By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon

We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: Mary Slessor of Calabar: Pioneer Missionary
Author: Livingstone, W. P. (William Pringle)
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Mary Slessor of Calabar: Pioneer Missionary" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.

                              MARY SLESSOR

                               OF CALABAR

                           PIONEER MISSIONARY


                           W. P. LIVINGSTONE

                             PREFATORY NOTE

_Life for most people is governed by authority and convention, but
behind these there lies always the mystery of human nature, uncertain
and elusive, and apt now and again to go off at a tangent and disturb
the smooth working of organised routine. Some man or woman will appear
who departs from the normal order of procedure, who follows ideals
rather than rules, and whose methods are irregular, and often, in the
eyes of onlookers, unwise. They may be poor or frail, and in their own
estimation of no account, yet it is often they who are used for the
accomplishment--of important ends. Such a one was Mary Slessor._

_Towards the end of her days she was urged to write her autobiography,
but was surprised at the proposal, and asked what she had done to merit
the distinction of being put in a book. She was so humble-minded that
she could not discern any special virtue in her life of self-sacrifice
and heroism; and she disliked publicity and was shamed by praise. When
the matter was pressed upon her in view of the inspiration which a
narrative of her experiences and adventures would be for others, she
began to consider whether it might not be a duty, she never shrank from
any duty however unpleasant. Her belief was that argument and theory
had no effect in arousing interest in missionary enterprise; that the
only means of setting the heart on fire the magnetism of personal touch
and example; and she indicated that if account of her service would
help to stimulate and strengthen the faith of the supporters of the
work, she would be prepared to supply the material. She died before the
intention could be carried further, but from many sources, and chiefly
from her own letters, it has been possible to piece together the main
facts of her wonderful career._

_One, however, has no hope of giving an adequate picture of her complex
nature, so full of contrasts and opposites. She was a woman of affairs,
with a wide and catholic outlook upon humanity, and yet she was a shy
solitary walking alone in puritan simplicity and childlike faith. Few
ham possessed such moral and physical courage, or exercised such
imperious power over savage peoples, yet on trivial occasions she was
abjectly timid and afraid, A sufferer from chronic malarial affection,
and a martyr to pains her days were filled in with unremitting toil.
Overflowing with love and tender feeling, she could be stern and
exacting. Shrewd, practical, and matter of fact, she believed that
sentiment was a gift of God, and frankly indulged in it. Living always
in the midst of dense spiritual darkness, and often depressed and
worried, she maintained unimpaired a sense of humour and laughter.
Strong and tenacious of will, she admitted the right of others to
oppose her. These are but illustrations of the perpetual play of light
and shade in her character which made her difficult to understand. Many
could not see her greatness for what they called her eccentricities,
forgetting, or perhaps being unaware of, what she had passed through,
experiences such as no other woman had undergone, which explained much
that seemed unusual in her conduct. But when her life is viewed as a
whole, and in the light of what she achieved, all these angles and
oddities fall away, and she stands out, a woman of unique and inspiring
personality, and one of the most heroic figures of the age._

_Some have said that she was in a sense a miracle, and not, therefore,
for ordinary people to emulate. Such an estimate she would have stoutly
repudiated. It is true that she began life with the gift of a strong
character, but many possess that and yet come to nothing. She had, on
the other hand, disadvantages and obstacles that few have to encounter.
It was by surrender, dedication, and unwearied devotion that she grew
into her power of attainment, and all can adventure on the same path.
It was love for Christ that made her what she was, and there is no
limit set in that direction. Such opportunity as she had, lies before
the lowliest disciples; even out of the commonplace Love can carve
heroines. "There is nothing small or trivial," she once said, "for God
is ready to take every act and motive and work through them to the
formation of character and the development of holy and useful lives
that will convey grace to the world." It was so in her case, and hence
the value of her example, and the warrant for telling the story of her
life so that others may be influenced to follow aims as noble, and to
strive, if not always in the same manner, at least with a like courage,
and in the same patient and indomitable spirit.



            FIRST PHASE



            SECOND PHASE



            THIRD PHASE


                1. A MOTHER IN ISRAEL
                2. THE CARES OF A HOUSEHOLD

            FOURTH PHASE



            FIFTH PHASE

           ONWARD STILL



Mary M. Slessor
Calabar Mission Field in 1876
Miss Slessor and some of the People of Ekenge
Calabar Chief of the Present Day
Calabar Sword
King Eyo's State Canoe
The First Church in Okoyong--at Ifako
Miss Slessor's Mission House at Ekenge
"Ma's" Quarters at Akpap
The Tragedy of Twins
The Okoyong Household in Scotland
Native Court in Okoyong
Calabar Mission Map of the Present Day
A Glimpse of the Enyong Creek
Itu, showing the Beach where the Slave-market was held
Court House at Ikotobong
"Ma," with the Material for the Native Oath at her Feet
Administering the Native Oath to a Witness
The Government Motor Car
Miss Slessor's Heathen Friend, Ma Eme
One of Miss Slessor's Bibles
Miss Slessor's Silver Cross
The House on the Hill-top at Odoro Ikpe
The Last Photograph of the Household

                              FIRST PHASE

                          1848-1876. Age 1-28.

                        A SCOTTISH FACTORY GIRL

         _"It was the dream of my girlhood to be a missionary
                             to Calabar_."

                           I. SAVED BY FEAR

When the founding of the Calabar Mission on the West Coast of Africa
was creating a stir throughout Scotland, there came into a lowly home
in Aberdeen a life that was to be known far and wide in connection with
the enterprise. On December 2, 1848, Mary Mitchell Slessor was born in
Gilcomston, a suburb of the city.

Her father, Robert Slessor, belonged to Buchan, and was a shoemaker.
Her mother, who came from Old Meldrum, was an only child, and had been
brought up in a home of refinement and piety. She is described by those
who knew her as a sweet-faced woman, patient, gentle, and retiring,
with a deeply religious disposition, but without any special feature of
character, such as one would have expected to find in the mother of so
uncommon a daughter. It was from her, however, that Mary got her soft
voice and loving heart.

Mary was the second of seven children. Of her infancy and girlhood
little is known. Her own earliest recollections were associated with
the name of Calabar. Mrs. Slessor was a member of Belmont Street United
Presbyterian Church, and was deeply interested in the adventure going
forward in that foreign field. "I had," said Mary, "my missionary
enthusiasm for Calabar in particular from her--she knew from its
inception all that was to be known of its history." Both she and her
elder brother Robert heard much talk of it in the home, and the latter
used to announce that he was going to be a missionary when he was a
man. So great a career was, of course, out of the reach of girls, but
he consoled Mary by promising to take her with him into the pulpit.
Often Mary played at keeping school; and it is interesting to note that
the imaginary scholars she taught and admonished were always black.
Robert did not survive these years, and Mary became the eldest.

Dark days came. Mr. Slessor unhappily drifted into habits of
intemperance and lost his situation, and when he suggested removing to
Dundee, then coming to the front as an industrial town and promising
opportunities for the employment of young people, his wife consented,
although it was hard for her to part from old friends and associations.
But she hoped that in a strange city, where the past was unknown, her
husband might begin life afresh and succeed. The family went south in
1859, and entered on a period of struggle and hardship. The money
realised by the sale of the furniture melted away, and the new house
was bare and comfortless, Mr. Slessor continued his occupation as a
shoemaker, and then became a labourer in one of the mills.

The youngest child, Janie, was born in Dundee. All the family were
delicate, and it was not long before Mary was left with only two
sisters and a brother--Susan, John, and Janie. Mrs. Slessor's fragility
prevented her battling successfully with trial and misfortune, but no
children could have been trained with more scrupulous care. "I owe a
great debt of gratitude to my sainted mother," said Mary, long
afterwards. Especially was she solicitous for their religious well-
being. On coming to Dundee she had connected herself with Wishart
Church in the east end of the Cowgate, a modest building, above a
series of shops near the Port Gate from the parapets of which George
Wishart preached during the plague of 1544. Here the children were sent
to the regular services--with a drop of perfume on their handkerchiefs
and gloves and a peppermint in their pockets for sermon-time--and also
attended the Sunday School.

Mary's own recollection of herself at this period was that she was "a
wild lassie." She would often go back in thought to these days, and
incidents would flash into memory that half amused and half shamed her.
Some of her escapades she would describe with whimsical zest, and
trivial as they were they served to show that, even then, her native
wit and resource were always ready to hand. But very early the Change
came. An old widow, living in a room in the back lands, used to watch
the children running about the doors, and in her anxiety for their
welfare sought to gather some of the girls together and talk to them,
young as they were, about the matters that concerned their souls. One
afternoon in winter they had come out of the cold and darkness into the
glow of her fire, and were sitting listening to her description of the
dangers that beset all who neglected salvation.

"Do ye see that fire?" she exclaimed suddenly. "If ye were to put your
hand into the lowes it would be gey sair. It would burn ye. But if ye
dinna repent and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ your soul will burn
in the lowin' bleezin' fire for ever and ever!"

The words went like arrows to Mary's heart; she could not get the
vision of eternal torment out of her mind: it banished sleep, and she
came to the conclusion that it would be best for her to make her peace
with God. She "repented and believed." It was hell-fire that drove her
into the Kingdom, she would sometimes say. But once there she found it
to be a Kingdom of love and tenderness and mercy, and never throughout
her career did she seek to bring any one into it, as she had come, by
the process of shock and fear.

                        II. IN THE WEAVING-SHED

The time came when Mrs. Slessor herself was compelled to enter one of
the factories in order to maintain the home, and many of the cares and
worries of a household fell upon Mary. But at eleven she, too, was sent
out to begin to earn a livelihood. In the textile works of Messrs.
Baxter Brothers & Company she became what was known as a half-timer,
one who wrought half the day and went to the school in connection with
the works the other half. When she was put on full time she attended
the school held at night. Shortly afterward she entered Rashiewell
factory to learn weaving under the supervision of her mother. After
trying the conditions in two other works she returned, about the age of
fourteen, to Baxter's, where she soon became an expert and well-paid
worker. Her designation was a "weaver" or "factory girl," not a "mill-
girl," this term locally being restricted to spinners in the mills.
When she handed her first earnings to her mother the latter wept over
them, and put them away as too sacred to use. But her wage was
indispensable for the support of the home, and eventually she became
its chief mainstay.

Life in the great factory in which she was but a unit amongst thousands
was hard and monotonous. The hours of the workers were from six A.M. to
six P.M., with one hour for breakfast and one for dinner. Mary was
stationed in a room or shed, which has very much the same appearance
to-day. Now as then the belts are whirring, the looms are moving, the
girls are handling the shuttles, and the air is filled with a din so
continuous and intense that speech is well-nigh impossible. Mary had to
be up every morning at five o'clock, as she helped in the work of the
home before going out, while similar duties claimed her at night.
Though naturally bright and refined in disposition she was at this time
almost wholly uneducated. From the factory schools she had brought only
a meagre knowledge of reading and arithmetic, and she had read little
save the books obtained from the library of the Sunday School. But her
mind was opening, she was becoming conscious of the outer world and all
its interests and wonders, and she was eager to know and understand. In
order to study she began to steal time from sleep. She carried a book
with her to the mill, and, like David Livingstone at Blantyre, laid it
on the loom and glanced at it in her free moments. So anxious was she
to learn that she read on her way to and from the factory. It was not a
royal road, that thoroughfare of grim streets, but it led her into many
a shining region.

Her only source of outside interest was the Church. From the Sunday
School she passed into the Bible Class, where her attendance was never
perfunctory, for she enjoyed the teaching and extracted all she could
out of it. She would carry home the statements that arrested and
puzzled her, and refer them to her mother, who, however, did not always
find it easy to satisfy her. "Is baptism necessary for salvation,
mother?" was one of her questions. "Well," her mother replied, "it says
that he that repents and is baptized shall be saved; but it does not
say that he that repents and is not baptized shall be damned." Some of
her mother's sayings at this time she never forgot. "When one duty
jostles another, one is not a duty," she was once told. And again,
"Thank God for what you receive: thank God for what you do not receive:
thank God for the sins you are delivered from; and thank God for the
sins that you know nothing at all about, and are never tempted to

Mary was a favourite with her classmates. There was something about her
even then which drew others to her. One, the daughter of an elder,
tells how, though much younger, she was attracted to her by her
goodness and her kind ways, and how she would often go early to meet
her in order to enjoy her company to the class.

                              III. MISERY

The explanation of much in Mary Slessor's character lies in these early
years, and she cannot be fully understood unless the unhappy
circumstances in her home are taken into account. She was usually
reticent regarding her father, but once she wrote and published under
her own name what is known to be the story of this painful period of
her girlhood. There is no need to reproduce it, but some reference to
the facts is necessary if only to show how bravely she battled against
hardship and difficulties even then.

The weakness of Mr. Slessor was not cured by the change in his
surroundings. All the endearments of his wife and daughter were
powerless to save the man whose heart was tender enough when he was
sober, but whose moral sensibilities continued to be sapped by his
indulgence in drink. Every penny he could lay hands upon was spent in
this way, and the mother was often reduced to sore straits to feed and
clothe the children. Not infrequently Mary had to perform a duty
repugnant to her sensitive nature. She would leave the factory after
her long toil, and run home, pick up a parcel which her mother had
prepared, and fly like a hunted thing along the shadiest and quietest
streets, making many a turning in order to avoid her friends, to the
nearest pawnbroker's. Then with sufficient money for the week's
requirements she would hurry back with a thankful heart, and answer the
mother's anxious, questioning eyes with a glad light in her own. A kiss
would be her reward, and she would be sent out to pay the more pressing

There was one night of terror in every week. On Saturday, after the
other children were in bed, the mother and daughter sat sewing or
knitting in silence through long hours, waiting in sickening
apprehension for the sound of uncertain footsteps on the stairs. Now
and again they prayed to quieten their hearts. Yet they longed for his
coming. When he appeared he would throw into the fire the supper they
had stinted themselves to provide for him. Sometimes Mary was forced
out into the streets where she wandered in the dark, alone, sobbing out
her misery.

All the efforts of wife and daughter were directed towards hiding the
skeleton in the house. The fear of exposure before the neighbours, the
dread lest Mary's church friends should come to know the secret, made
the two sad souls pinch and struggle and suffer with endless patience.
None of the other children was aware of the long vigils that were
spent. The fact that the family was never disgraced in public was
attributed to prayer. The mother prayed, the daughter prayed,
ceaselessly, with utter simplicity of belief, and they were never once
left stranded or put to shame. Their faith not only saved them from
despair, it made them happy in the intervals of their distress. Few
brighter or more hopeful families gathered in church from Sunday to

Nevertheless these days left their mark upon Mary for life. She was at
the plastic age, she was gentle and sensitive and loving, and what she
passed through hurt and saddened her spirit. To the end it was the only
memory that had power to send a shaft of bitterness across the
sweetness of her nature. It added to her shyness and to her reluctance
to appear in public and speak, which was afterwards so much commented
upon, for always at the back of her mind was the consciousness of that
dark and wretched time. The reaction on her character, however, was not
all evil; suffering in the innocent has its compensations. It deepened
her sympathy and pity for others. It made her the fierce champion of
little children, and the refuge of the weak and oppressed. It prepared
her also for the task of combating the trade in spirits on the West
Coast, and for dealing with the drunken tribes amongst whom she came to
dwell. Her experience then was, indeed, the beginning of her training
for the work she had to accomplish in the future....

The father died, and the strain was removed, and Mary became the chief
support of the home. Those who knew her then state that her life was
one long act of self-denial; all her own inclinations and interests
were surrendered for the sake of the family, and she was content with
bare necessaries so long as they were provided for.

                         IV. TAMING THE ROUGHS

In her church work she continued to find the little distraction from
toil which gave life its savour. She began to attend the Sabbath
Morning Fellowship and week-night prayer meetings. She also taught a
class of "lovable lassies" in the Sabbath School--"I had the impudence
of ignorance then in special degree surely" was her mature comment on
this--and became a distributor of the _Monthly Visitor_. Despite the
weary hours in the factory, and a long walk to and from the church, she
was never absent from any of the services or meetings. "We would as
soon have thought of going to the moon as of being absent from a
service," she wrote shortly before she died. "And we throve very well
on it too. How often, when lying awake at night, my time for thinking,
do I go back to those wonderful days!"

She owed much to her association with the Church, but more to her
Bible. Once a girl asked her for something to read, and she handed her
the Book saying, "Take that; it has made me a changed lassie." The
study of it was less a duty than a joy; it was like reading a message
addressed specially to herself, containing news of surpassing personal
interest and import. God was very real to her. To think that behind all
the strain and struggle and show of the world there was a Personality,
not a thought or a dream, not something she could not tell what, in
spaces she knew not where, but One who was actual and close to her,
overflowing with love and compassion, and ready to listen to her, and
to heal and guide and strengthen her--it was marvellous. She wished to
know all He had to tell her, in order that she might rule her conduct
according to His will. Most of all it was the story of Christ that she
pored over and thought about. His Divine majesty, the beauty and grace
of His life, the pathos of His death on the Cross, affected her
inexpressibly. But it was His love, so strong, so tender, so pitiful,
that won her heart and devotion and filled her with a happiness and
peace that suffused her inner life like sunshine. In return she loved
Him with a love so intense that it was often a pain. She felt that she
could not do enough for one who had done so much for her. As the years
passed she surrendered herself more and more to His influence, and was
ready for any duty she was called upon to do for Him, no matter how
humble or exacting it might be. It was this passion of love and
gratitude, this abandonment of self, this longing for service, that
carried her into her life-work.

Wishart Church stood in the midst of slums. Pends, or arched passages,
led from the Cowgate into tall tenements with outside spiral stairs
which opened upon a maze of landings and homes. Out of these sunless
rookeries tides of young life poured by night and day, and spread over
the neighbouring streets in undisciplined freedom. Mary's heart often
ached for these boys and girls, whom she loved in spite of all their
roughness; and when a mission was determined on, and a room was taken
at 6 Queen Street--a small side thoroughfare nearly opposite Quarry
Pend, one of the worst of the alleys--she volunteered as a teacher. And
so began a second period of stem training which was to serve her well
in the years to come. The wilder spirits made sport of the meetings and
endeavoured to wreck them. "That little room," she wrote, "was full of
romantic experiences." There was danger outside when the staff
separated, and she recalled how several of the older men surrounded the
"smaller individuals" when they faced the storm. One of these was Mr.
J. H. Smith, who became her warm friend and counsellor.

As the mission developed, a shop under the church at the side of
Wishart Pend was taken and the meetings transferred to it, she having
charge of classes for boys and girls both on Sundays and week-nights.
Open-air work was at that time dangerous, but she and a few others
attempted it: they were opposed by roughs and pelted with mud. There
was one gang that was resolved to break up the mission with which she
had come to be identified. One night they closed in about her on the
street. The leader carried a leaden weight at the end of a piece of
cord, and swung it threateningly round her head. She stood her ground.
Nearer and nearer the missile came. It shaved her brow. She never
winced. The weight crashed to the ground. "She's game, boys," he
exclaimed. To show their appreciation of her spirit they went in a body
to the meeting. There her bright eyes, her sympathy, and her firmness
shaped them into order and attention....

On the wall of one of her bush houses in West Africa there used to hang
a photograph of a man and his wife and family. The man was the lad who
had swung the lead. On attaining a good position he had sent her the
photograph in grateful remembrance of what had been the turning-point
in his life....

Another lad, a bully, used to stand outside the hall with a whip in
hand driving the young fellows into "Mary Slessor's meeting," but
refusing to go in himself. One day the girl weaver faced him. "If we
changed places what would happen?" she asked, and he replied, "I would
get this whip across my back." She turned her back. "I'll bear it for
you if you'll go in," she said. "Would you really bear that for me?"
"Yes, and far more--go on, I mean it." He threw down the whip and
followed her in, and gave himself the same day to Christ. Even then she
was unconventional in her methods and was criticised for it. She had a
passion for the countryside, and often on Saturday afternoons she would
take her class of lads away out to the green fields, regardless of
social canons.

By and by a new field of work was opened up when a number of
progressive minds in the city formed Victoria Street United
Presbyterian congregation, not far from her familiar haunts. In
connection with the movement a mission service for the young was
started on Sunday mornings under the presidency of Mr. James Logic, of
Tay Square Church, and to him Mary offered her services as a monitor.
Mr. Logie soon noticed the capacity of the young assistant and won her
confidence and regard. Like most people she was unconscious at the
moment of the unseen forces moulding her life, but she came in after
days to realise the wise ordering of this friendship. Mr. Logie became
interested in her work and ideals, and sought to promote her interests
in every way. She came to trust Mm implicitly--"He is the best earthly
friend I have," she wrote-and he guided her thenceforward in all her
money affairs.

She was as successful with the lads at this service as she had been
elsewhere. Before the meeting she would flit through the dark passages
in the tenements and knock, and rouse them up from sleep, and plead
with them to turn out to it. Her influence over them was extraordinary,
They adored her and gave her shy allegiance, and the result was seen in
changed habits and transformed lives. It was the same in the houses she
visited. She went there not as one who was superior to the inmates, but
as one of themselves. In the most natural way she would sit down by the
fire and nurse a child, or take a cup of tea at the table. Her
sympathy, her delicate tact, her cheery counsel won many a woman's
heart and braced her for higher endeavour. It was the same in the
factory; her influence told on the workers about her; some she
strengthened, others she won over to Christ, and these created an
atmosphere which was felt throughout the building.

And yet what was she? Only a working girl, plain in appearance and in
dress, diffident and self-effacing. "But," says one whom she used to
take down as a boy to the mission and place beside her as she taught,
"she possessed something we could not grasp, something indefinable." It
was the glow of the spirit of Christ which lit up her inner life and
shone in her face, and which, unknown even to herself, was then and
afterwards the source of her distinction and her power.

                            V. SELF-CULTURE

For fourteen years, and these the freshest and fairest years of her
life, she toiled in the factory for ten hours each full day, while she
also gave faithful service in the mission. And yet she continued to
find time for the sedulous culture of her mind. She was always
borrowing books and extracting what was best in them. Not all were
profitable. One was _The Rise and Progress of Religion in the Soul_ by
Philip Doddridge, a volume much pondered then in Scottish homes. A
friend who noticed that she was somewhat cast down said to her, "Why,
Mary, what's the matter? You look very glum." "I canna do it," she
replied. "Canna do what?" "I canna meditate, and Doddridge says it is
necessary for the soul. If I try to meditate my mind just goes a'
roads." "Well, never mind meditation," her friend said. "Go and work,
for that's what God means us to do," and she followed his advice. Of
her introduction to the fields of higher literature we have one
reminiscence. Her spirit was so eager, she read so much and so quickly,
that a friend sought to test her by lending her _Sartor Resartus_. She
carried it home, and when next he met her he asked quizzically how she
had got on with Carlyle. "It is grand!" she replied. "I sat up reading
it, and was so interested that I did not know what the time was, until
I heard the factory bells calling me to work in the morning!"

There was no restraining her after that. She broadened and deepened in
thought and outlook, and gradually acquired the art of expressing
herself, both in speech and writing, in language that was deft, lucid,
and vigorous, Her style was formed insensibly from her constant reading
of the Bible, and had then a grave dignity and balance unlike the more
picturesque, if looser, touch of later years. The papers that were read
from her at the Fellowship Association were marked by a felicity of
phrase as well as an insight and spiritual fervour unusual in a girl.
Her alertness of intellect often astonished those who heard her engaged
in argument with the agnostics and freethinkers whom she encountered in
the course of her visiting. She spoke simply, but with a directness and
sincerity that arrested attention. Often asked to address meetings in
other parts of Dundee, she shrank from the ordeal. On one occasion a
friend went with her, but she could not be persuaded to go on the
platform. She sat in the middle of the hall and had a quiet talk on the
words, "The common people heard Him gladly." "And," writes her friend,
"the common people heard her gladly, and crowded round her and pleaded
that she should come again."

                           VI. A TRAGIC LAND

There was never a time when Mary was not interested in foreign
missions. The story of Calabar had impressed her imagination when a
child, and all through the years her eyes had been fixed on the great
struggle going on between the forces of light and darkness in the
sphere of heathenism. The United Presbyterian Church in which she was
brought up placed the work abroad in the forefront of its activity; it
had missions in India, China, Jamaica, Calabar, and Kaffraria; and
reports of the operations were given month by month in its _Missionary
Record_, and read in practically all the homes of its members. It was
pioneer work, and the missionaries were perpetually in the midst of
adventure and peril. Their letters and narratives were eagerly looked
for; they gave to people who had never travelled visions of strange
lands; they brought to them the scent and colour of the Orient and the
tropics; and they introduced into the quietude of orderly homes the din
of the bazaar and harem and kraal. These men and women in the far
outposts became heroic figures to the Church, and whenever they
returned on furlough the people thronged to their meetings to see for
themselves the actors in such amazing happenings, and to hear from
their own lips the story of their difficulties and triumphs.

Mrs. Slessor never missed hearing those who came to Dundee, and once
she was so much moved by an address from the Rev. William Anderson as
to the needs of Old Calabar that she longed to dedicate her son John to
the work. He was a gentle lad, much loved by Mary. Apprenticed to a
blacksmith, his health began to fail, and a change of climate became
imperative. He emigrated to New Zealand, but died a week after landing.
His mother felt the blow to her hopes even more than his death. To Mary
the event was a bitter grief, and it turned her thoughts more directly
to the foreign field. Could she fill her brother's place? Would it be
possible for her ever to become a missionary? The idea floated for a
time through her mind, unformed and unconfessed, until it gradually
resolved itself into a definite purpose. Sometimes she thought of
Kaffraria, with its red-blanketed people, but it was always Calabar to
which she came back: it had from the first captivated her imagination,
as it for good reason captivated the imagination of the Church.

The founding of the Mission had been a romance. It was not from
Scotland that the impulse came but from Jamaica in the West Indies. The
slave population of that colony had been brought from the West Coast,
and chiefly from the Calabar region, and although ground remorselessly
in the mill of plantation life they had never forgotten their old home.
When emancipation came and they settled down in freedom under the
direction and care of the missionaries their thoughts went over the
ocean to their fatherland, and they longed to see it also enjoy the
blessings which the Gospel had brought to them. The agents of the
Scottish Missionary Society and of the United Secession Church, who,
together, formed the Jamaica Presbytery, talked over the matter, and
resolved to take action; and eight of their number dedicated themselves
for the service if called upon. A society was formed, and a fund was
established to which the people contributed liberally. But the
officials at home were cold; they deprecated so uncertain a venture in
a pestilential climate. The Presbytery, undaunted, persevered with its
preparations, and chose the Rev. Hope M. Waddell to be the first agent
of the Society.

It is a far cry from Jamaica to Calabar, but a link of communication
was provided in a remarkable way. Many years previously a slaver had
been wrecked in the neighbourhood of Calabar. The surgeon on board was
a young medical man named Ferguson, and he and the crew were treated
with kindness by the natives. After a time they were able by another
slaver to sail for the West Indies, whence Dr. Ferguson returned home.
He became surgeon on a trader between Liverpool and Jamaica, making
several voyages, and becoming well known in the colony. Settling down
in Liverpool he experienced a spiritual change and became a Christian.
He was interested to hear of the movement in Jamaica, and remembering
with gratitude the friendliness shown him by the Calabar natives he
undertook to find out whether they would accept a mission. This he did
through captains of the trading vessels to whom he was hospitable. In
1848 a memorial from the local king and seven chiefs was sent to him,
offering ground and a welcome to any missionaries who might care to
come, This settled the matter. Mr. Waddell sailed from Jamaica for
Scotland to promote and organise the undertaking.

Happily the Secession Church adopted the Calabar scheme, and after
securing funds and a ship--one of the first subscriptions, it is
interesting to note, was £1000 from Dr. Ferguson--Mr. Waddell, with
several assistants sailed in 1846, and after many difficulties, which
he conquered with indomitable spirit and patience, founded the Mission.
In the following year it was taken over by the United Presbyterian
Church, which had been formed by the union of the United Secession and
Relief Churches.

In no part of the foreign field were conditions more formidable.
Calabar exhibited the worst side of nature and of man. While much of it
was beautiful, it was one of the most unhealthy spots in the world--
sickness, disease, and swift death attacking the Europeans who ventured
there. The natives were considered to be the most degraded of any in
Africa. They were, in reality, the slum-dwellers of negro-land. From
time immemorial their race had occupied the equatorial region of the
continent, a people without a history, with only a past of confused
movement, oppression, and terror. They seem to have been visited by
adventurous navigators of galleys before the Christian era, but the
world in general knew nothing of them. On the land side they were shut
in without hope of expansion. When they endeavoured to move up to the
drier Sahara and Soudanese regions they were met and pressed back by
the outposts of the higher civilisations of Egypt and Arabia, who
preyed upon them, crushed them, enslaved them in vast numbers. And just
as the coloured folk of American cities are kept in the low-lying and
least desirable localities, and as the humbler classes in European
towns find a home in east-end tenements, so all that was weakest and
poorest in the negro race gravitated to the jungle areas and the
poisonous swamps of the coast, where, hemmed in by the pathless sea,
they existed in unbroken isolation for ages. It was not until the
fifteenth century that the explorations of the Portuguese opened up the
coast. Then, to the horrors of the internal slave-trade was added the
horror of the traffic for the markets of the West Indies and America.
Calabar provided the slavers with their richest freight, the lands
behind were decimated and desolated, and scenes of tragedy and
suffering unspeakable were enacted on land and sea. Yet for 400 years
Europeans never penetrated more than a few miles inland. Away in the
far interior of the continent great kingdoms were known to exist, but
all the vast coastal region was a mystery of rivers, swamps, and
forests inhabited by savage negroes and wild beasts.

It is not surprising that when the missionaries arrived in Calabar they
found the natives to have been demoralised and degraded by the long
period of lawlessness and rapine through which they had passed. They
characterised them in a way that was appalling: many seemed indeed to
have difficulty in selecting words expressive enough for their purpose.
"Bloody," "savage," "crafty," "cruel," "treacherous," "sensual,"
"devilish," "thievish," "cannibals," "fetish-worshippers," "murderers,"
were a few of the epithets applied to them by men accustomed to observe
closely and to weigh their words.

Not an attractive people to work amongst. Neither must the dwellers of
the earth have appeared to Christ when He looked down from heaven ere
He took His place in their midst. And Mary Slessor shrank from nothing
which she thought her Master would have done: she rather welcomed the
hardest tasks, and considered it an honour and privilege to be given
them to do. She was not blind to the conditions at home. Often when at
the Mission she realised how great was the need of the slums, with
their problems of poverty and irreligion and misery. But the people
there were within sight of church spires and within hearing of church
bells, and there were many workers as capable as she: whilst down in
the slums of Africa there were millions who knew no more of the
redemptive power of Christ than did the beasts of the field. She was
too intelligent a student of the New Testament not to know that Christ
meant His disciples to spread His Gospel throughout the world, and too
honest not to realise that the command was laid upon every one who
loved Him in spirit and in truth. It was therefore with a quiet and
assured mind that she went forward to the realisation of the dream. She
told no one: she shrank even from mentioning the matter to her mother,
but patiently prepared for the coming change. In the factory she took
charge of two 60-inch looms, hard work for a young woman, but she
needed the money, and she never thought of toil if her object could be

Early in 1874 the news of the death of Dr. Livingstone stirred the
land: it was followed by a wave of missionary enthusiasm; and the call
for workers for the dark continent thrilled many a heart. It thrilled
Mary Slessor into action. She reviewed the situation. Her sisters were
now in good situations, and she saw her way to continue her share in
the support of the home. What this loyal determination implied she did
not guess then, but it was to have a large share in shaping her life.
Broaching the subject to her mother she obtained a glad consent. One or
two of her church friends were lukewarm; others, like Mr. Logic and Mr.
Smith, encouraged her. The former, who was deeply interested in foreign
missions and soon afterwards became a member of the Foreign Mission
Committee, promised to look after her affairs during her sojourn

In May 1875 she offered her services to the Foreign Mission Board. Her
heart was set on Calabar, but so eager was she to be accepted that she
said she would be willing to go to any other field. Women agents had
long been engaged in Calabar. The first, Miss Miller, had gone out with
Mr. Waddell in l849-she became the "Mammy" Sutherland who did such
noble service-and they were playing an ever more important part, and
were stated to be both "economical and effective." Requests had just
been made for additions to the staff. The application was, therefore,
opportune. Her personality, and the accounts given of her character and
work, made such an impression on the officials that they reported
favourably to the Board, and she was accepted as a teacher for Calabar
and told to continue her studies in Dundee. In December it was decided
to bring her to Edinburgh, at the expense of the Board, for three
months, for special preparation....

The night before she left Dundee, in March 1876, she stood, a tearful
figure, at the mouth of the "close" where she lived. "Good-bye," she
said to a friend, and then passionately, "Pray for me!"

                          VII. THE THREE MARYS

A stranger in Edinburgh, Mary Slessor turned instinctively to Darling's
Temperance Hotel, which was then, and is still, looked upon as a home
by travellers from all parts of the globe. The Darlings, who were
associated with all good work, were then taking part in the revival
movement of Messrs. Moody and Sankey, and the two daughters, Bella and
Jane, were solo-singers at the meetings. The humble Dundee girl had
heard of their powers, and she entered the hotel as if it were a
shrine. Feeling very lonely and very shy, she attended the little
gathering for worship which is held every evening, and was comforted
and strengthened.

She found a lodging in the home of Mr. Robert Martin, a city
missionary, connected with Bristo Street congregation, and formed a
friendship for Ms daughter Mary. By her she was taken to visit a
companion, Mary Doig, who lived in the south side. The three became
intimates, and shortly afterward Miss Slessor went to live with the
Doigs, and remained with them during her stay in the city. It was a
happy event for her. Warm-hearted and sympathetic, they treated her as
one of the family. A daughter who was married, Mrs. M'Crindle, also met
her, and a lifelong affection sprang up between the two. In later days
it was to Mrs. M'Crindle's house the tired missionary first came on her

Though she attended the Normal School in the Canongate, she was not
enrolled as a regular student, and her name does not appear on the
books; but a memory of her presence lingers like a sweet fragrance, and
she appears to have been a power for good. One who was a student with
her says: "She had a most gracious and winning personality, and
impressed the students by her courage in going to what was called 'the
white man's grave.' Her reply to questioners was that Calabar was the
post of danger, and was therefore the post of honour. Few would
volunteer for service there, hence she wished to go, for it was there
the Master needed her. The beauty of her character showed itself in her
face, and I have rarely seen one which showed so plainly that the love
of God dwelt within. It was always associated in my mind with that of
Miss Angelica Fraser; a heavenly radiance seemed to emanate from both."

Her leisure hours were given up to miscellaneous mission work in the
city. Mary Doig and Mary Martin were both connected with Bristo Street
congregation, and worked in the mission at Cowan's Close,
Crosscauseway, and they naturally took Mary Slessor with them. Another
intimate friendship was formed with Miss Paxton, a worker in connection
with South Gray's Close Mission in the High Street. Miss Paxton was
standing at the entrance to the close one Sunday, after a meeting, when
Miss Slessor passed up with a Mr. Bishop, who afterwards became the
printer at Calabar. Mr. Bishop introduced her. "You want some one to
help you?" he said; "you cannot do better than take Miss Slessor." The
two were kindred spirits, and Mary was soon at home among Miss Paxton's
classes. Her first address to the women stands out clearly in the
memory of her friend, and is interesting as indicating her standpoint
then and throughout her life. It was on the question, "What shall I do
with Jesus?" She told them that Christ was standing before them as
surely as He stood before Pilate; and very earnestly she went on, "Dear
women, you must do something with Him: you must reject Him or you must
accept Him. What are you going to do?" She gave them no vision of hell-
fire: she spoke to their reason and judgment, putting the great issue
before them as a simple proposition, clear as light, inexorable as
logic, and left them to decide for themselves.

Her two companions soon came under her influence. Their culture, piety,
and practical gifts seemed to mark them out for missionaries, and as a
result of her persuasion they offered themselves to the Foreign Mission
Committee of the Church, and were accepted for China. In July the
Committee satisfied itself with regard to Miss Slessor's proficiency,
and decided to send her out at once to Calabar. Her salary was fixed at
£60. Before sailing for their different stations the three Marys, as
they came to be known, attended many meetings together, and were a
source of interest to the Church.

Miss Slessor was now twenty-eight years of age, a type of nature
peculiarly characteristic of Scotland, the result of its godly
motherhood, the severe discipline of its social conditions, its stern
toil, its warm church life, its missionary enthusiasm. Mature in mind
and body, she retained the freshness of girlhood, was vivacious and
sympathetic, and, while aglow with spirituality, was very human and
likeable, with a heart as tender and wistful as a child's. What
specially distinguished her, says one who knew her well, were her
humility and the width and depth of her love. With diffidence, but in
high hope, she went forward to weave the pattern of her service in the
Mission Field....

She sailed on August 5, 1876. Two Dundee companions went with her to
Liverpool. At the docks they saw going on board the steamer Ethiopia,
by which she was to travel, a large number of casks of spirits for the
West Coast. "Scores of casks!" she exclaimed ruefully, "and only one

                              SECOND PHASE

                          1876-1888. Age 28-40.

                     WORK AND ADVENTURE AT THE BASE

       _"I am passing through the lights and shadows of life_."

                     I. THE BREATH OF THE TROPICS

There is a glamour like the glamour of the dawn about one's first
voyage to the tropics; and as the _Ethiopia_ passed out of the grey
atmosphere of England into the spring belt of the world, and then into
a region where the days were a glory of sunshine and colour and the
nights balmy and serene, Miss Slessor, so long confined within the bare
walls of a factory, found the experience a pure delight in spite of a
sense of loneliness that sometimes stole over her. Her chief grievance
was that Sunday was kept like other days. Trained in the habits of a
religious Scottish home it seemed to her extraordinary that no service
should be held. "My very heart and flesh cried out for the courts of
God's house," she wrote. Some of the crew comforted her by saying that
there was always a Sabbath in Calabar.

It was not until the headland of Cape Verde was sighted and passed, and
she saw in succession stretches of green banks, white sands upon which
the surf beat, and long grey levels of mangrove, that she began to
realise the presence of Africa. From the shore came hot whiffs of that
indescribable smell so subtly suggestive of a tropical land; while the
names of the districts--the Ivory Coast, the Gold Coast, the Slave
Coast--conjured up the old days of adventure, blood-red with deeds of
cruelty and shame. This Gulf of Guinea was the heart of the slave
trade: more vessels loaded up here with their black cargo than at any
other port of the continent, and the Bight of Biafra, on which Calabar
is situated, was ever the busiest spot. Mangrove forests, unequalled
anywhere for immensity and gloom, fringe the entire sweep of the Gulf.
Rooted in slime, malodorous and malarious, they form a putrescent
paradise for all manner of loathly creatures.

Out of the blue waters of the Atlantic the _Ethiopia_ ran, on Saturday,
September 11, into the mud-coloured estuary of the Cross and Calabar
Rivers. On the left lay the flat delta of the Niger, ahead stretched
the landscape of mangrove as far as the eye could range; to the south-
east rose the vast bulk of the Cameroon Mountains. With what interest
Mary gazed on the scene one can imagine. Somewhere at the back of these
swamps was the spot where she was to settle and work. That it was near
the coast she knew, for all that more distant land was unexplored and
unknown: most of what was within sight, indeed, was still outside the
pale of civilisation; through the bush and along the creeks and lagoons
moved nude people, most of whom had never seen a white face. It might
well seem an amazing thing to her, in view of the fact that there had
been commerce with the coast for centuries. Vessels had plied to it for
slaves, spices, gold dust, ivory, and palm oil; traders mingled with
the people, and spoke their tongue; and yet it remained a land of

There were many reasons for this. The country was owned by no European
Power. Britain regarded it--somewhat unwillingly at first--as a sphere
of influence, but had no footing in it, and no control over the people.
These were divided into many tribes and sections of tribes, each
speaking a different tongue, and each perpetually at war with its
neighbour. The necessities of trade fostered a certain intercourse;
there was neutral ground where transactions took place, and products
for the traders filtered down to the people at the coast who acted as
middlemen. These, for obvious reasons, objected to the white men going
inland--they would get into touch with the tribes, their authority
would be undermined and their business ruined, and as they controlled
the avenues of approach and were masters in their own house their veto
could not be disregarded. In any case a journey up-river was full of
peril. Every bend brought one to a new tribe, alert, suspicious,
threatening. For Europeans it was a foodless country, in which they had
to face hunger, fever, and death. Even the missionaries had only been
feeling their way very slowly: they explored and planted out stations
here and there, as permission was obtained from the chiefs, but their
main efforts were directed to the task of establishing a strong base at
the coast.

The estuary is about twelve miles in breadth, its banks are lined by
mangrove, and here and there its surface is broken by islands. From
these, as the steamer passed, parrots flew in flocks. From the
sandbanks and mudbanks alligators slid into the water with a splash.
Occasionally a shrimp-fisher in his canoe was seen. Higher up were the
ruins of the barracoons, where the slaves were penned while waiting for
shipment. Some fifty miles from the sea the steamer swung round to the
east and entered the Calabar River; the swamps gave place to clay
cliffs thick with undergrowth and trees, and far ahead a cluster of
houses came into view--this, Mary knew, was Old Town. Then the hulks in
the stream, used as stores and homes by the traders, appeared, and the
steamer anchored opposite Duke Town. It lay on the right among swamps
in a receding hollow of the cliff: a collection of mud-dwellings
thatched with palm leaf, slovenly and sordid, and broiling in the hot
rays of a brilliant sun.

It was the scene she had often endeavoured to picture in her mind.
There was the hill where into the bush the dead bodies of natives used
to be cast to become the food of wild beasts, now crowned with the
Mission buildings. What memories had already gathered about these! What
experiences lay behind the men and women who lived there! What a land
was this she had chosen to make her dwelling-place--a land formless,
mysterious, terrible, ruled by witchcraft and the terrorism of secret
societies; where the skull was worshipped and blood-sacrifices were
offered to jujus; where guilt was decided by ordeal of poison and
boiling oil; where scores of people were murdered when a chief died,
and his wives decked themselves in finery and were strangled to keep
him company in the spirit-land; where men and women were bound and left
to perish by the water-side to placate the god of shrimps; where the
alligators were satiated with feeding on human flesh; where twins were
done to death, and the mother banished to the bush; where semi-
nakedness was compulsory, and girls were sent to farms to be fattened
for marriage. A land, also, of disease and fever and white graves.

There, too, lay her own future, as dark and unknown as the land, full
of hard work, she knew, full, it might be of danger and trial and

But the boats of the traders and the missionaries came off, the canoes
of the natives swarmed around, the whole town seemed to be on the
water. With eyes that were bright and expectant Mary stepped from the
Mission boat and set foot on African soil.

                         II. FIRST IMPRESSIONS

The young missionary-teacher was delighted with the novelty and wonders
of her surroundings. She revelled in the sunshine, the warmth, the
luxuriant beauty, and began to doubt whether the climate was so deadly
after all: some of the missionaries told her that much of the illness
was due to the lack of proper care, and there was even one who said he
preferred Calabar to Scotland.

She was impressed with the Mission. The organisation of church and
school, the regular routine of life, the large attendance at the
services, the demeanour of the Christians, the quiet and persistent
aggressive work going on, satisfied her sense of the fitness of things
and made her glad and hopeful. To hear the chime of Sabbath bells; to
listen to the natives singing, in their own tongue, the hymns
associated with her home life, the Sabbath school and the social
meeting; and to watch one of them give an address with eloquence and
power, was a revelation. She went to a congregational meeting at Creek
Town and heard King Eyo Honesty VII. speaking, and so many were
present, and the feeling was so hearty and united that it might have
served as a model for the home churches. She was attracted by the King;
a sincere kindly Christian man, she found him to be. When she told him
that her mother was much interested in him, he was so pleased that he
wrote Mrs. Slessor, and the two corresponded--he a negro King in Africa
and she an obscure woman in Scotland, drawn to each other across 4000
miles of sea by the influence of the Gospel.

It was true that the results of thirty years' work in Calabar did not
seem large. The number of members in all the congregations was 174,
though the attendances at the services each Sunday was over a thousand.
The staff, however, had never been very large; of Europeans at this
time there were four ordained missionaries, four men teachers, and four
women teachers, and of natives one ordained missionary and eighteen
agents; and efforts were confined to Duke Town, Old Town, Creek Town,
Ikunetu, and Ikorofiong--all on the banks of the rivers or creeks--with
several out-stations.

Her work at first was simple: it was to teach in the day-school on
Mission Hill and visit in the yards, both on week-days and Sundays. Not
until the strangeness of things had worn off a little did she begin to
see below the surface and discover the difficulties of the situation.
What assisted the process was a tour of the stations, which it was
thought well she should make in order to become acquainted with the
conditions. In the out-districts she came into contact with the raw
heathen, and felt herself down at the very foundations of humanity.
Most of the journeying was through the bush: there were long and
fatiguing marches, and much climbing and jumping and wading to do, in
which she had the help of three Kroo boys, but being active in body and
buoyant in spirit, she enjoyed it thoroughly. A white "Ma" was so
curious a sight in some of the districts that the children would run
away, screaming with fright, and the women would crowd round her
talking, gesticulating, and fingering, so that the chiefs had to drive
them off with a whip. She was a little startled by these
demonstrations, but was told the people were merely wishing to make
friends with her, and she soon overcame her nervousness.

Her first meeting was held while she was with one of the native agents,
John Baillie, and took place in the shade of a large tree beside a
devil-house built for a dead man's spirit, and stocked with food. After
the agent had spoken in Efik he turned to her and said, "Have you
anything to say to them?" She looked at the dark throng, degraded,
ignorant, superstitious. All eyes were fixed on her. For once she found
it difficult to speak. Asking Mr. Baillie to read John v. 1-24, she
tried to arrange her thoughts, but seemed to grow more helpless. When
she began, the words came, and very simply, very earnestly--the agent
interpreting--she spoke of their need of healing and saving, of which
they must be conscious through their dissatisfaction with this life,
the promptings of their higher natures, the experience of suffering and
sorrow, and the dark future beyond death, and, asking the question,
"Wilt thou be made whole?" pointed the way to peace.

As she observed and assimilated, she came to hold a clearer view of the
people and the problems confronting the missionaries. She realised that
the raw negroes, though savage enough, were not destitute of religious
beliefs: their "theology," indeed, seemed somewhat too complicated for
comprehension. Nor were their lives unregulated by principles and laws;
they were ruled by canons and conventions as powerful as those of
Europe, as merciless as the caste code of India; their social life was
rooted in a tangle of relationships and customs as intricate as any in
the world. The basis of the community was the House, at the head of
which was a Master or Chief, independent and autocratic within his own
limited domain, which consisted merely of a cluster of mud-huts in the
bush. In this compound or yard, or "town" as it was sometimes called,
lived connected families. Each chief had numerous wives and slaves,
over whom he exercised absolute control. The slaves enjoyed
considerable freedom, many occupying good positions and paying tribute,
but they could be sold or killed at the will of their master. All
belonging to a House were under its protection, and once outside that
protection they were pariahs, subject to no law, and at the mercy of
Egbo. This secret society was composed of select and graded classes
initiated according to certain rites. Its agents were Egbo-runners,
supposed to represent a supernatural being in the bush, who came
suddenly out, masked and dressed in fantastic garb, and with a long
whip rushed about and committed excesses. At these times all women were
obliged to hide, for if found they would be flogged and stripped of
their clothing. Egbo, however, had a certain power for good, and was
often evoked in aid of law and order. Naturally it was the divorcing of
superfluous wives, and the freeing of slaves that formed the greatest
difficulty for the missionaries--it meant nothing less than breaking up
a social system developed and fortified by long centuries of custom.
Thus early Miss Slessor came to see that it was the duty of the
missionary to bring about a new set of conditions in which it would be
possible for the converts to live, and the thought influenced her whole

The district of Calabar afforded a striking object-lesson of what could
be achieved. There was no central native government, and the British
consular jurisdiction was of the most shadowy character. So far there
had been but the quiet pressure of a moral and spiritual agency at
work, but under its influence the people had become habituated to the
orderly ways of civilisation, and were living in peace and amity. It
was admitted by the officials that the agreements which they concluded
with the chiefs had only been rendered possible by the teaching of the
missionaries: and later it was largely upon the same sure and solid
foundations that British authority was to build.

So, she realised, it was not a case where one could say, "Let there be
light," and light would shine. The work of the Mission was like
building a lighthouse stone by stone, layer by layer, with infinite
toil and infinite patience. Yet she often found it hard to restrain her
eagerness. "It is difficult to wait," she said. One text, however, kept
repeating itself--"Learn of Me." "Christ never was in a hurry," she
wrote. "There was no rushing forward, no anticipating, no fretting over
what might be, Every day's duties were done as every day brought them,
and the rest was left with God. 'He that believeth shall not make
haste.'" And in that spirit she worked.

Her better knowledge of the position made her resolve to acquire a
thorough mastery of the language in order to enter completely into the
life and thought of the natives. Interpretation she had already found
to be untrustworthy, and she was told the tale of a native who,
translating an address on the rich man and Lazarus, remarked, in an
aside to the audience, that for himself he would prefer to be the rich
man! Efik was the tongue of Calabar and of trade and commerce, and was
understood more or less over a wide tract of country. She learnt it by
ear, and from the people, rather than from the book, and soon picked up
enough to take a larger share in the varied work of the Mission.

Life had a piquancy in these days when she lived with the Andersons on
Mission Hill. "Daddy" Anderson was a veteran of the Mission, but it was
"Mammy" Anderson with whom she came into closest relation. Of strong
individuality, she ruled the town from the Mission House, and the
chiefs were fain to do her bidding. At first Mary stood somewhat in awe
of her. One of the duties assigned to her was to ring, before dawn, the
first bell for the day to call the faithful to morning prayer. There
were no alarm clocks then, and occasionally she overslept, and the
rebuke she received from Mrs. Anderson made her cheeks burn. Sometimes
she would wake with a start to find her room flooded with light. Half-
dazed with sleep and shamed at her remissness she would hurry out to
ring the bell, only to discover that it was not dawn but the light of
the moon that was making the world so bright.

At one time when doing duty in Old Town she had to walk along a narrow
native track through the bush. To let off the high spirits that had
been bottled up in the Mission House she would climb any tree that took
her fancy. She affirmed that she had climbed every tree worthy of the
name between Duke Town and Old Town. Sometimes her fun made her late
for meals, and Mrs. Anderson would warn her that if she offended again
she would go without food. She did offend, and then Mr. Anderson would
smuggle biscuits and bananas to her, with, she was confident, the
connivance of his wife. She had a warm affection for all the members of
the Mission staff, but for none more than for "Mammy" Anderson.

There was one of the humbler inmates of the Mission who watched with
affectionate interest the young missionary with the soft voice and
dancing eyes. This was Mrs. Fuller, a coloured woman who had come over
from Jamaica in 1858 with the Rev. Mr. Robb and Mrs. Robb as a nurse,
and married and remained after they left to be a help and comfort to
many. She remembered the day when the slaves were emancipated in the
West Indies. A kindly, happy, unselfish soul, she never spoke ill of
any one. Somebody said to her, "Mammy, I believe you would say a good
word about the devil himself." "Well," she replied, "at any rate he
minds his own business." "Dear old Mammy Fuller," Miss Slessor called
her, little dreaming that Mammy would live to throw flowers into her

                         III. IN THE UNDERWORLD

In the hush of a beautiful Sunday morning the new missionary begins
what she calls the commonplace work of the day. Looking out some
illustrated texts she sends a few with a kindly message to all the big
men, reminding them that Mr. Anderson expects them at service. Then she
sets out for the town, and few people escape her keen eye and
persuasive words.

"Why are you not going to God's House?" she asks a man who is sitting
at the door of his hut. Close by are the remains of a devil-house.

He rocks himself and replies, "If your heart was vexed would you go any
place? Would you not rather sit at home and nurse your sorrow?"

Mary learns that his only child has died and has been buried in the
house, and according to custom the family is sitting in filth, squalor,
and drunkenness. She talks to him of the resurrection, and he becomes
interested, and takes her into a room where the mother is sitting with
bowed head over the grave, the form of which can be seen distinctly
under a blue cloth that covers the ground. A bunch of dirty muslin is
hanging from the ceiling. It is a dismal scene. She reads part of John
xi., and speaks about life and death and the beyond.

"Well," remarked the man, "if God took the child I don't care so much--
but to think an enemy bewitched it!"

To the mother she says, "Do you not find comfort in these words?"

"No," is the sullen reply. "Why should I find comfort when my child is

Mary pats her on the head, and tells her how her own mother has found
comfort in the thought of the reunion hereafter. The woman is touched
and weeps: the mother-heart is much the same all the world over.

A few slave-girls are all she finds in the next yard, the other inmates
having gone to work at the farms; but she speaks to them and they
listen respectfully. Another yard is crowded with women, some eating,
some sleeping, some dressing each other's hair, some lounging half-
naked on the ground gossiping--a picture of sheer animalism. Her advent
creates a welcome diversion, and they are willing to listen: it helps
to pass the time. They take her into an inner yard where a fine-looking
young woman is being fattened for her future husband. She flouts the
message, and is spoken to sternly and left half-crestfallen, half-
defiant. It is scenes like this which convince Mary that the women are
the greatest problem in the Mission Field. She does not wonder that the
men are as they are. If they are to be reached more must be done for
the women, and a prayer goes up that the Church at home may realise the

Farther on is a heathen house. The master is dead: the mistress is an
old woman, hardened and repulsive, the embodiment of all that is evil,
who is counting coppers in a room filled with bush, skulls, sacrifices,
and charms. A number of half-starved cowed women and girls covered with
dirt and sores are quarrelling over a pipe. The shrill voice and long
arms of the mistress settle the matter, and make them fly helter-
skelter. They call on Mary to speak, and after many interruptions she
subdues and controls them, and leaves them, for the moment, impressed.

She arrives at a district which the lady agents have long worked. The
women are cleanly, pleasant, and industrious, but polished hypocrites,
always ready to protest with smooth tongue and honeyed words that they
are eager to be "god-women," but never taking the first step forwards.
Mary, who is learning to be sarcastic, on occasion, gives them a bit of
her mind and goes away heart-sick. But she is cheered at the next yard,
where she has a large and attentive audience.

In the poorest part she comes upon a group of men selling rum. At the
sight of the "white Ma" they put the stuff away and beg her to stay.
They are quiet until she denounces the sale of the liquor; then one

"What for white man bring them rum suppose them rum no be good? He be
god-man bring the rum--then what for god-man talk so?"

What can she answer?

It is a vile fluid this trade spirit, yet the country is deluged with
it, and it leaves behind it disaster and demoralisation and ruined
homes. Mary feels bitter against the civilised countries that seek
profit from the moral devastation of humanity.

She cannot answer the man.

A husband brings his woebegone wife who has lost five children. Can
"Ma" not give her some medicine? She again speaks of the resurrection.
A crowd gathers and listens breathlessly. When she says that even the
twin-children are safe with God, and that they will yet confront their
murderers, the people start, shrug their shoulders, and with looks of
terror slink one by one away.

She visits many of the hovels, which are little better than ruins.
Pools of filth send out pestilential odours. There is starvation in
every pinched face and misery in every sunken eye. Covered with sores
the inmates lie huddled together and clamour only for food. One old
woman says:

"I have prayed and prayed till there is no breath left in me. God does
not answer. He does not care."

"To whom do you pray?"

"I don't know, but I call Him God. I tell Him I have no friend. I say
'You see me. I am sick. I am hungry. I am good. I don't steal. I don't
keep bread from any one. I don't kill. I don't speak with my mouth when
my heart is far away. Have mercy upon me.'"

Mary talks to her lovingly and earnestly, and when she leaves, the
heart of the wretched woman is quietened and grateful.

It is afternoon, and time for the Efik service at four o'clock, and
Mary, a little tired with the heat and the strain, turns and makes for
Mission Hill.

                          IV. THE PULL OF HOME

It was not long before she had to revise her opinion of the climate.
Nature was beautiful, but beneath its fair appearance lurked influences
that were cruel and pitiless. "Calabar needs a brave heart and a stout
body," she wrote; "not that I have very much of the former, but I have
felt the need for it often when sick and lonely." Both the dry and
rainy seasons had their drawbacks, but she especially disliked the
former-which lasted from December to March-because of the "smokes" or
harmattan, a haze composed of fine dust blown from the great African
desert, that withered her up and sucked out all the energy she
possessed. She was frequently attacked by fever, and laid aside, and on
one occasion was at the point of death. But she never lost her
confidence in God. Once she thought she had. It was during an illness
when she was only semi-conscious, but on recovering the clearness of
her mind she realised that she had given herself into His keeping and
need not fear, and a sense of comfort and peace stole over her. So many
attacks weakened her constitution and made her think oftener of home.
She began to have a longing to look again upon loved faces, to have
grey skies overhead, and to feel the tang of the clean cool air on her
cheek, "I want my home and my mother," she confessed. It was home-
sickness, and there is only one cure for that. It comes, however, to
pass. It is not so overpowering after the first home-going, and it
grows less importunate after each visit. One finds after a short
absence that things in the old environment are, somehow, not the same;
that there has ceased to be a niche which one can fill; that one has a
fresh point of view; and as time goes on and the roots of life go
deeper into the soil of the new country, the realisation comes that it
is in the homeland where one is homeless, and in the land of exile
where one is at home. But at first the pull of the old associations is
irresistible; and so when her furlough was due, Mary flew to Scotland
as a wandered bird flies wing-weary back to its nest.

She left Calabar in June 1879 and proceeded straight to Dundee. During
her stay she removed her mother and sisters to Downfield, a village on
the outskirts of the city, and was happy in the knowledge that all was
well with them. Friends who listened to her graphic account of Calabar
tell that even then she spoke of her desire to go up country into the
unworked fields, and especially to the Okoyong district, but "Daddy"
Anderson was opposed to the idea. Before returning, she wrote the
Foreign Mission Committee and begged to be sent to a station other than
Duke Town, though she loyally added that she would do whatever was
thought best. She sailed with the Rev. Hugh Goldie, one of the veteran
pioneers of the Mission, and Mrs. Goldie, and on arrival at Calabar, in
October 1880, found to her joy that she was to be in charge of Old
Town, and that she was a real missionary at last.

                        V. AT THE SEAT OF SATAN

The first sight she saw on entering her new sphere was a human skull
hung on a pole at the entrance to the town. In Old Town and the smaller
stations of Qua, Akim, and Ikot Ansa, lying back in the tribal district
of Ekoi, the people were amongst the most degraded in Calabar. It was a
difficult field, but she entered upon it with zest. Although under the
supervision of Duke Town, she was practically her own mistress, and
could carry out her own ideas and methods. This was important for her,
for, to her chagrin, she had found that boarding was expensive in
Calabar, and as she had to leave a large portion of her salary at home
for the support of her mother and sisters, she could not afford to live
as the other lady agents did. She had to economise in every direction,
and took to subsisting wholly on native food. It was in this way she
acquired those simple, Spartan-like habits which accompanied her
through life. Her colleagues attributed her desire for isolation and
native ways to natural inclination, not dreaming that they were a
matter of compulsion, for she was too loyal to her home and too proud
of spirit to reveal the reason for her action.

One drawback of the situation was the dilapidated state of the house.
It was built of wattle and mud, had a mat roof and a whitewashed
interior. She did not, however, mind its condition; she was so absorbed
in the work that personal comfort was a matter of indifference to her.
Her household consisted of a young woman and several boys and girls,
with whose training she took endless pains, and who helped her and
accompanied her to her meetings. School work made large drafts on her
time at Old Town, Qua, and Akim. Young and old came as scholars. At Qua
the chief man of the place after the king sat on a bench with little
children, and along with them repeated the Sunday School lessons. He
set them an example, for he was never absent.

But to preach the love of Christ was her passion. With every visitor
who called to give compliments, with every passer-by who came out of
curiosity to see what the white woman and her house were like, with all
who brought a dispute to settle, she had talk about the Saviour of the
world. Sunday was a day of special effort in this direction. She would
set out early for Qua, where two boys carrying a bell slung on a pole
summoned the people to service. One of the chiefs would fix the benches
and arrange the audience, which usually numbered from 80 to 100, She
would go on to Akim or Ikot Ansa, where a similar meeting was held. On
the way she would visit sick folk, or call in at farms, have friendly
conversation with master and dependants, and give a brief address and
prayer. By mid-day she would be back at Old Town, where she conducted a
large Sunday School. In the evening a regular church service was held,
attended by almost the entire community. This, to her, was the meeting
of the week. It took place in the yard of the chief. At one side stood
a table, covered with a white cloth, on which were a primitive lamp and
a Bible. The darkness, the rows of dusky faces just revealed by the
flickering light, the strained attention, the visible emotion made up a
strange picture. At the end came hearty "good-nights," and she would be
escorted home by a procession of lantern-bearers.

Such service, incessant and loving, began to tell. The behaviour of the
people improved; the god of the town was banished; the chiefs went the
length of saying that their laws and customs were clearly at variance
with God's fashions. Mr. Anderson reported to the Church at home that
she was "doing nobly." When two deputies went out and inspected the
Mission in 1881-82, they were much impressed by her energy and
devotion. "Her labours are manifold," they stated, "but she sustains
them cheerfully--she enjoys the unreserved friendship and confidence of
the people, and has much influence over them." This they attributed
partly to the singular ease with which she spoke the language. Learning
that she preferred her present manner of life to being associated with
another white person--they were unaware, like others, of the real
reason which governed her--they recommended that she should be allowed
to continue her solitary course.

It was at Old Town that she came first into close contact with the more
sinister aspects of mission work, and obtained that training and
experience in dealing with the natives and native problems which led
her into the larger responsibilities of the future. Despite the
influence of the missionaries and the British Consul, many of the worst
heathen iniquities were being practised. A short time previously the
Consul had made a strong effort to get the chiefs to enforce the laws
regarding twin-murder, human sacrifice, the stripping and flogging of
women by Egbo-runners, and other offences, and an agreement had been
reached; but no treaty, no Egbo proclamation could root out the customs
of centuries, and they continued to be followed, in secret in the towns
and openly in the country districts.

The evil of twin-murder had a terrible fascination for her. A woman who
gave birth to twins was regarded with horror. The belief was that the
father of one of the infants was an evil spirit, and that the mother
had been guilty of a great sin; one at least of the children was
believed to be a monster, and as they were never seen by outsiders or
allowed to live, no one could disprove the fact. They were seized,
their backs were broken, and they were crushed into a calabash or
water-pot and taken out--not by the doorway, but by a hole broken in
the back wall, which was at once built up--and thrown into the bush,
where they were left to be eaten by insects and wild beasts. Sometimes
they would be placed alive into the pots. As for the mother, she was
driven outside the bounds of decent society and compelled to live alone
in the bush. In such circumstances there was only one thing for the
missionaries to do. As soon as twins were born they sought to obtain
possession of them, and gave them the security and care of the Mission
House. Some of the Mission compounds were alive with babies. It was no
use taking the mother along with them. She believed she must be
accursed, for otherwise she would never be in such a position. First
one and then the other child would die, and she would make her escape
and fly to the bush.

Mary realised that the system was the outcome of superstition and fear,
and she could even see how, from the native point of view, it was
essential for the safety of the House, but her heart was hot against
it; nothing, indeed, roused her so fiercely as the senseless cruelty of
putting these innocent babes to death, and she joined in the campaign
with fearless energy.

She could also understand why the natives threw away infants whose
slave-mother died. No slave had time to bring up another woman's child.
If she did undertake the task, it would only be hers during childhood;
after that it became the property of the master. The chances of a
slave-child surviving were not good enough for a free woman to try the
experiment, and as life in any case was of little value, it was
considered best that the infant should be put out of the way.

The need of special service in these directions made her suggest to the
Foreign Mission Committee that one of the woman agents should be set
apart to take care of the children that were rescued. It was
impossible, she said, for one to do school or other work, and attend to
them as well. "If such a crowd of twins should come to her as I have to
manage, she would require to devote her whole time to them." More and
more also she was convinced of the necessity of women's work among the
women in the farming districts, and she pressed the matter upon the
Committee. She was in line with the old chief who remarked that "them
women be the best man for the Mission."

Another evil which violated her sense of justice and right, and against
which she took up arms, was the trade attitude of the Calabar people.
Although they had settled on the coast only by grace of the Ekois, they
endeavoured to monopolise all dealings with the Europeans and prevent
the inland tribes from doing business direct with the factories. Often
the up-river men would make their way down stealthily, but if caught
they were slain or mutilated, and a bitter vendetta would ensue. She
recognised that it would only be by the tribes coming to know and
respect each other, and by the adoption of unrestricted trade with the
stores that the full reward of industry could be secured. She
accordingly took up the cause of the inland tribes. When Efik was at
war with Qua, sentries were posted at all the paths to the factories,
but the people came to her by night, and she would lead them down the
track running through the Mission property. At the factory next to the
Mission beach they would deliver their palm oil or kernels, and take
back the goods for which they had bartered them. In this way she helped
to open up the country. It was not, perhaps, mission work in the
ordinary sense any more than much of Dr. Livingstone's work was
missionary work, but it was an effort to break down the conditions that
perpetuated wrong and dispeace, and to introduce the forces of
righteousness and goodwill. In all this work she had the sympathy of
the traders, who showed her much kindness. She was a missionary after
their own heart.

                        VI. IN ELEPHANT COUNTRY

The spirit of the pioneer would not allow her to be content with the
routine of village work. She began to go afield, and made trips of
exploration along the river. The people found her different from other
missionaries; she would enter their townships as one of themselves,
show them in a moment that she was mistress of their thought and ways,
and get right into their confidence. Always carrying medicine, she
attended the sick, and so many maimed and diseased crowded to her that
often she would lose the tide twice over. In her opinion no preaching
surpassed these patient, intimate interviews on the banks of the river
and by the wayside, when she listened to tales of suffering and sorrow
and gave sympathy and practical help. Sometimes she remained away for
nights at a time, and on these occasions her only accommodation was a
mud hut and her only bed a bundle of filthy rags.

A larger venture was made at the instance of a chief named Okon, a
political refugee whom she knew. He had settled at a spot on the
western bank of the estuary, then called Ibaka, now James Town, and had
long urged her to pay the place a visit. It was only some thirty miles
away, but thirty miles to the African is more than two hundred to a
European, and Old Town was in a state of excitement for days before she
left. Nine A.M. was the hour fixed for departure, but Mary knew local
ways, and forenoon found her calmly cooking the dinner. The house was
crowded with visitors begging her to be careful, and threatening
vengeance if anything happened to their "Ma." At 6 P.M. came word that
all was ready, and, followed by a retinue comprising half the
population, she made her way to the beach. Women who were not
ordinarily permitted to be viewed by the public eye waited at every
yard to embrace hers and to charge all concerned to look well alter her

A State canoe sent by the King lay at the water-side. It had been
repainted for the occasion in the gayest of colours, while thoughtful
hands had erected a little arch of matting to seclude her from the
paddlers and afford protection from the dew, and had arranged some
rice-bags as a couch. The pathos of the tribute touched her, and with a
smile and a word of thanks she stepped into her place and settled the
four house-children about the feet of the paddlers. More hours were
lost in one way or another. Darkness fell, and only the red gleam of
the torches lit up the scene. Alligators and snakes haunted the spot,
but she had no fear so long as the clamour of the crowd continued.

At last, "Sio udeñ!" The command was answered by the "dip-dip" of
thirty-three paddles, and the canoe glided into the middle of the river
and sped onwards. In her crib she tried to read by the light of a
candle, while the paddlers extemporised songs in her honour, assigning
to her all the virtues under the sun--

          _Ma, our beautiful, beloved mother, is on board,
           Ho! Ho! Ho_!

The gentle movement, the monotonous "tom-tom-tum" of the drummer, and
the voice of the steersman, became mingled in a dreamy jumble, and she
slept through the night as soundly as on a bed of down. Ten hours'
paddling brought the craft to its destination, and at dawn she was
carried ashore over golden sand and under great trees, and deposited in
the chief's compound amongst goats, dogs, and fowls. She and the
children were given the master's room--which always opens out into the
women's yard--and as it possessed no door a piece of calico was hung up
as a screen. The days were tolerable, but the nights were such as even
she, inured to African conditions, found almost unbearable. It was the
etiquette of the country that all the wives should sit as close to the
white woman as was compatible with her idea of comfort, and as the aim
of each was to be fatter than the other, and they all perspired freely,
and there was no ventilation, it required all her courage to outlast
the ordeal. Lizards, too, played among the matting of the roof, and
sent down showers of dust, while rats performed hop, skip, and jump
over the sleepers.

Crowds began to pour in from a wide area. Many of the people had never
looked upon a white woman, and she had to submit to being handled and
examined in order to prove that she was flesh and blood like
themselves. Doubtful men and women were forcibly dragged to her by
laughing companions and made to touch her skin. At meal times she was
on exhibition to a favoured few, who watched how she ate and drank, and
then described the operations to the others outside.

Day by day she prescribed and bandaged, cut out garments, superintended
washing, and initiated women into the secrets of starching and ironing.
Day by day she held a morning and evening service, and it was with
difficulty that she prevented the one from merging into the other. On
Sabbath the yard became strangely quiet: all connected with it were
clothed and clean, and in a corner stood a table with a white cloth and
upon it a Bible and hymn-book. As the fierce-looking, noisy men from a
distance entered they stopped involuntarily and a hush fell upon them.
Many heard the story of Christ for the first time, and never had she a
more appreciative audience. In the evening the throng was so great that
her voice could barely reach them all, and at the end they came up to
her and with deep feeling wished her good-night and then vanished
quietly into the darkness.

The people would not allow her to walk out much on account of the
presence of wild beasts. Elephants were numerous--it was because of the
destruction they had wrought on the farms that fishing had become the
main support of the township. Early one morning a commotion broke out:
a boa constrictor had been seen during the night, and bands of men
armed with clubs, cutlasses, and muskets set off, yelling, to hunt the
monster. Whenever she moved out she was followed by all the men, women,
and children. On every side she saw skulls, rudely carved images,
peace-offerings of food to hungry spirits, and other evidences of
debased fetishism, while cases of witchcraft and poisoning were

One day she noticed a tornado brewing on the Cameroon heights, and kept
indoors. While sitting sewing the storm burst. The wind seized the
village, lifting fences, canoes, trees, and buildings; lightning played
and crackled about the hut; the thunder pealed overhead; and rain fell
in floods. Then a column of flame leapt from the sky to earth, and a
terrific crash deafened the cowering people. Accustomed as she was to
tornadoes Mary was afraid. The slaves came rushing into the yard,
shrieking, and at the same moment the roof of her hut was swept away,
and she was beaten to the ground by the violence of the rain. In the
light of the vivid flashes she groped her way through the water, now up
to her ankles, and from her boxes obtained all the wraps she possessed.
To keep up the spirits of the children she started a hymn, "Oh, come
let us sing." Amidst the roar of the elements they caught the tune, and
gradually their terror was subdued. When the torrent ceased she was in
a high fever. She dosed herself with quinine, and as the shadow of
death is never very far away in Africa she made all arrangements in
case the end should come. But her temperature fell, and in two days she
was herself again.

There was a morning when her greetings were responded to with such
gravity that she knew something serious had occurred. During the night
two of the young wives of a chief had broken the strictest law in Efik,
had left the women's yard and entered one where a boy was sleeping, and
as nothing can be hidden in a slave community their husband knew at
once. The culprits were called out, and with them two other girls, who
were aware of the escapade, but did not tell. The chief, and the men of
position in his compound and district, sat in judgment upon them, and
decided that each must receive one hundred stripes.

Mary sought out Okon and talked the matter over. "Ma," he said, "it be
proper big palaver, but if you say we must not flog we must listen to
you as our mother and our guest. But they will say that God's word be
no good if it destroy the power of the law to punish evildoers."

He agreed, however, to delay the punishment, and to bring the judges
and the people together in a palaver at mid-day. When all were
assembled she addressed the girls:

"You have brought much shame on us by your folly and by abusing your
master's confidence while the yard is in our possession. Though God's
word teaches men to be merciful, it does not countenance or pass over
sin, and I cannot shelter you from punishment. You have knowingly and
deliberately brought it on yourselves. Ask God to keep you in the
future so that your conduct may not be a reproach to yourselves and the
word of God which you know."

Many were the grunts of satisfaction from the people, and the faces of
the big men cleared as they heard their verdict being endorsed, while
darker and more defiant grew the looks of the girls.

With a swift movement she turned to the gathering:

"Ay, but you are really to blame. It is your system of polygamy which
is a disgrace to you and a cruel injustice to these helpless women.
Girls like these, sixteen years old, are not beyond the age of fun and
frolic. To confine them as you do is a shame and a blot on your
manhood: obedience such as you command is not worth the having."

Frowns greeted this denunciation, and the old men muttered:

"When the punishment is severe, neither slave nor wife dare disobey:
the old fashions are better than the new."

