Death at Sea

It was most probable that the attack upon our boat at Aoba was a result of a legacy of recorded and unavenged violence which some fellow-countrymen had invested for our future gathering. There are other skippers than those in the African trade, who wash off their countenance of evil practices when entering the circuits of decorum, but in other spheres their crimes are rank and stink to heaven. Against such nefarious South Sea buccaneers the missionary stands in antagonism.

But to return to our wounded sailors. For the first few days after the men were wounded at Aoba we had every hope that they would recover. The mate came into the cabin on the morning of the third day, sat down to breakfast, was cheerful, and ate with a moderate appetite. He afterwards wrote up his log and moved about, complaining only of some passing pains where he had been hit by the arrows and let go of the anchor. Alex. Bruce also appeared to progress as favorably as could be expected, considering the spear had penetrated his lung. Tomlangua was cheerful, and had a fair appetite. We were commencing to feel satisfied that the weapons could not have been poisoned, and that it was merely a question of time in the wounds healing. The mate’s wounds had all healed up, but on the sixth day from the occurrence we had occasion to fear that our conjecture was premature, for each patient began to manifest signs of tetanus, which continued to increase until the following day, when the whole three of them died within a few hours of each other. So soon as it was evident to the doctor that the mate and Bruce could not recover, he came to me and told me, as they would die, would I speak to them about the journey to the unknown they were about to travel.

Accordingly a new experience awaits me through the doctor investing me with the serious responsibility of piloting two fellow creatures through the valley of the shadow of death as they make their exit out of the physical frame wherein they are imprisoned. To pave the way for such a solemn duty, the doctor, approaching them with much consideration, preceded remarks with the hope that they might get better, but as their condition might become worse, would it not be advisable to make peace with God, ere they were compelled to take their departure. I could not do otherwise than admire the admirable commonsense of DR Gumption in t thus so compassionately approaching the sufferers as to inspire them with all the confidence he could implant. “Depart not out of the physical body in winter when virtue and holiness is cold and frozen, but behold your highest ideal with all your intensity of desire, and you shall awake, rise again, by the process of reincarnation, in His image and likeness.” We learned from Bruce that he had been trained in a Presbyterian Sunday School, wherein he had become a teacher of the fact “That Jesus Christ is the light of the world.” Although in great agony, he listened with emotion to the passage of Scripture, and upon hearing read the last chapter of Revelations, to him, as in the case of Stephen, he saw the heavens open – the home of many mansions.

The respective death scenes and the passing away of Alex. Bruce and Mr. Scupper proved an impressive exemplification of the value of the teaching contained in the words “Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth.” The two individuals were in diverse stages of development; both became reconciled to their inevitable ordeal of departure – the termination of their physical existence, the closing scene of their present incarnation. Alex. Bruce listened with rapture to the words of Revelation, promising the new heaven and the new earth, and the transition from suffering in the flesh. Looking around and seeing the blue sea, his last wish was – “to lay on the beautiful white coral beneath its waves.”

Mr. Scupper having been dragged up without the opportunity of Sabbath schools or churches, could evidence no appreciation of a future that had never been presented to him.; the death agonies prove an unfavorable opportunity for preparation to enter the beyond. Mr. Scupper declined all offers of consolation from the Word of God, but in his last moments he was full of remembrance of a Captain Straight, an exemplary trader and fearless seaman, under whom he had formerly sailed, whose deservedly high reputation throughout the commercial and nautical circles through which he moved, had worked a powerful influence on the mind of the mate. It may therefore be hoped that with this ideal upon his mind his entrance upon the Astral plane would prove harmonious, and that he would enter into company of those environments towards which the aspirations he had followed for a life of usefulness, with admiration of fair trading, had prepared him.

“The Children of the Highest” attain their development through many dark stages of experience. Whilst Bruce and Scupper were passing through the agonies of death, the Apie native, Tomlangua, was also enduring his stage of suffering. In great agony he had collected his personal effect (his wages in Queensland) and distributed them to all his countrymen, all of whom had assiduously attended him throughout his affliction until his death closed the scene,

Accordingly the last ceremony was performed in the enshroudment of the earthly tabernacles of Bruce, Scupper, and Tomlangua within a canvas domicile containing heavy stone ballast, followed by lowering the ship’s boat, wherein we pulled out to sea and committed these empty tabernacles to the process of disintergration into atoms that would in time form consituent elements for new bodies.

Whilst the preperations were proceeding for the final ceremony, I observed Jim Chewline devotedly sewing up the remains of Mr. Scupper, whose grim joke as to his readiness to make a suit of clothes for Jim Chewline was now being most unexpectedly reversed.

However, the beautifully impressive service of the Church of England is read at the funeral of sea burial: thus we part company from all that is left of our former colleagues, who pass on to their well earned rest, leaving us on earth to work out the remainder of our present destiny therein.

We learn from the natives of Apie that the poison used for the arrows is obtained from the sap beneath the bark of a tree, called by them the Ninghi-Ninghi. It seems to possess the property of producing tetanus and death without the contamination of the flesh incidental to blood poisoning and snake-bite. Accordingly the flesh of victims wounded in battle, and secured as captives, is thus appropriated by cannibals for their orgies.

Amongst our sufferers the effects of their innoculation was different in each case. Burce’s body was bent forward, Tomlangual’s backward; Mr. Scupper not being so deeply wounded as the other two, his body was not so violently contorted either way; his jaws commenced to lock only a few hours before he died, although he was in violent pain for the day previous. The Santo men wished very much to bury the dead on shore, but as their desire was evidently in order that they could afterwards exhume them and utilise their bones for the heads of arrows and spears we did not fall in with their suggestion.