal gnat. The sting of these thirsty blood suckers is most tantalising, and frequently produces most painful inflammation of the skin. Our bed, we found, was surrounded by gauze curtains called a mosquito net, to protect us from the ravages of these insects by night. Nor did it add to our comfort in this strange land, when we were cautioned to carefully examine our bed before getting into it, and to be sure to shake our clothes and shoes well before putting them on again, lest we should find ourselves stung by a scorpion, or bitten by a centipede. However, we got accustomed to all these things and a great many more in time; and though having our share of mishaps and narrow escapes from snakes, scorpions, centipedes, tarantulas, etc., we never suffered any serious injury.
In the evening of the day of our landing, a service was held in the Mission chapel to thank God for our safe arri. val, and to introduce us to the people. Never shall I forget the scene. We sung together the beautiful hymn commencing
“How are thy servants blest, O Lord,
How sure is their defence." Words of affectionate Christian welcome were again addressed to us; some of the negro Christians thanked God on our behalf, and in earnest, artless, but hearty prayers commended us to our Father's protection and sought for us his blessing. It was good to hear men who only a few years before had been slaves—mere chattels—now pouring out their hearts at the “throne of grace" on our behalf, with as much fervour and propriety as would have marked like exercises in our own beloved land; and we felt that we could go to our work cheered and strengthened by the love and the prayers of these black brethren. Another hour or two of social intercourse with the mission family, and we thankfully retired to rest. Thus ended our first day on the
THE CROOK IN THE LOT. THERE is something “ crooked” in every man's lot-something more or less irksome and trying, of which he would fain get rid if he could, but cannot.
One man's crook is a grievous bodily defect. He is deformed, or deaf, or blind; or he is distressed by some ailment which causes him much pain, and which greatly interferes with his enjoyment of life.
Another man's crook is in his circumstances. He is a