[Transcriber's note: Some Footnotes in this text contain special characters, including a, e, and o with superior macron, represented by ā, ē, and ō, and a and u with superior breve, represented by ă and ŭ, to indicate pronunciation of native-language words.]
THE BOOK OF MISSIONARY HEROES
BASIL MATHEWS, M.A.
Author of "The Argonauts of Faith," "The Riddle of Nearer Asia," etc.
GEORGE H. DORAN COMPANY
By George H. Doran Company
PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
PROLOGUE THE RELAY RACE 9
BOOK I: THE PIONEERS
CHAPTER I THE HERO OF THE LONG TRAIL (St. Paul) 19 II THE MEN ON THE SHINGLE BEACH (Wilfrid of Sussex) 30 III THE KNIGHT OF A NEW CRUSADE (Raymond Lull) 36 IV FRANCIS COEUR-DE-LION (St. Francis of Assisi) 47
BOOK II: THE ISLAND ADVENTURERS
V THE ADVENTUROUS SHIP (The Duff) 65 VI THE ISLAND BEACON FIRES (Papeiha) 72 VII THE DAYBREAK CALL (John Williams) 80 VIII KAPIOLANI, THE HEROINE OF HAWAII (Kapiolani) 86 IX THE CANOE OF ADVENTURE (Elikana) 92 X THE ARROWS OF SANTA CRUZ (Patteson) 103 XI FIVE KNOTS IN A PALM LEAF (Patteson) 108 XII THE BOY OF THE ADVENTUROUS HEART (Chalmers) 113 XIII THE SCOUT OF PAPUA (Chalmers) 118 XIV A SOUTH SEA SAMARITAN (Ruatoka) 126
BOOK III: THE PATHFINDERS OF AFRICA
XV THE MAN WHO WOULD GO ON (Livingstone) 131 XVI A BLACK PRINCE OF AFRICA (Khama) 136 XVII THE KNIGHT OF THE SLAVE GIRLS (George Grenfell) 150 XVIII "A MAN WHO CAN TURN HIS HAND TO ANYTHING" (Mackay) 158 XIX THE ROADMAKER (Mackay) 164 XX FIGHTING THE SLAVE TRADE (Mackay) 172 XXI THE BLACK APOSTLE OF THE LONELY LAKE (Shomolakae) 186 XXII THE WOMAN WHO CONQUERED CANNIBALS (Mary Slessor) 196
BOOK IV: HEROINES AND HEROES OF PLATEAU AND DESERT
XXIII SONS OF THE DESERT (Abdallah and Sabat) 213 XXIV A RACE AGAINST TIME (Henry Martyn) 224 XXV THE MOSES OF THE ASSYRIANS (Dr. Shedd) 236 XXVI AN AMERICAN NURSE IN THE GREAT WAR (E.D. Cushman) 249 XXVII ON THE DESERT CAMEL TRAIL (Archibald Forder) 260 XXVIII THE FRIEND OF THE ARAB (Archibald Forder) 271
THE BOOK OF MISSIONARY HEROES
The shining blue waters of two wonderful gulfs were busy with fishing boats and little ships. The vessels came under their square sails and were driven by galley-slaves with great oars.
A Greek boy standing, two thousand years ago, on the wonderful mountain of the Acro-Corinth that leaps suddenly from the plain above Corinth to a pinnacle over a thousand feet high, could see the boats come sailing from the east, where they hailed from the Piraeus and Ephesus and the marble islands of the AEgean Sea. Turning round he could watch them also coming from the West up the Gulf of Corinth from the harbours of the Gulf and even from the Adriatic Sea and Brundusium.
In between the two gulfs lay the Isthmus of Corinth to which the men on the ships were sailing and rowing.
The people were all in holiday dress for the great athletic sports were to be held on that day and the next,—the sports that drew, in those ancient days, over thirty thousand Greeks from all the country round; from the towns on the shores of the two gulfs and from the mountain-lands of Greece,—from Parnassus and Helicon and Delphi, from Athens and the villages on the slopes of Hymettus and even from Sparta.
These sports, which were some of the finest ever held in the whole world, were called—because they were held on this isthmus—the Isthmian Games.
The athletes wrestled. They boxed with iron-studded leather straps over their knuckles. They fought lions brought across the Mediterranean (the Great Sea as they called it) from Africa, and tigers carried up the Khyber Pass across Persia from India. They flung spears, threw quoits and ran foot-races. Amid the wild cheering of thirty thousand throats the charioteers drove their frenzied horses, lathered with foam, around the roaring stadium.
One of the most beautiful of these races has a strange hold on the imagination. It was a relay-race. This is how it was run.
Men bearing torches stood in a line at the starting point. Each man belonged to a separate team. Away in the distance stood another row of men waiting. Each of these was the comrade of one of those men at the starting point. Farther on still, out of sight, stood another row and then another and another.
At the word "Go" the men at the starting point leapt forward, their torches burning. They ran at top speed towards the waiting men and then gasping for breath, each passed his torch to his comrade in the next row. He, in turn, seizing the flaming torch, leapt forward and dashed along the course toward the next relay, who again raced on and on till at last one man dashed past the winning post with his torch burning ahead of all the others, amid the applauding cheers of the multitude.
The Greeks, who were very fond of this race, coined a proverbial phrase from it. Translated it runs:
"Let the torch-bearers hand on the flame to the others" or "Let those who have the light pass it on."
* * * * *
That relay-race of torch-bearers is a living picture of the wonderful relay-race of heroes who, right through the centuries, have, with dauntless courage and a scorn of danger and difficulty, passed through thrilling adventures in order to carry the Light across the continents and oceans of the world.
The torch-bearers! The long race of those who have borne, and still carry the torches, passing them on from hand to hand, runs before us. A little ship puts out from Seleucia, bearing a man who had caught the fire in a blinding blaze of light on the road to Damascus. Paul crosses the sea and then threads his way through the cities of Cyprus and Asia Minor, passes over the blue AEgean to answer the call from Macedonia. We see the light quicken, flicker and glow to a steady blaze in centre after centre of life, till at last the torch-bearer reaches his goal in Rome.
"Yes, without cheer of sister or of daughter, Yes, without stay of father or of son, Lone on the land and homeless on the water Pass I in patience till the work be done."
Centuries pass and men of another age, taking the light that Paul had brought, carry the torch over Apennine and Alp, through dense forests where wild beasts and wilder savages roam, till they cross the North Sea and the light reaches the fair-haired Angles of Britain, on whose name Augustine had exercised his punning humour, when he said, "Not Angles, but Angels." From North and South, through Columba and Aidan, Wilfred of Sussex and Bertha of Kent, the light came to Britain.
"Is not our life," said the aged seer to the Mercian heathen king as the Missionary waited for permission to lead them to Christ, "like a sparrow that flies from the darkness through the open window into this hall and flutters about in the torchlight for a few moments to fly out again into the darkness of the night. Even so we know not whence our life comes nor whither it goes. This man can tell us. Shall we not receive his teaching?" So the English, through these torch-bearers, come into the light.
The centuries pass by and in 1620 the little Mayflower, bearing Christian descendants of those heathen Angles—new torch-bearers, struggles through frightful tempests to plant on the American Continent the New England that was indeed to become the forerunner of a New World.
A century and a half passes and down the estuary of the Thames creeps another sailing ship.
The Government officer shouts his challenge:
"What ship is that and what is her cargo?"
"The Duff," rings back the answer, "under Captain Wilson, bearing Missionaries to the South Sea."
The puzzled official has never heard of such beings! But the little ship passes on and after adventures and tempests in many seas at last reaches the far Pacific. There the torch-bearers pass from island to island and the light flames like a beacon fire across many a blue lagoon and coral reef.
One after another the great heroes sail out across strange seas and penetrate hidden continents each with a torch in his hand.
Livingstone, the lion-hearted pathfinder in Africa, goes out as the fearless explorer, the dauntless and resourceful missionary, faced by poisoned arrows and the guns of Arabs and marched with only his black companions for thousands of miles through marsh and forest, over mountain pass and across river swamps, in loneliness and hunger, often with bleeding feet, on and on to the little hut in old Chitambo's village in Ilala, where he crossed the river. Livingstone is the Coeur-de-Lion of our Great Crusade.
John Williams, who, in his own words, could "never be content with the limits of a single reef," built with his own hands and almost without any tools on a cannibal island the wonderful little ship The Messenger of Peace in which he sailed many thousands of miles from island to island across the Pacific Ocean.
These are only two examples of the men whose adventures are more thrilling than those of our story books and yet are absolutely true, and we find them in every country and in each of the centuries.
So—as we look across the ages we
"See the race of hero-spirits Pass the torch from hand to hand."
In this book the stories of a few of them are told as yarns to boys and girls round a camp-fire. Every one of the tales is historically true, and is accurate in detail.
In that ancient Greek relay-race the prize to each winner was simply a wreath of leaves cut by a priest with a golden knife from trees in the sacred grove near the Sea,—the grove where the Temple of Neptune, the god of the Ocean, stood. It was just a crown of wild olive that would wither away. Yet no man would have changed it for its weight in gold.
