TIME passed on, and again preparations were being made at Norfolk for the second return party to Pitcairn Island. Four families decided to go. These were, first, Thursday O. Christian, his wife and nine children. Mrs. Christian's aged mother also accompanied them for the purpose of seeing again her son, Mayhew Young, who was of the party. The old lady was Elizabeth Mills, only daughter of John Mills, of the Bounty, and the son whom she was going to see was one named in affectionate remembrance of her much esteemed and well-remembered friend, Captain Mayhew Folger, who had discovered the colony on Pitcairn Island fifty-five years before. The other families were Robert Buffett and his wife, Samuel Warren and his wife, who was the daughter of T. O. Christian. These last mentioned persons were married to each other on the eve of leaving Norfolk Island. In addition to those above mentioned were Simon Young, his mother (Hannah Adams), his wife, and eight children. The number of persons composing the second party was twenty-seven. Their friends were strongly opposed to their leaving, and did all in their power to induce them to stay.
The last mentioned family was amongst the first that had decided upon returning, and had taken the first steps in preparing to return; but the fact that the passage fare by the first vessel was not paid out of his own money had enough weight with Simon Young to decide his waiting until he was able to defray the expense of the passage for both himself and family.
Having had some little experience in teaching children in the week-day school, besides being for years a Sunday school teacher, he was greatly concerned also about the welfare of the young people that had preceded him to the old home, and the thought of their need, as well as his own deep-seated love of home, seemed to urge him to take the present step. In vain did relatives and friends place before the parents the question of the future welfare of their children; their decision was made, the passage already engaged, and the thought of again withdrawing was not to be allowed.
Nor were their relatives alone opposed to their going. In a letter sent to the wife of Simon Young Mrs. Selwyn expressed, not her opinion only, but the opinions of. both Bishop Selwyn and Bishop Patteson as well, in regard to the ministration of the word of God, and the ordinances attending thereon. Speaking of the "important news" that reached them in New Zealand, she says: "I will not conceal that it has made me very, very sorry. I never, like all the rest of us, had but one opinion about the return to Pitcairn's Island, and you know full well what that opinion is; and I am more concerned than I can say to find that your family are to be foremost in the next departure. To both the bishops and to myself does it seem a very serious responsibility for anyone voluntarily to put himself and his family out of the reach of all the means of grace appointed by our Lord himself as necessary to us. It is a very different matter if he find himself bereft of them through no fault or design of his own, as you all were in the old days of Pitcairn."
Writing on the same subject, Bishop Patteson thus expresses himself in a letter to Simon Young: "I fear I that you do not feel the real importance of this point on which I so greatly insist," i. e., "the most essential thing of all—the authorized ministration of the word and sacraments." "You may or may not think that the ministrations of Bishop Selwyn, or me, or Mr. Nobbs, are edifying—that is not to the point. It is Christ himself, who by the hands of His ministers regularly appointed, gives to His own people His own blessings. If you willfully, and by your own act, deprive yourself and family of this blessing, how shall you receive the blessing? Christ gives it in His own appointed way; what right have you or anyone to neglect His way, and yet think to receive the blessing?
"And if you are not doing right in going away from such privileges, you may be sure that you will not be doing good to others. You will be encouraging them in a course that is not right. You ought to be using whatever influence you have to keep others from going from the blessings which you have at Norfolk Island, and will not have at Pitcairn Island.
"And with reference to what you say about the 'path marked out by God.' My dear friend, often times a man makes up his mind really on some point, though he is hardly willing to allow to himself that he has done so; and then, with a design already settled in his mind—seeks for advice and direction. . . . Now if you have any doubt about the course you propose to follow, and you must have doubts, you must see that it cannot be right to leave the blessings I have spoken of—you cannot make what is wrong appear right by any other process than one of self-deception.
"Your object is to do those who have gone some good. But if God's blessing go not with you, you cannot and will not do them good; and if it be wrong to go, it is wrong to encourage others to go. Why are you 'sorry that they went'? Not only because they have left their friends, but you are, I hope, sorry because they are living on apart from the regular ministrations the church. But you cannot supply that want; you add only to the number of those who are in want. You disapprove their conduct, and yet follow it. But you think you go to help them. No, my friend, by doing what is at least doubtful, if not wrong, you are very far from helping them. You injure yourself and your family, and you encourage those that are gone to think lightly of the error they have committed.
"I have written strongly, but you know why. If I have said the truth, may God bless it to the good of us both."
This letter, written in such plain and strong language, and which showed such solicitude for the spiritual welfare of those who were on the eve of leaving, did not fail to make a deep impression, yet not so as to convince that the step about to be taken was a wrong one.
As for their own pastor, Mr. Nobbs, he had strongly opposed the return of the first two families, but now was rather willing than otherwise that the rest should follow. Indeed, far from discouraging such a step, he was glad that someone could be found who would voluntarily go and, to the best of his ability, instruct the children who were growing up so far from educational privileges. Quickly the day drew on that was to witness another painful separation. As in the first case, the young people of the second return party did not share the feelings of their parents. Pitcairn Island possessed no attraction for them, and Norfolk Island, which was home to them, was rendered doubly dear because of the many loved companions and friends that were to be left behind.
