Obrazy na stronie

regaining possession of the greater part of his property.

Even had the results of this perilous boat voyage stopped here, it would have afforded a striking instance of the blessings which attend Christian fidelity and boldness, springing from a sense of God's presence and access to him in prayer. But more remains to be told. Many years afterwards, on Mr. Burchell's return froin Jamaica, he was at a small village in the neighbourhood of Cheddar Cliffs, when a man accosted him, offered his hand, and appeared surprised that he was not recognised. It proved to be the smuggler who had guided Mr. Burchell to the farm-house. After some conversation, he said, “Ah! sir, after your talk we none of us could follow that trade again. I have since learned to be a carpenter, and am doing very well in this village ; and attend a chapel three or four miles off. And our poor captain never forgot to pray for you till his dying day. He was quite an altered man, took his widowed mother to live with him, and became a good husband, a good father, and a good neighbour. Before, every one was afraid of him, he was such a desperate fellow ; afterwards he was as tame as a laıb. He opened a little shop for the maintenance of

his family; and what was better still, held prayer meetings in his house. The other three men are now in a merchant vessel, and are very steady and well behaved.”

Interesting, and even romantic, as were these adventures of Mr. Burchell and Mr. Cecil, they are more than paralleled by an event which occurred during the missionary voyage Messrs. Tyerman and Bennett, to which reference was made in the previous chapter. They had arrived after many perils at New Zealand ; an island which had not then come under the civilizing power of the gospel. A few missionaries, however, were sowing the precious seed of which the present generation are reaping the fruits. The natives were almost to a man cannibals, and were the dread of sailors navigating those seas, from their deeds of ferocious cruelty against the crews who were so unhappy as to fall into their hands. among these fierce savages that the incident happened, of which the following is an abridged account:

“This morning," says Mr. Bennett, "our little vessel was surrounded by canoes containing several hundred natives. The commerce went on pretty well for some time, till they

It was

began to exercise their pilfering propensities, and speedily, without our perceiving the inmediate reason, the whole scene was changed. The women and children in the course of a few seconds had all disappeared, leaping overboard into the canoes, and taking with them the mantles of the warriors. The latter thus stripped for action remained on deck, of which they took complete possession, and forth with inade us their prisoners.” Tremendous were their howlings and screechings, whilst they stamped and brandished their weapons. One chief with his slaves surrounded the captain on the larboard quarter. Mr. Tyerman under guard of another band stood on the starboard, and Mr. Bennett was beside him. A chief now addressed the latter gentleman with a series of wild, furious questions, to which Mr. B. contrived to return a soothing answer. At that moment a slave stepped behind Mr. Bennett and pinioned both his arms; he, however, made no attempt to resist or elude the attack of the gigantic savage, knowing that to do so would only accelerate the threatened destruction. Another slave then raised a large axe over the head of the prisoner, looking with demon-like eagerness and impatience to his master for the


signal to strike. While Mr. Bennett stood thus pinioned and in jeopardy, the axe gleaming over his head and catching his eye at every turn, he saw a few yards before him Mr. Tyerman in custody of other slaves. The savages were from time to time feeling his limbs in eager anticipation of the cannibal feast which awaited them. The prisoner, like his companion, maintained the utmost calmness of deportment, though the paleness of his countenance plainly showed that he was not ignorant of the meaning of these familiarities.

This scene of terror and confusion-during which the cannibals never ceased to rage and threaten destruction, which an invisible and almighty Hand stayed them from executing-lasted for about two hours. recommended my spirit,” says Mr. Bennett, "to the mercy of God, in whose presence I doubted not I should very soon appear.” But the prayers breathed in that season of peril and terror had entered the ears of the Lord God Almighty. He had restrained the rage of the savages during the long period that they held possession of the ship, and now he sent deliverance as unexpected as the danger had been sudden. Several voices cried out from different

[ocr errors]

parts of the vessel, “A boat! a boat!” Happily it was a boat returning from the settlement in Wangaroa Bay. In it were Mr. White, a Wesleyan missionary, and the principal chief of that part of the island. The natives immediately desisted from violence, and the prisoners were released from their terrible position. How fervently they adored God, whose arm had been so marvellously stretched for their deliverance, and who had so signally heard and answered their prayers, may be more easily conceived than described.

When assailed by sudden and startling dangers like those just recorded, there is no natural quality more valuable than presence of mind, meaning by that term, the habit of looking calmly at the peril to which we posed, and instead of being paralyzed by excitement, coolly surveying all the attendant circumstances, so as to avail ourselves of any mode of



offer. " The value of presence of mind on occasions of peril involving many lives,” says an essayist on this subject, “has rarely been more strikingly exemplified than in the circumstances attending the burning of the Kent East Indiaman by fire, when, though the ship was crowded by



« PoprzedniaDalej »