For when the proud winner in the race went back to his little city, set among the hills, with his already withering wreath, all the people would come and hail him a victor and wave ribbons in the air. A great sculptor would carve a statue of him in imperishable marble and it would be set up in the city. And on the head of the statue of the young athlete was carved a wreath.
In the great relay-race of the world many athletes—men and women—have won great fame by the speed and skill and daring with which they carried forward the torch and, themselves dropping in their tracks, have passed the flame on to the next runner; Paul, Francis, Penn, Livingstone, Mackay, Florence Nightingale, and a host of others. And many who have run just as bravely and swiftly have won no fame at all though their work was just as great. But the fame or the forgetting really does not matter. The fact is that the race is still running; it has not yet been won. Whose team will win? That is what matters.
The world is the stadium. Teams of evil run rapidly and teams of good too.
The great heroes and heroines whose story is told in this book have run across the centuries over the world to us. Some of them are alive to-day, as heroic as those who have gone. But all of them say the same thing to us of the new world who are coming after them:
"Take the torch."
The greatest of them all, when he came to the very end of his days, as he fell and passed on the Torch to others, said:
"I have run my course."
But to us who are coming on as Torch-bearers after him he spoke in urgent words—written to the people at Corinth where the Isthmian races were run:
"Do you not know that they which run in a race all run, but one wins the prize? So run, that ye may be victors."
[Footnote 1: See "The Argonauts of Faith" by Basil Mathews. (Doran.)]
Book One: THE PIONEERS
THE HERO OF THE LONG TRAIL
(Dates, b. A.D. 6, d. A.D. 67)
The Three Comrades.
The purple shadows of three men moved ahead of them on the tawny stones of the Roman road on the high plateau of Asia Minor one bright, fresh morning. They had just come out under the arched gateway through the thick walls of the Roman city of Antioch-in-Pisidia. The great aqueduct of stone that brought the water to the city from the mountains on their right looked like a string of giant camels turned to stone.
Of the three men, one was little more than a boy. He had the oval face of his Greek father and the glossy dark hair of his Jewish mother. The older men, whose long tunics were caught up under their girdles to give their legs free play in walking, were brown, grizzled, sturdy travellers. They had walked a hundred leagues together from the hot plains of Syria, through the snow-swept passes of the Taurus mountains, and over the sun-scorched levels of the high plateau. Their muscles were as tireless as whipcord. Their courage had not quailed before robber or blizzard, the night yells of the hyena or the stones of angry mobs.
For the youth this was his first adventure out into the glorious, unknown world. He was on the open road with the glow of the sun on his cheek and the sting of the breeze in his face; a strong staff in his hand; with his wallet stuffed with food—cheese, olives, and some flat slabs of bread; and by his side his own great hero, Paul. Their sandals rang on the stone pavement of the road which ran straight as a strung bowline from the city, Antioch-in-Pisidia, away to the west. The boy carried over his shoulder the cloak of Paul, and carried that cloak as though it had been the royal purple garment of the Roman Emperor himself instead of the worn, faded, travel-stained cloak of a wandering tent-maker.
The two older men, whose names were Paul the Tarsian and Silas, had trudged six hundred miles. Their younger companion, whose name was "Fear God," or Timothy as we say, with his Greek fondness for perfect athletic fitness of the body, proudly felt the taut, wiry muscles working under his skin.
On they walked for day after day, from dawn when the sun rose behind them to the hour when the sun glowed over the hills in their faces. They turned northwest and at last dropped down from the highlands of this plateau of Asia Minor, through a long broad valley, until they looked down across the Plain of Troy to the bluest sea in the world.
Timothy's eyes opened with astonishment as he looked down on such a city as he had never seen—the great Roman seaport of Troy. The marble Stadium, where the chariots raced and the gladiators fought, gleamed in the afternoon light.
The three companions could not stop long to gaze. They swung easily down the hill-sides and across the plain into Troy, where they took lodgings.
They had not been in Troy long when they met a doctor named Luke. We do not know whether one of them was ill and the doctor helped him; we do not know whether Doctor Luke (who was a Greek) worshipped, when he met them, AEsculapius, the god of healing of the Greek people. The doctor did not live in Troy, but was himself a visitor.
"I live across the sea," Luke told his three friends—Paul, Silas and Timothy—stretching his hand out towards the north. "I live," he would say proudly, "in the greatest city of all Macedonia—Philippi. It is called after the great ruler Philip of Macedonia."
Then Paul in his turn would be sure to tell Doctor Luke what it was that had brought him across a thousand miles of plain and mountain pass, hill and valley, to Troy. This is how he would tell the story in such words as he used again and again:
"I used to think," he said, "that I ought to do many things to oppose the name of Jesus of Nazareth. I had many of His disciples put into prison and even voted for their being put to death. I became so exceedingly mad against them that I even pursued them to foreign cities.
"Then as I was journeying to Damascus, with the authority of the chief priests themselves, at mid-day I saw on the way a light from the sky, brighter than the blaze of the sun, shining round about me and my companions. And, as we were all fallen on to the road, I heard a voice saying to me:
"'Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? It is hard for you to kick against the goad.'
"And I said, 'Who are you, Lord?'
"The answer came: 'I am Jesus, whom you persecute.'"
Then Paul went on:
"I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision; but I told those in Damascus and in Jerusalem and in all Judaea, aye! and the foreign nations also, that they should repent and turn to God.
"Later on," said Paul, "I fell into a trance, and Jesus came again to me and said, 'Go, I will send you afar to the Nations.' That (Paul would say to Luke) is why I walk among perils in the city; in perils in the wilderness; in perils in the sea; in labour and work; in hunger and thirst and cold, to tell people everywhere of the love of God shown in Jesus Christ."
The Call to Cross the Sea.
One night, after one of these talks, as Paul was asleep in Troy, he seemed to see a figure standing by him. Surely it was the dream-figure of Luke, the doctor from Macedonia, holding out his hands and pleading with Paul, saying, "Come over into Macedonia and help us."
Now neither Paul nor Silas nor Timothy had ever been across the sea into the land that we now call Europe. But in the morning, when Paul told his companions about the dream that he had had, they all agreed that God had called them to go and deliver the good news of the Kingdom to the people in Luke's city of Philippi and in the other cities of Macedonia.
So they went down into the busy harbour of Troy, where the singing sailor-men were bumping bales of goods from the backs of camels into the holds of the ships, and they took a passage in a little coasting ship. She hove anchor and was rowed out through the entrance between the ends of the granite piers of the harbour. The seamen hoisting the sails, the little ship went gaily out into the AEgean Sea.
All day they ran before the breeze and at night anchored under the lee of an island. At dawn they sailed northward again with a good wind, till they saw land. Behind the coast on high ground the columns of a temple glowed in the sunlight. They ran into a spacious bay and anchored in the harbour of a new city—Neapolis as it was called—the port of Philippi.
Landing from the little ship, Paul, Silas, Timothy and Luke climbed from the harbour by a glen to the crest of the hill, and then on, for three or four hours of hard walking, till their sandals rang on the pavement under the marble arch of the gate through the wall of Philippi.
Flogging and Prison.
As Paul and his friends walked about in the city they talked with people; for instance, with a woman called Lydia, who also had come across the sea from Asia Minor where she was born. She and her children and slaves all became Christians. So the men and women of Philippi soon began to talk about these strange teachers from the East. One day Paul and Silas met a slave girl dressed in a flowing, coloured tunic. She was a fortune-teller, who earned money for her masters by looking at people and trying to see at a glance what they were like so that she might tell their fortunes. The fortune-telling girl saw Paul and Silas going along, and she stopped and called out loud so that everyone who went by might hear: "These men are the slaves of the Most High God. They tell you the way of Salvation."
The people stood and gaped with astonishment, and still the girl called out the same thing, until a crowd began to come round. Then Paul turned round and with sternness in his voice spoke to the evil spirit in the girl and said: "In the Name of Jesus Christ, I order you out of her."
From that day the girl lost her power to tell people's fortunes, so that the money that used to come to her masters stopped flowing. They were very angry and stirred up everybody to attack Paul and Silas. A mob collected and searched through the streets until they found them. Then they clutched hold of their arms and robes, shouting: "To the praetors! To the praetors!" The praetors were great officials who sat in marble chairs in the Forum, the central square of the city.
The masters of the slave girl dragged Paul and Silas along. At their heels came the shouting mob and when they came in front of the praetors, the men cried out:
"See these fellows! Jews as they are, they are upsetting everything in the city. They tell people to take up customs that are against the Law for us as Romans to accept."
"Yes! Yes!" yelled the crowd. "Flog them! Flog them!"
The praetors, without asking Paul or Silas a single question as to whether this was true, or allowing them to make any defence, were fussily eager to show their Roman patriotism. Standing up they gave their orders:
"Strip them, flog them."
The slaves of the praetors seized Paul and Silas and took their robes from their backs. They were tied by their hands to the whipping-post. The crowd gathered round to see the foreigners thrashed.
The lictors—that is the soldier-servants of the praetors—untied their bundles of rods. Then each lictor brought down his rod with cruel strokes on Paul and Silas. The rods cut into the flesh and the blood flowed down.
