Front Cover
 Title Page
 Table of Contents
 List of Illustrations
 First phase, 1848-1876, age 1-28:...
 Second phase, 1876-1888, age 28-40:...
 Third phase, 1888-1902, age 40-54:...
 Fourth phase, 1902-1910, age 54-62:...
 Fifth phase, 1910-January 1915,...

Group Title: Mary Slessor of Calabar : pioneer missionary
Title: Mary Slessor of Calabar
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00073314/00001
 Material Information
Title: Mary Slessor of Calabar pioneer missionary
Physical Description: xi, 347 p., <10> leaves of plates : ill., maps, port., plates ; 22 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Livingstone, W. P ( William Pringle )
Publisher: Hodder and Stoughton
Place of Publication: London
Publication Date: between 1920 and 1929
Edition: 13th ed.
Subject: Missionaries -- Biography -- Scotland   ( lcsh )
Missions -- Nigeria -- Calabar   ( lcsh )
Genre: individual biography   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )
Statement of Responsibility: by W.P. Livingstone.
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00073314
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: oclc - 39319747

Table of Contents
    Front Cover
        Front Cover 1
        Front Cover 2
    Title Page
        Page i
        Page ii
        Page iii
        Page iv
        Page v
        Page vi
    Table of Contents
        Page vii
        Page viii
        Page ix
        Page x
    List of Illustrations
        Page xi
    First phase, 1848-1876, age 1-28: A Scottish factory girl
        Page 1
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    Second phase, 1876-1888, age 28-40: Work and adventure at the base
        Page 21
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    Third phase, 1888-1902, age 40-54: The conquest of Okoyoung
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    Fourth phase, 1902-1910, age 54-62: The romance of the Enyong Creek
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    Fifth phase, 1910-January 1915, age 62-66: Onward still
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Full Text

;I Pr



Date: 5/

ALL 41r

I 4 = 110







i3WVEsitY fn lORnio UBRARIES




Published under the auspices of the Women's Foreign mission Committee
of the United Free Church of Scotland.


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 organized 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 con-
sider whether it might not be a duty, and 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 was the
magnetism of personal touch and example; and she
indicated that if any 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 have 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 pain, her
days were filled in with unremitting toil. Over-
flowing 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.
W. P. L.









XVIII. LovE or LOVE 118
DREAms .. 180
XXVII. AxoM: A FIRsT-F T 145









. 251
. 253
. 257
* 259

S 268
. 271
S .274
S 278
. 286
S 288
S 298
S 297
S 801
. 828
S 880
S 885
S 840
0 345

Mary M. Slessor .. Frontispiece
Calabar Mission Field in 1876 22
Miss Slessor and some of the People of Ekenge
Calabar Chief of the Present Day 68
Calabar Sword
King Eyo's State Canoe
The First Church in Okoyong-at Ifako 86
Miss Slessor's Mission House at Ekenge
"Ma's Quarters at Akpap 160
The Tragedy of Twins
The Okoyong Household in Scotland 166
Native Court in Okoyong
Calabar Mission Map of the Present Day 188
A Glimpse of the Enyong Creek
Itu, showing the Beach where the Slave-market was held 1
Court House at Ikotobong
Ma," with the Material for the Native Oath at her Feet 282
Administering the Native Oath to a Witness
The Government Motor Car
Miss Slessor's Heathen Friend, Ma Eme
One of Miss Slessor's Bibles 808
Miss Slessor's Silver Cross
The House on the Hill-top at Odoro Ikpe 828
The Last Photograph of the Household J


1848-1876. Age 1-28.


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

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
Mary was the second of seven children. Of her infancy
and girlhood little is known. Her own earliest recollec-
tions were associated with the name of Calabar. Mrs.
Slessor was a member of Belmont Street United Presby-
terian 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 realized
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 I "
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.

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 be-
came 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 f9r 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 commit."
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.

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 bills.
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 Sunday.
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, how-
ever, 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.

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 I "
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 ad-
dressed 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
neighboring 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 stern 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
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 Logie, 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 him
implicitly-" He is the best earthly friend I have," she
wrote-and he guided her thenceforward in all her money
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 atmo-
sphere 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 some-
thing 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 dis-
tinction and her power.

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 some-
what 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 I "
There was no restraining her after that. She broadened
and deepened in thought and outlook, and gradually ac-
quired 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."