Much heated discussion followed, but at last she succeeded in getting
the punishment reduced to the infliction of ten stripes and nothing
more. She had gone as far as she dared. Under ordinary circumstances
salt would have been rubbed into the wounds, and mutilation or
dismemberment would have followed. She thanked the men, enjoined the
wives and slaves to show their gratitude by a willing and true service,
and went to prepare alleviations for the victims.

Through the shouting and laughing of the operators and onlookers she
heard piercing screams, as strong arms plied the alligator hide, and
one by one the girls came running into her, bleeding and quivering in
the agony of pain. By and by the opiate did its work and all sank into
uneasy slumber.

Fourteen days went by, and it was time for the return journey. The same
noise and excitement and delay occurred, and it was afternoon ere the
canoe left the beach. The evening meal, a mess of yam and herbs, cooked
in palm oil, which had been carried on board smoking hot from the fire
and was served in the pot, had scarcely been disposed of when the
splendour of the sunset and afterglow was swept aside by a mass of
angry cloud, and the moaning of the wind fell threateningly on the ear.
"A stormy night ahead," said Mary apprehensively to Okon, who gave a
long look upward and steered for the lee of an island. The sky
blackened, thunder growled, and the water began to lift. The first rush
of wind gripped the canoe and whirled it round, while the crew, hissing
through their set teeth, pulled their hardest. In vain. They got out of
hand, and there was uproar and craven fear. Sharing in the panic the
master was powerless. At the sight of others in peril Mary threw aside
her own nervousness and anxiety and took command. In a few moments
order was restored and the boat was brought close to the tangle of
bush, and the men, springing up like monkeys into the branches, held on
to the canoe, which was now being dashed up and down like a straw. Mary
sat with the water up to her knees, the children lashed to her by a
waterproof, their heads hidden in her lap. Lightning, thunder, rain,
and wave combined to make one of the grandest displays of the earth's
forces she had ever witnessed.

As quickly as it came the storm passed, and to the strains of a hymn
which she started the journey was resumed. She was shaking with ague,
and in order to put some heat into her the chief came and sat down on
one side, while his big wife sat on the other. As her temperature rose,
the paddlers grew alarmed, and pulled as they had never done in their
lives. Dawn was stealing over the land when Old Town was reached, and
as "Ma" was hardly a fit sight for critical eyes, she was carried up by
a bush path to the Mission House.

Ill as she was, her first care was to make a fire to obtain hot tea for
the children and to tuck them away comfortably for the night. Then she
tottered to her bed, to rise some days later, a wreck of her former
self, but smiling and cheerful as usual....

Towards the close of the year 1882 a tornado swept over Old Town and
damaged the house to such an extent that she had to make a hasty escape
and take refuge in a factory. The Presbytery brought her to Duke Town,
but she became so ill as a result of her strenuous life and her
experience in the storm, that she was ordered home, and left in April
1888. She was so frail that she was carried on board, and it was
considered doubtful whether she would outlive the voyage. With her was
a girl-twin she had rescued. She had saved both, a boy and girl, but
whilst she was absent from the house for a little, the relatives came,
and, by false pretences, obtained possession of the boy, and killed
him. She was determined that the girl should live and grow up to
confute their fears, and she would not incur the risk of leaving her

                       VII. WITH BACK TO THE WALL

Many strange experiences came to Mary Slessor in her life, but it is
doubtful whether any adventure equalled that which she was now to go
through in the quiet places of home, or whether any period of her
career was so crowded with emotion and called for higher courage and

She remained for the greater part of the time with her mother and
sisters at Downfield, seeing few people, and nursing the little black
twin, who was baptized in Wishart Sunday School, and called Janie,
after her sister.

One of her earliest visits was to her friends the Doigs in the south
side of Edinburgh, and here again her life touched and influenced
another life. There was in connection with Bristo Street Church a girl
named Jessie F. Hogg, who worked in the mission at Cowan's Close where
the "two Marys" had formerly taught. She had heard much about Mary
Slessor, and when, one Sunday, a lady friend remarked that she was
going to visit the missionary, Miss Hogg declared she would give much
to meet her. "Then come with me," said the lady, "I will leave you at
the foot of the stair, and if you are to come up I will call you." She
was invited up, and was not five minutes in Mary's presence before the
latter said, "And what are you doing at home? What is hindering you
from going to the mission field?" "There is nothing to hinder me," was
the reply. "Then come: there is a good work waiting for you to do."
Miss Hogg applied to the Foreign Mission Committee and was accepted,
received some medical training, and was in Calabar before Mary herself
returned. The anticipations of the latter were fulfilled. For thirteen
years, with quiet heroism, Miss Hogg did a great work as one of the
"Mothers of the Mission": her name was a household word, both in
Calabar and at home: and when, through ill-health, she retired, she
left a memory that is still cherished by the natives. There were few of
the missionaries then who loved and understood Mary better, and whom
Mary loved so well.

Mary's ideas of the qualities needed for work among the ignorant and
degraded may be gathered from a letter which she wrote at this time to
a friend in Dundee:

Nothing, I believe, will ever touch or raise fallen ones except
sympathy. They shrink from self-righteousness which would stoop to
them, and they hate patronage and pity. Of sympathy and patience they
stand in need. They also need refinement, for the humble classes
respect it, and they are sharper at detecting the want of it than many
of those above them in the social scale. I am not a believer in the
craze for "ticket-of-leave men" and "converted prize-fighters" to
preach to the poor and the outcast. I think the more of real refinement
and beauty and education that enter into all Christian work, the more
real success and lasting, wide-reaching results of a Christian and
elevating nature will follow. Vulgarity and ignorance can never in
themselves lay hold on the uneducated classes, or on any class, though
God often shows us how He can dispense with man's help altogether. Then
there is need for knowledge in such a work, knowledge of the Bible as a
whole, not merely of the special passages which are adapted for
evangelistic services. They know all the set phrases belonging to
special services and open-sir meetings. They want teaching, and they
will respect nothing else. I am pained often at home that there is so
little of depth, and of God's word, in the speeches and addresses I
hear. It seems as if they thought anything will do for children, and
that any kind of talk about coming to Christ, and believing on Christ,
will feed and nourish immortal souls.

In January 1884 she informed the Foreign Mission Committee that her
health was re-established and that she was ready to return, and in
accordance with her own desire it was arranged to make the house
habitable at Old Town and send her back there. Meanwhile she had begun
to address meetings in connection with the missionary organisations of
congregations, and at these her simple but vivid style, the human
interest of her story, and the living illustration she presented in the
shape of Janie, made so great an impression that the ladies of Glasgow
besought the Committee to retain her for a time in order that she might
go through the country and give her account of the work to quiet
gatherings of women, young and old. The suggestion was acted upon, and
for some months she was engaged in itinerating. It was not in the line
of her inclination. She was very shy, and had a humbling consciousness
of her defects, and to appear in public was an ordeal. It was often a
sheer impossibility for her to open her lips when men were present, and
she would make it a condition that none should be in her audience. When
some distinguished minister or Church leader had been requisitioned to
preside, a situation was created as embarrassing to him as to her. She
did not, however, seem to mind if the disturbing factor was out of
sight, and the difficulty was usually overcome by placing the chairman
somewhere behind. These meetings taxed her strength more than the work
in Africa, and she began to long for release. In December the Committee
gave her permission to return, but, as conditions in the field had
changed, decided to send her in the meantime to Creek Town to assist
Miss Johnstone, who was not in good health.

Within a few weeks a situation developed which altered her plans. The
severe weather had told on the delicate constitution of her youngest
sister Janie, a quiet, timid girl, but bright and intelligent, and
somewhat akin to herself in mind and manner; and it was made clear that
only a change to a milder climate would save her life. Mary was torn
with apprehension. She had a heart that was bigger than her body, and
she loved her own people with passionate intensity, and was ready for
any further sacrifice for their sake. Never bold on her own behalf, she
would dare anything for others. Thinking out the problem how best she
could reconcile her affection for her sister and her duty to the
Mission, she fell upon a plan which she would have shrunk from
proposing had she alone been concerned. If she could take the invalid
out with her to Creek Town, and if they were allowed to dwell by
themselves, the life of her sister would not only be prolonged, but she
herself would be able to continue, by living native fashion, to pay her
share of the expenses at home. To the Committee, accordingly, she wrote
early in 1885, stating that she would not feel free to go to Creek Town
unless she were permitted to take her sister with her, and unless she
were allowed, instead of boarding with any of the Mission agents, to
build a small mud house for their accommodation.

The Committee received the proposal with a certain mild astonishment.
It had many a problem to solve in its administration of the affairs of
the Missions, but its difficulties were always increased when it came
into contact with that incalculable element, human nature. It could not
be supposed to know all the personal and private circumstances that
influenced the attitude of the missionaries: it could only judge from
the surface facts placed before it; and as a rule it decided wisely,
and was never lacking in the spirit of kindness and generosity. But
even if the members had known of that fluttering heart in Dundee, they
could not, in the best interests of the Mission, have acquiesced in her
scheme, and it was probably well, also, for Mary that it was gently but
firmly put aside.

For her the way out was found in the recommendation of an Exeter lady
whom she had met, who advised her to take her sister to Devonshire. She
seized on the idea, and forthwith wrote a letter stating that she felt
it to be her duty to remove the invalid to the South of England, where
she hoped her health would be restored, and asking whether in the event
of her own way being cleared she would be allowed to return to Calabar,
or whether she was to consider herself finally separated from the
Mission. Nothing could have been more sympathetic than the reply of the
Board. It regretted her family afflictions, said it would be glad to
have the offer of her services again in the future, and in
consideration of her work continued her home allowance till the end of

Meanwhile Mary had, in her swift fashion, carried off her sister, and
her answer came from Devonshire. She thanked the Committee for its
consideration, but, with the independence which always characterised
her, accepted the allowance only up to the end of February. Thus
voluntarily, and from a sense of duty, but with a sore heart, she cut
herself adrift, for the time being, from the service of the Church.

As the climate of Devonshire seemed to suit her sister, they went to
Topsham, where a house was secured with the help of a Mr. Ellis, a
deacon in the Congregational Church, to whom she was introduced. It was
soon furnished, and then her mother was brought down, and for all her
toil and self-sacrifice she was rewarded by seeing a steady improvement
in the condition of the invalid, and the quiet happiness of both. The
place proved too relaxing for her own health, and she was never free
from headaches, but she was not one to allow indisposition to interfere
with her service for the Master. In the Congregational Church her
winning ways made many friends, and she was soon taking an active part
in the meetings and addressing large gatherings on her work in Calabar.

And then another event occurred which further complicated the
situation. Her sister Susan in Scotland went to pay a visit to Mrs.
M'Crindle, and died suddenly on entering her house. Mary had now the
full responsibility for the home and its upkeep; she was earning
nothing, and she had her mother and sister and the African baby to
provide and care for. Happily the invalid continued to improve, and as
it was imperative for Mary to be back at work, it was decided that she
should apply for reinstatement. She told her mother of her desire to go
up-country, and asked whether she would allow her to do so if the
opportunity came. "You are my child, given to me by God," was the
reply, "and I have given you back to Him. When He needs you and where
He sends you, there I would have you be." Mary never forgot these brave
words, which were a comfort to her throughout her life. On applying to
the Foreign Mission Committee stating that she was willing, if it saw
fit, to go back at once, she was gladly reinstated, and Calabar was
consulted regarding her location. As there was some talk of a forward
movement it was resolved to leave the matter over, and send her in the
meantime to Creek Town.

Her friends in Topsham assured her that they would look well after her
mother and sister, but all the arrangements she had made for the smooth
working of the household collapsed a month before she was booked to
sail. Her mother suddenly failed and took to her bed. Mary grew
desperate with strain and anxiety, and like a wild creature at bay
turned this way and that for an avenue of escape. In her agony of mind
she went to Him who had never failed her yet, and He gave her guidance.
Next day a letter was on its way to Dundee to an old factory friend,
asking if she would come and take charge of the household. A strange
mingling of pathos and dignity, a passionate love and solicitude,
marked the appeal, which, happily, evoked a ready assent. Not less
moving in its way was the practical letter she sent to her friend, with
long and minute directions as to travelling; there was not a detail
forgotten, the mention of which might contribute to her ease and
comfort. Her friend arrived a few days before her departure. On Guy
Fawkes' Day Mary wished to take her to a church meeting to introduce
her to some acquaintances, but was too afraid to venture out among the
roughs--she who was soon to face alone some of the most savage crowds
in Africa!

On the sea the past months receded and became like an uneasy dream. She
was content simply to lie In her chair on deck and rest her tired mind
and body. On arriving it was pleasant to receive a warm welcome from
all the Mission friends, and still more pleasant to find that there had
been talk of her going to Ikunetu to attempt to obtain a footing among
the wild people of Okoyong.

                              VIII. BEREFT

Despite her happiness in being back at the work she loved, there was an
underlying current of anxiety in her life. Her thoughts dwelt on the
invalids at home; she wearied for letters; she trembled before the
arrival of the mails; even her dreams influenced her. But she would not
allow herself to grow morbid. Every morning she went to the houses in
the Mission before breakfast to have a chat and cheer up the inmates.
On New Year's Eve, fearing the adoption of European customs by the
natives, and wishing to forestall them, she invited all the young men
who were Christians to a prayer-meeting from eleven o'clock till
midnight. They then went up and serenaded Mr. and Mrs. Luke, two new
missionaries, whose subsequent pioneer work up-river was a record of
toil and heroism. Mr. Luke entered into the spirit of the innovation.
He gave out the 2nd Paraphrase and read the 90th Psalm. Prayer was
uttered, and the company separated, singing the evening hymn in Efik.

Next morning, the first of the year 1886, she arose early and wrote a
letter, overflowing with love and tenderness and cheer, to her mother
and sister. It was finished on the third, on the arrival of the home
mail. She was at tea with Mrs. Luke before going to a meeting in the
church, when the letters came. "I was hardly able to wait for mine,"
she wrote; "and then I rushed to my room and behaved like a silly body,
as if it had been bad news. It brought you all so clearly before me. At
church I sat beside the King and cried quietly into my wrap all the
evening," The last words in her letter were, "Tell me all your
troubles, and be sure you take care of yourselves." She never received
a reply. Mrs. Slessor had died suddenly and peacefully at the turn of
the year. She had been nursed by loving hands, whilst her medical
attendant and the minister of the Congregational Church, and his wife,
showed her much kindness. Three months later Janie also passed away,
and was laid beside her mother in Topsham cemetery, the deacons and
members of the church and many friends attending and showing honour to
one whom they had learned to love for her own sake as well as for her

Mary was inconsolable. "I, who all my life have been caring and
planning and living for them, am left, as it were, stranded and alone."
A sense of desolation and loneliness unsupportable swept over her.
After all the sorrow that had crowded upon her she felt no desire to do
anything. "There is no one to write and tell all my stories and
troubles and nonsense to." One solace remained. "Heaven is now nearer
to me than Britain, and no one will be anxious about me if I go up-
country." It was characteristic of her that the same night she heard of
her mother's death she conducted her regular prayer-meeting: she felt
that her mother would have wished her to do so, and she went through
the service with a breaking heart, none knowing what had happened.

She wrote hungrily for all details of the last hours, and specified the
keepsakes she wished to have. "I would like something to look at," was
her repeated cry. To her friend who had taken charge of the home she
was for ever grateful. In the midst of her grief she was thoughtful for
her welfare and attended to the minutest details, even repaying the
sixpences expended for the postage of her letters to Calabar. All
admirers of Mary Slessor will honour this lowly Scotswoman who came to
her help in the day of her greatest need, and who quietly and
efficiently fulfilled her task....

So the home life, the source of warmth and sweetness and sympathy, was
closed down and she turned to face the future alone.

                     IX. THE SORROWS OF CREEK TOWN

Again three Marys were in close association--Miss Mary Edgerley, Miss
Mary Johnstone, and Miss Mary Slessor. During the year, however, the
two former proceeded home on furlough, and the last was left in entire
charge of the women's side of the work at Creek Town. It was the final
stage of her training for the larger responsibilities that awaited her.
There was at first little in the situation to beguile her spirits. It
was a bad season of rain and want, and she was seldom out of the abodes
of sickness and death. So great was the destitution that she lived on
rice and sauce, in order to feed the hungry. And never had she suffered
so much from fever as she did now in Creek Town.

Her duties lay in the Day School, Sunday School, Bible Class, and
Infant Class, but, as usual, the more personal aspect of the work
engaged her chief energies. The training of her household, which, as
she was occupying a part of Mr. Goldie's house and had less
accommodation, was a small one then, took much of her time and thought
and wit. First in her affections came Janie, now a big and strong girl
of four years, and as wild as a boy, who kept her in constant hot-
water. She was a link with the home that had been, and Mary regarded
her as specially her own: she shared her bed and her meals, and even
her thoughts, for she would talk to her about those who had gone. The
child's memory of Britain soon faded, but she never ceased to pray for
"all in Scotland who remember us." She was made more of than was good
for her, but was always brought to her level outside of Creek Town.
Mary had heard that both her parents were dead, but one day the father
appeared at the Mission House. She asked him to come and look at his
child. He shrugged his shoulders, and said, "Let me look from a
distance." Mary seized him and drew him towards the child, who was
trembling with terror. In response to a command in Efik the girl threw
her arms around his neck, and his face relaxed and became almost
beautiful. When he looked into her eyes, and she hid her head on his
breast, the victory was complete. He set her upon his knee and would
scarcely give her up. Although he lived a long way off he returned
every other day with his new wife and a gift of food.

Next came a girl of six years, whose father was a Christian. She also
was full of tricks, and, with Janie, was enough for one house. But
there was also Okin, a boy of about eight, whose mother was a slave
with no voice in his upbringing, but whose mistress wished him to be
trained up for God, a mischievous fellow whose new clothes lasted
usually about a week, but willing and affectionate and, on the whole,
good; and another boy of ten called Ekim, a son of the King of Old
Town, whose mother gave him to Mary when she first went out. On her
departure for Scotland he had gone back to his heathen home and its
fashions, but returned to her when she settled in Creek Town. He was
truthful, warm-hearted, and clever, and as a free boy and heir to a
responsible position the moulding of his character gave her much
thought and care. The last was Inyang, a girl of thirteen, but bigger
than Mary herself, possessing no brains, but for faithfulness,
truthfulness, honesty, and industry without a peer. She hated to dress
or to leave the kitchen, but she washed, baked, and did the housework
without assistance, and was kind to the children. These constituted
her inner circle, but she was always taking in and caring for derelict
children. At this time there were several in the house or yard. Two
were twins five months old, whom she had found lying on the ground
discarded and forlorn, and who had developed into beautiful children.
Their father was a drunken parasite, with a number of wives, whom he
battered and beat in turn. Another castaway came to her in a wretched
state. The father had stolen a dog, and the mother had helped him to
eat it. The owner threw down a native charm at their door, and the
woman sickened and died, and as all believed that the medicine had
killed her no one would touch the child. The woman's mistress was a
daughter of old King Eyo, and a friend of Mary, and she sent the
infant, dirty and starved, to the Mission House with her compliments.
Mary washed and fed it and nursed it back to decent life, but on
sending to the mistress a request that one of the slave women might
care for it, she got the reply, "Let it die." She let it live.

In the mornings, while busy with her household, there were perpetual
interruptions. Sick folk came to have their ailments diagnosed and
prescribed for. Some of the diseases she attended to were of the most
loathsome type, but that made no difference in her compassionate care.
Hungry people came to her to be fed, those in trouble visited her to
obtain advice and help, disputes were referred to her to be settled.
When all these cases had been dealt with she would go her round of the
yards, the inmates of which had come to look upon her as a mother. She
would sit down and chat with them and discuss their homes, children,
marketing, illness, or whatever subject interested them, sometimes
scolding them, but always leading them to the only things that
mattered. "If I told you what I have seen and known of human sorrow
during the past months you would weep till your heart ached," she wrote
to a friend. Some of her experiences she could not tell; they revealed
such depths of depravity and horror that the actions of the wild beasts
of the bush were tame in comparison.

At Creek Town, as elsewhere, it was not easy to tabulate what had been
achieved, as the fact that women could not make open confession without
incurring the gravest penalties kept the missionaries ignorant of the
effect of their work. But Mary saw behind the veil; she knew quiet
women whose souls looked out of their eyes, and who were more in touch
with the unseen than they dared tell; women who prayed and communed
with God even while condemned to heathen practices. There was one blind
woman whom she placed far before herself in the Christian race:

She is so poor that she has not one farthing in the world but what she
gets from us--not a creature to do a thing for her, her house all open
to rain and sun, and into which the cows rush at times--but blind Mary
is our one living, bright, clear light. Her voice is ever set to music,
a miracle to the people here, who only know how to groan and grumble at
the best. She is ever praising the Lord for some wonderful
manifestation of mercy and love, and her testimony to her Saviour is
not a shabby one. The other day I heard the King say that she was the
only visible witness among the Church members in the town, but he
added, "She is a proper one." Far advanced in spiritual knowledge and
experience, she knows the deep things of God. That old hut is like a
heaven here to more than me.

"Pray for us here" was the appeal in all her letters to Scotland at
this time. "Pray in a business-like fashion, earnestly, definitely,

For herself she found a friend in King Eyo, to whom she could go at any
time and relate her troubles and receive sympathy and support. She, in
turn, was often in his State room advising him regarding the private
and complicated affairs of his little kingdom and his relations with
the British Government. He honoured her in various ways, but to her the
dumb affection of a slave woman whom she had saved was more than all
the favours which others, high in the social scale, sought to show her.

                       X. THE FULNESS OF THE TIME

The question of her future location received much consideration. The
needs of the stations on the Cross River, the highway into the
interior, were urgent, and it was thought by some that the interests of
the Mission called for her presence there, but her mind could not be
turned from the direction in which she believed she could do the best
work. She was essentially a pioneer. Her thoughts were for ever going
forward, looking past the limitations and the hopes of others, into the
fields beyond teeming with populations as yet unreached. She was of the
order of spirits to which Dr. Livingstone belonged. Like him she said,
"I am ready to go anywhere, provided it be forward." From the districts
inland came reports of atrocity and wrong: accusations of witchcraft,
the ordeal of the poison bean, the shooting of slaves, and the
destruction of infants; and she felt the impelling call to go and
attack these evils. It was not that she did not recognise the value of
base-work, of order and organisation and routine.

The fact that she spent twelve years in patient and loyal service at
Duke Town, Old Town, and Creek Town demonstrates how important she
considered these to be. But they had been years of training meant to
perfect her powers before she went forward on her own path to realise
the vision given her from above, and they were now ended. For her the
fulness of the time had come, and with it the way opened up. The local
Mission Committee decided, in October 1886, to send her into the
district of Okoyong, and informed the authorities in Scotland of the
fact, carefully adding that this was in line with her own desire.

A change had just been made in the relation of the women on the staff
of the Mission to the administration at home. The Zenana Scheme of the
Church had been constituted as a distinct department of the Foreign
Mission operations in 1881, and having appealed to the women of the
congregations, had proved a success. It was now thought expedient that
the Calabar lady agents should be brought into the scheme, and
accordingly, in May 1886, they became responsible to the Zenana
Committee, and through them to the Foreign Mission Board. The Zenana
Committee recommended that the arrangement regarding Mary should be
carried out, and the Foreign Mission Board agreed.

                              THIRD PHASE

                          1888-1902. Age 40-54.

                        THE CONQUEST OF OKOYONG

"_I am going to a new tribe up-country, a fierce, cruel people, and
every one tells me that they will kill me. But I don't fear any hurt-
only to combat their savage customs will require courage and firmness
on my part._"

                        I. A TRIBE OF TERRORISTS

Some time in the dim past a raiding force had swept down from the
mountains to the east of Calabar, entered the triangle of dense forest-
land formed by the junction of the Cross and Calabar Hirers, fought and
defeated the Ibibios who dwelt there, and taken possession of the
territory. They were of the tribe of Okoyong believed to be an outpost,
probably the most westerly outpost, of the Bantu race of Central and
South Africa, who had thrust themselves forward like a wedge into
negro-land. Physically they were of a higher type than the people of
Calabar. They were taller and more muscular, their nose was higher, the
mouth and chin were firmer, their eye was more fearless and piercing,
and their general bearing contrasted strongly with that of the supine
negro of the coast.

To their superior bodily development they added the worst qualities of
heathenism: there was not a phase of African devilry in which they did
not indulge. They were openly addicted to witchcraft and the sacrifice
of animals. They were utterly lawless and contemptuous of authority.
Among themselves slave-stealing, plunder of property, theft of every
kind, went on indiscriminately. To survive in the struggle of life a
man required to possess wives and children and slaves--in the abundance
of these lay his power. But if, through incompetence or sickness or
misfortune, he failed he was regarded as the lawful prey of the chief
nearest him. To weaken the House of a neighbour was as clear a duty as
to strengthen one's own. Oppression and outrage were of common
occurrence. So suspicious were they even of each other that the chiefs
and their retainers lived in isolated clearings with armed scouts
constantly on the watch on all the pathways, and they ate and worked
with their weapons ready to their hands. Even Egbo law with all its
power was often resisted by the slaves and women regardless of the
consequences. No free Egbo man would submit to be dictated to by the
Egbo drum sent by another. A fine might be imposed, but he would sit
unsubdued and sullen, and then obtain his revenge by seizing or
murdering some passing victim. But all combined in a common enmity
against other tribes, and the region was enclosed with a fence of
terrorism as impenetrable as a ring of steel. The Calabar people were
hated because of the favoured position they enjoyed on the coast, and
their wealth and power; and a state of chronic war existed with them.
Each sought to outrival the other in the number of heads captured or
the number of slaves stolen or harboured, and naturally there was no
end to the fighting. All efforts to bring them together in the
interests of trade had been in vain. Even British authority was defied,
and messages from the Consul were ignored or treated with contempt.

They had their own idea of justice and judicial methods, and trials by
ordeal formed the test of innocence or guilt, the two commonest being
by burning oil and poison. In the one case a pot was filled with palm
oil which was brought to the boil. The stuff was poured over the hands
of the prisoner, and if the skin became blistered he was adjudged to be
guilty and punished. In the other case the eséré bean--the product of a
vine--was pounded and mixed with water and drunk: if the body ejected
the poison it was a sign of innocence. This method was the surest and
least troublesome--for the investigation, sentence, and punishment were
carried out simultaneously--unless the witch-doctor had been
influenced, which sometimes happened, for there were various means of
manipulating the test.

These tests were applied when it was desired to discover a thief, or
when a village wanted to know whose spirit dwelt in the leopard that
slew a goat, or when a chief wished to prove that his wife was faithful
to him in her heart, but chiefly in cases of sickness or death. They
believed that sickness was unnatural, and that death never occurred
except from extreme old age. When a freeman became ill or died, sorcery
would be alleged. The witchdoctor would be called in, and he would name
one individual after another, and all, bond and free, were chained and
tried, and there would be much grim merriment as the victims writhed in
agony and their heads were chopped off. The skulls would be kept in the
family as trophies. Occasionally the relations of the victims would be
powerful enough to take exception to the summary procedure and seek
redress by force of arms, and a vendetta would reign for years.

If a man or woman were blamed for some evil deed an appeal could be
made to the law of substitution, and a sufficient number of slaves
could be furnished as would be equivalent for themselves, and these
would be killed in their stead. The eldest son of a free House, for
instance, would be spared by the sacrifice of the life of a younger

The fact that a man's position in the spirit-world was determined by
his rank and wealth in this one, demanded the sacrifice of much life
when chiefs died. A few months before Miss Slessor went up amongst them
a chief of moderate means died, and with him were buried eight slave
men, eight slave women, ten girls, ten boys, and four free wives. These
were in addition to the men and women who died as a result of taking
the poison ordeal. Even when death was due to natural decay the retinue
provided was the same. After her settlement she made careful enquiry,
and found that the number of lives sacrificed annually at the instance
of this custom could not have averaged fewer than 150 within a radius
of twenty miles, while the same number must have died from ordeals and
decapitation on charges of causing sickness. To these had to be added
the number killed in the constant warfare.

Infanticide was also responsible for much destruction of life. Twin
murder was practised with an even fiercer zeal than it had been in
Calabar. Child life in general was of little value.

It was significant of the state of the district that gin, guns, and
chains were practically the only articles of commerce that entered it.
Gin or rum was in every home. It was given to every babe: all work was
paid for in it: every fine and debt could be redeemed with it: every
visitor had to be treated to it: every one drank it, and many drank it
all the time. Quarrels were the outcome of it. Then the guns came into
play. After that the chains and padlocks.

Women were often the worst where drink was concerned, There were
certain bands formed of those born in the same year who were allowed
freer action than others: they could handle gun and sword, and were
used for patrol and fighting purposes, and were so powerful that they
compelled concessions from Egbo. They exacted fines for breach of their
rules, and feasted and drank and danced for days and nights at a time
at the expense of the offenders.

Such lawlessness and degradation at the very doors had long caused the
Calabar Presbytery much thought. Efforts had been made to enter the
district both from the Cross and the Calabar Rivers. In one of his
tours of exploration Mr. Edgerley was seized, with the object of being
held for a ransom of rum, and it was only with difficulty that he
escaped. Others were received less violently, though every member of
the tribe was going about with guns on full cock. Asked why, they said,
"Inside or outside, speaking, eating, or sleeping, we must have them
ready for use. We trust no man." When they learned of the new laws in
Calabar their amazement was unbounded. "Killing for witchcraft
prohibited!" they exclaimed. "What steps have been taken to prevent
witchcraft from killing?" "Widows not compelled to sit for more than a
month in seclusion and filth!--outrageous!" "Twins and their mothers
taken to Duke Town--horrible! Has no calamity happened?"

Very little result was achieved from these tours of observation. A
Calabar teacher was ultimately induced to settle amongst them, but
after a shooting affray was compelled to fly for his life.
Missionaries, however, are never daunted by difficulties, nor do they
acquiesce in defeat. Ever, like their Master, they stand at the door
and knock. Once again the challenge was taken up, and this time by a
woman. So difficult was the position, that the negotiations for Miss
Slessor's settlement lasted a year. Three times parties from the
Mission went up, she accompanying them, only to find the people--every
man, woman, and child--armed and sullen, and disinclined to promise
anything. "I had often a lump in my throat," she wrote, "and my courage
repeatedly threatened to take wings and fly away--though nobody guessed

At last, in June 1888, in spite of her fears, she resolved to go up and
make final arrangements for her sojourn.

                         II. IN THE ROYAL CANOE

She went up the river in state. Ever ready to do her a kindness, King
Eyo had provided her with the Royal canoe, a hollow tree-trunk twenty
feet long, and she lay in comfort under the cool cover of a framework
of palm leaves, freshly lopped from the tree, and shut off from the
crew by a gaudy curtain. Beneath was a piece of Brussels carpet, and
about her were arranged no fewer than six pillows, for the well-to-do
natives of Calabar made larger and more skilful use of these than the

The scene was one of quiet beauty; there was a clear sky and a windless
air; the banks of the river--high and dense masses of vegetation--
glowed with colour; the broad sweep of water was like a sheet of molten
silver and shimmered and eddied to the play of the gleaming paddles. As
they moved easily and swiftly along, the paddlemen, dressed in loin-
cloth and singlet, improvised blithe song in her praise. Strange and
primitive as were the conditions, she felt she would not have exchanged
them for all the luxuries of civilisation.

She needed sustenance, for there was trying work before her, and this a
paraffin stove, a pot of tea, a tin of stewed steak, and a loaf of
home-made bread gave her. Wise mental preparation also she needed, for
there were elements of uncertainty and danger in the situation. The
Okoyong might be on the war-path: her paddlers were their sworn
enemies: a tactless word or act might ruin the expedition. As the canoe
glided along the river she communed with God, and in the end left the
issue with Him. "Man," she thought, "can do nothing with such a

Arriving at the landing beach she made her way by a forest track to a
village of mud huts called Ekenge, four miles inland. Her reception was
a noisy one; men, women, and children thronged about her, and called
her "Mother," and seemed pleased at her courage at coming alone. The
chief, Edem, one of the aristocrats of Okoyong, was sober, but his
neighbour at Ifako, two miles farther on, whom she wished to meet, was
unfit for human company, and she was not allowed to proceed. She stayed
the night at Ekenge, where she gathered the King's boys about her to
hold family worship. The crowd of semi-naked people standing curiously
watching the proceedings exclaimed in wonder as they heard the words
repeated in unison: "God so loved the world," and so on. At ten o'clock
the women were still holding her fast in talk. One, the chiefs sister,
called Ma Eme, attracted her. "I think," she said, "she will be my
friend, and be an attentive hearer of the Gospel." Wearied at last with
the strain she was forced to retire into the hut set apart for her.

A shot next morning startled the village. Two women on going outside
had been fired at from the bush. In a moment every man had his gun and
sword and was searching for the assailant. Mary went with one of the
parties, but to find any one in such a labyrinth was impossible, and
the task was given up. Going to Ifako she interviewed the chiefs. The
charm of her personality, her frankness, her fearlessness, won them
over, and they promised her ground for a schoolhouse. Would, she asked,
the same privilege be extended to it as to the Mission buildings in
Calabar? Would it be a place of refuge for criminals, those charged
with witchcraft, or those liable to be killed for the dead, until their
case could be taken into consideration? They assented. And the house
she would build for herself--would it also be a harbour of refuge?
Again they assented. She thanked them and promptly went and chose two
sites, one at Ekenge and one at Ifako, about twenty to thirty minutes'
walk apart, according to the state of the track, in order that the
benefits of the concession might operate over as wide an area as
possible. She foresaw, however, that as they were an agricultural and
shifting people, and spread over a large extent of territory, she would
require to be constantly travelling, and to sleep as often in her
hammock as in her bed.

Rejoicing over the improved prospects, she set out on the return
journey to Creek Town. It was the rainy season, and ere long the canoe
ran into a deluge and she was soaked. Then the tide was so strong that
they had to lie in a cove for two hours. The carcase of a huge snake
drifted past, followed by a human body. She was on the outlook for
alligators, but only saw crowds of crabs on the rotten tree-stumps and
black mud fighting as fiercely as the Okoyong people. She was too
watchful to sleep, but she heard the boys say softly, "Don't shake the
canoe and wake Ma," or "Speak lower and let Ma sleep." When they were
once more out on the river she slumbered, and awoke to find the lights
of Creek Town shining through the darkness.

When her friends saw her packing her belongings they looked at her in
wonder and pity. They said she was going on a forlorn hope, and that no
power on earth could subdue the Okoyong save a Consul and a gunboat.
But she smiled and went on with her preparations. King Eyo again
offered his canoe and paddlers and a number of bearers for her baggage.
By Friday evening, August 3, 1888, all was ready, and she lay down to
rest but not to sleep. On the morrow she would enter on the great
adventure of her life, and the strangeness of it, the seriousness of
it, the possibilities it might hold for her, kept her awake and
thoughtful throughout the night.


The dawn came to Creek Town grey and wet. The rain fell in torrents,
and the negroes, moving about with the packages, grumbled and
quarrelled. Wearied and unrefreshed after her sleepless night, Mary was
not in the best of spirits, and she was glad to see King Eyo, who had
come to supervise the loading and packing of the canoe: his kind eyes,
cheery smile, and sympathetic words did her good, and her courage
revived. Few of the natives wished her God-speed. One young man said
with a sob in his voice, "I will constantly pray for you, but you are
courting death." Not great faith for a Christian perhaps, but her own
faith at the moment was not so strong that she could afford to cast a
stone at him. As the hours wore on, the air of depression became
general, and when the party was about to start Mr. Goldie suddenly
decided to send one of the Mission staff to accompany her on the
journey. Mr. Bishop, the printer, who was standing by, volunteered, and
there and then stepped into the canoe. Mary and her retinue of five
children stowed themselves into a corner, the paddlers pushed off, and
the canoe swept up the river and disappeared in the rain.

The light was fading ere they reached the landing beach for Ekenge, and
there was yet the journey of four miles through the dripping forest to
be overtaken. It was decided that she should go on ahead with the
children in order to get them food and put them to sleep, and that Mr.
Bishop and one or two men should follow with dry clothes, cooking
utensils, and the door and window needed for the hut, whilst the
carriers would come on later with the loads. As Mary faced the forest,
now dark and mysterious, and filled with the noises of night, a feeling
of helplessness and fear came over her. What unseen perils might she
not meet? What would she find at the end? How would she be received on
this occasion? Would the natives be fighting or drinking or dancing?
Her heart played the coward; she felt a desire to turn and flee. But
she remembered that never in her life had God failed her, not once had
there been cause to doubt the reality of His guidance and care. Still
the shrinking was there; she could not even move her lips in prayer;
she could only look up and utter inwardly one appealing word, "Father!"

Surely no stranger procession had footed it through the African forest.
First came a boy, about eleven years of age, tired and afraid, a box
containing tea, sugar, and bread upon his head, his garments, soaked
with the rain, clinging to his body, his feet slipping in the black
mud. Behind him was another boy, eight years old, in tears, bearing a
kettle and pots. With these a little fellow of three, weeping loudly,
tried hard to keep up, and close at his heels trotted a maiden of five,
also shaken with sobs. Their white mother formed the rear. On one arm
was slung a bundle, and astride her shoulders sat a baby girl, no light
burden, so that she had to pull herself along with the aid of branches
and twigs. She was singing nonsense--snatches to lighten the way for
the little ones, but the tears were perilously near her own eyes. Had
ever such a company marched out against the entrenched forces of evil?
Surely God had made a mistake in going to Okoyong in such a guise? And
yet He often chooses the weakest things of this world to confound and
defeat the mighty.

The village was reached at last, but instead of the noise and confusion
that form a bush welcome there was absolute stillness. Mary called out
and two slaves appeared. They stated that the chief's mother at Ifako
had died that morning, and all the people had gone to the carnival. One
obtained fire and a little water, while the other made off to carry the
news that the white woman had arrived. She undressed the children and
hushed them to sleep, and sat in her wet garments and waited. When Mr.
Bishop appeared it was to say that the men were exhausted and refused
to bring up anything that night. A woman of weaker fibre and feebler
faith would have been in despair: Mary acted with her usual decision.
The glow of the fire was cheerful and the singing of the kettle
tempting, but the morrow was Sunday, there was no food, the children
were naked, and she herself wet to the skin. She gave one of the lads
who had arrived with Mr. Bishop a lantern, and despatched him to the
beach with a peremptory message that the mea must come at once and
bring what they could. But knowing their character she asked Mr. Bishop
to collect some of the slaves who had been left to watch the farms, and
send them after her as carriers, and then, bootless and hatless, she
plunged back into the forest.

She had not gone far before one of the other lads came running after
her to keep her company; a touch of chivalry which, pleased and
comforted her. So dense was the darkness that she often lost sight of
her companion's white clothes, and was constantly stumbling and
falling. The shrilling of the insects, the pulsation of the fire-flies,
the screams of the night-birds and the flapping of their wings, the
cries of wild animals, the rush of dark objects, the falling of decayed
branches all intensified the weirdness and mystery of the forest gloom.
Even the echo of their own voices as they called aloud to frighten the
beasts of prey struck on their ears with peculiar strangeness.

By and by came an answer to their cries, and a glimmer of light showed
in the darkness. It was the lad with the lantern. As she had surmised,
he had failed in his mission. She moved swiftly to the river, splashed
into the water, and, reaching the canoe, threw back the cover under
which the men were sleeping, and routed them out, dazed and shamefaced.
So skilful, however, was she in managing these dusky giants that in a
short time, weary as they were, they were working good-humouredly at
the boxes. With the assistance of the slaves who came on the scene they
transferred what was needed to Ekenge, and by midnight she felt that
the worst was over.

Sunday did not find her in more cheerful mood. Her tired limbs refused
to move, and wounds she had been unconscious of in the excitement of
the journey made themselves felt, while her feet were in such a state
that for six weeks afterwards she was unable to wear boots. Whether it
was the persistent rain and the mud and the weariness and the squalid
surroundings, or the fact that the tribe she had come to civilise and
evangelise were given over to the service of the devil, or that her
faith had weakened, or whether it was all of these together, her first
Sunday in Okoyong was one of the saddest she ever experienced. More
than once she was on the verge of tears.

And yet she was eager to begin work. Prudence, however, held her back
from visiting the scene of debauchery at Ifako. A few women had come
home with fractious babies, or to procure more food for the revellers,
and gathering these about her she held a little service, telling them
in her simple and direct way the story of the Christ who came from the
Unseen to make their lives sweeter and happier.

It was the first faint gleam of a better day for Okoyong.

                        IV. FACING AN ANGRY MOB

The room allotted to Mary was one of those in the women's yard or harem
of Edem the chief, and had been previously used by a free wife, who had
left its mud floor and mud walls in a filthy state. At one entrance she
caused a door to be hung, while a hole was made in the wall and a
window frame fitted in. The work was rude and gaps yawned round the
sides, but she ensured sufficient privacy by draping them with
bedcovers. The absence of the villagers at Ifako gave her time to
complete the work, and with her own hands she filled in the spaces with
mud. She also cleared a portion of the ground set apart for her and
circled it with a fence, and within this did her washing. But soon
there were calls upon her.

"_He took a little child and set him in the midst_." Her work began
with a child. In a fight between Okoyong and Calabar a man of Ekenge
had been beheaded. His head was recovered and sent home, thus removing
the disgrace, but his wife did not survive the shock, and left a baby
girl, which was now brought to Mary. It had been fed on a little water,
palm oil, and cane juice, and looked less like an infant than a half-
boiled chicken. Its appearance provoked mirth in the yard, but she
stooped down and lifted it and took it to her heart, resolving to give
it a double share of the care and comfort of which it had been
defrauded. As she carried it about in her arms, or sat with it in her
lap, she was regarded with a kind of amused astonishment. But the old
grandmother came and blessed her. At first the child rallied to the new
treatment: it grew human-like: sometimes Mary thought it looked bonnie:
but in a few days it drooped and died.

The bodies of children were usually placed anywhere in the earth near
the huts or under the bush by the wayside, but she dressed the tiny
form in white and laid it in a provision box and covered it with
flowers. A native carried the box to a spot which she had reserved in
her ground: here a grave was dug, and she stood beside it and prayed.
The grandmother knelt at her feet, sobbing. Looking on at a distance,
curious and scornful, were the revellers from Ifako; they had heard of
the proceedings, and had come to witness the white woman's
"witchcraft." All that they said in effect when they saw the good box
and the white robe was, "Why this waste?" And so the work in Okoyong
was consecrated by the death and Christian burial of a little child.

When the people came crowding back from the devil-making they sought
out a young lad who had detached himself from the orgies and remained
in the village, where he had been very attentive to Mary. They accused
him of deserting their ancient customs. She saw him standing in their
midst near a pot of oil which was being heated over a fire, and noticed
the chief, in front going through some movements and the lad holding
out his arms, but was unaware of what was taking place until she saw a
man seize a ladle, plunge it into the boiling oil, and advance to the
boy. In a moment the truth flashed upon her and she darted forward, but
was too late. The stuff was poured over the lad's hands, and he
shuddered in agony. It was doubtful whether her intervention at that
early period would have done any good. They were following the law of
the country, and if she had managed to prevent the act they would
probably have resorted to the ordeal thereafter in secret; and her
object was to show them a better way.

Immediately after this the men of the village left on an expedition of
revenge against a number of mourners with whom they had quarrelled. A
week of rioting followed. Then a freeman died in the neighbourhood, and
once more the village was deserted. Mary, meanwhile, moved hither and
thither, making friends with the women, healing the sick, tending the
children, and doing any little service that came in her way.

The return to normal conditions brought her into active conflict with
the powers of evil. The mistress of a harem in the vicinity bought a
good-looking young woman whom the master coveted, and she became a
slave-wife. She appeared sullen and unhappy. One afternoon Mary saw her
mudding a house that was being built for a new free-born wife, and
spoke to her kindly in passing. A few minutes later the girl made her
way to one of her master's farms, and sat down in the hut of a slave.
The latter was alarmed, knowing well what the consequences would be,
but she refused to move. The man went off to his work, and she walked
into the forest and hanged herself. Next morning the slave was brought
in heavily ironed, and at a palaver the master and his relatives
decreed he must die; they had been degraded by being associated in this
way with a common slave.

Mary, who was present, protested against the injustice of the sentence;
the man, she argued, had done no wrong; it was not his fault that the
girl had gone to his hut. "But," was the reply, "he has used sorcery
and put the thought into the girl's mind, and the witch-doctor has
pronounced him guilty." She persisted. The crowd became angry and
excited; they surged round her demanding why a stranger who was there
on sufferance should interfere with the dignity and power of free-born
people, and clamoured for the instant death of the prisoner. Threats
were shouted, guns and swords were waved, and the position grew
critical, but she stood her ground, quiet and cool and patient. Her
tact, her good humour, that spiritual force which seemed to emanate
from her in times of peril, at last prevailed. The noise and confusion
calmed down, and ultimately it was decided to spare the man's life. She
had won her first victory.

But the victim was loaded with chains, placed in the women's yard,
starved, and then flogged, and his body cruelly cut in order to
exorcise the powers of sorcery that were in him. When Mary went to him
he was a bruised and bleeding heap of flesh lying unconscious by the
post to which he was fastened. The women in the yard were sitting about
indifferent to his plight.

                            V. LIFE IN HAREM

For many weeks she was an inmate of the harem, a witness of its
degraded intimacies, enduring the pollution of its moral and physical
atmosphere, with no other support than hallowed memories and the
companionship of her Bible. Her room was next that of the chief and his
head wife: the quarters of five lesser wives were close by; other wives
whose work and huts were at the farms shared the yard with the slaves,
visitors, and children; two cows--small native animals that do not
produce milk--occupied the apartment on the other side of the
partition; goats, fowls, cats, rats, cockroaches, and centipedes were
everywhere. In her own room the three boys slept behind an erection of
boxes and furniture, and the two girls shared her portion. Every night
her belongings had to be taken outside in order to provide sufficient
accommodation for them all, and as it was the wet season they had
usually to undergo a process of drying in the sun each day before being

There was a ceaseless coming and going in the yard, a perpetual
chattering of raucous voices. The wives were always bickering and
scolding, the tongue of one of them going day and night, her chief butt
being a naked and sickly slave, who was for ever being flogged. There
was no sleep for Mary when this woman had any grievance, real or
imaginary, on her mind.

Both wives and visitors conceived it their duty to sit and entertain
their white guest. To an African woman the idea of loneliness is
terrible, and good manners made it incumbent that as large a gathering
as possible should keep a stranger company. All is implied in the word
"home," its sacredness and freedom, its privacy, lies outside the
knowledge and experience of polygamists. Kind and neighbourly as the
women were, they could not understand the desire of Mary to be
sometimes by herself. She needed silence and solitude; her spirit
craved for communion with her Father, and she longed for a place in
which to pour out her heart aloud to Him. As often as politeness
permitted, she fled to the ground reserved for her, but they followed
her there, and in desperation she would take a machete and hack at the
bush, praying the while, so that her voice was lost in the noise she

One woman of mark was Eme Ete--Ma Eme as she was usually called--a
sister of the master, the same who had attracted her attention on the
previous visit. She was the widow of a big chief, and had just returned
from the ceremonies in connection with her husband's death, where she
had undergone a terrible ordeal. All his wives lay under suspicion, and
each brought to the place of trial a white fowl, and from the way in
which it fluttered after its head was cut off the judgment was
pronounced. The strain was such that when the witch-doctor announced Ma
Eme free from guilt she fainted. Big-boned and big-featured, she had
been fattened to immensity. One day Mary pointed to some marks on her
arms and said, "White people have marks like these," showing the
vaccination cicatrice on her own arm. Ma Eme simply said, "These are
the marks of the teeth of my husband." In that land a man could do as
he liked with his free-born wife--bite her, beat her, kill her, and
nobody cared. When consorting with the others Ma Eme had the coarse
tone common to all, but as she spoke to Mary or the children her voice
softened and her instincts and manners were refined and gentle. A
mother to every one, she scolded, encouraged, and advised in turn, and
when the chief was drunk or peevish she was always between him and his
wives as intercessor and peacemaker. She watched over Mary, brought her
food, looked after her comfort, and helped her in every way, and did it
with the delicacy and reserve of a well-bred lady. Unknown to all she
constituted herself Mary's ally, becoming a sort of secret intelligence
department, and, at the risk of her life, keeping her informed of all
the underground doings of the tribe. "A noble woman," Mary called her,
"according to her lights and knowledge."

The wives appeared to have less liberty than the slaves. How carefully
guarded their position was by unwritten law Mary had reason to know. A
girl-wife employed a slave-man to do work for a day. His master
unexpectedly sent for him, and he asked the girl for the food which was
part of his wage. She at first declined; her husband was absent, and it
was against the law of the harem, but as he insisted she yielded and
handed him a piece of yam. When this became known she was seized,
bound, and condemned to undergo the ordeal of the burning oil. It was
an occasion for feasting and merriment, and as the fun progressed the
cords were gradually tightened until she screamed piteously with the
pain. Mary went and faced the crowd and pled for her release. There was
the usual uproar, but she succeeded in carrying off the victim, who was
kept chained to her verandah until the dancing and rioting ended with
the dawn.

Conditions in the harem were not favourable to child life. The mothers
were ignorant and superstitious, and there was no discipline or
training. Infants were often given intoxicating drink in order that fun
might be made of their antics and foolish talk. As they grew up they
learned nothing but what was vile. The slave children became thieves--
they had to steal in order to live. But if caught they would be chained
to a post and starved or branded with fire-sticks. They became
deceitful--they had to lie in order to gain favour. In this they simply
followed the instinctive impulses of their nature and of the lower
nature about them. As the insects mimicked inanimate objects to escape
injury or death, so they simulated the truth to save themselves a
beating or mutilation. The free-born children did not require to steal,
but lying was in the air like a contagion, and none could avoid its
influence. Of the older boys and girls Mary wrote: "They are such a
pest to every one that it is almost impossible to love them." Yet with
a divine pity she gathered them to her and mothered them.

Her earlier observations of the character of the African women were
confirmed by her sojourn in the harem. Hard and callous, as a result of
centuries of bush law and outrage, their patience and self-repression
under the most terrible indignities were to her a marvel. They were not
devoid of fine feeling, and beneath the surface of their nature the
flow of affection and pity often ran pure and sweet. On one occasion a
large number of prisoners were chained previous to undergoing the
ordeal of the poison bean. There were mothers with infants in their
arms, who throughout a hot day lay on the ground in torture and terror.
At dusk the guards left them for a time, and seizing the chance a few
of the older women stole tremblingly towards them with water, which
they gave to the children and divided the remainder among the mothers.
Anticipating such an opportunity Mary had had some rice cooked, and
this also the women smuggled to the prisoners. Had they been discovered
their lives would have been forfeited.

Bands of women of the special class already described came from a
distance to see the white "Ma," always more or less under the influence
of drink; loose in speech, and destitute of modesty, these Amazons made
her angry. They would appear at night and demand admittance to the yard
in the hope of obtaining rum and other good things from the wealthy
white woman. When barred out they threatened reprisals. The chief, who
never allowed his wives to go out of the yard to dance even with his
own relatives, stood on guard all night before his guest's room, and it
was only after sunrise, when all were astir, that they were admitted.
Haggard after their night's debauch, they presented a sorry sight,
their bare bodies painted and decked with beads, coloured wools, and
scraps of red and yellow silk, and many with babies at their side. Mary
regarded them with pity, but all they could extract from her was
disapproval and rebuke, and they left with threats to make her position

Some of the scenes she witnessed in the harem cannot be described. "Had
I not felt my Saviour close beside me," she said, "I would have lost my
reason." When at home the memory of these would make her wince and
flush with indignation and shame. She had no patience with people who
expounded the theory of the innocence of man outside the pale of
civilisation--she would tell them to go and live for a month in a West
African harem.

                           VI. STRANGE DOINGS

The sound of native voices chanting came through the brooding stillness
of the hot afternoon. With the wild war-song of Okoyong the forest
familiar, but words were strange and wonderful;

    _Jesus the Son of God came down to earth
     He came to save us from our sins.
     He was born poor that He might feel for us.
     Wicked men killed Him and hanged Him on a tree,
     He rose and went to heaven to prepare a place for us_....

They were sung with a tremendous force, and as each voice fell into the
part which suited it, the result was a harmony that thrilled the heart
of the white woman who listened.

It was Mary Slessor's day school.

For a people possessing no written language, no literature, no
knowledge beyond that handed down from father to son, the first step
towards right living, apart from the preaching of the Gospel, is
education. Schools go hand in hand with churches in missionary effort.
Mary began hers before she had the buildings in which to teach, one at
Ekenge and the other at Ifako. The latter was held in the afternoon in
order that she might be back in her yard by sunset. The schoolroom was
the verandah of a house by the wayside; the seats were pieces of
firewood; the equipment an alphabet card hung on one of the posts.

At first the entire population turned out and conned the letters, but
as novelty wore off and the men and women returned to their work the
attendance dropped to thirty. Good progress was made, and ere long the
dark-skinned pupils were spelling out words of one and two syllables.
The lesson ended with a scripture lesson, a short prayer, and the
singing of the sentences she taught. The last was so much enjoyed that
it was often dark before she could get away.

The school at Ekenge was held in the outer yard of the chief's house in
the evening, when all the wives and slaves were at leisure. Men and
women, old and young, bond and free, crowded and hustled into the yard,
amidst much noise and fun. After a lesson on the alphabet and the
multiplication-table she conducted worship. It was a weird scene--the
white woman, slim and slight, standing bareheaded and barefooted beside
a little table on which were a lamp and the Book; in front, squatting
on the ground, the mass of half-naked people as dark as the night,
their shining faces here and there catching the gleam of the light; the
earnest singing that drowned the voices of the forest, and the strange
hush that fell, as in grave sweet tones the speaker prayed to what was
to them the Unknown God.

The tale of such doings was carried to every corner of Okoyong, and
invitations began to arrive from chiefs in other parts. Some, who were
known as "the terror of Calabar," came personally to ask her to visit
their villages, and all laid down their arms at the entrance to her
yard before entering into her presence. But her own chief warned her
against acting too hastily, and she would probably have followed his
advice and sought to strengthen her position at Ekenge and Ifako had
the matter not been taken out of her hands.

                        VII. FIGHTING A GRIM FOE

The principal wife of a harem in close neighbourhood to Mary went to
pay a visit to her son and daughter at a village in the vicinity of the
Cross River, some eight hours distant from Ekenge. She found the chief
so near death that the head man and the people were waiting outside,
ready for the event. Hastening into the harem she spoke of the power of
the white "Ma" at Ekenge. Had she not cured her grandchild who had bees
very ill? Had she not saved many others? Let them send for her and the
chief would not die. Her advice was acted upon, and a deputation was
despatched with a bottle and four rods--about the value of a shilling--
to secure Mary's aid. She was called to the private room of her chief,
where she found the messengers. "What is the matter with him?" she
asked. As no one knew she decided to go and see for herself. Edem and
Ma Eme objected--the length of the journey, the deep streams to be
crossed, the heavy rains, made the task impossible. "I am going to get
ready," was her reply. Finding her immovable, the chief turned with a
face of gloom to the deputation and sent, them back with a demand for
an escort of freewomen and armed men. Mary imagined he was merely
endeavouring to mark time until the death took place: in reality he saw
the district given over to violence and murder, and she in the midst
and her life imperilled.

She passed a sleepless night. Was she right, after all, in taking so
great a risk? She laid the matter where she laid all her problems, and
came to the conclusion that she was. With the morning appeared the
guard of women, who intimated that the armed men would join them
outside the village. The rain was falling as they set out later came
down in torrents, continuous, and pitiless. Her boots were soon
abandoned; then her stockings; next her umbrella, broken in battle with
the vegetation, was thrown aside. Bit by bit her clothes, too heavy to
be endured, were transferred to the calabashes carried by the women on
their heads, and in the lightest of garments she struggled on through
the steaming bush.

Three hours of trudging brought her to a market-place where, in the
clearing atmosphere, hundreds of natives were gathering. They gazed at
her in amazement. Feeling humiliated at her appearance, she slunk shyly
and swiftly through their midst and went on, wondering if she had "lost
face" and their respect. Afterwards she learnt that the self-denial and
courage which that walk in the rain exhibited had done more than
anything else to win their hearts. Others, however, were not so well-
disposed. At one town the old chief was anything but courtly, and only
with reluctance allowed her to pass.

When she reached the sick man's village and looked into the grim
expectant faces of the armed crowd, she felt as if she were walking
into a den of wild beasts. At any moment the signal might be given, and
the slaughter of the retinue for the spirit-land begin. The women,
silent and fear-stricken, carried off her wet clothes to dry. She was
cold and feverish, but went straight to the patient and tended him as
well as she could. Then she turned to the pile of odds and ends of
garments which had been collected for her, and looked at them with a
shudder. But there was no alternative, and, arraying herself in the
rags, she went forth to meet the critical gaze of the crowd.

The medicine she had brought had proved insufficient, and more must be
obtained; many lives, she knew, depended upon it. To go back to Ekenge
was out of the question. Was there, she asked the people about her, a
way to Ikorofiong? The Rev. Alexander Cruickshank was stationed there,
and he would supply what was needed. They confessed that there was a
road to the river and a canoe could be got to cross, but they dared not
go there, they would never come back, they would be seized and killed.
Some one told her that a Calabar man, whose mother was an Okoyong woman
and who came to trade, was living in his canoe not far off. "Seek him,"
said she. He was found, but would not land until assured that it was a
white woman who wanted him. Mary prevailed upon him to undertake the
journey; and he returned with all she required and more. With the
thoughtfulness and kindliness of pioneer missionaries Mr. and Mrs.
Cruickshank sent over tea and sugar and other comforts and, what she
valued not less, a letter of cheer and sympathy. Hot with fever, racked
with headache, she brewed the tea in a basin, and it seemed to her a
royal feast. The world of friends had drawn nearer, she felt less
lonely, her spirits revived.

The patient drew back from the valley of death, regained consciousness,
and gathered strength; and the women looking on in wonder, became
obedient and reliable nurses; the freemen thought no more of sacrifice
and blood; the whole community had visions of peace; they expressed a
wish to make terms with Calabar and to trade with the Europeans and
learn "book." She was engaged all day in answering questions. Morning
and evening she held a simple service, and seldom had a more reverent
audience. Much worn out, she left them at last with regret, promising
to be always their mother, to try and secure a teacher, and to come
again and see them.

Her faith and fearlessness had been justified, and she had her reward,
for from that time forward Okoyong was free to her.

                     VIII. THE POWER OF WITCHCRAFT

The belief in witchcraft dominated the lives of the people like a dark
shadow more menacing than the shadow of death. Taking advantage of
their superstition and fear the witch-doctors--some of the cunningest
rogues the world has produced--held them in abject bondage, and Mary
was constantly at battle with the results of their handiwork.

The chief of Ekenge was lying ill. Since she had taken up residence in
his yard he had treated her with consideration, and guarded her
interests and well-being, and now came the opportunity to reciprocate
his kindness. She found him suffering from an abscess in his back, and
gave herself up to the task of nursing and curing him. All was going
well, when one morning, as she entered with his tea and bread, she saw
a living fowl impaled on a stick. Scattered about were palm branches
and eggs, and round the neck and limbs of the patient were placed
various charms. The brightness of her greeting died away. Edem was
suspiciously voluble and frank, flattered the goodness and ability of
the white people, but said they could not understand the malignity of
the black man's heart. "Ma, it has been made known to us that some one
is to blame for this sickness, and here is proof of it--all these have
been taken out of my back." He held out a parcel which, on opening, she
found to contain shot, powder, teeth, bones, seeds, egg-shells, and
other odds and ends.

On seeing the collection the natives standing around shook with terror,
and frantically denounced the wickedness of the persons who had sought
to compass the death of the chief. Mary's heart sank, she knew what the
accusation meant. At once, before her eyes, men and women were singled
out, and seized and chained and fastened to posts in the yard.
Remonstrance, rebuke, argument were in vain. The chief at last became
irritated with her importunity, and ordered his retainers to carry him
to one of his farms, whither he was accompanied by his wives, those of
note belonging to his house, and the prisoners. He forbade "Ma" to
follow, and enjoined secrecy upon all, in order that no tales might be
carried back to her. But she had her own means of obtaining
intelligence of what was going on, and she heard that many others were
being chained, as they were denounced by the witch-doctors.

The chief became worse, and stronger measures were decided on: all the
suspected must die. Mary was powerless to do more than send a message
of stern warning. Days of suspense and prayer followed. On the last
night of the year she was lying awake thinking of the old days and the
old friends, her heart homesick, and the hot tears in her eyes, when
the sound of voices and the flash of a lantern made her start up. It
was a deputation from the farm. They had learnt that the native pastor,
the Rev. Esien Ukpabio, at Adiabo--the first native convert in Calabar
--was skilled in this form of disease, and would "Ma" give them a letter
asking him to come over and see the chief? The letter was quickly
given, and she returned to her rest and her memories.

When the native pastor asked what was the matter, the reply was that
"Some one's soul was troubling the chief." "In that case," he said, "I
can do nothing," and no persuasion or bribe could move him from his
position. His sister, however, thought it might be well for her to go
and see what she could do, and he consented. Under her care the abscess
broke and the chief recovered, and all the prisoners were released with
the exception of one woman, who was put to death.

Aware of the uncanny way in which his guest heard of things the chief
sent his son to forestall any tale-bearer. "No one has been injured,"
she was assured. "Only one worthless slave woman has been sold to the
Inokon." As it was the custom to dispose of slaves who were criminals
and incorrigible to this cannibal section of the Aros for food at their
high feasts the story was plausible, but she knew better, and when the
son added that the three children of the victim had been "quite
agreeable," she thought of the misery she had witnessed on their faces.
She pretended to believe the message, however, for to have shown
knowledge of the murder would have been to condemn scores to the poison
ordeal, in order that her informant might be discovered.

When the chief was convalescent it was announced by drum that he would
emerge on a certain day from his filth--for the natives do not wash
during illness--and that gifts would be received. His wives and friends
and slaves brought rum, rods, clothes, goats, and fowls, and there
ensued a week of drinking, dancing, and fighting, worse than Mary had
yet seen.

In the midst of it all she moved, helpless and lonely, and somewhat
sad, yet not without faith in a better time,

                        IX. SORCERY IN THE PATH

A more extraordinary instance of superstition occurred soon after. A
chief in the vicinity, noted far and wide for his ferocity, intimated
that he was coming to Ekenge on a visit. It meant trouble for the
women, and she prayed earnestly that he might be deterred from his
purpose. But he duly appeared, and throwing all her anxiety upon God,
she faced him calm and unafraid. Days and nights of wild licence
followed, accompanied by an outcrop of disputes, most of which were
brought to her to settle.

One morning she found the guest drunk to excess, but determined to
return at once to his village. His freemen and slaves were beyond
control, and soon the place was in an uproar: swords were drawn, guns
were fired, the excitement reached fever heat. With a courage that
seemed reckless she hustled them into order and hurried them off and
accompanied them for the protection of the villages through which they
must pass. She was able to prevent more drink being supplied to them,
and all went well until, at one point on the bush track, they came upon
a plantain sucker stuck in the ground, and, lying about, a cocoanut
shell, palm leaves, and nuts. The fierce warriors who had been
challenging each other and every one they came across to fight to the
death, were paralysed at the sight of the rubbish, and turning with a
yell of terror rushed back the way they had come. Mary sought forcibly
to restrain them, but, frantic with fright, they eluded her grasp, and
ran shrieking towards the last town they had passed to wreak vengeance
on the sorcerers. She ran with them, praying for swiftness and
strength: she passed them one by one, and breathlessly threw herself
into the middle of the path, and dared them to advance. She felt she
was almost as mad as they were, but she relied on a Power Who had never
failed her, and He did not fail her now. Her audacity awed them: they
stopped, protested, argued, and gradually their hot anger, resentment,
and fear died down, and eventually they retraced their steps. She took
up the "medicine" they dreaded, and pitched it into the bush,
ironically invoking the sorcery to pass into her body if it wanted a
victim. But nobody could persuade them to proceed that way, and they
made a long detour.

Unfortunately drink was smuggled to the band, and fighting began. She
induced the more sober to assist her to tie a few of the desperadoes to
trees. Leaving these, the company went on dancing, brandishing arms,
embracing each other, and committing such folly that she felt that she
could bear it no longer. As the swift twilight fell she called her few
followers and returned, releasing on the way the delinquents bound to
the trees, but sending them homewards with their hands fastened behind
their backs. On passing the scene of the sorcery she picked up the
plantain sucker, laughingly remarking that she would plant it in her
yard, and give the witchcraft it possessed an opportunity of proving
its powers.

Nothing is hidden in an African community, news travels swiftly. Next
morning came a messenger from the chief she had escorted home. It had
been a terrible night, he said; the native doctor had come to his
master and had taken teeth, shot, hair, seeds, fish-bones, salt, and
what not, out of his leg, If they had been left in the body they would
have killed him. It was the plantain sucker that was to blame, and his
master demanded it back. Mary read the menace in the request: the plant
was to be used as evidence against some victim. Argument and sarcasm
alike failed, and she was obliged to hand it over, Edem was standing
by. "That," he grimly remarked, "means the death of some one."

On the arrival of the sucker native oaths were administered to all in
the village accused of the sorcery, ordeals of various kinds were
imposed on young and old, slave and free, and the life-blood of a man
was demanded by way of settlement of the matter. Strong in their
innocence the people resisted the claim, but by guile the chief's
myrmidons caught and handcuffed a fine-looking young man belonging to
one of the best families and dragged him into hiding. Any attempt to
effect a rescue would have meant his murder, and in their dilemma the
people thought of the white "Ma" and sent and begged her to come and
plead with the chief for the life and liberty of the prisoner.

She had never a more unpleasant task, for she detested the callous
savage, but there was nothing else to do; and she went depending less
upon herself than upon God. She walked tremblingly into the man's
presence, but her fear soon passed into disgust and indignation. He was
the personification of brutality, selfishness, and cowardice. Laughing
at her entreaties he told her to bring the villagers and let them fight
it out. She pointed out that neither he nor his House had suffered by
what had happened; that the accused people had taken every oath and
ordeal prescribed by their laws; and that his procedure was therefore
unjust and unlawful, "It is due to your presence alone that I escaped,"
he retorted; "they murdered, me in intention if not in fact." His head
wile backed him up, and both became so rude and offensive to Mary that
it took all her grace to keep her temper and her ground. As she would
not leave the house the chief said he would, and walked out, remarking
that he was going to his farm on business. Swallowing her pride she
followed him and begged him humbly as an act of clemency to free the
young man. He turned, elated at her suppliant attitude, laughed loudly,
and said that no violence would be used until all his demands had been
complied with.

She returned to her yard, and days of strain followed. The situation
developed into a quarrel between the truculent chief and Edem, and
every man went armed, women crept about in fear, scouts arrived hourly
with the latest tidings. Her life was a long prayer....

One day the young man was set free, without reason or apology being
given or condition exacted, and told to go to his people. With his
safety all desire for revenge was stilled, and matters resumed their
normal course. The heart of Mary once more overflowed with gratitude
and joy.

                    X. HOW HOUSE AND HALL WERE BUILT

She was impatient to have a house of her own, but the natives were slow
to come to her assistance. They thought the haste she exhibited was
undignified, and smiled compassionately upon her. There was no hurry--
there never is in Africa. If she would but wait all would be well. When
argument failed, they went off and left her to cut down the bush and
dig out the roots herself. Lounging about in the village they
commiserated a Mother who was so strongheaded and wilful, and consoled
themselves with the thought of the work they would do when once they
began. She could make no progress, and there was nothing for it but to
tend the sick, receive visitors, mend the rags of the village, cut out
clothing for those who developed a desire for it, and look after her
family of bairns.

One day, however, the spirit moved the people and they flocked to the
ground. She constituted herself architect, clerk of works, and chief
labourer. Her idea was to construct a number of small mud-huts and
sheds, which would eventually form the back buildings of the Mission
House proper. Four tree-trunks with forked tops were driven into the
ground, and upon them were laid other logs. Bamboos, crossed and
recrossed, and covered with palm mats, formed the roof and verandah.
Upright sticks, interlaced and daubed with red clay, made the walls.
Two rooms, each eleven feet by six with a shaded verandah, thus came
into existence. Then a shed was added to each end, making three sides
of a square. Fires were kept blazing day and night, in order to dry the
material and to smoke it as a protection against vermin. Drains were
dug and the surrounding bush cleared.

In one of the rooms she put a fireplace of red clay, and close to it a
sideboard and dresser of the same material. Holes were cut out for
bowls, cups, and other dishes, and rubbed with a stone until the
surface was smooth. The top had a cornice to keep the plates from
falling off, and was polished with a native black dye. Her next
achievement was a mud-sofa where she could recline, and a seat near the
fireside where the cook could sit and attend to her duties.

In the other room she deposited her boxes, books, and furniture.
Hanging upon the posts were pots and pans and jugs, and her alphabet
and reading-sheets. In front stood her sewing-machine, rusty and
useless after its exposure in the damp air. There also at night was a
small organ, which during the day occupied her bed.

Such was the "caravan," as Mary called it, which was her dwelling for a
year: a wonderful house it seemed to the people of Okoyong, who
regarded it with astonishment and awe. To herself it was a delight.
Never had the building of a home been watched with such loving
interest. And when it was finished no palace held a merrier family. At
meals all sat round one pot, spoons were a luxury none required, and
never had food tasted so sweet. There were drawbacks--all the cows,
goats, and fowls in the neighbourhood, for instance, seemed to think
the little open yard was the finest rendezvous in the village.

Her next thought was for the church and schoolhouse. A mistress of
missionary strategy, she wished to build this at Ifako, in order that
she might control a larger area, but the chiefs for long showed no
interest in the matter. One morning, however, an Ifako boy sought her
with the message, "My master wants you." She thought the command
somewhat peremptory, but went. To her surprise she found the ground
cleared; posts, sticks, and mud ready, and the chiefs waiting her
orders. She designed a hall thirty feet by twenty-five, with two rooms
at the end for her own use, in case storm or sickness or palaver should
prevent her going home. Work was started; and not a single slave was
employed in the carrying of the material or in the construction. King
Eyo sent the mats, some thousands in number, for the roof, and free
women carried them the four miles from the beach, plastered the walls,
moulded the mud-seats, beat the floor, and cleared up, and all
cheerfully, and without thought of reward. Doors and windows were still
awanting, but she asked for the services of a carpenter from Calabar to
do this bit of work; and meanwhile the humble building, the first ever
erected for the worship of God in Okoyong, was formally opened.

It was a day of days for the people. Mary had prepared them for it, and
all appeared in their new Sunday attire, which, in many cases,
consisted of nothing more than a clean skin. But the contents of
various Mission boxes had been kept for the occasion, and the children,
after being washed, were decked for the first time in garments of many
shapes and colour--"the wearing of a garment," said Mary, "never fails
to create self-respect." It was a radiant and excited company that
gathered in the hall. There was perhaps little depth in their emotion,
but she regarded the event as a step towards better things. Her idea
was to separate the day from the rest, and to make it a means of
bringing about cleanliness and personal dignity, while it also imposed
upon the people a little of that discipline which they so much needed.

The chiefs were present, and they voluntarily made the promise before
all that the house would be kept sacred to God and His service, that
the slave-women and children would be sent to it for instruction, that
no weapon of warfare would be carried into it, and that it would be a
sanctuary for those who fled to it for refuge.

Services and day school were now held regularly in the hall. The latter
was well attended, all the pupils showing eagerness to learn "book,"
and many making rapid progress.

The larger Mission House, which Mary intended to occupy the space in
front of the yard at Ekenge, was a stiffer problem for the people, and
for a time they hung back from the attempt to build it.

                      XI. A PALAYER AT THE PALACE

Perhaps the greatest obstacle to Christian truth and progress was not
superstition or custom, but drink. She had seen something of the
traffic in rum and gin at the coast, but she was amazed at what went on
in Okoyong. All in the community, old and young, drank, and often she
lay down to rest at night knowing that not a sober man and hardly a
sober woman was within miles of her. When the villagers came home from
a drunken bout the chief men would rouse her up and demand why she had
not risen to receive them. At all hours of the day and night they would
stagger into the hut, and lie down and fall asleep. Her power, then,
was not strong enough to prevent them--but the time came.

The spirit came up from Calabar and was the chief article of trade.
When a supply arrived processions of girls carrying demijohns trooped
in from all quarters, as if they were going to the spring for water. At
the funeral of one big man seven casks of liquor were consumed, in
addition to that bought in small quantities by the poorer classes. A
refugee of good birth and conduct remarked to Mary once that he had
been three days in the yard and had not tasted the white man's rum.
"Three days!" she replied, "and you think that long!" "Ma," he said, in
evident astonishment, "three whole days! I have never passed a day
without drinking since I was a boy."

She fought this evil with all her energy and skill. Her persuasion so
wrought on the chiefs that on several occasions they agreed to put away
the drink at palavers, with the result that those who had come from a
distance departed, sober and in peace, to the wonderment of all around.