Then their robes were thrown over their shoulders, and the two men, with their tortured backs bleeding, were led into the black darkness of the cell of the city prison; shackles were snapped on to their arms, and their feet were clapped into stocks. Their bodies ached; the other prisoners groaned and cursed; the filthy place stank; sleep was impossible.
But Paul and Silas did not groan. They sang the songs of their own people, such as the verses that Paul had learned—as all Jewish children did—when he was a boy at school. For instance—
God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble. Therefore will we not fear, though the earth do change, And though the mountains be moved in the heart of the seas; Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, Though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof.
As they sang there came a noise as though the mountains really were shaking. The ground rocked; the walls shook; the chains were loosened from the stones; the stocks were wrenched apart; their hands and feet were free; the heavy doors crashed open. It was an earthquake.
The jailor leapt to the entrance of the prison. The moonlight shone on his sword as he was about to kill himself, thinking his prisoners had escaped.
"Do not harm yourself," shouted Paul. "We are all here."
"Torches! Torches!" yelled the jailor.
The jailor, like all the people of his land, believed that earthquakes were sent by God. He thought he was lost. He turned to Paul and Silas who, he knew, were teachers about God.
"Sirs," he said, falling in fear on the ground, "what must I do to be saved?"
"Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ," they replied, "and you and your household will all be saved."
The jailor's wife then brought some oil and water, and the jailor washed the poor wounded backs of Paul and Silas and rubbed healing oil into them.
The night was now passing and the sun began to rise. There was a tramp of feet. The lictors who had thrashed Paul and Silas marched to the door of the prison with an order to free them. The jailor was delighted.
"The praetors have sent to set you free," he said. "Come out then and go in peace."
He had the greatest surprise in his life when, instead of going, Paul turned and said:
"No, indeed! The praetors flogged us in public in the Forum and without a trial—flogged Roman citizens! They threw us publicly into prison, and now they are going to get rid of us secretly. Let the praetors come here themselves and take us out!"
Surely it was the boldest message ever sent to the powerful praetors. But Paul knew what he was doing, and when the Roman praetors heard the message they knew that he was right. They would be ruined if it were reported at Rome that they had publicly flogged Roman citizens without trial.
Their prisoner, Paul, was now their judge. They climbed down from their marble seats and walked on foot to the prison to plead with Paul and Silas to leave the prison and not to tell against them what had happened.
"Will you go away from the city?" they asked. "We are afraid of other riots."
So Paul and Silas consented. But they went to the house where Lydia lived—the home in which they had been staying in Philippi.
Paul cheered up the other Christian folk—Lydia and Luke and Timothy—and told them how the jailor and his wife and family had all become Christians.
"Keep the work of spreading the message here in Philippi going strongly," said Paul to Luke and Timothy. "Be cheerfully prepared for trouble." And then he and Silas, instead of going back to their own land, went out together in the morning light of the early winter of A.D. 50, away along the Western road over the hills to face perils in other cities in order to carry the Good News to the people of the West.
The Trail of the Hero-Scout.
So Paul the dauntless pioneer set his brave face westwards, following the long trail across the Roman Empire—the hero-scout of Christ. Nothing could stop him—not scourgings nor stonings, prison nor robbers, blizzards nor sand-storms. He went on and on till at last, as a prisoner in Rome, he laid his head on the block of the executioner and was slain. These are the brave words that we hear from him as he came near to the end:
- I HAVE FOUGHT A GOOD FIGHT; I HAVE RUN MY COURSE; I HAVE KEPT THE FAITH. -
Long years afterward, men who were Christians in Rome carried the story of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ across Europe to some savages in the North Sea Islands—called Britons. Paul handed the torch from the Near East to the people in Rome. They passed the torch on to the people of Britain—and from Britain many years later men sailed to build up the new great nation in America. So the torch has run from East to West, from that day to this, and from those people of long ago to us. But we owe this most of all to Paul, the first missionary, who gave his life to bring the Good News from the lands of Syria and Judaea, where our Lord Jesus Christ lived and died and rose again.
[Footnote 2: The dates are, of course, conjectural; but those given are accepted by high authorities. Paul was about forty-four at the time of this adventure.]
[Footnote 3: The plateau on which Lystra, Derbe, Iconium, and Antioch-in-Pisidia stood is from 3000 to 4000 feet above sea-level.]
[Footnote 4: The aqueduct was standing there in 1914, when the author was at Antioch-in-Pisidia (now called Yalowatch).]
[Footnote 5: A Bible with maps attached will give the route from Antioch in Syria, round the Gulf of Alexandretta, past Tarsus, up the Cilician Gates to Derbe, Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch-in-Pisidia.]
[Footnote 6: Compare Acts ix. I-8, xxvi. 12-20.]
[Footnote 7: St. Paul's motive and message are developed more fully in the Author's Paul the Dauntless.]
THE MEN OF THE SHINGLE BEACH
Wilfrid of Sussex
(Date, born A.D. 634. Incidents A.D. 666 and 681)
Twelve hundred and fifty years ago a man named Wilfrid sailed along the south coast of a great island in the North Seas. With him in the ship were a hundred and twenty companions.
The voyage had started well, but now the captain looked anxious as he peered out under his curved hand, looking first south and then north. There was danger in both directions.
The breeze from the south stiffened to a gale. The mast creaked and strained as the gathering storm tore at the mainsail. The ship reeled and pitched as the spiteful waves smote her high bow and swept hissing and gurgling along the deck. She began to jib like a horse and refused to obey her rudder. Wind and current were carrying her out of her course.
In spite of all the captain's sea-craft the ship was being driven nearer to the dreaded, low, shingle beach of the island that stretched along the northern edge of the sea. The captain did not fear the coast itself, for it had no rocks. But the lines deepened on his weather-scarred face as he saw, gathering on the shelving beach, the wild, yellow-haired men of the island.
The ship was being carried nearer and nearer to the coast. All on board could now see the Men of the Shingle Beach waving their spears and axes.
The current and the wind swung the ship still closer to the shore, and now—even above the whistle of the gale in the cordage—the crew heard the wild whoop of the wreckers. These men on the beach were the sons of pirates. But they were now cowards compared with their fathers. For they no longer lived by the wild sea-rover's fight that had made their fathers' blood leap with the joy of the battle. They lived by a crueller craft. Waiting till some such vessel as this was swept ashore, they would swoop down on it, harry and slay the men, carry the women and children off for slaves, break up the ship and take the wood and stores for fire and food. They were beach-combers.
An extra swing of the tide, a great wave—and with a thud the ship was aground, stuck fast on the yielding sands. With a wild yell, and with their tawny manes streaming in the wind, the wreckers rushed down the beach brandishing their spears.
Wilfrid, striding to the side of the ship, raised his hand to show that he wished to speak to the chief. But the island men rushed on like an avalanche and started to storm the ship. Snatching up arms, poles, rope-ends—whatever they could find—the men on board beat down upon the heads of the savages as they climbed up the ship's slippery side. One man after another sank wounded on the deck. The fight grew more obstinate, but at last the men of the beach drew back up the sands, baffled.
The Men of the Shingle Beach might have given up the battle had not a fierce priest of their god of war leapt on to a mound of sand, and, lifting his naked arms to the skies, called on the god to destroy the men in the ship.
The savages were seized with a new frenzy and swept down the beach again. Wilfrid had gathered his closest friends round him and was quietly kneeling on the deck praying to his God for deliverance from the enemy. The fight became desperate. Again the savages were driven back up the beach.
Once more they rallied and came swooping down on the ship. But a pebble from the sling of a man on the ship struck the savage priest on the forehead; he tottered and fell on the sand. This infuriated the savages, yet it took the heart out of these men who had trusted in their god of war.
Meanwhile the tide had been creeping up; it swung in still further and lifted the ship from the sand; the wind veered, the sails strained. Slowly, but with gathering speed, the ship stood out to sea followed by howls of rage from the men on the beach.
* * * * *
Some years passed by, yet Wilfrid in all his travels had never forgotten the Men of the Beach. And, strangely enough, he wanted to go back to them.
At last the time came when he could do so. This time he did not visit them by sea. After he had preached among the people in a distant part of the same great island, Wilfrid with four faithful companions—Eappa, Padda, Burghelm and Oiddi—walked down to the south coast of the island.
As he came to the tribe he found many of them gathered on the beach as before. But the fierceness was gone. They tottered with weakness as they walked. The very bones seemed ready to come through their skin. They were starving with hunger and thirst from a long drought, when no grain or food of any kind would grow. And now they were gathered on the shore, and a long row of them linked hand in hand would rush down the very beach upon which they had attacked Wilfrid, and would cast themselves into the sea to get out of the awful agonies of their hunger.
"Are there not fish in the sea for food?" asked Wilfrid.
"Yes, but we cannot catch them," they answered.
Wilfrid showed the wondering Men of the Shingle Beach how to make large nets and then launched out in the little boats that they owned, and let the nets down. For hour after hour Wilfrid and his companions fished, while the savages watched them from the beach with hungry eyes as the silver-shining fish were drawn gleaming and struggling into the boats.
At last, as evening drew on, the nets were drawn in for the last time, and Wilfrid came back to the beach with hundreds of fish in the boats. With eager joy the Men of the Beach lit fires and cooked the fish. Their hunger was stayed; the rain for which Wilfrid prayed came. They were happy once more.
