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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 1

Affairs in Rewa

page 17

Affairs in Rewa.

Appointment to Rewa.

It would be very difficult to give you anything like an idea of the constant state of excitement in which we have been kept since we came to Rewa. It has been six months of sorrow, hope, and Divine comfort. You are aware that these parts have for years been engaged in war; during which time Rewa has been burnt two or three times, and numbers killed; but in the course of the last year things have been quite in favour of Rewa; so that it was thought it would destroy Bau, and thus become the greatest kingdom in Feejee. We had long waited a favourable opportunity to re-open this station, upon which so much labour and suffering have been expended. This was thought to be the time; and, the Chief being willing to receive us again, I was appointed to labour here at our last District-Meeting. As we had had a good share of removals and building, the brethren were willing to help us to get settled as quickly as possible; and a wooden house, brought by the Rev. Samuel Waterhouse, was purchased for us, so that we had the prospect of soon getting settled in our new station, without that anxiety and labour generally attending such a work.

Trials of a Mission Among Cannibals.

Our trials soon commenced. We found that we were in the midst of those engaged in active war, Feejeean war. The fruits were soon seen: men like fiends dragging their fellow-men to their gods, to their ovens, and then to some secret den to gratify their revenge; for I do not believe they have a relish for human flesh. Thank God, the Gospel has triumphed so far, that they are ashamed, at least, of this sin; and thus we are saved from the horror of seeing men eat men. On the first Sabbath I spent here a human body was brought; which gave me an opportunity of trying the Chief. I went to him and had a conversation, on the evils of war, and the blessings of the Gospel; and then begged that he would not allow any human flesh to be eaten by the Rewa people. He consented at once, and I therefore concluded the body would be buried. Some hours after, I learned that it was in the oven. I hasted to see, and found it was true. I sent to learn why the Chief had not kept his promise. He said, "I have given it to some visitors, and not to the Rewa people." I then requested to have it buried. He yielded so far as not to allow it to be eaten in Rewa, but said it must be eaten, as revenge for some of his people who had been taken in a former war.

Sunday being over, and the wind being unfavourable for the "Wesley," and our respected Chairman, Mr. Lyth, being anxious to get to Vewa to expedite business, we left here with a fine morning, and a full tide to sweep us down the river. Everything seemed happy except the people, who rushed out here and there from their fortified towns, to inquire where we were going. All went on well until we came within a few miles of Bau, when five canoes put out from under the mangrove-bushes, and called to us to stop. We were in haste, as the tide was falling, and we might be left on the reefs; so we kept on, the canoes following us; and, finding that they did not gain on us, they commenced firing, and scattered some twenty balls about our boat, reminding us that "in the midst of life we are in death." We have been in danger since; but the Lord has been mindful of us, and we live still to praise him.

Death of the King.

After getting a little settled here, I went to visit Ovalau, which is included page 18 in this Circuit; and on my return I found the Chief very ill with dysentery. He had been subject to it for years, and was now very weak. He applied for medicine, which I gave: and he was evidently getting better; but he would not restrain his appetite. He became worse, and I could do nothing for him. He died January 20th, 1855; and this brought fresh trials upon us. The report got spread abroad that our medicine had killed him; and the multitude who met together to bury him consulted and intended to destroy the Mission-premises, and take the property. This was prevented by the old men of the place, who sent a guard to watch the premises. The Chief was buried, and only one lady strangled, many others being saved from that fate by the influence of the Gospel and our intercession. Never was such a Chief of rank buried in Feejee, and only one human life taken.

Burning of the Mission-Premises.

Things settled down again for a few days, and all was going on pleasantly, with the prospect of peace between Bau and Rewa. Messengers had come and gone; and while we mourned the loss of the Chief, (for he had been exceedingly kind to us,) we were yet rejoicing in the hope of tranquillity, and the spread of Christianity. We retired to rest on the 9th of February, all well and happy, and slept until about one o'clock in the morning, when I was awoke by the roaring of fire. I rose, and found an old house, some three yards from our wooden house, all in flames. I gave the alarm: our house soon caught, and we had only just time to make our escape in our night-clothes. We went to some distance, and sat in the dew, "watching for the morning." The house was soon burnt down to the ground, the natives getting some few things away; but the store, and all it contained, was burnt. We shall never forget that night. Such a sight we never beheld. The house was in flames, the natives in multitudes were rushing in with spears, clubs, and guns, shouting, some dragging us we knew not where; and we have been since informed that one Chief from another town raised his club to strike Mrs. Moore, and that a Rewa Chief pushed him away, threatening to club him. It was a very anxious night: we quite expected the enemy was in the town, and that the fire would be the signal for the whole army to plunge into the place. Thank God, the morning came without any blood being spilt. Soon after it was light, we made preparations for leaving here for Bau. Mr. Pickering, a white resident at Ovalau, being within a mile or two of this place, kindly sent to see about us, and offered to take us to Bau, which offer we gladly accepted. We reached Bau the same day, and received the sympathy and kindness of Christian brethren and sisters from our friends there. After spending two days there, I returned to see how things were going on at Rewa, and found the people anxious that we should not leave them; and as I do not believe that any party in the town burnt the house, but that it may have been done by some one who dislikes the peace, I concluded it was best to stay, and to see how things will go. The brethren at Bau and Vewa very kindly said, that if it was our wish to go to the colony, they could not object. Mrs. Moore and the children may go; but I cannot make up my mind to leave the brethren in such trying times; and to leave Rewa just now would be like throwing away so much labour, suffering, and expense, and perhaps the loss of a multitude of souls. I want no excuse to leave Feejee; and as I do not see my way clear, I cast myself on the Divine guidance and protection, and wish to be the Lord's, in life, in death.

The loss to the Mission will be great,—about £400 or £500; and our own loss is about a similar sum. My books alone were worth £200. Our loss, however, does not trouble us. "The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away: blessed be the name of the Lord." But this getting unsettled in our work, and this constant excitement, reminds us that we are human. O pray for us, that our faith fail not. Do not get the notion that the work in Feejee is done, or that we can do without the prayers of the church. Never did Feejee need them more, never did we need them more. "Brethren, pray for us."?