She saw that the people were tempted and fell because of their idleness
and isolation; for they still maintained their aloofness from all their
neighbours, and there was yet no free communication with Calabar. If a
missionary happened to pay her a visit he would be stopped on the
forest track by sentries who, after satisfying themselves as to his
identity, "cooeed" to other watchers farther on. Dr. Livingstone
believed that the opening up of Central Africa to trade would help to
stamp out the slave traffic, and in the same way she was convinced that
more legitimate commerce and the development of wants among the people
would to some extent undermine the power of drink. All the ordinary
trade she had seen done so far was the sale of five shillings' worth of
handkerchiefs and a sixpenny looking-glass. She urged the chiefs to
take the initiative, and was never tired of showing them her
possessions, in order to incite within them a desire to own similar
articles. They were greatly taken with the glass windows and doors, and
one determined to procure wood and "shut himself in." Her clock,
sewing-machine, and organ were always a source of wonder, and people
came from far and near to see them. The women quickly became envious of
her household goods, and she could have sold her bedcovers, curtains,
meat-safe, bedstead, chest of drawers, and other objects a score of
times. More promising still was their desire to have clean dresses like
their "Ma," and she spent a large portion of her time cutting out and
shaping the long simple garment that served to hide their nakedness.

She also sent down to Calabar and asked some of the native trading
people whom she knew to come up with cloth, pots, and dishes, and other
useful articles, guaranteeing them her protection; but so great was
their fear of the Okoyong warriors and so poor their faith in her
power, that they refused point blank--they would as soon have thought
of going-to the moon. "Well," said Mary, "if they won't come to us we
must go to them." She had been seeking to familiarise the minds of the
chiefs with the idea of settling their disputes by means of arbitration
instead of by fighting, and had been cherishing the hope that she might
persuade some of them to proceed to Creek Town and discuss the subject
with King Eyo. She now proposed to the King that he should invite them
to a palaver at his house, and at the same time she would endeavour to
have some produce sent down direct to the traders.

The King had never ceased to take an interest in her work: he
frequently sent up special messengers to enquire if all was well, and
always reminded her that he was willing to be of service to the Okoyong
people. A grandson of the first King Eyo also sent men occasionally,
with instructions to do anything they could for the white Mother, and
to bring down her messages to Calabar. Such kindly thought often took
the edge off her loneliness.

The King at once sent the invitation, and, trusting more in the word of
Mary than in that of the King, all the chiefs in her neighbourhood
accepted the offer and an expedition to Creek Town was organised. A
canoe was obtained, and heaped with yams and plantains, gifts for the
King, and with bags of palm-kernels and a barrel of oil, the first
instalment of trade with the Europeans. Alas! the natives know nothing
about a load-line, and as the tide rose the canoe sank. It was not an
unmixed pleasure setting out with men who were ignorant of the
management of canoes, but another day was fixed and another canoe was
found. The whole of Okoyong seemed to be at the beach, and every man,
woman, and child was uttering counsel and heartening the intrepid
voyagers. Several of the chiefs drew back and disappeared, and of the
half-dozen who remained only two could be persuaded to embark when they
learnt that guns and swords must be left behind.

"Ma, you make women of us! Did ever a man go to a strange place without
his arms?" "Ma" was inexorable. She sat down and waited, and after a
two hours' palaver swords were ungirt and handed with the guns to the
women. Those who still declined to go were received back with
rejoicing, and farewells were made with those who went, amidst wailings
and tears. A start was made, but the craft proved to be ill-balanced,
and the cargo had to be shifted. As this was being done she detected a
number of swords hidden below the bags of kernels. Her eyes flashed,
and the people scattered out of the way as she pitched the arms out on
the beach. With a meekness that was amusing the men scrambled into
their places and the canoe shot into the river, Mary taking a paddle
and wielding it with the best of the men. The journey was made through
dense darkness and drizzling rain, and occupied twelve hours.

But she was rewarded by the result. Nothing could exceed the kindness
of King Eyo. He bore himself as a Christian gentleman, listened
courteously to the passionate and foolish speech of the Okoyong
representatives, reminded the supercilious Calabar chiefs that the
Gospel which had made them what they were had only just been taken to
Okoyong, and in giving the verdict which went against them, he gently
made it the finding of righteousness, according to the laws of God.
When all had been settled he asked Mary to take the chiefs over his
palace, and invited them to a meeting in the church in the evening,
where he spoke words of cheer and counsel from the words, "To give
light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide
our feet into the way of peace."

This experience made a great impression upon the chiefs: they left with
a profound reverence for the King and a determination to abide by his
decisions in the future, whilst Mary had added much to her dignity and
position. This was proved the morning after they returned to Ekenge.
She was awakened by a confused noise, and on looking out was astonished
to find several chiefs directing slaves, who were working with building
material. "What is the matter?" she asked in wonder. Instead of
answering her one of the chiefs who had accompanied her to Calabar
turned to the crowd and, in a burst of eloquence, described all he had
seen at Creek Town, how the Europeans lived, and how King Eyo and every
chief and gentleman had treated their Mother as a person superior to
them, and given her all honour. They in Okoyong must now treat her as
befitted her rank and station, and must build her a proper house to
live in, Mary was hard put to it to preserve her gravity. Soon
afterwards a young slave, for whom she had often pled, began to wash
his hands in some dirty water in a dish outside: his master ran at him
with a whip, and it was all she could do to prevent him being lashed.
Opening out again and again he called the lad a fool for daring to
touch a dish used by their Great White Mother.

But what was more important than all was the fact that the way had at
last been opened up for trade relations with Calabar. The people began
to make oil and buy and sell kernels, and to send the produce down the
river direct to the factories. As she had foreseen, they had now less
time for palavers, and less inclination for useless drinking, and still
more useless quarrelling and fighting.

                      XII. THE SCOTTISH CARPENTER

The story of the settlement in Okoyong and of the building of the hut
and hall was related by Miss Slessor in the _Missionary Record_ of the
Church for March 1889. The hall she described as "a beautiful building,
though neither doors nor windows are yet put in, as we are waiting for
a carpenter. And," she added, "if there were only a house built, any
other agent could come and take up the work if I fail." In the same
number of the _Record_ there appeared an appeal by the Foreign Mission
Committee for "a practical carpenter, with an interest in Christian
work," for Calabar.

There happened to be in Edinburgh at this time a carpenter named Mr.
Charles Ovens, belonging to the Free Church, who was keenly interested
in foreign missions. As a boy he had wished to be a missionary, but
believing that only ministers could hold such a post he relinquished
the idea. He was an experienced tradesman of the fine old type, a Scot
of Scots, with the happy knack of looking on the bright side of things.
Having been in America on a prolonged visit he was about to return
there, and had gone to say good-bye to an old lady friend, a United
Presbyterian. The latter remarked to him, "I see Miss Slessor wants a
man to put in her doors and windows--why don't you go to Calabar?" He
had never heard of Miss Slessor, but the suggestion struck him as good,
and he straightway saw the Foreign Mission Secretary, and then went and
changed the address on his baggage. He left in May, and on his arrival
in Calabar was sent up to finish the work Mary had begun. All his
speech at Duke Town was of America and its wonders, but when he
returned some months later he could talk of nothing but Okoyong.

He found Mary attired in a simple dress, without hat or shoes, dining
at a table in the yard in the company of goats and hens. She sprang up
with delight on hearing the Scots tongue, and welcomed him warmly. The
conditions were most primitive, and his room was only eight feet long
and five feet wide, but he possessed much of her Spartan spirit.
Although ignorant of the native language he was of great assistance to
her during his stay, while his humour and irresistible laugh lightened
many a weary day. As he worked he sang "auld Scots sangs," like the
"Rowan Tree" and "The Auld Hoose." When she heard the latter tears came
into her eyes at the memories it recalled. Even Tom, his native
assistant, was affected. "I don't like these songs," he said, "they
make my heart big and my eyes water!"

The Mission House had progressed well under Mary's superintendence. She
had aimed at making it equal to any at the big stations, and had
planned an "upstairs" building with a verandah six feet above the
ground, and a kitchen and dispensary. She had mudded the walls, and the
mat roof was being tied on, and now that Mr. Ovens was at work all was
promising well, when an event occurred which put a stop to operations
for months.


One morning, when nature was as lovely as a dream, Mr. Ovens was
working at the new house, and Miss Slessor was sitting on the verandah
watching him. Suddenly, from far away in the forest, there came a
strange, eerie sound. Ever on the alert for danger, Mary rose and

"There is something wrong," she exclaimed.

For a moment she stood in the tense attitude of a hunter seeking to
locate the quarry, and then, swiftly moving into the forest, vanished
from sight. Mr. Ovens sent Tom, his boy, off after her to find out what
was the matter. He returned with a message that there had been an
accident, and that Mr. Ovens was to come at once and bring
restoratives. As the ominous news became known to the natives standing
around a look of fear came into their faces.

Mr. Ovens found her sitting beside the unconscious body of a young man.
"It is Etim, the eldest son of our chief, Edem," she explained. "He was
about to be married, and had been building a house. He came here to
lift and bring a tree; when handling the log it slipped and struck him
on the back of the neck, and paralysis has ensued."

He glanced at her face as if surprised at its gravity. She divined what
he thought, and speaking out of her intimate knowledge of the people
and their ways she said, "There's going to be trouble; no death of a
violent character comes apart from witchcraft.... Can you make some
sort of a litter to carry him?"

Divesting himself of part of his clothing, and obtaining some strong
sticks, he made a rough stretcher, on which the inert form was laid
conveyed to Ekenge.

For a fortnight Mary tended the patient in his mother's house, hoping
against hope that he would recover, and that the crisis she dreaded
would be averted, but he was beyond human help. One Sunday morning he
lay dying, and the news sent a spasm of terror throughout the district.
Hearing the sound of wailing Mary rushed to the yard and found the lad
being held up, some natives blowing smoke into his nostrils, some
rubbing ground pepper into his eyes, others pressing Ms mouth open, and
his uncle, Ekpenyong, shouting into his ears. Such treatment naturally
hastened the end. When life was fled, the chief dropped the body into
her arms and shouted, "Sorcerers have killed and they must die. Bring
the witch-doctor."

At the words every man and woman disappeared, leaving only the mother,
who, in an agony of grief, cast herself down beside the body. When the
medicine-man arrived he laid the blame of the tragedy upon a certain
village, to which the armed freemen at once marched. They seized over a
dozen men and women, the others escaping into the forest, and after
sacking all the houses returned with the prisoners loaded with chains,
and fastened them to posts in the yard, which had only one entrance.

Anxious to pacify the rage of the chiefs, father and uncle, Mary
undertook to do honour to the dead lad by dressing him in the style
befitting his rank. Fine silk cloth was wound round his body, shirts
and vests were put on, over these went a suit of clothes which she had
made for his father, the head was shaved into patterns and painted
yellow, and round it was wound a silk turban, all being crowned with a
tall black and scarlet hat with plumes of brilliant feathers. Thus
attired the body was carried out into a booth in the women's yard,
where it was fastened, seated in an arm-chair, under a large umbrella.
To the hands were tied the whip and silver-headed stick that denoted
his position, while a mirror was arranged in front of him, in order
that he might enjoy the reflection of his grandeur. Beside him was a
table, upon which were set out all the treasures of the house,
including the skulls taken in war, and a few candles begged from Mary.

When the people were admitted and saw the weird spectacle they became
frenzied with delight, danced and capered, and started on a course of
drinking and wantonness.

"You'll have to stop all work," Mary said to Mr. Ovens, who felt as if
he were moving in some grotesque fantasy of sleep; "this is going to be
a serious business. We can't leave these prisoners for a moment. I'll
watch beside them all night and you'll take the day."

And time and time about in that filthy yard, through the heat of the
day and the chill of the night, these two brave souls kept guard
opposite the wretched band of prisoners, with the half-naked people,
armed with guns and machetes, dancing drinking about them. As one
barrel of rum was finished another was brought in, and the supply
seemed endless. The days went by, and Mr. Ovens lost patience, and
declared he would go and get a chisel and hammer and free the prisoners
at all costs. "Na, na," replied Mary wisely, "we'll have a little more

One day she went to Mr. Ovens and said, "They want a coffin."

"They'll have to make one," he retorted.

"I think you'd better do it," she rejoined; "the boy's father has some
wood of his own, of which he was going to make a door like mine, and he
is willing to use it for the purpose."

They proceeded to the yard to obtain measurements, and as they entered
Mary caught sight of some eséré beans lying on the pounding stone. She
shivered. What could she do! She returned to her hut. Prayer had been
her solace and strength during all these days and nights, and now with
passionate entreaty she beseeched God for guidance and help in the
struggle that was to come. When she rose from her knees her fear had
vanished, and she was tranquil and confident. Reaching the yard she
took the two brother chiefs aside, and told them that there must be no
sacrifice of life. They did not deny that the poison ordeal was about
to take place, but they argued that only those guilty of causing the
death would suffer. She did not reply, but went to the door of the
compound and sat down: from there she was determined not to move until
the issue was decided. The chiefs were angry. To have a white woman--
and such a woman--amongst them was good, but she must not interfere
with their customs and laws. The mother of the dead lad became violent.
Even the slaves were openly hostile and threatening. The crowd;
maddened by drink, ran wildly about, flourishing their guns and swords.
"Raise our master from the dead," they cried, "and you shall have the

Night fell. Mr. Ovens gathered up the children and put them to bed.
Mary scribbled a note to Duke Town and gave it to the two native
assistant carpenters, and directed them in English to steal in the
darkness to the beach and make their way down the river. There was
distraction within the yard as well as without. Three of the women were
mothers with babies, who were crying incessantly from hunger and fear.
Another, who had chains round her neck and bare limbs, had an only
daughter about fifteen years of age, who was a cousin of the dead lad,
and the betrothed wife of his father. The girl clung to her mother,
weeping piteously. Sometimes she would come and clasp "Ma's" feet,
beseeching her to help her, or waylay the chiefs, and offer herself in
servitude for life in exchange for her mother's freedom.

Mr. Ovens had gone to the hut, and Mary was keeping vigil when a stir
warned her of danger. Several men came and unlocked the chains on one
of the women--a mother--and ordered her to the front of the corpse to
take the bean. Mary was in a dilemma. Was it a ruse to get her out of
the yard? If she followed, would they bar the entrance and wreak their
vengeance on the others who remained? "Do not go," they cried, and
gazed at her pleadingly. But she could not see a woman walk straight to

One swift appeal to God and she was after the woman. The table was
covered with a white cloth, and upon it stood a glass of water
containing the poison. As the victim was in the act of lifting the
glass she touched her on the shoulder and whispered, "_'Ifehe!_" (run).
She gave a quick glance of intelligence into the compelling eyes and
off both bounded, and were in the bush before any one realised they
were gone. They reached the hut. "Quick," Mary cried to Mr. Ovens,
"take the woman and hide her." In a moment he had drawn her in and
locked the door, and Mary flew back to the yard. "Where is she?" the
prisoners cried. "Safe in my house," she answered. They were amazed.
She herself wondered at her immunity from harm. It might be that the
natives were stupefied with drink--but she thought of her prayer.

Finding that she was not to be moved, the chiefs endeavoured to cajole
and deceive her. "God will not let anybody die of the bean if they are
not guilty," they said. They released two of the prisoners,
substituting imbiam, the native oath, for the poison ordeal, and later,
five others. She still stood firm, and two more obtained their freedom.
There they stopped. "We have done more for you than we have ever done
for any one, and we will die before we go further." Three remained. One
woman, with a baby, they would not release. "Akpo, the chief of her
house, escaped into the bush, and the fact of his flight proves his
guilt," they argued; "we cannot ransom her." The other two, a freeman
and the woman named Inyam with the daughter, were relatives of the
bereaved mother, and also specially implicated, and they were seized
and led away. Mary hesitated to follow, but hoping that the girl might
be able to keep her informed of what was going on she decided to remain
with the woman with the infant.

Another dawn brought visitors from a distance, who only added to the
rioting and her perplexity. They told her that Egbo was coming, and
advised her to fly to Calabar. She replied that he could come and play
the fool as much as he pleased, but she would not desert her post. The
father stormed and threatened, and declared he would burn down the
house. "You are welcome," she said, "it is not mine." In a blazing
passion he cried that the woman would die. So terrified and exhausted
was the victim that she begged "Ma" to give in. At this point Ma Eme
came to the rescue: kneeling to her brother she besought him to allow
Mary to have the prisoner in the meantime--she could be chained to the
verandah of the hut, and could not possibly escape with such a weight
of irons. Mary caught at the plan, and declared that she would give a
fair hearing to the charges against the house which she represented.

To her infinite surprise the chiefs gave in. "But," said they, "if she
is sent out of the way to Calabar, you pay a heavy fine, and leave here
for ever." Fearing they would repent, she hastily called for the keys
to unlock the chain, but the slaves pretended ignorance, said they
could not find them, and denounced the liberation of the murderers.
Patience and firmness again succeeded, the keys were produced, the
locks were opened. Mary gathered up the long folds of chain, and Ma
Eme, also trembling with eagerness, pushed them out in order that they
might escape the crowd. They ran through the scrub to the hut, and here
the mother and child were housed in a large packing-case, while a
barricade was put up to make the position more secure.

During the afternoon two of the Calabar missionaries arrived, and added
the weight of their influence to Mary's, giving a magic-lantern
exhibition in the open, and in other ways endeavouring to lend prestige
to the funeral, in order to compensate for the lack of human sacrifice.
A quieter night followed, though the vigil was unbroken. In the morning
the father of the dead lad called her aside, and in a long harangue
justified his desire to do his son honour by giving him a retinue in
the spirit-land. Then calling to his retainers he ordered them to bring
the freeman. Dragging him forward, limping and dazed, he presented him
formally to "Ma," saying, "This further act of clemency must satisfy
you. The woman who is left must take the poison: you cannot object--she
will recover if she is innocent."

She thanked him warmly, but renewed her entreaties for the release of
the woman also. The chief turned away in anger and disgust, and the
battle went on. As the missionaries were obliged to return to Calabar
she and Mr. Ovens were again left alone. All day she followed the
chief, coaxing and pleading. Sometimes he ignored her; sometimes he
brusquely showed his annoyance; sometimes he looked at her in pity, as
if he thought she were crazed. But he gave her no hope. When a whisper
came to her ears that the burial would take place that night in the
house of the chief she was heart-sick with dread.

Late in the evening, as she was busy with her household, she heard a
faint cry at the barricade:

"Ma, Ma, make haste, let me in."

Noiselessly she pulled aside the planks, and Inyam, heavily ironed,
crawled on her hands and knees into the room. Her story was that she
had managed by friction to cut one of the links of the chain which
bound her, and had escaped by climbing the roof. Mary looked at the
thick chain hanging about her, and guessed whose were the kindly black
hands that had given her aid, but she kept her thought to herself. The
last of the prisoners was now safe, the funeral in the house of the
chief had taken place, and only a cow had been placed in the coffin,
and her joy was great. But her troubles were not over.

A party of natives coming to the funeral met another party returning
drunk with excitement and rum. Recalling some old quarrel the latter
killed one of the men they met, cut off his head, and carried it away
as a trophy. Fighting became general between the factions, and many
were seriously wounded.

One afternoon the village went suddenly mad with panic. All the women
and children and all the men without arms rushed frantically about.
Mothers clutched their babies, wives and slaves seized what belongings
they could carry, children screamed and held on to the first person
they met. They had heard sounds that heralded the advance of the
dreaded Egbo. Then, by a common impulse, all rushed for the protection
of the white woman's yard. She pulled down the barricade, packed as
many children and women into her room as it could hold, and ordered the
others into the bush at the back. The women were almost insane with
terror, and the manacled prisoner begged to be killed. As the beating
of the drum and the shouting of the mob drew near Mary trembled, but
again prayer restored her to calm. Even when the village was invaded
and shouting began, she was without fear. And, strange to say, the mob
remained but a short time, and not a shot went home. They had set fire
to every house in the village from which the prisoners had been taken,
and wrecked another and burned the stock alive. As no powerful chief
submitted to Egbo sent out by another House, Edem's village also ran
amok, and for over a week the population haunted the forest, shooting
down indiscriminately every man and woman who passed. It was not until
much blood had been shed that the various bands became tired of the
struggle and returned to their dwellings.

For three weeks the prisoners were kept in the hut, and then "Ma's"
pressure on the chiefs succeeded, and the chained woman was released on
condition that if her chief Akpo were caught he would take the poison
ordeal, whilst Inyam, taking advantage of all the people being drunk
one night, stole out into the forest and escaped. What became of her
Mary never knew, until one day, months after, when travelling, she
passed a number of huts in the bush, and was accosted by name and found
herself face to face with the refugee.

This was the longest and severest strain to which she was subjected; it
was her worst encounter with the passions of the natives, her greatest
conflict with the most terrible of their customs, and she came out of
it victorious. For the first time in the dark history of the tribe the
death and funeral of one of the rank of a chief had occurred without
the sacrifice of life. In some mysterious way she had been able to
subdue these wild people and bend them to her will. Her fame went far
and wide throughout Okoyong and beyond into regions still unexplored,
and many thought of her with a kind of awe as one possessing superhuman
power. There were, indeed, some amongst those who knew her who had a
lurking suspicion that she was more than woman.

                           XIV. THE AFTERMATH

Various incidents came as an aftermath to these happenings. One
afternoon the women came running to "Ma" saying that the elder chief,
Ekpenyong, was bent on taking the poison ordeal. When she reached his
yard she found him in a fury, shouting and threatening, the women
remonstrating, the slaves weeping. It was some time ere she could learn
the cause of the uproar. A man from a neighbouring village had been
about whispering that Ekpenyong had slain his nephew, in order that his
own son might absorb the inheritance. Ekpenyong was determined to
undergo the test, and in accordance with native law, which gave the
right to a freeman to call others of equal rank to share the trial with
him, he demanded that his brother Edem--who it was alleged had
instigated the man to make the accusation--should also take the poison.

When Mary had grasped the situation she ridiculed the attitude of the
chief, scolded him unmercifully, and at last secured his promise not to
carry out his threat. As a guarantee of his good faith she claimed
possession of the eséré beans. He denied that he had any. With the help
of his womenkind she made a secret search, and found eleven beans at
the bottom of a basket, which she conveyed in the darkness to her hut.
As more beans could not be obtained until the morning she felt that all
was well for the night. Shouting, however, made her run back. Mad with
drink the chief was clinging to a bag which the women were endeavouring
to seize. He was hitting out at them with his heavy hand, and most of
them were bleeding. "There is poison in that bag," they cried. "No, Ma,
only my palm-nuts and cartridges." Quietly, firmly, persistently, she
demanded the bag. He threw it at her. Opening it she found palm-nuts
and cartridges. For a moment she looked foolish, but diving deeper she
pulled out no fewer than forty of the deadly beans. "I'll take the
liberty of keeping these," she said coolly, but with a swiftly beating
heart. "No, no," he shouted, and his followers joined him in protest.
Outwardly calm she walked between the lines of armed men, ironically
bidding them take the bag from her. But their hands were held, and she
passed safely through, reached her hut, handed the beans to Mr. Ovens,
and returned to the scene to pacify the crowd.

Next morning she learnt to her consternation that Ekpenyong had risen
stealthily during the night and gone off on his errand of death.
Fortunately a chief some miles off detained him by force until she
arrived. She stuck resolutely to him, and as all the more powerful
chiefs came over to her side from sheer admiration of her pluck, he had
eventually to abandon his purpose. After taking the native oath he
betook himself to another part of the forest, where he built up a new

One more episode remained to round off the sequence of events. The
murderer of the young man in the funeral party was the oldest son of a
House noted for bloody deeds, and the act roused the slumbering fury of
its neighbours. War was declared and fighting began. Mary interfered
and pressed for arbitration, and both sides at last acceded to her
request, and asked her to conduct the palaver. Aware that the man was a
triple murderer and the penalty death, she shrank from the duty, and
begged them to put the matter into the hands of a Calabar chief. This
they did, and went to Ikunetu on the Cross River, where "blood for
blood" was the verdict. Fines and death by substitution of slaves were
offered and refused; the youngest son, a mere baby, was sent in
atonement and rejected; then the second son, a lad of twenty, was
despatched, and it was agreed that his death would redeem his brother.
Mary's distress was acute, especially as she had declined to act as
judge, but she was relieved on learning that the prisoner had escaped,
and was being sheltered by one of the slave-traders across the river.
She wished to get him into her own yard, but the weeping mother said it
was too dangerously near home.

One morning, early, she heard the sound of rapid firing, and in alarm
she sent messengers to enquire the cause. The lad had been betrayed,
brought back, filled with gin, and amidst discharge of guns, beating of
drums, singing and dancing, had been strangled and hung in the presence
of his mother and sister. These two alone mourned the dead, the others
were glad that the matter had been so easily settled, and for a week
the loafers and drunkards in the district held high carnival.

As time passed and the heat of the persecution cooled, Mary made
tentative proposals that Akpo, the escaped chief, and his family,
should be allowed to return. "I will go and fetch them myself if their
safety be guaranteed," she said. Edem, the father of the dead lad,
replied, "Very well, Ma, you can say that all thought of vengeance is
gone from our heart, and if he wishes to come to his own village or
live in your home or go anywhere in Okoyong he is at liberty to do so."
But trust is rare in Africa, and suspicion dies hard, and Akpo could
not bring himself to believe that Edem wished him well, and he elected
to remain where he was. Again she paid the exile a visit, taking with
her an elderly man, who was betrothed to his daughter, but he could not
overcome his fears. In his heart he and his friends were incredulous
that the chiefs of Okoyong would listen to a woman. A third time the
patient Mary went to him, and succeeded in bringing him and his son
back with her, the women remaining behind until a new house could be

The home-coming was fall of pathos. House, farm, clothing, seed-corn,
yams, goats, fowls, all had vanished. But as the chief stood amidst the
familiar surroundings his gloom and silence fell away, and he knelt and
clasped "Ma's" feet, and with eyes filled with tears vowed that he and
his house would be under yoke to her for ever, and that they would
never rebel against any commands she gave or do anything contrary to
her wishes. Most people, white and black, occasionally felt disposed to
dispute her rulings, and more than once her will and that of the chief
clashed, but he stood to his word, and there was no family in the
district who gave her message a more loyal hearing.

Edem acted nobly. He not only arranged for the housing of the two men,
but gave them a piece of ground and seed for food plants. When she went
to tell him all had been done, he simply said, "Thank you, Ma." But in
the evening he came alone to her, knelt and held her feet, and thanked
her again and again for her wonderful love and courage, for her action,
in forbidding them to take life at his son's death, and for all the
peaceful ways which she was introducing. "We are all weary of the old
customs," he said, "but no single person or House among us has power to
break them off, because they are part of the Egbo system."

And one by one, secretly and unknown to each other, the free people
came to her and thanked her gratefully for the state of safety she was
bringing about, and charged her to keep a stout heart and to go forward
and do away with all the old fashions, the end of which was always

                      XV. THE SWEET AND THE STRONG

Meanwhile the Mission House had evolved into what was in her eyes a
thing of beauty. She could at any rate boast that it was the finest
dwelling in Okoyong, and it was a happy day when she removed
"upstairs." Nor was the house all that was accomplished during these
troublous times. Mr. Goldie had made her a gift of a canoe; but without
a boathouse it was exposed to rain and ants and thieves, and she
planned a shelter at the beach that would do both for it and for
herself. Ma Eme brought her people to the spot, the men cut down trees
and erected the framework, and the women dug the mud and filled in the
walls, and Mr. Ovens made a door and provided a padlock.

Thus, in the course of a short time, she had built a hut; a good house
with accommodation for children, servants, and visitors; a dispensary;
a church; and a double-roomed boathouse. All the native labour had been
given cheerfully and without idea of money, but from time to time she
distributed amongst the workers a few gifts from the Mission boxes, or
a goat or a bag of rice. In addition to her house at Ekenge she had a
room in several of the villages, where she put up on her journeys; and
it was characteristic of her that she secured these not for her own
convenience but for the sake of the people, in order that they might
feel that they were being looked after.

It was, indeed, for the people she lived. Mr. Ovens states that she was
at their beck and call day and night; she taught in the schools,
preached in the church, and, as he puts it, "washed the wee bairnies
herself," and dressed the most loathsome diseases, all with tenderness
and gay humour. "I never saw a frown on her face," he says. She was
always ready for anything and equal to any emergency. "One morning," he
recalls, "she came to me. 'Twins,' she said, 'and we have to go.' When
we arrived at the spot we found that the bairns had been murdered by
the grandmother, and the mother was lying on the bare ground in a hut
some distance away. Miss Slessor sent her a bed and pillow, and told
her husband to be kind to her. The man took her back into the house--
such a thing had never been known before."

It was at this time that the plump and pretty infant referred to by
Miss Kingsley in her _Travels in West Africa_ was saved. The mother
died a few days after the birth, and as there was a quarrel between her
family and that of the father the child was thrown into the bush by the
side of the road leading to the market, and lay there for five days and
six nights.

This particular market is held every ninth day, and on the succeeding
market-day, some women from the village by the side of Miss Slessor's
house happened to pass along the path and heard the child feebly
crying: they came into Miss Slessor's yard in the evening, and sat
chatting over the day's shopping, and casually mentioned in the way of
conversation that they had heard the child crying, and that it was
rather remarkable that it should be still alive. Needless to say Miss
Slessor was off, and had that waif home. It was truly in an awful
state, but just alive. In a marvellous way it had been left by leopards
and snakes, with which this bit of forest abounds, and, more marvellous
still, the driver ants had not scented it. Other ants had considerably
eaten into it one way and another; nose, eyes, etc., were swarming with
them and flies; the cartilage of the nose and part of the upper lip had
been absolutely eaten into, but in spite of this she is now one of the
prettiest black children I have ever seen, which is saying a good deal,
for negro children are very pretty with their round faces, their large
mouths not yet coarsened by heavy lips, their beautifully-shaped flat
little ears, and their immense melancholy deer-like eyes, and above
these charms they possess that of being fairly quiet. This child is not
an object of terror, like the twin children; it was just thrown away
because no one would be bothered to rear it--but when Miss Slessor had
had all the trouble of it the natives had no objection to pet and play
with it, calling it "the child of wonder," because of its survival.
This child was named Mary after the house mother, and completed the
number of those who for long constituted the inner circle of the
family. The others were Janie, Alice--a rescued twin of "royal" blood,
and Annie--the child of the woman who took a native oath to prove that
she did not help her husband to eat a stolen dog. These four were to
grow up and become a comfort to their white "Mother," and will reappear
from time to time in the course of the story. Another helper in the
house at this time was Mana, a faithful girl, who had been caught by
two men when going home from a spring, and brought to Okoyong and sold
to Ma Erne. Other children there were, all with more or less tragic
histories, and all were looked after and trained and loved.

But Mary could be as stern and strong as her native granite when
combating evil. Mr. Ovens saw her repeatedly thrust brawny negroes away
from the drink, taking them round the neck, and throwing them back to
the ground. An intoxicated man, carrying a loaded gun, once came to see
her. She ordered him to put the weapon in a corner of the verandah. He
declined. She went up, wrested the gun from him, placed it in a corner,
and defied him to touch it. He went away, and came back every day for a
week before she gave it up. Another man came to her for medicine, and
after he had described his symptoms she brought a bottle of castor oil
and told him to open his mouth. Fearful that it might be some sort of
witchcraft, he demurred. "Ma" simply gave him a smart box on the ear
and repeated the order, whereupon he meekly took the stuff and went
ruefully away. About this time, also, she went and prevented two tribes
from fighting: although her heart was beating wildly she stood between
them and made each pile their guns on opposite sides of her, until the
heaps were five feet high. On another occasion she stopped and
impounded a canoe-load of machetes that were going up-river to be used
in a war.

Mr. Ovens was struck by her mental power and wide outlook. Despite her
incessant preoccupation with matters about her she never ceased the
cultivation of intellectual interests. She was a loving student of the
Bible, a wide and discriminating reader, and she followed with a
brooding mind the development of world affairs throughout the world.

Before his work was finished Mr. Ovens began to suffer from the
exposure, and she nursed him day and night through a serious illness.
When he returned to Duke Town she missed his cheery company; her
isolation and loneliness seemed intensified, and she was only sustained
by her faith in the efficacy of prayer and by her communion with the
Father, "My one great consolation and rest," she wrote, "is in prayer."
So invariably was she comforted: so invariably was she preserved from
harm and hurt, that her reliance upon a higher strength became an
instinctive habit. It conquered her natural nervousness and
apprehension. She had frequently to take journeys through the forest
with the leopards swarming around her. "I did not use to believe the
story of Daniel in the lions dens" she often said, "until I had to take
some of these awful marches, and then I knew it was true, and that it
was written for my comfort. Many a time I walked along praying, 'O God
of Daniel shut their mouths,' and He did." If she happened to be
travelling with bearers or paddlers, she would make them sing and keep
them singing; "And, _Etubom_" (Sir, Chief, or White Man), she would
say, when telling her experiences, "ye ken what like their singing is--
it would frighten any decent respectable leopard." And yet in some
things she was as timid as a child. When travelling in the Mission
steam-launch she would bury her head in her hands and cry out in fear
if the engine gave a screech or if the vessel bumped on a sandbank. She
was in terror all the time she was on board.

It was not possible for her to go on expending so much nervous force
without a breakdown, and as attacks of fever were coming with
increasing frequency she began to think of her furlough. The difficulty
was to fill her place. In 1890 Mr. Goldie reported that only she or a
man could fill it; no native agent could go from. Calabar on account of
tribal unfriendliness. But she thought otherwise. "No person connected
with me need fear to come to Okoyong, or suffer from lack of
hospitality." Okoyong was a very different place from what it had been
in 1888. There was greater order and security, and much less drinking
among the younger people, many of whom were at school; none dared to
use the slightest freedom with, her; they might come as far as the
verandah but no farther. The people were becoming ashamed of their
superstition, and were ready to inform her secretly when palavers and
sacrifices were in contemplation. Chiefs came voluntarily and requested
her to sit in the seat of judgment and adjudge their disputes. The
tribe, as a whole, was also working better, and developing a regular
trade with the Europeans. The problem was solved by another woman with
a stout heart, who voluntarily agreed to occupy the station during her
absence. This was Miss Dunlop. The Home Board were anxious as to her
safety, and recommended frequent communications with her; and later,
Miss Hutton, who had just arrived from Scotland, was appointed to keep
her company. When Miss Dunlop went up before "Ma" left, she was met by
what she thought was a crowd of peaceful, cheerful--people, eager only
to greet her and to help her. She modified her opinion later: a "wild
and lawless class," she called them, "boasting of their wildness," and
who came to the services drunk. When she spoke of God's love they would
say, "Yes, Ma Slessor tell us that plenty times." But she bravely held
the fort.

                         XVI. WAR IN THE GATES

At the last moment she was busy packing when messengers arrived from a
far-off township with intelligence that a young freeman had
accidentally shot his hand while hunting, and a request that she would
come to him with medicine. She was weak and ill: she was expecting
tidings of the steamer; she was beset with visitors from all parts who
had come to bid her farewell. Telling them what to do, and asking them
to let her know only if serious symptoms set in, she gave them what was
needed. Almost immediately came secret news that the man had died, that
his brother had wounded one of the chiefs, and that all the warriors of
the latter had been ordered to prepare for fighting on the morrow. She
never knew how this message had come or who had brought it. She made up
her mind to proceed to the spot, but the chief people about her opposed
the idea. They pointed to her weakness, and the probability of her
missing the steamer. They enlarged on the savage character of those
concerned. "They own no authority"; "They will insult you in their
drunken rage"; "The bush will be full of armed men, and they will fire
indiscriminately;" "The darkness will prevent them recognising you."
But they could not prevail upon her to relinquish what she thought was
a duty to those who had sought her aid. She, however, compromised by
consenting to take two armed attendants with lanterns, and to call at a
chief's place some eight miles distant, and secure a freeman to beat
the Egbo drum before her, thus letting the people in the fighting area
know that a free protected person was coming.

She reached their village about midnight. The chief was reported to be
at his farm, and she was urged to lie down until the morning, She
suspected that he was not many yards away, and she persuaded a
messenger to carry an urgent request to him for an escort and drum. The
reply was in the language of diplomacy all the world over:

"I have heard of no war, but will enquire regarding it in the morning.
If, in the event of there being war, you persist in going on you prove
your ignorance of the people, who from all time have been a war-loving
people, are not likely to be helped by a woman."

This put her on her mettle.

"In measuring the woman's power," she responded, "you have evidently
forgotten to take into account the woman's God."

She decided to go on. The people were astonished, not so much at her
folly in risking her life as in daring to disobey the despot, who held
their fate in the hollow of his hand. Somewhat chilled by her
unsympathetic reception she started, without much enthusiasm, on her
journey, but with her faith in God as strong as ever.

Reaching the first town belonging to the belligerents she found it so
silent and dark that she began to imagine the chief was right, and she
had come on a wild-goose chase. She crept quietly up to the house of an
old freewoman whose granddaughter had once lived with her: there was a
cautious movement within and a whispered, "Who's there?" She had barely
answered, when she was surrounded by a band of armed men, whose dark
bodies were like shadows in the night. In a few moments they were
joined by scores of others, and the greatest confusion prevailed. She
was asked what her business was and who were her informants, but
ultimately the chiefs permitted her to remain, and the women saw to her

After conferring together the chiefs thanked her for coming at such
discomfort to herself, and promised that no fighting, so far as they
were concerned, would take place until she heard the whole story.

"All the same," they averred, "we must fight to wipe out the disgrace
that has been put on us-see here are men badly wounded. Now, Ma, go to
bed, and we shall wake you at cock-crow, and you can accompany us."

This meant an hour's rest, which she urgently needed. At second cock-
crow she was called, but before she was steady on her feet they were
off and away down the steep hillside and through the stream at the foot
like a herd of wild goats. The women were at every house.

"Run, Ma!" they cried.

Run! Was she not running as fast as her weak and breathless state
allowed her? But she soon lost sight of the warriors, and could only
fall back upon prayer.

A hundred yards from the village of the enemy she came upon the band in
the bush making preparations for attack: the war-fever was at its
height, and the air resounded with wild yells. Walking quietly forward
she addressed them as one would speak to schoolboys, telling them to
hold their peace and behave like men and not like fools. Passing on to
the village she encountered a solid wall of armed men. Giving them
greeting, she got no reply. The silence was ominous. Twitting them on
their perfect manners she went up to them, and was about to force a
passage. Then a strange thing happened.

From out of the sullen line of dark-skinned warriors there stepped an
old man, who came and knelt at her feet.

"Ma, we thank you for coming. We admit the wounding of the chief, but
it was the act of one man and not the fault of the town. We beg you to
use your influence with the injured party in the interests of peace."

It was the chief whom she had travelled in the rain to see and heal
when she first came to Okoyong. Her act of self-sacrifice and courage
had borne fruit after many days.

She was so thankful that her impulse was to run back to their opponents
in the forest and arrange matters there and then; but she restrained
herself, and, instead, purposely told the men with an air of authority
to remain where they were while her wants were attended to.

"I am not going to starve while you fight," she said, "and meanwhile
you can find a comfortable seat In the bush where I can confer with the
two sides; choose two or three men of good address and good judgment
for the purpose."

They obeyed her like children.

When the two deputies from the other side came forward, two chiefs laid
down their arms and went and knelt before them and held their feet
saying it was foolish and unjust to punish the whole district for the
action of a drunken boy, begging them to place the matter before the
White Ma, and expressing their willingness to pay whatever fine might
be imposed. She, too, knelt and begged that magnanimity might be shown,
and that arbitration might be substituted for war. So novel a proposal
was not agreed to at once. The next few hours witnessed scenes of wild
excitement, rising sometimes to frenzy. Bands of men kept advancing
from both sides and joining in the palaver, and every arrival increased
the indignation and the resolution to abide by the old, manlier way of
war. She was well-nigh worn out, but her wonderful patience and tact,
coupled with her knowledge of all the outs and ins of their character,
again won her the victory. It was agreed that a fine should settle the
quarrel, and one was imposed which she thought exorbitant In the
extreme, but the delinquents accepted it, and promptly paid part in
trade gin.

Here was another peril. As the boxes and demijohns were brought forward
and put down the mob began to grow excited at the thought of the drink.
She foresaw trouble and disaster, but though her voice was now too
feeble to be heard in the babel of sound, she was not yet at the end of
her resources. Divesting herself of as many of her garments as was
possible, she threw them over the stuff, thus giving it the protection
of her own body, according to Egbo law.

It was a custom for providers of spirits which might have been tampered
with on the way from the boat, to taste the liquor in order to prove
that neither sorcery nor poison had been placed in it, and every man
wanted to be the taster on this occasion. As soon as the test had been
applied, every man on the other side likewise demanded the gin, and for
a time it seemed as if all had gone mad.

Mary seized the one glass which they held, and as each bottle was
opened she dealt out to the older and chief men one glass only,
resolutely refusing to give more, and placed the bottle under the cover
of her garments. No one dared to touch the stuff. There was some
jostling around her, but a few of the men constituted themselves into a
bodyguard, and by whip and drum kept the mob off. Amidst much tumult
and grumbling and laughter at her sallies she got them to agree to
leave the spirit in her charge on her declaring that she would be
surety for it arriving in their several villages in good time, and
untampered with.

She made them promise to go straight home and remain at peace during
her furlough (a promise that was loyally kept); but there was one party
she was obliged to accompany for a mile or two. They had--declared that
they were ashamed to return "like women," without having fought. They
begged her to allow them to have a "small scrap," in order to prove
they were not cowards. Not till they were safely past the danger zone
did she leave them. She remained till night at the village. The feeling
was still too disturbed to permit of a regular service, but she spoke
to them quietly of Christ as a Saviour: and then ordering all to their
rest she set out, tired as she was, on her lonely tramp through the
long miles of forest path.

She found her baggage had gone, and that messengers had arrived to take
her down to Duke Town.

                        XVII. AMONG THE CHURCHES

Arriving in England la January 1891 with Janie, who proved a great
comfort and help, she went straight to Topsham to view the graves of
her mother and sister. She was anxious to spend as much of her furlough
as possible amongst the scenes and with the friends associated with her
loved ones, and she secured and furnished a house. It possessed a fine
garden, and there, with the little black girl, she passed a quiet and
restful time until the autumn, when she went to Scotland, making her
headquarters at the home of her friend, Mrs. M'Crindle, now at Joppa.
For many months she was engaged on the deputation work which
missionaries on furlough undertake for the stimulation of the home
congregations. She had less liking than ever for addressing meetings,
but she did not shirk the duty. "It is a trial to speak," she said;
"but He has asked me to, and it is an honour to be allowed to testify
for Him in any way, and I wish to do it cheerfully." She wanted also to
persuade the women in the Church to give themselves up more whole-
heartedly to Christ, and to consecrate themselves to His cause. No
trouble was too great if it served that purpose. As a halo of romance
was beginning to gather about her she was in great request; wherever
she went the interest of the meeting centred in her, and her visits
were often followed by the formation of a Zenana Mission Committee.

Not always, however, did she satisfy expectations. She would talk
freely at the manse tea-table, especially if children were present, and
be led on to give vivid pictures of her life in the bush, so that the
company would be still sitting entranced when the bell rang for the
meeting. Then a rush would be made to the hall, where impatient people
would be waiting to be thrilled by stories of heroic service. And what
they heard was an evangelistic address! The minister would look
disappointed, feeling that he could have done as well himself. But she
sometimes deprecated surface interest, and said that if the heart was
right and the life consecrated, mission work would be well supported
without any adventitious aid.

After addressing a meeting at Slateford near Edinburgh she was on the
way to the station when a woman who had been in the audience took Janie
and kissed her and pressed some money into her hand. Next day the
minister received a letter inscribed:

_"For the lady who gave Janie the money and the kiss on the way to the
station.-M. M. Slessor."_

Enclosed was a photograph of Janie and a letter in which she wrote:

MY DEAR FRIEND--For such I must call you. Such a true womanly Christian
spirit as you showed yesterday is one of the fruits of our holy
Christianity--I thank you for loving and kissing the child--God bless
you, my dear sister. I may yet see you in the flesh. I will if I go
back to Slateford. But I may be sure of meeting you in the Father's
house when the shadows flee away and the everlasting glory has dawned.

The recipient kept the photograph and letter and still treasures them
as mementoes of one of whom she never ceased to think and for whom she
always prayed. It was in such ways that she knit hearts to her.

She made many friends in the manses and in the homes of the members of
the Church, and greatly increased the interest in her work in Calabar,
with the result that after she returned a larger stream of
correspondence and Mission boxes began to flow to Okoyong.

                          XVIII. LOVE OF LOVER

Aware of her singleness of mind and aim in the service of Christ, and
her whole-hearted devotion to the interests of the people of Okoyong,
it came as a surprise to her friends to learn that she was engaged to
be married. The hidden romance was disclosed at a meeting of the
Mission Board in September.

The suitor for her hand was Mr. Charles W. Morrison, one of the
teachers on the Mission staff, a young man from Kirkintilloch,
Scotland, then in his twenty-fifth year. His career at home had been a
successful one; he had been an active Christian worker, and when he
applied to the Board for an appointment in Calabar he was accepted at
once and sent out to Duke Town. He was a man of fine feeling, with a
distinct literary gift. On the few occasions that he had seen Mary he
was attracted by the brilliant, unconventional little woman, and when
she was ill was very attentive and kind to her. Before she left on
furlough they had become engaged on the understanding that he would
come and live at Okoyong.

She made it clear to the Board that she had pledged her word to her
people not to leave them, and that she would not, even for her personal
happiness, break her promise, Mr. Morrison, she believed, would make a
very good missionary, and they would be able to relieve each other, as
she would remain at Okoyong when he was at home. The Board took time to
consider the proposal, and meanwhile Mary received the congratulations
of her friends. Her replies indicate that there was no uncertainty in
her own mind on the subject:

I lay it all in God's hands, and will take from Him whatever He sees
best for His work in Okoyong. My life was laid on His altar for that
people long ago, and I would not take one jot or tittle of it back. If
it be for His glory and the advantage of His cause there to let another
join in it I will be grateful. If not I will still try to be grateful,
as He knows best.

Both were a little doubtful as to the action of the Board, and Mr.
Morrison asked her whether, in the event of a refusal, she would
consent to return to Duke Town, Such a project, however, she would not

"It is out of the question," she explained to a friend. "1 would never
take the idea into consideration, I could not leave my work for such a
reason. To leave a field like Okoyong without a worker and go to one of
ten or a dozen where the people have an open Bible and plenty of
privilege! It is absurd. If God does not send him up here then he must
do his work and I must do mine where we have been placed. If he does
not come I must ask the Committee to give me some one, for it is
impossible for me to work the station alone."

The Board, seemingly, were not sure of the wisdom of the arrangement,
and their decision was a qualified refusal. The work which Mr. Morrison
was doing at Duke Town, they said, was important, and they could not
sanction his transference to Okoyong until full provision was made for
carrying it on effectively and to the satisfaction of the Calabar

When Mary was told the result she merely said, "What the Lord ordains
is right," and, apparently, dismissed the subject from her mind.

Mr. Morrison was, shortly afterwards, compelled to return to Scotland
on account of his health. A medical specialist advised him against
resuming work in Calabar, and he offered for service in Kaffraria, but
there was no opening in that field, and to the regret and
disappointment of the Committee, who regarded him as an able and valued
worker, he resigned. He went later to America and was living in a hut
among the balsam woods of North Carolina when a fire took place in
which his much-treasured literary papers were consumed. The loss
affected him greatly, and hastened his death, which occurred shortly

Amongst the few treasured books which Mary left at the end were
battered copies of _Eugene Aram_ and _Sketches by Boz._ On the fly-leaf
of one in her handwriting are the letters:

           _C. W. M.
           M. M. S._

On the other are signatures in their respective hands:

          _C. MORRISON.
           M. M. SLESSOR._

Love of mother and sister had been lost to her long since, and now love
of lover and husband was denied, and again she turned her face, alone,
towards the future.

  _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 my work be done._

                      XIX. A LETTER AND ITS RESULT

A sharp attack of influenza followed by
bronchitis cut short her engagements. During her convalescence she one
day took up the Missionary Record, and read a letter by the Rev. James
Luke entitled "An Appeal for Lay Missionaries for Old Calabar." Like
her own writing it had a touch of style and originality, and her
comment was "Splendid!" But there was one incidental statement with
which she did not agree. Mr. Luke called for two more artisan
missionaries--"not to teach the trades; we haven't sufficient men for
that, even were Calabar ripe for such instruction." As the result of
her own observation and experience she had often felt that something
ought to be done to develop the industrial capabilities of the natives.
The subject had not been lost sight of by the missionaries and the
Mission Board, and the latter had sought, by sending out competent
artisans, to attend not only to the work required in connection with
the Mission but to train some of the native youths in the various
departments of labour. There had, however, been no attempt to establish
the work on organised lines, and the remark which Mr. Luke made induced
her to place the whole matter before the Church. She penned a long
letter, the writing of which so exhausted her that she scarcely knew
whether or not the words were rightly spelled. It went to Dr. George
Robson, then beginning his long and honourable editorship of the
_Record_, and appeared in the next issue under the signature of "One of
the Zenana Staff."

It was a letter which displayed all the qualities of missionary
statesmanship, was clear, logical, and vigorous in style, and glowed
with restrained enthusiasm. She pointed out that it was necessary to
help the natives to become an industrial people as well as to
Christianise them, and she combated the idea that they were not capable
of being taught trades; their weak point no doubt was their want of
staying power, their lack of persistence in the face of difficulties,
but this could be accounted for by their history; their only rule and
mode of life hitherto having been "force of circumstance," The question
of training them, however, was too large a problem for the unaided
missionary, too large even for the Mission Board; it was a matter for
the whole Church to take up. "Let the science of the evangelisation of
the nations occupy the attention of our sermons, our congregations, our
conferences, and our Church literature, and we will soon have more
workers, more wealth, more life, as well as new methods."

So earnest an appeal caused some stir in official circles. The Mission
Committee took up the subject, and after interviewing the missionaries
who were at home at the time, including herself, referred to Calabar
for information. As she had no further connection with the matter the
outcome may be briefly noted here. The Calabar Committee were
favourable to any scheme of industrial training, and the local
Government also expressed their willingness to assist. After the Rev.
Dr. Laws, of Livingstonia, and the Rev. W. Risk Thomson, had gone out
and reported on the situation and outlook, the proposal rapidly took
shape, and the Hope Waddell Training Institute--thus called after the
founder of the Mission--came into being, and was soon performing for
West Africa the same valuable service that Lovedale and Blythswood were
doing for South Africa. She never took any credit for her part in
promoting the undertaking, and never made a single reference to it in
her letters. She was content to see it realised....

Medical advice sent her down to Devon to recruit. She did not complain
or worry about the readjustment of her plans. "We alter things for the
good of our children," she said, "and God does the same to us." With
Janie she left for Calabar in February 1892, the Congregational Church
at Topsham bidding her farewell at a public meeting convened in her

                         XX. THE BLOOD COVENANT

It was strange, even for her, to pass from the trim, well-ordered life
of Britain into the midst of West African heathenism,--to find waiting
for her in her yard two refugees who, being charged with witchcraft,
had been condemned to be sold and killed and preserved as food,--to be
interviewed by a slave woman who had been bought by an Okoyong chief as
one of his many wives, after having been the wife of other two men, one
of whom had been disposed of to the cannibal tribe, whilst her boy had
been carried to Calabar in bondage. Such were the conditions into which
she was once more plunged.

The majority of the people admired and trusted hers and gave her
implicit obedience, but there were some who avoided and feared her, and
sought to undermine her authority and perpetuate the old customs. Her
own chiefs remained staunch, and Ma Erne, although a heathen, continued
to be her truest friend and best ally. It was to her that Mary was
still mainly indebted for news of what was going on. If there was any
devilry afoot she would send a certain bottle to the Mission House with
a request for medicine. It was a secret warning that she was to be
ready to act at a moment's notice. As a result of these hints she was
able to prevent many a terrible crime. On one occasion, when the
natives were seeking to compass a man's death, she lay down without
undressing for a month of nights, ready to set out, and the first night
she took off her clothes and endeavoured to obtain a good sleep she was
called. And just as she was she set out for the scene. The chiefs began
to think it was useless to hoodwink or browbeat the wonderful woman who
seemed to know their inmost thoughts and all their hidden plans.

Sometimes, when she received the intimation that a palaver was
beginning, and that a fight was imminent, she would not be ready, and
would resort to stratagem: she would seize a large sheet of paper and
scribble some words--any words--upon it and add some splashes of
sealing--wax to make it look important. This she would despatch by a
swift runner to the chiefs, and by the time they had discussed the
mysterious official--looking document, which none of them, could read,
she would come on the scene and allay the excitement and settle the

One of her favourite devices during palavers was to knit. She fancied
that the act kept her from being nervous, as well as from showing fear,
while the sight of the knitting going quietly and steadily on, in the
midst of uproar, helped to calm the excitement. She used to say that it
was only during these long palavers that she could get some knitting
done. We can well believe this when we are told by an official that on
one occasion she stayed knitting and listening the whole of one day and
night, until the opposing powers became hungry, and retired without a

The story of one of these knitting palavers must suffice. Shortly after
she returned she wished to settle an important dispute that had been
going on for a time between two sections of the Okoyong people. Three
years before, a gathering such as she summoned would have been
impossible--they would have laid down "medicine" and fought. She
trembled to go, and longed for some of the Calabar missionaries to come
up and accompany her. But God gave her peace. After a sleepless night
she started with her knitting material, and reaching the clearing in
the forest passed alone through the guards of armed men. Every chief
was there, dressed in all the colours of the rainbow,--thanks chiefly
to Mission boxes,--each sitting under a huge umbrella of blue and red
and yellow silk, with from twenty to fifty of his men forming a cordon
about him, all with guns loaded and swords hanging from their sides.

The sky was sober and grey, and the magnificent foliage overhead made
the atmosphere cool and sweet. A chair was placed for her beside the
oldest chief, in the centre, with the one party on the right and the
other on the left. But first she moved from one group to the other,
drawing laughter as she went with her jokes and by-play, and trying to
lessen the tension that all experienced. Then she took her seat,
started her knitting, and the business began. A word from her was
sufficient to check any outburst of feeling, but she only spoke now and
then, in order to elicit information or to make clear a bit of

Time was nothing to these men, and, accustomed to one square meal a
day, they did not mind a long sitting; but Mary knew what backache and
chill and hunger were and she was often tempted to tell them to keep to
the point, but it would have been of no avail.

Night fell, torches were lit, the voices waxed louder, the excitement
spread, until Mary felt that matters were getting out of hand, and
brought the issue to a head. An old chief summed up, and did so with
rare tact and patience and good humour. She gathered up the main points
and gave her verdict, which was unanimously adopted with ringing
cheers. A native oath had now to be taken to ratify the agreement, and
the necessary materials were sent for--a razor, corn, salt, pepper, and
rum. A freeman from, each side was called forward, and after divesting
themselves of all superfluous clothing they knelt at her feet and
clasped each other's fingers. Another made an incision with the razor
on the back of their hands, and when the blood had flowed a little
salt, pepper, and corn were laid upon the wounds. Then out of courtesy
to "Ma," they asked her to say a prayer. But she always witnessed the
oath under protest, recognising that they knew no better way, and she
would not comply with their request, though she offered no objection to
one of the chiefs praying. After the terrible oath formula had been
repeated, the two men sucked up the blood-saturated ingredients and
swallowed them, and the covenant was ratified. Relieved from the
strain, the whole assemblage became suddenly smitten with the spirit of
fun. The proceedings were over before midnight, and after a tea hours'
sitting Mary began her homeward journey of four miles, tired and
hungry, but happy.

                          XXI. "RUN, MA! RUN!"

Her letters at this time bear witness to the strenuous character of the
life she led. They often begin with a description of household events:
then a break will occur: the next entry starts with "It is many days
since I had to leave off here," and then follows an account of some
sudden journey and adventure. Another interruption will take place,
caused by some long palaver or rescue: and the end will be a remark
such as this: "So, you see, life here, as at home, is just a record of
small duties which occupy the time, and task the strength without much
to show for it."

Here are some incidents which reveal to us the nature of what she
deemed her "commonplace" work:

 1. _A Forest Vigil_

"Run, run, Ma! there is something going on!" was the significant
message. "Where?" She was told, and went straight off. A chief had
died, and the people were administering the poison ordeal at a spot
deep in the forest, in order to avoid her interference. She arrived
before the proceedings began, and for four days and four nights she
remained there constantly on the watch. Her clothes were never off--and
only those who have lived in tropical lands know what this means. All
the rest she allowed herself was a short half-slumber, as she lay upon
some plantain fronds. The men would not leave the spot, hoping to tire
her out, and at night they lit fires to keep off the wild beasts of
prey, and slept about her. In these long hours she was often afraid,
not of the armed men, but of the wild creatures of the bush that came
creeping up, and with sombre eyes stared at her for a moment ere they
slunk away from the flames. Such courage and endurance could not be
withstood,--in the end the people gave in and life was saved.

 2. _Egbo_

She was sitting quietly in the house, thinking she was alone, when a
stealthy step behind made her look round: it was a woman, followed by
others all crowding in as smoothly as tigers. "Run, Ma! run!" they
said. The words were no sooner spoken than Mary was down the stair and
out in the open "square," where she found a number of men pulling about
and frightening the slaves and women. She seized hold of one fellow and
locked him in her yard, and the act brought quiet. The mob turned out
to be Egbo from a far-off town, come to sue for a debt due by a widow,
who had already given up everything to liquidate it. She knew the
people, had been kind to them, and had induced them to trade with
Calabar. She at once ordered them out of the place, and made them
restore the property they had seized, and in a short time the matter
was settled,

 3. _Robbers_

One day she was busy standing on a box plastering a wall when the
warning cry came, "Run, Ma! run!" The villagers had gone off with their
arms and were fighting a band of plunderers, who had stolen two slave-
girls and two slave-men from Ma Eme's farm. Washing the mud off her
hands and face she ran to the scene, and all next day, Sunday, she was
sitting in the midst of a drinking mob trying to keep down their
passions, and succeeded at last in finding a pacific solution.

 4. Twins

Again the cry, "Run, Ma! run!" this time from two boys. It was a case
of twins born of a Calabar mother, who had come to Okoyong after trade
began. The father and his womenkind were furious, and the mother lay
deserted and alone. Mary took the two babies into her lap, and as they
were Calabar twins sent word to the elder chief. The answer she
received was "Ahem!" But the messenger added, "A big lady said, 'Why
don't you take the twins to Calabar?'"

She next sent to the younger chief, and asked him to come and confer
with her at a distance.

After two hours' weary waiting the reply was, "I am not coming, what
should I come for? Should I tell my Mother what to do? Let her do what
she sees fit."

"Well," said Mary, "as one chief says, 'Ahem' and the other gives no
command, I shall take the children by a back road to my own house, and
during the night the mother can follow, and we will see how things turn

On being told that she had brought twins to the house Edem groaned and
said, "Then I cannot go to my Mother's house any more. Are they

"Yes," said the messenger, "and they are in her own bed."

He groaned again, "No, no, I cannot ever go any more."

Mary went to his yard to see a sick baby, whom she had nursed back from
death's door after the witch-doctors had done their best with their
charms and medicine, but the mother held the child tightly in her arms
and said, "Ma, you shall not touch her!" She turned away, her heart

On the Sunday rain fell all day, and she could not leave one of the
children who was ill, but in the late evening she took two lanterns and
went to the roadside and held a short service with the few prepared to
come, and who huddled together in the rain. But none of them guessed
how near to tears the speaker was. She felt the alienation from her
people keenly; it was the greatest trial that had come to her, but she
was resolved not to give in.

One of the twins died, and some days later Edem offered her a present
of yams, but she declined the gift, as it might be mistaken for a bribe
to her conscience. He remonstrated, but she remained firm, although it
cost her much. Gradually, however, he and his House showed contrition,
and the shadow passed away.

Then a chief from another village came, also with a present of yams.
Going on his knees he held her feet and begged her not to give up the
child. "You are our Mother; and a woman has proved stronger than all
the men of the tribe: we will be able to believe in all you ask us by
and by, but have patience with us."

When he was gone a message came: "A chief from a distance wants to see
you; come for a little."

This man was from a turbulent part of Okoyong and given to fighting and

"I live in my house as ever I did," was her spirited reply; "and if any
one wishes to see me I am here." She felt pretty sure of her ground,
though she could not help trembling for the result.

The strangers arrived, and Edem with them, and chairs and mats were
placed for them in the court. To her surprise she was asked for her
advice, and the visitor went away convinced that the new ways were
better than the old.

The elder chief, Ekpenyong, next sent and begged for forgiveness. "The
Mother cannot keep a strong heart against her son. Are you not the hope
and strength and counsellor of my life? Forgive me, for it was
foolishness, I have not been taught from my youth, and have never seen
a twin."

Thus good came out of the trial, and the bonds that bound her to the
people were strengthened. What was still more remarkable than the
attitude of the chiefs was the fact that the husband took the twin-
mother and the surviving child home.

 5. _The Poison Bean_

A slave woman of importance who occupied a position of trust died
suddenly. When her master was told he flew into a passion and
despatched a messenger to Mary with the rude intimation that "somebody
hereabouts knew how to kill people." She returned a curt reply, and he
sent an apology. The next development was the appearance of some chiefs
and a crowd of armed men in her yard. With them was a young man, not a
favourite of hers, to whom they attributed the woman's death. She
questioned him, and he asserted that he had not seen the woman for
months, and knew nothing of the supposed witchcraft; but he would take
the poison bean, and, he added vindictively, if he did not die he would
see that they paid for the outrage. She sent a message by the chiefs to
the owner of the woman to dissuade him from inflicting the extreme
test. There was the usual period of uproar, and on her part the usual
recourse to prayer, and then back came the chiefs with the astonishing

"I have heard. I understand that the Mother is determined in her way.
What can I do but submit."

Instead of death the sequel was a feast, a goat was killed, drink
procured, and dancing was indulged in all night. Next day the young man
went home to his aged mother.

 6. _Runaway Slaves_

One day when she was baking, a man and his wife, slaves of a chief in
the neighbourhood, came to the door of the Mission House, and after
giving compliments squatted down with the air of people who had come to

"Well, what is the matter?" she asked. She knew the woman had a child,
which could not have been left at home.

A long tale was told. The woman had been in the field all morning
hoeing grass: as the sun rose she and her child grew hungry and she
went home to cook some food. As she was doing so her master, who was
not a favourite either with bond or free, unexpectedly appeared, and
angrily ordered her back to her work. She protested that she needed
food, but, brandishing a sword, he frightened her into flight. Her
husband, a palm-oil worker, heard the noise, and came on the scene,
stopped her, and told her to return and take the food. "What does it
matter?" he remarked, "we are his; he can kill us if he likes; we have
nothing to live for." The master, enraged, seized a gun and fired at
the man, but missed. Taking hold of the screaming child he declared he
would kill it and went off.

It was a simple case, but required delicate handling. She sent one of
her girls to the chief with the message that his slaves were in her
yard, and that as they were householders and elderly people and
parents, she hoped there would be no palaver, and that he would take
them back.

"I will come to-morrow," was the reply.

The runaways slept in the yard and held something of the nature of a
reception, the other slaves coming and condoling with them as the poor
do with each other all the world over. It was like a scene from _Uncle
Tom's Cabin_. One moment the company would encourage them cheerily,
urging them to have patience, then came a string of doleful tales, then
a gush of warm sympathy, and next a burst of laughter, followed by a
shower of tears.

Next day their master did not appear, and they went to work on the
station grounds. The woman was fretting for her child, and Mana, one of
the girls, was sent with another message, to the effect that if he
could not come himself he must, for the woman's sake, send on the babe.
The messenger brought back the news that he was on his way, but was
tipsy, and breathing out dire threats against everybody. When Mary
heard that three of his wives were with him, and that her own chief had
joined the party, her mind was at ease.

His first act was to lie down at her feet. "Ma," he said, "you are the
owner not only of my head but of all my house and my possessions. These
wretched slaves did well to come to you"--and so forth.

She sent for a chair and a palaver of several hours began. The master
sometimes lost control of himself and charged the slave with being full
of sorcery and responsible for all the deaths of recent years. Shaking
his fist in the man's face he cried:

"If it wasn't for the reign of the white woman I would cut you in two!
The white woman is your salvation."

The slave biased with passion, but Mary entreated him to be calm. She
set the matter in the best light. Both had been angry and behaved as
angry people usually do, saying and doing things which in their saner
moods they would have avoided. Alternately scolding and beseeching, and
throwing in a few jokes occasionally, she at last said both must go
home, the master to restrain himself, and the slaves to work faithfully
and not to provoke him, as he had troubles of which they were unaware.

Thus with wise words she pacified them, and when she had given them a
few presents they went off in great good humour. The slaves found that
during their absence thieves had stolen their goats and fowls, but the
return of the child compensated for the loss, and in their gratitude
they sent "Ma" a gift of food.

 7. _Spoilt Fashions_

A woman was seized on the assumption that she was concerned in the
death of a girl, and Mary watched day and night until the burial was
over. A goat was killed and placed in the grave, along with cloth,
dishes, pots, salt, a lamp, a lantern, and a tin case of cooked food.
But her presence prevented any one being murdered to bear the dead
company. "Ma!" said a freeman reproachfully, "you have spoiled our
fashions. Before you came, a person took his people with him: now one
must go alone like this poor girl; you have confused Okoyong too much."
The woman who was seized was allowed to take the native oath, praying
that if she had a hand in the girl's death _mbiam_ should eat her and
corrupt her body until she died.

 8. _The Cost_

Mr. W. T. Weir, who had joined the Mission staff, paid her a visit one
day, and they were enjoying a cup of tea when she suddenly became alert
and said, "There's something wrong, they will be here in a moment." The
words were hardly spoken when they heard the pit-pat of bare feet
running towards the house. A number of natives appeared, and placing
their hands on the floor shouted, "Ma! come! come! come!"

She said to her guest, "Come on." They reached a large compound filled
with people excitedly shouting and gesticulating. On one side of the
yard lay a girl on a mud slab who seemed to be ill, and opposite was
her mother, in appearance a fiend incarnate. It appeared that the girl,
the daughter of an old chief, had taken a fainting fit, and the mother,
who had once been a refugee in "Ma's" yard, was blaming people for
taking her life.

Mr. Weir examined the girl, and said there was nothing much wrong, but
she was terribly excited with the noise. Mary at once said, "I'll get
quietness," and springing into the middle of the compound she seemed to
exert her utmost will-power, and, crying in the native manner, "_Soi,
wara do_" (Shoo, go out there!), pointed to the door. In a moment, men,
women, and children, including the staid old chief of the village, and
the girl's mother, struggled with each other to get out of the
compound. The scene reminded Mr. Weir of nothing so much as a lot of
sheep being hurried through a gate by a dog. She then came to where he
stood. She was trembling from head to foot, and as she sat down she
remarked, "I am done for this day." The girl was taken over to the
Mission House, and under her care made a quick recovery....

Never in all her dealings with the tribes was she molested in any way.
Once only, in a compound brawl, in which she intervened, was she
struck, but the native who wielded the stick had touched her
accidentally. The cry immediately went up that "Ma" was hurt, and both
sides fell on the wretched man, and would have killed him had she not
gone to the rescue.

                        XXII. A GOVERNMENT AGENT

In these years far-reaching changes were taking place in regard to the
political status and destiny of the country. Hitherto the British
Government had exercised only a nominal influence over the coast
districts. A consul was stationed at Duke Towns but he had no means of
exercising authority, and the tribes higher up the Cross River would
war upon one another, block the navigation, and murder at will. In 1889
the Imperial Government took steps to arrange for an efficient
administration, and despite difficulties incidental to the absence of a
central native authority succeeded in obtaining the sanction of the
principal chiefs to the establishment of a protectorate--the Niger
Coast Protectorate. In 1891 Sir Claude Macdonald, who had carried out
the negotiations, was appointed Consul--General. No man was better
fitted to lay the foundations of British authority in so backward a
territory. The period of transition from native to civilised rule
brought to the surface many delicate and perplexing problems requiring
tact, skill, and unwearied patience, but the task was successfully
accomplished, though not without an occasional display of force. It was
a special cause of thankfulness to the missionaries that Sir Claude was
in full sympathy with their work, and co-operated with them in every
scheme for the benefit of the people. When he was promoted to Pekin,
the Foreign Mission Board in Scotland expressed their sense of the
value of his efforts in promoting the welfare of the native population.

Sir Claude appointed vice-consuls for the various districts, and was
proposing to send some one to Okoyong. Miss Slessor knew that her
people were not ready for the sudden introduction of new laws, and that
there would be trouble if an outside official came in to impose them.
Sir Claude took her point of view, and recognising her unique position
and influence, empowered her to do all that was necessary, and to
organise and supervise a native court. He then left her very much to
herself, with the result that the inevitable changes were felt least of
all in Okoyong, where they were made through a woman whom the chiefs
and people implicitly trusted. Her position was akin to that of a
consular agent, and she conducted all the public affairs of the tribe.
She presided at the native court. Cases would be referred to her from
Duke Town, and she would travel over Okoyong to try these, taking with
her the consular messenger, who carried back her decision to
headquarters for official signature. Crowds of the natives also visited
her to consult her regarding the readjustment and co-ordination of
their customs with the new laws, and she was able to settle these
matters so quietly that little was heard of her achievements. Although
she rendered great service in this way, creating public opinion,
establishing just laws, and protecting the poor, it was a work she did
not like, and she only accepted it because she thought it in line with
her allegiance to Christ.

Her duties brought her in contact with the officials of the country.
Government men came to see her, and were not only amazed at her
political influence, but charmed with her original qualities. One of
these, Mr. T. D. Maxwell, for whom she had a great regard--"a dear
laddie" she called him--writes:

What sort of woman I expected to see I hardly know; certainly not what
I did. A little frail old lady with a lace or lace-like shawl over her
head and shoulders (that must, I think, have been a concession to a
stranger, for I never saw the thing again), swaying herself in a
rocking-chair and crooning to a black baby in her arms. I remember
being struck--most unreasonably--by the very strong Scottish accent.
Her welcome was everything kind and cordial. I had had a long march, it
was an appallingly hot day, and she insisted on complete rest before we
proceeded to the business of the Court. It was held just below her
house. Her compound was full of litigants, witnesses, and onlookers,
and it was impressive to see how deep was the respect with which she
was treated by them all. She was again in her rocking-chair surrounded
by several ladies-and babies-in-waiting, nursing another infant.

Suddenly she jumped up with an angry growl: her shawl fell off, the
baby was hurriedly transferred to some one qualified to hold it, and
with a few trenchant words she made for the door where a hulking,
overdressed native stood. In a moment she seized him by the scruff of
the neck, boxed his ears, and hustled him out into the yard, telling
him quite explicitly what he might expect if he came back again without
her consent. I watched him and his followers slink away very
crestfallen. Then, as suddenly as it had arisen the tornado subsided,
and (lace shawl, baby, and all) she was again gently swaying in her
chair. The man was a local monarch of sorts, who had been impudent to
her, and she had forbidden him to come near her house again until he
had not only apologised but done some prescribed penance. Under the
pretext of calling on me he had defied her orders--and that was the

I have had a good deal of experience of Nigerian Courts of various
kinds, but have never met one which better deserves to be termed a
Court of Justice than that over which she presided. The litigants
emphatically got justice--sometimes, perhaps, like Shylock, "more than
they desired"--and it was essential justice unhampered by legal
technicalities. One decision I recall--I have often subsequently wished
that I could follow it as a precedent. A sued B for a small debt. B
admitted owing the money, and the Court (that is "Ma") ordered him to
pay accordingly: but she added, "A is a rascal. He treats his mother
shamefully, he neglects his children, only the other day he beat one of
his wives with quite unnecessary vehemence, yes and she was B's sister
too, his farm is a disgrace, he seldom washes, and then there was the
palaver about C's goat a month ago. Oh, of course A didn't steal it, he
was found not guilty wasn't he?--all the same the affair was never
satisfactorily cleared up, and he did look unusually sleek just about
then. On the other hand, B was thrifty and respectable, so before B
paid the amount due he would give A a good sound caning in the presence
of everybody."


Does it seem as if we were watching the career of a woman of hard,
self-reliant, and masculine character, capable of living by herself and
preferring it, and unconscious of the natural weakness of her sex? In
reality Mary was a winsome soul, womanly in all her ways, tremulous
with feeling and sympathy, loving love and companionship, and not
unacquainted with nervousness and fear.