Then Wilfrid gathered them all around him on the beach and said words like these:
"You men tried to kill me and my friends on this beach years ago, trusting in your god of war. You failed. There is no god of war. There is but one God, a God not of war, but of Love, Who sent His only Son to tell about His love. That Son, Jesus Christ, Who fed the hungry multitudes by the side of the sea with fish, sent me to you to show love to you, feeding you with fish from the sea, and feeding you with His love, which is the Bread of Life."
The wondering savages, spear in hand, shook their matted hair and could not take it in at once. Yet they and their boys and girls had already learned to trust Wilfrid, and soon began to love the God of Whom he spoke.
* * * * *
Now, those savages were the great, great, great grandfathers and mothers of the English-speaking peoples of the world. The North Sea Island was Britain; the beach was at Selsey near Chichester on the South Coast. And the very fact that you and I are alive to-day, the shelter of our homes, the fact that we can enjoy the wind on the heath in camp, our books and sport and school, all these things come to us through men like Wilfrid and St. Patrick, St. Columba and St. Ninian, St. Augustine and others who in the days of long ago came to lift our fathers from the wretched, quarrelsome life, and from the starving helplessness of the Men of the Shingle Beach.
The people of the North Sea Islands and of America and the rest of the Christian world have these good things in their life because there came to save our forefathers heroic missionaries like Wilfrid, Columba, and Augustine. There are to-day men of the South Sea Islands, who are even more helpless than our Saxon grandfathers.
To get without giving is mean. To take the torch and not to pass it on is to fail to play the game. We must hand on to the others the light that has come to us.
[Footnote 8: The chief authority for the story of Wilfrid is Bede.]
THE KNIGHT OF A NEW CRUSADE
(Dates, b. 1234, d. 1315)
A little old man, barefooted and bareheaded, and riding upon an ass, went through the cities and towns and villages of Europe, in the eleventh century, carrying—not a lance, but a crucifix. When he came near a town the word ran like a forest fire, "It is Peter the Hermit."
All the people rushed out. Their hearts burned as they heard him tell how the tomb of Jesus Christ was in the hand of the Moslem Turk, of how Christians going to worship at His Tomb in Jerusalem were thrown into prison and scourged and slain. Knights sold lands and houses to buy horses and lances. Peasants threw down the axe and the spade for the pike and bow and arrows. Led by knights, on whose armour a red Cross was emblazoned, the people poured out in their millions for the first Crusade. It is said that in the spring of 1096 an "expeditionary force" of six million people was heading toward Palestine.
The Crusades were caused partly by the cruelty of the followers of Mohammed, the Moslem Turks, who believed that they could earn entrance into Paradise by slaying infidel Christians. The Moslems every day and five times a day turn their faces to Mecca in Arabia, saying "There is no God but God; Mohammed is the Prophet of God." Allah (they believe) is wise and merciful to His own, but not holy, nor our Father, nor loving and forgiving, nor desiring pure lives. On earth and in Paradise women have no place save to serve men.
The first Crusade ended in the capture of Jerusalem (July 15, 1099), and Godfrey de Bouillon became King of Jerusalem. But Godfrey refused to put a crown upon his head. For, he said, "I will not wear a crown of gold in the city where Our Lord Jesus Christ wore a crown of thorns."
The fortunes of Christian and Moslem ebbed and flowed for nearly two hundred years, during which time there were seven Crusades ending at the fall of Acre into the hands of the Turks in 1291.
The way of the sword had failed, though indeed the Crusades had probably been the means of preventing all Europe from being overrun by the Moslems. At the time when the last Crusade had begun a man was planning a new kind of Crusade, different in method but calling for just as much bravery as the old kind. We are going to hear his story now.
The Young Knight's Vision
In the far-off days of the last of the Crusades, a knight of Majorca, in the Mediterranean Sea, stood on the shore of his island home gazing over the water. Raymund Lull from the beach of Palma Bay, where he had played as a boy, now looked out southward, where boats with their tall, rakish, brown sails ran in from the Great Sea.
The knight was dreaming of Africa which lay away to the south of his island. He had heard many strange stories from the sailors about the life in the harbours of that mysterious African seaboard; but he had never once in his thirty-six years set eyes upon one of its ports.
It was the year when Prince Edward of England, out on the mad, futile adventure of the last Crusade, was felled by the poisoned dagger of an assassin in Nazareth, and when Eleanor (we are told) drew the poison from the wound with her own lips. Yet Raymund Lull, who was a knight so skilled that he could flash his sword and set his lance in rest with any of his peers, had not joined that Crusade. His brave father carried the scars of a dozen battles against the Moors. Yet, when the last Crusade swept down the Mediterranean, Lull stood aside; for he was himself planning a new Crusade of a kind unlike any that had gone before.
He dreamed of a Crusade not to the Holy Land but to Africa, where the Crescent of Mohammed ruled and where the Cross of Christ was never seen save when an arrogant Moslem drew a cross in the sand of the desert to spit upon it. It was the desire of Raymund Lull's life to sail out into those perilous ports and to face the fierce Saracens who thronged the cities. He longed for this as other knights panted to go out to the Holy Land as Crusaders. He was rich enough to sail at any time, for he was his own master. Why, then, did he not take one of the swift craft that rocked in the bay, and sail?
It was because he had not yet forged a sharp enough weapon for his new Crusade. His deep resolve was that at all costs he would "Be Prepared" for every counter-stroke of the Saracen whose tongue was as swift and sharp as his scimitar.
What powers do we think a man should have in order to convince fanatical Moslems, who knew their own sacred book—the Koran—of the truth of Christianity? Control of his own temper, courage, patience, knowledge of the Moslem religion and of the Bible, suggest themselves.
The Preparation of Temper
So Lull turned his back on the beach and on Africa, and plunged under the heavy shadows of the arched gateway through the city wall up the narrow streets of Palma. A servant opened the heavy, studded door of his father's mansion—the house where Lull himself was born.
He hastened in and, calling to his Saracen slave, strode to his own room. The dark-faced Moor obediently came, bowed before his young master, and laid out on the table manuscripts that were covered with mysterious writing such as few people in Europe could read.
Lull was learning Arabic from this sullen Saracen slave. He was studying the Koran—the Bible of the Mohammedans—so that he might be able to strive with the Saracens on their own ground. For Lull knew that he must be master of all the knowledge of the Moslem if he was to win his battles; just as a knight in the fighting Crusades must be swift and sure with his sword. And this is how Lull spoke of the Crusade on which he was to set out.
"I see many knights," he said, "going to the Holy Land beyond the seas and thinking that they can acquire it by force of arms; but in the end all are destroyed before they attain that which they think to have. Whence it seems to me that the conquest of the Holy Land ought not to be attempted except in the way in which Christ and His Apostles achieved it, namely, by love and prayers, and the pouring out of tears and blood."
Suddenly, as he and the Saracen slave argued together, the Moor blurted out passionately a horrible blasphemy against the name of Jesus. Lull's blood was up. He leapt to his feet, leaned forward, and caught the Moor a swinging blow on the face with his hand. In a fury the Saracen snatched a dagger from the folds of his robe and, leaping at Lull, drove it into his side. Raymund fell with a cry. Friends rushed in. The Saracen was seized and hurried away to a prison-cell, where he slew himself.
Lull, as he lay day after day waiting for his wound to heal and remembering his wild blow at the Saracen, realised that, although he had learned Arabic, he had not yet learned the first lesson of his own new way of Crusading—to be master of himself.
The Preparation of Courage
So Raymund Lull (at home and in Rome and Paris) set himself afresh to his task of preparing. At last he felt that he was ready. From Paris he rode south-east through forest and across plain, over mountain and pass, till the gorgeous palaces and the thousand masts of Genoa came in sight.
He went down to the harbour and found a ship that was sailing across the Mediterranean to Africa. He booked his passage and sent his goods with all his precious manuscripts aboard. The day for sailing came. His friends came to cheer him. But Lull sat in his room trembling.
As he covered his eyes with his hands in shame, he saw the fiery, persecuting Saracens of Tunis, whom he was sailing to meet. He knew they were glowing with pride because of their triumphs over the Crusaders in Palestine. He knew they were blazing with anger because their brother Moors had been slaughtered and tortured in Spain. He saw ahead of him the rack, the thumb-screw, and the boot; the long years in a slimy dungeon—at the best the executioner's scimitar. He simply dared not go.
The books were brought ashore again. The ship sailed without Lull.
"The ship has gone," said a friend to Lull. He quivered under a torture of shame greater than the agony of the rack. He was wrung with bitter shame that he who had for all these years prepared for this Crusade should now have shown the white feather. He was, indeed, a craven knight of Christ.
His agony of spirit threw him into a high fever that kept him in his bed.
Soon after he heard that another ship was sailing for Africa.
In spite of the protestations of his friends Lull insisted that they should carry him to the ship. They did so; but as the hour of sailing drew on his friends were sure that he was so weak that he would die on the sea before he could reach Africa. So—this time in spite of all his pleading—they carried him ashore again. But he could not rest and his agony of mind made his fever worse.
Soon, however, a third ship was making ready to sail. This time Lull was carried on board and refused to return.