There was never a time when Mary was not in-
terested 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 them-
selves the actors in such amazing happenings, and to
hear from their own lips the story of their difficulties and
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. Ap-
prenticed 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 remorse-
lessly 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 prepara-
tions, 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 neigh-
bourhood 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 de-
graded 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 characterized 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," thievishh,"
"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 realized 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 re-
demptive 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
S60-inch looms, hard work for a young woman, but she

needed the money, and she never thought of toil if her
object could be gained.
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. Logie 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 abroad.
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
J -obut with Mr. Waddell in 1849-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 I "


A stranger in Edinburgh, Mary Slessor turned instinct-
ively 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
She found a lodging in the home of Mr. Robert Martin,
a city missionary, connected with Bristo Street congrega-
tion, and formed a friendship for his 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. sympa-
thetic, 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 furloughs.
Though she attended the Normal School in the Canon-
gate, 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
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
missionary I"

1876-1888. Age 28-40.


I am passing through the lights and shadows of life."

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 mystery.
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 middle-
men. 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

IN 1876

S 0 /0 0 3O



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 I 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 com-
pulsory, and girls were sent to farms to be fattened for
marriage. A land, also, of disease and fever and white
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 sorrow. .

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.

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 associ-
ated 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, de-
graded, 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 realized 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 after-career.
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 realized, 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 I 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
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 mission-
ary 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 grave.

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 I "
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 gone ? "
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 situation.
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 interrupts :
"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 de-
moralisation 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
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
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.

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 realized that she had given herself into His
keeping and need not fear, and a sense of comfort and
Space 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.

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 accom-
panied 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.
4 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 con-
ducted 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 responsi-
bilities of the future. Despite the influence of the mission-
aries 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 realized 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 Com-
mittee. She was in line with the old chief who remarked J
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 recognized 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
f 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 her, and to charge all concerned
to look well after her safety and comfort.

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 pro-
tection 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 udefi I" 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! Hol

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. Doubt-
ful 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 gar-
ments, 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 con-
nected 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 frequent.

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 posi-
tion in his compound and district, sat in judgment upon
them, and decided that each must receive one hundred
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 know-
ingly 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 nbt 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 suc-
ceeded 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 allevia-
tions 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
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
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 behind.

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 resource.
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 connec-
tion 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. Vul-
garity 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-air 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
organizations 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 em-
barrassing 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
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 mission-
aries: 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 April.
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 characterized 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 compli-
cated 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 loca-
tion. 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 arrange-
ments she had made for the smooth working of the house-
hold 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 de-
parture. 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 I
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.

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 sister's.
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.


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 Chris-
tian. 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, truthful-
ness, 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
At Creek Town, as elsewhere, it was not easy to tabu-
late 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, statedly."
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 com-
plicated 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.

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 destruc-
tion of infants; and she felt the impelling call to go and
attack these evils. It was not that she did not recognize 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 demon-
strates 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


1888-1902. Age 40-54.


"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."

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 Rivers, 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 conse-
quences. 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 eser6 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 witch-
doctor 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 brother.
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 I 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 t-outrageous I"
" Twins and their mothers taken to Duke Town-horrible I
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 accom-
panying 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 it I "
At last, in June 1888, in spite of her fears, she resolved
to go up and make final arrangements for her sojourn.

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 people."
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 chief's 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 search-
ing 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 considera-
tion ? 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 8,
1888, all was ready, and she lay down to rest but not to
sleep. On the morrow she would enter on the great adven-
ture 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 un-
refreshed 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 I "
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 ap-
peared. 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 tempt-
ing, but the morrow was Sunday, there was no food, the


children were naked, and she herself was 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 men 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.
SSunday 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 ex-
perienced. 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 de-
bauchery 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.

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 appear-
ance 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

Ma Eme is standing on her right and Chief Edem on her left.


This belonged to the first King Eyo.

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 demand-
ing 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.

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 every-
where. 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 that 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 consort-
ing 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 depart-
ment, 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
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 mutila-
tion. 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 untenable.
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.

The sound of native voices chanting came through the
brooding stillness of the hot afternoon. With the wild
war-song of Okoyong the forest was familiar, but these
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
It was Mary Slessor's day school.
For a people possessing no written language, no litera-
ture, 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 fire-
wood; 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
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 prob-
ably have followed his advice and sought to strengthen
her position at Ekenge and Ifako had the matter not been
taken out of her hands.

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 been 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 her-
self. 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 and 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
The medicine she had brought had proved insufficient,
and more must be obtained; many lives, she knew, de-
pended 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 pre-
vailed 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. Cruick-
shank 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
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 i
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.

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
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 wicked-
ness 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
The chief became worse, and stronger measures were
decided on : all the suspected must die. Mary was power-
less 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 con-
demn 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.

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 excite-
ment 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, and 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 ad-
ministered 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 wife 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 trucu-
lent 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
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 com-
passionately 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 con-

struct 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 achieve-
ment was a mud-sofa where she could recline, and a seat
near the fireside where the cook could sit and attend to her
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 ex-
posure 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 astonish-
ment 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.

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