When people saw, or heard of her, toiling with her hands they were apt
to imagine that she possessed a constitution of iron, never realising
that her life was one long martyrdom. She was seldom free from illness
and pain. Whether her methods of life were partly responsible for this
cannot be stated. In any case, she seemed able to do things that would
have proved fatal to other people. She never used mosquito-netting,
which is considered to be indispensable for the security of health in
the tropics. She never wore a hat, which seems a miracle to those who
know the strength of the sun in these regions. Her hair she kept cut
close, partly because it was a cleanlier fashion, and partly because it
was less trouble to look after. Shoes and stockings, also, she never
wore, although jiggers and snakes and poisonous plants were common in
the bush pathways. Mr. James Lindsay, who was the engineer of the
Mission at this time, says, "I walked many miles with her through the
bush, and only once did I know her to be troubled with her feet. She
had been to Duke Town, attending Presbytery, and made some small
concession to the conventions by wearing a pair of knitted woollen
slippers. On returning to Okoyong through the bush, small twigs and
sticks penetrated the wool and pricked her feet. With an expression of
disgust she took the slippers off and threw them into the bush. That
was the only time I saw her other than barefoot." She never boiled or
filtered the water she drank, two precautions which Europeans do not
omit without suffering. She ate native food, and was not particular
when meals were served. Breakfast might be at seven one morning and at
ten the next; dinner might be an hour or two late; but this was, of
course, mainly due to the constant calls upon her time, for she was
often afoot most of the night, and her days were frequently taken up
with long palavers.

These habits, so seemingly eccentric to people lapped In the civilised
order of things, grown naturally out of the circumstances into which
she had been forced In pursuit of the task she had set herself. She had
deliberately given up everything for her Master, and she accepted all
the consequences that the renunciation, involved. What she did was for
Him and as she was not her own and had taken Him at His word and
believed that He would care for her if she kept in line with His will,
she went forward without fear, knowing that she might, through
inadvertence, incur suffering, but willing to bear it for His sake and
His cause. Her faith devotion led her into strange situations, and
these shaped the character of her outward life and habits. She shed
many conventions, simply because it was necessary in order to carry out
the will of Christ. She knew there were some people like the official
who saw her pushing a canoe down to the river and preferred not to know
her; but she was always sustained by the knowledge that she was acting
in her Master's spirit. She found in her New Testament that He ignored
the opinion of the world, and she was never afraid to follow where He
led. "What," says Mr. Lindsay, "she lost in outward respectability she
more than gained in mobility and usefulness. She kept herself
untrammelled in the matter of dress that she might be ready for any
emergency. In of a sudden call in the night to some distant village
where twin children had been thrown out or a bloody quarrel was
imminent, she was literally ready to leave at a moment's notice." The
one thing essential to her was her work, and anything that hampered her
freedom of action was dropped.

Not that she was thoughtlessly reckless of her health. She frequently
wrote about the need of conserving her strength, and stated that she
was taking all due care. She apologised for reading her Bible in bed on
Sunday mornings; it gave her a rest, she said, before she began her
day's work. As her Sunday began at 5.30 A.M. and ended at 7 P.M., and
during the greater part of that time she was walking, preaching, and
teaching, she might well allow herself the indulgence. It may be noted
that she sometimes misplaced Sunday. "I lost it a fortnight ago," she
wrote, "and kept it on a Saturday. Never mind, God would hear all the
prayers and answer them all the same." On another occasion she was
discovered on a Sunday on the roof of the house executing repairs,
thinking it was Monday.

Mr. Ovens relates that once when he went up on a Monday to do some work
he found her holding a service. She was glad to see him; "but what,"
said she, "is Duke Town coming to when its carpenter travels on the
Sabbath Day?"

"Sabbath Day!" he echoed. "It's Monday."

"Monday! why, I thought it was Sabbath. Well, we'll have to keep it as
Sabbath now."

"Na, na," he replied, "it's no Sabbath wi' me. I canna afford two
Sabbaths in a week."

"Ah, we must though," she said; adding in a whisper, "I was
whitewashing the rooms yesterday."

Realising that he must "save her face," he took part in the service and
started his work next morning.

In one of Mr. Goldie's letters to a friend at this time there is a
delightful touch. "I am at Okoyong," he wrote, "and am not sure of the

Her womanly sympathy and tenderness were never better exhibited than in
her relations with her dark sisters about her. She entered into their
lives as few have been able to do. She treated them as human beings,
saw the romance and tragedy in their patient lives, wept over their
trials, and rejoiced in their joys. There was one little idyll of harem
life which she liked to tell.

Some slave-dealers arrived at Ekenge, and among their "bargains" was a
young and handsome girl, whom Edem bought for one of his chief men. Ma
Erne, who heard of the transaction but paid no attention to it, had a
respectable slave-woman at one of her farms whom she ordered to come
and live in her own yard. The woman obeyed somewhat unwillingly, and in
the village began to grumble to others about her enforced removal. The
new slave-girl was cooking her master's food when she heard the voice.
As she listened memories were stirred within her and she ran out and
gazed at the woman, then went nearer and stared closely into her face.
The woman demanded what she was looking at. The girl screamed and
caught her round the neck and uttered a word in a strange language. It
was the name of the woman, who, in turn, stared at the girl. When the
latter called out her own name the two embraced and held each other in
a grip of iron. The daughter had found a mother who had been stolen
many years before. Both went into the yard and sat on the ground
discussing their experiences and receiving the warm congratulations of
the other women in the village.

There was trouble at the time in the district, and Mary had occasion to
see Ma Eme after midnight. She found the two sitting beside some
burning logs, with Ma Eme on the other side, all three talking over the
mystery of life and its pain and parting and sorrow. She squatted down
beside them, and gradually the girl told her story. How she had prayed
to the great God for some one to capture her so that she might have a
chance of finding her mother when the traders went to Calabar. She
believed that among the crowds at Duke Town she would see her face, and
when they left there she almost lost hope.

But "Ma" craved the companionship of her kind, and she enjoyed going
down to Duke Town to the various meetings, and seeing the ladies of the
Mission. She would not leave the children behind, and as the whole
family would descend unexpectedly on a member of the Mission staff,
some embarrassing situations occurred. One missionary, a bachelor, was
preparing to turn in about 10 P.M. when he heard people crowding up the
stairs of the verandahs and a babel of voices. It was "Ma" and all her
boys and girls and babies come to lodge with him for a week.
Fortunately he knew his guests, and, as he surmised, they were content
with the floor. When the household grew, and she could not leave the
children so often, she would sometimes walk with them to Adiabo on the
Calabar River, taking provisions with her, and there, halfway, would
meet and picnic with the Calabar lady agents.

It was about this time that the sense of her loneliness grew upon her
to such, an extent that she could not sleep at nights, "I feel
dreadfully lonely," she wrote, "and want a helper, and I have made up
my mind to ask the Committee at next meeting for a companion." But when
she went to Duke Town and realised the depleted state of the Mission
caused by illness and death, and the manner in which the staff was
overworked, she could not find the heart to prefer her request, and
instead she thanked God for being able to hold on. She added her appeal
to the other requests for workers that were so constantly sent home
then, and her idea of the kind of woman most suited for the Calabar
field is of interest:

... Consecrated, affectionate women who are not afraid of work or of
filth of any kind, moral or material. Women who can nurse a baby or
teach a child to wash and comb as well as to read and write, women who
can tactfully smooth over a roughness and for Christ's sake bear a
snub, and take any place which may open. Women who can take everything
to Jesus and there get strength to smile and persevere and pull on
under any circumstances. If they can play Beethoven and paint and draw
and speak French and German so much the better, but we can want all
these latter accomplishments if they have only a loving heart, willing
hands, and common sense. Surely such women are not out of our reach.
There are thousands of them in our churches, and our home churches have
no monopoly of privilege in choosing to keep them. Spare us a few.
Induce them to come forward. If there be the call from the Holy Spirit
do not let mere accomplishments be a _sine qua non_. Help them to come
forward. Take them to your own homes and let them have the benefit of
all the conversation and refinement and beauty which fill these, and so
gently lead them out of their timidity and accustom them to society
that they may meet out in the world, and hand them on to us. Up in a
station like mine they want to teach the first principles of
everything, and they need to help in times of trouble in the home or in
the town palaver. They will not need fine English, for there is none to
admire it. No one knows other than native languages, and I would gladly
hail any warm-hearted woman from any sphere if she would come to me. I
cannot pretend to work this station: the school work is simply a
scramble at the thing, mostly by the girls of the house. I can't
overtake it. It is because I am not doing it efficiently that I am

On her visits to Calabar she was an object of much interest. One who
knew her then says: "She had the power of attracting young men, and she
had great influence with them. Whether they were in Mission work, or
traders, or government men, they were sure to be attracted by her
vigorous character and by the large-hearted, understanding way she
would talk to them or listen to their talk of their work or other
interests. She loved to stir them to do great things."

It was sometimes remarked by visitors that her surroundings had not the
spick-and-span appearance which usually characterises a Scottish
Mission station. She had, nevertheless, a real appreciation of order
and beauty, and liked to have everything clean and tidy about her. How
to accomplish this was her daily problem, and perhaps only those who
have lived in tropical lands can understand the position. The
difficulty there is not how to make things grow, but how to prevent
them growing. She waged as fierce and incessant a war with vegetation
as she did with man, but it proved too much for her strength. "I
think," she wrote, "if I left alone some of the outdoor work, even it
the place did go to bush and dirt, I would not be so tired, and I could
do more otherwise. But I can't help it. I must put my hands in wherever
there is work to be done." The task had not become easier for her, for
the new trade with Calabar had brought about a demand for Okoyong yams,
and the people were so busy planting at their farms that she was unable
to hire labour. The bush would creep up swiftly and stealthily to the
edge of the dwellings and become a covering for beasts of prey, and,
then she and her girls would sally out and cut it down and burn it and
dig out the roots. And in its place would be planted corn and cocos and
yams and other products, the children each having a plot to tend. A
private pathway to the spring which she had constructed in order that
the girls might not mix with the village women and hear their talk had
also to be kept clear. It was hard work in the hot sunshine, and she
and her bairns literally watered the soil with their perspiration. But
no tears were shed at the work save those caused by merry jokes and
laughter. She often surveyed the scene with pride, revelling in the
wild beauty of form and colour, the brilliancy of the flowering trees,
the tender green of the yams on their supports, the starry jasmine with
its keen perfume. She loved flowers, and taught her scholars to bring
them to school. They had never been conscious of these before, and the
fact that they began to appreciate them was, she considered, a step
forward in their educational development.

Often she longed for the power to bring out thousands of the slum
people from the cities at home to enjoy the open life, and to work the
rich lands. Not that she used the word "slum"; it seemed to reflect on
the poor, many of whom she regarded as the heroes and heroines of God;
in her humility she believed that many of them would have been far
ahead of her if they had had the same advantages. One of her day-dreams
was to inherit a fortune and to spend it all on the poor. "If only"--
but she would check herself and say, "Mary Slessor! as if God does not
know what to give and how to give it, and as if He did not love and
think for all these poor creatures who are so mercilessly pushed aside
in the race of life."


Of all the tasks to which she put her hand the sweetest as well as the
saddest was the care of the babes of the bush. Her house was the refuge
of little children: sickly ones that were left with her to nurse and
return; discarded ones that were taken to her; outcast ones that she
rescued from injury and death. So many came, received names, were
described in her letters, and then passed out of sight, that her
friends in Scotland were unable to keep abreast of her efforts in this

They arrived in all stages of sickness, but usually the last. With many
a broken body she had never a chance, but with marvellous patience and
tenderness she washed them and nursed them and loved them and fought
the dark shadow that was ever ready to hover over the tiny forms. Night
after night she would sit up watching a face that was wasted and
twisted with pain, or walk to and fro crooning snatches of song to
soothe a restless mite in her arms. Sometimes a hammock was slung up
beside her into which they were placed, so that if they awoke during
the night she could touch it with her foot and swing them to sleep
again. More than once, when the supply of condensed milk ran out, she
strapped her latest baby to her body and tramped the long miles to
Creek Town through the bush, and returned next day with the child and
the tins.

The children that were brought back to health and strength and restored
to their parents it was always a pang to part with. She wished she
could have kept them and trained them up away from the degraded
influences of their homes. Those who died she dressed and placed among
flowers in a box, held a service over them, and buried them in a little
cemetery, which by and by became full of tiny graves. She mourned over
them as if they had been blood of her blood. Mr. Ovens used to say to
her, "Never mind, lassie, you'll get plenty mair"--and indeed there
were always plenty,

Of all the African children that passed through her hands none endeared
itself so much to her as Susie, her first Okoyong twin. The mother,
Iye, was a slave from Bende, light in colour and handsome, and was the
property of one of the big women, who treated her with kindness and
consideration. When the twins arrived all was changed. Miss Kingsley,
who arrived at Ekenge the same day on a visit to Mary, thus describes
the scene:

She was subjected to torrents of virulent abuse, her things were torn
from her, her English china basins, possessions she valued most highly,
were smashed, her clothes were torn, and she was driven out as an
unclean thing. Had it not been for the fear of incurring Miss Slessor's
anger, she would, at this point have been killed with her children, and
the bodies thrown into the bush. As it was, she was hounded out of the
village. The rest of her possessions were jammed into an empty gin-case
and cast to her. No one would touch her, as they might not touch to
kill. Miss Slessor had heard of the twins' arrival and had started off,
barefooted and bareheaded, at that pace she can go down a bush path. By
the time she had gone four miles she met the procession, the woman
coming to her, and all the rest of the village yelling and howling
behind her. On the top of her head was the gin-case, into which the
children had been stuffed, on the top of them the woman's big brass
skillet, and on the top of that her two market calabashes. Needless to
say, on arriving Miss Slessor took charge of affairs, relieving the
unfortunate, weak, staggering woman from her load and carrying it
herself, for no one else would touch it, or anything belonging to those
awful twin things, and they started back together to Miss Slessor's
house in the forest-clearing, saved by that tact which, coupled with
her courage, has given Miss Slessor an influence and a power among the
negroes unmatched in its way by that of any other white.

She did not take the twins and their mother down the village path to
her own house, for though, had she done so, the people of Okoyong would
not have prevented her, yet so polluted would the path have been and so
dangerous to pass down, that they would have been compelled to cut
another, no light task in that bit of forest, I assure you. So Miss
Slessor stood waiting in the broiling sun, in the hot season's height,
while a path was being cut to enable her just to get through to her own
grounds. The natives worked away hard, knowing that it saved the
polluting of a long stretch of market road, and when it was finished
Miss Slessor went to her own house by it, and attended with all
kindness, promptness, and skill to the woman and children. I arrived in
the middle of this affair for my first meeting with Miss Slessor, and
things at Okoyong were rather crowded, one way and another, that
afternoon. All the attention one of the children wanted--the boy, for
there were a boy and a girl--was burying, for the people who had
crammed them into the box had utterly smashed the child's head. The
other child was alive, and is still a member of that household of
rescued children, all of whom owe their lives to Miss Slessor.

The natives would not touch it, and only approached it after some days,
and then only when it was held by Miss Slessor or me. If either of us
wanted to do or get something, and we handed over the bundle to one of
the house children to hold, there was a stampede of men and women off
the verandah, out of the yard, and over the fence, if need be, that was
exceedingly comic, but most convincing as to the reality of the terror
and horror in which they held the thing. Even its own mother could not
be trusted with the child; she would have killed it. She never betrayed
the slightest desire to have it with her, and after a few days' nursing
and feeding up she was anxious to go back to her mistress, who, being
an enlightened woman, was willing to have her if she came without the

The woman's own lamentations were pathetic. She would sit for hours
singing or rather mourning out a kind of dirge over herself: "Yesterday
I was a woman, now I am a horror, a thing all people ran from.
Yesterday they would eat with me, now they spit on me. Yesterday they
would talk to me with sweet mouth, and now they greet me only with
curses and execrations. They have smashed my basin, they have torn my
clothes," so on, and so on. There was no complaint against the people
for doing these things, only a bitter sense of injury against some
superhuman power that had sent this withering curse of twins down on

The surviving infant, Susie, was not commonplace in feature like the
other black children; she was not in reality a negress, but fair,
shapely, and clean-skinned, with a nose like a white child's and a
sweet mouth--a mouth which Miss Kingsley called the "button-hole."
Every one loved her, and she was queen of the household.

When she was fourteen months old Miss Slessor one day went to the
dispensary and left her in charge of Mana, who put down a jug of
boiling water on the floor beside her. Susie thought it a plaything,
and, seizing it, pulled it over upon herself. Instead of calling for
"Ma" Mana ran with the child to the bathroom and poured cold water over
the wounds. For thirteen days and nights she was never out of Mary's
hands. Fortunately Miss Murray, a lady agent who, at her own request,
had been stationed at Okoyong for a time, and whose companionship she
valued, helped her greatly. "She was like a sister to me," she wrote.
Thinking more might be done by a medical man she started off with the
child in her arms, arrived at Creek Town at midnight, and woke up the
doctor, who, however, said he could not do more than she had done. She
returned at once to Ekenge, and again watched the suffering babe by day
and night. In the darkness and silence, when all were asleep, she would
hear the faint words, "Mem, Mem, Mem!"--the child's name for her--and
the wee hand would be held up for her to kiss. Early one Sunday morning
she passed away in her arms. Robed in a pinafore, with her beads and a
sash, and a flower in her hand, she looked "like an angel child."

The event caused a strange stir in Okoyong. None of the villagers went
to their farms or market while the child was hovering on the brink of
death, and when she passed away they came and mourned with "Ma."

She was buried in the cemetery where so many other hapless waifs were
already at rest. In her anguish Mary could not conduct the service, but
sat at the window and looked out while Miss Murray bravely took her
place. The people, respectful and sad, gathered round the grave--the
grave of a twin!--and one of the women, a leader in heathenism, praised
the white Mother's God for the child, and prayed that they might all
have her hope in the Beyond. "Surely," was Mary's comment, "they all
felt the vast difference between their burials with all their drink and
madness, and ours so full of quiet hope and expectant faith."

The slave-mother had often come to visit her, and had actually got to
love the child, and when it died she was heartbroken. "Ma," she said,
"don't cry. I have done this. God hates me. I shall go away and not
bring any more evil on you." With that she went back to her hut in the

"If I were a wealthy woman," said "Ma," "I would buy her; but I cannot
afford it, so we must do our best to cheer her up."

Although she objected to buying slave-women, even to restore them to
freedom, on account of the wrong impression it left on the native mind,
she made an exception in the case of Iye, and not long afterwards she
was able to purchase her liberty for £10, and she became an inmate of
the Mission House, Miss Slessor's intention being to train her so that
she might be useful to any lady who lived at the station during her
absences in Scotland. To the natives Iye was an outcast, and had "no
character." "_Etubom_," Mary said to Mr. Ovens, "If a slave-dealer came
round I would not get £6 for her." "Why?" said he. "She has no
character." "But he would buy her and take her up country." "What for?"
"To feed her for chop!"...

For some time she suffered physically from the shock she had received.
No mother could have grieved more bitterly over the loss of a beloved
child. "My heart aches for my darling," she wrote. "Oh the empty place,
and the silence and the vain longing for the sweet voice and the soft
caress and the funny ways. Oh, Susie, Susie!"

                       XXV. MARY KINGSLEY'S VISIT

Miss Kingsley paid her visit to the West Coast in 1893. Like all who
travelled in West Africa, she heard of the woman missionary who lived
alone among the wild Okoyong, and made a point of going up to see her.
Miss Slessor welcomed so capable and earnest a worker, "She gave me,"
says Miss Kingsley, "some of the pleasantest days of my life." In some
respects these two brilliant women were much akin, though they were
poles asunder in regard to their outlook on spiritual verities. They
had long discussions on religious subjects, and would sit up late
beating over such questions as the immortality of the soul. Miss
Kingsley was profoundly impressed. "I would give anything to possess
your beliefs," she said wistfully, "but I can't, I can't; when God made
me He must have left out the part that one believes with."

Nevertheless Miss Slessor said that for all her beliefs and unbeliefs
she was one of the most truly Christian women she had ever met. On her
return to England Miss Kingsley spoke often of her in terms of
affection and admiration, and acknowledged to friends that she had done
her much spiritual good. Mary, on her part, poured into her possession
all her treasures of knowledge concerning the fetish ideas and
practices of the natives, and probably none knew more about these
matters than she. Most missionaries confess that they never get to the
back of the negro mind, and one who worked in a neighbouring field once
said that after nineteen years' careful study he had yet to master the
intricacies of native superstition. The information that Mary supplied
was therefore of great value, and much of it was utilised in Miss
Kingsley's books. In _Travels in West Africa_ she gives the following
considered view of the missionary:

This very wonderful lady has been eighteen years in Calabar; for the
last six or seven living entirely alone, as far as white folks go, in a
clearing in the forest near to one of the principal villages of the
Okoyong district, and ruling as a veritable white chief over the entire
district. Her great abilities, both physical and intellectual, have
given her among the savage tribe a unique position, and won her, from
white and black who know her, a profound esteem. Her knowledge of the
native, his language, his ways of thought, his diseases, his
difficulties, and all that is his, is extraordinary, and the amount of
good she has done, no man can fully estimate. Okoyong, when she went
there alone--living in the native houses while she built, with the
assistance of the natives, her present house--was a district regarded
with fear by the Duke and Creek Town natives, and practically unknown
to Europeans. It was given, as most of the surrounding districts still
are, to killing at funerals, ordeal by poison, and perpetual
internecine wars. Many of these evil customs she has stamped out, and
Okoyong rarely gives trouble to its nominal rulers, the Consuls, in Old
Calabar, and trade passes freely through it down to the seaports. This
instance of what one white can do would give many important lessons in
West Coast administration and development. Only the sort of man Miss
Slessor represents is rare. There are but few who have the same power
of resisting the malarial climate, and of acquiring the language and an
insight into the negro mind, so perhaps after all it is no great wonder
that Miss Slessor stands alone, as she certainly does.

With all her robust ability Miss Kingsley's mental range was curiously
narrow. She wrote strongly against Protestant missionary aims and
methods in West Africa, her views being entirely opposed to those of
the White Woman of Okoyong, who had a much greater right to speak on
the subject. But the latter, nevertheless, loved her, and when the news
of her death came, some years later, she was plunged into grief. "The
world held not many so brave and so noble," she wrote. "Life feels very
cold and seems grey and sunless." Hearing of a proposed memorial to the
intrepid traveller she sent a guinea as her mite towards it.

                       XXVI. AN ALL-NIGHT JOURNEY

An outburst of fighting had taken place amongst the factions around
Ekenge. Women were the cause of it, and a number had been herded into a
stockade near the Mission House, where a band of men were proceeding to
murder them. Mary came on the scene and held them at bay. All day she
stood there and all night, her girls handing her from time to time a
cup of tea through the poles of the enclosure. Next night matters had
become quieter, a tornado of rain and wind having eased the situation,
but she was soaked, whilst the mats of the Mission House had blown up
and the interior had been flooded, so that both the girls and herself
needed dry garments. Then the condensed milk was nearly done, she was
told, and the baby she was nursing would suffer without it. Both
clothing and milk could only be procured from Calabar, and as she had
no messenger to despatch there, she resolved to go herself.

After dark she stole out of the stockade, placed the child in a basket,
secured a woman as guide, and with a lantern started out to walk
through the bush to Creek Town. She reached Adiabo on the Calabar River
about half-past ten, obtained a cup of tea from the native pastor, and
pushed on. Her guide lost the way, a deluge of rain fell, and they
wandered aimlessly for a time through the dripping forest, before again
striking the track.

Creek Town was reached at four o'clock in the morning. She knocked up
Miss Johnstone, who sent her to bed for an hour, and sought for some
tins of milk. As soon as two had been procured Mary was eager to be
off. Miss Johnstone gave her some changes of clothing, and King Eyo put
his canoe and a strong crew at her disposal, and she was soon speeding
up-river. On her arrival she found to her satisfaction that her absence
had not been discovered, and she was able eventually to restore peace
without the shedding of blood.

Two days later a canoe which came down-river to Duke Town brought word
that she was ill with dysentery. Dr. Laws of Livingstonia, who was then
visiting the Mission as a deputy, happened to be at Creek Town and was
asked to go and see her with Mr. Manson, one of the industrial staff,
as guide. Their canoe was nearly swamped by rain, and they had to
change their clothing when they arrived. She was soon up and through to
the hall to provide hospitality for her guests, supporting herself by
the table the while. A peremptory order came from Dr. Laws to return to
bed at once. She gave him a long curious look, and then without a word
went and lay down. He noticed that his companion appeared both
astonished and amused, and it was not until he returned to Calabar, and
heard Mr. Manson telling how "Ma" Slessor had been taken in charge for
once, that he realised how bold he had been. Dr. Laws thought that few
women, or even men, could have stood the isolation that she endured.

                       XXVII. AKOM: A FIRST-FRUIT

 Although force of circumstances made her the instrument of law and
order her chief aim was to win the people to Christ, and all her
efforts were directed to that end. It was for souls she was always
hungering, and the lack of conversions was her greatest sorrow.
Nevertheless she was making progress. The people were becoming familiar
with the name of God and Christ and the principles underlying the
Gospel, and there were many who leant more to the new way than to the
old, whilst some in their hearts believed. The boys that were being
trained at school and service were perhaps the most cheering element in
the situation, and upon them she set her hopes.

It was wonderful that she achieved what she did in view of the
conditions that prevailed. How difficult it was for a native to break
away from habits and customs ingrained in them through centuries of
repetition may be gathered from the story of Akom, a freewoman, one of
the most self-righteous of the big ladies of the district. She had been
betrothed, when a year old, to a young and powerful chief, and had been
brought up in the harem and was a zealous upholder of all superstitious
practices. On her lord's death she escaped the poison ordeal, and was
active in placing wives and slaves into the grave. By and by Ekpenyong
made her his wife and mistress of the harem, and for twenty years she
held undisputed sway.

When Edem's son was killed by the falling of a log it will be
remembered that Ekpenyong was blamed for the event and retired to the
bush. Not long afterwards a young chief there fell sick, and the witch-
doctor on consulting his oracle declared that he saw Akom and her son
dancing the whole night long, and gaily piercing the sick man with
knives and spears. Akom was charged with sorcery, and asked to take the
poison ordeal. Her friends advised her to flee, and she and her son
disappeared during the night and took refuge in Umon, where the people
gave them the protection of their _ibritam_ or juju.

"Ma" was in Scotland at the time. When she returned Ekpenyong begged
her to interfere and have his wife brought back. This she managed to do
after Akom had taken _mbiam_--the strongest and most dreaded of native
oaths, which included the drinking of blood shed from the wrist. The
woman came to see her, but stood outside. "What?" exclaimed "Ma," "you
cannot come within my gate?" "No," was the reply; "you had a twin-
mother once living in the yard, and I cannot come in lest I touch the
place she touched," Those who took the _mbiam_ oath, believed that they
would die if they came in contact in any way with a twin-mother. "Ma"
pretended to be hurt, and said, "If my house is polluted you had better
go home, as I do not receive visitors on the road." After a time Akom
ventured in, and she was kind to her and gave her an order for mats, at
the making of which she was an adept.

She then came regularly and listened intently to "Ma's" teaching,
although she said nothing. By and by she began to remark on the purity
of the Gospel religion and show increased reverence at the services.
Twins came, and she mastered her fear and went into the house. But
alas! a mysterious pain straightway developed in her foot, and this
surely was _mbiam_ punishing her; and when a skin disease followed, her
faith nearly failed her, and she wailed and mourned in despair. "Ma"
spoke strongly to her; and at last she rose and said, "I am a fool; my
God, my Father, listen not to my foolishness. Kill me if Thou wilt, but
do not leave me."

The disease was checked, and a native medicine effected a cure. But she
stood out against any sacrifice, saying very sensibly, "My Father owns
the bush and gives us the knowledge of the medicine, and as the Master
knows what He has made He knows also how to bless it apart from any

Ekpenyong all this while had ignored his wife, expecting that the
_mbiam_ would do its work. He looked grimly on, and when she injured
her foot against a root he believed the end had arrived. All the people
watched the struggle between the white woman's prayers and the
_mbiam's_ power, and when the wound healed they were nonplussed, but
quaintly explained the miracle by saying that their Mother was
different from other white people, and so had prevailed.

Akom grew in grace despite her surroundings, and found strength in her
contact with Christ. An amazing thing to her was that the man who had
accused her of witchcraft came and made friends with her.

"Ma," she said, "see what God has wrought. The man who demanded my life
comes to tell me his affairs! I sometimes wanted to take revenge, but I
have got it from God, and His revenge is of a sweeter kind than that of
the Consul."

It was cases like this that coloured Miss Slessor's life with joy.
Sometimes, too, she was unexpectedly cheered by evidence of the fruit
of her work in past days. In 1894 a lad, an old scholar of hers in Duke
Town, turned up in the village. He had made good use of his education,
and wherever he went, on farm and on beach, he held worship and got the
people to listen. It was not surprising that she regarded the boys as
her most hopeful agents, although she was always very careful in
choosing them as teachers for bush schools; she thought it belittled
the message to send those who were not thoroughly fit for the work.

                       XXVIII. THE BOX FROM HOME

The most joyous break in the domestic life at Ekenge, both for the
house-mother and the children, was caused by the arrival of boxes of
gifts from Scotland. So many congregations and Sunday Schools had
become interested in her and her work that there was a continuous
stream of packages to Okoyong. "I am ashamed at receiving so much," she
would say. Her own friends also remembered her; and on one occasion she
wrote to a lady who had sent a personal contribution, "It seems like a
box from a whole congregation, not from an individual."

She was specially delighted with the articles that came from the
children of the Church, and many a letter she wrote in return to the
scholars in Sunday Schools. None knew better how to thank them. She
would give them a picture of the landing of the boxes at Duke Town, and
the journey up the Calabar River in the canoe or in the steamer _David
Williamson_--which they had themselves subscribed for and supplied--to
the beach, and of the excitement when the engineer came over, perhaps
with visitors, to announce the arrival. "White people come, Ma!" The
cry by day or night always roused the household. One girl ran to make
up the fire and put on the kettle, another placed the spare room in
order, a third took the hand parcels and wraps, and "Ma" herself
welcomed the guests with a Scottish word or two, and a warm hand-clasp.
They would give her home letters, but these she would lay aside until
she was more at leisure. Then a whisper would go round that there were
goods at the beach, and every man, woman, and child about the place
would be eager to be off to bring them up. But the boxes would be too
large and heavy to be borne on heads through the forest, and they would
be opened and the contents made up into packages, with which the
carriers marched off in single file. Depositing them at the house they
would return for more until all were safely conveyed. Then the articles
would be exposed amidst cries of wonder and delight, and the house
become like a bazaar. Sometimes there would be a mix-up of articles,
but the loving messages pinned on to each would clear up the confusion.
Mary dearly loved to linger over each gift and spin a little history
into it, and she would pray with a full heart, "Lord Jesus thou knowest
the giver and the love and the prayers and the self-denial. Bless and
accept and use all for Thy glory and for the good of these poor
straying ignorant children, and repay all a thousandfold."

She was careful in her allocation of the gifts amongst the people in
order that they might not be regarded as a bribe to ensure good
behaviour or attendance at the services. She would not even give them
as payment for work done, as this, she thought, put the service on a
commercial basis and made them look again for an equivalent gain.
Pictures and texts, like dolls, were somewhat of a problem, as there
was a danger of the people worshipping them. But they liked to beautify
their squalid huts with them, and she regarded them as an educative and
civilising agency not to be despised. Also to a certain extent they
gave an indication of those who had sympathy with the new ideas, and
were sometimes a silent confession of a break with heathenism.

To one old woman, the first Christian, was given a copy of "The Light
of the World." Holding it reverently she exclaimed, "Oh! I shall never
be lonely any more. I can't read the Book, but I can sit or lie and
look at my Lord, and we can speak together. Oh, my Saviour, keep me
till I see you up yonder!" It was explained that the picture was an
allegory, and the woman understood; but she simply saw Christ in all
the fervour of her newborn love and faith, and Mary trusted to keep her
right by daily teaching.

Some of the articles found odd uses. A dress would be given to a girl
who was entering into seclusion for fattening; a dressing-gown would go
to the chief who was a member of the native Court, and he would wear it
when trying cases, to the admiration of the people; a white shirt would
be presented to another chief, and he would don it like a State robe
when paying "Ma" a formal visit. Blouses she retained, since no native
women wore them. The pretty baby-clothes were a source of wonder to the
people--they were speechless at the idea of infants wearing such
priceless things. It must be confessed that there was something for
which "Ma" always searched when a box from her own friends arrived.
Like the children she was fond of sweets, and there would be a shriek
of delight from more than juvenile lips when the well-known tins and
bottles were discovered in some corner where they had been designedly

                     XXIX. AN APPEAL TO THE CONSUL

"Religious missions have worked persistently and well, and pointed out
to the people the evil of their cruelties and wrongdoing, but there
comes a time when their efforts need backing up by the strong arm of
the law of civilisation and right."

Sir Claude Macdonald wrote this in the autumn of 1894. Perhaps he had
in mind the case of Okoyong. For in that year Miss Slessor came to the
conclusion that it was time to invoke the great power which lay behind
her in order to put a stop to the practice of killing on charges of

She was busy with a twin-murder case when word suddenly arrived that a
man was being blamed for causing his master's death, and that a palaver
was going on. She sent some of the children at once to say that when
her household had retired she would walk over in the moonlight. But a
tornado came on, and the rain poured all night. As soon as it cleared
she despatched a message: "Don't do anything till I come--I will come
when the bush is drier." On receiving this the accuser rose: "Am I not
to give him any ordeal till Ma comes? I will not be able to do it then!
She won't be willing. Unlock his chains and take him to Okat Ikan,
where he will be beyond her reach."

Seizing the man his henchmen hurried him off, and the chief followed
with a grunt of satisfaction at having outwitted the White Mother.

When she heard of the manoeuvre she determined not to go wandering
aimlessly in the bush in search of the party. She resolved to do what
she had never done before, send down to the Consulate at Duke Town and
seek the assistance of the Government not only to rescue this
particular victim, but to end the evil throughout the length and
breadth of Okoyong.

The house-girls became aware of her intention, and the news that "Ma's"
patience, so often and so sorely tried, was at last exhausted, and that
she was going to adopt stronger measures, spread swiftly through the
villages. In order not to involve any native in the transaction she was
the bearer of her own communication to the beach, and she was not long
gone on her walk through the forest when the people concerned arrived
breathlessly at the Mission House to beg her to forgive them for going
beyond her voice.

"Ma is away," announced the children, "and you cannot reach her now."

Sadder and wiser they returned to their village, for they feared the
Consul, who was associated in their minds with big guns and burnt
towns. She returned late at night, wearied with the journey, yet was up
early in the morning again and walked six miles in intense heat to a
palaver, carrying a couple of babies. When she arrived she was at the
point of fainting.

The next night the slave who had been carried off succeeded in breaking
the lock of his chains and escaped to the Mission House. In his baffled
rage his master chained all who belonged to him, but fear of the
impending visit of the Consul made him reflect, and he sent word later
to "Ma" to ask her forgiveness, and to say that all the people had been
freed. He asked her to go down to Duke Town and make the Consul come
"in peace and not in war." She did so, taking the refugee with her. The
Consul adopted her view of the situation, and arranged to visit the
district and hold a conference. To this she invited all the chiefs,
telling them to free their minds of fear, and preparing them for the
subjects that would be dealt with.

It was Mr. Moor, the Vice-Consul, who came, and he brought a small
guard of honour which paraded in the village, and gave Okoyong a
greater thrill than it had yet experienced. Mr. Moor found "Ma" on the
roof of her house repairing the mats which had been leaking, but she
was not in the least perturbed, and received him with perfect
composure. He was very patient and kind with the chiefs, but sought to
impress upon them the necessity for some improvement in their habits.
Already Mary had been much impressed with the new stamp of Government
official under Sir Claude Macdonald, and this representative of the
class she thought one of the best.

As a result of the conference the chiefs promised to abstain from
killing at funerals, and to allow "Ma" to have an opportunity of saving
twins and caring for them in a special hut. She gave thanks to God; but
she knew the African nature, and did not relax her vigilance. A month
after the Consul's visit a kinsman of the above chief, older and much
more wealthy, died suddenly. "We trembled for their promise to the
Consul," she wrote, "but we left them to themselves, believing that it
was better to trust them to a great extent, and instead of going and
staying with them to watch, we sent our compliments and gifts, and told
them we expected they would remember their treaty and the consequences
of any breach of faith. After all was over not a slave or vassal was
missing, and though there were not wanting idle tongues let loose by
the unlimited supply of strong drink, and brawlings, and determinations
to take the poison of their own accord in order to prove their
innocence, not one person has died as the direct result of the dread

Mrs. Weir once spent a week-end at Okoyong, and accompanied her to a
village two or three miles away where she was in the habit of going to
conduct a service. When they arrived they found that the head of a
house had died, and was being buried, according to custom, inside the
house. They were taken to the place and saw the dead man's possessions
--his pipe, snuff-box, powder-flask, and other articles--placed in the
grave in order that they might be useful to him in the other world.
Mrs. Weir could not help wondering at their superstition after all the
teaching that they had been given. She said nothing; but Mary, with her
keen intuition, read her thoughts and said. "You will be thinking they
are not very different yet, but when I came to Okoyong, do you think I
would have seen men and women moving freely about like this? They would
have all been refugees in the bush, and those who had been caught would
have been in chains, waiting to be put to death, so that their spirits
might accompany the chief."

Towards the end of the year she had what she called one of her descents
into the valley of the shadow, and was removed to Duke Town. "Daddy"
Anderson, who had retired, but had come out again to Calabar on a
visit, walked over to see her; he said very little, but just sat and
held her hand. He, himself, was passing into the shadow, but not to
return. She was with him at the last, and did her best to comfort him.
"Dear Daddy Anderson!" she wrote; "Calabar seems a strange land to me
now. All the friends are strangers to the old order. The Calabar of my
girlhood is among the things of the past."

Her scepticism regarding the promise of the people was justified, for
the killing of twins went on as usual; and in the following year she
brought up Sir Claude Macdonald himself to renew the covenant. Sir
Claude was all kindness and courtesy, assuring the chiefs that he did
not come to take their country, but to guide them into a proper way of
governing it, that all, bond and free, might dwell in safety and peace.
What he insisted on was their recognition of the claims of justice and
humanity. The spokesman, an old greyheaded man, said they wished to
retire, in order to consult together. On returning he naively excused
their conduct by stating that when they only heard words once they
thought the matter unworthy of their consideration, but when they were
repeated, they thought there must be something in them, and so they
would obey the requirements of the Government this time. As regards
twins, they were doubtful, "We are not sure that no evil will happen to
us if we obey you; we have our fear, but we will try." They would not,
however, consent to keep them in their own homes, and again Mary said
that if they would notify her of the births she would be responsible
for their welfare.

She had been acting as interpreter, and as the palaver lasted from
early morning until after dark she was much fatigued. Her last words
were to encourage the chiefs to keep their pledge, and they would enjoy
the benefits when she might be no more with them. The very suggestion
of farewell alarmed them. "God cannot take you away from your
children," they exclaimed, "until they are able to walk by themselves."

                         XXX. AFTER SEVEN YEARS

Africa is slow to change: the centuries roll over it, leaving scarcely
a trace of their passing: the years come and go, and the people remain
the same: all effort seems in vain. Could one weak woman affect the
conditions even in a small district of the mighty continent?

It had been uphill work for her. At first there had been only a dogged
response to the message she had brought. When some impression had been
made she found that it soon disappeared. In ordinary life the people
were volatile, quick as fire to resent, and as quick to forgive and
forget, and they were the same in regard to higher things. They went
into rapture over the Gospel, prayed aloud, clasped their hands, shed
tears, and then went back to their drinking, sacrificing, and
quarrelling. They kept to all the old ways, in case they might miss the
right one. "Yes, Ma," they would say, "that is right for you; but you
and we are different."

But she never lost hope. "There is not much progress to report," she
was accustomed to say, "and yet very much to thank God for, and to lead
us to take courage." She was quite content to go on bringing rays of
sunshine into the dark lives of the people, and securing for the
children better conditions than their fathers had. "After all," she
would say, "it comes back to this, Christ sent me to preach the Gospel,
and He will look after results." She was always much comforted by the
thought of something she had heard the Rev. Dr. Beatt, of her old
church in Aberdeen, say in a sermon: she could recall nothing but the
heads, and one of these was, "_Between the sower and the reaper stands
the Husbandman._" But results there were of a most important kind, and
it is time to take stock of them. Fortunately she was induced at this
time to jot down some impressions of her work, and these, which were
never published, give the best idea of the remarkable change which had
been wrought in the life and habits of Okoyong. It will be noticed that
she does not use the pronoun "I." Whenever she gave a statement of her
work she always wrote "we," as if she were a co-worker with a Higher

"In these days of high pressure," she says, "men demand large profits
and quick returns in every department of our commercial and national
life, and these must be served up with the definiteness and precision
of statistics. This abnormal and feverish haste has entered to some
extent into our religious work, and is felt more or less in all the
pulses of our Church. Whatever may be the reasons for such a course in
regard to worldly callings, its methods and standards are utterly
foreign to the laws of Christ's kingdom, and can only result in
distortions and miscalculations when applied to His work. While
thanking God for every evidence of life and growth, we shrink from
reducing the throes of spiritual life, the development and workings of
the conscience, or the impulse and trend toward God and righteousness,
to any given number of figures on a table. Hence it is with the
greatest reluctance that we endeavour to sum up some tangible proof of
the power of God's Word among our heathen neighbours. While to our
shame and confusion of face it has not been what it might, and would
have been had we been more faithful and kept more in line with the will
and spirit of God, it has to the praise of the glory of His grace
proved stronger than sin and Satan.

"We do not attempt to give in numbers those who are nominally
Christian. Women, lads, girls, and a few men profess to have placed
themselves in God's hands. All the children within reach are sent to
the school without stipulation. One lady of free birth and good
position has borne persecution for Christ's sake. We speak with
diffidence; for as no ordained minister has ever been resident or
available for more than a short visit, no observance of the ordinances
of Baptism or the Lord's Supper have been held and we have not had the
usual definite offers of persons as candidates for Church membership,
We have just kept on sowing the seed of the Word, believing that when
God's time comes to gather them into the visible Church there will be
some among us ready to participate in the privilege and honour.

"Of results as affecting the condition and conduct of our people
generally, it is more easy to speak. Raiding, plundering, the stealing
of slaves, have almost entirely ceased. Any person from any place can
come now for trade of pleasure, and stay wherever they choose, their
persons and property being as safe as in Calabar. For fully a year we
have heard of nothing like violence from even the most backward of our
people. They have thanked me for restraining them in the past, and
begged me to be their consul, as they neither wished black man nor
white man to be their king. It would be impossible, apart from a belief
in God's particular and personal providence in answer to prayer, to
account for the ready obedience and submission to our judgment which
was accorded to us. It seemed sometimes to be almost miraculous that
hordes of armed, drunken, passion-swayed men should give heed and
chivalrous homage to a woman, and one who had neither wealth nor
outward display of any kind to produce the slightest sentiment in her
favour. But such was the case, and we do not recollect one instance of

"As their intercourse with the white men increased through trade or
otherwise, they found that to submit to his authority did not mean loss
of liberty but the opposite, and gradually their objections cleared
away, till in 1894 they formally met and bound themselves to some
extent by treaty with the Consul. Again, later, our considerate,
patient, tactful Governor, Sir Claude Macdonald, met them, and at that
interview the last objection was removed, and they promised
unconditional surrender of the old laws which were based on
unrighteousness and cruelty, and cordial acceptance of the just and, as
they called it, 'clean' code which he proffered them in return, Since
then he has proclaimed them a free people in every respect among
neighbouring tribes, and so, placing them on their honour, so to speak,
has made out of the roughest material a lot of self-respecting men who
conduct their business in a fashion from which Europeans might take
lessons. Of course they need superintendence and watching, for their
ideas are not so nicely balanced as ours in regard to the shades and
degrees of right and wrong, but as compared with their former ideas and
practice they are far away ahead of what we expected.

"No tribe was formerly so feared because of their utter disregard of
human life, but human life is now safe. No chief ever died without the
sacrifice of many lives, but this custom has now ceased. Only last
month the man who, for age, wealth, and general influence, exceeded all
the other chiefs in Okoyong, died from the effects of cold caught three
months before. We trembled, as they are at some distance from us, and
every drop of European drink which could be bought from all the towns
around was bought at once, and canoes were sent from every hamlet with
all the produce at command to Duke Town for some more, and all was
consumed before the people dispersed from the funeral. But the only
death resulting has been that of a man, who, on being blamed by the
witch-doctors, went and hanged himself because the chiefs in
attendance--drunk as they were--refused to give him the poison ordeal.
Some chiefs, gathered for palaver at our house on the day of his death,
in commenting on the wonderful change said, 'Ma, you white people are
God Almighty. No other power could have done this.'

"With regard to infanticide and twin-murder we can speak hopefully. It
will doubtless take some time to develop in them the spirit of self-
sacrifice to the extent of nursing the vital spark for the mere love of
God and humanity among the body of the people. The ideals of those
emerging from heathenism are almost necessarily low. What the foreigner
does is all very well for the foreigner, but the force of habit or
something more subtle evidently excuses the practice of the virtue
among themselves. Of course there are exceptions. All the evidence goes
to show that something more tangible than sentiment or principle
determines the conduct of the multitude, even among those avowedly
Christian. But with all this there has dawned on them the fact that
life is worth saving, even at the risk of one's own: and though chiefs
and subjects alike, less than two years ago, refused to hear of the
saving of twins, we have already their promise and the first instalment
of their fidelity to their promise in the persons of two baby girls
aged six and five months respectively, who have already won the hearts
of some of our neighbours and the love of all the school children.
Seven women have literally touched them, and all the people, including
the most practical of the chiefs, come to the house and hold their
palavers in full view of where the children are being nursed. One chief
who, with fierce gesticulations, some years ago protested that we must
draw the line at twins, and that they should never be brought to light
in his lifetime, brought one of his children who was very ill, two
months ago, and laid it on our knee alongside the twin already there,
saying with a sob in his voice, 'There! they are all yours, living or
dying, they are all yours. Do what you like with mine.'

"Drinking, especially among the women, is on the decrease. The old
bands of roving women who came to us at first are now only a memory and
a name. The women still drink, but it is at home where the husband can
keep them in check. In our immediate neighbourhood it is an extremely
rare thing to see a woman intoxicated, even on feast days and at
funerals. None of the women who frequent our house ever taste it at
all, but they still keep it for sale and give it to visitors. Indeed it
is the only thing which commands a ready sale and brings ready money,
and their excuse is just that of many of the Church members at home,
that those who want it will get it elsewhere, and perhaps in greater
measure. But we have noted a decided stand being taken by several of
the young mothers who have been our friends and scholars against its
being given by husbands or visitors to their children. We have also
thankfully noted for long that on our making an appearance anywhere
there is a run made to hide the bottles, and the chief indignantly
threatens any slave who brings it into our presence.

"All this points to an improvement in the condition of the people
generally. They are eager for education. Instead of the apathy and
incredulous laugh which the mention of the Word formerly brought, the
cry from all parts is for teachers; and there is a disposition to be
friendly to any one who will help them towards a higher plane of
living. But it brings vividly before us the failures and weaknesses in
our work; for instance, the desultoriness of our teaching, which of
necessity stultifies the results that under better conditions would be
sure to follow. School teaching has been carried on under great
difficulties owing to the scattered population, the family quarrels
which made it formerly a risk to walk alone, the fear of sorcery and of
the evil spirits which are supposed to dwell in the forest, the
denseness of the forest itself, which makes it dangerous for children
to go from one place to another without an armed escort, the
withdrawing of girls when they have just been able to read in order to
go to their seclusion and fattening, and the consequent drafting of
them to great distances to their husbands' farms, the irregular
attendance of boys who accompany their masters wherever they go, and
who take the place of postmen and news-agents-general to the country.

"There have been difficulties on our own side--the distances consume
time and strength, the multifarious claims made on the Mission House,
the household itself which is usually a large one having in addition to
servants those who are training for future usefulness in special
spheres--as the Mission House has been until quite lately the only
means of getting such training--and having usually one or more of the
rescued victims of heathen customs. The Dispensary work calls also for
much time and strength, nursing often having to accompany the medicine;
the very ignorance and superstition of the patients and their friends
making the task doubly trying. Then one must be ever at hand to hear
the plaint of and to shelter and reconcile the runaway slave or wife or
the threatened victim of oppression and superstition. Visitors are to
be received, and all the bothersome and, to European notions, stupid
details of native etiquette are to be observed if we are to win the
favour and confidence of the people.

"Moreover we must be both able and willing to help ourselves in regard
to the wear and tear in our dwelling and station buildings. We must
make and keep in repair buildings, fences, drainage, etc., and all amid
surroundings in which the climate and its forces are leagued against

"Add to all this the cares of housekeeping when there is no baker
supply, no butcher supply, no water supply, no gas supply, no coal
supply, no laundry supply, no trained-servant supply, nor untrained
either for that matter, except when some native can and will lend you a
slave to help you or when you can buy one--which, under ordinary
circumstances is a very doubtful practice, as, though in buying the
person you are literally freeing him, the natives are apt to
misinterpret the motive, and unless you are very fortunate in your
purchase, the slave may bring you into conflict with the powers that
be, owing to their law which recognises no freedom except that
conferred by birth. After all this is seen to day by day, where is the
time and strength for comprehensive and consecutive work of a more
directly evangelistic and teaching type?--specially when the latter is
manned year by year by the magnificent total of one individual. Is it
fair to expect results under such circumstances?"

                    XXXI. THE PASSING OF THE CHIEFS

In the year 1896 Miss Slessor realised that she was no longer in the
centre of her people. Like all agricultural populations addicted to
primitive methods of cultivation, they had gradually moved on to richer
lands elsewhere. Even Ma Erne had gone to a farm some distance away. A
market had been opened at a place called Akpap, farther inland and
nearer the Cross River, and farms and villages had grown up around it,
and she saw that it would be necessary to follow the population there.
The Calabar Committee--a Committee had succeeded the Presbytery--was at
first doubtful of the wisdom of transferring the station, largely owing
to the remoteness and inaccessibility of the new site, the nearest
landing-place being six miles away, at Ikunetu on the Cross River.
There was some advantage in this, however, for the Mission launch was
constantly moving up and down the waterway. The voyage was between low,
bush-covered banks broken by vistas of cool green inlets, with here a
tall palm tree or bunch of feathery bamboos, and there a cluster of
huts, while canoes were frequently passed laden with hogsheads of palm
oil for the factory, or a little dug-out containing a solitary fisher.
The track from Ikunetu to Akpap was the ordinary shady bush path,
bordered by palms, bananas, orange trees, ferns, and orchids, but in
the wet season it was overgrown with thick grass, higher than one's
head, which made a guide necessary, since one trail in the African
forest looks exactly like another.

After some consideration it was decided to sanction the change, and to
build a good Mission House with a beach shed at Ikunetu. Long before
the house was built, however, and even before it was begun, Mary
installed herself at Akpap, in conditions similar to those of her first
year at Ekenge. Her home consisted of a small shed of two divisions,
without windows or floor, into which she and the children and the
furniture were packed. And from this humble abode, as from a palace,
she ruled Okoyong with all the dignity and power of a queen. Never had
her days been so busy or her nights so broken and sleepless. No
quarrel, tribal or domestic, no question of difficulty of any kind, was
settled other than in the Mission hut. Sometimes the strain was almost
greater than she could bear. There was much sickness among the
children, and an infectious native disease, introduced by a new baby,
caused the death of four. Matters were not mended by an epidemic of
small-pox, which swept over the country and carried off hundreds of the
people. For hours every day she was employed in vaccinating all who
came to her. Mr. Alexander, who was the engineer of the Mission at this
time--the natives called him _etúbom ubom nsuñikañ_ "captain of the
smoking canoe"--remembers arriving when her supply of lymph had run
out, and of assisting her with a penknife from the arms of those who
had already been inoculated.

The outbreak was severe at Ekenge, and she went over and converted her
old house into a hospital. The people who were attacked flocked to it,
but all who could fled from the plague-stricken scene, and she was
unable to secure any one to nurse the patients or bury them when they
died. She was saddened by the loss of many friends. Ekpenyong was
seized and succumbed, and she committed his body to the earth. Then
Edem, her own chief, caught the infection, and she braced herself to
save him. She could not forget his kindness and consideration for her
throughout all these years, and she fought for his life day and night,
tending him with the utmost solicitude and patience. It was in vain. He
passed away in the middle of the night. She was alone, but with her own
hands she fashioned a coffin and placed him into it, and with her own
hands she dug a grave and buried him. Then turning from the ghostly
spot with its melancholy community of dead and dying, she tramped
through the dark and dew-sodden forest to Akpap, where, utterly
exhausted, she threw herself on her bed as the land was whitening
before the dawn.

Towards the village that day two white men made their way,--Mr. Ovens,
who was coming to build a Mission House, and Mr. Alexander who had
brought him up. When they arrived at the little shed it was eleven
o'clock in the forenoon. All was quiet. "Something wrong," remarked Mr.
Alexander, and they moved quickly to the hut. A weak voice answered
their knock and call, and on gaining entrance they found "Ma" tired and
heavy-eyed. "I had only just now fallen asleep," she confessed. But it
was not for some time that they learned where she had been and what she
had done.

When, two days later, Mr. Alexander went over to bring some material
from the old house, he found it full of corpses and not a soul to be
seen. The place was never fit for habitation again, and gradually it
was engulfed in bush and vanished from the face of the earth.

Conditions were the same far and wide, and her heart was full of pity
for the helpless people, "Heartrending accounts," she wrote, "come from
up-country, where the people, panic-stricken, are fleeing and leaving
the dead and dying in their houses, only to be stricken down themselves
in the bush. They have no helper up there, and know of no Saviour. I am
just thinking that perhaps the reason God has taken my four bairns is
that I may be free to go up and help them. If the brethren say that I
should go I shall."

It is not surprising that these events had a depressing effect upon
her; she said she had no heart for anything. It was an unusual note to
come from her, and indicated that her strength was waning. The presence
of Mr. Ovens was a help; his sense of humour seasoned the days, and he
made light of difficulty and trial, though he was far from comfortable.
One of the divisions in the shed had been turned over to him, she and
her children crowding into the other. The place was infested by ants
and lizards, and all night the rats used his body as a springboard to
reach the roof. There was always one scene in the strange household
which touched him with a feeling of pathos and reverence--family
worship in the evening. A light from a small lamp illumined the
interior. Miss Slessor sat on the mud-floor with her back resting on
the wall. Squatting before her in a half-circle were the girls and boys
of the house. Behind these were ranged a number of baskets filled with
twin babies. "Ma" spoke and prayed very simply and naturally. Then a
hymn of her own composition was sung in Efik to the tune of "Rothesay
Bay," she accompanying it with a tambourine. If the attention of the
girls wandered she would lean forward and tap them on the head with the

One human solace never failed her--the letters from home. How eagerly
she longed for them! How they lifted her out of her surroundings and
chased away for a time the moral miasma that surrounded her and often
seemed to choke her as if it were physical. Some one wrote about the
Synod meetings. "It is easy to be good," she said, "with all the holy
and helpful influences about you. Fancy a crowd of Christians that fill
the Synod Hall! It makes me envious to read about it. Away up here
among heathenism, working away with the twos and the threes and the
tens, one almost forgets that there are crowds who would die for
Christ. But, with all their imperfections, there are, and we are not in
a losing cause at all. I am seldom in Duke Town or Creek Town, and hear
little in the way of sermons, and have little of the outward help you
have. But Christ is here and the Holy Spirit, and if I am seldom in a
triumphant or ecstatic mood I am always satisfied and happy in His

Her furlough was overdue, but there was a difficulty in filling her
place, and she would not leave the people alone. Meanwhile she kept
"drudging away" as well as she could from dawn till dark. People were
coming to her now from far-off spots, many from across the river from
unknown regions who had never seen a white person before, drawn to her
by the fame of her goodness and power. At first they sat outside, and
would not cook or eat or drink inside the compound because of the
twins, but by and by they gained courage and mixed with the household.
The majority of these people were neither bright nor good-looking, but
she only saw souls that were precious in the sight of her Master. In
one of her letters she describes what was the daily scene: "Four at my
feet listening; five boys outside getting a reading-lesson from Janie;
a man lying on the ground who has run away from his master and is
taking refuge until I get him forgiven; an old chief with a girl who
has a bad ulcer; a woman begging for my intervention with her husband;
a nice girl with heavy leglets from her knee to the ankles, with pieces
of cloth wrapped round to prevent the skin being cut, whom I am
teaching; and three for vaccination."

On the last night of the year she wrote: "My bairns have been made
happy and myself glad by a handsome Christmas box from the Consul-
General and Colonel Boisragon of our Consular staff. They were up with
a party, and spent the greater part of three days with me, trying to do
good among my people: and they have sent dolls and sweets and fruit and
biscuits, and many useful things for the house, and a carpenter to mend
my stair, and plane and rehang my doors. He is here now doing odds and
ends about the house, so I feel quite cheered up. He (the Consul) must
have gone to a steamer and got all these things for us, for there are
no such things for sale here, and it shows how much interested he is in
mission work. It is seldom, comparatively, that Government officials
care for these things."

                        XXXII. CLOTHED BY FAITH

As Mr. Ovens was at Akpap engaged on the new Mission House the Calabar
Committee decided to send her home in 1898 whether they could supply
the station or not. "It will be rather trying to get back to the home
kind of life and language," she said; "but I shall just want a place to
hide in: away from conventionalities and all the paraphernalia of
civilisation." Her chief problem was the disposal of the children, whom
she dreaded to leave under native influences. There were so few
missionaries in the field then that it was difficult to find homes for
them. She settled two babies, some of her girls, and the former slave-
woman with a lady agent. The rest she made up her mind to take with
her. It was a daring thing to do, but doing daring things was her
normal habit. She justified herself to a friend by saying that Janie
was now a big girl and a great help. Mary was five years old and able
to fend for herself; Alice was about three and fairly independent, and
Maggie was sixteen months, and could sit about and be easily amused.

The next problem was how to equip both herself and her retinue for the
voyage. Her wardrobe had been gradually deplenished in the bush, and
during her illnesses ants had eaten up all that remained. She and the
children had nothing but the old garments they had on. But she was not
dismayed: in the simplicity of her faith she believed that the Master
knew her difficulty, and would come to her aid and provide all her
needs. And she was not disappointed.

When at Duke Town, preparatory to departure, a box from Renfield Street
Church, Glasgow, arrived for her, and she went down to the beach and
opened it to see if it contained anything she might require. And
everything she required was there, including many knitted and woollen
articles--a most uncommon circumstance. There was also a shawl--"I do
not know what I should have done without that on the voyage," she said.
The ladies of the Mission took the cloth and flannelette and soon had
the whole party fitted out. In acknowledging the box she begged the
givers not to be vexed at what she had done: the articles had been used
in the service of Christ as much as if they had been distributed in

She was so far spent that she was carried on board. On the voyage she
received much kindness, and believing that God was behind it all she
accepted everything as from Him and was very grateful. Her simple faith
in the goodness of her kind was shown by the fact that the telegram she
despatched on arriving at Liverpool to Mrs. M'Crindle, Joppa, was the
first intimation that lady received that she was coming. And at the
railway station she confidingly handed her purse to the porter, asking
him to take it and buy the tickets, Mrs. M'Crindle met her at the
Waverley Station, Edinburgh. There was the usual bustle on the arrival
of a train from the South. The sight of a little black girl being
handed down from the carriage caused a mild stir, when another came the
interest increased, when a third dropped down a crowd gathered, when a
fourth stepped out the cabmen and porters forgot their fares and
stared, wondering who the slight, foreign-looking lady could be who had
brought so strange a family.

                        XXXIII. THE SHY SPEAKER

Eagerly looked for after her heroic service in Okoyong she received a
warm welcome from her friends in the United Presbyterian Church. For
some weeks she lived at Joppa, and then anxious to be independent she
took a small house near at hand, where she and Janie managed the work
and cooking. It was not a very comfortable _ménage_, and Miss Adam, one
of the "chief women" of the Church and Convener of the Zenana Mission
Committee, made arrangements for her and the children staying at
Bowden, St. Boswells. Here, looking down upon a beautiful expanse of
historic border country, she spent a quiet and restful time. As her
vitality and spirits came back she began to address meetings, and found
that the interest in her work had deepened and extended.

She was, if anything, shyer than ever, and would not speak before men.
At a drawing-room gathering in Glasgow the husband of the lady of the
house and two well-known ministers were present. She rose to give an
address, but no words came. Turning to the men she said, "Will the
gentlemen kindly go away?" The lady of the house said it would be a
great disappointment to them not to hear her, "Then," she replied,
"will they kindly go and sit where I cannot see them?" When she began
to speak she seemed to forget her diffidence, and she held the little
audience spell-bound. At a Stirling meeting a gentleman slipped in.
After a slight pause she said, "If the gentleman in the meeting would
hide behind the lady in front of him I would be more at my ease." On
another occasion she fled from the platform when called on to speak,
and it was only with difficulty that she was brought back. When people
began to praise her she slipped out and remained away until they had

"She was a most gentle-looking lady," writes one who heard her then,
"rather below the average height, a complexion like yellow parchment,
and short lank brown hair: a most pleasing expression and winning
smile, and when she spoke I thought I had never heard such a musical
voice." She went to her home-city, Aberdeen, and addressed a meeting in
Belmont Street Church, which her mother had attended; and of her power
of speech the Rev. Dr. Beatt, the minister, who was in the chair, says:
"It was characterised by a simple diction, a tearful sympathy, a
restrained passion, and a pleading love for her people, which made it
difficult to listen to her without deep emotion." At one meeting in
Glasgow she spent an hour shaking hands. "What a lot of love there is
in the world after all," she said gratefully. She received such a
reception at a meeting in Edinburgh that she broke down. Recovering
herself she earnestly denied that her work was more remarkable than
that of any other missionary in Calabar: "They all work as hard or
harder than I do." She went on to plead for an ordained missionary for
Okoyong. "I feel that my work there is done, I can teach them no more.
I would like to go farther inland and make a home among a tribe of

Many a stirring appeal she made for workers.

"If missions are a failure," she said, "it is our failure and not
God's. If we only prayed and had more faith what a difference it would
make! In Calabar we are going back every day. For years we have been
going back. The China Inland Mission keep on asking for men, men, men,
and they get what they want and more than we get. We keep calling for
money, money, money, and we get money--of great value in its place--but
not the men and the women. Where are they? When Sir Herbert Kitchener,
going out to conquer the Soudan required help, thousands of the
brightest of our young men were ready. Where are the soldiers of the
Cross? In a recent war in Africa in a region with the same climate and
the same malarial swamp as Calabar there were hundreds of officers and
men offering their services, and a Royal Prince went out. But the
banner of the Cross goes a-begging. Why should the Queen have good
soldiers and not the King of Kings?"

Her nervous timidity was often curiously exhibited. She was, for
instance, afraid of crowds, and she would never cross a city street
alone; and once, when she was proceeding to a village meeting she would
not take a short cut through a field because there was a cow in it. Yet
she was never lacking in high courage when the need arose. At a meeting
in Edinburgh several addresses had been delivered, and the collection
was announced. As is often the case the audience drew a sigh of relief,
relaxed attention, and made a stir in changing positions. Some began to
whisper and to carry on a conversation with those sitting near them.
She stood the situation as long as she could, then rose, and spoke,
regardless of all the dignitaries about her, and rebuked the audience
for their want of reverence. Were they not presenting their offerings
to the Lord? Was that not as much an act of worship as singing and
praying? How then could they behave in such a thoughtless and
unbecoming manner? There was something of scorn in her voice as she
contrasted the way in which the Calabar converts presented their
offerings with that of the well-educated Edinburgh audience. When she
sat down it was amidst profound silence. "That is a brave woman," was
the thought of many.

With her bairns she left towards the end of the year (1898), Miss Adam
accompanying them to Liverpool to see them safely on board. A more
notable person than she realised, she was sought out by a special
representative of Reuter's Agency and interviewed. Her story of the
superstitious practices connected with the birth of twins in West
Africa had the element of horror which makes good "copy," and most of
the newspapers in the kingdom next day gave a long description of these
customs and of her work of rescue. Incidentally she stated that up to
that time she had saved fifty-one twins from destruction. She thought
nothing of this talk with the reporter, never mentioning it to any one,
and was unaware of the wide publicity accorded to her remarks. She
spent Christmas on board the steamer. Again every one was kind to her,
the officers and stewards vying with each other in showing her
attention. All along the coast she was well known, and invitations came
from officials at Government headquarters, but these she modestly
declined. She was interested in all things that interested others, and
would discuss engineering and railway extension and trade prices and
the last new book as readily as mission work and policy. The children
she kept in the background, as she had done in Scotland, and would not
allow them to be spoiled. On arrival in Calabar they were much made of,
and it was only the experienced Janie who did not like the process.

                            XXXIV. ISOLATION

An exceptionally trying experience followed. Arrangements had been made
by the Committee in Scotland for the better staffing of the station,
but these broke down, and for the next three years she worked alone,
her isolation only being relieved by an occasional visit from the lady
missionaries in Calabar. During that long period she fought, single-
handed, a double battle in the depths of the forest. She was
incessantly at war with the evils that were still rife about her, and
she had to struggle against long spells of low fever and sleeplessness.
And right bravely did she engage in the task, conquering her ill-health
by sheer will-power, and gaining an ever greater personal ascendancy
over the people.

 1. A Mother in Israel

The gradual pacification of Okoyong brought about by her influence and
authority increased rather than diminished her work. As the people
settled down to orderly occupations and trade the land became valuable,
and disputes were constantly cropping up regarding ownerships and
boundaries. There was much underground palavering, of which no one knew
but herself, which kept her always on the strain. She had to mother the
whole tribe, and it took all her patience and tact to prevent them
reverting to their old violent practices. A Government official of that
time, who had to enquire into a number of cases over which there had
been correspondence with her, says, "I stayed with 'Ma' and had my
first lesson in how to deal with natives. It did not require very long
for even a 'fresher' to see what a power in the land she was. All came
to her in any kind of trouble. As an interpreter she made every palaver
an easy one to settle, by the fact that she could represent to each
side accurately what the other party wished to convey."

Her fame had gone still farther, and people were now coming from places
a hundred miles distant to see the wonderful person who was ruling the
land and doing away with all the evil fashions. And what did they see?
A powerful Sultana sitting in a palace with an army at her command? No.
Only a weak woman in a lowly house surrounded by a number of helpless
children. But they, too, came under her mysterious spell. They told her
of all the troubles that perplexed their lives, and she gave them
advice and helped them. In one week she had deputations from four
different tribes, each with a tale of wrong and oppression. Innocent
people fled to her to escape the fate decreed by the witch-doctor:
guilty people sheltered with her, knowing that they were sure at least
of nothing worse than justice. She welcomed them all, and to all she
spoke of the Saviour, and strove to bring them to His feet. And none
went away without carrying some of the fragrance of that knowledge, and
in remote districts unvisited by the white man it lingered for years,
so that when missionaries went there later on they would come across a
man or a woman who said, "Oh, I know all about Jesus, the White Mother
once told me."

She was so interested in these strangers that the desire came to know
more about them and their surroundings, and she made numerous trips up
the Cross River by Mission steamer and canoe and visited the townships
on the banks. On one of these journeys she felt for the first time that
death was at her side. A dispute had arisen between Okoyong and Umon,
and the Umon people, strong in the belief that she would mete out
justice even against her own tribe, begged her to come and decide the
quarrel. It was a long day's journey for the best walkers, "but," said
she, "if they can do it in a day, so can I." A well-manned canoe was,
however, sent for her, and she proceeded in it with some of the twin-
children. They were speeding down a narrow creek leading into the
river, a man standing with his paddle at the bow to negotiate the canoe
past the logs and trees, when a hippopotamus, which was attended by its
young, rose immediately in front and attacked it savagely. The man at
the bow instantly thrust the paddle into the gaping mouth, and shoved
the canoe violently to one side. Mary seized some large tin basins with
covers, which the natives used for holding cooked food, and placed them
outside in front of the part where the children were sitting, and where
the infuriated hippopotamus was trying to grip and upset the canoe.
These curious weapons succeeded in baffling the monster. Several times
it made a rush and failed. The shouting, the snapping of the jaws, the
whirling of the paddles, the cries of the children--"_O Abasi ibom Ete
nyaña nyin mbok O!_" ("O God, Father, please save us, Oh!")--almost
unnerved her. The hippo at last made for the stern, where some of the
paddlers beat it off and kept it at bay long enough to enable the
others to turn the canoe and rush it out of its reach.

But she could not now afford to be long away from her station, for the
utmost vigilance was required to combat the evils around her. In spite
of British laws and gunboats twin-murder continued in secret. She
noticed, however, that where the people came within the influence of
the Mission their fears gradually disappeared. What pleased her was
that women to whom she had been kind voluntarily brought in twins to
her that would otherwise have been killed. One day she and Mr.
Alexander were sitting at breakfast when a woman walked in, and without
remark placed a large calabash on the table. Mary thought it was a dish
of native food and said, "You have come too late, we have just
finished." Still the woman was silent. Mary opened the calabash and
found that it contained two twin boys.

There were other promising signs. The mother of a twin baby who was
saved came to the Mission House and lived there, working at the farm
during the day. One master took a twin and the mother home. All his
other wives at once gathered up their children and left him, but he
remained firm. As the woman had been a neighbour of "Ma's" at Ekenge,
it is probable that her influence had told on her then. But the
outstanding event in this direction was that a twin boy was taken home
by his parents, who were determined to keep him. The affair made a
great stir, but she told all the chiefs that she would stand by the
parents, and if they dared to say a word or trace any calamity to the
family she would "make palaver." They were grimly silent, but could not
dispute her word. She believed that their attitude was only due to
fear, which would die away if a stand were made.

Her work in school and Bible Class was beginning to tell. Six of the
best boys of free birth and good standing whom she was training were
now Christians, and working in the villages around. Two, sons of the
most powerful chiefs in the district, took the reading and another was
the speaker. It was not much to boast of perhaps. "I feel the smallness
of the returns" she said, "but is the labour lost? A thousand times

 2. _The Cares of a Household_

Her most trying fight during these years was with ill-health. She was
now occupying the new house, which she pronounced "lovely," but it was
hotter than any she had lived in, and she often sighed for "her lowly
mud-hut" again. At one time she was three months in bed, and recovery
was always a slow and weary process. The people were afraid she would
have to go to Scotland and came and assisted her in every way, while
her boy scholars maintained the services. But often she would struggle
up and conduct the Sunday meetings herself, although it meant a
sleepless night. "I am ashamed to confess," she wrote, "that our poor
wee services here take as much out of me as the great meetings at home
did." To fill in the wakeful hours she would rise in the middle of the
night, light a candle, and answer a batch of correspondence. There were
friends to whom she did not require to write often: "Ours is like the
life above, we do not need to tell; we can go on loving and praying,
but this is a rare thing in the world." Others were not so considerate.
Some of her letters at this period are marked "Midnight," "3 A.M.,"
"Just before dawn," and so on. But more often she was unable to sit up,
and was too tired to write, and lay thinking of her last visit home,
and particularly of her sojourn at Bowden; "I never had such a time; I
live everything all over again during these sleepless nights; it grips
me more than my real home life of long ago."

She never grumbled to her correspondents, even when in the grip of
nervous debility. Her letters are filled with loving enquiries about
people, especially young people, at home. She kept them all in mind,
followed their lives with interest, and was always anxious to know if
they had consecrated themselves to the service of Christ. "Life is so
great and so grand," she would write, and "eternity is so real and so
terrible in its issues. Surely my lads out here are not to take the
crown from my boys at home."

Now and again, however, a strain of sadness is perceptible in her
letters, perhaps due to the state of her health and her isolation, as
well as the outlook abroad, which was then unrestful. "All is dark,"
she said, "except above. Calvary stands safe and sure." Often she
wondered what worldlings did in the midst of all their entanglements
and the mysteries of life and death without some higher hope and
strength. "Life apart from Christ," she would say, "is a dreadful

Her own future loomed uncertain, and the thought of the children began
to weigh upon her mind: "It is not likely I shall ever go home again. I
feel as if I did not want to. How could I leave the bairns in this
dreadful land? Who would mother them in this sink of iniquity?" And
soon afterwards she wrote: "I do not think I could bear the parting
with my children again. If I be spared a few years more I shall have a
bit of land and build a wee house of my own near one of the principal
stations, and just stay out my days there with my bairns and lie down
among them. They need a mother's care and a mother's love more than
ever as they grow up among heathen people, and I could do a little,
through them, for the dark homes and hearts around, and it would be a
house and home for them when I am gone, where the missionaries could be
near them."

Janie, the faithful, unselfish soul who had been with her from
babyhood, was at last married. "Her husband," she said, "is my best
scholar, and if his social standing is not the highest, he is a real
companion to her and to my bairns, who worship him." The ceremony was
performed by "Ma," and the entry, in Efik, in a tiny marriage register
runs as follows:--

_December 21, 1899.