The ship cast off and threaded its way through the shipping of the harbour out into the open sea.
"From this moment," said Lull, "I was a new man. All fever left me almost before we were out of sight of land."
The First Battle
Passing Corsica and Sardinia, the ship slipped southward till at last she made the yellow coast of Africa, broken by the glorious Gulf of Tunis. She dropped sail as she ran alongside the busy wharves of Goletta. Lull was soon gliding in a boat through the short ancient canal to Tunis, the mighty city which was head of all the Western Mohammedan world.
He landed and found the place beside the great mosque where the grey-bearded scholars bowed over their Korans and spoke to one another about the law of Mohammed.
They looked at him with amazement as he boldly came up to them and said, "I have come to talk with you about Christ and His Way of Life, and Mohammed and his teaching. If you can prove to me that Mohammed is indeed the Prophet, I will myself become a follower of him."
The Moslems, sure of their case, called together their wisest men and together they declaimed to Lull what he already knew very well—the watchword that rang out from minaret to minaret across the roofs of the vast city as the first flush of dawn came up from the East across the Gulf. "There is no God but God; Mohammed is the Prophet of God."
"Yes," he replied, "the Allah of Mohammed is one and is great, but He does not love as does the Father of Jesus Christ. He is wise, but He does not do good to men like our God who so loved the world that He gave His Son Jesus Christ."
To and fro the argument swung till, after many days, to their dismay and amazement the Moslems saw some of their number waver and at last actually beginning to go over to the side of Lull. To forsake the Faith of Mohammed is—by their own law—to be worthy of death. A Moslem leader hurried to the Sultan of Tunis.
"See," he said, "this learned teacher, Lull, is declaring the errors of the Faith. He is dangerous. Let us take him and put him to death."
The Sultan gave the word of command. A body of soldiers went out, seized Lull, dragged him through the streets, and threw him into a dark dungeon to wait the death sentence.
But another Moslem who had been deeply touched by Lull's teaching craved audience with the Sultan.
"See," he said, "this learned man Lull—if he were a Moslem—would be held in high honour, being so brave and fearless in defence of his Faith. Do not slay him. Banish him from Tunis."
So when Lull in his dungeon saw the door flung open and waited to be taken to his death he found to his surprise that he was led from the dungeon through the streets of Tunis, taken along the canal, thrust into the hold of a ship, and told that he must go in that ship to Genoa and never return. But the man who had before been afraid to sail from Genoa to Tunis, now escaped unseen from the ship that would have taken him back to safety in order to risk his life once more. He said to himself the motto he had written:
"HE WHO LOVES NOT, LIVES NOT! HE WHO LIVES BY THE LIFE CANNOT DIE."
He was not afraid now even of martyrdom. He hid among the wharves and gathered his converts about him to teach them more and more about Christ.
The Last Fight
At last, however, seeing that he could do little in hiding, Lull took ship to Naples. After many adventures during a number of years, in a score of cities and on the seas, the now white-haired Lull sailed into the curved bay of Bugia farther westward along the African coast. In the bay behind the frowning walls the city with its glittering mosques climbed the hill. Behind rose two glorious mountains crowned with the dark green of the cedar. And, far off, like giant Moors wearing white turbans, rose the distant mountain peaks crowned with snow.
Lull passed quietly through the arch of the city gateway which he knew so well, for among other adventures he had once been imprisoned in this very city. He climbed the steep street and found a friend who hid him away. There for a year Lull taught in secret till he felt that the time had come for him to go out boldly and dare death itself.
One day the people in the market-place of Bugia heard a voice ring out that seemed to some of them strangely familiar. They hurried toward the sound. There stood the old hero with arm uplifted declaring, in the full blaze of the North African day, the Love of God shown in Jesus Christ His Son.
The Saracens murmured. They could not answer his arguments. They cried to him to stop, but his voice rose ever fuller and bolder. They rushed on him, dragged him by the cloak out of the market-place, down the streets, under the archway to a place beyond the city walls. There they threw back their sleeves, took up great jagged stones and hurled these grim messengers of hate at the Apostle of Love, till he sank senseless to the ground.
It was word for word over again the story of Stephen; the speech, the wild cries of the mob, the rush to the place beyond the city wall, the stoning.
Did Lull accomplish anything? He was dead; but he had conquered. He had conquered his old self. For the Lull who had, in a fit of temper, smitten his Saracen slave now smiled on the men who stoned him; and the Lull who had showed the white feather of fear at Genoa, now defied death in the market-place of Bugia. And in that love and heroism, in face of hate and death, he had shown men the only way to conquer the scimitar of Mohammed, "the way in which Christ and His Apostles achieved it, namely, by love and prayers, and the pouring out of tears and blood."
[Footnote 9: June 30. 1315.]
[Footnote 10: Acts vi. 8-vii. 60.]
(St. Francis of Assisi) A.D. 1181-1226 (Date of Incident, 1219)
The dark blue sky of an Italian night was studded with sparkling stars that seemed to be twinkling with laughter at the pranks of a lively group of gay young fellows as they came out from a house half-way up the steep street of the little city of Assisi.
As they strayed together down the street they sang the love-songs of their country and then a rich, strong voice rang out singing a song in French.
"That is Francis Bernardone," one neighbour would say to another, nodding his head, for Francis could sing, not only in his native Italian, but also in French.
"He lives like a prince; yet he is but the son of a cloth merchant,—rich though the merchant be."
So the neighbours, we are told, were always grumbling about Francis, the wild spendthrift. For young Francis dressed in silk and always in the latest fashion; he threw his pocket-money about with a free hand. He loved beautiful things. He was very sensitive. He would ride a long way round to avoid seeing the dreadful face of a poor leper, and would hold his nose in his cloak as he passed the place where the lepers lived.
He was handsome in face, gallant in bearing, idle and careless; a jolly companion, with beautiful courtly manners. His dark chestnut hair curled over his smooth, rather small forehead. His black twinkling eyes looked out under level brows; his nose was straight and finely shaped.
When he laughed he showed even, white, closely set teeth between thin and sensitive lips. He wore a short, black beard. His arms were shortish; his fingers long and sensitive. He was lightly built; his skin was delicate.
He was witty, and his voice when he spoke was powerful and sonorous, yet sweet-toned and very clear.
For him to be the son of a merchant seemed to the gossips of Assisi all wrong—as though a grey goose had hatched out a gorgeous peacock.
The song of the revellers passed down the street and died away. The little city of Assisi slept in quietness on the slopes of the Apennine Mountains under the dark clear sky.
A few nights later, however, no song of any revellers was heard. Francis Bernardone was very ill with a fever. For week after week his mother nursed him; and each night hardly believed that her son would live to see the light of the next morning. When at last the fever left him, he was so feeble that for weeks he could not rise from his bed. Gradually, however, he got better: as he did so the thing that he desired most of all in the world was to see the lovely country around Assisi;—the mountains, the Umbrian Plain beneath, the blue skies, the dainty flowers.
At last one day, with aching limbs and in great feebleness, he crept out of doors. There were the great Apennine Mountains on the side of which his city of Assisi was built. There were the grand rocky peaks pointing to the intense blue sky. There was the steep street with the houses built of stone of a strange, delicate pink colour, as though the light of dawn were always on them. There were the dark green olive trees, and the lovely tendrils of the vines. The gay Italian flowers were blooming.
Stretching away in the distance was one of the most beautiful landscapes of the world; the broad Umbrian Plain with its browns and greens melting in the distance into a bluish haze that softened the lines of the distant hills.
How he had looked forward to seeing it all, to being in the sunshine, to feeling the breeze on his hot brow! But what—he wondered—had happened to him? He looked at it all, but he felt no joy. It all seemed dead and empty. He turned his back on it and crawled indoors again, sad and sick at heart. He was sure that he would never feel again "the wild joys of living."
As Francis went back to his bed he began to think what he should do with the rest of his life. He made up his mind not to waste it any longer: but he did not see clearly what he should do with it.
A short time after Francis begged a young nobleman of Assisi, who was just starting to fight in a war, if he might go with him. The nobleman—Walter of Brienne, agreed: so Francis bought splendid trappings for his horse, and a shield, sword and spear. His armour and his horse's harness were more splendid than even those of Walter. So they went clattering together out of Assisi.
But he had not gone thirty miles before he was smitten again by fever. After sunset one evening he lay dreamily on his bed when he seemed to hear a voice.
"Francis," it asked, "what could benefit thee most, the master or the servant, the rich man or the poor?"
"The master and the rich man," answered Francis in surprise.
"Why then," went on the voice, "dost thou leave God, Who is the Master and rich, for man, who is the servant and poor?"
"Then, Lord, what will Thou that I do?" asked Francis.
"Return to thy native town, and it shall be shown thee there what thou shall do," said the voice.
He obediently rose and went back to Assisi. He tried to join again in the old revels, but the joy was gone. He went quietly away to a cave on the mountain side and there he lay—as young Mahomet had done, you remember, five centuries before, to wonder what he was to do.
Then a vision came to him. All at once like a flash his mind was clear, and his soul was full of joy. He saw the love of Jesus Christ—Who had lived and suffered and died for love of him and of all men;—that love was to rule his own life! He had found his Captain—the Master of his life, the Lord of his service,—Christ.