One sore trial to Simon Young and his wife and family was the separation from the eldest son, a youth of eighteen years of age, who, with a son of Mr. Nobbs, was left with Bishop Patteson, to be by him trained and fitted for a life of future usefulness in the work of the mission. It was the young man's own choice and resolve to remain with the bishop, who, both to his companion and himself, had ever showed the kind and tender consideration of a parent in everything regarding their best interests. So, however sad the parting or sharp the trial, the parents knew that their son was in good hands, and Bishop Patteson had written that, as far as they could supply it, both himself and Mrs. Selwyn would fill the place of parents to him. His companion had always been to him as a dear brother.*
∗ Edwin Nobbs and Fisher Young joined the Melanesian Mission under its first bishop, the Right Rev. J. C. Patteson, the former to become, probably, the successor of his father, the Rev. G. H. Nobbs, pastor of the church on Norfolk Island. But it was not to be. In less than four years after joining the mission, the bishop paid a visit to the island of Santa Cruz, and found the natives hostile to their landing. On the bishop's first visit the natives had shown themselves friendly, but now, August, 1864, a sudden and unexpected attack was made by the natives against their visitors, and the young men, Edwin and Fisher, were wounded, the former in his left cheek, the latter in his left wrist. An Englishman, Pierce by name, was wounded in the chest, but he recovered. Fisher died on the eighth day, after suffering the dreadful agonies of lockjaw. His body was taken ashore at Port Patteson and buried there. His deeply-sorrowing companion attended the funeral, the exposure bringing on a cold which resulted in the same dire disease. Everything that the most loving care could suggest was done for them, but in vain. The bishop, writing of that sad time, said, "Never have I known such sorrow never have I been so broken down with overmuch sorrow." They both died in the arms of the bishop, almost the last words of each being a prayer for their murderers. Edwin was buried at sea. It can truly be said of them that
"Lovely and pleasant they were in their lives,
And in death they were not divided."
And now the time had come for the final parting. Once more grief-stricken friends assembled in the church, which would know the presence of some of them no more forever, to implore the divine aid and blessing upon all, but more especially to commend the departing friends to the care and keeping of their faithful God. The hymn, composed by Mr. Nobbs and sung on the former occasion, was again sung, the two last stanzas of which are given here, these referring directly to those about to leave, being composed for this special farewell gathering:—
"For those who in the flesh remain,
Though absent from our sight,
For their remembrance we'll retain
Affections pure and bright;
Though parted, severed, far away,
Perchance to meet no more,
For their prosperity we'll pray,
And love them as before,
"Again dissevered is the tie;
Brethren and sisters part;
The mournful separation nigh
Pervades with grief each heart;
Here, now, beneath this sacred roof
Fresh blessings we implore,
Beneath our tears the fervent proof,
'We'll love you as before.'"
In the large company that had gathered for the last farewell service, there was scarcely an eye that was not dim with tears. Brothers and sisters, as well as parents and children, who had never known what separation meant were now about to experience its pain. Perhaps no one felt the bitterness of parting more than did the two aged mothers, Elizabeth Young and Hannah Young, who were leaving behind them children that were most dear, to return to the far-distant home of their childhood. The night after the farewell meeting was a wakeful one for those whom the parting most nearly concerned, as the morrow would witness the departure. The morning dawned only too soon. The whole community, including all the other families that had recently settled among them, accompanied the party that was leaving, down to the pier. Loud sobs and many tears told what a heavy trial the separation was. At last all was over—the last fond embrace, the lingering kiss, the warm hand clasp—and the voyagers embarked in their small vessel to return to the isolated island whither the two other families had preceded them six years before. Two men, relatives of the families who were leaving, came with them on a visit.
One death took place before the voyage was ended, that of a child of Thursday Christian, that had been ailing for some time before leaving Norfolk Island. At the mother's request, the captain kindly consented to preserve the body, to be brought and laid with others of her children in the graveyard at Pitcairn Island. The body was put in a barrel, and this was placed in the forepart of the ship on deck, and was for some time an object of terror to the superstitious minds of the young people on board, who wondered how the mother dared to approach the spot in the dead of night and weep over her child there. By degrees however, the feelings of awe and fear wore away, and as the little ship neared the end of her voyage, there remained but the wish that the gentle child had been spared to reach the place whither they were going. And, too, the sorrow of parting from friends on Norfolk Island gradually lost its bitterness as the thought of soon seeing again their long-separated friends was cherished. Still the frequent sigh and the silent tear told that the dear ones were not forgotten. Especially touching was it to see the two old ladies, who had no growing families to engross their thoughts, sit together and weep silent tears, as the aged will, over the sons. and daughters they were to see no more.