Janie Annan took oath before Obon (chief), Okon Ekpo, and Erne Ete,
that she will marry Akibo Eyo alone, Akibo also took oath that he will
marry Jane alone. They went to the farm with Eme Ete.


The break in the family life gave her much more to do, but Janie--or
Jean as she was now more often called--still clung to her, and spent
much time at the Mission House attending to the babies as before, her
husband not objecting to her handling the twins, and even allowing her
to take one home to her house during the day. But difficulty and
disappointment came, as they so often do in Africa, and once more Jean
became an inmate of the household, in which she was to remain to the
end. One day a baby arrived whose mother had died after giving it
birth, and she took it and made it her special child. This was Dan
MacArthur Slessor--called after a home friend of the Mission--a black
boy who was to become almost as well known in Scotland as Jean herself.

By and by with returning strength the house-mother was able to resume
her old strenuous ways from cock-crow till star-shine. The cares of her
household never grew fewer. "Housekeeping in the bush," she would
remark, "means so much more as well as so much less than in Scotland.
There are no 'at homes,' no drawing-room ornaments to dust, no starched
dresses, but on the other hand there are no butchers or bakers or
nurses or washerwomen, and so I have to keep my shoulder to the wheel
both indoors and out of doors." There were defects in the situation;
she did not need other people to tell her that; she was often
overwhelmed with the multitude of her duties, at her wits' end to
manage all the children. "I have only three girls at present," she
writes, "and I have nine babies, and what with the washing and the
school and the palavers and the visitors, you may be sure there are no
drones in this house." Sometimes she would stand in a state of
pretended distraction and repeat--

_"There was an old woman who lived in a shoe, She had so many children
she didn't know what to do."_

She was not a housewife in the real sense, although she knew domestic
economy with the best, and there were days when she arose in her might
and introduced order and tidiness, but matters soon fell back into the
normal conditions. She was always quite candid about her deficiencies.
"I have not an elaborate system or method of work; it is just
everything as it comes. I am afraid my mind is not a trained machine.
It only works as it chooses."

Yet no family of white children could have been more cared for or
loved. She endeavoured to make Sunday a specially pleasant day for
them, and tea then was always a happy function. All sat at a big table
in the hall--Jean, Mana, Annie, Mary, Alice, and Maggie, with bunches
of small boys and girls on the floor. It was then that boxes of
delicacies from home were opened and devoured. How grateful she was to
all her friends! "The gifts," she would write, "are veiled in a mist of
love, real Scottish love, reticent but deep and strong, full of pathos
and prayer; the dear love inspired in our strong rugged Scots character
by the Holy Ghost and moulded by our beloved Presbyterianism of the
olden time; love that does not forget with the passing years." Two
years after she returned she related cheerfully that she was still
wearing the dress that had been given to her on furlough as her best on
the occasions when Government officials called upon her.

She saw pathos in these gifts, but none of that deeper pathos which lay
in her own life. She saw nothing to grieve about in her own position,
but only in the empty houses along the Cross River. She was not anxious
about herself, but desperately anxious about the extension of Roman
Catholic influence in Calabar. "To think," she exclaimed, "that all our
blood and treasure, love and sacrifice and prayer, should have been
given to make a place for them."

From her house in the bush she had been eagerly watching the sweep of
that great movement which culminated in 1900 in the union of the United
Presbyterian and Free Churches of Scotland. She loved the blue banner
of the United Presbyterian Church, and one of her constant admonitions
to the younger generation was to carry on the grand old traditions. At
first she had been inclined to favour a kind of fraternal federation,
each denomination keeping its distinctive principles, but she came to
believe in the transfusion of the two streams of spiritual life.

"We must not forget," she wrote, "that the Free Church people were met
at the Disruption by an empty exchequer and a confusion and blank that
taxed all their energies. It took them such hard work in those days to
get churches and homes for themselves that they got a bias that way,
and the outlook to the 'other sheep' may not have been so wide as that
of our forefathers. These used the little prayer-houses and humble
meeting-places for prayer and preaching: they were men nursed in
persecution and contempt and poverty, and they reaped God's
compensations in a detachment from the world, and in the grit and
spirituality and faith and unity which stress and persecution breed.
And we have inherited it all, and it is our contribution to the Church
life of to-day."

Her hope was that the Union might create a new and enlarged interest in
the foreign field and fill up the ranks in Calabar; but she was to be
disappointed in this, and she often expressed the view that the Mission
to which she had given her heart and life had been swallowed up, and
had somehow lost its individuality....

Into the United Free Church the United Presbyterians brought thirty-
eight women missionaries and one hundred and eighty-five women agents,
and the Free Church brought sixty European women missionaries and ten
Eurasians, and nearly four hundred native women agents, making, on the
women's side of the work alone, a total missionary staff in round
numbers of one hundred European workers assisted by nearly six hundred
local agents, and all these were now put under a new body, the Women's
Foreign Mission Committee, composed of some of the most gifted and
consecrated minds of the Church.

                       XXXV. EXILED TO CREEK TOWN

A dramatic public event which vitally affected her own life and the
course of the mission enterprise brought her seclusion to an end. The
story belongs more to the next phase of her career, but may be briefly
noticed here. With the extension of British influence into the interior
of the continent the form of Government had undergone another
development. Two protectorates were formed, Northern and Southern
Nigeria, and Sir Ralph Moor was appointed High Commissioner of the
latter. The same policy of pacifying and "cleaning up" the country
continued; but there were still large stretches practically untouched
by the agents of the Government, including the territory lying between
the Cross River and the Niger, in the upper part of which slave-raiding
and trading went on as it had done for centuries. The Aros, a powerful
tribe who controlled the juju worship, were the people responsible for
this evil. They would not submit to the new conditions, continued to
make war on peaceable tribes, and indulged in human sacrifices, blocked
the trade routes, and resisted the authority of the Government. One
officer was only able to penetrate fifteen miles west of the Cross
River, not without perilous experiences, and then was obliged to beat a
rapid retreat to escape being killed and eaten. The Government was very
patient and conciliatory; but it became absolutely necessary at last to
despatch a small expedition, and a field force was organised at Calabar
for the purpose. Dr. Rattray of the Mission staff was attached to it as
medical officer. The Aros did not wait for the advance; they raided a
village only fifteen miles from Ikorofiong, and, as a precaution, all
the missionaries upriver were ordered down to Duke and Creek Towns.

Okoyong was unmoved by these matters, "Ma" Slessor's authority was
supreme, but while the Government believed that all would be well, they
thought it better that she should also come to Calabar until the
trouble was over. Very much against her will she complied. They sent up
a special convoy for her, and treated her with all consideration. They
even offered to build a house at Creek Town for her and her large
family; but she did not wish to become too closely identified with the
Government, and declined their kindly assistance. She found
accommodation in part of the hospital, where, however, she had no
privacy, and was not very comfortable.

It was the first time she had been in Calabar since her arrival three
years before, and she was not happy. She was never otherwise than ill,
and she longed to get away from the crowd and "the bright, the terribly
bright sky." The children also were unwell. But there were
compensations. The Okoyong people kept steady during the unrest, and
remained true to their Queen. They came down to see her, brought all
their disputes for her to settle, and loaded her with gifts of food,
which were very acceptable, as prices had risen. Her lads kept on the
services, and the people attended regularly. She heard good news of the
twins, which the mothers had taken in order to relieve her; they were
in four different homes in four different districts, and nothing had
been said by the people. One of her oldest friends, the wife of a big
chief, a wealthy leisured woman, bore twins. She instantly wrote to the
chief telling him to put her into a canoe and send her down to Creek
Town. "I am sorry for her," she said, "but we cannot make different
laws for the rich and for the poor, and yet one may press too far with
a chief, and incite rebellion. After all we are foreigners, and they
own the country, so I always try to make the law fit in, while we
adjust things between us."

A campaign of three months sufficed to break the power of the Aros, but
long before that she was wearying to be back in Okoyong. At last she
appealed to the Commissioner. He asked her to wait until a certain
movement of troops was completed. Smilingly she replied that she would
be off at the first opportunity--and she went.

Her enforced sojourn in Creek Town was followed by the best results.
New missionaries had come out in whom she became interested. The one to
whom she owed most was the Rev. A. W. Wilkie, B.D., who soon afterwards
married a daughter of Dr. George Robson, the Editor of the _Missionary
Record_. With these two she formed a friendship which was to prove one
of the joys of her life. Mr. Wilkie understood her from the first; his
keen insight enabled him to explore a character that was growing ever
more complex, and he possessed that quality of understanding sympathy
to which alone her sensitive nature responded.

She enjoyed meeting these young workers who had come to carry on the
traditions of the Mission; she liked them because of their eagerness
and energy and their desire to do things. All her knowledge was at
their disposal, and she would tell them of the golden days of the past
and describe the characteristics and superstitions of the people as
well as speak of the higher things of life. Some of them thought her
the most fascinating woman they had ever met. "Her talks," they
declared, "are better than medicine." Many a wise bit of counsel she
passed on to her sister missionaries. "She gave me at the very
beginning of life in Calabar," says one, "a piece of advice that I have
never forgotten, and which has comforted me over and over again. I was
saying that in a place like Duke Town it was so difficult to know
exactly what to do, and she said, '_Do?_ lassie, _do?_ You've not got
to do, you've just got to _be_, and the doing will follow.'" "Make a
bold stand for purity of speech and charity of judgment," she told
another, "and let none of the froth that rises to the top of the life
around you vex or disturb your peace." Many acknowledged that they had
their lives enriched, their faith strengthened, and their work helped
by contact with her.


The younger missionaries began to frequent Akpap, and from the accounts
of their visits we obtain some unstudied and vivid pictures of "Ma" and
her household. This slight woman with the shrunk and colourless skin,
the remarkable deep-set eyes, and the Scots tongue, so poor in the
gifts of the world, so rich in the qualities of the spirit, made a deep
impression upon them, although it is a question whether they ever fully
understood all she was and did. They lived in the European atmosphere,
she in the native; they noticed only superficial aspects, she moved
deep beneath the surface amongst conditions of which they were only
dimly aware.

"We walk for five or six miles along the pleasant bush path," writes
one, "and as we near the big trees and the clearing round the Mission
House, children's voices cry, 'Ma is coming,' and a sweet, somewhat
strident voice inquires, 'What Ma? Jean put the kettle on, Jean put the
kettle on.' 'And we'll all have tea,' sings out my friend. 'How are
you, Ma?' for we have reached the verandah, and 'Ma,' eagerly
hospitable, is giving us a royal welcome." She was usually found
barefooted and bareheaded, with a twin-baby in her arms and a swarm of
children about her, or on the roof nailing down the sheet-iron which a
tornado had shifted, or holding a palaver from the verandah, or sitting
in Court, but always busy. "No one can have much time for rest here,"
was the verdict of one missionary after a short stay. "Her power,"
wrote another, "is amazing; she is really Queen of the whole of Okoyong
district. The High Commissioner and his staff leave the administration
of it in her hands. It is wonderful to see the grip she has of the most
intricate native and political questions of the country. The people
tell me she knows their language better than they do themselves, and
that they appeal to her on their own customs and laws. She has done a
magnificent work, and the people have a deeper reverence for her than
you can imagine. When they speak of her their tones change. One thing I
noticed, she never allowed a native to sit in her presence. She keeps
them all at a respectful distance, although when they are ill,
sometimes with the most loathsome diseases, she will nurse them; and
she never shakes hands with them. She told the High Commissioner to do
so with some--but for herself, never! When I asked her the reason she
looked at me and said simply, 'I live alone.'"

The reference to her command of the language bears out what all
competent observers have stated. Some missionaries retain their accent
even after long service and speak as foreigners, but she had all the
vocabulary, the idioms, the inflections, the guttural sounds, the
interjections, and sarcasms, as well as the quick characteristic
gestures that belong only to the natives. "She excelled even the
natives themselves in their own tongue," says Mr. Luke. "She could play
with it and make the people smile; she could cut with it and make them
wince; she could pour spates of indignation until they cried out,
'_Ekem!_ Enough, Ma!' and she could croon with it and make the twins
she saved happy, and she could sing with it softly to comfort and
cheer." One visitor who accompanied a missionary friend found her
haranguing a crowd who had arrived to palaver. She stopped now and
again and spoke to the visitors in broad Scots. "Well," said the
missionary afterwards, "what do you think of her?" "I would not like
her to catch me stealing her chickens!" was the reply.

One of the qualities which astonished her guests was her utter
fearlessness. There were no locks on her mission doors. She went
everywhere, condemning chiefs, fining them, divorcing them; and came
home to her bairns to be a child with them, and to romp and sing to
them queer little chants of her own composition. One story of these
days her visitors carried away. A murder had been committed, and the
slayer was pursued by the people, who intended to follow out their
custom and torture him. He was seized and chained. Straining to break
loose, his eyes almost bursting from their sockets, he cried, "Beware!
You may kill me, but my spirit will come back and spoil you. Ay, it
will not be you, the slaves, but you, the chiefs, that will suffer.
Beware! I will come if you do not take me to Ma's house."

He was taken to "Ma," who on hearing the evidence ordered him to be
conveyed to Duke Town. Then she loosed him from his chains and sat down
with him alone in the house for the whole afternoon. The doors and
windows were open, and all he had to do was to strike her down and fly.
But she showed no fear. At night he was again chained and placed in the
prayer-room or store-room underneath until the guard arrived. During
the night he managed to slip off his chains and was free to escape into
the bush. When she went into the room in the morning with food and
called him, there was no sound or reply. It was dark in the place, but
she entered and moved around to find the prisoner. At the back of the
door she came into contact with his swinging body. He had taken off his
loin-cloth and hanged himself.

Her visitors noticed, almost with wonders her devotion to her children
and the little morsels of humanity that came pouring in upon her. Miss
Welsh, LL.A., thus describes the household: "Jean, the ever-cheerful
and willing helper; Annie the drawer of water and hewer of wood, kind
willing worker; Mary the smart, handsome favourite; Alice the stolid
dependable little body, and Maggie the fusionless, Dannie the imp, and
Asoquö who looked with his big innocent eyes a wee angel, and who yet
was in constant trouble, chiefly for insisting on sharing the cat's
meals. Then there were the babies--a lovely wee twin-girl, whom their
mother was nursing, a poor wee boy almost skin and bone lying cradled
in a box. Behind the house in a rough shelter was another twin-mother
caring none too kindly for her surviving child." Another writes, "I
never saw anything more beautiful than her devotion to these black
children. She had a poor sick boy in her arms all the time, and nursed
him while walking up and down directing the girls. He died at 11.30 and
she slept with him in her arms all night. Next morning he was put in a
small milk packing-case, and the children dug a grave and buried it and
held a service."

And here we have the scene at evening prayers: "We began with an Efik
hymn of her own, which she repeated line by line, while the little ones
chanted it with a weird intonation. They then sang the whole to the
tune _French_. She tested their memory of the morning lesson, and gave
them a homely but powerful address, interrupting herself once to tell
us how hydrophobia had broken out a few days before, and how she had
held one poor lad of ten in her arms until he died. She prayed, and the
children bowed down their heads till they rested upon the ground. They
next chanted the 'Amen,' and half-chanted the Lord's Prayer, and
finished with what she called 'one of the new fanciful English hymns--
'If I come to Jesus.' Then very simply and sweetly she commended us all
to the Father's love and care."

Long talks, often prolonged into the night, would follow. "How Ma
talked," says Miss Welsh, "and what a privilege it was to listen, what
an experience, and what an education! How she made the past vivid as
she lived it over again--the days of her girlhood--her mischievous
pranks, her love of fun, her early days in Calabar, tales of the old
worthies, tales of herself, and her own life, of her early pioneering,
of loved ones at home, of kind letters whose messages of cheer she
would share, of comfort and help from God's word--from the passage of
the day's reading, of new lessons learned, of new light revealed. I can
still hear her, still listen with the old fascination, still enjoy her
wild indignations, still marvel at her amazing personality, her
extraordinary vitality and energy, still feel as I have ever felt her
God-given power to draw one nearer to the Lord she loved so well."

When her guests departed she would walk with them a long way, her feet
bare, her head uncovered. "No," said a missionary, "I would not like to
see other ladies do that, but I would not care to see her different. It
is easy to give a false impression of her. She is not unwomanly. She is
eccentric if you like, but she is gentle of heart, with a beautiful
simplicity of nature, I join in the reverence which the natives show

                      XXXVII. A NIGHT IN THE BUSH

Miss Slessor began to feel that her days in Okoyong were drawing to a
close. Her part of the work there was done. The district was civilised,
and all that the station required was organisation in detail and steady
development. But she was not one to rest in any circumstances in which
she was placed. She abated nothing of her devotion in the interests of
the peoples and although her strength did not now allow her to take
long journeys on foot she never hesitated to answer the call upon her
sympathy and courage. She had more than one adventure in these days,
but she had passed through so many hard experiences that she made light
of them, regarding them as mere incidents in the day's work.

One afternoon, while she was in school, there appeared before her a
young man of the superior class of slaves, who said his wife had given
birth to twins in the bush more than twelve miles away. All the people
had deserted her, a tornado was brewing--would she come and help?

"Ma" thought of her brood of children, and one a sickly baby, but
turning them over to the slave twin-mother she had bought, and leaving
food with her in her hut, she committed the whole twelve to Providence
and set out with Jean.

The young man led them at a breathless pace. "If only you could _dion_
the rain-cloud," he cried back. "I am praying that God may keep it
back," was all Mary could jerk out. The way seemed endless, and the
shadows of night fell swiftly about them, but at last they arrived near
the spot and were joined by the mistress of the slave and an old naked
woman. They found the mother lying on the ground surrounded by charms.
"Ma" pushed these away with her foot. The night was pitch dark, there
were occasional raindrops, and the woman was delirious. She ordered the
husband and his slave-man to make a stretcher. They regarded the idea
with horror, and pleaded that they could never carry her, their belief
doubtless being that they would die if they touched the unclean burden.
All begged "Ma" to leave the woman to her fate, but she turned upon
them with a voice of scorn, and such was her power that the men hastily
set to and constructed a rough stretcher of branches and leaves, and
even helped to place the woman upon it.

Before leaving, a sad little ceremony had to take place. One of the
infants was dead, and Jean took her machete and dug a little cavity in
the ground, and upon some soft leaves the child was laid and covered
up. She then lifted the other twin, the men raised the stretcher, and
the party set off, a fire-stick, red at the point, and twirled to
maintain the glow, dimly showing them the way. The rain kept off, but
it was so dark that "Ma" had to keep hold of the hem of Jean's dress in
order not to lose her. The latter stumbled and fell, bringing down Mary
also. "Where are you?" each cried, and then a hand or a foot was held
out and gripped. Sometimes the men dropped to their knees, but the
jolting brought no cry from the unconscious form they were carrying.

By and by they drew up in the utter solitude, and had to confess they
were lost. The men left to grope for signs of the path and the two
women were alone. Jean grew depressed, not on her own account but on
"Ma's," for she knew that she was utterly exhausted, and could not hold
out much longer. "What if they desert us?" she said. "Well," replied
Mary, trying to appear as if fatigue and fear and wild beasts had no
existence, "we shall just stay here until the morning." Jean's response
was something like a grunt. One of the men returned. "Can't find a
road," he grumbled, and disappeared again.

What was that? A firefly? No, a light. The other man had discovered a
hut, and had procured a lighted palm tassel dipped in oil. Poor as it
was the light served to show the way until the path was reached.

After sore toil they gained the Mission yard. The men laid the
stretcher in an open shed and, overcome with their exertions, threw
themselves down anywhere and went asleep. But there was no rest yet for
Mary. Securing some old doors and sheets of iron she patched up a room
for the woman, In which she could pass the night.

The children were awakened and crawled out of Iye's hut into the yard
crying in sleepy misery. Jean and Annie carried them to the Mission
House and put them to bed, and brought back some hot food for the
patient, who was constantly moaning, "Cold, cold; give me a fire."

Not till she was fed and soothed did Mary give in. She could not summon
sufficient strength to go upstairs, but lay down on the floor where she
was, with her clothes on, and all the dirt of the journey upon her, and
slept till daybreak.

The baby died next day, and the mother hovered at the point of death.
Mary strove hard to save her, but the result was doubtful from the
first. None in the yard would give any help save Jean; the woman was a
social leper, and all sat at a safe distance, dumb or blaspheming.
Conscious at the end, the poor girl cried piteously to her husband not
to reproach her. "It is not my fault," she said, "I did not mean to
insult you."

"Ma" placed her hand on her hot brow calming her, and prayed that she
might find an entrance into a better world than the one which had
treated her so badly. When she passed away she thrust aside the leper
woman whom her people sent to assist her, and washed the body herself
and dressed her so that for once a twin-mother was honoured in her
death. She was placed in a coffin of corrugated iron, strengthened with
bamboo splints, and beside her were put the spoons and pot and dish and
other things which she had used.

Her husband and his slave bore her away into the bush, and there at a
desolate spot, where no one was likely to live or plant or build, they
left her and stole from the place in terror.


On the fifteenth anniversary of that notable Sunday in 1888 when Mary
settled at Ekenge, the first communion service in Okoyong was held. It
crowned her service there, and put a seal upon the wonderful work she
had accomplished for civilisation and for Christ. Alone, she had done
in Okoyong what it had taken a whole Mission to do in Calabar. The old
order of heathenism had been broken up, the business of life was no
longer fighting and killing, women were free from outrage and the death
menace, slaves had begun to realise that they were human beings with
human rights, industry and trade were established, peace reigned. Above
all, people were openly living the Christian life, and many lads were
actively engaged in Church work.

No congregation had been formally organised, but the readiness of the
young people to join the Church was brought to the notice of the Rev.
W. T. Weir, who was stationed at Creek Town, with the result that he
was appointed to go up and conduct the necessary services.

On the Saturday night in August corresponding to the one when she
arrived, a preparatory service was held in the hall beneath the Mission
House, and in the presence of the people seven young Christians were
received into the Church by baptism. More were coming forward, but the
fears of their friends succeeded in preventing them. "Wait and see,"
they urged, "until we know what the thing is." Some of the parents
anxiously asked "Ma" whether the ceremony was in any way connected with

On Sunday came a great throng, which filled the hall and overflowed
into the grounds, many sitting on native stools and chairs, and even on
gin-boxes. Before the communion service she presented eleven of the
children, including six she had rescued, for baptism.

It was a quiet and beautiful day, with the hush that comes with God's
rest-day all the world over. As the company gathered to the first
Memorial Table in Okoyong, she thought of all the years that lay
behind, and was greatly moved. In the stillness the old Scottish Psalm
tunes rose thrilling with the gratitude and praise of a new-born
people. After the bread and wine had been partaken of, thanks were
returned by the singing of the 103rd Psalm to the tune _Stroudwater_.
When the third and fourth verses were being sung--

_Kprukpru muquañkpõ ke ima | All thine iniquities who doth
  Enye adahado;            |  Most graciously forgive:
 Anam udöñõ okure,         | Who thy diseases all and pains
  Ye ndutukhö fo.          |  Doth heal, and thee relieve.

Enye onïm fi ke uwem,      | Who doth redeem thy life, that thou
  Osio ka mkpa;            |  To death may'st not go down;
 Onyuñ odori fi eti        | Who thee with loving-kindness doth
  Mfön y'aqua ima_.        |  And tender mercies crown--

She seemed to be lost In a trance of thought, her face had a far-away
look, and tears stood in her eyes. She was thinking of the greatness of
God's love that could win even the oppressed people of dark Okoyong.

She could not let the assembly break up without saying a few words. Now
that they had the beginnings of a congregation they must, she said,
build a church large enough for all who cared to come. And she pled
with those who had been received to remain true to the faith. "Okoyong
now looks to you more than to me for proof of the power of the Gospel."

In the quiet of the evening in the Mission House, she seemed to dwell
in the past. Long she spoke of what the conditions had been fifteen
years before, and of the changes that had come since. But her joy was
in those who had been brought to confess Christ, and she was glad to
think that, after all, the work had not been a failure. And all the
glory she gave to her Father who had so marvellously helped her.

For a moment also her fancy turned to the future. She would be no
longer there, but she knew the work would go on from strength to
strength, and her eyes shone as she saw in vision the gradual
ingathering of the people, and her beloved Okoyong at last fair and

                              FOURTH PHASE

                          1902-1910. Age 54-62.

                    THE ROMANCE OF THE ENYONG CREEK#

   _"I feel drawn on and on by the magnetism of this land of dense
                darkness and mysterious weird forest."_

                     I. THE REIGN OF THE LONG JUJU

Again had come the fulness of the time, and again Mary Slessor, at an
age when most women begin to think of taking their ease, went forward
to a new and great work for Christ and civilisation. Kind eyes and
loving hands beckoned to her from Scotland to come and rest, but she
gazed into the interior, towards vast regions as yet unentered, and saw
there the gleam of the Divine light leading her on, and she turned with
a happy sigh to follow it.

In this case there was no sharp division between the old and new
spheres of service. For ten years she had been brooding over the
conditions in the territory on the west side of the Cross River, so
near at hand, so constantly skirted by missionaries, traders, and
officials as they sailed up-river, and yet so unknown, and so full of
the worst abominations of heathenism.

Just above Calabar the Cross River bends back upon itself, and here at
the point of the elbow the Enyong Creek runs inland into the heart of
the territory towards the Niger. At its mouth on high ground stands the
township of Itu, of sinister reputation in the history of the West
Coast. For there on the broad beach at the foot of the cliff was held &
market which for centuries supplied Calabar and the New World with
slaves. Down through the forest paths, down the quiet waters of the
Creek, countless victims of man's cupidity had poured, had been huddled
together there, had been inspected, appraised, and sold, and then had
been scattered to compounds throughout the country or shipped across
the sea. And there still a market, was held, and along the upper
borders of the Creek human sacrifice and cannibalism were practised.
Only recently a chief had died, and sixty slave people had been killed
and eaten. One day twenty-five were set in a row with their hands tied
behind them, and a man came and with a knife chopped off their heads.

It is a strange irony that this old slave creek, the scene of so much
misery and anguish, is one of the prettiest waterways in West Africa.
It is narrow and still and winding, and great tropical trees covered
with the delicate tracery of creepers line the banks, their branches
sometimes interlacing above, while the undergrowth is rich in foliage
and blossom. Lovely orchids and ferns grow in the hollows of the boughs
and old trunks that have fallen; but the glory of the Creek is its
water-lilies, which cover the surface everywhere, so that a boat has
often to cut its way through their mass. On either hand, side-creeks
can be seen twisting among the trees and running deeper into the heart
of the forest. The silence of the primeval solitude is unbroken save
when a canoe passes, and then a startled alligator will slip into the
water, monkeys will scurry chattering from branch to branch, parrots
will fly screaming away, blue kingfishers and wild ducks will disappear
from their perch, and yellow palm birds will gleam for a moment as they
flit through the sunlight. The Creek is beautiful at all times, but in
the early morning when the air is cool and the light is misty and the
vistas are veiled in dimness, the scene is one of fairy-like

Above the Creek all the country between the Cross River and the Niger
up to near Lokoja in Northern Nigeria, was occupied by the Ibo tribe,
numbering about four millions, of a fairly high racial type, who were
dominated by the Aros clan dwelling in some twenty or thirty towns
situated close together in the district of Arochuku ("God of the
Aros"). A remarkable and mysterious people, the Aros were light-
coloured, intelligent, subtle, and cunning. More intellectual and
commercial than warlike, they developed two lines of activity--trade
and religion--and made each serve the other. Their chief commodity was
slaves. Each town controlled certain slave routes, and each had a
definite sphere of influence which extended over a wide tract of
territory. When slaves were scarce they engaged mercenaries to raid
villages and capture them. But they had usually a supply from the Long
Juju situated in a secret, well-guarded gorge. The fame of this fetish
was like that of the Delphic oracle of old; it spread over the country,
and people came far distances to make sacrifices at its shrine, and
consult the priests on all possible subjects. These priests were men
chosen by the various towns, who were raised to a semi-sacred status in
the eyes of the people. Enormous fees and fines were imposed, but the
majority who entered the spot never left it alive; they were either
sacrificed and eaten, or sold into slavery. The shrine was built in the
middle of a stream, which was alive with ugly fish with glaring eyes
that were regarded as sacred. When the friends of the man who had
entered saw the water running red, they believed that the Juju had
devoured him. In reality some red material had been cast in, and the
man would be sent as a slave to a remote part of the country.

The priests despatched their emissaries far and wide; they settled in
townships, swore blood brotherhood with the chiefs, and took part in
local affairs. They planted farms, and traded and acquired enormous
power. When disputes arose they got the matter sent for adjustment to
the town in Aro within whose sphere of influence they lived, or to the
Long Juju. In this way they acted as agents of the slave system. Other
men took round the slaves on definite routes. Their usual plan was to
leave one on approval, obtaining on their own part so much on each, or
a slave of lower value. When the trader returned the bargain would be
completed. The usual price of a new slave was 200 or 300 rods and a bad
slave. So widespread was the net east by the Aros, and so powerful
their influence, that if a chief living a full week's journey to the
north were asked, "What road is that?" he would say, "The road to Aro."
All roads in the country led to Aro.

A few years before this a party of eight hundred natives had proceeded
from the territories about the Niger to consult the Long Juju on
various matters. They were led by a circuitous route to Arochuku, and
housed in a village. Batches of from ten to twenty were regularly taken
away, ostensibly to the Juju, but were either sacrificed or sold into
servitude, only a miserable remnant of 130 succeeding in reaching the
hands of Government officials.

Of a totally different type were the people living to the south of the
Creek, called the Ibibios. They were one of the poorest races in
Africa, both morally and physically, a result largely due to centuries
of fear and oppression. Ibibio was the chief raiding-ground of the
head-hunters, and the people lived in small isolated huts and villages
deep in the forest, in order to lessen the risk of capture. In
demeanour they were cowed and sullen, gliding past one furtively and
swiftly, as if afraid; in language and life they were untruthful and
filthy. The women, who wore no clothing save a small piece of native
cloth made of palm fibre, were mere beasts of burden. All the young
people went naked. Most unpromising material they seemed. Yet they
never ceased to draw out the sympathy and hope of the White Mother of
Okoyong; there was no people, she believed, who could not be recreated.

She knew a great deal about the Aros and their slave system, more,
probably, than any other white person in the country. Indeed few had
any knowledge of them. "What is sad about the Aro Expedition," wrote
Mr. Luke, one of the Cross River pioneers, "is that nearly all the town
names in connection with it are unknown to those of us who thought we
had a passable knowledge of Old Calabar. I never heard of the Aros, of
Bende, or of Arochuku. It is somewhat humiliating that after over fifty
years' work as a mission, the district on the right bank should be so
little known to us." Mary had first-hand acquaintance with the people.
Refugees came to her from both Ibo and Ibibio with stories of cruelty
and wrong and oppression; chiefs from both regions sought her out for
advice and guidance; slave-dealers from Arochuku and Bende, with their
human wares, called at Ekenge and Akpap, and with many of these she was
friendly, and learned from them the secrets of their trade. She told
them frankly that she was coming some day to their country, and they
gave her a cordial invitation, but hinted that it might not be quite
safe. It was not the danger that prevented her. She would have gone
before, but the difficulty was providing for Okoyong when she was
absent. She would not leave her people unless they were cared for by
competent hands. She asked for two ladies to be sent in order that she
might be free to carry out her idea of visiting the Aro country, but
none could be spared, and so she had, perforce, to wait. It was not
easy, but she loyally submitted. "The test of a real good missionary,"
she wrote, "is this waiting, silent, seemingly useless time. So many
who can distinguish themselves at home, missing the excitement and the
results, get discontented, morose, cynical, and depreciate everything.
Everything, however seemingly secular and small, is God's work for the
moment, and worthy of our very best endeavour. To such, a mission
house, even in its humdrum days, is a magnificent opportunity of
service. In a home like mine a woman can find infinite happiness and
satisfaction. It is an exhilaration of constant joy--I cannot fancy
anything to surpass it on earth."

Then came the military expedition to break up the slave system and the
false gods of Aro. The troops were moved into Arochuku by way of the
Creek, and the forces of civilisation encountered the warriors of
barbarism in the swamps and bush that edge the waterway. When the
troops entered the towns they found juju-houses everywhere, and in
almost every home were rude images smeared with the blood of sacrifice.
The dreaded Long Juju was discovered in a gloomy defile about a mile
from Arochuku. The path to it wound a tortuous way through dense bush,
with others constantly leading off on both sides, evidently intended to
puzzle the uninitiated. A watch-tower was passed where sentinels had
been posted. At the bottom of the valley, between high rocky banks
clothed with ferns and creepers, ran a stream which widened out into a
pool covered with water-lilies. In the dim light was seen a small
island, and upon it a rude shelter surrounded by a fence of gun-
barrels. Lying about were gin-bottles, cooking-pots, and human skulls,
the witness of past orgies. At the entrance was a white goat starving
to death.

Most of the chiefs had never seen-a white man, and when Sir Ralph Moor
went up to hold a palaver, their interest was intense. They sat on the
ground in a semicircle in the shade of a giant cotton tree, suspicious
and hostile, listening to the terms of the Government, which included
disarmament, the suppression of the juju-worship, and the prohibition
of the buying, pawning, and selling of slaves. After much palaver these
were agreed to. Over two thousand five hundred war-guns were
surrendered, but sacrifices continued--and still to some extent go on
in secret in the depths of the forest. Much work also had still to be
done before Government rule was generally accepted. Throughout the
whole time occupied by the expedition, but more particularly in the
later stages, the important chiefs kept continually in touch with "Ma"
Slessor, and one official states that it was to her influence more than
all the force and power of the Government emissaries that the final
settlement of the country was due....

It is interesting to speculate what might have been the course of
events had she been able to carry out her plan before the punitive
expedition was called for. Mr. Wilkie goes so far as to say that "had
she been settled in the Aro country it is doubtful whether an armed
expedition would have been necessary, and it is at least possible that
the suppression of the slave-trade would have been achieved by the
peaceable means of the Gospel." Primitive peoples often bend more
quickly before Christ than break before might of arms.

                          II. PLANTING A BASE

A large tract of new territory was now open to outside influences. Who
was to be the first to settle in it--official, trader, or missionary?
Mary studied the situation again in the light of the new conditions,
obtaining information first-hand from officials and natives. There were
two stations on the west of the Cross River--Ikorofiong, which,
however, was really an Efik trading town, and higher up, Unwana, which
was a back-water and unfit for a base for inland work. Tentative
efforts had been made from time to time to secure a footing elsewhere,
but had come to nothing, and the policy of the Mission had been to
continue up-river as being the line of least resistance. Her conviction
was that extension, for the present at least, should take place not up
the river, where the stations were cut off from the base during the dry
season, but laterally across the country between the Cross River and
the Niger. There were, she saw, three strategetic factors which
dominated the situation--the Enyong Creek giving admission to the new
territory, Itu at its mouth, and Arochuku, the religious and political
centre of the Ibos. The central position of Itu impressed her; it
commanded the three contiguous regions and peoples--the Ibo, Ibibio,
and Efik, and her plan was to seize and hold it as a base, then one of
the towns of Arochuku as the threshold of Iboland, and, if possible,
Bende. Her views did not commend themselves to all her colleagues in
Calabar, but how wise, how far-seeing, how statesmanlike was her policy
the later history of the Mission proves.

She felt she could do nothing until help was obtained for Akpap.
Fortunately there was one lady missionary in Calabar who had the
courage to prefer Okoyong to quieter stations-Miss Wright of the Girls'
Institute, who asked the local Committee to send her there as assistant
to Miss Slessor; and although the Committee approved, the matter was
referred to the Women's Committee at home. As there seemed no prospect
of anything being done, she began to move quietly along her own lines.
Her school lads were now old enough and educated enough to be used as
advance agents, and her hope lay in these. In January 1903 she left
Akpap with two boys, Esien and Effiom, and one of her girls, Mana, and
canoed to Itu, and planted them there to teach school and hold
services. Esien took the chief part in the latter, whilst Effiom led
the singing. Mana's work was the teaching of the girls. A few weeks
later she found that the results had exceeded all her dreams. The chief
said he was too old to change his ways, but the younger ones could
learn the new ideas--anyway God had made him, and so was bound to look
after him whatever sins he committed. But the children were eager to
learn, and made apt scholars, and the people crowded to the services
until there was no more room for them. She went up again and selected a
site on the top of the hill with a magnificent view and built a school,
speeding the work with her own hands, and set the willing people to
construct a church, with two rooms for herself at the end. When one of
her fellow-missionaries, Dr. Rattray, heard of this he wrote: "Bravo!
Uganda was evangelised by this means, and the teachers there could only
read the gospels and could not write or count; the Mission understood
its business to be to spread the Gospel, and all who could read taught
others and spread the news. Perhaps we educate the people too much, and
make them think that education is religion."

When in February she heard that the Roman Catholics were intending to
settle at Bende her heart was heavy. "The thought that all that is
holiest in the Church, should have been shed to create an opening for
that corrupt body makes me ill. And not even a station opened or the
hope of one! Oh, if I were able to go or send even a few of my bairns
just to take hold. The country is far from being at rest, but if the
Roman Catholics can go so can I.... There is a great future for
Nigeria; if only I were young again and had money!"

She wrote to Dr. Adam, a Government friend in Bende, a soldier of the
Church as well as a servant of the King, and he supplied her with all
the information she needed. Bende, he said, was not the place it was
supposed to be; the population numbered from two to four thousand; it
was not likely to become a trading centre; whilst the overland
transport was a disadvantage. The journey was by launch to Itu, by
steel canoe up the Enyong Creek, thence by foot or hammock to Arochuku
and Bende. He stated that Bishop Johnston of the Church Missionary
Society was already in Bende prospecting.

When she received his letter she said to herself, "Shall I go?" She did
not wish to compromise the mission in any way, and proposed to go about
the matter quietly, at her own expense. She would travel if necessary
in a hammock, as she was not so sure of herself as of old, and would
find rest at wayside huts, and she would take Iye to act as interpreter
where the women did not know Efik. "I would do what I like, and would
come back to my work rested and refreshed. But--I want God to send me."

What was influencing her also was the conviction that the end had come
for her at Akpap. Again she had the consciousness that it was time for
the station to be taken over by an ordained missionary, who would build
up a congregation. "I shall not say that I shall leave my home without
a pang, but I know that I can do work which new folk cannot do, and my
days of service are closing in, and I cannot build up a church in the
way a minister can." She believed that in the special conditions of
West Africa women were better than men for beginning work in the
interior. And she still retained her faith in the home-trained
domesticated type--girls who had brothers and sisters and had learned
to give and take and find duty in doing common things, rather than
those turned out by the training schools, who were, she thought, apt to
be too artificial and full of theories. Her ideal of a man missionary
was Dr. Rattray, who was a good carpenter and shoemaker and general
handy-man,--"far better accomplishments than a college education for
the African field." She did not, of course, depreciate culture, so long
as practical qualities of heart and hand went with it.

The proposal regarding Miss Wright going to Akpap having been agreed
to, she began to look forward to her advent as an event that would
determine the future. Seldom has one been so eagerly watched for; for
months it was nothing but "When Miss Wright comes," "Wait till Miss
Wright comes," so on. For days before she appeared the household were
in excited mood, every morning fresh flowers were placed in her
bedroom, the boys and girls kept themselves dressed and ready to
receive her. When she did arrive it made all the difference that was
hoped. She was a capable, unselfish, plucky girl; she knew the
language, and was experienced in the ways of the people. Very quietly
she slipped into the method of the house, taking the school and
dispensary off "Ma's" hands, and looking after the babies with the same
pitying sympathy. The girls became quite at home with her, in the long
nights she would sing to them, recalling the times in the bush when Mr.
Ovens used to entertain them. "She is a right sisterly helpmate," wrote
Mary, "and a real help and comfort in every way. Things go as smoothly
as on a summer's day, and I don't know how I got on alone. It seems too
good to be true."

                          III. On To Arochuku

On a morning of June 1908 she left Akpap for Itu, tramping the forest
path to Ikunetu in order to pick up the Government launch on its weekly
journey to the garrisons up-river. The Government, as usual, gave her
every facility for carrying on her new work, granted her free passages,
took charge of her packages and letters, placed their Rest Houses at
her disposal, and told her to ask for whatever she wanted. She did not
care to trouble them unduly, but was very grateful for their
consideration. On arriving at Ikunetu she went into the teacher's house
to rest, charging the boys to call her as soon as they sighted the
launch. They did not notice it until it was too late for her to signal,
and it passed onwards and out of sight. But she was not put out; her
faith was always strong in the guiding hand of God; and she turned and
tramped back the same long road. When she reached the Mission House
tired and weary, she assured Miss Wright that all was well--God had not
meant her to travel that day, and she must have been kept back for some

Next week she set out again, and when she joined the launch at Ikunetu,
Colonel Montanaro, the Commander of the Forces, was on board on his way
up to Arochuku. In the course of their conversation he gave her a
pressing invitation to go there, and to accept his escort. She was
almost startled by what seemed so direct a leading. But she was not
prepared for a longer journey; she had no change of clothing or supply
of food. She thought and prayed over the matter all the way. "Here is
the challenge to enter that region of unbroken gloom and despair," she
mused. "If it is not entered now, the Roman Catholics will come in, and
the key position to the whole territory will be taken out of our hands,
and only the coast tribes be left to the Mission. If I go now we shall
be the first in the field, and it will not be discourteous to the Roman
Catholics--as it would be if we came in afterwards." Before the end of
the journey she consented to go.

When she arrived at Arochuku she found herself in the old slave centre
of the Aros, a densely populated district, some 80,000 people living
within a radius of a few square miles. It was a strange experience to
walk over these roads that had been trodden for centuries by countless
feet on their way to the pens of the coast and the horrors of the
"middle passage," and latterly to the Efik slave-market, and to gaze on
the spot where the secret iniquities of the Long Juju had taken place;
stranger still to receive a welcome from the men who had been
responsible for these evils. The chiefs and traders, many of whom she
knew, were delighted with her courage and touched by her self-
sacrifice, and promised to do all they could to assist her work. Making
arrangements to come up later and start a school, she left, profoundly
thankful for the privilege she had been granted, and praying that the
Church at home would have a vision of the grand opportunity opening up
before it.

The officials of the Church, of course, knew of the opportunity, but
the members at large were not interested. Dr. Robson, as Convener of
the Calabar Sub-Committee, pointed out how the situation was
practically a crisis--no ground had been broken west of the Cross
River, no teachers had been sent to the east. For a quarter of a
century the supply of men had not sufficed for the existing needs of
the Mission, and extension had been impossible. The givings of the
Church for foreign missions had been far below the urgent requirements.
Either, he said, the staff and income must be largely increased, or
they would have to step aside and invite others to divide the field
with them. No adequate response was made to this and similar appeals,
and the lonely pioneer was forced onwards upon her solitary path.

A short time afterwards she went back to Arochuku, taking two lads, and
a school was opened in the palaver shed of Amasu, one of the towns
nearest the Creek, A hundred children crowded into the building along
with women and men, and not a few of the old slavers, and the scholars
were soon well on in the first book. In one village which she visited
she found a young trader who had brought news of the Christ religion
from the Niger, and was anxious to introduce a church and teacher. When
she left the district again, the people came to the landing-beach and
cried after her, "Don't be long in coming back, Ma! If you don't care
for us, who will care for us?"

As her canoe was paddled down the creek, she lay back enjoying the
beauty of the scene. The water was as smooth as a mirror, and like a
mirror reflected the delicate tracery of the overhanging foliage;
bright birds sailed hither and thither, gorgeous butterflies flitted
about, and brilliant blossoms coloured the banks. She had passed in
succession two snakes attempting to cross the stream, and was watching
the efforts of a third when a small canoe shot out from behind a clump
of bushes and bumped into her craft. She apologised to the man in it,
but standing cap in hand he said, "I meant it, Ma; I have been waiting
for you; my master at Akani Obio sent me to waylay you and bring you to
his house." Taking a letter from his cap he handed it to her.

The canoe was turned and entered a still creek, a picture of delicate
loveliness, with multitudes of lilies and other aquatic plants, which
made her feel as if she were moving through an exquisite dream. A
shingly beach, evidently a busy trading-place, was reached, and there
stood a young man and young woman, handsome and well-dressed, who
assisted her to land. They led her into a good house and into a pretty
room with concrete floor, a European bedstead, clean and dainty, with
mosquito curtains and all the appointments that indicated people of
taste. The man was Onoyom Iya Nya, a born statesman, the only one in
the district who had not been disarmed by the Government, and the one
who had been chosen President of the Native Court, and was shaping well
as a wise and enlightened ruler.

It was a moving story that Mary heard from his lips, while his wife
stood by and listened. It went back to 1875 when he was a boy. One day
a white man appeared in the Creek, and all the people decamped and hid.
He, alone, stayed on the beach, and in response to a request from the
white man, offered to lead him to the chief's house. During the palaver
that ensued he lingered by, an absorbed listener. When the white man
left he was tried by the heads of the town and severely punished for
having acted as guide. The stranger was the Rev. Dr. Robb, one of the
ablest missionaries in the Mission, then stationed at Ikorofiong.

The boy never forgot the incident. But he grew up a heathen, and went
to the cannibal feasts at Arochuku. When his father died, ten little
girls were slaughtered, and five of the bodies were placed beneath the
corpse, and five above, that they might occupy the position of wives in
the spirit world. He married, but misfortune seemed to dog him. His
house was burned down, and then his child died. Seeking for the man who
had wrought these things by witchcraft, in order to murder him, he met
a native who had once been a Mission teacher in Calabar, but who had
fallen into evil ways and was now homeless and a drunkard.

"How do you know," the latter said, "that it is not the God of the
white man that is angry with you? He is all-powerful."

"Where can I find this God!" the chief queried.

"I am not worthy to say, but go to the white Ma at Itu, and she will
tell you."

"I will go," was the reply.

He took a canoe and watched for Mary on the Creek, but missed her. In
his impatience he engaged the old teacher, who had still his Bible, to
come and read _Iko Abasi_ to him. Again he sent for "Ma," but she had
gone on to Arochuku. Then he kept a man on the look-out in the Creek,
and it was he who had intercepted her.

"And now," he said, "will you show me what to do?"

As he told the story several big, fattened ladies had come in, and a
number of children and dependants. She prayed with them, sent for the
teacher's Bible, and talked with them long and earnestly. The chief's
wife made her a cup of tea, and she left, promising to come later and
see what she could do to develop a station.

The detour had made her late, and the canoe ran into a sudden storm of
wind and rain, but her heart was jubilant, and kept singing and praying
all the way to Itu. For God was good, and He was leading her, and that
was perfect happiness.

                       IV. A SLAVE-GIRL'S TRIUMPH

The problem was how to follow up so promising a beginning. It occupied
her thoughts day and night, but she came to the conclusion that she
could not conscientiously leave Miss Wright alone at Akpap. The station
was too isolated for her, and if she became ill it might be weeks
before any one knew. An alternative was to remain herself at Akpap, and
allow Miss Wright to go to Itu, where she would be in touch with the
Mission, and could canoe down to Calabar if anything went wrong. The
plan she liked best was to hand the station over to a minister, so that
both she and Miss Wright could establish themselves at Itu and work the
Creek between them. As the months went by and she paid flying visits to
the infant causes at Itu and Amasu, she became more and more convinced
of the magnificent opportunity lying to the Church's hand in these
regions. At Itu the congregation had grown to one of over three hundred
intelligent and well-dressed people meeting in a church built by
themselves. In August at Amasu she found a school of sixty-eight on a
wet day, and of these thirty-eight could read the first book. That they
had been brought under discipline was shown by the fact that as she
entered all rose silently and simultaneously, as if they had been years
instead of weeks at school.

The same month witnessed an event which gave her unbounded happiness.
Jean, and Mana the slave-girl, Iye the twin-mother of Susie, Akom the
first-fruit of Ekenge, and Esien the teacher at Itu, were baptized, and
sat down at the communion-table. Many others were there, and joined in
spirit in the celebration, but owing to difficult native complications
could not take the step, and Mary never cared to force matters. Esien's
mother had been very unwilling for her son to come under Christian
influence, and now she was not only present, but actually sat beside
two twin-mothers. Akom's face was transfigured. Jean's adopted child,
Dan, was also baptized on the occasion, and it was a great and solemn
joy to Mary to see her oldest bairn give him to God, and promise to
bring him up in His fear.

In October she was at Itu watching the building of the house for
herself and teacher, and nothing delighted her more than the way in
which the women worked along with the men. "I wish Crockett had been
here to gather the shafts and sparks of wit and satire that flew with
as much zest as ever obtained in a Galloway byre or market fairin'. It
is such a treat to me, for no intercourse is permitted between the
sexes in Okoyong, except that of the family, and then it is strained
and unnatural, but here they were daffin' and lauchin' as in Scotland.
How wholesome are God's own laws of freedom and simplicity." The house
was to, have six rooms--three for herself, one for Miss Wright or other
lady missionary, one for Mana, and one for Esien and Effiom. "I'm
afraid that is too much for you," she said, thinking of the mats which
were not easy to obtain. "It's not too much, Ma; nothing can be too
much. We will do it." One woman came and insisted on washing her feet
in hot water. She had to give in, and as she sat down the woman said,
"Ma, I've been so frightened you would take our teacher away because we
are so unworthy. I think I could not live again in darkness. I pray all
the time. I lay my basket down and just pray on the road."

This woman sometimes prayed in the meetings, and electrified the
audience, and she had begun to have devotions in her own home, though
her husband laughed at her. There were many others of the same type,
and it was a black slave-girl who had been the one behind it all. Mana
taught and nursed and trained them, quietly and modestly, as a mother
might. It was an inspiration to Mary to see her; as she looked upon
such results she cried, "Oh! if only the Church knew. If only it would
back us up." To her friends she wrote, "Prayer can do anything; let us
try its power."

Returning to Akpap with two of the girls and some small children, she
was caught in a tornado and made her way over the six miles of bush-
road through pelting rain. The darkness was lit up by almost continuous
lightning, but they lost their way, and she had at last to commandeer
an old native to lead them. Such experiences were now part of her
ordinary life again. On her trips up and down the Creek she was
constantly drifting into strange situations, and being reduced to
sleeping on mud floors, or on straw in the open, drinking tea made in
empty milk tins, and subsisting for days on yam and oranges. And always
she was treated by the natives with as much gallantry and courtesy as
if she were a queen, and always she was singing in her heart psalms of
thanksgiving and gratitude.

But she was not able as formerly to resist the effects of such
exposure, and was often weary, and her weariness brought nervousness
and lack of sleep. At times she was afraid of the unknown future
opening out before her, and appalled when she thought of all the
details of labour, supplies, and management that were coming upon her
shoulders. In the dark she would rise and cry, "Calm me, O God, and
keep me calm." Then she would go and look at the sleeping children and
comfort herself with the sight. "Surely," she would say, "I have more
reason to trust God than childhood has after all the way He has led

                           V. A BUSH FURLOUGH

She at last determined to give up her furlough in Scotland, now drawing
near, and spend the time instead in prospecting in the new country. All
her hopes and aims were expressed in a definite and formal way in the
following document, which she sent to be read at the November meeting
of the Committee--now the Mission Council--at Calabar:

I think it is an open secret that for many years the workers here have
felt that our methods and modes were very far from adequate to overtake
the needs of our immense field, and, as the opportunities multiply and
the needs grow more clamant, the question grows in importance and
gravity. The fact that only by stated consecutive work can a church be
evolved and built up, and a pagan nation be moulded into a Christian
people, cannot be gainsaid, and yet there is an essential need for
something between, something more mobile and flexible than ordinary
congregational work and methods. The scattered broken units into which
our African populations are divided, their various _jujus_ and _mbiams_
and superstitions which segregate even the houses of any common
village, make it necessary for us to do more than merely pay an
occasional visit, even if that visit results in a church or a school
being built.

Many plans suggest themselves. Church members organised into bands of
two or three or four to itinerate for a week over local neighbourhoods;
native teachers spending a given number of days in each month in the
outlying parts of their districts; trading members of the church
undertaking service in any humble capacity on up-river trading
stations--in these and many other ways the gaps might be bridged and a
chain of personal interest and living sympathy link on the raw heathen
to the church centres, and the first rays of gospel light be conveyed
and communication be opened without the material expense which the
opening of new stations involves. For instance, I have spent a Sabbath
at Umon, and ever so many Efik traders, men and women, joined in the
congregational worship, reading from Bibles and hymn-books which had
been locked in their boxes; but either timidity or some other cause
kept them silent when there was no one to lead. Could not a beginning
be made for those, either by initiating such a service or organising
those who were trading at any place so that evening worship or some
such simple way of bringing gospel truth before the minds of the
heathen could go on continuously? The same holds good of Itu and other

For the last decade the nearer reaches of the river on which we ply
have occupied a great deal of my thoughts, but from various causes no
sort of supervision at all adequate suggested itself. So there has been
little definite work accomplished. A few readers at Odot, desultory
teaching at Eki and the back of Itu, and Umon, covers it all, I fear.

With Miss Wright's coming, opportunities, not of our personal seeking,
have forced themselves on us, and though we have done the best we could
with the materials at hand, all seems so little and incomplete that the
following proposal or petition or request or whatever you may term it,
has been prepared, and that from no mere impulse of the moment but
after careful, prayerful consideration. I may say here that Miss Wright
is fully in sympathy with it, and it is from both of us.

By the 2nd January 1904 I shall have been out five years, and so my
furlough would then be due, but as I have not the slightest intention
of going to Britain--I am thankful to say I do not feel any necessity
for so doing--I propose to ask leave from the station for six months,
during which time I should, in a very easy way, try to keep up an
informal system of itinerating between Okoyong and Amasu. Already I
have seen a church and a dwelling-house built at Itu, and a school and
a couple of rooms at Amasu. I have visited several towns of Enyong in
the Creek, and have found good enough accommodation, as there are semi-
European houses available and open for a lodging. I shall find my own
canoe and crew, and shall stay at any given place any length of time
which the circumstances suggests so as not to tax my own strength, and
members of my own family shall help in the elementary teaching in the
schools. From our home here we should thus superintend the small school
at Idot, and start in a small way work at Eki, and reside mostly at Itu
as the base, working the Creek where the Enyon towns are on the way to
the farther base at Amasu, reside there or itinerate from there among
the Aro people in an easy way, and back again by Creek and Itu home.

What I have to ask of you is that in order to do this a lady be sent
out to be with Miss Wright. The latter is perfectly capable of
attending to the station; the school and dispensary work are already in
her hands, and with some one to help her I have not the slightest
hesitation in leaving her in charge. Both ladies could co-operate in
the travelling as choice or circumstances pointed, and as Miss Wright
has had a large share in the formation and equipment of the Itu and Aro
stations it would be very natural that she should take such a part in
developing them as might suggest itself to her. The three of us, I have
no doubt, could dovetail the details of the work so that no part should
suffer, nor should any special strain be put on our health. We should
like this to take shape by the end of the year, as the people will be
more get-at-able in their villages in such a visitation kind of way
than in the ordinary church methods during the dry season. All work in
towns is slack then, and village and visitation work have their proper

In proposing this I know I am going in the very face of what seems to
be the only possible way of dividing our stations. My own desire is to
have a missionary with his wife and a native teacher take over Okoyong,
congregate the educated, and at least nominal Christian part of our
community, and build up a church in the ordinary way. He has more than
he can undertake to work upon in Okoyong alone, and he has endless
scope for extension up between the rivers toward Ugep and Edi-Iba.

It may be out of my province to speak of anything outside my own
station, but in as far as I know I am voicing the opinion of the
missionaries who are now working up Higher. I may say that if we are to
compass the peoples that lie at our hands, such as Itu, Enyong, Umon,
and those who may be reached all the year round, we ought to have Itu
manned as a proper European station. All and each of these peoples can
be reached and worked from Itu. Then as a natural and strategic point
in the business conduct of our Mission, Itu is incomparable. It was not
without reason that it was the slave mart, and that it became the
Government base for all work both for north and flank. The gateway to
the Aros and the Ibibios, holding the Enyong, and being just a day's
journey from what must ever be our base, namely the seaport of the
ocean steamers, having waterway all the year round and a good beach
front, it is the natural point, I think, at which our up and down river
work should converge.

But I am willing to change, and Miss Wright is willing to change, any
plan of ours in order to let any larger undertaking make way if it
should be proposed.

This communication was considered, and various proposals made, but the
finding of the Council was that they were unable to accept the whole
responsibility of the scheme, and that the matter should be forwarded
to the Women's Committee in Scotland, and Miss Slessor asked to wait
their decision. The question of further development was, however,
discussed, and the unanimous opinion was that Itu should be adopted as
a medical station in view of extension into the Aro country.

Miss Slessor was not discouraged. She next asked Mr. Wilkie to come and
see the nature of the ground for himself, and the possibilities it
held; and the result was a New Year trip up the Creek, the party
consisting of Mr. and Mrs. Wilkie, Miss Wright, and herself. She was
far from well--far more unwell than even Miss Wright was aware of--but
she, nevertheless, resolved to go, and was conveyed to Ikunetu in a
hammock. At Itu they camped at the church and house, neither of which
was yet finished, the doors being temporary erections, and the windows
being screened by grass mats. Mrs. Wilkie's camp-bed occupied one end
of the church, Miss Wright's the centre, whilst at the other end Miss
Slessor's native sofa was placed with mats round it for the children.
Mr. Wilkie found a resting-place in one of the native houses in the
town. Military operations were still progressing, and there was a camp
of soldiers at the foot of the hill, whose presence terrified the
people, and they besought the missionaries to remain for their
protection until the men moved on, and this they did. Colonel
Montanaro, who arrived later, called on the ladies, and had a long talk
with Mary, to whom he expressed his delight at the result of his
invitation to Arochuku. "These men," she wrote, "are held by invisible
but strong bands to what is good, though outsiders do not see it."

On the way up the Creek they were obliged to pass the night at Akani
Obio, where Chief Onoyom came down to the beach and escorted them to
his house, and gave them all the room they required, two courts lit up
by European lamps, and new mats. His fine face and courteous manners
made the same impression on the strangers as they had done on Miss
Slessor. It was found that the native teacher had been doing his best,
but the chief was keen for all the advantages of a station, and was
relying upon "Ma's" word to assist him. Next morning they again took to
the canoe, but the water became so shallow that they had to land and
tramp six miles to Amasu, passing the trenches where the natives sought
to ambush the punitive force. New roads were being constructed
everywhere, and barracks had been erected on a wind-swept hill in the

The church was built near the Creek, and was still incomplete. As there
was no house they camped in the church as best they could, Mrs. Wilkie
sleeping on a mud seat. The district, including the scene of the Long
Juju, was inspected, and the people interviewed, and the party returned
as they had come. They stopped at several villages, in one of which an
old chief brought out a box containing Bibles and a _Pilgrim's
Progress_ and reading-books. "I had a son," he said, "I was fond of
him, and he was anxious to learn book and God palavers, and I bought
these books and got some one to teach him, and was looking forward to
my boy becoming a great man and teaching the people good ways, but two
moons ago he died, and I have no more heart for anything.... I want
God," he continued fiercely, "and you won't leave me till I find Him."
"Oh, father," replied Mary, "God is here. He is waiting for you." The
chief found God, and became a Christian.

                             VI. BEGINNINGS

Miss Slessor's indomitable spirit never gave in, but her body sometimes
did. She had been suffering much these past months from weakening
ailments brought on as the result of exposure and lack of nourishing
food, and she finally collapsed and was again far down in the dark
valley. But kind hands ministered to her and nursed her back to health.
"I rose," she said, "a mere wreck of what I was, and that was not much
at the best. My hair is silvered enough to please any one now, and I am
nervous and easily knocked up, and so rheumatic that I cannot get up or
down without pain." She was gladdened by the news that the Mission
Council had given her permission to make her proposed tour, and was not
troubled by the condition that she must not commit the Mission to
extension. The Council thought that in view of her illness she ought
rather to go home, and offered to provide for the work at Akpap and
care for her children until she returned. But the burden of the Creek
lay sore on her mind, and as Miss Wright's furlough was also due, she
wished to be near Akpap in case of need. She informed the Council that
if she could be relieved she would begin her tour at once. When Miss
Wright left she gave more into the hands of Jean, who, she said, was as
good as any white servant; her right hand and her left.

When the matter once more came up at the Council it was decided to send
up two ladies to Akpap, and she was at last free to carry out her
desire. She looked forward to the enterprise with mingled feelings. "It
seems strange," she said, "to be starting with a family on a gipsy life
in a canoe, but God will take care of us. Whether I shall find His
place for me up-river or whether I shall come back to my own people
again, I do not know. He knows, and that is enough."

Perhaps the most remarkable feature of this new forward movement was
that she was going at her own expense, backed by the private liberality
of friends in Scotland, and assisted by native girls and boys, who
received nothing from her but their board. She never asked the Mission
to defray any of the expenditure which she incurred, and the building
was accomplished by herself and household, with the free labour of the
people. All that the opening up of the Enyong Creek to the Gospel cost
the Mission was her salary--which was now £100 per annum. She spent
scarcely anything of this on her own personal wants. "I have no object
on earth," she wrote at this time, "but to get my food and raiment,
which are of the plainest, and to bring up my bairns." A certain amount
was reserved at home by Mr. Logie, who all these years had managed her
affairs, and even this she was always encroaching upon. Whenever she
saw an appeal in the Press for any good object she would write to him
and request him to send a contribution.

There were many matters to be attended to before she left Akpap, and
she went down to Duke Town to hand over the business of the native
Court, and buy material for the buildings in the Creek. It was the
first time for many years that she had been on Mission Hill, and she
greatly enjoyed her stay with the Wilkies, in whose home she was able
to find quietness and comfort. The old people who knew the early
pioneers of the Mission flocked to see her, and her sojourn was one
long reception. A "command" invitation also came from the Commissioner,
but this she had the temerity to decline, saying that she was not
visiting. It is doubtful whether she had the attire fit for the
occasion. He, however, came to see her, and was charmed with her

It was on this visit that she brought another of the younger
missionaries under her spell--the Rev. J. K. Macgregor, B.D., Principal
of the Hope Waddell Institute. After his first meeting he wrote: "A
slim figure, of middle height, fine eyes full of power, she is no
ordinary woman. It was wonderful to sit and listen to her talking, for
she is most fascinating, and besides being a humorist is a mine of
information on mission history and Efik custom." Mr. and Mrs. Macgregor
grew into intimate friends, and their home, like that of the Wilkies',
thereafter became a haven of healing and rest.

She reached her base, Itu, with her family, in July, her health still
enfeebled, but her spirit burning like a pure fire, and established
herself in a house that was still unfinished. "What a picture it
presented," writes a Government doctor who visited her then. "A native
hut with a few of the barest necessities of furniture. She was sitting
on a chair rocking a tiny baby, while five others were quietly sleeping
wrapped up in bits of brown paper and newspapers in other parts of the
room. How she managed to look after all these children, and to do the
colossal work she did my comprehension." The joy of the people at her
advent boundless. Her bairns had done wonders; the congregation
numbered 350, all devout, intelligent people. "To-day," she wrote, "as
the custom is after the lesson, the bairns each took a part in prayer,
and before we rose a boy started 'Come, Holy Spirit, come.' We sang it
through on our knees."

But calls came every day from other regions. A deputation from the
interior of Ibibio pled, "Give us even a boy!" Another brought a
message from a chief in the Creek; "It is not book that I want; it is
God!" The chief of Akani Obio again came. "Ma," he said, "we have £3 in
hand for a teacher, and some of the boys are finished with the books
Mr. Wilkie gave us and are at a standstill." And, most pathetic of all,
one night, late, while she was reading by the light of a candle, a
blaze of light shone through the cracks of the house, and fifteen young
men from Okoyong appeared before her to say that the young ladies who
had come to Akpap had already gone, and they were left without a "Ma."
She sent them to a shelter for the night, and spent the hours in
prayer, "Oh Britain," she exclaimed, "surfeited with privilege! tired
of Sabbath and Church, would that you could send over to us what you
are throwing away!"

Invited to the Mission Council in November 1904, she went, this being
her first attendance for six years, and gave what the minutes call a
"graphic and interesting account" of what had been accomplished. In Itu
a church and teacher's house had been built; and there were regular
Sabbath services and a catechumens' class, with forty candidates, and a
day-school was conducted. At Amasu, Arochuku, a good school was built,
and ground had been given by the chiefs. There were also the beginnings
of congregations and buildings at four points in the Creek, at Okpo,
Akani Obio, Odot, and Asang. The work, she said, had not yet reached a
stage when she could conscientiously leave it; but she hoped before
departing to see established such a native, self-supporting agency
under the control of the Mission as would guarantee a continuance of
the enterprise. The Council received her report with thankfulness, and
gave her permission to continue for other six months on the same
condition as before--that no expense to the Mission should be involved
in what she undertook.

Many months of strenuous upbuilding followed, constantly interrupted by
petty illnesses of a depressing kind. The house at Itu was completed,
she herself laying down a cement floor, and Jean whitewashing the
walls. Cement underfoot for many reasons was preferred, one being that
it was impervious to ants. If these pests obtained hold of a house it
was difficult to drive them out, and many a night her entire family was
up waging battle with them. In connection with her supplies of cement
she was once picked up at Ikunetu by some of her colleagues, who
remarked on the number of trunks which accompanied her. "You are surely
richer than usual in household gear," they said. "Household gear!" she
echoed; "these are filled with cement--I had nothing else to bring it
in!" Once in Scotland a lady asked her if she had had any lessons in
making cement. "No," she replied; "I just stir it like porridge; turn
it out, smooth it with a stick, and all the time keep praying, 'Lord,
here's the cement if to Thy glory, set it,' and it has never once gone

A picture of the days at this time is supplied by Miss Welsh: "We
visited the women in their homes--we had evening prayers in such yards
as the owners were willing to allow them. From morning till night 'Ma'
was busy--often far into the night. One brought a story of an unjust
divorce, another was sick; one brought a primer for a reading-lesson,
another was accused of debt and wished 'Ma' to vouch for his innocence;
another had, he declared, been cheated in a land case. All found a
ready listener, a friendly adviser and helper, though not all found
their protestations of innocence believed in, and none went away
without hearing of the salvation God had prepared for them."

The Okoyong people continued to come to her with their troubles. "They
seem to think," she says, "that no one can settle their affairs but
this old lady." Rescues of twin-children were also going on all this
time. She could not now rush off, as she used to do, when the news
arrived, but she sent Jean flying to the spot, and the infants would be
seized and the excited people held in check until she came on the
scene. "One more woman spoilt," she would say, "and another home broken

Nothing gave her greater joy than the rapid development going on at
Akani Obio. Chief Onoyom had never swerved from his determination to
Christianise his people, and, although knowing practically nothing of
the white man's religion, had already started to build a church, using
for the purpose £800 which he had saved. At first he planned a native
building, but reflecting that if he were constructing a house for
himself it would be of iron, he felt he could not do less for God. He
therefore decided to put up as fine a structure as he could, with walls
of iron and cement floor and a bell-tower. To make the seats and pulpit
he had the courage to use a magnificent tree which was regarded as the
principal juju of the town. The story goes that the people declared the
juju would never permit it to be cut down. "God is stronger than juju,"
said Onoyom, and went out with a following to attack it. They did not
succeed the first day, and the people were jubilant. Next morning they
returned and knelt down and prayed that God would show Himself stronger
than juju, and then, hacking at the trunk with increased vigour, they
soon brought it to earth. That the people might have no excuse for
absenting themselves from the services during the wet season, Onoyom
also erected a bridge over the Creek for their use.

To the dedication of the building came a reverent, well-dressed
assembly. The chief himself was attired in a black suit, with black
silk necktie and soft felt hat. He provided food for the entire
gathering, but would not allow anything stronger than palm wine to be
drunk. Very shyly he came up to "Ma" and offered her a handful of
money, asking her to buy provisions for herself, as he did not know
what kind she liked.

Two short years before, the place and people had been known only to

Up in Arochuku similar progress was being made. Her first long stay
there, spent in a hut without furniture--with not even a chair to sit
on--was a happy and strenuous one. She was busily engaged in erecting a
schoolhouse with two rooms at the back. "Little did I dream," she
wrote, "that I would mud walls and hang doors again. But the Creek is
at the back door, and we have bathing in the sunshine, and it is a
delightful holiday." The earlier meetings were held in the open; the
chiefs sat on improvised seats, the principal women, clothed and
unclothed, squatted on skins or mats on the ground, lads and children
stood about, the townspeople kept well back amongst the protecting
foliage. In the centre, in the shade of a giant tree, was a table
covered with a fine white cloth, and upon it a Bible and a native
primer. Here she stood to conduct the service, so strange to the savage
people. As she began, there was a stir at the side and a big chief, one
of the principal traders to Okoyong in former days, moved into the
circle, along with his head wife. He was followed by another and his
children, and then others appeared, until she had a great audience. She
could scarcely command her voice. To gain time she asked a chief to
begin with prayer in the Ibo tongue. All knelt. A hymn followed; there
was not the least semblance of a tune, all joining in anyhow, but
sweeter music she never heard. The ten commandments were translated,
sentence by sentence, by a chief, as were also the lessons and the
address. Another hymn was sung, then came a prayer by an old man, and
another by a woman, and the meeting closed with all repeating the
Lord's Prayer.

It was the same at other towns and villages along the Creek. Churches
or schools were going up and congregations being formed. The notable
thing was that women were taking a prominent part in the meetings;
this, no doubt, was due to the fact that the pioneer missionary was a
woman. And the cry from all the districts was for women and not men--"A
White Ma to teach our women book and washing and machine."

In July Mr. Macgregor was able to visit the infant stations, and was
greatly impressed. To him the journey up Creek was a new experience. As
the canoe pushed its way through the water-lilies the Institute boys
sang Scottish Psalms to the tunes _Invocation_ and _St. George's_ much
to Mary's delight. "It's a long time since I heard these," she
exclaimed. "It puts me in a fine key for Sabbath." At Asang she
translated Mr. Macgregor's sermon to a gathering of 300 people. "Her
interpretation," he says, "was most dramatic; she gave the address far
more force in Efik than it had in English. It was magnificent. And how
the people listened!" He had the opportunity here of seeing how deftly
she handled a "bad" native. "Don't come to God's house." she ended;
"God has no need of the likes of you with your deceit and craft. He can
get on quite well without you--though you can't get on without God. Ay,
you have that lesson to learn yet."

At Arochuku it happened to be Egbo day, and the place was astir with
naked people, who came and stared at them as they ate. One man, who was
dressed in a hat, a loincloth, and a walking-stick, sat in a corner and
received a lecture from "Ma," which lasted the whole meal. They
explored the district, saw the tree where criminals were hanged after
terrible torture, the old juju-house with its quaint carving and relics
of sacrifices, the new palaver-shed of beaten mud, and the great slave-
road into the interior. At one spot she stopped and exclaimed, "That
was the road to the devil." It was the path to the Long Juju of bloody
memory. They returned by the new road through the _Ikot Mbiam_, the
accursed bush into which the sick and dying slaves were flung when
their days of useful service were over. At first the people would not
use this road; but now the land was laid out in farms and cultivations,
a tribute to the influence of British rule.

On the voyage down there were frequent showers in the Creek, and Mary
sat with a waterproof over her head and shoulders, a strange figure,
but with a face glowing with spirit. When the end was in sight she
proposed that they should sing the Doxology, and, none offering to
accompany her, she sang it herself-twice....

In the quiet of the tropic nights she read the books and magazines and
papers which friends sent her, and in this way kept abreast of world
affairs. Her favourite journals were _The British Weekly, The
Christian, The Life of Faith_, and _The Westminster Gazette_. Her
_Record_ she read from cover to cover. It was with painful interest
that she followed at this time the developments of the great Church
crisis in the homeland. "It tears my heart," she wrote, "to see our
beloved Church dragged in and through the mire of public opinion." But
she had faith that good would issue out of it all. A keen politician,
she thirsted for election telegrams during periods of parliamentary
transition. But in all times of public unrest and excitement she fell
back on the thought that God was on His throne and all was well.

                           VII. MOVING INLAND

Ibo or Ibibio--which was it to be? Both regions were calling to her,
and both attracted her. As the result of an arrangement with the Church
Missionary Society the administrative districts adjoining the Cross
River were recognised as the sphere of the United Free Church Mission.
"Now that this is settled," she wrote, "I shall try to take a firmer
hold in Arochuku. The church there is almost finished. My heart bleeds
for the people, but the Spirit has not yet suffered me to go." The dark
masses behind her at Itu drew her sympathies even more, simply because
they were lower in the scale of humanity. "It is a huge country, and if
I go in I can only touch an infinitesimal part of it. But it would be
criminal to monopolise the rights of occupation and not be able to

Her line of advance was practically determined by the Government. Even
with military operations still going on a marvellous change was being
effected in the condition of Ibibio. The country was being rapidly
opened up, roads were being pushed forward, and courts established; the
stir and the promise of new life was pulsating from end to end of the
land. To her hut at Itu came Government and trade experts, consulting
her on all manner of subjects, and obtaining information which no other
one could supply. The natives, on the other hand, came to her enquiring
as to the meaning of the white man's movements, and she was able to
reassure them and keep their confidence unshaken in the beneficial
character of the changes.