Yet even now he hardly knew what to do. He went home and told his friends as well as he could of the change in his heart.
Some smiled rather pityingly and went away saying to one another: "Poor fellow; a little mad, you can see; very sad for his parents!"
Others simply laughed and mocked.
One day, very lonely and sad at heart, he clambered up the mountain side to an old church just falling into ruin near which, in a cavern, lived a priest. He went into the ruin and fell on his knees.
"Francis," a voice in his soul seemed to say, "dost thou see my house going to ruin. Buckle to and repair it."
He dashed home, saddled his horse, loaded it with rich garments and rode off to another town to sell the goods. He sold the horse too; trudged back up the hill and gave the fat purse to the priest.
"No," said the priest, "I dare not take it unless your father says I may."
But his father, who had got rumour of what was going on, came with a band of friends to drag Francis home. Francis fled through the woods to a secret cave, where he lay hidden till at last he made up his mind to face all. He came out and walked straight towards home. Soon the townsmen of Assisi caught sight of him.
"A madman," they yelled, throwing stones and sticks at him. All the boys of Assisi came out and hooted and threw pebbles.
His father heard the riot and rushed out to join in the fun. Imagine his horror when he found that it was his own son. He yelled with rage, dashed at him and, clutching him by the robe, dragged him along, beating and cursing him. When he got him home he locked him up. But some days later Francis' mother let him out, when his father was absent; and Francis climbed the hill to the Church.
The bishop called in Francis and his father to his court to settle the quarrel.
"You must give back to your father all that you have," said he.
"I will," replied Francis.
He took off all his rich garments; and, clad only in a hair-vest, he put the clothes and the purse of money at his father's feet.
"Now," he cried, "I have but one father. Henceforth I can say in all truth 'Our Father Who art in heaven.'"
A peasant's cloak was given to Francis. He went thus, without home or any money, a wanderer. He went to a monastery and slaved in the kitchen. A friend gave him a tunic, some shoes, and a stick. He went out wandering in Italy again. He loved everybody; he owned nothing; he wanted everyone to know the love of Jesus as he knew and enjoyed that love.
There came to Francis many adventures. He was full of joy; he sang even to the birds in the woods. Many men joined him as his disciples in the way of obedience, of poverty, and of love. Men in Italy, in Spain, in Germany and in Britain caught fire from the flame of his simple love and careless courage. Never had Europe seen so clear a vision of the love of Jesus. His followers were called the Lesser Brothers (Friars Minor).
All who can should read the story of Francis' life: as for us we are here going simply to listen to what happened to him on a strange and perilous adventure.
About this time people all over Europe were agog with excitement about the Crusades. Four Crusades had come and gone. Richard Coeur-de-Lion was dead. But the passion for fighting against the Saracen was still in the hearts of men.
"The tomb of our Lord in Jerusalem is in the hands of the Saracen," the cry went up over all Europe. "Followers of Jesus Christ are slain by the scimitars of Islam. Let us go and wrest the Holy City from the hands of the Saracen."
There was also the danger to Europe itself. The Mohammedans ruled in Spain as well as in North Africa, in Egypt and in the Holy Land.
So rich men sold their lands to buy horses and armour and to fit themselves and their foot soldiers for the fray. Poor men came armed with pike and helmet and leather jerkin. The knights wore a blood-red cross on their white tunics. In thousands upon thousands, with John of Brienne as their Commander-in-Chief (the brother of that Walter of Brienne with whom, you remember, Francis had started for the wars as a knight), they sailed the Mediterranean to fight for the Cross in Egypt.
They attacked Egypt because the Sultan there ruled over Jerusalem and they hoped by defeating him to free Jerusalem at the same time.
As Francis saw the knights going off to the Crusades in shining armour with the trappings of their horses all a-glitter and a-jingle, and as he thought of the lands where the people worshipped—not the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ—but the "Sultan in the Sky," the Allah of Mahomet, his spirit caught fire within him.
Francis had been a soldier and a knight only a few years before. He could not but feel the stir of the Holy War in his veins,—the tingle of the desire to be in it. He heard the stories of the daring of the Crusaders; he heard of a great victory over the Saracens.
Francis, indeed, wanted Jesus Christ to conquer men more than he wanted anything on earth; but he knew that men are only conquered by Jesus Christ if their hearts are changed by Him.
"Even if the Saracens are put to the sword and overwhelmed, still they are not saved," he said to himself.
As he thought these things he felt sure that he heard them calling to him (as the Man from Macedonia had called to St. Paul)—"Come over and help us." St. Paul had brought the story of Jesus Christ to Europe; and had suffered prison and scourging and at last death by the executioner's sword in doing it; must not Francis be ready to take the same message back again from Europe to the Near East and to suffer for it?
"I will go," he said, "but to save the Saracens, not to slay them."
He was not going out to fight, yet he had in his heart a plan that needed him to be braver and more full of resource than any warrior in the armies of the Crusades. He was as much a Lion-hearted hero as Richard Coeur-de-Lion himself, and was far wiser and indeed more powerful.
So he took a close friend, Brother Illuminato, with him and they sailed away together over the seas. They sailed from Italy with Walter of Brienne, with one of the Crusading contingents in many ships. Southeast they voyaged over the blue waters of the Mediterranean Sea.
Francis talked with the Crusaders on board; and much that they said and did made him very sad. They squabbled with one another. The knights were arrogant and sneered at the foot soldiers; the men-at-arms did not trust the knights. They had the Cross on their armour; but few of them had in their hearts the spirit of Jesus who was nailed to the Cross.
At last the long, yellow coast-line of Egypt was sighted. Behind it lay the minarets and white roofs of a city. They were come to the eastern mouth of the Nile, on which stood the proud city of Damietta. The hot rays of the sun smote down upon the army of the Crusaders as they landed. The sky and the sea were of an intense blue; the sand and the sun glared at one another.
Francis would just be able to hear at dawn the cry of the muezzin from the minarets of Damietta, "Come to prayer: there is no God but Allah and Mahomet is his prophet. Come to prayer. Prayer is better than sleep."
John of Brienne began to muster his men in battle array to attack the Sultan of Egypt, Malek-Kamel, a name which means "the Perfect Prince."
Francis, however, was quite certain that the attempt would be a ghastly failure. He hardly knew what to do. So he talked it over with his friend, Brother Illuminato.
"I know they will be defeated in this attempt," he said. "But if I tell them so they will treat me as a madman. On the other hand, if I do not tell them, then my conscience will condemn me. What do you think I ought to do?"
"My brother," said Illuminate, "what does the judgment of the world matter to you? If they say you are mad it will not be the first time!"
Francis, therefore, went to the Crusaders and warned them. They laughed scornfully. The order for advance was given. The Crusaders charged into battle. Francis was in anguish—tears filled his eyes. The Saracens came out and fell upon the Christian soldiers and slaughtered them. Over 6000 of them either fell under the scimitar or were taken prisoner. The Crusaders were defeated.
Francis' mind was now fully made up. He went to a Cardinal, who represented the Pope, with the Crusading Army to ask his leave to go and preach to the Sultan of Egypt.
"No," said the Cardinal, "I cannot give you leave to go. I know full well that you would never escape to come back alive. The Sultan of Egypt has offered a reward of gold to any man who will bring to him the head of a Christian. That will be your fate."
"Do suffer us to go, we do not fear death," pleaded Francis and Illuminato, again and again.
"I do not know what is in your minds in this," said the Cardinal, "but beware—if you go—that your thoughts are always to God."
"We only wish to go for great good, if we can work it," replied Francis.
"Then if you wish it so much," the Cardinal at last agreed, "you may go."
So Francis and Illuminato girded their loins and tightened their sandals and set away from the Crusading Army towards the very camp of the enemy.
As he walked Francis sang with his full, loud, clear voice. These were the words that he sang:
Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for thou art with me; Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.
As they walked along over the sandy waste they saw two small sheep nibbling the sparse grass growing near the Nile.
"Be of good cheer," said Francis to Illuminato, smiling, "it is the fulfilling of the Gospel words 'Behold I send you as sheep in the midst of wolves.'"
Then there appeared some Saracen soldiers. They were, at first, for letting the two unarmed men go by; but, on questioning Francis, they grew angrier and angrier.
"Are you deserters from the Christian camp?" they asked.
"No," replied Francis.
"Are you envoys from the commander come to plead for peace?"
"No," was the answer again.
"Will you give up the infidel religion and become a true believer and say 'There is no God but Allah, and Mahomet is his prophet?'"
"No, no," cried Francis, "we are come to preach the Good News of Jesus Christ to the Sultan of Egypt."
The eyes of the Saracen soldiers opened with amazement: they could hardly believe their ears. Their faces flushed under their dark skins with anger.
"Chain them," they cried to one another. "Beat them—the infidels."
Chains were brought and snapped upon the wrists and ankles of Francis and Illuminato. Then they took rods and began to beat the two men—just as Paul and Silas had been beaten eleven centuries earlier.
As the rods whistled through the air and came slashing upon their wounded backs Francis kept crying out one word—"Soldan—Soldan." That is "Sultan—Sultan."
He thus made them understand that he wished to be taken to their Commander-in-Chief. So they decided to take these strange beings to Malek-Kamel.
As the Sultan sat in his pavilion Francis and Illuminato were led in. They bowed and saluted him courteously and Malek-Kamel returned the salute.
"Have you come with a message from your Commander?" said the Sultan.
"No," replied Francis.
"You wish then to become Saracens—worshippers of Allah in the name of Mahomet?"
"Nay, nay," answered Francis, "Saracens we will never be. We have come with a message from God; it is a message that will save your life. If you die under the law of Mahomet you are lost. We have come to tell you so: if you listen to us we will show all this to you."
The Sultan seems to have been amused and interested rather than angry.
"I have bishops and archbishops of my own," he said, "they can tell me all that I wish to know."
"Of this we are glad," replied Francis, "send and fetch them, if you will."
The Sultan agreed; he sent for eight of his Moslem great men. When they came in he said to them: "See these men, they have come to teach us a new faith. Shall we listen to them?"
"Sire," they answered him at once, "thou knowest the law: thou art bound to uphold it and carry it out. By Mahomet who gave us the law to slay infidels, we command thee that their heads be cut off. We will not listen to a word that they say. Off with their heads!"
The great men, having given their judgment, solemnly left the presence of the Sultan. The Sultan turned to Francis and Illuminato.
"Masters," he said to them, "they have commanded me by Mahomet to have your heads cut off. But I will go against the law, for you have risked your lives to save my immortal soul. Now leave me for the time."
The two Christian missionaries were led away; but in a day or two Malek-Kamel called them to his presence again.
"If you will stay in my dominions," he said, "I will give you land and other possessions."
"Yes," said Francis, "I will stay—on one condition—that you and your people turn to the worship of the true God. See," he went on, "let us put it to the test. Your priests here," and he pointed to some who were standing about, "they will not let me talk with them; will they do something. Have a great fire lighted. I will walk into the fire with them: the result will shew you whose faith is the true one."
As Francis suggested this idea the faces of the Moslem leaders were transfigured with horror. They turned and quietly walked away.
"I do not think," said the Sultan with a sarcastic smile at their retreating backs, "that any of my priests are ready to face the flames to defend their faith."
"Well, I will go alone into the fire," said Francis. "If I am burned—it is because of my sins—if I am protected by God then you will own Him as your God."
"No," replied the Sultan, "I will not listen to the idea of such a trial of your life for my soul." But he was astonished beyond measure at the amazing faith of Francis. So Francis withdrew from the presence of the Sultan, who at once sent after him rich and costly presents.
"You must take them back," said Francis to the messengers; "I will not take them."
"Take them to build your churches and support your priests," said the Sultan through his messengers.
But Francis would not take any gift from the Sultan. He left him and went back with Illuminato from the Saracen host to the camp of the Crusaders. As he was leaving the Sultan secretly spoke with Francis and said: "Will you pray for me that I may be guided by an inspiration from above that I may join myself to the religion that is most approved by God?"
The Sultan told off a band of his soldiers to go with the two men and to protect them from any molesting till they reached the Crusaders' Camp. There is a legend—though no one now can tell whether it is true or not—that when the Sultan of Egypt lay dying he sent for a disciple of Francis to be with him and pray for him. Whether this was so or not, it is quite clear that Francis had left in the memory of the Sultan such a vision of dauntless faith as he had never seen before or was ever to see again.
The Crusaders failed to win Egypt or the Holy Land; but to-day men are going from America and Britain in the footsteps of Francis of Assisi the Christian missionary, to carry to the people in Egypt, in the Holy Land and in all the Near East, the message that Francis took of the love of Jesus Christ. The stories of some of the deeds they have done and are to-day doing, we shall read in later chapters in this book.
Book Two: THE ISLAND ADVENTURERS
THE ADVENTUROUS SHIP
(Date of Incident, 1796)
A ship crept quietly down the River Thames on an ebb-tide. She was slipping out from the river into the estuary when suddenly a challenge rang out across the grey water.
"What ship is that?"
"The Duff," was the answer that came back from the little ship whose captain had passed through a hundred hairsbreadth escapes in his life but was now starting on the strangest adventure of them all.
"Whither bound?" came the challenge again from the man-o'-war that had hailed them.
"Otaheite," came the answer, which would startle the Government officer. For Tahiti (as we now call it) was many thousands of miles away in the heart of the South Pacific Ocean. Indeed it had only been discovered by Captain Cook twenty-eight years earlier in 1768. The Duff was a small sailing-ship such as one of our American ocean liners of to-day could put into her dining saloon.
"What cargo?" The question came again from the officer on the man-o'-war.
"Missionaries and provisions," was Captain Wilson's answer.
The man-o'-war's captain was puzzled. He did not know what strange beings might be meant by missionaries. He was suspicious. Were they pirates, perhaps, in disguise!
We can understand how curious it would sound to him when we remember that (although Wilfrid and Augustine and Columba had gone to Britain as missionaries over a thousand years before The Duff started down the Thames) no cargo of missionaries had ever before sailed from those North Sea Islands of Britain to the savages of other lands like the South Sea Islands.
There was a hurried order and a scurry on board the Government ship. A boat was let down into the Thames, and half a dozen sailors tumbled into her and rowed to The Duff. What did the officer find?
He was met at the rail by a man who had been through scores of adventures, Captain Wilson. The son of the captain of a Newcastle collier, Wilson had grown up a dare-devil sailor boy. He enlisted as a soldier in the American war, became captain of a vessel trading with India, and was then captured and imprisoned by the French in India. He escaped from prison by climbing a great wall, and dropping down forty feet on the other side. He plunged into a river full of alligators, and swam across, escaping the jaws of alligators only to be captured on the other bank by Indians, chained and made to march barefoot for 500 miles. Then he was thrust into Hyder Ali's loathsome prison, starved and loaded with irons, and at last at the end of two years was set free.
This was the daring hero who had now undertaken to captain the little Duff across the oceans of the world to the South Seas. With Captain Wilson, the man-o'-war officer found also six carpenters, two shoemakers, two bricklayers, two sailors, two smiths, two weavers, a surgeon, a hatter, a shopkeeper, a cotton factor, a cabinet-maker, a draper, a harness maker, a tin worker, a butcher and four ministers. But they were all of them missionaries. With them were six children.
All up and down the English Channel French frigates sailed like hawks waiting to pounce upon their prey; for England was at war with France in those days. So for five weary weeks The Duff anchored in the roadstead of Spithead till, as one of a fleet of fifty-seven vessels, she could sail down the channel and across the Bay of Biscay protected by British men-o'-war. Safely clear of the French cruisers, The Duff held on alone till the cloud-capped mountain-heights of Madeira hove in sight.
Across the Atlantic she stood, for the intention was to sail round South America into the Pacific. But on trying to round the Cape Horn The Duff met such violent gales that Captain Wilson turned her in her tracks and headed back across the Atlantic for the Cape of Good Hope.
Week after week for thousands and thousands of miles she sailed. She had travelled from Rio de Janiero over 10,000 miles and had only sighted a single sail—a longer journey than any ship had ever sailed without seeing land.
"Shall we see the island to-day?" the boys on board would ask Captain Wilson. Day after day he shook his head. But one night he said:
"If the wind holds good to-night we shall see an island in the morning, but not the island where we shall stop."
"Land ho!" shouted a sailor from the masthead in the morning, and, sure enough, they saw away on the horizon, like a cloud on the edge of the sea, the island of Toobonai.
As they passed Toobonai the wind rose and howled through the rigging. It tore at the sail of The Duff, and the great Pacific waves rolled swiftly by, rushing and hissing along the sides of the little ship and tossing her on their foaming crests. But she weathered the storm, and, as the wind dropped, and they looked ahead, they saw, cutting into the sky-line, the mountain tops of Tahiti.
It was Saturday night when the island came in sight. Early on the Sunday morning by seven o'clock The Duff swung round under a gentle breeze into Matavai Bay and dropped anchor. But before she could even anchor the whole bay had become alive with Tahitians. They thronged the beach, and, leaping into canoes, sent them skimming across the bay to the ship.
Captain Wilson, scanning the canoes swiftly and anxiously, saw with relief that the men were not armed. But the missionaries were startled when the savages climbed up the sides of the ship, and with wondering eyes rolling in their wild heads peered over the rail of the deck. They then leapt on board and began dancing like mad on the deck with their bare feet. From the canoes the Tahitians hauled up pigs, fowl, fish, bananas, and held them for the white men to buy. But Captain Wilson and all his company would not buy on that day—for it was Sunday.
The missionaries gathered together on deck to hold their Sunday morning service. The Tahitians stopped dancing and looked on with amazement, as the company of white men with their children knelt to pray and then read from the Bible.
The Tahitians could not understand this strange worship, with no god that could be seen. But when the white fathers and mothers and children sang, the savages stood around with wonder and delight on their faces as they listened to the strange and beautiful sounds.
But the startling events of the day were not over. For out from the beach came a canoe across the bay, and in it two Swedish sailors, named, like some fishermen of long ago, Peter and Andrew. These white men knew some English, but lived, not as Christians, but as the natives lived.