She made rapid reconnaissances inland, and these set her planning
extension. Even the officials urged her to enter. They pointed to the
road. "Get a bicycle, Ma," they said, "and come as far as you can--we
will soon have a motor car service for you," Motors in Ibibio? The idea
to her was incredible, but in a few months it was realised. "Come on to
Ikot Okpene," wrote the officer at that distant centre--"the road is
going right through, and you will be the first here." She thought of
these men and their privations and their enthusiasm for Empire. "Oh,"
she said, "if we would do as much for Christ!" She, at any rate, would
not be found lagging, and in the middle of the year 1905 she sallied
forth, taking with her a boy of twelve years named Etim, who read
English well, and, at a place called Ikotobong, some five and a half
miles inland, she formed a school and the nucleus of a congregation. "I
trust," she said, "that it will be the first of a chain of stations
stretching across the country. The old chief is pleased. He told me
that the future, the mystery of things, was too much for him, and that
he would welcome the light. The people are to give Etim food, and I
will give him 5s. a month for his mother out of my store."

The lad proved an excellent teacher and disciplinarian, and gathered a
school of half a hundred children about him. Soon she was again in the
thick of building operations, and for a time was too busy even to
write. Slowly but surely Ikotobong became another centre of order and
light. The officials who ran in upon her from time to time said it was
like coming on a bit of Britain, and the Governor who called one day
declared that the place was already too civilised for her.

Much to her joy there was a forward movement also on the part of the
Church. The Mission Council had not put aside its decision to make Itu
a medical base, and had been pressing the matter upon the Foreign
Mission Committee in Scotland, which also recognised the value of her
pioneer work and the necessity of following it up and placing it upon a
proper basis. It was finally agreed to carry out the suggestion. Dr.
Robertson from Creek Town was transferred to Itu to take oversight of
the work on the Creek, a new mission house and a hospital were planned,
and a motor launch for the Creek journeys was decided on. For the
launch the students of New College, Edinburgh, made themselves
responsible, and they succeeded in raising a sum of nearly £400 for the
purpose. The hospital and dispensary and their equipment were provided
by Mr. A. Kemp, a member of Braid United Free Church, Edinburgh, an
admirer of Miss Slessor's work, and at his suggestion it was called the
Mary Slessor Mission Hospital. When the news came to her she wrote: "It
seems like a fairy tale. I don't know what to say. I can just look up
into the blue sky and say, 'Even so, Father; in good and ill, let me
live and be worthy of it all.' It is a grand gift, and I am so glad for
my people."

Thus relieved of Itu she established herself at Ikotobong. But she was
again eager to press forwards, and wished to plant a station some
fifteen miles farther on. It was a pace faster than the Church could
go. It had neither the workers nor the means to cope with all the
opportunities she was creating. It is a striking picture this, of the
restless little woman ever forging her way into the wilderness and
dragging a great Church behind her.

She had been amused at the idea of riding a bicycle, but she would have
tried to fly if she could thereby have advanced the cause of Christ,
and when Mr. Charles Partridge, the District Commissioner of Ikot
Ekpene, presented her with a new machine of the latest pattern, direct
from England, she at once started to learn. "Fancy," she wrote, "an old
woman like me on a cycle! The new road makes it easy to ride, and I'm
running up and down and taking a new bit in a village two miles off. It
has done me all the good in the world, and I will soon be able to
overtake more work. I wonder what the Andersons and the Goldies and the
Edgerleys will say when they see that we can cycle twenty miles in the
bush!" The Commissioner had also brought out a phonograph with him, and
she was asked to speak into it. She recited In Efik the story of the
Prodigal Son, and when the words came forth again, the natives were
electrified, "Does not that open up possibilities," she said, "for
carrying the Gospel messages into the bush?"

Her work of patient love and faith on the Creek saw fruit towards the
end of the year (1905), when the two churches at Akani Obio and Asang
were opened. A special meeting of Presbytery was held in the district,
and eight members were present at the ceremonies. At Akani Obio the
Rev. John Rankin accepted the key from Chief Onoyom in the name of the
Presbytery, and handed it to Miss Slessor, who inserted it in the lock
and opened the door. There was an atmosphere of intense devotion, and
Mr. Weir preached from the text, "This is none other but the house of
God, and this is the gate of heaven." The collection was over £5.

Boarding their canoe again the party proceeded to Asang, and were met
by crowds of people. Flags floated everywhere, and they passed under an
arch of welcome. When the new native church, larger even than that at
Akani Obio, came into sight, surrounded by well-dressed men and women
and children, words failed the visitors from Calabar. Again Mary opened
the door, and again the building was unable to hold the audience. Mr.
Rankin preached from "To you is the word of this salvation sent." The
collection was watched with astonishment by the visitors. It was piled
up before the minister on the table, and bundle after bundle of rods
followed one another, coming from those outside as well as those
inside, until the amount reached £20--a remarkable sum from a people
who were still heathen, but who were eager to know and learn about God
and the right way of life. The visitors looked at one another. "It is
wonderful," they said. "Surely it is of God." "Ma" was pleased but not
surprised; she knew how the people were crying for the light, and how
willing they were to give and serve. After the meeting the people would
not depart, and she and Mr. Weir addressed them outside. On the party
returning to Akani Obio an evening service was held, "and," wrote one
of them, "the night closed down on as happy a group of missionaries as
one could imagine," "It was grand," said another; "the best apologetic
for Christianity I ever saw."

Some weeks later the church at Okpo, where Jean had been teaching the
women and girls, was opened in the view of hundreds of the people, who
contributed a collection of £7.

Not all the natives regarded these strange doings with equanimity. At
Akani Obio some of the chiefs were so alarmed that they left the town
in the belief that misfortune would come upon them on account of the
church. But when they saw the people throwing away their charms and
flocking to the services and no harm befalling them, they returned.
They were very angry when Onoyom put away his wives--he made ample
provision for them--and took back as his one consort a twin-mother whom
he had discarded. By and by came a fine baby boy to be the light of his
home. Akani Obio became a prohibition town, and on Sundays a white flag
was flown to indicate that no trading was allowed on God's day.

                     VIII. THE PROBLEM OF THE WOMEN

One of the most baffling of West African problems is the problem of the
women. There is no place for them outside the harem; they are dependent
on the social system of the country, and helpless when cast adrift from
it; they have no proper status in the community, being simply the
creatures of man to be exploited and degraded--his labourer, his
drudge, the carrier of his kernels and oil, the boiler of his nuts. A
girl-child, if not betrothed by her guardian, lacks the protection of
the law. She can, if not attached to some man, be insulted or injured
with impunity. There was no subject which had given Mary so much
thought, and she had long come to the conclusion that it was the
economic question which lay at the root of the evil. It seemed clear
that until they were capable of supporting themselves, and subsisting
independently of men, they would continue in their servility and
degradation, a prey to the worst practices of the bush, and a strong
conservative force against the introduction of higher and purer methods
of existence. Enlightened women frankly told Miss Slessor that they
despaired of ever becoming free from the toils of tradition and custom,
and that there seemed no better destiny for them than the life of the
harem and the ways of sin. It was a serious outlook for those who
became Christians,--about whom she was most concerned,--and she could
not leave the matter alone. Her active mind was always moving amongst
the conditions around her, considering them, seeing beyond them, and
suggesting lines of improvement and advance; and in this case she saw
that she would have to show how women could be rendered independent of
the ties of a House, In Calabar Christian women supported themselves by
dressmaking, and much of their work was sent up-country, and she did
not wish to take the bread out of their mouths. Gradually there came to
her the idea of establishing a home in some populous country centre,
where she could place her girls and any twin-mothers, waifs, or strays,
or any Christian unable to find a livelihood outside the harem, and
where they could support themselves by farm and industrial work. A
girls' school could also be attached to it. Two principles were laid
down as essential for such an institution: it must be based on the
land, and it must be self-supporting--she did not believe in homes
maintained from without. All native women understood something of
cultivation and the raising of small stock, and their efforts could be
chiefly engaged in that direction, as well as in washing and
laundrying, baking, basket-making, weaving, shoemaking, and so forth.
Machinery of a simple character run by water-power could be added when

In view of the uncertainty of her own future, and the opening up of the
country, she wisely held back from deciding on a site until she knew
more about the routes of the Government roads and the possible
developments of districts. She wanted virgin land and good water-power,
but she also desired what was still more important--a ready and
sufficient market for the products. In her journeys into the interior
of Ibibio she was constantly prospecting with the home in mind, and
once a chief who thought he had found a suitable site took her into a
region of more utter solitude than she had ever experienced in all her
wanderings, where a path had to be cut for her through the matted
vegetation. Not one of her guides would open his lips; while they
feared the wild beasts and reptiles, they feared still more the spirits
of the forest, and they remained silent in case speech might betray
them to these invisible presences.

Being a European she could not, according to the law of the land, buy
ground, but she proposed to acquire it in the name of Jean and the
other girls, and then give the Mission a perpetual interest in it. In a
report of her work on the Creek, which Miss Adam induced her to write
at this time, in the shape of a personal letter to herself, and which
appeared in the _Record_, and was characterised by masterly breadth of
outlook and clear insight into the conditions of the country, she made
a reference to the project, saying: "The expenditure of money is not in
question--I am guarded against that by the express command of the
Committee. I shall only expend my own, or what my personal friends give

                         IX. A CHRISTMAS PARTY

With the few white men in the district she was very friendly. They were
chiefly on the Government staff, and included the surveyors on the new
road. Most of them were public-school men, and some, she thought, were
almost too fine for the work. "Life," she said, "is infinitely harder
for these men than for the missionary. But they never complain. They
work very cheerfully in depressing surroundings, living in squalid
huts, and undergoing many privations, doing their bit for civilisation
and the Empire. And they are all somebody's bairns." She won them by
her sympathy, entering into their lives, appreciating their
difficulties and temptations, and acting towards them as a wise mother
would. Her age, she said, gave her a chance others in the Mission had
not, and she sought in the most tactful way to lead them to a
consideration of the highest things.

Christmastide as a rule came and went in the bush without notice,
except for a strange tightening of the heart, and a renewal of old
memories. But this year, 1905, the spirit of the day seemed to fall
upon these lonely white folk, and they forgathered at Ikotobong, and
spent it in something like the home fashion. In a lowly shed, which had
no front wall, and where the seats were of mud, no fewer than eight
men--officials, engineers, and traders from far and near--sat down to
dinner. "They could have gone elsewhere," wrote "Ma," "but they came
and held an innocently happy day with an old woman, whose day for
entertaining and pleasing is over."

There was no lack of Christmas fare. An officer of high standing had
received his usual plum-pudding from home, but as he was leaving on
furlough, he sent it to "Ma"; a cake had come from Miss Wright, "the
dear lassie at Okoyong," and shortbread had arrived from Scotland, But
there was not a drop of intoxicating drink on the table.

After dinner the old home songs and hymns full of memories and
associations were sung, often tremulously, for each had loved ones of
whom he thought. Jean, who had secured a canoe and come from Okpo, and
the other children, were present, and they sang an Efik hymn; and
although Mary was the only Scot present the proceedings were rounded
off with "Auld Long Syne." "I just lay back and enjoyed it all," she
wrote, "It is fifteen years since I spent a Christmas like it. Wasn't
it good of my Father to give me such a treat? I was the happiest woman
in the Mission that night! If I could only win these men for Christ--
that would be the best reward for their kindness." Next day they sent
her a Christmas card on a huge sheet of surveying-paper, with their
names in the centre.

Miss Wright, along with Miss Amess, a new colleague, arrived on the
80th on a visit, and three of the Public Works officials spent the
evening with them. Mary began to talk as if it were the last night of
the year. "Oh," said one of the men, "we have another day in which to
repent, Ma." "Have we?" she replied. "I thought it was the last night--
and I've been confessing my sins of the past year! I'll have to do it
all over again." These officials asked the ladies to dine with them on
New Year's night, the form of invitation being--

"_The Disgraces three desire the company of the Graces three to dinner
this evening at seven o'clock. Lanterns and hammocks at 10 P.M.

In reply "Ma" wrote some humorous verses. The dinner was given in the
same native shed as before. As the table-boy passed the soup, one of
the men made as if to begin. "Ma," who was sitting beside him, put her
hand on his and said, "No, you don't, my boy, until the blessing is
asked," and then she said grace. After dinner the bairns, who had been
sitting at the door in the light of a big fire, were brought in, and
prayers were conducted by Mary. On that occasion, when Miss Amess was
bidding her "Good-bye," she said to her, "Lassie, keep up your pluck."

These men were very much afraid of the least appearance of cant, but
they would do anything for "Ma"; and when, a few days later, in order
to give an object-lesson to the natives, she proposed an English
service, they agreed, and one of them read the lessons, and another led
the singing. A short time before white men were unknown to the

                              X. MUTINOUS

She was, under official ruling, to return to Akpap in April 1906, and
she was now reminded of the fact. She was in great distress, and
inclined to be mutinous. "There is an impelling power behind me, and I
dare not look backward," she said. "Even if it cost me my connection
with the Church of my heart's love, I feel I must go forward." And
again, "I am not enthusiastic over Church methods. I would not mind
cutting the rope and going adrift with my bairns, and I can earn our
bite and something more." She had thoughts of taking a post under
Government, or, with the help of her girls, opening a store. In a
letter to the Rev. William Stevenson, the Secretary of the Women's
Foreign Mission Committee, she pointed out how her settlement at Itu
had justified itself, and referred to the rapid development of the

In all this how plainly God has been leading me. I had not a thought of
such things in my lifetime, nor, indeed, in the next generation, and
yet my steps have been led, apart from any plan of mine, right to the
line of God's planning for the country. First Itu, then the Creek, then
back from Aro, where I had set my heart, to a solitary wilderness of
the most forbidding description, where the silence of the bush had
never been broken, and here before three months are past there are
miles of road, and miles and miles more all surveyed and being worked
upon by gangs of men from everywhere, and free labour is being created
and accepted as quickly as even a novelist could imagine. And the
minutes says "I am to return to Akpap in April!" Okoyong and its people
are very dear to me. No place on earth now is quite as dear, but to
leave these hordes of untamed, unwashed, unlovely savages and withdraw
the little sunlight that has begun to flicker out over its darkness! I
dare not think of it. Whether the Church permits it or not, I feel I
must stay here and even go on farther as the roads are made. I cannot
walk now, nor dare I do anything to trifle with my health, which is
very queer now and then, but if the roads are all the easy gradient of
those already made I can get four wheels made and set a box on them,
and the children can draw me about.... With such facts pressing on me
at every point you will understand my saying _I dare not go back_. I
shall rather take the risk of finding my own chop if the Mission do not
see their way to go on. But if they see their way to meet the new needs
and requirements, I shall do all in my power to further them without
extra expense to the Church.

"This," she characteristically added, "is not for publication; it is
for digestion."

There had never, of course, been any intention on the part of the
Church to draw back from the task of evangelising the new regions. But
the various bodies responsible for the work were stewards of the money
contributed for foreign missions, and they had to proceed in this
particular part of the field according to their resources. Both men and
means were limited, and had to be adjusted to the needs, not in an
impulsive and haphazard way, but with the utmost care and forethought.
All connected with the Mission were as eager for extension as she was,
but they desired it to be undertaken on thorough and business-like
lines. The difference between them and her was one of method; she, all
afire with energy and enthusiasm, would have gone on in faith; they,
more prudent and calculating, wished to be sure of each step before
they advanced another.

To her great relief she was permitted to have her way. When it was seen
that she was bent on pressing forward, it was decided to set her free
from ordinary trammels and allow her to act in future as a pioneer
missionary. It was a remarkable position, one not without its
difficulties and dangers, and one naturally that could not become
common. But Mary Slessor was an exceptional woman, and it was to the
honour of the Church that it at last realised the line of her genius,
and in spite of being sometimes at variance with her policy, permitted
her to follow her Master in her own fashion.

Her faith in the people and their own ability to support the work was
proved more than once. It was a plucky thing for these men and women to
become Christians, since it meant the entire recasting of their lives.
Yet this is what was now being often witnessed. One event at Akani Obio
was to her a "foretaste of heaven"--the baptism of the chief and his
slave-wife and baby, a score of her people, and sixteen young boys and
girls, including one of the lads who had assisted to paddle the canoe
on the day when the Creek was first entered. She was ill, and was
carried to and from the town in sharp pain and much discomfort, but she
forgot her body in the rare pleasure she experienced at the sight of so
many giving themselves to Christ. She had to hide her face on the
communion-table. "Over forty sat down in the afternoon to remember our
Lord's death 'till He come.' It cannot go back this work of His. Akani
Obio is now linked on to Calvary." She thought of those rejoicing
above. "I am sure our Lord will never keep it from my mother."

The news from Arochuku was also cheering, although the messages told of
persecution of the Infant Church by the chiefs, who threatened to expel
the teachers if they spoiled the old fashions. "And what did you say to
that?" she enquired. "We replied, 'You can put us out of our country,
but you cannot put us away from God.'" "And the women?" "They said they
would die for Jesus Christ." She was anxious to visit Arochuku again,
but there had been exceptional rains, and the Creek had risen beyond
its usual height and flooded the villages. Akani Obio suffered greatly,
the church being inundated. The chief was downcast, and in his
simplicity of faith thought God was punishing him, and searched his
heart to find the cause, until "Ma" comforted him. He determined to
rebuild the church on higher ground, and this intention he carried out
later. About a mile further up the Creek he chose a good site, and
erected a new town called Obufa Obio, the first to be laid out on a
regular plan. The main street is about forty yards wide, and in the
middle of it is the chief's house, with the church close by. The side
streets are about ten yards wide. All the houses have lamps hanging in
front, and these are lit in the evenings, The boys have a large
football field to themselves. Chief Onoyom, who is one of the elders of
session, continues to exercise a powerful influence for good throughout
the Creek.

One incident of the floods greatly saddened Mary. A native family were
sleeping in their hut, but above the waters. The mother woke suddenly
at the sound of something splashing about below. Thinking it was some
wild animal, she seized a machete and hacked at it. Her husband also
obtained his sword and joined in. When lights came, the mangled form of
the baby, who had fallen from the bed, was seen in the red water.
Distracted at having murdered her child, the mother threw herself into
the Creek and was drowned.

So convinced was Mary of the importance of Arochuku, and so anxious to
have a recognised station there, that she offered to build a house free
of expense to the Mission, if two agents could be sent up. This brought
the whole matter of extension to a definite issue, and a forward
movement was unanimously agreed on by the Council--the ladies being
specially anxious for this--any developments to take place by the way
of the Enyong Creek. A committee was appointed to visit Arochuku and to
confer with Mary. Two ladies were actually appointed by the Council,
one being Miss Martha Peacock, who was afterwards to be so closely
allied with her. When these matters came before the Foreign Mission
Committee in Scotland, a resolution was passed, which it is well to
give in full:

1. That they recognise the general principle, that, in all ordinary
circumstances the Women's Foreign Mission should not make the first
advance into new territory, but follow the lead of the Foreign Mission
Committee, the function of the former being to supply the necessary
complement to the work of the latter.

2. That, however, in view of (_a_) the earnest desire of the people of
the district in question to receive Christian teaching, and their
willingness to help in providing it; (_b_) the fact that the region has
been claimed by the United Free Church as within the sphere of its
operations, and has had that claim acknowledged by the Church
Missionary Society; (_c_) the steps which have already been taken by
Miss Slessor, and what she is further prepared to do: they regard it as
not only highly desirable, but the duty of the Church to occupy the
region in question as soon as it is possible.

3. That in view, on the other hand, of the present condition of their
funds, which are overtaxed by the already existing work, the Committee
deeply regret that it is beyond their means to add two new members to
the staff, as the Council requests, and that, therefore, the sending of
two new agents to Arochuku must be meantime delayed.

4. That the Committee, however, approve of the acceptance by the
Mission Council of Miss Slessor's generous offer to build the house,
but recommend the Council to consider whether the execution of the work
should not be delayed till there is a nearer prospect of new agents
being supplied.

They further return thanks to Miss Slessor for her generosity, and
record their warm appreciation of her brave pioneer work; and they
express the earnest hope that the Church, by larger liberality, may
soon enable them to make the advance which has been so well prepared.

Meanwhile the Rev. John Rankln had been given a roving commission in
order to ascertain the best location for the future station, and he
came back from a tour in Ibo and Ibibio and fired the Council with the
tale of what he had seen, and the wonderful possibilities of this great
and populous region.

"Close to Arochuku within a circle, the diameter of which is less than
three miles, there are," he said, "nineteen large towns. I visited
sixteen of these, each of which is larger than Creek Town, The people
are a stalwart race, far in advance of Efik. The majority are very
anxious for help. A section is strongly opposed, even to the point of
persecution of those who are under the influence of Miss Slessor, and
others have already begun to try to live in 'God's fashion.' This
opposition seems to be one of the most hopeful signs, as proving that
there will be at least no indifference. The head chief of all the Aros,
who was the chief formerly in control of the 'long juju' is one of
those most favourable. He has already announced to the other chiefs his
intention to rule in God's ways. He has been the most keen in asking
the missionary to come. A new church will be built, and he offers to
build a house for any missionary who will come."

With something like enthusiasm the Committee set apart Mr. Rankin
himself to take up the work at Arochuku, and accepted the
responsibility of sending him at once....

Thus Arochuku, like Itu, passed into the control of the Foreign Mission
Committee, and became one of their stations and the centre of further
developments, and thus Miss Slessor's long period of anxiety regarding
its position and future was at an end.

                            XI. ON THE BENCH

Recognising that "Ma" had an influence with the natives, which it was
impossible to abrogate, the Government decided to invest her with the
powers of a magistrate.

The native courts of Nigeria consist of a number of leading chiefs in
each district, who take turns to try cases between native and native.
The District Commissioner is _ex-officio_ president of those within his
sphere, and each court is composed of a permanent vice-president and
three chiefs.

Before leaving Itu she was asked informally whether she would consent
to take the superintendence of Court affairs in the district, as she
had done in Okoyong, but on a recognised basis. If she agreed, the
Court would be transferred to Ikotobong to suit her convenience and
safeguard her strength. She was pleased that the Government thought her
worthy of the position, and was favourable to the idea. Already she was
by common consent the chief arbiter in all disputes, and wielded unique
power, but she thought that if she were also the official agent of the
Government she might increase the range of her usefulness. Her aim was
to help the poor and the oppressed, and specially to protect her own
downtrodden sex and secure their rights, and to educate the people up
to the Christian standard of conduct; and such an appointment would
give her additional advantage and authority. "It will be a good
chance," she said, "to preach the Gospel, and to create confidence and
inspire hope in these poor wretches, who fear white and black man
alike; while it will neither hamper my work nor restrict my liberty."
On stating that she would do the work she was told that a salary was
attached to the post, but she declared that nothing would induce her to
accept it, "I'm born and bred, and am in every fibre of my being, a

The formal offer came in May 1905, in the shape of this letter:

1. I am directed by His Excellency the High Commissioner to enquire
whether you would accept office as a Member of Itu Native Court with
the status of permanent Vice-President. His Excellency is desirous of
securing the advantage of your experience and intimate knowledge of
native affairs and sympathetic interest in the welfare of the
villagers, and understands that you would not be averse to place your
service at the disposal of the Government.

2. It is proposed to assign you a nominal salary of one pound a year,
and to hand you the balance--forty-seven pounds per annum--for use in
forwarding your Mission work.

3. It is proposed to transfer Itu Court to Ikotobong.

She thanked the Government for the honour and for the confidence
reposed in her, and said she was willing to give her services for the
good of the people in any way, but she declined to accept any

She took over the books in October, acting then and often afterwards,
as clerk, and carrying through all the tedious clerical duties. It was
strange and terrible, but to her not unfamiliar work. She came face to
face with the worst side of a low-down savage people, and dealt with
the queerest of queer cases. One of the first was a murder charge in
which a woman was involved. Women were indeed at the bottom of almost
every mischief and palaver in the country. With marriage was mixed up
poisoning, sacrifice, exactions, oaths, debts, and cruelty unspeakable.
Mary was often sick with the loathing of it all. "God help these poor
helpless women!" she wrote. "What a crowd of people I have had to-day,
and how debased! They are just like brutes in regard to women. I have
had a murder, an eséré case, a suicide, a man for branding his slave-
wife all over her face and body; a man with a gun who has shot four
persons--it is all horrible!"

Here are three specimen charges, and the results, in her own writing:--

                            FOR IMPRISONMENT

O. I. Found guilty of brawling in market and taking by force 8 rods
from a woman's basket. One month's hard labour.

P. B. Chasing a girl into the bush with intent to injure. One month's
hard labour.

U. A. (a) Seizing a woman in the market. (b) Chaining her for 14 days
by neck and wrists. Throwing _mbiam_ with intent to kill should she
reveal it to white man. Sentenced to six months' hard labour, and to be
sent back on expiry of sentence to pay costs.

She had the right of inflicting punishment up to six months'
imprisonment, but often, instead of administering the law, she
administered justice by giving the prisoner a blow on the side of the

The oath taken was usually the heathen mbiam. For this were needed a
skull and a vile concoction in a bottle, that was kept outside the
Court House on account of the smell. After a witness had promised to
speak the truth, one of the members of the Court would take some of the
stuff and draw it across his tongue and over his face, and touch his
legs and arms. It was believed that if he spoke falsely he would die.
After Miss Slessor took up her duties, a heathen native, who had
clearly borne false witness, dropped down dead on leaving the Court,
with the result that _mbiam_ was in high repute for a time in the

Although three local chiefs sat by her side on the "bench," and the
jury behind her, she ruled supreme. "I have seen her get up," says a
Government official of that time, "and box the ears of a chief because
he continued to interrupt after being warned to be quiet. The act
caused the greatest amusement to the other chiefs." They often writhed
under her new edicts regarding women, but they always acquiesced in her
judgment. For not providing water for twin-mothers, she fined a town
£3. Miss Amess tells of a poor woman wishing a divorce from her scamp
of a husband. The "Court" evidently thought she had sufficient cause,
and there and then granted the request, and asked her colleague to
witness the act. The woman was triumphant, feeling very important at
having two white people on her side, while the man stood trembling, as
"Ma" expressed her candid opinion of him. In the Government report for
1907 it was stated that a number of summonses had been issued by the
District Commissioner against husbands of twin-bearing women for
desertion and support, and in every case the husbands agreed to take
the women back, the sequel being that other women in the same plight
were also received again into their families. "The result," says the
report, "is a sign of the civilising influence worked through the Court
by that admirable lady, Miss Slessor."

Some of her methods were not of the accepted judicial character. She
would try a batch of men for an offence, lecture them, and then impose
a fine. Finding they had no money she would take them up to the house
and give them work to earn the amount, and feed them well. Needless to
say they went back to their homes her devoted admirers. Her excuse for
such irregular procedure was, that while they were working she could
talk to them, and exercise an influence that might prove abiding in
their lives. This was the motive animating all her actions in the
Court. "When 'Ma' Slessor presided," it was said, "her Master was
beside her, and His spirit guided her."

The Court was popular, for the natives had their tales heard at first
hand, and not through an interpreter. "Ma's" complete mastery of their
tongue, customs, habits, and very nature, gave her, of course, an
exceptional advantage. One District Commissioner spent three days in
trying a single case, hearing innumerable witnesses, without coming
within sight of the truth. In despair he sought her aid, and she
settled the whole dispute to the satisfaction of every one by asking
two simple questions. It was impossible for any native to deceive her.
A Government doctor had occasion to interview a chief through an
interpreter. She was standing by. As the chief spoke she suddenly broke
in, and the man simply crumpled up before her. The doctor afterwards
asked her what the chief had done. "He told a lie, and I reprimanded
him--but I cannot understand how he could possibly expect me not to
know." Again and again she reverted to the matter. "To think he could
have expected to deceive _me_!" Another official tells how a tall,
well-built, muscular chief cowered before her. "Having no knowledge of
the language, I could not tell what it was all about, but plainly the
man looked as if his very soul had been laid bare, and as though he
wished the earth would open and swallow him. She combined most happily
kindliness and severity, and indeed I cannot imagine any native trying
to take advantage of her kindness and of her great-hearted love for the
people. This is the more remarkable to any one with intimate personal
acquaintance with the native, and of his readiness to regard kindness
as weakness or softness, and his endeavour to exploit it to the

All this Court business added to her toil, as a constant stream of
people came to her at the Mission House in connection with their cases.
She did not, however, see them all. It became her practice to sit in a
room writing at her desk or reading, and send the girls to obtain the
salient features of the story. They knew how to question, and what
facts to take to her, and she sent them back with directions as to what
should be done. When she was ill and feeble she extended this practice
to other palavers. People still came from great distances to secure her
ruling on some knotty dispute, and having had their statements conveyed
to her, she would either give the reply through the girls, or speak out
of the open window, and the deputation would depart satisfied, and act
on her advice. Her correspondence also increased in volume, and she
received many a curious communication. The natives would sometimes be
puzzled how to address her, and to make absolutely sure they would send
their letters to "Madam, Mr., Miss, Slessor."

                         XII. A VISITOR'S NOTES

A pleasant glimpse of her at this time is given in some notes by Miss
Amess. On Miss Wright going home--she shortly afterwards married Dr.
Rattray of the Mission staff, both subsequently settling in England--
Miss Amess was not permitted to stay alone in Okoyong, and she asked to
be associated with Miss Slessor at Ikotobong. It was a happy
arrangement for the latter. "What a relief it is," she wrote, "to have
some one to lean on and share the responsibility of the bairns. Miss
Amess is so sane and capable and helpful, and is always on the watch to
do what is to be done--a dear consecrated lassie." Miss Amess says:

When I went to Calabar I heard a great deal about Miss Slessor, and
naturally I wished to see her. She had been so courageous that I
imagined she must be somewhat masculine, with a very commanding
appearance, but I was pleasantly disappointed when I found she was a
true woman, with a heart full of motherly affection. Her welcome was
the heartiest I received. Her originality, brightness, and almost
girlish spirit fascinated me. One could not be long in her company
without enjoying a right hearty laugh. As her semi-native house was
just finished, and she always did with the minimum of furniture and
culinary articles, the Council authorised me to take a filter, dishes,
and cooking utensils from Akpap, and I had also provision cases and
personal luggage. I was not sure of what "Ma" would say about sixteen
loads arriving, because there were no wardrobes or presses, and one had
just to live in one's boxes. When "Ma" saw the filter she said, "Ye
maun a' hae yer filters noo-a-days. Filters werna created; they were an
after-thocht." She quite approved of my having it all the same.

Mail day was always a red-letter day. We only got letters fortnightly
then. She was always interested in my home news and told me hers, so
that we had generally a very happy hour together. Then the papers would
be read and their contents discussed. To be with her was an education.
She had such a complete grasp of all that was going on in the world.
One day after studying Efik for two hours she said to me, "Lassie, you
have had enough of that to-day, go away and read a novel for a short

She was very childlike with her bairns and dearly loved them. One night
I had to share her bed, and during the night felt her clapping me on
the shoulder. I think she had been so used with black babies that this
was the force of habit, for she was amused when I told her of it in the

There was no routine with "Ma." One never knew what she would be doing.
One hour she might be having a political discussion with a District
Commissioner, the next supervising the building of a house, and later
on judging native palavers. Late one evening I heard a good deal of
talking and also the sound of working. I went in to see what was doing
and there was "Ma" making cement and the bairns spreading it on the
floor with their hands in candle light. The whole scene at so late an
hour was too much for my gravity.

When at prayers with her children she would sometimes play a tambourine
at the singing, and if the bairns were half asleep it struck their
curly heads instead of her elbow.

Her outstanding characteristic was her great sympathy, which enabled
her to get into touch with the highest and the lowest. Once while
cycling together we met the Provincial Commissioner. After salutations
and some conversation with him she finished up by saying, "Good-bye,
and see and be a guid laddie!"

While out walking one Sabbath we came across several booths where the
natives who were making the Government road were living. She began
chatting with them, and then told them the Parable of the Lost Sheep.
She told everything in a graphic way, and with a perfect knowledge of
the vernacular, and they followed her with reverence and intense
interest all through. To most of them, if not to all, that would be the
first time they had heard of a God of Love.

She had really two personalities. In the morning one would hear
evildoers getting hotly lectured for their "fashions," and in the
evening when all was quiet she lifted one up to the very heights
regarding the things of the Kingdom. She always had a wonderful vision
of what the power of the Gospel could make of the most degraded, though
bound by the strongest chains of superstition and heathenism. One might
enter her house feeling pessimistic, but one always left it an

                           XIII. A REST-HOME

A touch of romance seemed to be connected with all her work. The next
idea she sought to develop was a Rest-House or week-end, holiday, or
convalescent home, where the ladies of the Mission, when out of
spirits, or run down in health, could reside and recuperate without the
fear of being a trouble or expense to others. In a tropical country,
where a change and rest is so often essential to white workers, such a
quiet accessible resort would, she thought, prove a blessing. But there
was no money for the purpose. One day, however, she received a cheque
for £20. Years before, in Okoyong, Dr. Dutton of the Tropical School of
Medicine had stayed with her for scientific study. He went on to the
Congo, and there succumbed. On going over his papers, his family found
her letters, and in recognition of her kindness and interest, sent her
a gift of £20. Thinking of a way of spending the money which would have
pleased her friend, she determined to apply it to the building of her

The site for such a resort required to be near the Creek, and she
discovered one on high land at Use between Ikotobong and Itu, and two
miles from the landing-beach. The road here winds round hills from
which beautiful views are obtained. On this side one sees far into Ibo
beyond Arochuku, on that the vision is of Itu and the country behind
it, while on the west the palm-covered plain rises into the highlands
of Ikot Ekpene. It is one of the fairest of landscapes, but is the
haunt of leopards and other wild beasts, and after rain the roadway is
often covered with the marks of their feet.

The ground was cleared, and building operations begun, the plan worked
out being a small semi-European cottage and native yard. Other cottages
would follow. Before long, however, the feeling grew that Ikotobong
should be taken over by the Women's Foreign Mission Committee, and she
foresaw that Use would require to be her own headquarters.

Towards the end of the year Miss E, M'Kinney, one of the lady agents,
called at Use, and found her living in a single room, and sleeping on a
mattress placed upon a sheet of corrugated iron. As the visitor had to
leave early in the morning, and there were no clocks in the hut, "Ma"
adopted the novel device of tying a rooster to her bed. The plan
succeeded; at first cock-crow the sleepers were aroused from their

It was not so much a rest-house for others that was needed, as a rest
for herself. She was gradually coming to the end of her strength.
Throughout the year 1906 she suffered from diarrhoea, boils, and other
weakening complaints, and the Government doctor at last frankly told
her that if she wished to live and work another day, she must go home
at once. Her answer to his fiat was to rally in a wonderful way. "It
looks," she said, "as if God has forbidden my going. Does this appear
as if He could not do without me? Oh, dear me, poor old lady, how
little you can do! But I can at least keep a door open." It was,
however, only a respite. By the beginning of 1907 she could not walk
half-a-dozen steps, her limbs refused to move, and she needed to be
carried about. It was obvious, even to herself, that she must go home.
Home! the very word brought tears to her eyes. The passion for the old
land and "kent" faces, and the graves of her beloved, grew with her
failing power. A home picture made her heart leap and long. "Oh, the
dear homeland," she cried, "shall I really be there and worship in its
churches again! How I long for a wee look at a winter landscape, to
feel the cold wind, and see the frost in the cart-ruts, to hear the
ring of shoes on the hard frozen ground, to see the glare of the shops,
and the hurrying scurrying crowd, to take a back seat in a church, and
hear without a care of my own the congregation singing, and hear how
they preach and pray and rest their souls in the hush and solemnity."

She arranged to leave in May, and set about putting her household
affairs in order. The safeguarding of the children gave her much
solicitude. For Jean and the older girls she trembled. "They must be
left in charge of the babies, with only God to protect them." Dan, now
six years old, she took with her as a help to fetch and carry. Her
departure and journey were made wonderfully easy by the kindness of
Government officials, who vied with each other in taking care of her
and making her comfortable. One of her friends, Mr. Gray, packed for
her, stored her furniture, conveyed her to Duke Town, and asked his
sister in Edinburgh to meet her. Mr. Middleton, of Lagos, wrote to say
he was going home, and would wait for her in order to "convoy her
safely through all the foreign countries between Lagos and the other
side of the Tweed." "Now there," she wrote to the Wilkies--"Doth Job
serve God for nought?" Very grateful she was for all the attention.
"God must repay these men," she said, "for I cannot. He will not forget
they did it to a child of His, unworthy though she is." After the
voyage she wrote: "Mr. Middleton has faithfully and very tenderly
carried out all his promises. Had I been his mother, he could not have
been more attentive or kind."


A telegram to Mrs. M'Crindle at Joppa informed her that her friend had
arrived at Liverpool and was on the way to Edinburgh. She met the
train, and saw an old wrinkled lady huddled in a corner of a carriage.
Could that be Miss Slessor? With a pitying hand she helped her out and
conveyed her, with Dan, to the comfort of her home.

But soon letters, postcards, invitations, parcels began flowing in.
"This correspondence," she wrote, "is overwhelming. I cannot keep pace
with it." There was no end to the kindness which people showered upon
her. Gifts of flowers, clothes, and money for herself and her work, and
toys for Dan were her daily portion. "It is a wonderful service this,"
she said, "which makes the heart leap to do His will, and it is all
unknown to the nearest neighbour or the dearest friend, but it keeps
the Kingdom of Heaven coming every day anew on the earth." One £5 was
slipped into her hand for her bairns. "My bairns don't require it," she
replied, "and won't get it either, but it is put aside, till I see the
Board, as the nest-egg of my Home for Girls and Women in Calabar. If I
can get them to give the woman or women, I shall give half of my salary
to help hers, and will give the house and find the servants, and I can
find the passage money from personal friends. Pray that the Board may
dare to go on in faith, and take up this work."

Between spells of colds and fevers she visited friends. At Bowden again
she had the exquisite experience of enjoying utter rest and happiness.
A pleasant stay was at Stanley, with the family of Miss Amess, who was
also at home, and with whom she rose early in the morning and went out
cycling. She cycled also with Miss Logie at Newport, but was very timid
on the road. If she saw a dog in front she would dismount, and remount
after she had passed it. She went over to Dundee and roamed through her
former haunts with an old factory companion, looking wistfully at the
scenes of her girlhood.

"I have been gladdened," she wrote to an English friend, "at finding
many of those I taught in young days walking in the fear and love of
God, and many are heads of families who are a strength and ornament to
the Church of Christ. About thirty-five or thirty-eight years ago three
ladies and myself began to work in a dreadful district-one became a
district nurse, one worked among the fallen women and the prisons of
our cities, and one has been at home working quietly--and we all met in
good health and had such a day together. We went up the old roads and
talked of all God had done for us and for the people, and again
dedicated ourselves to Him. It was probably the last time we shall meet
down here, but we were glad in the hope of eternity."

She had not been in Scotland since the Union of the Churches, and one
of her first duties was to call upon Mr. Stevenson, the Secretary of
the Women's Foreign Mission Committee, and his assistant, Miss
Crawford. She had a high sense of the value of the work going on at
headquarters, and always maintained that the task of organising at home
was much harder than service in the field. But she had a natural
aversion to officialdom, and anticipated the interviews with dread. She
pictured two cold, unsympathetic individuals--a conception afterwards
recalled with amusement. What the reality was may be gathered from a
letter she wrote later to Mr. Stevenson: "I have never felt much at
home with our new conditions, and feared the result of the Union in its
detail, though I most heartily approved of it in theory and fact. No! I
shall not be afraid of you. Both Miss Crawford and yourself have been a
revelation to me, and I am ashamed of my former fancies and fears, and
I shall ever think of, and pray for the secretaries with a very warm
and thankful heart."

There was an element of humour in her meeting with Miss Crawford. The
two women, somewhat nervous, stood on opposite sides of the office
door. She, without, was afraid to enter, shrinking from the task of
facing the unknown personage within--a woman who had been in India and
written a book, and was sure to be masculine and hard! She, within, of
gentle face and soft speech, leant timidly on her desk, nerving herself
for the coming shock, for the famous pioneer missionary was sure to be
"difficult" and aggressive. When Mary entered they glanced at one
another, looked into each other's eyes, and with a sigh of relief
smiled and straightway fell in love. When Mary gave her affection she
gave it with a passionate abandon, and Miss Crawford was taken into the
inmost sanctuary of her heart. "You have been one of God's most
precious gifts to me on this furlough," she said later. In her humility
Miss Crawford spoke about not being worthy to tie her shoe. "Dear
daughter of the King," exclaimed the missionary, "why do you say that?
If you knew me as God does! Never say that kind of thing again!"

The ordeal of meeting the Women's Foreign Mission Committee was also a
disillusionment. Her friend, Dr. Robson, was in the chair, and his
opening prayer was an inspiration, and lifted the proceedings to the
highest level. Nothing could have been kinder than her reception, which
delighted her greatly. "There was such a sympathetic hearing for
Calabar, especially from the old Free Church section, who are as eager
for the Mission as the old United Presbyterians." A conference was held
with her in regard to the position of Ikotobong, and her heart was
gladdened by the decision to take over the station and place two lady
missionaries there, Miss Peacock and Miss Reid. At another conference
with a sub-committee she discussed the matter of the Settlement, gave
an outline of her plans, and intimated that already two ladies had
offered £100 each to start the enterprise, while other sums were also
on hand. The sub-committee was much impressed with the sense of both
the necessity and promise of the scheme, and recommended the Women's
Committee to express general approval of it, and earnest sympathy with
the end in view, and to authorise her to take the necessary steps on
her return for the selection of a suitable site, the preparation of
plans, and estimates of the cost of the ground, buildings, and agents,
in order that the whole scheme might be submitted through the Mission
Council, at the earliest practicable date, for sanction. The general
Committee unanimously and cordially adopted this recommendation.

It was expected that she would address many meetings throughout the
country during her furlough to interest people in her work and
projects, but she astonished every one by intimating that she was
leaving for Calabar in October, although she had only been a few months
at home. In her eyes friends saw a look of sorrow, and said to one
another that the burden of the work was lying upon her heart. But few
knew the secret of her sadness. To some who remonstrated she said, "My
heart yearns for my bairns--they are more to me than myself." The truth
was that a story about Jean had been set afloat by a native and had
reached her in letters, and she could hardly contain herself until she
had found out the meaning of it. At all costs she must get back. Even
her pilgrimage to the graves of her dear ones in Devon must be given

Much against her will and pleading she was tied down to give at least
three addresses in the great towns, but with her whole being unhinged
by the shadow that overhung her, she had little mind for public
speaking. Her old nervousness in the face of an audience returned with
tenfold force. "I am trembling for the meetings," she wrote, "but
surely God will help me. It is His own cause." And again, "I am
suffering tortures of fear, and yet why is it that I cannot rest in
Him? If He sends me work, surely He will help me to deliver His
message, and to do it for His glory. He never failed me before. If He
be glorified that is all, whether I be considered able or not."

She never prepared a set speech, and when she was going up to the
Edinburgh meeting with Mrs. M'Crindle, she turned to her and said,
"What am I to say?" "Just open your lips and let God speak," replied
her friend. She was greatly pleased with the answer, and on that
occasion she never spoke better. Dr. Robson presided, and Mrs. Duncan
M'Laren, in bidding her farewell on behalf of the audience, said,
"There are times when it needs God-given vision to see the guiding
hand. We feel that our friend has this heavenly vision, and that she
has not been disobedient to it. We all feel humbled when we hear what
she and her brave colleagues have done. In God's keeping we may safely
leave her."

At the meeting in Glasgow the feeling was even more tense and
emotional, and a hush came over the audience as the plain little woman
made her appeal, and told them that in all probability she would never
again be back. At the benediction she stood, a pathetic figure, her
head drooping, her whole attitude one of utter weariness.

On the eve of her departure she was staying with friends. At night they
went into her room and found her weeping quietly in bed. They tried to
comfort her, and she said half-whimsically that she had been overcome
by the feeling that she was homeless and without kith and kin la her
own country. "I'm a poor solitary with only memories." "But you have
troops of friends--you have us all--we all love you." "Yes, I ken, and
I am grateful," she replied, "but"--wistfully--"it's just that I've
none of my ain folk to say good-bye to."

She was very tired when she left, "I'm hardly myself in this country,"
she said. "It has too many things, and it is always in such a hurry. I
lose my head." Again kind hands eased her way, and settled her on the
steamer. Dan was inconsolable, and wept to be taken back to Joppa.

The voyage gave her a new lease of life. The quietness and peace and
meditation, the warm sunshine and the breezes, the loveliness of the
sky and sea, rested and healed her. This, despite the conduct of some
wild passengers bound for the gold-mines. One day she rose and left the
table by way of protest, but in the end they bade her a kindly good-
bye, and listened to her advice. At Lagos the Governor sent off his
aide-de-camp with greetings, and a case of milk for the children. Mr.
Grey also appeared and escorted her to Calabar. "Am I not a privileged
and happy woman?" she wrote to his sister.

The same note of gratitude filled a letter which she wrote on board to
Dr. Robson, asking him to put a few lines in the _Record_ thanking
every one for their kindness, as it was impossible to answer all the
letters she had received. The letter itself was inserted, and we give
the concluding paragraph:

To all who have received me into their homes, and given me a share of
what are the most sacred things of earth, I give heartfelt thanks. What
the Bethany house must have been to our Lord, no one can better
appreciate than the missionary coming home to a strange place,
homeless. I thank all those who have rested me, and nursed me back to
health and strength, and who have nerved me for future service by the
sweet ministries and hallowing influences of their home life. To the
members of the Mission Board for their courtesy, their confidence, and
sympathetic helpfulness, I owe much gratitude. And not only for
services which can be tabulated, but for the whole atmosphere of
sympathy which has surrounded me; for the hand-clasps which have spoken
volumes; for the looks of love which have beamed from eyes soft with
feeling; for the prayer which has upheld and guided in days gone by,
and on which I count for strength in days to come; for all I pray that
God may say to each giving, sympathetic heart, "Inasmuch as ye did it
to one of the least of these my brethren, ye did it unto Me."

She was praying all the while for her bairn. On her arrival, as fast as
boat would take her, she sped up to Use. The chiefs and people came
crowding to welcome her, bringing lavish gifts of food-yams and salt
and fish and fowl. There were even fifty yams, and a goat from the back
of Okoyong. Dan with his English clothes was the centre of admiration,
and grave greybeards sat and listened to the ticking of his watch, and
played with his toy train....

To her unspeakable relief she found the story about Jean to be a native
lie. She was too grateful to be angry.

                          XV. GROWING WEATHER

The short furlough in Scotland, broken by so much movement and
excitement, had done little permanent good. She was tired when she
began her work, and there came a long series of "up and down" days
which handicapped her activity, yet she continued her duties with a
resolution that was unquenched and unquenchable. "Things are humdrum,"
she wrote, "just like this growing weather of ours, rainy and cloudy,
with a blink here and there. We know the brightness would scorch and
destroy if it were constant; still the bursts of glory that come
between the clouds are a rich provision for our frail and sensitive
lives." Her conception of achievement was a little out of the common.
One day she sat in court for eight hours; other two hours were spent
with the clerk making out warrants; afterwards she had to find tasks to
employ some labour; then she went out at dusk and attended a birth case
all night, returning at dawn. Whole days were occupied with palavers,
many of the people coming such long distances that she had to provide
sleeping accommodation for them. Old chiefs would pay her visits and
stay for hours. "It is a great tax," she remarked, "but it pays even if
it tires." Sundays were her busiest days; she went far afield
preaching, and had usually from six to twelve meetings in villages and
by the wayside. Often on these excursions she came across natives who
had made the journey to Okoyong to consult her in the old days. The
situation was now reversed, for people from Okoyong came to her. One
day after a ten hours' sitting in Court she went home to find about
fifty natives from the hinterland of that district waiting with their
usual tributes of food and a peck of troubles for her to straighten
out. It was after midnight before there was quiet and sleep for her.
Her heart went out to these great-limbed, straight-nosed, sons of the
aboriginal forest, and she determined to cross the river and visit
them. She spent three days fixing up all their domestic and social
affairs, and making a few proclamations, and diligently sowing the
seeds of the Gospel. When she left she had with her four boys and a
girl as wild and undisciplined as mountain goats, who were added to her
household to undergo the process of taming, training, and educating ere
they were sent back.

In what she called her spare time she was engaged in the endless task
of repairing and extending her forlorn little shanties. There was
always something on hand, and she worked as hard as the children,
nailing up corrugated iron, sawing boards, cementing floors, or cutting
bush. Jean, the ever-willing and cheerful, was practically in charge of
the house, keeping the babies, looking after their mothers, and
teaching the little ones in the school. Up to this period she had never
received more than her board, and "Ma" felt it was time to acknowledge
her services, and she therefore began to pay her 1s. per week.

Now and again in her letters there came the ominous words, "I'm tired,
tired." On the last night of the year she was sitting up writing. "I'm
tired," she said, "and have a few things to do. My mother went home
eighteen years ago on the passage of the old year, so it is rather
lonely to-night with so many memories. The bairns are all asleep. But
He hath not failed, and He is all-sufficient." She was often so wearied
that she could not sit up straight. She was too exhausted to take off
her clothes and brush her hair until she had obtained what she called
her "first rest." Then she rose and finished her undressing. She would
begin a letter and not be able to finish it. The ladies nearest her,
Miss Peacock and Miss Reid at Ikotobong, redoubled their attentions.
Miss Reid she said was "a bonnie lassie, tenderly kind to me." What
Miss Peacock was to her no one but herself knew. She was a keen judge
of character, though generous, almost extravagant in her appreciation
of those she loved, and Miss Peacock has justified her estimate and her
praise. "Sterling as a Christian, splendid as a woman, whole-hearted as
a missionary, capable as a teacher, she is one after my own heart," she
wrote. "She is very good and kind to me, and a tower of strength. I am
proud of her and the great work she is doing." Miss Peacock began the
habit about this time of cycling down on Saturday afternoons and
spending a few hours with her, and Mary looked forward to these visits
with the greatest zest.

The friends at home were also ceaseless in their kindness. They
scrutinised every letter she sent, and were frequently able to read
between the lines and anticipate and supply her needs,--much to her
surprise. "Have I been grumbling?" she would enquire. "You make me
ashamed. I am better off than thousands who give their money to support
me." A carpet arrived. "And oh," she writes, "what a difference it has
made to our comfort. You have no idea of the transformation! The mud
and cement were transformed at once into something as artistic as the
'boards' of the bungalow, and the coziness was simply beyond belief. It
did not look a bit hot, and it was so soothing to the bare feet, and I
need not say it was a wonder to the natives, who can't understand a
white man stepping on a cloth--and such a cloth!" On another occasion a
bed was sent out to her, and she wrote: "I've been jumping my tired
body up and down on it just to get the beautiful swing, and to feel
that I am lying level. I'm tired and I'm happy and I'm half-ashamed at
my own luxury." And next morning, "What a lovely sleep I've had!"

The Macgregors made their first visit to Use in 1908, and on arrival
found "Ma" sitting with a morsel of infant in her lap. She was dressed
in a print overall with low neck; it was tied at the middle with a
sash, and she was without stockings or shoes. On the Sunday she set out
early on foot on her customary round, carrying two roasted corn-cobs as
her day's rations, whilst Mr. Macgregor took the service at Ikotobong.
He was tired after his one effort, but when he returned in the evening
he discovered her preaching at Use Church-her tenth meeting for the
day, and her tour had not been so extensive as usual. At six o'clock
next morning people had already arrived with palavers. One woman wanted
a husband. "Ma" looked at her with those shrewd eyes that read people
through and through, and then began in Scots, "It's bad eneuch being a
marriage registrar, without being a matrimonial agent forby. _Eke
mi'o!_ Mr. Macgregor, send up any o' your laddies that's wanting
wives." Then she went into Efik that made the woman wince, and pointed
out that she had come to the wrong place.

She watched with interest the progress of the Creek stations, although
they were out of her hands. There were now at Okpo forty members in
full communion, and the contributions for the year amounted to £48: 3:
3. At Akani Obio, where there were forty-five members in full
communion, the total contributions amounted to £98: 11: 4. And at
Asang, where there were one hundred and fifteen members, the
contributions amounted to £146: 68. At those three stations the total
expenses were fully met, and there was a large surplus. Where four
years ago there was no church member and no offering, there were now
two hundred members, and contributions amounting in all to £287.

So the Kingdom of her Lord grew.

                          XVI. "THE PITY OF IT"

One experience of 1908, when she was down at Duke Town attending the
Council meetings, is worth noting. Though she liked the bush better she
was always interested in watching the movements there. "It is a great
cheer to me," she said, "to meet all the young folks, and to be with
them in their enthusiasm and optimism, and this vast hive of industry,
the Hope Waddell Institution, with its swarm of young men and boys,
gives me the highest hopes for the future of the Church and the nation
now in their infancy. Mr. Macgregor is a perfect Principal, sane, self-
restrained, and tactful, but I would not be in his place for millions."
The town was a very different place from that which she first saw in
1876. It was now a flourishing seaport, with many fine streets and
buildings. The swamp had been drained. There was a fully-equipped
native hospital, and a magnificent church in the centre of the town,
and the Europeans enjoyed most of the conveniences and even the
luxuries of civilisation.

On this occasion an invitation came from the High Commissioner to dine
at Government House, and meet a certain woman writer of books. She
would not hear of it. She had no clothes for such a function, and she
did not wish to be lionised. The Macgregors, with whom she was staying,
advised her to go; they thought it would do her good. She consented at
last, but when she left in a hammock, which had been specially sent for
her, there was the light of battle in her eyes. Mr. Macgregor knew that
look and laughed; there was no doubt she was going to enjoy herself;
she had still the heart of a school-girl, and greatly loved a prank.
When she returned, her face was full of mischief. "Ay," she said, "I
met your lady writer, and I made her greet four times and she gied me
half a sovereign for my bairns!"

Under the title of "But yet the pity of it," the authoress gave an
account of the meeting in the _Morning Post_, in a way which excited
laughter and derision in the Calabar bush. It was in the pathetic

"I am not given to admiring missionary enterprise," she wrote. "The
enthusiasm which seems to so many magnificent seems to me but a
meddling in other people's business; the money that is poured out, so
much bread and light and air and happiness filched from the smitten
children at home.

"But this missionary conquered me if she did not convert me.

"She was a woman close on sixty, with a heavily-lined face, and a skin
from which the freshness and bloom had long, long ago departed; but
there was fire in her old eyes still, tired though they looked; there
was sweetness and firmness about her lined mouth. Heaven knows who had
dressed her. She wore a skimpy tweed skirt and a cheap nun's veiling
blouse, and on her iron-grey hair was perched rakishly a forlorn broken
picture-hat of faded green, chiffon with a knot of bright red ribbon to
give the bizarre touch of colour she had learned to admire among her

"'Ye'll excuse my hands,' she said, and she held them out.

"They were hardened and roughened by work, work in the past, and they
were just now bleeding from work finished but now; the skin of the
palms was gone, the nails were worn to the quick; that they were
painful there could be no doubt, but she only apologised for their

"Ma" is thus made to tell the incident of the witness dying suddenly
after attending the court at Ikotobong:

"'If you put _mbiam_ on a man and he swears falsely he dies. Oh, he
does. I ken it. I've seen it mysel'. There was a man brought up before
me in the court and he was charged wi' stealing some plantains. He said
he had naught to do with them, so I put _mbiam_ on him, an' still he
said he had naught to do wi' them, so I sent him down to Calabar. An'
see now. As he was going he stopped the policeman an' laid himself
down, because he was sick. An' he died. He died there. I put _mbiam_ on
him, an' he knew he had stolen them and died.'

"There was pity in her face for the man she had killed with his own
lie, but only pity, no regret."

So well was she succeeding with her mystification that she went on to
talk of the hard lot of women and "the puir bairns," and then comes the

"'My time's been wasted. The puir bairns. They'd be better dead.'

"Her scarred hands fumbled with her dress, her tired eyes looked out
into the blazing tropical sunshine, her lips quivered as she summed up
her life's work. 'Failed, failed,' she cried. All that she had hoped,
all that she had prayed for, nothing for herself had she ever sought
except the power to help these children, and she felt that she had not
helped them. They would be better dead....

"But the Commissioner did not think she had failed. Is the victory
always to the strong?

"'She has influence and weight,' he said 'she can go where no white man
dare go. She can sway the people when we cannot sway them. Because of
her they are not so hard on the twins and their mothers as they used to
be. No, she has not failed.'"

And so with a reference to Thermopylae, and the Coliseum and
Smithfield, the lady litterateur places her in the ranks of the
immortal martyrs of the world.

                       XVII. THE SETTLEMENT BEGUN

This was one of the waiting periods in Mary Slessor's life, which tried
her patience and affected her spirits. The mist had fallen upon her
path, and the direction was dim and uncertain. She had received what
she thought was a call from a distant region up-country, but if she
settled far away, what would become of her home for women and girls?
She had no clear leading, and she wished the way to be made so plain
that there could be no possibility of mistake. Friends were sending her
money, and the Government were urging her to start the Settlement, and
promising to take all the products that were grown. "The District
Commissioner was here to-day," she wrote. "He wonders how he can help
me, has had orders from the Governor to assist me in any way, but the
Pillar does not move. I have building material lying here, and have a
£10 note from a friend at home for any material I want, but there is no
leading towards anything yet.... I am longing for an outlet, but I
can't move without guidance." She would not hurry--the matter was not
in her hands. God, she was assured, was "softly, softly," working
towards a natural solution, and as she was only His instrument, she
could afford to wait His time.

One night the mist on the path lifted a little, and next day she walked
over the land at Use, and there and then fixed the site for the
undertaking. There was ample room for all the cultivations that would
be required, and plenty of material for building and fencing, and good
surface water. Already she had three cottages built, including the one
she occupied, and these would make a beginning. She at once set about
obtaining legal possession, and with the permission and help of
Government she secured the land in the name of the girls. The Council
agreed with her that it was most advisable to develop industries which
the people had not yet undertaken, such as basket-making, the weaving
of cocoanut fibre, and cane and bamboo work. When asked if she would
agree to remain at Use for one year to establish the Settlement and put
it in working order with the assistance of one or two agents, she would
not commit herself. She rather shrank from the idea of a large
institution; it ought, in her view, to begin in a simple and natural
way by bringing in a few people, instructing them, and then getting
them to teach others. And there were other regions calling to her. When
reminded that a large sum of money was on hand for the project, she
said it was not all intended for this special purpose; much of it was
for extension; and she pointed to the needs of the region up the Cross
River, stating that she was willing to have the funds used for
providing agents there.

Nothing more definite was decided, and meanwhile she went on quietly
with the beginnings of things. She planted fruit trees sent up by the
Government,--mangoes, guavas, pawpaws, bananas, plantains, avocado
pears, as well as pineapples, and other produce, and began to think of
rubber and cocoa. She also started to accumulate stock, though the
leopards were a constant menace. She had even a cow, which she bought
from a man to prevent him going to prison for debt--and often wished
she had not, for it caused infinite trouble, and the natives went in
terror of it. Although it had a pail attached to it by a rope, it was
often lost, and the whole town were out at nights searching for it. It
would run away with the whole household hanging on, and so little
respect did it pay to dignitaries, that on one occasion it ran off with
the Mother of the Mission and the Principal of the Hope Waddell
Institute, who had been pressed into the humble service of leading it
home. "Ma Slessor's coo" became quite famous in the Mission.

It was characteristic of her that she did not want her name to be put
to anything, and she thought the Settlement should be called after Mrs.
Anderson or Mrs. Goldie, who did so much for women and girls.

                        XVIII. A SCOTTISH GUEST

During the year 1909 she continued to fight a battle with ill-health.
She was compelled to give up much of her outdoor work, for an
oppressive sense of heart-weakness made her afraid to cross deep
streams and climb the hills. Sometimes she used her cycle, but only
when she could obtain one of the girls or lads to run alongside and
assist her up the ascents. Boils, an old enemy, tortured her again; she
was covered with them from head to foot, and was one mass of pain.
"Only sleeping draughts," she said, "keep me from going off my head."
As the months went on she became feeble almost to fainting point, and
had given up hope of betterment. A note of sadness crept into her
letters. "I cannot write," she told a friend at home, "but there is no
change in the heart's affection, except that it grows stronger and
perhaps a little more wistful as the days go by and life gets more
uncertain." She was anxious to recover sufficiently before March, to do
honour to two deputies who had been appointed by the home Church to
visit the Mission, and who were expected then, and if possible to
return to Scotland with them. But she scarcely anticipated holding out
so long. Jean, unfortunately, was not with her. It had been discovered
that she had long been suffering in silence from an internal complaint,
and the medical men now advised an operation. "Ma" was opposed to this,
and left her for a time at Duke Town for a change and treatment, which
did her much good.

It was sheer will-power that gained her a little strength to face the
ordeal of the official visit. She determined to make no change whatever
in the course of her daily life, and she was afraid the deputies might
not find things to their liking and be disappointed. They were the Rev.
James Adamson, M.A., B.Sc., of Bonnington, Leith, and the Rev. John
Lindsay, M.A., Bathgate, who was accompanied by Mrs. Lindsay. They
entered the Creek one market day, when it was crowded with canoes, and
the landing-beach--one for the missionaries had just been constructed
at Okopedi--was swarming with people, amongst whom the arrival of the
strangers caused the greatest excitement. On bicycles the party
proceeded uphill to Use. Mr. Adamson went on ahead, and at a spot where
a few rough steps were cut in the steep bank he saw a boy standing, He
called out, "Ma Slessor?" The boy signed to Mm to come--it was a short
cut to the house. Clambering up the bank and making his way through the
bush, Mr. Adamson came upon a little native hut. Miss Slessor advanced
to meet him. "Come awa in, laddie, oot o' the heat," was her greeting.
When the Lindsays arrived it was also her chief concern to get them
into the shade. Mr. Adamson was her guest, whilst the Lindsays went on
to Ikotobong. His room--an erection built out from the house--had mud
walls and a mat roof, and was furnished with a camp-bed, a box for
dressing-table and another for a washstand, and for company he had
abundance of spiders and beetles and lizards. He proved a delightful
guest. "He is a dear laddie," wrote Mary; "all the bairns are in love
with him, and so am I!"

While he was with her a woman came to the yard with twins. She had been
driven out of her house and town, and had come several miles to "Ma"
for shelter. Her husband and her father were with her--which denoted
some advance--and the three were crouched on the ground, a picture of
misery. The twins were lying in a basket and had not been touched. Mr.
Adamson helped "Ma" to attend to them, and she felt as proud of him as
of a son when she saw him sitting down beside the weeping mother and
gently trying to comfort her. She gave the parents some food and a hut
to sleep in, and made the man promise to stay until the morning.
Neither would, however, look at the twins, and they were given over to
the girls.

A service was held at which Mr. Lindsay was also present, and about a
hundred people attended. "Take our compliments to the people of your
country," the latter said to the deputies, "and tell them that our need
is great, and that we are in darkness and waiting for the light." What
astonished the natives was to see the white visitors standing up
courteously when spoken to by black men.

From the meeting the party cycled to the little wattle-and-thatch Court
House at Ikotobong, Miss Slessor being pushed by Dan up the hills. She
took her seat at the table in the simplest possible attire. Before her
was a tin of toffee, her only refreshment, with the exception of a cup
of tea, during a long sitting. The jury, composed of the older and more
responsible men in the various villages, occupied a raised platform
behind. In front was a bamboo railing, which formed the dock; at the
side another railing marked the witness-box. Several cases were heard,
the witnesses giving their evidence with volubility and abundant
gesture, and the judge, jury, and clerk retiring to a little shed at
the back to discuss the verdicts. One was that of a man who, under the
influence of trade gin, had hacked his wife with a machete, because she
had insulted his dignity by accidentally stumbling against him. Such a
case always aroused "Ma's" ire, and she wished a severe punishment
awarded. The jury were very unwilling. The headman started by laying
down as a fundamental principle that men had a perfect right to do
whatever they liked with their wives; otherwise they would become
unmanageable. But in deference to the white woman's peculiar views they
would go the length of admitting that perhaps the husband had gone a
little too far in the use of his instrument. He had not done anything
to merit a severe sentence, but in view of the prejudices of the
"Court," they would send him to prison for a short term.

Suddenly the "toot" of the Government motor-car was heard, and in a
moment jury, witnesses, prisoners, and policemen rushed out of the
building to catch a glimpse of the "new steamer" that ran on the road.
Then back they drifted, and the proceedings went on.

Mr. Adamson appreciated the service which Miss Slessor was
accomplishing by her work in the Court. She told him she did not care
for it; "the moral atmosphere of a native court is so bad," she
declared, "that I would never go near one were it not that I want the
people to get justice." But he saw the exceptional opportunity she
possessed of dispensing gospel as well as law. "As a rule," he says,
"her decision is accompanied by some sound words of Christian counsel."
He left Use with a profound admiration both for herself and Miss
Peacock. "Words," he wrote in the _Record_, "cannot describe the value
of the work that is being done by these heroic women."

There was no improvement in her health as the months went on, and
another severe illness caused by blood-poisoning shattered her nerves.
The Wilkies spared no labour or love to heal and strengthen her. "Once
more," she wrote, "I believe I owe my life to them."

She felt that the time had come to relinquish her court work, and
accordingly in November she sent in her resignation. The Commissioner
of the Eastern Province wrote in reply:

DEAR MISS SLESSOR--I have been informed of your decision to resign the
Vice-Presidentship of the Ikotobong Native Court by the District
Commissioner, Ikot Ekpene, which I note with great regret, and take
this opportunity of thanking you for the assistance you have in the
past given the Government, and of expressing my deep appreciation of
the services you have rendered to the country during the period you
have held the office which you have now relinquished.--Believe me,
Yours very sincerely,


She slipped out of the work very quietly, and was glad to be free of a
tie which hindered her from moving onward on her King's more pressing

                        XIX. A MOTOR CAR ROMANCE

The Government motor car, which now ran up and down the road into the
interior, was the cause of several changes in the household of Use. In
charge of it at first was a white chauffeur, who, curiously enough, was
a member of Wellington Street Church in Glasgow, which now supported
Miss Slessor, and with him was a native assistant, a young well-
educated Anglican, who came from Lagos. When the car made its
appearance Dan was so fascinated with it that he could scarcely keep
off the road, and he now struck up an acquaintance with the native
driver, which brought him many a rapturous hour. "Ma," who did not then
know the lad, was in terror for the safety of his body and his morals,
and so despatched him as a pupil to the Institute at Duke Town to be
under the care of Mr. Macgregor. But David, the driver, had done more
than capture Dan; he had captured the heart of one of the girls--Mary.
Annie was already happily married, and she and her husband were
preparing to join the Church; but Mary was not disposed to follow her
example, although she had two suitors, one in Okoyong, and one in
Ibibio. "Why can't I stay at home with you?" she said to "Ma." "I don't
want to go anywhere." But the Lagos lad succeeded where others had
failed, and "Ma," giving her consent, they were married, before the
District Commissioner in Court. David went back to his work, and his
wife to the Mission House, for "Ma" would not allow him to take her
home until the Church ceremony had been performed. Mr. Cruickshank
appeared one day before he was expected, and before the wedding-gown
was quite ready, but a note was sent to David, and he cycled down in
his black suit. Miss Annie M'Minn, then at Ikotobong, came and dressed
the bride, the children put on white frocks, and there was a quaint and
picturesque wedding.

There was also, of course, a breakfast. It was given in the verandah of
the hut. David was early on the scene arranging tables and forms, and
Miss Peacock and Miss M'Minn laid and decorated them, a conspicuous
object being a bunch of heather from Scotland. Jean and the bride
cooked the breakfast. By 11 o'clock the company had assembled. At the
head sat an aged Mohammedan in white robes and turban, a friend of
David's family. A number of his co-religionists had come to the
district, and some even attended "Ma's" services. This particular man
greatly admired her. "Only God can make you such a mother and helper to
everybody," he had said at his first interview, and on leaving he had
taken her hand and bent over and kissed it, and with tears in his eyes
invoked a blessing upon her. Few expressions of respect from white men
had touched her more, though she was half-afraid her feeling was
scarcely orthodox. Then came the bride and bridegroom and "Ma's" clerk.
At the next table sat another of David's friends--an interpreter--and a
lad from the bride's house, headman on the road Department; David's
next-door neighbours, a man and his wife; and eight headmen over the
road labourers. Outside were the school children, who were fed by Jean
with Calabar chop, sweets, and biscuits.

After the breakfast the Mohammedan came indoors to Miss Slessor and
made a speech. "I knew David's mother before he was born," he said,
"and I praise God he was led here for a wife." David came forward,
"Mother," he said, "you won't let us go without prayer?" and down he
knelt, and she committed the couple to God, A pie and cake, which the
Ikotobong ladies had baked, were presented, along with a motor cap,
silk handkerchief, ribbon, and scissors. One of "Ma's" presents was a
sewing-machine. Then she walked down to see them off, supported in her
weakness by the Mohammedan, When the pair arrived at their home, the
latter stood on the doorstep praying for them as they entered on their
new life. It was only a bamboo shanty run up by the Government, but it
was a home, and not, like all others, a room in a compound, and family
worship was conducted in it in English. Good news came from it as time
went on. The bride was sometimes seen driving in the motor car. "She
was here this morning," writes the house-mother, "full of importance as
she passed to market. She had biscuits for the children, a new water-
jar and a bunch of fine bananas for me, and the whole house were round
her full of questions and fun, and you would think she had become a
heroine, just because she was married two months ago. She is very happy
and proud of her husband." "Ma" watched over her with jealous care, and
when in due time a baby arrived, she was as delighted as if it had been
of her own blood.

                            XX. STRUCK DOWN

The hot, dry season was always a trial to Miss Slessor; it shrivelled
her up, and reduced her energy, and she panted for the cooling rains.
This year it affected her more than ever. The harmattan was like an
Edinburgh "haar," though it was not cold except between midnight and
daybreak; the air was thick with fine sand dust, and often she could
not see three yards away. She longed for a "wee blink of home," and a
home Sabbath. "But though the tears are coming at the thought, you are
not to think for one moment that I would take the offer if it were
given me! A thousand times no! I feel too grateful to God for His
wonderful condescension in letting me have the privilege of ministering
to those around me here."

How the interest of the spiritual aspects of her work submerged the
afflictions of her body was seen when the first baptismal service and
communion at Use took place. With her dread of the spectacular she did
not make the event known, but the little native church was crowded, men
and women squatting on the floor, and the mothers with babies on the
verandah. Mr. Cruickshank conducted the service. Mary took a "creepie"
stool--her mother's footstool of old--and sat down by the young
communicants to help them and show them what to do. "David," she wrote,
"had bought a bottle of wine for his wedding, but of course it was
never opened, and he said to me, 'Keep it, Ma, it may be useful yet.'
So it was drawn for our first communion well-watered. The glass sugar-
dish on a teaplate was the baptismal font, but it was all transfigured
and glorified by the Light which never shone on hill or lake or even on
human face, and some of us saw the King in His beauty--and not far off.
Bear with me in my joy; this sounds small in comparison with home
events, but it is only a very short time since this place was dark and
degraded and drunken and besotted."

The glow and exaltation of the service lingered with her for weeks, and
her letters are full of sprightliness and wit. She told of a visit from
Lady Egerton--"a true woman"--and of the Christmas gift from their
Excellencies--a case of milk; and of the present of a new cycle sent
from England from "her old chief" Mr. Partridge, to replace the old one
which he thought must be worn out by this time. The wonders of aviation
were engrossing the world then, and she merrily imagined a descent upon
her some afternoon of her friends from Scotland, and discussed the
capabilities of her tea-caddy.

Well on into the next year she was busy with regular station work,
teaching, training, preaching, building up the congregation, and acting
as Mother to her people and to many more. Then in the midst of her
strenuous activity she was suddenly and swiftly struck down by what she
termed "one of the funniest illnesses" she ever had. The children were
alarmed, and sent word to David. He informed the white officers, and
they rushed in a motor car down to Use and removed her to Itu, where
she was nursed back to life by Mrs. Robertson. "I shall never forget
the kindness and the tenderness and the skill which have encompassed
me, and I shall ever remember Dr. Robertson and his devoted wife, and
ask God to remember them for their goodness. Dr. Robertson brought me
out of the valley of the shadows and when I was convalescent he lifted
me up in his strong arms and took me to see the church and garden and
anywhere I wished, just as he might have done to his own mother." Her
friends in Calabar also did everything they could for her, the Hon. Mr.
Bedwell, the Provincial Commissioner, sending up ice and English
chicken and other delicacies in a special launch.

The little daughter of the missionaries was a source of great delight
to her who loved all children. She was a very winsome girl, and had won
the hearts of the natives, who regarded her with not a little awe. She
was the only white child they had seen, and were not sure whether she
was not a spirit. "Ma" and she had good times together, playing and
make-believing. "Maimie and I," she wrote, "have been having the dolls
out for a drive, and we have just given them their bread and milk and
put them to bed!"

When she was convalescent the Macgregors insisted on her coming down to
Duke Town for a change, and the Government placed the fast and
comfortable _Maple Leaf_ at their disposal. She protested, saying she
could not put herself on a brother and sister whose lives were so
strenuous, but they would take no refusal. They turned their dining-
room into a bedroom for her convenience, and here she talked and read
the newspapers and the latest new books and her Bible, and wrote long
letters to her friends. "I am doing nothing but eating," she told her
children, "and am growing fat and shedding my buttons all over the
place." But underneath all her gaiety and high spirits she felt
profoundly grateful for the wonderful goodness and mercy God had made
to pass before her, and the perfect peace He had given her. "Here I
am," she said, "being spoiled anew in an atmosphere not merely of
tender love, but of literary and cultured Christian grace and
winsomeness, and it has been as perfect a fortnight as ever I spent."
She had literally to run away from the kind attentions of the
Government officials and doctors, and a swift Government launch again
conveyed her up-river. Jean, who had long since returned, had bravely
held the fort for the five Sabbaths she had been absent, and David and
his wife had been there to protect her, and the work, therefore, had
been kept going.

After each breakdown she seemed to feel that she must make up for lost
time, and she planned an advance towards Ikot Ekpene, being anxious to
secure that point and the intervening area for her church. On her
bicycle she made a series of pioneer trips into the bush, here and
there selecting sites for schools, interviewing chiefs about twin-
mothers, and generally preparing the way for further operations. About
twelve miles' distant, or half-way to Ikot Ekpene, where there was a
camp, she met some forty chiefs and arranged for ground for a school
and the beginning of the work, and for a hut for herself at the back of
the native prison, where, she thought, she would have some influence
over the warders. As she was never able to establish this station, its
history may be rounded off here. Early in the year 1911 she brought the
matter before the Calabar Council, which agreed to build a house at
Ibiacu out of the extension fund, and later she went in a hammock to
complete the arrangement, accompanied by Miss Welsh, who, as "Ma"
phrased it, "fitted into bush life like a glove," and who occupied and
developed the station. This young missionary lives alone, looks after
the children, has a clever pen and clever hands, and Is following very
much on the lines of the great "Ma." To the chagrin of the latter, Ikot
Ekpene was taken over by the Primitive Methodist Mission before she
could secure it, but she consoled herself with the thought that it did
not matter who did the Master's works so long as it done....

Then her path, which had been so long hidden, cleared, and she saw it
stretching out plain and straight before her.

                              FIFTH PHASE

                      l9l0-January 1915. Age 62-66.

                              ONWARD STILL

    "_It is a dark and difficult land, and I am old and weak--but

                          I. IN HEATHEN DEEPS

The new sphere to which Miss Slessor felt she was called, had been
occupying her attention for some time. During one of the minor military
expeditions into the interior, the troops were suddenly attacked by a
tribe who fled at the first experience of disciplined firing. A lad who
had been used by the soldiers was persuaded by some of their number to
conduct them to the great White Mother for her advice and help. When
they appeared at Use, she and they talked long and earnestly, and they
returned consoled and hopeful. Some time afterwards the guide came down
on his own account, bringing a few other lads with him. Her influence
was such that they wished to become God-men, and they returned to begin
the first Christian movement in one of the most degraded regions of

She knew nothing of the place save that it was away up in the north-
west, on one of the higher reaches of the Enyong Creek, and a two days'
journey for her by water. The lads lived at a town called Ikpe, an old
slave centre, that had been in league with Aro, and the focus of the
trade of a wide and populous area. It was a "closed" market, no Calabar
trader being allowed to enter.

On her return from Scotland the young men again appeared, saying that
there were forty others ready to become Christians, begging her to come
up, and offering to send down a canoe. She disliked all water journeys,
and even on the quiet creek was usually in a state of inward
trepidation. But nothing could separate her from her duty, and she
responded to the call. For eight hours she was paddled along the
beautiful windings of the Creek; then a huge hippopotamus was
encountered, and frightened her into landing for the night on the
Ibibio side, where she put up in a wretched hut reeking with filth and
mosquitoes. Here the Chief was reaching out for the Gospel, holding
prayers in his house, and trying to keep Sabbath, though not a soul
could read, and the people were laughing at him. As the Creek made a
bend she left the canoe and trudged through the bush to Ikpe. She found
the town larger and more prosperous than she had anticipated, with four
different races mingling in the market, but the darkness was terrible,
and the wickedness shameless, even the children being foul-mouthed and
abandoned. The younger and more progressive men gave her a warm
welcome, but the older chiefs were sulky--"Poor old heathen souls," she
remarked, "they have good reason to be, with all they have to hope from
tumbling down about their ears." The would-be Christians had begun to
erect a small church, with two rooms for her at the end. That they were
in earnest was proved by their attitude. She had eager and reverent
audiences, and once, on going unexpectedly into a yard, she found two
lads on their knees praying to the white man's God.

She made a survey of the district, and came to the conclusion that Ikpe
was another strategic point, the key to several different tribes, which
it would be well to secure for the Church, and she made up her mind to
come and live in the two rooms, and work inland and backwards towards
Arochuku. There was the Settlement to consider, but that, she thought,
she could manage to carry on along with the occupation of Ikpe.

Her bright and eager spirit did not reckon with the frailties of the
body. When she returned, she entered on a long period of weakness. Now
and again deputations came down to her. Once a score of young men
appeared, and before stating their business said, "Let us pray." She
made another visit, saw the beginnings of the church at Ikpe, and
another at Nkanga on the Creek bank, three miles below Ikpe, and, what
affected her more, heard rumours of a possible occupation by the Roman
Catholics. "I must come," she said to herself.

On one journey she was accompanied by Miss Peacock, who rose still more
highly in her regard on account of the resolute way in which she braved
the awful smells in the villages. On another, Mr. and Mrs. Macgregor
shared the hardships of the trip with her. When these two arrived at
the landing-beach for Use, a note was put into their hands from "Ma,"
to the effect that she had not been able to obtain a canoe, and they
had better come to the house until she saw what the Lord meant by it.
They remained at Use some days, "Ma" suffering from fever, but refusing
to postpone the trip, saying that if she had faith she would be able to
go. They were to start early one morning, but her guests sought to keep
her in sleep until it was too late. They succeeded until 1 A.M., when
she awoke, gave directions about packing, and rose. "What do you think
of her?" they asked of Jean. "She is often like that, and gets better
on the road," she replied, which was true. As "Ma" herself said, "I
begin every day, almost every journey in pain, and in such tiredness
that I am sure I can't go on, and whenever I begin, the strength comes,
and it increases."

The party left at 3.15 in the moonlight, and soon afterwards were in a
canoe. For hours they paddled, past men with two-pronged fish-spears
fishing, by long stretches of water-lilies of dazzling whiteness, by
farms where the fresh green corn was beginning to sprout, by extensive
reaches of jungle where brilliant birds flitted, and parrots chattered,
and monkeys swung from branch to branch by a bridge of hands. They
stopped for lunch, and Mr. Macgregor was interested in watching her
methods with the people. A chief wished to see the Principal, and said
he was anxious to place two more boys with him in the Institute. She
told Mr. Macgregor to say he would see him after they had eaten. The
business-like Principal thought this a waste of time, but she held that
he must not cheapen himself--if he made food of more importance than
the education of their boys they would think him dignified and respect
him. And she was right.

By and by they came to a tortuous channel as narrow as a mill-dam, and
it was with difficulty that the canoe was punted through. They swept on
under trees, hung with orchids, where dragon-flies flashed in and out
of the sunlight. This was the country of the hippos, and the banks were
scored by their massive feet; it was also, as they found to their cost,
the haunt of ibots, a fly with a poisonous bite. After passing over a
series of shallows they reached Ikpe beach towards dark, and camped in
the unfinished church, "Ma" in the "vestry," and the Macgregors inside
the building.

Mr. Macgregor had seen much of Nigeria, but he had never witnessed such
degradation as he found existing here. The girls went without any
clothing, except a string of beads, and the married women wore only a
narrow strip of cloth. He had again a lesson in native manners. Paying
ceremonial visits to the chiefs, they sat and looked at the ground, and
yawned repeatedly, and after a time left. To him the yawning seemed
rude, but "Ma" said it was the correct thing, and when the chiefs
returned the calls he knew that, as usual, she was right.

One of the questions that the chiefs asked was, "Is this the man you
have brought to stay and teach us?" "Ma" turned to the Principal with a
wry face. "Well," she said in English, "I like that. They'll need to be
content wi' something less than a B.D. for a wee while--till they get
started at any rate." She informed them who Mr. Macgregor was, and the
great work he was doing in Calabar, and that in the goodness of his
heart he had come up to see the position of things in the town.

"Ma"--incredulously--"do you mean that this is not the man who is to
come and lead us out of darkness?"

"No, he is not the man-yet."

"Ma"--reproachfully--"you always say wait. We have waited two years,
and again you come to us and say wait. When are you coming to us?"

There was nothing for it but to put them off once more. But she
improved the occasion by extolling the Institute, with the result that
when they left, two boys were taken to the canoe and consigned to Mr.
Macgregor's care, one decently clad in a singlet and loin-cloth, and
the other with only a single bead hanging at the throat.

Mr. Macgregor went exploring on his own account, and came across a
Government Rest House perched on the brow of a cliff, with a
magnificent view over the plain. Here he noticed that the people were
particularly opposed to white men. One of the villages "Ma" had
labelled "dangerous," and he learnt that when the Court messengers
appeared, they were promptly seized, beaten, and cast out. This, it is
interesting to note, came to be the scene of "Ma's" last exploits. He
rejoined the ladies at Nkanga, where the little native church had been
completed. They held the opening service. The Principal had no jacket;
his shirt was torn, his boots bore traces of the streams and mud
through which he had passed. Miss Slessor wore the lightest of
garments. It was one of the strangest opening ceremonies in the history
of Missions, but they worshipped God from the heart, and "Ma" seemed
lifted out of herself, and to be inspired, as she told the people what
the church there in their midst meant, and the way they should use it
for their highest good.

The Macgregors left her at Arochuku, and she continued down-creek. She
had been upheld by her indomitable spirit throughout the journey, but
now collapsed, and was so ill that she had to spend the night in the
canoe. In the darkness she was awakened by one of the babies crying,
but was so weak that she could not move. The girls were sound asleep,
and could not hear her. Exerting her willpower, she rolled over to the
child, whose head had become wedged between a box and the footboard of
the canoe, and was being slowly killed. In the early dawn the journey
was resumed to Okopedi beach, and thence she crawled over the weary
miles to Use.

                            II. "REAL LIFE"

"I must go. I am in honour bound to go." It was her constant cry. She
heard that services were being held regularly at Ikpe on Sundays and
week-days, and yet no one knew more than the merest rudiments of
Christian truth; none could read. A teacher had gone from Asang, but he
was himself only at the stage of the first standard in the schools, and
could impart but the crudest instruction. They were groping for the
light, and worshipping what to most of them was still the Unknown God,
and yet were already able to withstand persecution. The pathos of the
situation broke her down. "Why," she cried, "cannot the Church send two
ladies there? Why don't they use the money on hand for the purpose? If
the wherewithal should fail at the end of two years, let them take my
salary, I shall only be too glad to live on native food with my

Once more she went up, and once more she stood ashamed before their
reproaches. She could not hold out any longer. "I am coming," she said
decisively. She was not well--she was never well now--she had bad
nights, was always "tired out," "too tired for anything," yet she went
forward to the new life with unshakeable fortitude. In a short time she
was back with fifty sheets of corrugated iron and other material for
the house. "I am committed now," she wrote. "No more idleness for me. I
am entering in the dark as to how and where and when. How I am to
manage I do not know, but my mind is at perfect peace about it, and I
am not afraid. God will carry it through. The Pillar leads."

She did not care much for the situation that had been granted; it was
low-lying, and she was anxious to conserve her health for the work's
sake, but she had faith that she would be taken care of. Palm trees
bordered the site on three sides, and amidst these the monkeys loved to
romp. "These palms," she said, "are my first joy in the morning when
the dawn comes up, pearly grey in the mist and fine rain, fresh and
cool and beautiful." She lived in two rooms at the back of the church,
with a bit of ground fenced off for kitchen, and her furniture
consisted of a camp-bed and a few dishes. But she was chiefly out of
doors, for she had as many as two hundred and fifty people engaged in
cutting bush, levelling, and stumping. Despite the discomfort and worry
incidental to such conditions, she was quite happy. The natives as a
whole were hostile to white people; they wanted neither them nor their
religion; but there was nothing martial or predatory about "Ma," and
her very helplessness protected her. And there was that in her blood
which made her face the conflict with zest; it always braced her to
meet the dark forces of hell, and conquer them with the simple power of
the Gospel.

Her fearlessness was as marked as ever. One Sunday, during service,
there was an uproar in the market. She went out and found a mob
fighting with sticks and swords, a woman bleeding, and her husband
wounded and at bay. She seized the man's wrist and compelled quiet, and
soon settled the matter by palaver. On another occasion the Government
sent native agents with police escort to vaccinate the people, as
small-pox was rife. They resented the white man's "juju," and there was
much excitement. The conduct of the agents enraged the crowd, guns
appeared, and bloodshed was imminent, when an appeal was made to "Ma."
She succeeded in calming the rising passions, and in reassuring the
people as to the purpose of the inoculation. "This poor frail woman,"
she said, "is the broken reed on which they lean. Isn't it strange? I'm
glad anyhow that I'm of use in protecting the helpless." The people
said if she would perform the operation they would agree, and she sent
to Bende for lymph, and was busy for days. It was a difficult task, the
people were suspicious, and she had to banter and joke and coax when
she herself was at fainting point. Apart from this she doctored men and
women for the worst diseases, nursed the sickly babies, and generally
acted her old part of a "mother in Israel."

"It is a real life I am living now," she wrote, "not all preaching and
holding meetings, but rather a life and an atmosphere which the people
can touch and live in and be made willing to believe in when the higher
truths are brought before them. In many things it is a most prosaic
life, dirt and dust and noise and silliness and sin in every form, but
full, too, of the kindliness and homeliness and dependence of children
who are not averse to be disciplined and taught, and who understand and
love just as we do. The excitements and surprises and novel situations
would not, however, need to be continuous, as they wear and fray the
body, and fret the spirit and rob one of sleep and restfulness of

Use was still her headquarters, and she often traversed the long
stretch of Creek, though the journey always left her terribly
exhausted. On one occasion, when she had arrived at Use racked with
pain, she was asked how she could ever endure it. "Oh," she said, "I
just had to take as big a dose of laudanum as I dared, and wrap myself
up in a blanket, and lie in the bottom of the canoe all the time, and
managed fine." She often met adventures by the way. Once, after
thirteen hours in the canoe, she arrived at Okopedi beach late in the
evening, along with Maggie and Whitie and a big boy baby. Stowing the
baggage in the beach house they started in the dark for Use, "Ma"
carrying a box with five fowls and some odds and ends, and Maggie, who
was ill, the baby. When they reached the house they found they had no
matches and were afraid of snakes, but she was so tired that she lay
down as she was on a bed piled high with clothes, the others on the
floor, the baby crying itself to sleep. At cock-crow fire was obtained
from the village, and a cup of tea made her herself again, and ready
for the inevitable palavers. Again, she went up to Ikpe with supplies
by night; the water had risen, she had to lie flat to escape the
overhanging branches, and finally the canoe ran into a submerged tree
and three of the paddle boys were pitched into the water. Not long
afterwards she left Ikpe at 6.30 A.M., was in the canoe all night, and
reached the landing-beach at 5.30 on Christmas morning with the usual
motherless baby.

On this occasion she received a message, "Ekereki said I was to tell
you that his mother is asleep"--referring to the death of one of the
first members of the congregation, a gentle and superior woman for whom
she had a great regard. The wording of the message made her realise how
soon the Gospel had the power of changing even the language of a
people. Some time previously Annie's two-year-old boy had died, and the
question of a Christian burial-place had been considered by the
congregation. Heathen adults were buried in the house and the children
under the doorstep. It seemed cruel to leave bodies out in the cold
earth, but of their own volition the members secured a piece of ground
and laid the child there; and now this woman was placed by his side,
the first adult to obtain a Christian burial in that part of Ibibio.

On New Year's eve she was down with fever, and was very weak, but, she
wrote, "My heart is singing all the time to Him Whose love and tender
mercy crown all the days." In the middle of the night she was obliged
to rise. "My 'first-feet' were driver ants, thousands and thousands of
them, pouring in on every side, and dropping from the roof. We had two
hours' hard work to clear them out."

                      III. THE AUTOCRATIC DOCTOR

Returning from Ikpe on one occasion in 1911, she found that a tornado
had played havoc with the Use house, and immediately set to, and with
her own hands repaired it. The strain was too great for her enfeebled
frame, and symptoms of heart weakness developed. She had nights of high
fever and delirium, and yet so great was her power of will, that she
would rise next day and teach and work, while on Sundays she took the
services, although she was unable to stand. "I had a grand day," she
would say, "notwithstanding intense weakness."

Dr. Robertson of Itu had gone home on furlough, and there came to take
his place, Dr. Hitchcock, a young, eager, clear-headed man, as
masterful in his quiet way as "Ma." He had proposed going to China in
the service of the Church, but agreed meanwhile to put in a year at
Itu. She watched him for a time with growing admiration, and saw the
curiosity of the natives turn rapidly to confidence, then to
appreciation, then to blind devotion and worship. When she looked at
the great crowds flocking day after day to the dispensary and hospital,
she thought of the scene of old when the poor and the halt and the
maimed gathered round Christ. "A rare man," she said, "a rare
Christian, a rare doctor. A physician for soul and body. I am beginning
to love him like a son." And like a son he treated her. Although he had
scarcely a minute to spare from his work, he ran up every second day to
Use to study her. He believed that she was not being nourished. That
there were grounds for his suspicions her own diary records. There was
money for her in Duke Town, she had often cheques lying beside her, but
it was not always easy to obtain ready cash, and sometimes she ran
short. On June 14 she wrote:

_Market Morning_.--Have only 3d. in cash in the house; sent it with 2
Ikpats (the first Efik schoolbook) and New Testament to buy food, and
sold all 3 books for 6d. Got 5 small yams, oil, and shrimps, with
pepper and a few small fresh fish.

It was on the following morning as early as six o'clock that the doctor
called to examine her again. His decision was that she was not to go to
Ikpe, she was not to cycle, she was to lie down as much as possible.
She laughed, and on the Sunday went to church and conducted two
services; but she almost collapsed, and when the doctor came next day
he ordered her to take to her bed, and not go to any more meetings
until she obtained his permission. Mary had at last met her equal in
resolution. "He is very strict," she confessed, "but he is a dear man.
Thank God for him."

A trip to Ikpe which she had planned for the Macgregors had to be
cancelled, and they decided to go to Use instead, and aid and abet the
doctor in his care of her. She got up to receive them, and then wrote,
"The doctor has sent me back to bed under a more stringent rule than
ever. Very stern. I dare not rise." "You must eat meat twice a day,"
the doctor said. "I'm not a meat eater, doctor," she rejoined. His
reply was to send over a fowl from Itu with instructions as to its
cooking. "Why did you send that fowl, doctor?" she asked next day,
"Because it could not come itself," was all the satisfaction she got.
It was not the first fowl that came from Itu--the next came cooked--
while the Macgregors telegraphed to Duke Town for their entire stock.
"What a trouble you dear folk take," she sighed.

"You will have to go to Duke Town for a change," suggested the doctor
one day. "Na, na," she replied; "I've all my plans laid, and I cannot
draw a salary and not do what I can." "You have done so well in the
past," remarked Mr. Macgregor, "that you need not have any qualms about
that." "I've been paid for all I've done," was her retort. But the
doctor insisted, and the very thought of leaving the station and the
household work unattended to, put her in a fever. "Of course," she
said, "to the doctor my health is the only thing, but I can't get rest
for body while my mind is torn about things. He is vexed, and I am
vexed at vexing him."

Not satisfied with the progress she was making, the doctor transferred
her to Use, where she was under his constant observation. "Life is
hardly worth living," she complained, "but I'm doing what I can to help
him to help me, so that I can be fit again for another spell of work."
That was her one desire, to be well enough to go back to the bush. A
messenger from Ikpe came down to find out when she was returning.
"Seven weeks," was the doctor's firm reply. "I may run up sooner than
that," was hers. "I'm quite well, if he would only believe it."

But it was well on towards the end of the year before she was, in her
own words, out of the clutches of the "dearest and cleverest and most
autocratic Mission doctor that ever lived." She literally ran away, and
was up at Ikpe at once, exultant at having the privilege of ministering
again to the needs of the people. There was a throng at the beach to
welcome her. She was soon as busy as she had ever been, though she was
usually carried now to and from church and other meetings. Jean she
placed at Nkanga as teacher and evangelist, the people giving her 1s.
per week and her food, and "Ma" providing her clothes. It was
astonishing to her to see how she had developed. An insatiable reader,
she would place a book open anywhere in order that she might obtain a
glimpse of the words in passing, reminding "Ma" of her own device in
the Dundee weaving-shed. Her knowledge of the Bible was so thorough and
correct that the latter considered her the best Efik teacher she knew.
Soon she gathered about her some two hundred men and women from the
upper Enyong farms, who were greatly pleased with her preaching. She
came over to Ikpe for Christmas, the first the household had spent in
that savage land, and there was a service in the church, which was
decorated with palms and wreaths of ferns. Mary told the story of
Bethlehem, and the scholar lads, of their own accord, marched through
the town singing hymns.... About this time Miss Slessor rendered
important service to the Mission by her testimony before an Imperial
Government Commission, which had been sent out to Investigate the
effects of the import, sale, and consumption of alcoholic liquor in
Southern Nigeria. She provided very convincing evidence of the
demoralisation caused through drink, but with keen intuition she felt
that little would come of the "palaver," and she was right.

                      IV. GOD'S WONDERFUL PALAVER

Her attitude to money was as unconventional as her attitude to most
things. It had no place in her interests; she never thought of it
except as a means of helping her to carry out her projects. "How I wish
we could do without it!" she often used to say. "I have no head for it,
or for business." Her salary she counted as Church money, and never
spent a penny of it on herself except for bare living, and until the
last years the girls received nothing but food and their clothes, "You
say," she wrote to one giver, "that you would like me to spend the
money on my personal comfort. Dear friend, I need nothing. My every
want is met and supplied without my asking." Her belief was thus
expressed: "What is money to God? The difficult thing is to make men
and women. Money lies all about us in the world, and He can turn it on
to our path as easily as He sends a shower of rain." Her faith was
justified in a marvellous way, for throughout all these years and
onwards to the end she obtained all she needed, and that was not
little. She required funds for extension, for building, for furniture,
for teachers' wages, for medicines, for the schooling of her children,
and many other purposes, and yet she was never in want. Nothing came
from her people, for she would not accept collections at first, not
wishing to give them the impression that the Gospel was in any way
connected with money. It came from friends, known and unknown, at home
and abroad, who were interested in her and in her brave and lonely
struggle. There was scarcely a mail that did not bring her a cheque or
bank-draft or Post-Office order. "It often happens," she said once,
"that when the purse is empty, immediately comes a new instalment. God
is superbly kind in the matter of money. I do not know how to thank
Him. It is just wonderful how we ever fail in our trust for a moment."
On one occasion, when she was a little anxious, she cried, "Shame on
you, Mary Slessor, after all you know of Him!"

Her attitude towards all this giving was one of curious detachment. She
looked upon herself as an instrument carrying out the wishes of the
people at home who supplied the means, and she gave them the honour of
what was accomplished. Their gifts justified her going forward in the
work; each fresh £10 note she took as a sign to advance another stage,
so that, in one sense, she felt her Church was backing up her efforts.
As she regarded herself as being owned by the Church, all the money she
received was devoted exclusively to its service; even donations from
outside sources she would not use for personal needs. One day she
received a letter from the Governor conveying to her, with the "deep
thanks of the Government," a gift of £25 to herself, in recognition of
her work. The letter she valued more than the money, which she would
only accept as a contribution towards her home for women. All the sums
were handed over to Mr. Wilkie or Mr. Macgregor, who banked them at
Duke Town, and they formed a general fund upon which she drew when
necessary. She looked upon this fund as belonging to the Mission
Council, to be used for extension purposes either up the Cross River or
the Enyong Creek, or for the Home for Women and Girls when the scheme
matured, and she never sought to have control of it. Mr. Wilkie was
always afraid that she was not just to herself, and she had sometimes
to restrain him from sending more than she required. It was the same
later when Mr. Hart, C.A., had charge of the accounts. This explains
why, on more than one occasion, she was reduced to borrowing or selling
books in order to obtain food for herself and her household. There was
money in abundance at Duke Town, but she would not ask it for private
necessities. Sometimes also she was so remote from civilisation that
she was unable to cash a cheque or draft in time to meet her wants.

Many a hidden romance lay behind these gifts that came to her--the
romance of love and sacrifice and devotion to Christ. One day there
arrived a sum of £50, accompanied by a charming letter. Long she looked
at both with wonder and tears. Her thoughts went back to the Edinburgh
days, when she was a girl, on the eve of leaving for Calabar. One of
her friends then was a Biblewoman, who was very good to her. Always on
her furloughs she had gone to see her in the humble home in which she
lay an invalid, or as Mary expressed it, "lingering at the gate of the
city." She thought she must now be dependent upon others, for she was
old and frail. And yet here she had sent out £50 to help on her work.

If there was romance in the giving, there was pathos in the spending.
Acknowledging sums she was bidden expend upon herself, she would go
into detail as to her purchases--a new Efik Bible to replace her old
tattered copy, the hire of three boys to carry her over the streams,
seed coco yams for the girls' plots, a basin and ewer for her guest-
room--"I can't," she said, "ask visitors to wash in a pail,"--a lamp,
and so on. She sought to explain and extenuate the spending of every
penny. "Is that extravagant?" "Is that too selfish?" she anxiously
asked. After enumerating a number of things which she intended to buy
for Ikpe house, she said, "Does that seem too prosaic? But it will
clarify your views of Mission work, and make them more practical and
real, for, you see, the missionary cannot go about like Adam and Eve,
and the natives must be taught cleanliness and order, and be civilised
as well as Christianised."

Her own small financial affairs had been in the hands of her old friend
Mr. Logic, Dundee, whose death in 1910 sent her into silence and
darkness for weeks. He had been like a father to her; to him, indeed,
she chiefly owed the realisation of her dream to be a missionary. She
did not know for a time how she stood, and as her purse was nearly
empty, she was growing anxious, when a small amount arrived from a
friend, to whom she wrote: "I have been praying for a fortnight for
money to come from somewhere, as I have been living on 7s. given to the
children by a merchant here who is a great friend of our household. So
your gift is a direct answer to prayer. '_Before they call I will
answer_.'" She applied to Mr. Slight, another tried friend, who had
been Treasurer of the United Presbyterian Church, and took a warm
personal interest in all the missionaries, and after the Union was the
accountant of the United Free Church. He made matters simple and clear
to her understanding and set her fears at rest--she had no debts of any
kind save debts of gratitude. Mr. Slight's death in 1912 again made her
feel orphaned. "I had no idea how much I leant on him till he was
removed, and it seems now that my last link with the old Church has
snapped. What he has done for me through a score of years I can never
acknowledge warmly enough." In later years her affairs at home were
managed by Miss Adam.

Congregations continued to send her boxes of goods, whilst her own
friends were unceasing in their thought for her. "I should never
mention a want," she told them, "because you just take it up and bear
the burden yourselves, and it makes me ashamed. Here are all my needs
in clothing for the children and myself anticipated, and here are
luxuries of food and good things, and all steeped and folded in the
most delicate and tender sympathy and love. Surely no one has so many
mercies as I have." She saw few pretty things, and had never the
opportunity of looking into a shop window, so that the arrival of these
boxes was an occasion of much pleasurable excitement to her and to the
girls. Her only trouble was that she could not hand on some of the food
to others; "When you have a good thing, or read a good thing, or see a
humorous thing, and can't share it, it is worse than having to bear a
trial alone." She was particularly grateful for a box of Christmas
goods that came in 1911. She had been much upset by the local food, and
she ate nothing but shortbread and bun for a week, and that made her

The people about her, too, were kind. Women would bring her presents of
produce; one, for instance, gave her fifteen large yams and a half-
crown bag of rice, and a large quantity of shrimps. "You are a stranger
in these markets," she said, "and the children may be hungry."

                           V. WEAK BUT STRONG

She met with a severe disappointment early in 1912. The Calabar Council
was willing to send two ladies to Ikpe, but thought it right to obtain
a medical report on the site which had been given for the house. This
was unfavourable; the Creek overflowed its banks for four hundred paces
on one side and thirty on the other, and the surroundings of the house
would be muddy and damp. She would not, however, acquiesce in the
judgment thus passed, and remained on, and prosecuted the work as
usual. The Council was very anxious for her to take a furlough, and her
friends, personal and official, in Scotland were also urging her to
come for a rest. She had now never an hour of real health or strength,
and was growing deaf, and felt like "a spluttering candle," and she
began to think it would be the wisest thing to do. As the idea took
definite shape in her mind, she looked forward with zest to the renewal
of old friendships. "We shall have our fill of talk and the silences
which are the music of friendship." The East Coast of Scotland was now
barred to her by medical opinion, but she had visions of the lonely
hills of the south, and of Yarrow, and all that Border country where
she had spent so many happy days, and would go there, away from the
crowds and the rush.

Discerning a note of pity in the letters from Scotland, she bade her
friends not to waste their sympathy upon her. "I am just surrounded
with love," she wrote. It was to the children she referred. "I wake up
in the early dusk of the dawn and call them, and before I can see to
take my Bible, the hot cup of tea is there, and a kiddie to kiss me
'Good-morning' and ask, 'Ma, did you sleep?'" It was not wonderful that
she loved those black girls. They had been with her from their birth.
She had nursed them and brought them up and taught them all they knew,
and they had been faithful to her with the faithfulness which is one of
the most remarkable traits in the African nature. Mary could never
abide the superior folk who referred slightingly to them because of
their black skin, and she was too proud to justify her feelings towards
them. Alice, the "princess," had now grown into a fine womanly girl,
quiet and steady and thoughtful. One night in the dark she crept to
"Ma's" side and shyly told her that some months before she had given
her heart to Christ. It was a moment of rare joy. As neither Alice nor
Maggie was betrothed-though often sought after-and they had no legal
protector against insult, she decided to send them for training to the
Edgerley Memorial School, where they would be under the influence and
care of Miss Young, another capable agent whom she had led to become a
missionary and with whom she had a very close and tender friendship.
She regarded her as an ideal worker, for she had been thoroughly
trained in domestic science. "I would have liked that sort of training
better than the Normal training I got at Moray House," she said.

Meanwhile, as she was forbidden to cycle, her thoughts harked back to
her old plan of a "box on wheels." She had never been reconciled to a
hammock. "I feel a brute in it, it seems so selfish to be lying there,
while four boys sweat like beasts of burden. To push a little carriage
is like skilled labour and no degradation." She, therefore, wrote to
Miss Adam, whom she called the "joint-pastor" of her people, to send
out a catalogue of "these things." Miss Adam was, however, unwell, and
the ladles of Wellington Street Church, Glasgow, hearing of the
request, promptly despatched what was called a Cape cart, a kind of
basket-chair, capable of being wheeled by two boys or girls. The gift
sent her whole being thrilling with gratitude, as well as with shame
for being so unworthy of so much kindness, but her comfort was that it
was for God's work, and she took it as from Him.

The vehicle proved a success, but the success proved the undoing of her
furlough. "Instead of going home as I had planned, in order to get
strength for a wider range of work, I shall stay on and enjoy the
privilege of going over ground impossible for my poor limbs." On one of
the first drives she had, she went in search of a site for a new and
larger church which she had determined to build., and was gathering
material for, at Use, and then she planned to go to Ikpe via Ikot
Ekpene by the new Government road, opening up out-stations wherever she
could get a village to listen to the message. Her aim, indeed, was
nothing less than to plant the whole Ibibio territory with a network of
schools and churches. She seemed to grow more wonderful the older and
frailer she became.

The spurt lasted for a time, but again the terrible weakness troubled
her, and she had to conduct household affairs from a couch. School work
was carried through on the verandah, and when she spoke in the church
she was borne there and back. She came to see that only a real change
would do her permanent good, and that it would be true economy to take
a trip home, even for the sake of the voyage, which, much as she feared
the sea, always invigorated her. What made her hesitate now was the
depleted condition of the Mission. "We were never so short-handed
before," she said, "and I can do what others cannot do, what, indeed,
medical opinion would not allow them to try. No one meddles with me,
and I can slip along and do my work with less expenditure of strength
than any," Had there been some one to fill her place she would have
gone, but she was very reluctant to shut the doors of the stations for
so long a period. How she regarded the idea may be gathered from a
letter to a friend who had given her some domestic news:--

These little glimpses, like pictures, of home and the old country, of
family ties and love, make me long for just one long summer day in the
midst, if only as an onlooker, and for the touch of loving hands and a
bit of family worship in our own tongue, and maybe a Sabbath service
thrown in with a psalm and an old-fashioned tune, and then I should
feel ready for a long spell of work. But I should fret if it were to
take me from this, my own real life and home and bairns. This life is
full, the other lies at the back quiescent, and is a precious
possession to muse on during the night or in the long evening hours
when I'm too tired to sleep and the light is not good enough to read or
sew, or mostly when I'm not well and the doldrums come very near. But I
should choose this life if I had to begin again; only I should try to
live it to better purpose.

Another respite or two carried her into the middle of the year, when
her opportunity of a furlough was lost. She said she would have to hold
on now for another winter--or go up higher. In September she completed
thirty-six years as a missionary, and took humorous stock of herself:
"I'm lame and feeble and foolish; the wrinkles are wonderful-no
concertina is so wonderfully folded and convulated. I'm a wee, wee
wifie, verra little buikit--but I grip on well, none the less." "Ay,"
said an old doctor friend to her, "you are a strong woman, 'Ma.' You
ought to have been dead by ordinary rule long ago--any one else would."

                         VI. HER FIRST HOLIDAY

Anxiety as to her health deepened both in Calabar and Scotland, and
pressure was brought upon her to take a rest. One of her lady friends
on the Women's Foreign Mission Committee, Miss Cook, appreciated her
fear of the home winter, and wrote asking her to take a holiday to the
Canary Islands, and begged the kindness at her hands of being allowed
to pay the expense. "I believe," she said, "in taking care of the
Lord's servant. I am afraid you do not fully realise how valuable you
are to us all, the Church at home, and the Church In Nigeria." The
offer, so delicately put, brought tears to Mary's eyes, and it made her
wonder whether after all she was safeguarding her health enough in the
interests of the Church. As soon as the matter became a duty, she gave
it careful consideration, resolving to abstain from going up to Ikpe,
and to go down to Duke Town instead, where she would consult the
Wilkies and the Macgregors. But she would not dream of the cost of any
change being borne by Miss Cook, and she asked Miss Adam to find out if
her funds would allow of her taking a trip. There was no difficulty
regarding clothing. Among the Mission boxes she had received was one
full of warm material, and she surmised that God was on the side of a

Her friends at Calabar did not hesitate a moment; they wanted her off
at once. She went to consult her old friend, Dr. Adam, the senior
medical officer, that "burning and shining light," as she called him,
who first showed her through the Hospital, where she spoke with loving
entreaty to every patient she passed, and left many in tears. After a
thorough examination, he earnestly besought her to take the next boat
to Grand Canary. Still she shrank from the prospect. It was a selfish
thing to do; there were others more in need of a holiday than she, it
was a piece of extravagance, it would involve closing up the stations.
And yet might it not be meant? Might it not be of the nature of a good
investment? Might she not be able for better work? Might it not do away
with the necessity for a furlough in the following year? She decided to

It was arranged that Jean should accompany her, and that she should put
up at the Hotel Santa Catalina, Las Palmas. Letters from Government
officials were sent to smooth the way there for her. Miss Young and
others prepared her outfit, and made her, as she said, "wise-like and
decent,"--she, the while, holding daily receptions, for she was now
regarded as one of the West African sights, and every one came to call
upon her. Mr. Wilkie managed the financial side, and gave the cash-box
to the Captain. When she transhipped at Forcados. it was handed to the
other Captain, and he on arrival at the Islands passed it on to the
manager of the hotel. On board she was carried up and down to meals,
and received the utmost kindness from officers and passengers alike.
The Captain said he was prouder to have shaken hands with her than if
she had been King George. The season at Grand Canary had not begun,
and there were very few visitors at the hotel. Those who were there saw
a frail nervous old lady, followed by a black girl who was too shy to
raise her eyes. "We were certainly a frightened pair," Mary afterwards
confessed. But the management attended to her as if she were a
princess. "What love is wrapped round me!" she wrote. "All are kind,--
the manager's family, the doctor's family, and the visitors. It is
simply wonderful. I can't say anything else."

The first days were spent in the grounds, drinking in the pure air,
watching the changing sea and sky, and admiring the brilliant
vegetation. The English flowers, roses and geraniums and Michaelmas
daisies and mignonette, were a continual joy, whilst the crimson clouds
piled above the sapphire sea often made her think of the "city of pure
gold." Later, she was able to ascend the hill at the back, and "there"
she says, "I sat and knitted and crocheted and sewed and worked through
the Bible all the day long, fanned by the sea-breeze and warmed by the
sun, and the good housekeeper sent up lunch and tea to save my walking,
and in the silence and beauty and peace I communed with God. He is so
near and so dear. Oh, if I only get another day in which to work! I
hope it will be more full of earnestness and blessing than the past."

It was her first real holiday, but she felt it had been worth waiting a
lifetime for. There was something infinitely pathetic in her ecstasy of
enjoyment and the gratitude for the simple pleasures that came to her.
Only one thread of anxiety ran through her days, the thought of the
appalling expense she was incurring, for she had made up her mind that
the cost was to be paid out of her own slender funds.

A lady in the hotel, with whom she formed an intimate and lasting
friendship, and who saw much of her, gives this impression of her

She made many friends, her loving sympathy, her simplicity, her keen
interest in all around her, her sense of humour and love of fun
endearing her to all. The entire negation of self which she evinced was
remarkable, as well as her childlike faith and devotion to her Master
and to His service. A lady was heard to say, "Well, after talking to
Miss Slessor I am converted to foreign missions," Her mind was ever
upon her work and her children, and she used often to say she was
idling, there was so much to be done, and so little time in which to do
it. Of all the people I have met she impressed me the most as the
perfect embodiment of the Christian life,

Jean waited upon her mother-mistress with a patient and thoughtful
devotion which was a wonder to those who saw it. She wore her Calabar
frock and bandana, and had she not been a very sane person, her head
would have been turned, for she was a favourite with every one, and was
given as many ribbons as would serve her all her life. But she was as
shy the day she left as when she arrived.

The departure came in the middle of the night. A general and his aide-
de-camp and a merchant each offered to convoy her to the ship, and
pleaded that they had conveyances, but the manager of the hotel would
not hear of it, saw her himself safely into her cabin, and placed the
cash-box once more into the Captain's hands. It was the same steamer by
which she had travelled to the Islands, so that she felt at home. On
board also was Dr. Hitchcock, on his way out again to take up work at
Uburu, a large market town in the far north amongst a strangely
interesting tribe. How she envied him, young and strong and
enthusiastic, entering on such glorious pioneer work! At Accra the
Governor of the Gold Coast, a stranger to her, sent off to the steamer
a bouquet of flowers, with an expression of his homage and best wishes
for a renewal of her health.

When she arrived at Duke Town Dr. Adam again examined her, assisted by
Professor Leiper of the London School of Tropical Medicine, and the
verdict was: "Good for many years-if you only take care."

She was given written directions as to the care of her health, and
these she regarded with a rueful face. "Life will hardly be worth
living now," she said. "But for the work's sake I must obey. God wants
us to be efficient, and we cannot be so except by living decently and
taking care of the wonderful body He has given us."

She turned up her Bible and found the verse she had marked as a
"promise" before leaving: "_But if the Spirit of Him that raised up
Jesus from the dead dwell in you, He that raised up Christ from the
dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by the spirit that dwelleth
in you_." She saw now that this meant something besides the
Resurrection, for the voyage, the climate, the food, and the rest had
worked in her a miracle, and she realised more than ever what prayer
and faith could do for the body as well as for the spirit. There was a
lesson in it, too, she thought, for the Church. She had had a month at
sea, and a month in the Islands, with the best of care and food, and no
furlough had ever done her more good. She felt that a visit to Scotland
would not have rested her so much. There was the bustle and excitement
and movement and speaking-of all the bugbears of a furlough, she said,
speaking at meetings was the chief. If only the hard deputy work at
home could be eliminated from the missionaries' programme, they would
have a happier and a better time. But here the personal equation
obscured her judgment. For to abandon the system would be to do away
with the intimate touch and association by which interest in the
Mission Field is so largely maintained. To many missionaries, also, the
duty of telling to the congregations up and down the country the story
of their work is one of the chief pleasures of their furlough.

Laden with chemical foods, medicines, and advice, she returned to Use
to find that the entire cost of the trip had been defrayed by Miss
Cook, who wrote: "I am only sorry that I did not beg you to stay longer
in order to reap more benefit. Come home next year; we all want to see

                              VII. INJURED

But a furlough home was far from her thoughts. She rejoiced in her new
strength, and set herself with grim determination to redeem the time.
She was now doing double work, carrying on all the activities of the
settled station at Use, and establishing her pioneer centre at Ikpe.
During the next two years she travelled between the two points,
sometimes using the canoe, but more often now the Government motor car,
which ran round by Ikot Ekpene and dropped her at the terminus, five
miles from Ikpe. David was the driver, and she had thus always the
opportunity of seeing Mary, his wife, who lived at Ikot Ekpene.

At Use the work had gone on as usual; there had been no backsliding,
and the services and classes had been kept up by the people themselves;
and she proceeded with the building of the new church, which was
erected under her superintendence and without any outside help. When
she was at Ikpe she placed Annie's husband--they were both now members
of the Church--in charge, and he conducted the services, but Miss
Peacock, whom Mary styled her "Bishop," gave general supervision.

On one of her early journeys up to Ikpe she met with a slight accident,
a pellet of mud striking one of her eyes. The people were alarmed at
the result, and would have gone off at once to the District
Commissioner had she not restrained them. Some native workmen passing
his station later mentioned the incident, and within a few minutes the
officer had a mounted messenger speeding along the tract to Ikpe, with
an urgent order to the people to get her conveyed in the Cape cart to
the nearest point on the road, where he would have a motor car waiting.
Next morning, although it was market day, the members of the church
left everything and took her to the spot indicated. Here were the
District Commissioner and a doctor, with eye-shade and medicine and
every comfort, and with the utmost despatch she was taken round the
Government road to Use. The hurt was followed by erysipelas, and she
was blind for a fortnight and suffered acute pain and heavy fever; but
very shame at being ill after so fine a holiday made her get up
although the eye was swollen and "sulky," and she was soon in the midst
of her work at Ikpe as if nothing had happened.

Building, cementing, painting, varnishing, teaching, healing, and
preaching filled in the days. A visitor found her once at 10 A.M.
finishing school in a shed. She continued it in the afternoon. Then she
visited the yards of the people, and they crowded round her and brought
her gifts of food. Later she leant against a fallen tree trunk and
talked to one and another. In the gathering dusk she sat on a small
stool and attended to the sick and dressed their sores. After dinner
some men and lads arrived carrying lamps, and she held her catechumens'
class--a very earnest and prayerful gathering.

The burden of the untouched region around her vexed her mind. Sometimes
she was depressed about it all, and said she would need to fill her
letters with nonsense, for "it would not bear writing." Time and again
she sought to impress her friends with the needs of the situation: "The
last time I was at school I counted eight hundred women and girls
running past in eager competition to secure the best places at the
fishing-grounds where the men had been working all the morning, and
these are but a fraction of our womankind. But what can I do with
supervision of the school and church and dispensary and household?" She
did not pretend that she worked her station properly, and she pointed
out how necessary settled, steady, persevering teaching was. "These
infant churches," she said, "need so much to be instructed. The adults
are illiterate, and the young need systematic teaching of the Bible.
They are an emotional people, and are fain to keep to speaking and
singing and long prayers, and the sterner practical side of
Christianity is set aside. They are children in everything that
matters, and when we have led them to Christ we are apt to forget how
much more they need in order to make a strong, upright, ethical
character on which to build a nation. Then we need a literature, and
this, too, is the work of the Church. What ails it? _Is it not
forgetting that God can't give His best till we have given ours?"_

With all its bustle it was a very lonely and isolated life she led.
There was no mail delivery, and she had to depend mainly on the
kindness of Government officials to forward her correspondence. "I have
been here seven weeks," she wrote on one occasion, "without one scrap
from the outside--letter or paper--nothing to read but the old
advertisement sheets of papers lining the press and the boxes. If you
wish for the names of hotels or boarding-houses In any part of Europe--
send to me. I have them all on my tongue's end." It was a red-letter
day when a stray white visitor entered the district, for there would be
tea and a talk, and a bundle of newspapers would be left--one never
forgets another in this way in the bush. She was amused to receive a
note from Scotland asking her to hand on a message to Dr. Hitchcock at
Uburu. "Do you know?" she replied, "you are nearer him than I am--the
quickest way for me to send it is via Britain!"

Life was not without its menace from wild beasts, the forest being full
of them, and the doors had always to be closed and fastened at night to
keep them out. Snakes were prevalent, and prowled about the building,
and many a fight Jean and the others had with the intruders.


Throughout these years, as always, "Ma" Slessor's relations with the
Government officials were of the most friendly nature, It was
remarkable that although she was essentially feminine and religious,
and although she was engaged in Mission work, she attracted men of all
types of character. Much of this power was due to her intense sympathy,
which enabled her to get close to minds that would otherwise have been
shut to her. What she wrote of another applies to herself:

What a strange thing is sympathy! Undefinable, untranslatable, and yet
the most real thing and the greatest power in human life! How strangely
our souls leap out to some other soul without our choosing or knowing
the why. The man or woman who has this subtle gift of sympathy and
magnetism of soul possesses the most precious thing on earth. Hence it
is rare. So few could be trusted with such a delicate, sensitive,
Godlike power and hold it unsullied that God seems to be hampered for
want of means for its expression. Is that the reason that He made His
Son a "Man of Sorrows and acquainted with grief"?

Most of these men had no interest in missions, and some did not believe
in them. "The more I see of mission work in West Africa the less I like
it," said one frankly to her. "Give me the genuine bushman, who
respects his ancestral deities and his chief and himself.... But if all
missionaries were like you!" None of these men belonged to her own
Church; three of her favourites were Roman Catholics. Her introductions
to some were of the most informal character. One day a stranger
appeared and found her busy on the roof of the house. "Well," she said,
eyeing him critically, "what do you want?" He stood, hat in hand.
"Please, Ma'am," he replied meekly, "I'm your new District
Commissioner--but I can't help it!" She was delighted, and took him
into the inner circle at once. As frequent changes took place in the
staff, the number whose acquaintance she made gradually increased,
until she became known and talked of in all the colonies on the West
Coast and even in other parts of the world.

The official view of her work and character differed little from any
other. Says one who knew her long and well:

I suppose that a pluckier woman has rarely existed. Her life-work she
carried out with immeasurable courage and capacity. Her strength of
character was extraordinary, and her life was one of absolute
unselfishness. She commanded the respect and confidence of all parties,
and for years I would have personally trusted to her judgment on native
matters in preference to all others. Shrewd, quick-witted, sympathetic,
yet down on any one who presumed, she would with wonderful patience
hear all sides equally. Her judgment was prompt, sometimes severe, but
always just. She would speak much of her work to those who, she knew,
took an interest in it, but very rarely of herself.

Another writes:

My first impression of her was that she was a lady of great strength of
mind and sound common sense. Also that for one who had lived so many
years in the bush wilds she was very well read and up-to-date on all

Mr. T. D. Maxwell, who knew her in Okoyong days and to the end, says:

I am sure that her own Church never had a more loyal adherent, but her
outlook on this life--and the next--was never narrow. Her religion was
above religions--certainly above religious differences, I have often
heard her speak of the faiths and rituals of others, but never without
the deepest interest and sympathy. She was young to the end; young in
her enthusiasm, her sympathy, her boundless energy, her never-failing
sense of humour, her gift of repartee, her ability always to strike the
apt--even the corrosive--epithet. A visit to her was, to use one of her
own phrases, "like a breath o' caller air to a weary body"--and in West
Africa that means incomparably more than it can at Home.

It was a peculiarly affectionate relation that existed between her and
many of those men whom she regarded as "the strength and the glory of
Britain." A witty member of the Mission once said they were given over
to "Mariolatry"--an allusion to her first name. They never were near
without visiting her, and often made long journeys for the privilege of
a talk. They were delighted with her sense of humour, and teased her as
well as lionised her. Half the fun of a visit to her was taking her
unawares, and they often threatened to bring their cameras and
"snapshot" her on sight, "Ma," they would write before calling, "get
your shoes on, we are coming to tea!"

They wrote her about their work and ambitions and worries as if she
were a mother or sister, and discussed the political and racial
problems of the country as if she were a colleague, always with a
delicate deference to her experience and knowledge, sometimes veiled in
light banter. "I am at your feet, Ma," said one, "and your wisdom is
that of Solomon." They often twitted her about being able to twist them
round her little finger: "You break our hearts, and get your own way
shockingly." On one occasion she received a grave and formal Government
typewritten communication about land, which ended in this way:

                  I have the honour to be,

                   _and affectionate_
                  Your obedient servant.

When they left the Colony they kept up the friendship. Many were bad
correspondents, yet from the remotest parts of the world they wrote
letters, as long as her own, full of kind enquiries about her work and
the bairns, and begging for a reply.

On her part she wrote them racy and informative letters; and she also
got into touch with their mothers, sisters, and wives at home, who
welcomed her news of the absent ones, and were good to her in turn. One
lady she delighted by praising her husband. "Naturally," the lady
replied, "I agree with you, and you are welcome to court and woo him as
much as you like!" A high official brought out his wife, and she wrote
Mary from a desire to make her husband's friends hers also. She ended
in the usual way, but he added, "She sends her kindest regards--_I_
send my love!" The nature of some of the friendships formed at home
through officials may be surmised from an order she gave for a silver
gift, value £5, to be sent to the first-born child of one of her
"chums." It went to the mother, and the inscription was "From one whom
his father has helped."

Very notable was the kindness shown by the Government to her as woman
and missionary. Instructions were issued that she was to be allowed to
use any and every conveyance belonging to them in the Colony, on any
road or river, and that every help was to be afforded to her. Workmen
were lent to her to execute repairs on her houses. Individual members
sought opportunities to be kind to her. She was taken her first motor-
car drive by a Commissioner. The highest officials did not think it
beneath them to buy feeding-bottles and forward them on by express
messenger. They sent her gifts of books, magazines, and papers--one
forwarded _The Times_ for years--and at Christmas there would come plum
puddings, crackers, and sweets. One dark, showery night the Governor of
Southern Nigeria, Sir W. Egerton, and several officials appeared at her
house to greet her, and left a case of milk, two cakes, and boxes of
chocolates and crystallised fruit. "The Governor is a Scotsman," she
wrote, "and must be sympathetic to mission work, or else why did he
come with his retinue and all to a mud house and see me at that cost to
his comfort and time on a wet night?" Lord Egerton was charmed with
her. Replying to some remark of his she said, "Hoots, my dear laddie--I
mean Sir!"

It was the great anxiety of her official friends that she should not
outlive her powers: her influence generally was so great that to them
the thought of this was distressing. They were always very solicitous
about her health, writing to her frequently to say that she should take
life more easily, "Take care of yourself, Ma--as much as you can."
"Don't be so ridiculously unselfish." "Learn a little selfishness--it
will do you all the good in the world," was the advice showered upon
her. When she had the Court work she was often urged to take a month's
holiday. On hearing of her intention to go to Ikpe one wrote, "Dear
Lady, I hate the idea of your going so far into the bush. Don't go.
There are plenty of men willing and eager to be of service to you, but
away up there you are far away from help or care." Another warned her
against the people; "But," he added, "we know you will go in spite of
it--and conquer!"

Latterly they became more importunate. "Do be careful," one wrote. "Do
take quinine and sleep under a net and drink filtered water." Her
custom of going hatless into the blazing sunshine was long a sore
point, and when they failed to persuade her of the danger, they
resorted to scheming. "We know why you do it," they said artfully. "You
know you have pretty hair and like to display it uncovered, imagining
that it gets its golden glint from the sun. Oh, vanity of vanities!
Fancy a nice, quiet missionary being so vain!" Certainly no argument
could have sent her more quickly to the milliner's.

                        IX. POWER THROUGH PRAYER

The power which enabled Mary Slessor to live so intensely, to triumph
over physical weakness, and to face the dangers of the African bush,
and gave her the magnetic personality that captivated the hearts of
white and black alike, was derived from her intimate and constant
contact with the Unseen, and the means of that contact were prayer and
the Bible.

She had an implicit belief in the reality of prayer, simply because she
had tested its efficacy every day of her life, and had never found it
to fail. When her old friend, Mr. Smith of Dundee, asked for her
testimony to include in his book, _Our Faithful God: Answers to
Prayer_, she wrote:

My life is one long daily, hourly, record of answered prayer. For
physical health, for mental overstrain, for guidance given
marvellously, for errors and dangers averted, for enmity to the Gospel
subdued, for food provided at the exact hour needed, for everything
that goes to make up life and my poor service, I can testify with a
full and often wonder-stricken awe that I believe God answers prayer. I
know God answers prayer. I have proved during long decades while alone,
as far as man's help and presence are concerned, that God answers
prayer. Cavilings, logical or physical, are of no avail to me. It is
the very atmosphere in which I live and breathe and have my being, and
it makes life glad and free and a million times worth living. I can
give no other testimony. I am sitting alone here on a log among a
company of natives. My children, whose very lives are a testimony that
God answers prayer, are working round me. Natives are crowding past on
the bush road to attend palavers, and I am at perfect peace, far from
my own countrymen and conditions, because I know God answers prayer.
Food is scarce just now. We live from hand to mouth. We have not more
than will be our breakfast to-day, but I know we shall be fed, for God
answers prayer.

She realised that prayer was hedged round by conditions, and that
everything depended upon the nature of the correspondence between earth
and heaven. She likened the process to a wireless message, saying, "We
can only obtain God's best by fitness of receiving power. Without
receivers fitted and kept in order the air may tingle and thrill with
the message, but it will not reach my spirit and consciousness." And
she knew equally well that all prayer was not worthy of being answered.
Those who were disappointed she would ask to look intelligently at
first causes as well as regretfully at second causes. To one who said
he had prayed without avail, she wrote: "You thought God was to hear
and answer you by making everything straight and pleasant--not so are
nations or churches or men and women born; not so is character made.
God is answering your prayer in His way." And to another who was in
similar mood she wrote: "I know what it is to pray long years and never
get the answer--I had to pray for my father. But I know my heavenly
Father so well that I can leave it with Him for the lower fatherhood."
In this as in other things she had to confess that she herself often
failed. "I am a poor exponent of faith," she would say. "I ought to
have full faith in our Father that He will do everything, but I am
ashamed of myself, for I want to 'see,' and that sends faith out of
court. I never felt more in sympathy with that old afflicted father
before in his prayer, 'Lord, I believe, help Thou my unbelief'--every
syllable suits me."

She had absolute faith in intercession, "Prayer," she said, "is the
greatest power God has put into our hands for service--praying is
harder work than doing, at least I find it so, but the dynamic lies
that way to advance the Kingdom." She believed that some of her
official friends, the Empire-builders, were kept straight in this way:
"The bands that mothers and sisters weave by prayer and precept are the
strongest in the world." There was nothing she asked her friends more
often at home to do than to pray for the Mission and the workers.
"Don't stop praying for us," she pleaded, and her injunctions were
sometimes pathetic in their personal application: "Pray that the power
of Christ may rest on me, that He may never be disappointed in me or
find me disobedient to the heavenly vision when He shows the way, pray
that I may make no false moves, but that the spirit will say, 'Go here
and go there,'" She was always convinced that it was the prayers of the
people in Scotland that carried her on and made the work possible. "It
is so customary to put aside those who, like myself, are old-fashioned
and unable for the burden and heat of the day; but in my case it is
care and love and forbearance all the way through; and all this I trace
back to the great amount of prayer which has ever followed me, to the
quality more than the quantity of that intercession. Prayer-waves
pulsate from Britain all through Calabar." To one who had always prayed
for her she also wrote: "I have always said that I have no idea how and
why God has carried me over so many funny and hard places, and made
these hordes of people submit to me, or why the Government should have
given me the privilege of a magistrate among them, except in answer to
prayer made at home for me. It is all beyond my comprehension. The only
way I can explain it is on the ground that I have been prayed for more
than most. Pray on, dear one-the power lies that way." She also urged
prayer for the Mission Committees, Home and Foreign--"We expect them to
do so much and to do it so well, and yet we withhold the means by which
alone they can do it."

Almost invariably, when acknowledging money, she would beg the donors
to follow up their gifts by prayer for workers. "Now," she would say,
"let us ask God earnestly and constantly for the greater gift of men
and women to fill all these vacant posts."

She used to pray much for her friends in all their circumstances,
asking for many things for them that they desired, but eventually her
petition came to be, "Lord give them Thy best and it shall suffice them
and me."

Her religion was a religion of the heart, and her communion with her
Father was of the most natural, most childlike character. No rule or
habit guided her. She just spoke to Him as a child to her Father when
she needed help and strength, or when her heart was filled with joy and
gratitude, at any time, in any place. He was so real to her, so near,
that her words were almost of the nature of conversation. There was no
formality, no self-conscious or stereotyped diction, only the simplest
language from a quiet and humble heart. It is told of her that when in
Scotland, after a tiresome journey, she sat down at the tea-table
alone, and, lifting her eyes, said, "Thank ye, Faither--ye ken I'm
tired," in the most ordinary way, as if she had been addressing her
friends. On another occasion, in the country, she lost her spectacles
while coming from a meeting in the dark. Snow lay on the ground, and
there seemed little hope of recovering them. She could not do without
them, and she prayed simply and directly: "O Father, give me back my
spectacles." Early next morning the milk-boy saw something glistening
in the snow, and she had the spectacles in time to read her Bible. A
lady asked her how she obtained such intimacy with God. "Ah, woman,"
she said, "when I am out there in the bush I have often no other one to
speak to but my Father, and I just talk to Him." It was in that way she
kept herself in tune with the highest. Sometimes, when there had been
laughing and frivolous conversation before a meeting, she lost "grip,"
and was vexed and restless and dumb. But a little communion with her
Father would put matters right. Once, oppressed by a similar mood, she
foresaw complete failure, but the minister who presided, as if
conscious of her attitude, prayed in such a way as to lift the burden
from her heart, and she was given not only a calm spirit but also an
eloquent tongue.

How natural it was for her to pray is evidenced by an incident at one
of the ladies' committee meetings at Duke Town. Speaking of it she
said, "All the ladies were laughing and daffin' over something of a
picturesque sort, when it struck me we ought to be praying rather, and
I just said so, and at once the whole lot jumped up, and we went into
the nearest room and were closeted with our Master for a bit."
Sometimes in the Mission House she would call the children to prayer
at odd hours, and Jean would remonstrate and say, "Ma, the time is long
past." "Jean," she would reply, "the gate of heaven is never shut." She
said she wished to teach them that they could pray anywhere and at any
time, and not only in the church.

"_We are not really apart," she once wrote to a friend in Scotland,
"_for you can touch God direct by prayer, and so can I_."

                            X. BIBLE STUDENT

She had always been an earnest and intelligent student of the Bible,
and to her it grew more wonderful every day. She believed that the
spread of the Book was the simplest and most natural and direct way of
preaching the Gospel and keeping it pure. Her own reading of it was
mainly accomplished in the early morning. As soon as there was light
enough--which was usually about 5.30--she took a fine pen and her Bible
and turned to the book she was studying in the Old or New Testament.
She underlined the governing words and sentences as she went along in
her endeavour to grasp the meaning of the writer and the course of his
argument; word by word, sentence by sentence, she patiently followed
his thought. Sometimes it would be three days before she completed a
chapter, but she would not leave it until she had some kind of idea as
to its purpose. She was her own commentator, and on the margin she
noted the truths she had learned, the lessons she had received, her
opinions about the sentiment expressed, or the character described. If
her expositions were not according to the ordinary canons of exegesis,
they had the merit of being simple, fresh, and unconventional. Her
language was as candid, often as pungent, as her remarks in
conversation, its very frankness and force indicating how real to her
were the life and conditions she was studying. When one Bible was
finished she began another, and repeated the process, for she found
that new thoughts came as the years went by. On one occasion we find
her interested in a recent translation, reading it to discover whether
it gave any clearer construction of the more difficult passages. Such
sedulous study had its effect upon her character and life; she was
interpenetrated with the spirit of the Book; it gave her direction in
all her affairs--in her difficult palavers she would remark, "Let us
see what the Bible says on this point "--it inspired her with hope,
faith, and, and courage. Often after an hour or two of meditation over
it she felt no desire for ordinary literature, all other books seeming
tame and tasteless after its pages.

Some of the later Bibles she used are in existence, and bear testimony
to the thoroughness of her methods. Almost every page is a mass of
interlineations and notes. As one turns them over, phrases here and
there catch the eye, arresting in thought and epigrammatic in form;
such for instance as these:

_God is never behind time.

If you play with temptation do not expect God will deliver you.

A gracious woman has gracious friendships.

No gift or genius or position can keep us safe or free from sin.

Nature is under fixed and fine laws, but it cannot meet the need of

We must see and know Christ before we can teach.

Good is good, but it is not enough; it must be God.

The secret of all failure is disobedience,

Unspiritual man cannot stand success.

There is no escape from the reflex action of sin; broken law will have
its revenge,

Sin is loss for time and eternity,

The smallest things are as absolutely necessary as the great things.

An arm of flesh never brings power.

Half the world's sorrow comes from the unwisdom of parents.

Obedience brings health,

Blessed the man and woman who is able to serve cheerfully in the second
rank--a big test,

What they were weary of was the punishment, not the sin that brought

Slavery never pays; the slave is spoiled as a man, and the master not
less so.

It were worth while to die, if thereby a soul could be born again._

She was deeply interested in the earlier books, for the reason that the
moral and social conditions depicted there were analogous to those she
had to deal with in Calabar. Every now and then we come across such
remarks as these: "a Calabar palaver," "a chapter of Calabar history,"
"a picture of Calabar outside the gospel area," "this happens in
Okoyong every day." Her own experience helped her to understand the
story of these primitive civilisations, and her annotations on this
part of the Bible have always the sharpest point. To the sentence, "The
Lord watch between me and thee," she appends, "Beautiful sentiment, but
a _mbiam_ oath of fear." Jacob she terms in one place a "selfish
beggar." Of Jael she says, "Not a womanly woman, a sorry story; would
God not have showed her a better way if she had asked?" and of part of
Deborah's song she remarks, "Fine poetry, poor morality." Her opinion
of Jezebel is thus expressed: "A vain, heartless woman; one of the most
revolting stories in history, and she might have been such a queen! A
good woman is the most beautiful thing on earth, but a bad woman is a
source of corruption.... Had only her soul been clean, dogs might have
been welcome to her body."

The book of Job was always well studied. She had a great admiration for
the "upright, wealthy, greatly-feared, and respected sheikh," and
little or none for the "typical philosophers," who came, Calabar
fashion, and sought to comfort him in his day of trial. Job was not, in
her view, rebellious; "his plaint was a relief to his own spirit, and
an appeal for sympathy." On chapter ix. she writes, "The atmosphere is
clearing; the clouds are scattering, glimpses of sunshine, of
starlight, and beauty; the spirit swings back on its pivot and begins
to see God." Farther on, "Right, Job--turn to God I Leave it to Him--
the fit of depression will pass when you have sounded the depths, and
profit will follow." On chapter xviii. her comment is, "Such is the
friendship of the world"; on chapter xx., "How very sure the fool is in
his explanations of God's ways"; on chapter xxvii., "The ultimate
values of life shall be fixed not by wealth but by character"; on
chapter xxviii., "A very mine of gems and precious things--exquisitely
lovely thoughts and language. Poetry like this in the earliest ages of
the world!" Of Elihu's contentions in chapter xxxiv., "A good many
truths, but served up with bitter herbs, not with love": on chapter
xxxvii., "Beautiful poetry, but a very bleak and barren picture of God;
hard, arbitrary, selfish, self-centred, striking terror into His works,
and compelling obedience and service. Nature cannot reveal Him, Elihu!"
On the next chapter, "The God of nature turns the picture, and behold
it is no more destruction and blind force, but beneficence and gracious
design and beauty,"--and so on to the end, when we read, "The voice of
humanity demands some such judgment and relief from the mysteries and
trials and misrepresentations of this life. The poem rings true to the
cry of the spirit of man. Is there a modern drama in any language to
come near to this ancient production?"

The New Testament was brooded over and absorbed with a care and
thoroughness which must have made every line and every thought familiar
to her. St. John was her favourite book. A few specimens of her remarks
may be given:

"_When the people saw that Jesus was not there ... they took shipping
and came ... seeking for Jesus_."

"The secret of our failures in winning men; they don't find Him with

"_The Pharisees also with the Sadducees came and tempted Him that He
would, show them a sign from Heaven_."

"Man's cry for the moon! What does a sign prove? Is God known by

"_And the people asked Him saying, What shall we do then? ... 'He
that hath two coats let him impart to him that hath none_.'"

"By love serve."

"_And He said unto them, When I sent you without purse and scrip and
shoes lacked you anything_?"

"No, Lord, never was lack with Thee!"

"_And her parents were astonished, but He charged them that they should
tell no man what He had done_."

"Life will tell. Speech will end in chatter."

These illustrations, picked out at random, will serve to indicate what
an intimate companion she made of her Bible, and with what loving
patience and insight she studied it for the illumination and deepening
of her spiritual life.

                       XI. BACK TO THE OLD HAUNTS

Eight years had passed since she had left Akpap, and she had never been
back, although she had paid flying visits to the hinterland. Miss
Amess, with whom her friendship had grown close, was in charge, being
minister, doctor, dispenser, teacher, and mentor to the people, and
with her was Miss Ramsay. They had built a new church, which was almost
ready, and Miss Amess determined to bring "Ma" over and have the
Macgregors to meet her. "Ma" could not resist the temptation to revisit
the scenes of her greatest adventures, and went in July 1913, taking
the children with her, except Mary, and ordering the others at Calabar,
including the two youngest, Whitie and Asuquö, who were also natives of
the district, to join her.

Her arrival caused much excitement, and her stay was one long
reception. All day the Mission House was like a market; from far and
near the people came to _köm_ their Mother. She could scarcely be got
to come to meals. On the first day when she was called, she said,
"These are my meat to-day," and then she told those about her what
Christ had said to His disciples after His conversation with the woman
of Samaria. Such love as the ladies saw on both sides they had not
thought possible between missionary and native. She seemed to remember
the names of most of the people, and all the details of their family
histories. One after another came forward and talked and revived
stories of the old times. But she seemed vexed to see so many who were
interested in her, and with no concern for the things of God, and with
these she pled earnestly to come to church and give themselves to the
Saviour. Two notable figures were Mana, and the mother of Susie, Iye.

The children were a source of astonishment to all. These healthy,
happy, handsome young people, the babies that had been cast away or
despised--it was wonderful! They gazed upon them in a kind of awe. A
few of the older and women held aloof from the twins, but not in any
offensive way, and the general disposition was to ignore the stain on
their birth.

There was a touching meeting with Ma Eme, who could not conceal her
affection and joy at seeing her old "Ma" again. Much to Mary's sorrow
she was still a heathen, and a very zealous one, as she sacrificed
daily to the spirits in the crudest way, with food and blood, in
abasement and fear. So strong was superstition rooted in her nature
that she would not touch the twins, although she confessed it was
marvellous that they had grown up.

The two women, bound by so strange a friendship, talked long about the
old days. It was, "Do you remember this?" "Do you remember that?" and
then would follow reminiscences of the killing time when they worked
hand in hand in secret for the preservation of life. Nothing that "Ma"
could say would induce Ma Eme to throw off her allegiance to her
African beliefs, and at the end of a long day she left, the same kind,
high-bred, mysterious heathen woman that she had always been. She died
shortly after. "My dear old friend and almost sister," said Mary, "she
made the saving of life so often possible in the early days, It is sad
that she did not come out for Christ. She could have been the honoured
leader of God's work had she risen to it. I cannot fancy Okoyong
without her. She made a foolish choice, and yet God cannot forget all
she was to me, and all she helped me to do in those dark and bloody

A service was arranged, but the throng who wished to hear "Ma" was so
great that it had to be held in the unfinished church, and thus Mary
had the joy of being at the first service. Over four hundred well-
dressed natives were present, the largest number ever in a church in
Okoyong, She thought of the wild old days, and contrasted them with the
present scene. "Truly," she said to herself, "one soweth and another
reapeth." She spoke for half an hour, giving a strong, inspiring talk
on the duties of those who are believers to the world around them.

With her usual thought for others she sat down and wrote to her old
comrade, Miss Wright (Mrs. Rattray), in England, giving her the details
of her visit, and accounts of the people. "This house," she said, "is
full of memories of you, and you are not forgotten." She described with
pride and hope the way in which the ladies were conducting the station,
and praised them in her usual generous manner. After she left, it
seemed to them that they had greater influence among the people than

                         XII. ROYAL RECOGNITION

The friends who had known her long were noticing that a new softness
and graciousness were stealing into her life. She never grew
commonplace, and was original as ever, but her character was mellowing,
and her love and humility becoming even more marked. "Love will
overcome all," was her belief, and love, for her, included all the
qualities of the Christian faith--simplicity, kindness, patience,
charity, selflessness, confidence, hope. In herself she was conscious
of many faults. "I don't half live up to the ideal missionary life,"
she said, with a sigh. "It is not easier to be a saint here than at
home. We are very human, and not goody-goody at all." Often she was
deep in the valley of humiliation over hasty words spoken and
opportunities of service let slip. But she was saved from depression by
her sense of humour. She laughed and dared the devil. Of one who had
just come out she wrote: "She is very serious, and will take life and
work more in the sense of tasks than of a glad free life ... we want
one to laugh, to hitch on to the yoke, and joke over all that we don't
like." She also became less uncompromising in her views. "My opinions,"
she acknowledged, "may not just suit every one, and it is possible
other people may be right and I far wrong.... But although we differ
amongst ourselves, and some things differentiate our work, we are all
in full friendship and sympathy with one another."

It was not possible for self-abnegation to go farther than it did in
her case. She was unable to see that she had done anything out of the
common. "I have lived my life very quietly and in a very natural and
humble way," she would say, and all the credit of her work was given to
God. "It isn't Mary Slessor doing anything, but Something outside of
her altogether uses her as her small ability allows." She did not say
"my plan," or "my scheme"--if she did she checked herself and said,
"What God wants me to do." And she always paid generous tribute to her
girls, who, she said, did more than she did, though no one counted it
to them. She was distressed to receive letters praising her. One who
saw her go out from Scotland to her life-work, and had lovingly
followed her career ever since, wrote saying that her reward would be a
starry crown in the glory land, and her reply was, "_What would I do
with starry crowns except to cast them at His feet?_"

Nothing illustrated this feature so notably as an event which occurred
shortly after her visit to Akpap. Two years previously a few of her
friends in Calabar, official and missionary, had talked over the
possibility of securing some public recognition of her unique service.
Mr. Macgregor wrote an account of her life-work for the Government, but
it was not until Sir Frederick Lugard arrived as Governor-General of
the united provinces of Northern and Southern Nigeria that action was
taken. He was so struck by the heroic record placed before him that he
at once sent home a strong recommendation to the Secretary of State for
the Colonies, that Mary's services should be brought to Royal notice.
The Secretary of State was equally impressed, and laid the matter
before the Chapter-General of the Order of the Hospital of St. John of
Jerusalem in England, of which the King is Sovereign Head, and the Duke
of Connaught Grand Prior. This was done, and she was selected for
admission. When she received the august-looking document asking her to
accept the honour, she said to herself, "Now, who has done this? Who am
I, and what is my distinction that I should have it?" She was in a
quandary how to answer, but eventually complied with the request,
thinking that would be the end of it. Shortly afterwards came a letter
stating that "her selection had received the sanction and approval of
His Most Gracious Majesty King George V." The Chapter-General, it was
stated, elected her "with particular satisfaction" to the grade of
Honorary Associate. This honour is only conferred on persons professing
the Christian faith, who are eminently distinguished for philanthropy,
or who have specially devoted their exertions or professional skill in
aid of the objects of the Order. The Badge of an Honorary Associate is
a Maltese Cross in silver, embellished at the four principal angles
with a lion passant guardant and a unicorn passant alternately. It is
worn by women on the left shoulder, attached to a black watered riband
tied in a bow.

"Ma" kept the matter a secret, even after she had received the diploma,
but the silver Badge came through the Colonial Office to the
Commissioner at Duke Town, and the honour being made public, her
friends schemed to get her down to a formal presentation. It was a
difficult problem, but it was solved by a letter being sent stating
that the decoration had arrived, that, of course, she would not care to
have it given to her surreptitiously, and that her duty was to come to
Calabar for it. A telegraph form, ready for dispatch, and bearing the
one word "Coming," was enclosed. They knew she would get agitated, and
have no peace until the telegram was out of her hands. Their surmise
was correct. She sent the message and committed herself to the ordeal.

She was not elated at the prospect of appearing at a Government
function; neither was she perturbed, and she went about her duties as
usual. Miss Gilmour, one of the new lady agents, tells how on the eve
of her departure she gathered the bairns for family worship, and in a
simple and beautiful way read to them the story of the Good Shepherd
and the sheep that followed. Then, as an illustration, she took the
story of Peter's denial of our Lord, and showed that Peter sinned
because he followed "afar off." "Eh, bairns," she said, "it's the wee
lassie that sits beside her mother at meal times that gets all the nice
bittocks. The one who sits far away and sulks disna ken what she
misses. Even the pussy gets more than she does. Keep close to Jesus the
Good Shepherd all the way."

A Government launch was sent to bring her down, an honour she felt as
much as the bestowal of the insignia, and as she walked up to the
Macgregors' house--the Wilkies were in Scotland--there were many who
were struck by the dignity of her appearance, dressed though she was in
an old but clean cotton dress, straw hat, and list shoes. On the
Saturday afternoon she went to an "At Home" at the Barracks, where she
was lionised in a quiet way. She attended a cricket match--she was an
advocate of all games, and believed they were excellent civilising
agencies--and also witnessed a sham fight, where the "enemy" dressed
themselves up as "savage warriors" and attacked the Barrack Hill. She
was much impressed, and kept saying to her old friend the Hon. Horace
Bedwell, the Provincial Commissioner, "That's just splendid. Look how
the officers lead them." On Sunday she spoke for three-quarters of an
hour to the boys in the Institute in Efik, and no boys could have
listened more intently. On Monday night she was at Government House at

The presentation took place in the Goldie Memorial Hall on Wednesday,
Mr. Macgregor presiding. All the Europeans who could leave business
gathered to do her honour. The boys of the Training Institute and the
girls of the Edgerley Memorial School were also in the hall. Had it not
been that Mr. Bedwell and Mrs. Bedwell were beside her, and that it was
the former who made the presentation, she would have felt more nervous.
As it was, she sat with her head buried in her hands. Mr. Bedwell spoke
of her unique work and influence, and of her genius for friendship in a
way that overcame her. She could not at first find words to reply. She
turned to the children, and in Efik told them to be faithful to the
Government, for at bottom it was Christian, and, as the silver Badge
proved, friendly to missions. Self was thus entirely effaced in her
interpretation of the act; she made it appear to be the recognition by
the Government of the work of the Mission, and suggested that it might
have been awarded to any member of the staff.

Having recovered her courage she spoke in English, saying that she did
not understand why she had been chosen for the distinction, when others
deserved it more. In a closing passage of simple beauty, she gave God
the honour and praise for all she had been able to accomplish. What had
impressed her at the sham fight was that the officer was always in
front leading and guiding his men. "If I have done anything in my life
it has been easy because the Master has gone before."

Forty Europeans came to tea at the Macgregors', and "Ma" was brilliant
and entertaining. On Thursday her hosts convoyed her back to Use. Mrs.
Bedwell had presented her with a bouquet of flowers, and she had taken
out the roses--of which she was passionately fond--and placed them in
water. On her arrival she carefully planted one of the stems, and to
her great joy it grew and flourished in front of her hut.

"Don't think," she wrote home, "that there is any difference in my
designation. I am Mary Mitchell Slessor, nothing more and none other
than the unworthy, unprofitable, but most willing, servant of the King
of Kings. May this be an incentive to work, and to be better than ever
I have been in the past."

At home the honour was made known chiefly through the _Record_ of the
Church, in which Mr. Macgregor gave some account of her romantic
career. He stipulated that this should be anonymous, for "Ma," he
feared, would never forgive him if she knew that he had been connected
with it. She gained a repute that was akin to fame. Congratulations
from all parts of the world were showered upon her. Sir Frederick
Lugard sent his "hearty and sincere congratulations, and his
appreciation of this well-earned reward for her life of heroic self-
sacrifice." In confusion of heart she escaped to Ikpe. "I shall never
look the world in the face again until all this blarney and publicity
is over," she said. "I feel so glad that I can hide here quietly where
no one knows about newspapers and _Records_, and do my small portion of
work out of sight."

For a time she was kept busy replying to the correspondence that the
event evoked, and to all she made the same modest reply, that she saw
in the honour "God's goodness to the Mission and her fellow-labourers,
who were levelling and building and consolidating the work on every
side. It is a token that He means to encourage them in the midst of
their discouraging circumstances."

                        XIII. BATTLE FOR A LIFE

Each new kindness shown her was an incentive to harder service. She
threw herself again into work with an extraordinary keenness.
Dissatisfied with what she was doing at Ikpe, she moved in all
directions in her "box on wheels," prospecting for new spheres of
usefulness, fording rivers, crossing swamps, climbing hills, pushing
through bush, traversing roads that were unsafe and where by the law
people had to go in couples, and often putting up at villages six or
ten miles distant. She saw crowds of people, and hundreds of women and
children in every street, but no light; not even a desire for it,
though here and there she found a disciple or two. She met with more
opposition from the chiefs than she had done in all her experience.
They would not hear of "God fashions," and would not permit teachers to
enter their districts or churches to be built; they forbade all
meetings for worship. She braced herself, body and mind, for the fight.
She spent days in palaver, but they would not give in. She insisted
that at least the right of the disciples to meet and worship in their
own homes must be recognised. When the chiefs saw her face, set with
iron resolution, they were afraid, wavered, and agreed. They then
became quite friendly. "We don't object to schools," they admitted. "We
want our children to learn to read and write, but we want no
interference with our fashions. If houses of God are built, we shall
all die, and we are dying fast enough."

"I shall never give you teachers without the Gospel," she declared. "If
you don't take the one, you won't have the other. But I'm going to
bring both. I shall put up a shed on the roadside, and hold services
there whenever I get a chance."

"All right, Ma," they said with something like admiration. "Come
yourself, but don't send boys."

And then she remembered. "How can this poor tabernacle do it, even with
six lads to push and pull and carry the cart through the streams? But I
have opened the way, and that is something."

In Ikpe itself the currents of heathenism ran deep and strong, and she
found progress as difficult as in Okoyong. But she solved all the
problems in the same fearless way as she had done there. Unlike those
in other centres, the women and girls of the town took no interest in
the work, and would not come forward, and she knew there was no hope
for the community unless she secured their sympathy and attachment to
the cause. At first a few girls had ventured to sit by themselves in
church. Then some village accident made the chiefs believe that their
juju was angry because the girls had forsaken their sacrifices and
deserted the heathen plays, and they placed pressure on them to return.
Some were flogged and made to pray before a clay-pot with an egg in it,
and all were forced out on the moonlight nights to take part in the
plays. "If they don't do that," demanded the chiefs, "how can they have
children for us?" The girls lost courage and forsook the church, but
she did not blame them. "Poor things, they are as timid as hares, and
have never had a choice of what to do until I came. But the chiefs--I
will be hard on them!"

One day she gathered all those who were faithful to the church laws,
and interviewed the chiefs. The spokesman for her party urged that the
antagonism that had been shown should cease; he agreed that any one who
broke the ordinary laws should be punished, but no girl or young man
should be compelled to sacrifice or pray to idols, or be ostracised or
fined for fearing God. The words were received with scornful looks and
laughs, the chiefs being hardly able to restrain themselves, but they
had a wholesome fear of "Ma," and were never outwardly disrespectful in
her presence. They looked at her. She kept a severe and solemn face,
and they were a little nonplussed.

"Ma, have you heard?" they asked,

"Am I not here?" she replied.

Taking the gift of rods that had been offered, the chiefs retired. When
they returned they said: "Ma, we hear. Let the present of rods lie, we
accept of it, and we promise that we will respect God's laws, in regard
to the joining in our sacrifices; and in regard to the Sabbath, we
shall respect it and leave our work; but we will _not_ join in the
confusions of the church, that we cannot do."

"God will doubtless be immensely pleased and benefited by your wondrous
condescension," said she with good-humoured sarcasm, and they laughed
heartily and tried to be friendly, but Mary airily told her people to
rise and go.

Fearing she was not pleased, the chiefs made to accompany her.

"I'm going round to see a woman in the next street," said Mary
pointedly. They stopped dead at once. Here was the "confusion" they
referred to, for the woman was a twin-mother.

It was the old weary battle over again,

Her patience and persistence eventually won a victory for the girls.
They were allowed to return to church, but the line was drawn at the
day-school. The chiefs said girls were meant to work and mother the
babies, and not to learn "book." Even the boys who attended, each
burdened with an infant to justify the waste of time, were not allowed
to bring a baby girl. If the baby of the home was a girl, he looked
after her there and his place was vacant. Mary began to think of
teaching the girls apart from the boys, when one day several girls
marched in; she courted them with all the skill she possessed, and
gradually one or two chiefs brought their daughters, who returned with
dresses from the Mission box, and that ended the opposition.

But there was no end to the struggle over twins. Time and again she had
to send the girls to bring babes to the Mission House, and many a
stirring night she had, she sleeping with them in her bed, whilst
outside stealthy forms watched for a chance to free the town from the
defilement of their presence. The first that survived was a boy. The
husband, angry and sullen, was for murdering it and putting the mother
into a hole in the swamp. She faced him with the old flash in her eye,
and made him take oath not to hurt or kill the child. He even promised
to permit it to live, for which magnanimity she bowed ironically to the
ground, an act that put his courage at once to flight. She had come to
realise that it was not good to take twins from their mother, and she
insisted on the child being kept in the home. Jean was sent to stay and
sleep with the woman, and as she had, on occasion, as caustic a tongue
as "Ma," the man had not a very agreeable time. It was decided later to
bring the woman and child to the hut, and there, beneath her verandah,
they rigged up a little lean-to, where they were housed, Jean sleeping
with them at night and keeping a watchful eye on the mother. "It is
really," said "Ma," "far braver and kinder of her to live with that
heathen woman with her fretting habits than it is for her to go out in
the dark and fight with snakes. Jean has as many faults as myself, but
she is a darling, none the less, and a treasure." All going well, they
went on Sunday to church and left the mother. When they returned they
found she had broken the baby's thigh and given him some poisonous
stuff. With care the boy recovered, but they redoubled their
precautions, hoping that when the parents saw how handsome and healthy
and normal the little fellow was, they would consent to keep him.

"Ma" was due at Use, but she would not leave Ikpe until she had
conquered. Another month passed, and she was running out of provisions,
including tea. To be without tea was a tremendous deprivation. She
thought of the big fragrant package that had been sent out as a gift,
and was lying fifty miles away but un-get-at-able, and felt far from
saintly as she resorted to the infusion of old leaves. One Sunday
evening there was a shout. A canoe had arrived, and in it was a box.
With sudden prescience Jean flew for a hammer and chisel and broke it
open, and sure enough inside was the tea from Use. Mary marvelled, and
with all the young folk round her stood and thanked God, the Lord of
the Sabbath, for His goodness. The beverage had never tasted so sweet
and invigorating. Though her thrifty Scottish nature rejoiced that she
had been able to save a little, she confessed that she would never be a
miser where tea was concerned, Whenever she received a package she
invariably sent a share to old Mammy Fuller at Duke Town. "Mammy," she
told a home friend, "has lived a holy and consecrated life here for
fifty years, and is perhaps the best-loved woman in Duke Town. Uncle
Tom in the old cabin is a child in the knowledge of God to Mammy. So we
all love to share anything with her, and she especially loves a cup of

The parents of the twin were at last persuaded to take the big happy
child home and provide for it. Four days later they sent for Jean, who
returned, carrying a weak, pinched form that had death written on its
face. It succumbed shortly afterwards--and that was the end of "Ma's"
strenuous fight and Jean's ten weeks' toil by night and day.

                       XIV. A VISION OF THE NIGHT

She was down at Use for Christmastide with all her children about her,
and was very happy at seeing the consummation of her efforts to build a
new church. The opening took place on Christmas Day,

"A bonnie kirk it is," she wrote. "Mr. Cruickshank officiated, and was
at his very best. Miss Peacock, my dear comrade and her young helper
Miss Cooper--a fine lassie--came and spent the whole day, so we had a
grand time, the biggest Christmas I've ever had in Calabar. Three tall
flag-poles with trade-cloth flags in the most flaming colours hung over
the village from point to point embracing the old and the new churches.
The people provided a plain breakfast in their several homes for over
eighty of our visitors, who therefore stayed over the forenoon. It made
our Christian population look fairly formidable, and certainly very
reputable as a force for uplifting and regenerating society. It looks
but yesterday that they were a horde of the most unlikely and
unresponsive people one could approach, and yet the Gospel has made of
them already something to prove that it is the power of God unto
salvation to a people and to an individual every and anywhere."

It was to her "one of the reddest of red-letter days," such a day as
only comes at rare intervals, and she fell into the snare, as she said,
"of being carried away with it," with the result that at night she was
down with fever. This kept recurring every alternate night. It was the
harmattan season, in which she always wilted like some delicate flower
in the sun, and she grew so limp and fragile that she could not sit up.
She felt that she would be compelled to go home in the summer with the
Macgregors, but the idea frightened her, chiefly because of the stir
that had been caused by the honour she had received. "I dare not appear
at home after all this publicity," she said. "I simply could not face
the music." As she recovered a little she superintended the work of the
girls outside, and was amused at the way her advice was now received.
"Jean and Annie do not hesitate to set it aside quietly in their
superior way; it often works out better than mine, truth to tell--
though I say it does so by accident!" This was a different house-mother
from the one who ruled years before.

In one of her fever nights, tossing in semi-delirium, she had a vision.
She had been following the Chapman-Alexander Mission in Glasgow with
keen interest, and in the long watches her excited brain continued to
dwell on the meetings. She dreamt, or imagined, that out of gratitude
for what had been accomplished, two young Glasgow engineers had taken a
six months' holiday, and come out with their motor car to Calabar. They
spent their days running up and down the Government Road through
Ibibio, singing and giving evangelistic addresses, she interpreting,
the girls, who were packed into the cars, doing the catering and
cooking, and the Government Rest Houses providing the lodging. "What a
night it was!" she wrote. "The bairns were afraid, for I was babbling
more than usual, but to me it was as real as if it had all happened. We
ran backwards and forwards between Itu and Ikpe, spending alternate
Sundays with the Churches, and taking Miss Peacock to her outstations,
and visiting Miss Welsh, It was magnificent."

The vision did not pass away; she took it as a sign from God; and out
of it in the morning she formulated a scheme which one day she hoped
would be realised. "It is strange," she said, "that it has never dawned
on us before. Here is the Government making use of the motor car to do
its work. Why should not the Church do the same when the roads are
here? It would permit one man to do the work of three, it would save
strength, and make for efficiency. The reason why I have been able to
go farther than my colleagues, is that I have had the privilege of
using Government conveyances by land and water; to have a car and a
mechanic missionary would be supplying us with a grand opportunity for
multiplied service." She expatiated on the matter in letters to her
friends at home, and the longer she thought of the idea, the more it
fired her imagination. Within a few days she was flying over the ground
in the Government car on her way to Ikpe--with many a "ca' canny" to
the driver--and her experience brought the conviction that the
proposal was a good one. It might be too novel a plan for the Church to
take up officially, but she thought wealthy men in Scotland might
materialise her vision as a thank-offering.

                       XV. STORMING THE CITADELS

The Government road went as far as Odoro Ikpe, where a Rest House, used
as a shelter by officials on the march or on judging tours, and the one
seen by Mr. Macgregor, had been built on the brow of a hill above the
township. It was Saturday when she arrived here, and she climbed the
ascent, taking over an hour to do it, and was captivated by the
situation. It had the widest outlook of any spot she had seen; she
seemed to be on the very roof of the world. A vast extent of bush
stretched out before her, unbroken save by the white road winding down
the hill, and instead of the stifling stillness of the plains, a soft
breeze blew and cooled the atmosphere. It was five miles from Ikpe, and
the centre of a number of populous towns. For months past she had been
praying for an entrance into these closed haunts of heathenism, and as
she sat down in the lonely little Rest House, she made up her mind not
to move a step further until she had come to grips with the chiefs.
Knowing that the Government would not object, she took possession of
the building. It had a doorway but no door; the windows were holes in
the wall high up under the eaves; the floor was of mud, and there was
no furniture of any kind. But these things were of no consequence to
the gipsy-missionary. She slept on a camp-bed borrowed from Miss
Peacock, the girls lay on the mud floor among the lizards, and some
pots and pans were obtained from the people until she could procure her
own from Ikpe. The commissariat department was run on the simplest
scale. A tin of fat, some salt and pepper, tea, and sugar, and roasted
plantain for bread, formed the principal constituents of the frugal
meals. Their clothes were taken off piece by piece as each could be
spared, and washed in a pail from the little prison yard. "Ma's" calico
gown went through the process in the forenoon, was dried on the fence
in the hot sun, and donned in the afternoon, in order, as she
humorously put it, to be ready for "visitors and tea." In her eyes it
was a sort of glorified picnic. She did not pity the girls; she thought
such an experience was better for them as African citizens and
missionaries than a secondary education.

From this high centre as from a fort, she began to bombard the towns in
the neighbourhood. Next day she summoned some disciples from a place
called Ndot, and service was held in the yard. Then the lads pushed her
chair out to Ibam, two miles distant, where she met the headman and his
followers. These were an arrogant, powerful sept--not Ibibios--who had
been allies of the slavers of Aros, and were disliked and suspected by
all. She told them that she wanted the question of Gospel entrance
settled. They looked at her indulgently. "We have no objection to you
coming, Ma," said the chief.

"And the saving of twins, and the right of twin-mothers to live as
women and not as unclean beasts in the bush?" she asked.

"No, no, we will not have it. Our town will spoil."

After much talk they said, "Go home, Ma, and we shall discuss it and
see you again"--the native way of ending a matter.

Her next discussion was with the town of Odoro Ikpe itself. The old
chief was urbane, and gave her every honour. Bringing out a plate with
_3_s. upon it, he said, "Take that to buy food while staying here, as
we have no market yet." She took the money, kissed it, put her hands on
his head, and thanked him, calling him "father," but requested him to
take it and buy chop for the children, and she would eat with him
another day. The old man went away and returned with some yams, which
he asked her to cook and eat. As they talked he gradually lost his
fear, and then she asked him bluntly about his attitude to the Gospel.
He and his big men told her frankly what their difficulties were, and
these she demolished one by one. After two hours' fencing and arguing
the tension gave way to a hearty laugh, and the old chief said, with a
sweep of his hand toward the crowd:

"Well, Ma, there they are, take them and teach them what you like--and
you, young men, go and build a house for book."

"No!" cried "Ma," "we don't begin or end either with a house. We begin
and end with God in our hearts."

A young man came forward, and without removing a quaint hat he wore,
said, "Ma, we can't take God's word if you bring twins and twin-mothers
into our town."

It was out at last. Instead of arguing, "Ma" looked at him as
witheringly as she could and replied; "I speak with men and people
worthy of me, and not with a puny bush-boy such as you have shown by
your manners you are."

Off came the hat, and then "Ma" spoke to him in such a way that the
crowd were fain to cry:

"Ma, forgive! forgive! he does not know any better."

There was no more after that about twins, and when she left she felt
that progress had been made.

Striking while the iron was hot she sent to Ikpe for school books, and
going into the highways and byways, she began to coax the lads to come
and learn. They stood aloof, half-afraid and half-scornful, and would
not respond. Then she adopted a flank movement, and began to speak to
them about the rubber and cocoa which the Government were planting in
the district, and tried to awaken their interest and ambitions by
telling them how the world was moving outside their home circle.
Gradually the sullenness gave way, and they began to ask questions and
to chat. She took the alphabet card, but they shied at the strange-
looking thing, and would not speak. One little fellow who had been at
Ikpe, and knew more than the others, began tremblingly, "A--B--," and
she and Alice who was with her, joined in until one after another
surrendered, and before long all were shouting the letters. By the end
of the week the lads were coming every spare hour for lessons, and
would scarcely give her time to eat.

The Ikpe disciples had ruefully watched this development, and at last
went to her:

"Ma, we are glad you have got a footing out here, but are you forsaking

Her heart ached at the words, and although now reduced to coming and
going in her Cape cart, she determined to give them every alternate
week when she was not at Use. Thus from now onwards she was keeping
three centres going by her own efforts.

After a week at Ikpe in fulfilment of her promise, she returned to
Odoro Ikpe to hold the first Sabbath service. A play was being enacted
in the town, and scores of naked young men and women were dancing to
the compelling throb of the drum. But some Ikpe and Ndot lads came to
support the service, and their presence helped the local sympathisers
to come forward. It was very simple; she said it would have seemed
babyish to Europeans, but it was an epoch to the natives. Another
meeting was held in the afternoon; and at night in the dark square, lit
only by the light of the fires where the women were cooking their meal,
she stood, and again proclaimed, with passionate earnestness, the love
of God and the power of Christ to save and uplift. It was, no doubt, a
day of small things, but she knew from long experience that small
things were not to be despised.

A month later, when she was at Ikpe holding the services, she was
astonished to see thirty of the Odoro Ikpe lads marching into church.
They had grown so interested, that they had come the five miles to hear
her speak. The Ikpe people at once rose and gave the strangers their
seats, finding a place for themselves on the floor. It was pathetic to
see their earnest faces and their ignorance as to what they should do
during the service, which was more elaborate than they had been
accustomed to. Having brought some food they cooked it at the house and
remained all day.

On her return to Odoro Ikpe the chiefs appeared one morning, and asked
her to come out at once and survey the land, and choose a site for a
station. Her heart leapt at the significance of the request. She
happened to be in her night attire, but as it might have been full
Court dress for all they knew, she went and tramped over the land and
chose what she believed would be the best situation in the Mission. It
was on the brow of a hill overlooking a magnificent stretch of country,
across which a cool breeze blew all the time. She immediately planned a
house--one of six rooms--three living rooms above and stores and hall
and girls' rooms below, with a roof of corrugated iron for security
against wind and insects, and prepared to go down to Use to buy the

There was one town still holding out, Ibam (where she had been told to
"go home and they would think about it"), and she prayed that it, too,
might accept the new conditions. On the Sunday before she left for Use,
while she was conducting service, six strange men came in and waited
until all had gone. "We are from Ibam," they said. "Come at once, Ma,
and we will build a place to worship God, and will hear and obey." She
was so uplifted that she seemed to live on air for the next few days.
The villagers of Ibam gave up their best yard to her, and, crowds came
to the meetings.

All the citadels of heathenism in the district had now been stormed.
Sitting one night on the floor of the Rest House, her aching back
leaning against the mud wall, a candle, stuck in its own grease, giving
her light, she wrote to her friends in Scotland, telling them that she
was the happiest and most grateful woman in the world.

                           XVI. CLARION CALLS

The discovery of coal up in the interior at Udi brought a new interest
into her life, for her far-seeing mind at once realised all the
possibilities it contained. She believed it would revolutionise the
conditions of West Africa. And when a railway was projected and begun
from Port Harcourt, west of Calabar, to Udi, and there was talk of an
extension to Itu, she sought to make her friends at home grasp the full
significance of the development. That railway would become the highway
to the interior, and Calabar would cease to be so important a port.
Great stretches of rich oil-palm country would be opened up and
exploited. She urged the need for more men and women to work amongst
the rank heathenism that would soon collect and fester in the new
industrial and commercial centres. Up there also was the menace of
Mohammedanism. "Shall the Cross or the Crescent be first?" she cried.
"We need men and women, oh, we need them!"

She had been saddened by the closing of stations for furloughs, and the
apathy of the Church at home.

We are lower in numbers in Calabar than ever--fewer, if you except the
artisans in the Institute, than in the old days before the doors were
opened! Surely there is something very far wrong with our Church, the
largest in Scotland. Where are the men? Are there no heroes in the
making among us? No hearts beating high with the enthusiasm of the
Gospel? Men smile nowadays at the old-fashioned idea of sin and hell
and broken law and a perishing world, but these made men, men of
purpose, of power and achievement, and self-denying devotion to the
highest ideals earth has known. We have really no workers to meet all
this opened country, and our Church, to be honest, should stand back
and give it to some one else. But oh! I cannot think of that. Not that,
Lord! For how could we meet the Goldies, the Edgerleys, the Waddells,
the Andersons? How can our Church look at Christ who has given us the
privilege of making Calabar history, and say to Him, "Take it back.
Give It to another?"

She had been deeply interested In the great World's Missionary
Conference in Edinburgh in 1910, and had contrasted it with State
diplomacy and dreadnoughts, but was disappointed that so little
practical result had followed. "After all," she said, "it is not
committees and organisations from without that is to bring the revival,
and to send the Gospel to the heathen at home and abroad, but the
living spirit of God working from within the heart."

All this made her more than ever convinced of the value of her own
policy. She believed in the roughest methods for a raw country like
Nigeria. Too much civilisation and concentration was bad, both for the
work and the natives. There should be, she thought, an office of
itinerating or travelling missionary permanently attached to the
Mission. It would have its drawbacks, as, she recognised, all pioneer
work had, but it would also pay well. She was not sure whether the
missionaries did right in remaining closely to their stations, and
believed that short regular expeditions into the interior would not
only keep them in better health, but give them a closer knowledge of
the people. Not much teaching could be given in this way, but their
confidence would be won, and the way would be prepared for further
advance. Her hope lay in women workers; they made better pioneers than
men, and as they were under no suspicion of being connected with the
Government, their presence was unobjectionable to the natives. They
could move into new spheres and do the spade-work; enter the homes, win
a hearing, guide the people in quiet ways, and live a simple and
natural life amongst them. When confidence had been secured, men
missionaries could enter and train and develop, and build up
congregations in the ordinary manner.

Even then she did not see why elaborate churches should be erected. She
was always so afraid to put anything forward save Christ, that she was
quite satisfied with her little "mud kirks." The raw heathen knew
nothing of the Church as white people understood it. To give them a
costly building was to give them a foreign thing in which they would
worship a foreign God. To let them worship in an environment of their
own setting meant, she believed, a more real apprehension of spiritual
truth. The money they were trained to give, she would spend, not on
buildings so much as on pioneer work among the tribes.

So, too, with the Mission houses. She thought these should be as simple
as possible, and semi-native in style; such, she believed, to be the
driest and most healthy. In any case disease could come into a house
costing £200, as into one costing £20, and "there was such a thing as
God's providence." Still, she recognised the importance of preserving
the health of newcomers, and admitted that her ideas might not apply to
them. "It would be wrong," she said, "to insist on mud-huts for a
nervous or æsthetic person."

It was much the same feeling that ran through her objection to the
natives suddenly transforming themselves into Europeans. Her views in
this respect differed a good deal from those of her co-workers. One
Sunday, after a special service, a number of women who had arrayed
themselves in cheap European finery, boots and stockings and all,
called upon her. She sat on a chair, her back to them, and merely threw
them an occasional word with an angry jerk of her head. They were very
upset, and at last one of them ventured to ask what was the matter.
"Matter!" she exclaimed, and then spoke to them in a way which brought
them all back in the afternoon clothed more appropriately.

On all these questions she thought simply and naturally, and not in
terms of scientific theory and over-elaborated system. She believed
that the world was burdened and paralysed by conventional methods. But
she did not undervalue the æsthetic side of existence. "So many think
that we missionaries live a sort of glorified glamour of a life, and
have no right to think of any of the little refinements and elegancies
which rest and sooth tired and overstrained nerves--certainly
coarseness and ugliness do not help the Christian life, and ugly things
are not as a rule cheaper than beautiful ones." Her conviction was that
a woman worth her salt could make any kind of house beautiful. At the
same time she believed--and proved it in her own life--that the spirit-
filled woman was to a great extent independent of all accessories.

What always vexed her was to think of thousands of girls at home living
a purposeless life, spending their time in fashionable wintering-
places, and undergoing the strenuous toil of conventional amusement.
"Why," she asked, "could they not come out here and stay a month or six
months doing light work, helping with the children, cheering the staff?
What a wealth of interest it would introduce into their lives!" She
declared it would be better than stoning windows, for she had no
patience with the policy of the women who sought in blind destruction
the solution of political and social evils. "I'm for votes for women,
but I would prove my right to it by keeping law and helping others to
keep it. God-like motherhood is the finest sphere for women, and the
way to the redemption of the world."

Many a clarion call she sent to her sisters across the waters:

"Don't grow up a nervous old maid! Gird yourself for the battle outside
somewhere, and keep your heart young. Give up your whole being to
create music everywhere, in the light places and in the dark places,
and your life will make melody. I'm a witness to the perfect joy and
satisfaction of a single life--with a tail of human tag-rag hanging on.
It is rare! It is as exhilarating as an aeroplane or a dirigible or
whatever they are that are always trying to get up and are always
coming down!... Mine has been such a joyous service," she wrote again.
"God has been good to me, letting me serve Him in this humble way. I
cannot thank Him enough for the honour He conferred upon me when He
sent me to the Dark Continent."

Over and over again she put this idea of foreign service before her
friends at home. Some were afraid of a rush of cranks who would not
obey rules and so forth. She laughed the idea to scorn. "I wish I could
believe in a crush--but there are sensible men and women enough in the
Church who would be as law-abiding here as at home."

                           XVII. LOVE-LETTEBS

During the course of her career Miss Slessor wrote numberless letters,
many of them productions of six, ten, twelve, and fourteen pages,
closely penned in spidery writing, which she called her "hieroglyphic
style." She had the gift, which more women than men possess, of
expressing her ideas on paper in as affluent and graceful a way as in
conversation. Her letters indeed were long monologues, the spontaneous
outpouring of an active and clever mind. She sat down and talked
vivaciously of everything about her, not of public affairs, because she
knew people at home would not understand about these, but of her
children, the natives, her journeys, her ailments, the services, the
palavers, all as simply and naturally and as fully as if she were
addressing an interested listener. But it was essential that her
correspondent should be in sympathy with her. She could never write a
formal letter; she could not even compose a business letter in the
ordinary way. Neither could she write to order, nor give an official
report of her work. The prospect of appearing in print paralysed her.
It was always the heart and not the mind of her correspondent that she
addressed. What appeared from time to time in the _Record_ and in the
_Women's Missionary Magazine_, were mainly extracts from private
letters, and they derived all their charm and colour from the fact that
they were meant for friends who loved and understood her. In the same
way she would be chilled by receiving a coldly expressed letter. "I
wish you hadn't said _Dear Madam_," she told a lady at home. "I'm just
an insignificant, wee, auld wifey that you would never address in that
way if you knew me. I'll put the _Madam_ aside, and drag up my chair
close to you and the girls you write for, and we'll have a chat by the

She could not help writing; it was the main outlet for her loving
nature, so much repressed in the loneliness of the bush. Had she not
possessed so big and so ardent a heart, she would have written less.
Into her letters she poured all the wealth of her affection; they were
in the real sense love-letters; and her magic gift of sympathy made
them always prized by the recipients. She had no home people of her
own, and she pressed her nearest friends to make her "one of the
family." "If," she would say, "you would let me share in any
disappointments or troubles, I would feel more worthy of your love--I
will tell you some of mine as a counter-irritant!" Many followed her
behest with good result. "I'm cross this morning," wrote a young
missionary at the beginning of a long letter, "and I know it is all my
own fault, but I am sure that writing to you will put me in a better
temper. When things go wrong, there is nothing like a talk with you....
Now I must stop, the letter has worked the cure." Her letters of
counsel to her colleagues when they were in difficulties with their
work were helpful and inspiring to the highest degree. On occasions of
trial or sorrow she always knew the right word to say. How delicately,
for instance, would she try to take the edge off the grief of bereaved
friends by describing the arrival of the spirit in heaven, and the glad
welcome that would be got there from those who had gone before. "Heaven
is just a meeting and a homing of our real selves. God will never make
us into new personalities. Everlasting life--take that word _life_ and
turn it over and over and press it and try to measure it, and see what
it will yield. It is a magnificent idea which comprises everything that
heart can yearn after." On another occasion she wrote, "I do not like
that petition in the Prayer Book, _From sudden death, good Lord deliver
us_. I never could pray it. It is surely far better to see Him at once
without pain of parting or physical debility. Why should we not be like
the apostle in his confident outburst of praise and assurance, 'For I
am persuaded...'?" Again: "Don't talk about the cold hand of death--it
is the hand of Christ."

It was not surprising that her correspondence became greater at last
than she could manage. The pile of unanswered communications was like a
millstone round her neck, and in these latter days she began to violate
an old rule and snatch time from the hours of night. Headings such as
"10 P.M.," "Midnight," "8.45 A.M.," became frequent, yet she would give
love's full measure to every correspondent, and there was seldom sign
of undue strain. "If my pen is in a hurry," she would say, "my heart is
not." When she was ill and unable to write, she would simply lie in bed
and speak to her Father about it all.

There was a number of friends to whom she wrote regularly, and whose
relations to her may be judged from the manner in which they began
their letters. "My lady of Grace," "My beloved missionary," "Dearest
sister," were some of the phrases used. But her nature demanded at
least one confidante to whom she could lay bare her inmost thoughts.
She needed a safety-valve, a city of refuge, a heart and mind with whom
there would be no reservations, and Providence provided her with a kind
of confessor from whom she obtained all the understanding and sympathy
and love she craved for. This was Miss Adam, who, while occasionally
differing from her in minor matters of policy, never, during the
fifteen years of their friendship, once failed her. What she was to the
lonely missionary no one can know. Mary said she knew without being
told what was in her heart, and "how sweet," she added, "it is to be
understood and have love reading between the lines." Month by month she
sent to Bowden the intimate story of her doings, her troubles, hopes,
and fears, and joys, and received in return wise and tender counsel and
encouragement and practical help. She kept the letters under her pillow
and read and reread them.

Never self-centred or self-sufficient, she depended upon the letters
that came from home to a greater extent than many of her friends
suspected. She needed the inflow of love into her own life, and she
valued the letters that brought her cheer and stimulus and inspiration.
Once she was travelling on foot, and had four miles of hill-road to go,
and was feeling very weary and depressed at the magnitude of the work
and her own weakness, when a letter was handed to her. It was the only
one by that mail, but it was enough. She sat down, and in the quiet of
the bush she opened it, and as she read all the tiredness fled, the
heat was forgotten, the road was easy, and she went blithely up the

Outside the circle of her friends many people wrote to her from
Scotland, and some from England, Canada, and America. Boys and girls
whom she had never seen sent her letters telling her of their cats and
dogs, of football, and lessons and school. With her replies sometimes
went a snake skin, a brass tray, a miniature paddle, or other curio.
But it was the letter, rather than the gift, that was enjoyed. As one
girl wrote; "You are away out helping the poor black kiddies and
people, and just as busy doing good as possible, and yet you've time to
send a letter home to a little Scottish girl, a letter fragrant with
everything lovely and good, that makes one try harder than ever to do
right, and that fills one's heart with beautiful helpful thoughts."

To her own bairns, wherever they were, she wrote letters full of
household news and gentle advice. To Dan at the Institute she wrote
regularly--very pleased she was when she heard he had been at lectures
on bacteria and understood them!--and when Alice and Maggie were
inmates of the Edgerley Memorial School she kept in the closest touch
with them. Here is a specimen of her letters, written chiefly in Efik,
and addressed apparently to Alice:

MY PRECIOUS CHILDREN--I am thinking a lot about you, for you will soon
be losing our dear Miss Young; and while I am sorry for myself I am
sorrier for you and Calabar. How are you all? and have you been good?
and are you all trying to serve and please Jesus your Lord? Whitie has
gone to sleep. She has been making sand and yöñö-ing my bedroom, the
bit that you did not finish. Janie has yöñö-d the high bits, so Whitie
is very tired. Janie has gone to stay all night with the twin-mother
and her baby in the town where Effiom used to live long ago. One baby
was dead, but she is keeping the other, and the chief says, "Ma, you
are our mother, but what you have done will be the death of us." But I
tell them just to die.

The mother almost died. One child was born dead, and Janie and I stayed
all night there. Mary is at Ikot Ekpene. We saw her as we passed in the
motor. The whole town came to-day and put splendid beams in the
verandah both in front and behind, swept all behind, and put on a
corrugated iron roof, did the porch and various other things, and the

Good-bye. Are you well? We are well, through God's goodness. Are you
coming soon for holidays? My heart is hungry to see you and to touch
your hands. Greetings to Ma Fuller. Greet Ma Wilkie and Mr. Wilkie for
me. Greet each other. All we greet you. With much love to Maggie, Dan,
Asuquö,--I am, in all my prayers, your mother,
  M. Slessor.

The girls and Dan also wrote regularly to her in Efik--such letters as

I am pleased to send this little letter to you. Are you well? I am
fairly well through the goodness of God. Why have you delayed to send
us a letter? Perhaps you are too busy to write, but we are coming home
in a fortnight. If you hear we are on the way come quickly out when you
hear the voices of the people from the beach, because you know it will
be us. Greet Whitie, Janie, Annie and all, and accept greeting from
your loving child

After her death there was found at Use a bundle of papers, evidently
much treasured, labelled "My children's letters."

                         XVIII. A LONELY FIGURE

She returned to Use, but only remained long enough to arrange for the
material for the house at Odoro Ikpe. Of the special difficulties that
would beset her on this occasion, she was quite aware. The timber
supply on the ground was scarce, transport would be expensive, there
was no local skilled labour, and she was unable to work with her own
hands, while it was not easy to procure carriers and other work-people,
since the Government, with the consent of the chiefs, were taking
batches of men from each village for the coalfields and railway, a
measure she approved, as it prevented the worst elements in the
community drifting there. But nothing ever discouraged her, and she
returned at the end of April and embarked once more, and for the last
time, on building operations.

Friends kept tempting her to come to Scotland. Her friend Miss Young
was now Mrs. Arnot, wife of the Rev. David Arnot, M.A., Blairgowrie,
and from her came a pressing invitation to make her home at the manse.
"I will meet you at Liverpool," Mrs. Arnot wrote, "and bring you
straight here, where you will rest and be nursed back to health again."
It was proposed that Alice should come with her, and be left at
Blairgowrie while Mary visited her friends. She was delighted, and
wrote gaily that when she did come she "would not be a week-end visitor
or a tea visitor, but a barnacle. It is, however, all too alluring. One
only thing can overtop it, and that is duty as put into my hands by my
King." Then she paints a picture of the piles of timber and corrugated
iron about her for the building of a house, "for the happy and
privileged man or woman who shall take up the work of salvage," and of
Ikpe waiting patiently, and the towns surrendering on all sides, and
adds, "Put yourself in my place, and with an accession of strength
given since I camped up here, how could you do other than I have done?
I verily thought to be with the Macgregors, but this came and the
strength has come with it, and there must be no more moving till the
house is up, when I hope and pray some one will come to it. What a
glorious privilege it all is! I can't think why God has so highly
honoured and trusted me."

She entered on a period of toil and tribulation which proved to be one
of the most trying and exacting in her life. The house itself was a
simple matter. Large posts were inserted in the ground, and split
bamboos were placed between; cross pieces were tied on with strips of
the oil-palm tree, and then clay was prepared and pounded in. But fifty
men and lads were employed, and she had never handled so lazy, so
greedy, so inefficient a gang. Compelled to supervise them constantly,
she often had to sit in the fierce sunshine for eight hours at a time;
then with face unwashed and morning wrapper still on she would go and
conduct school. If she went to Ikpe for a day, all the work done
required to be gone over again. Sometimes she lost all patience, and
resorted to a little "muscular Christianity," which caused huge
amusement, but always had the desired effect. But she was very
philosophical over it. "It is all part of the heathen character, and,
as Mrs. Anderson used to say, 'Well, Daddy, if they were Christians
there would have been no need for you and me here.'" Jean often became
very wroth, and demanded of the people if "Ma" was not to obtain time
to eat, and if they wanted to kill her?

Annie and her husband had been placed at Nkanga, and Jean now managed
the household affairs. The faithful girl had her own difficulties in
the way of catering, for on account of the isolation money frequently
ran done, and she could not obtain the commonest necessities to feed
her "Ma." An empty purse always worried Mary, but it was a special
trial to her independent and sensitive spirit at this period, for she
was in debt to the skilled carpenter who had been engaged, and to the
labourers, and was compelled to undergo the humiliation of borrowing.
On one occasion she obtained a loan of 5s. from one of her rare
visitors, a Government doctor, a Scot and a Presbyterian, who was
investigating tropical diseases, and who, finding her in the Rest
House, had contentedly settled down with his microscopes in the Court
House shed. After working all day in the bush he spent many evenings
with her, and she was much impressed by his upright character, and his
kindness and courtesy to the natives, and said matters would be very
different in Africa if all civil and military men were of the same
stamp. The only other two visitors she had at this time were Mr. Bowes,
the printer at Duke Town, and Mr. Hart, the accountant, the latter
bringing her all the money she needed.

By the end of July the house was roughly built, and she was able to
mount up to the top rooms by means of a "hen" ladder, and there on the
loose, unsteady boards she sat tending her last motherless baby, and
feeling uplifted into a new and restful atmosphere. A pathetic picture
she made, sitting gazing over the wide African plain. She had never
been more isolated, never felt more alone.

    So lonely 'twas, that God Himself
    Scarce seemed there to be.

She was without assistance, her body was broken and pitifully weak, and
yet with dauntless spirit and quenchless faith she looked hopefully to
the future, when those infant stations about her would be occupied by
consecrated men and women.

                      XIX. When the Great War Came

Into the African bush, the home of many things that white men cannot
understand, there was stealing a troubled sense of mystery. The air was
electric with expectation and alarm. Impalpable influences seemed
fighting the feeble old woman on the lonely hill-top. She was worried
by transport difficulties. What the causes were she did not know, but
the material did not come, and as she was paying the carpenter a high
wage she was compelled to dismiss him. What work there was to do she
attempted to accomplish with her own thin, worn hands.

In the early days of August the natives began to whisper to each other
strange stories about fighting going on in the big white world beyond
the seas. News came from Calabar that the European firms had ceased to
buy produce: canoes which went down river for rice and kerosene,
returned again with their cargoes of nuts and oil. She wondered what
was happening. Then excited natives came to her in a panic, with tales
of a mad Europe and of Britain fighting Germany. She pooh-poohed the
rumours and outwardly appeared calm and unafraid in order to reassure
them, but the silence and the suspense were unbearable. On the 13th she
received letters and heard of the outbreak of the war. All the
possibilities involved in that tremendous event came crowding upon her
mind, the immense suffering and sorrow, and, not least to her, the
peril to Calabar. Nigeria was conterminous with the Cameroons, and she
knew the Germans well enough to anticipate trouble. The cost of
articles, too, she realised, would go up, and as she had little food in
the house she at once sent to the market for supplies. Already prices
were doubled. Her kerosene oil gave out, and she had to resort to
lighted firewood to read at prayers.

She went on bravely with the routine duties of the station--Dan, who
was now with her, helping in the school--but she longed impatiently
for news, "Oh, for a telegram," she would cry, "even a boy bawling in
the street!" The officer at Ikot Ekpene, knowing her anxiety, sent over
the latest intelligence, but she half suspected that he kept back the
worst. The worst came in her first war mail which arrived when she was
sitting superintending operations at the house. She read why Britain
had entered the conflict and exclaimed, "Thank God! our nation is not
the aggressor." Then came the story of the invasion of Belgium and the
reverses of the Allies. Shocked and sad she essayed to rise, but was
unable to move. The girls ran to her aid and lifted her up, but she
could not stand. Exerting her will-power and praying for strength she
directed the girls to carry her over to the Rest House and put her to
bed. Ague came on, and in half an hour she was in a raging fever which
lasted, with scarcely an interval, for a fortnight. She struggled on
amidst increasing difficulties and worries, the horrors of the war with
her night and day. Her old enemy, diarrhoea, returned, and she steadily
weakened and seemed entering the valley of the shadow. She did not fear
death, but the thought of passing away alone in the bush troubled her,
for her skull might be seized and be worshipped as a powerful juju by
the people.

At last she lay in a stupor as if beyond help. It was a scene which
suggested the final act in Dr. Livingstone's life. The girls were
crying. The church lads stood alarmed and awed. Then they raised her in
her camp-bed and marched with her the five miles to Ikpe. Next morning
they lifted the bed into a canoe and placed her under a tarpaulin and
paddled her down the Creek. They landed at Okopedi beach, where she lay
in the roadway in the moonlight, scarcely breathing. The agent of a
trading-house brought restoratives and sent for Dr. Wood, then at Itu,
who accompanied her to Use and waited the night as he feared she would
not recover. All through the hours her mind was occupied with the war
and the soldiers in the trenches.

Next day she was a little better, but would not hear of going to Itu to
be cared for there. To her Use was home where the children could
minister to her, but realising her lack of strength she sent a message
to Miss Peacock asking her to come over. Miss Peacock said to her
fellow-worker, "Ma must be very ill before she would send for any one,"
and she cycled to Use at once. Mary confided to her that it might be
the end, and "Oh," she exclaimed, "if only the war were over and my
children safe in the Kingdom, how gladly would I go!" She called the
bairns to her and told them what to do in the event of her death. Like
all natives in the presence of serious illness they were greatly upset
and wept bitterly, but as the disorder passed they began to think that
she would get better, and went about their duties, Jean to her
marketing, and Alice to the care of the house, with Whitie to help,
while Maggie looked after the baby.

The shadow of the war continued to darken her heart. She agonised for
the cause which her native land had taken up, and many a cry went up to
God on its behalf in the hour of trial. Miss Peacock remained several
nights, and returned to Ikotobong with a strong presentiment that "Ma"
was not to be long with them, and she and Miss Couper arranged to keep
in touch with her as closely as possible.

As she plodded on towards strength and as better news arrived about the
war situation she began to be more like herself and take up her old
duties. For a time she lay in the verandah on a deck chair; and then
went to the church, conducted the Sunday services, but was obliged to
sit all the time and lean her body against the communion-table. Yet in
the midst of her weakness and suffering she had always a bright laugh
and a word of encouragement for others. Reluctantly she came to the
conclusion that nothing would heal her but a voyage home and as she was
longing for a few more hours--it was not years now--of work she made up
her mind to face it, and to include in her furlough a visit to the
graves of her mother and sister at Exeter. The difficulty of the east
wind in Scotland was overcome by a proposal from Mrs. Arnot, who in the
mystery of things, had suddenly been bereft of her husband, that she
would take a small house where they could live together in quiet. "I
shall meet you," that lady wrote, "and make a home for you and care for
you if God puts it into your heart to come." The wonderful kindness of
the offer brought tears to her eyes and she consented with a great
content. Her plan was to return to Odoro Ikpe, complete the house, and
leave for Scotland early in the spring; and she asked Miss Adam to send
her a hat and boots and other articles which civilisation demanded. Her
only regret was at leaving her people and specially those at Ikpe. "It
is ten years since I first took them on, and they have never got a
teacher yet. It is bitterly hard!" Miss Peacock and Miss Couper
noticed, however, that the old recuperative power which had always
surprised them was gone, and one day she said that she had been
overhauling her desk and tearing up letters in case anything should

The tragedy of the war came home personally to her. Two of her official
friends, Commander G. Gray and Lieutenant H. A. Child, C.M.G., were
serving in the Navy and were both drowned by the capsizing of a whaler
when crossing the bar at the entrance to the Nyong River. "They were my
oldest and most intimate friends here, capable, sane Empire-builders,"
and she sorrowed for them with a great sorrow. Sometimes her old
fighting spirit was roused by the news of the deeds of the enemy. "Oh
if I were thirty years younger, and if I were a man! ... We must not
have peace until Germany licks the dust and is undeceived and stricken
once for all." Her comments brought out the fact that she had followed
European events very closely during the past thirty years, whilst her
letters to her faint-hearted friends in Scotland showed her usual

God does not mean you and me to carry the burden, and German soldiers
are flesh and blood and must give out by-and-by, and they cannot create
new armies, and with long-drawn out lines of battle on East and West
they can't send an army that could invade Britain. They could harass,
that's all, and our women are not Belgians; they would fight even
German soldiers. Yes! they would stand up to William the Execrated.
Moreover, Zeppelins can do a lot of hurt, but they can't take London;
and Ostend and Antwerp are no nearer Britain for any kind of air attack
than Berlin is, and above all our perspective is doubtless better than
yours--any one can see that to try and take towns and to fight in
streets filled with civilians has not a pennyworth of military value.
It is a sheer waste of energy and life which should have been utilised
on the armies and strongholds of a country. Brussels, Bruges, Antwerp,
even Paris, had they got it, would be a mere blare of trumpets, a flash
in the pan, a spectacular show, and if they took Edinburgh or London or
Aberdeen, it would be the same, they would still have to reckon with a
nation or nations. It has all been a mistake for their own downfall,
and they will clear out of Belgium poorer than they entered it. Haven't
the East Indians done nobly? Bravo our Allies!

She had now fallen into calmer mood. "Miss Slessor," she would say
severely to herself, "why do you worry? Is God not fit to take care of
His own universe and purpose? We are not guilty of any aggression or
lust of conquest, and we can trust Him to bring us through. He is not
to be turned aside from the working out of His purpose by any War
Lord." She always fell back on the thought, "The Lord reigneth" as on a
soft pillow and rested there. Writing one morning at 6 o'clock she
described the beauty of the dawn and the earth refreshed and cooled and
the hope and the mystery of a new day opening out, and contrasted it
with the darkness and cold and fog experienced by the army and navy.
"God is always in the world," she said; "the sunshine will break out
and light will triumph." And she did not ignore the deeper issues, "May
our nation be sent from its pleasures to its knees, and the Church be
awed and brought back to Him."

On Christmas Day a service was held at which she intimated the opening
of the subscription list for the Prince of Wales' Fund. She did not
like to speak of war among Christian nations to natives; but it was
current history, and she made the best explanation she could, though
she was glad to turn their thoughts to the day of National Intercession
on the following Sabbath. Dan acted as interpreter in the evening to
Mr. Hart, who gave an address.

To a friend she wrote:

There will be few merry Christmasses in Europe this year. But, thank
God, there will be a more profound sense of all Christ came to be and
do for mankind, and a closer union and communion between Him and His
people, through the sadness and insufficiency of earthly good. He will
Himself draw near, and will fill empty chairs in lonely homes and
hearts, and make His people--aye--and thousands who have not sought Him
in prosperity--to know that here and now He is the Resurrection and the
Life, that he that believeth in Him shall never die.

On New Year's Day Miss Peacock and Miss Couper went to spend the
afternoon with her, and the former writes:

According to old-time customs I had made her her favourite plum-pudding
and sent it over with a message that we meant to come to tea on New
Year's Day. On our arrival the tea-table was set, and the plum-pudding
with a rose out of the garden stuck on the top was on the table. Miss
Slessor was as happy as a girl, and said she had to exercise self-
control to keep from tasting the pudding before we arrived. And we had
a merry meal. Then, when we left, she had to escort us to the end of
the road. A new tenderness seemed to have come into her life, and with
regard to those with whom she differed, she seemed to go out of her way
to say the kindest things possible. She spoke to me of something she
had written which she had torn up and said, "I wonder I could have been
so hard." It was not difficult to see the last touches of the Master's
hand to the life He had been moulding for so many years.


At the turn of the year her thoughts were again with her mother who had
passed away then, twenty-nine years before. She was feeling very weak,
but read and wrote as usual. Her last letter to Miss Adam told, amongst
other things, of the previous day's service and how Annie's little girl
would run about the church and point to her and call to her--"I can't
say 'Don't bring her' for there should be room enough for the babies in
our Father's house." Her closing words to her old friend were, "God be
with you till we meet again." Even in her feeble state she was always
thinking of others. David had taken his wife to Lagos, and her vivid
imagination conjured up all the dangers of the voyage, and she was
anxious for their safety. In the same letter in which she speaks of
them, written on the 5th, she pours out sympathy and comfort to a lady
friend in Edinburgh whose two sons had joined the Forces.

My heart bleeds for you, my dear, dear friend, but God's love gave the
mother heart its love and its yearning over its treasures, so He will
know how to honour and care for the mother, and how to comfort her and
keep her treasures for her. Just keep hold on Him, dear one, and put
your boys into His hand, as you did when they were babies. He is able
to keep them safe in the most difficult and dangerous situations. I am
constantly praying with you, and with others of my friends, who, just
as you, are giving up their dearest and most precious at the call of
Duty. God can enrich them and you and all the anxious and exposed ones
even through the terrible fires. In God's governance not one precious
thing can ever be lost.

On Friday the 8th she sat on a deck-chair in the little garden outside
the door enjoying the sunshine, for the harmattan wind was cold, and
writing some letters. The last she penned was to Mrs. Arnot, in which
she said she was better though "a wee shade weaker than usual." It was
never finished, and was found, later, on her pad. The final words were:
"I can't say definitely whether I shall yet come in March--if I be
spared till then ..."

In the afternoon there was a recurrence of fever. Alice tended her
unceasingly, seldom leaving her bedside, and stretching herself, when
in need of rest, on a mat beside the bed. She was a great comfort to
Mary. On Sunday spirit again dominated body; she struggled up, went
over to the church, and conducted service. Next day she was suffering
acutely from diarrhoea and vomiting, and one of the girls went to
Ikotobong and summoned Miss Peacock, who immediately cycled over.

"I got a messenger," says Miss Peacock, "and sent him to Itu stating
the symptoms, and asking Dr. Robertson to come and see her. All the
afternoon the vomiting and diarrhoea continued until Dr. Robertson
arrived. He had secured some ice at one of the factories, and gave her
some medicine, and both the diarrhoea and vomiting were stopped. All
the afternoon there had been a great restlessness and weariness, and
unless to ask for something she seldom spoke. Her mails were brought
into the room by one of the girls, but she took no notice of them. She
was moved from her bed on to her chair, and back again several times,
but did not seem to be able to rest anywhere; then she would give a
great cry of weariness as if she were wearied unto death.

"As the evening wore on she became quieter, but had a great thirst, and
begged that a little bit of the ice might be put into her mouth. She
had a very quiet night, without any recurrence of the former symptoms,
and I thought she was somewhat better, until the morning revealed how
exhausted she was. The old restlessness began again, and I got a lad
from the school to take a message over to Itu to Dr. Robertson. My
report was that Miss Slessor had had a quiet night, but was suffering
from extreme exhaustion. The doctor sent over some medicine with
instructions, and she seemed again to be able to lie quietly. Once when
I was attending to her she said, 'Ma, it's no use,' and again she
prayed, 'O _Abasi, sana mi yok_' ('O God release me'). As I fed her
with milk or chicken soup, she would sometimes sign to me, or just say
'Ma.' A lonely feeling came into my heart, and as I had to send a
message to Ikotobong, I asked Miss Couper to cycle over in the
afternoon. She stayed all the afternoon, and when she left Miss Slessor
was still quiet, and her pulse was fairly good. This was the 12th.

"The girls--Janie, Annie, Maggie, Alice, and Whitie--were all with me,
and we made our arrangements for the night-watch. It was not a grand
room with costly furnishings; the walls were of reddish-brown mud, very
roughly built; the floor was of cement, with a rug here and there, and
the roof corrugated iron. Besides the bed, washhand-stand, and a chair
or two, there was a chest of drawers which had belonged to her mother,
and in which was found all that was needed for the last service. Her
greatness was never in her surroundings, for she paid little attention
to these, but in the hidden life which we caught glimpses of now and
then when she forgot herself and revealed what was in her mind with
regard to the things that count.

"As the hours wore on, several times she signed to us to turn her, and
we noticed that her breathing was becoming more difficult. It was a
very dark night, and the natives were sound asleep in their houses, but
I sent off two of the girls to rouse two men to go to Itu; and we
waited anxiously the coming of the doctor. A strange uneasiness seemed
to come upon us. All the girls were round the bedside, and now and then
one or two would begin to weep. The clock had been forgotten, and we
did not know the time. A cock crew, and one of the girls said, 'Day
must be dawning,' but when I drew aside the curtain there was nothing
but pitch darkness. It was not nearly daybreak, and we felt that the
death-angel was drawing very near. Several times a change passed over
the dear face, and the girls burst out into wild weeping; they knew
only too well the sign of the dread visitor. They wished to rush away,
but I told them they must stay, and together we watched until at 3.30
God took her to Himself. There was no great struggle at the end; just a
gradual diminishing of the forces of nature, and Ma Akamba, 'The Great
Mother,' entered into the presence of the King."

And so the long life of toil was over. "The time of the singing of
birds," she used to say, "is where Christ is." For her, now, the winter
was past, the rain was over and gone, the time of the singing of birds
had come....

When the girls realised that she was gone, they gave way to their
grief, and lamented their position in the world. "My mother is dead--my
mother is dead--we shall be counted as slaves now that our mother is
dead." The sound of the weeping reached the town and roused the
inhabitants from their slumbers. Men and women came to the house and
mingled their tears with those of the household. They sat about on the
steps, went into the bedroom and gazed sorrowfully on the white still
face of her whom they regarded as a mother and friend. As the news was
passed on, people came from Itu and the district round, to see in death
her who had been _Eka kpukpru owo_, "Everybody's Mother."

As soon as Mr. Wilkie received the telegram announcing the end, he
obtained a launch and sent it up with the Rev. W. M. Christie, B.A.,
who, Mr. Macgregor being at home, was in charge of the Institute. While
it was on the way an English and an Efik service were being held at
Itu. The launch arrived at 5.30 P.M., the coffin was placed on board,
and the return voyage begun. It was midnight ere Duke Town was reached,
and the body rested at Government Beach until dawn. There the mourners
gathered. Government officials, merchants, and missionaries, were all
there. The boys of the Institute were drawn up on the beach, policemen
were posted in the streets, and the pupils of Duke Town school
continued the line to the cemetery. All flags flew at half-mast, and
the town was hushed and still. Great crowds watched the procession,
which moved along in silence. The coffin was draped with the Union
Jack, and was carried shoulder high by the boat boys, who wore black
singlets and mourning loin-cloths, but no caps.

At the cemetery on Mission Hill stood a throng of natives. Old Mammy
Fuller who had loved Mary so much, sat alone at the top of the grave.
When the procession was approaching she heard some women beginning to
wail, and at once rose. "_Kutua oh, kutua oh_," she said. "Do not cry,
do not cry. Praise God from whom all blessings flow. Ma was a great

A short and simple service was conducted by Mr. Wilkie and Mr. Rankin,
and some of the native members led the singing of "_When the day of
toil is done_," and "_Asleep in Jesus_." The coffin was lowered by
eight of the teachers of Duke Town School, and lilies and other flowers
were thrown upon it. Mammy Fuller uttered a grateful sigh. "Safe," she
murmured. One or two women wept quietly, but otherwise there was
absolute silence, and those who know the natives will understand the
restraint which they imposed upon themselves. Upon the grave were
placed crosses of purple bougainvillea and white and pink frangipanni,
and in the earth was planted a slip from the rose bush at Use, that it
might grow and be symbolic of the fragrance and purity and beauty of
her life.

"Ma," said Mammy Fuller to Mrs. Wilkie when all was over, "I don't know
when I enjoyed anything so much; I have been just near heaven all the

                       XXI. TRIBUTE AND TREASURE

Many tributes were paid to the dead pioneer. As soon as Sir Frederick
Lugard, the Governor-General of Nigeria, heard of the event he
telegraphed to Mr. Wilkie: "It is with the deepest regret that I learn
of the death of Miss Slessor. Her death is a great loss to Nigeria."
And later came the formal black-bordered notice in the Government

It is with the deepest regret that His Excellency the Governor-General
has to announce the death at Itu, on 18th January, of Miss Mary
Mitchell Slessor, Honorary Associate of the Order of the Hospital of
St. John of Jerusalem in England.

For thirty-nine years, with brief and infrequent visits to England,
Miss Slessor has laboured among the people of the Eastern Provinces in
the south of Nigeria.

By her enthusiasm, self-sacrifice, and greatness of character she has
earned the devotion of thousands of the natives among whom she worked,
and the love and esteem of all Europeans, irrespective of class or
creed, with whom she came in contact.

She has died, as she herself wished, on the scene of her labours, but
her memory will live long in the hearts of her friends, Native and
European, in Nigeria.

Testimony regarding her qualities and work was given in Scotland by the
Mission Committees of the United Free Church, by officials,
missionaries, and others who knew her, and by the Press, whilst from
many parts of the world came notices of her career which indicated how
widely known she had been. The appreciation which would perhaps have
pleased her most was a poem written by a Scottish girl, fifteen years
of age, with whom she had carried on a charming correspondence--
Christine G. M. Orr, daughter of Sheriff Orr, Edinburgh. She would,
doubtless, have had it included in any notice of her work, and here,
therefore, it is given:


She who loved us, she who sought us
 Through the wild untrodden bushlands,
 Brought us healing, brought us comfort,
 Brought the sunlight to our darkness,
 She has gone--the dear white Mother--
 Gone into the great Hereafter.

Never more on rapid waters
 Shall she dip her flashing paddle,
 Nor again the dry leaves rustle
 'Neath her footstep in the forest,
 Never more shall we behold her
 Eager, dauntless on her journeyings.

Now the children miss their teacher,
 And the women mourn their helper;
 And the sick, the weak, the outcast
 Long that she once more might touch them,
 Long to hear her speaking comfort,
 Long to feel her strong hand soothing.

Much in loneliness and danger,
 Fevered oft, beset with trouble,
 Still she strove for us, her children;
 Taught us of the great good Spirit,
 He who dwells beyond the sunrise;
 Showed to us the love He bears us,
 By her own dear loving-kindness;
 Told us not to fear the spirits,
 Evil spirits in the shadows,
 For our Father-God is watching,
 Watching through the cloudless daytime,
 Watching at the silent midnight,
 So that nothing harms His people;
 Taught us how to love each other,
 How to care for little children
 With a tenderness we knew not,
 How, with courtesy and honour,
 To respect the gentle women,
 Nor despise them for their weakness,
 But, as wives and mothers, love them.

Thus she taught, and thus she laboured;
 Living, spent herself to help us,
 Dying, found her rest among us.
 Let the dry, harsh winds blow softer
 And the river's song fall lower,
 While the forest sways and murmurs
 In the mystery of evening,
 And the lonely bush lies silent,
 Silent with a mighty sorrow.

Oh! our mother--she who loved us,
 She who lost herself in service,
 She who lightened all our darkness,
 She has left us, and we mourn her
 With a lonely, aching sorrow.
 May the great good Spirit hear us,
 Hear us in our grief and save us,
 Compass us with His protection
 Till, through suffering and shadow,
 We with weary feet have journeyed
 And again our mother greets us
 In the Land beyond the sunrise.

Both the Calabar Council and the Women's Foreign Mission Committee in
Scotland felt that the most fitting memorial to her would be the
continuation of her work, and arrangements were accordingly made for
the appointment and supervision of teachers and evangelists at Use,
Ikpe, and Odoro Ikpe, and for the care of the children. It was also
decided to realise her settlement scheme and call it "The Mary Slessor
Home for Women and Girls," with a memorial missionary in charge, and
later an appeal for a capital sum of £5000 for the purpose was issued.
It would have pleased Mary to know that the lady chosen for the
position of memorial missionary was her old colleague Mrs. Arnot. She
had worked hard and waited long for the accomplishment of this idea,
and she may yet, from above, see of the travail of her soul and be

By and by her more special possessions were collected and sent home. If
she had been an ordinary woman one might have expected to see a
collection of the things that a lady likes to gather about her; the
dainty trinkets and souvenirs, the jewellery and knicknacks that have
pleasant associations connected with them. When the little box arrived
it was filled less with these than with pathos and tears. It held
merely a few much-faded articles, one or two Bibles, a hymn-book (the
gift of some twin-mother at home), an old-fashioned scent-bottle, a
pebble brooch, hair bracelet, two old lockets, and her mother's ring--
all these were evidently relics of the early days--a compass, and a
fountain pen.

But there also came a large packet of letters, those received during
her last years, which revealed where her treasures on earth were
stored--in a multitude of hearts whose love she had won. They were from
men in Nigeria--Government officials, missionaries, and merchants--
from men and women in many lands, from the mothers and sisters of the
"boys" to whom she had been kind, from Church officials, from children
--all overflowing with affection and admiration and love. She had often
called herself a "rich woman." One learned from these letters the
reason why.

                         XXII. SEEN AND UNSEEN

Miss Slessor had a sure consciousness of her limitations, and knew she
was nothing but a forerunner, who opened up the way and made it
possible for others to come in and take up the work on normal lines.
Both in the sphere of mission exploration and in the region of ideas
she possessed the qualities of the pioneer,--imagination, daring,
patience,--and like all idealists she met with opposition. It was not,
however, the broad policy she originated that was criticised, so much
as matters of detail, and no doubt there was sometimes justification
for this. She admitted that she had no gifts as an organiser, and when
she engaged in constructive work it was because there was no one else
to do it.

What she accomplished, therefore, cannot be measured only by the
visible results of her own handiwork. The Hope Waddell Institute was
the outcome of her suggestions, and from it has gone out a host of lads
to teach in schools throughout the country, and to influence the lives
of thousands of others. She laid the foundations of civilised order in
Okoyong, upon which regular church and school life has now been
successfully built. When she unlocked the Enyong Creek, some were
amused at the little kirks and huts she constructed in the bush, and
asked what they were worth--just a few posts plastered with mud, and a
sheet or two of corrugated iron. But they represented a spiritual force
and influence far beyond their material value. They were erected with
her life-blood, they embodied her love for her Master and for the
people, they were outposts, the first dim lights in the darkness of a
dark land, they stood for Christ Himself and His Cross. And to-day
there exist throughout the district nearly fifty churches and schools
in which the work is being carried on carefully and methodically by
trained minds. The membership numbers nearly 1500, and there is a large
body of candidates and enquirers and over 2000 scholars. The remarkable
progress being made in self-support may be gathered from the following
figures taken from the accounts of the five Creek congregations for

                  Members   Income   Cash in bank
 Itu  . . . .       109   £113  9  4   £97 13 6
 Okpo  . . . .      101     76  7  7    62 16 8
 Asang . . . .      428    184 17 10   865 13 6
 Obufa Obio (Chief
  Onoyom) . . .     118    118 16 10   736 19 4
 Ntan Obu . . .     111     83 11  9   204 1  2

All these churches and others that she began are spreading the Gospel
not only by direct effort, but also by means of their members as they
trade up and down the country.

One cannot estimate the value of her general influence on the natives;
it extended over an area of more than 2000 square miles, from all parts
of which they came to seek her help and advice, whilst her fame reached
even to Northern Nigeria, where she was spoken of as the "good White Ma
who lived alone." To West Africans, a woman is simply a chattel to be
used for pleasure and gain, but she gave them a new conception of
womanhood, and gained their reverence and confidence and obedience.
Although she came to upset all their ideas and customs, which
represented home and habit and life itself to them, they loved her and
would not let the wind blow on her. She thus made it easy for other
women agents to live and work amongst them; probably there is no
similar mission field where these can dwell in such freedom and safety.
And through her womanhood she gave them some idea of the power and
beauty of the religion which could make that womanhood possible. Her
influence will not cease, for in the African bush, where there are no
daily newspapers to crowd out events impressions, and tradition is
tenacious, she will be remembered in hut and harem and by forest camp
fire, and each generation will hand down to the next the story of the
Great White Mother who lived and toiled for their good.

Upon the Mission staff her example acted like a tonic. Her tireless
energy, her courage, her enthusiasm, were infectious and stimulating,
to the highest degree, and stirred many to action. Such an inspiring
force is a valuable asset in a tropical land, where everything tends to
languor and inertia. And in Scotland her influence was also very great.
Round her name and work gathered a romance which deepened and widened
interest in the missionary enterprise of the Church. Her career
demonstrates how important is the personal touch and tie in sustaining
and increasing the attraction of the work abroad. By the spell of her
personality she was able to draw support not only from large numbers of
people within her own Church, but from many outside who had little
thought or for missions. It was because she not a mere name on a list,
but a warm, living, inspiring, human presence. For while she was great
as a pioneer and worker, she was equally great as a woman.

                        XXIII. THE ALABASTER Box

But the interest in Nigeria on the part of the home people as a whole
was never enough for Miss Slessor. It was largely an interest in
herself and her work, and she wanted rather the larger vision which
would realise the possibilities of that great field, and endeavour to
conquer it for the Master. The general indifference on the subject was
a deep disappointment to her. But it had always been so.

The story of Calabar is one of the most thrilling in the history of
missions, yet through it also there runs an undercurrent of tragedy--
the tragedy of unseized opportunities and unfulfilled hopes. As one
reads, he can fancy that he is standing by a forest at night listening
to the sound that the wind brings of a strange conflict between a few
brave spirits, and legions of wild and evil forces, with incessant
cries for help. From the first days of the Mission, urgent appeals for
more workers have constantly been made; there is scarcely a year that
the men and women on the spot have not pressed its urgent needs upon
the home Church, but never once has there been an adequate response.
To-day, as always, the staff is pitifully small. To minister to the
needs of the many millions within the area assigned to the Church,
there are only eighteen European missionaries, three medical
missionaries, and thirteen women agents, apart from the wives of the
married missionaries. In Duke Town and Okoyong, on the Cross River and
the Enyong Creek, and far up at Uburu, the city of the salt lakes, all
the stations are undermanned, and the medical men are overwhelmed by
the thousands of patients who flock to them to be healed.

What Mary Slessor did, other women are doing in the same spirit of
selflessness and courage, but with the same sense of powerlessness to
overtake what is required. The number of these women agents does not
appreciably increase, for, while fresh appointments are continuously
being made, there are usually more changes amongst them than amongst
the men missionaries, on account of resignations from ill-health or
marriage. Yet in Nigeria women have unlimited opportunities for the
employment of their special gifts.

The remarkable feature of the situation is that the Mission is face to
face with an open door. It is not a question of sitting down in the
midst of a religiously difficult and even hostile community as in India
or China, and waiting patiently for admission to the hearts of the
people, but of entering in and taking possession. The natives
everywhere are clamouring for teachers and missionaries, education,
enlightenment, and they are clamouring in vain. The peril is that under
the new conditions governing the country, they will be lost to the
Christian Church. With freer intercommunication, Islam is spreading
south. All Mohammedans are missionaries, and their religion has
peculiar attractions for the natives. Already they are trading in the
principal towns, and in Arochuku a Mullah is sitting, smiling and
expectant, and ingratiating himself with the people. Here the position
should be strengthened; it is, as Miss Slessor knew, the master-key to
the Ibo territory, for if the Aros are Christianised, they will carry
the evangel with them over a wide tract of country.

Miss Slessor's life shadowed by the consciousness of how little had
been done, as well as by the immensity of what was still to do. Making
every allowance for the initial difficulties that had to be overcome,
and the long process of preparing the soil, the net result of seventy
years' effort seemed to her inadequate. There is only a Christian
community of 10,800, and a communion-roll of 3412, and the districts
contiguous to the coast have alone been occupied, whilst no real
impression has been made on the interior. Over the vast, sun-smitten
land she wept, as her Master wept over the great city of old, and she
did what she could--no woman could have done more--to redeem its
people, and sought, year in, year out, to make the Church rise to the
height of its wonderful opportunity--in vain.

She knew, however, that the presentation of startling facts and figures
alone would never rouse it to action; these might touch the conscience
for a moment, but the only thing that would awaken interest and keep it
active and militant would be a revival of love for Christ in the hearts
of the people; and it was for this she prayed and agonised most of all.
For with it would come a more sympathetic imagination, a warmer faith,
greater courage to go forward and do the seemingly impossible and
foolish thing. It would, she knew, change the aims and ideals of her
sisters, so many of them moving in a narrow world of self, and thrill
them with a desire to take part in the saving and uplifting of the
world. There would be no need then to make appeals, for volunteers
would come forward in abundance for the hardest posts, and consecrated
workers would fill up the ranks in Nigeria and in all the Mission
Fields of the Church.

She knew, because it was so in her case. Love for Christ made her a
missionary. Like that other Mary who was with Him on earth, her love
constrained her to offer Him her best, and very gladly she took the
alabaster box of her life and broke it and gave the precious ointment
of her service to Him and His cause.

Many influences move men and women to beautiful and gallant deeds, but
what Mary Slessor was, and what she did, affords one more proof that
the greatest of these is Love.


*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Mary Slessor of Calabar: Pioneer Missionary" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.