And after them came a great and aged chief named Haamanemane. This great chief went up to the "chief" of the ship, Captain Wilson, and called out to him "Taio."
They did not know what this meant, till Peter the Swede explained that Haamanemane wished to be the brother—the troth-friend of Captain Wilson. They were even to change names. Captain Wilson would be called Haamanemane, and Haamanemane would be called Wilson.
So Captain Wilson said "Taio," and he and the chief, who was also high priest of the gods of Tahiti, were brothers.
Captain Wilson said to Haamanemane, through Peter, who translated each to the other:
"We wish to come and live in this island."
Haamanemane said that he would speak to the king and queen of Tahiti about it. So he got down again over the side of the vessel into the canoe, and the paddles of his boatman flashed as they swept along over the breakers to the beach to tell the king of the great white chief who had come to visit them.
All these things happened on the Sunday. On Tuesday word came that the king and the queen would receive them. So Captain Wilson and all his missionaries got into the whale-boat and pulled for the shore. The natives rushed into the water, seized the boat and hauled her aground out of reach of the great waves.
They were startled to see the king and queen come riding on the shoulders of men. Even when one bearer grew tired and the king or the queen must get upon another, they were not allowed to touch the ground. The reason was that all the land they touched became their own, and the people carried them about so that they themselves might not lose their land and houses by the king and queen touching them.
So at that place, under the palm trees of Tahiti, with the beating of the surf on the shore before them, and the great mountain forests behind, these brown islanders of the South Seas gave a part of their land to Captain Wilson and his men that they might live there.
The sons of the wild men of the North Sea Islands had met their first great adventure in bringing to the men of the South Sea Islands the story of the love of the Father of all.
[Footnote 11: Ta-hee-tee.]
[Footnote 12: Too-bō-nā-ee.]
[Footnote 13: Mā-tă-vă-ee.]
[Footnote 14: Haa-mŭ-nāy-mă-nay.]
[Footnote 15: Ta-ce-ō.]
THE ISLAND BEACON FIRES
(Date of Incident, 1823)
The edge of the sea was just beginning to gleam with the gold of the rising sun. The captain of a little ship, that tossed and rolled on the tumbling ocean, looked out anxiously over the bow. Around him everywhere was the wild waste of the Pacific Ocean. Through day after day he had tacked and veered, baffled by contrary winds. Now, with little food left in the ship, starvation on the open ocean stared them in the face.
They were searching for an island of which they had heard, but which they had never seen.
The captain searched the horizon again, but he saw nothing, except that ahead of him, on the sky-line to the S.W., great clouds had gathered. He turned round and went to the master-missionary—the hero and explorer and shipbuilder, John Williams, saying:
"We must give up the search or we shall all be starved."
John Williams knew that this was true; yet he hated the thought of going back. He was a scout exploring at the head of God's navy. He had left his home in London and with his young wife had sailed across the world to the South Seas to carry the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the people there. He was living on the island of Raiatea: but as he himself said, "I cannot be confined within the limits of a single reef." He wanted to pass on the torch to other islands. So he was now on this voyage of discovery.
It was seven o'clock when the captain told John Williams that they must give up the search.
"In an hour's time," said Williams, "we will turn back if we have not sighted Rarotonga."
So they sailed on. The sun climbed the sky, the cool dawn was giving way to the heat of day.
"Go up the mast and look ahead," said Williams to a South Sea Island native. Then he paced the deck, hoping to hear the cry of "Land," but nothing could the native see.
"Go up again," cried Williams a little later. And again there was nothing. Four times the man climbed the mast, and four times he reported only sea and sky and cloud. Gradually the sun's heat had gathered up the great mountains of cloud, and the sky was clear to the edge of the ocean. Then there came a sudden cry from the masthead:
"Teie teie, taua fenua, nei!"
"Here, here is the land we have been seeking."
All rushed to the bows. As the ship sailed on and they came nearer, they saw a lovely island. Mountains, towering peak on peak, with deep green valleys between brown rocky heights hung with vines, and the great ocean breakers booming in one white line of foaming surf on the reef of living coral, made it look like a vision of fairyland.
They had discovered Rarotonga.
But what of the people of the island?
They were said to be cannibals.
Would they receive the missionaries with clubs and spears? Who would go ashore?
On board the ship were brown South Sea men from the island where John Williams lived. They had burned their idols, and now they too were missionaries of Jesus Christ. Their leader was a fearless young man, Papeiha. He was so daring that once, when everybody else was afraid to go from the ship to a cannibal island, he bound his Bible in his loin cloth, tied them to the top of his head, and swam ashore, defying the sharks, and unafraid of the still more cruel islanders.
So at Rarotonga, when the call came, "Who will go ashore?" and a canoe was let down from the ship's side, two men, Papeiha and his friend Vahineino, leapt into it. Those two fearlessly paddled towards the shore, which was now one brown stretch of Rarotongans crowded together to see this strange ship with wings that had sailed from over the sea's edge.
The Rarotongans seemed friendly; so Papeiha and Vahineino, who knew the ways of the water from babyhood and could swim before they could walk, waited for a great Pacific breaker, and then swept in on her foaming crest. The canoe grated on the shore. They walked up the beach under the shade of a grove of trees and said to the Rarotongan king, Makea, and his people:
"We have come to tell you that many of the islands of the sea have burned their idols. Once we in those islands pierced each other with spears and beat each other to death with clubs; we brutally treated our women, and the children taken in war were strung together by their ears like fish on a line. To-day we come—before you have destroyed each other altogether in your wars—to tell you of the great God, our Father, who through His Son Jesus Christ has taught us how to live as brothers."
King Makea said he was pleased to hear these things, and came in his canoe to the ship to take the other native teachers on shore with him. The ship stood off for the night, for the ocean there is too deep for anchorage.
Papeiha and his brown friends, with their wives, went ashore. Night fell, and they were preparing to sleep, when, above the thud and hiss of the waves they heard the noise of approaching crowds. The footsteps and the talking came nearer, while the little group of Christians listened intently. At last a chief, carried by his warriors, came near. He was the fiercest and most powerful chief on the island.
When he came close to Papeiha and his friends, the chief demanded that the wife of one of the Christian teachers should be given to him, so that he might take her away with him as his twentieth wife. The teachers argued with the chief, the woman wept; but he ordered the woman to be seized and taken off. She resisted, as did the others. Their clothes were torn to tatters by the ferocious Rarotongans. All would have been over with the Christians, had not Tapairu, a brave Rarotongan woman and the cousin of the king, opposed the chiefs and even fought with her hands to save the teacher's wife. At last the fierce chief gave in, and Papeiha and his friends, before the sun had risen, hurried to the beach, leapt into their canoe and paddled swiftly to the ship.
"We must wait and come to this island another day when the people are more friendly," said every one—except Papeiha, who never would turn back. "Let me stay with them," said he.
He knew that he might be slain and eaten by the savage cannibals on the island. But without fuss, leaving everything he had upon the ship except his clothes and his native Testament, he dropped into his canoe, seized the paddle, and with swift, strong strokes that never faltered, drove the canoe skimming over the rolling waves till it leapt to the summit of a breaking wave and ground upon the shore.
The savages came jostling and waving spears and clubs as they crowded round him.
"Let us take him to Makea."
So Papeiha was led to the chief. As he walked he heard them shouting to one another, "I'll have his hat," "I'll have his jacket," "I'll have his shirt."
At length he reached the chief, who looked and said, "Speak to us, O man, that we may know why you persist in coming."
"I come," he answered, looking round on all the people, "so that you may all learn of the true God, and that you, like all the people in the far-off islands of the sea, may take your gods made of wood, of birds' feathers and of cloth, and burn them."
A roar of anger and horror burst from the people. "What!" they cried, "burn the gods! What gods shall we then have? What shall we do without the gods?"
They were angry, but there was something in the bold face of Papeiha that kept them from slaying him. They allowed him to stay, and did not kill him.
Soon after this, Papeiha one day heard shrieking and shouting and wild roars as of men in a frenzy. He saw crowds of people round the gods offering food to them; the priests with faces blackened with charcoal and with bodies painted with stripes of red and yellow, the warriors with great waving head-dresses of birds' feathers and white sea-shells. Papeiha, without taking any thought of the peril that he rushed into, went into the midst of the people and said:
"Why do you act so foolishly? Why do you take a log of wood and carve it, and then offer it food? It is only fit to be burned. Some day soon you shall make these very gods fuel for fire." So with the companion who came to help him, brown Papeiha went in and out of the island just as brave Paul went in and out in the island of Cyprus and Wilfrid in Britain. He would take his stand, now under a grove of bananas on a great stone, and now in a village, where the people from the huts gathered round, and again on the beach, where he would lift up his voice above the boom of the ocean breakers to tell the story of Jesus. And some of those degraded savages became Christians.
One day he was surprised to see one of the priests come to him leading his ten-year-old boy.
"Take care of my boy," said the priest. "I am going to burn my god, and I do not want my god's anger to hurt the boy. Ask your God to protect him." So the priest went home.
Next morning quite early, before the heat of the sun was great, Papeiha looked out and saw the priest tottering along with bent and aching shoulders. On his back was his cumbrous wooden god. Behind the priest came a furious crowd, waving their arms and crying out: