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ASTWARD of the Betsileo Province in the south of Madagascar is a
tract of country known as the Great Forest, and forming a portion of the belt extending from north to south of the island between the central plateau and the plains adjoining the sea-coast. The northern division of this section of the forest is inhabited by the Tanala-a people who, while directly governed by their own ruler, are under allegiance to the Queen and Court at the capital. South of the Tanala the forest fastnesses are held by a band of warlike men who have never yielded submission to Hova rule. Some four years since the missionaries at Fianarantsoa were invited by one of their number to pay them a visit. The invitation was readily accepted, but the circumstances of the Betsileo mission led to some delay in undertaking the journey. However, in the month of October, 1874, Mr. G. A. SHAW set out on his interesting mission, a report of which appeared in the Missionary Chronicle for August last. Since Mr. Shaw's return, and in accordance with permission given by RATSIANDRAOFANA, King of the IKONGO, two Native teachers have been under training with a view to settling among his people. These teachers not only received the usual course of instruction, but their studies had special reference to the work for which they were destined. Chief among the difficulties to be encountered at the outset stands the well-known antagonism felt by the Ikongo to any religion accepted by their enemies the Hovas: this feeling has been openly avowed in conversation with the missionary. The settlement of the teachers afforded a fitting opportunity for enabling Mr. SHAW to pay a second visit to the district, which visit he accomplished in the month of June, 1875. Our brother's journal has recently come to hand, and we now proceed to lay its contents before our readers. Before leaving FIANARANTSOA a valedictory service was held with the teachers, which is thus described by
Mr. Shaw :
"On Friday, June 11th, a meeting was called of the missionaries, pastors, deacons, and church members to meet with the teachers about to depart on this important work, and commend them to our heavenly Father, praying for His protection and guidance in their future course. A fair number assembled, notwithstanding the inclemency of the weather, and after singing and reading, several engaged
in prayer. Then the principal pastor in the town, Ratovohery, gave some good sound advice to the two young men and their wives; arranging his remarks under three heads-1. The confidence they ought to have in God. 2. The excellency of the work in which they are to engage. 3. The care they must exercise not to become a stumbling block by interfering with the work of the Government. He said:
'Wherever God calls upon us to go, into whatever town or tribe, even. though the inhabitants may be enemies, and cannibals even, there is our place, and we may rest assured that God will be with us to help and protect us. God is the Friend of all men, but especially shows Himself to be the Friend of those who fearlessly leave their homes for the spread of the kingdom of Christ. Leave your hearts with God, and He will be a watchman who never sleeps to keep you safe in your good work.' After a most interesting speech, one of the young men replied, saying, 'They were going with only one object in view: the teaching of the ignorant
and the saving of souls. That if it were government business, or trade, they would decline to go among a people whom all others fear, and who are represented as the enemies of all other tribes around them. That their trust is in God only, and they know He would not suffer ill to approach them. But that whatever they did it would be useless without prayer, and they trusted to the friends they left behind in Fianarantsoa to keep them constantly in remembrance when they approach their heavenly Father in prayer.' After the meeting the teachers and friends were invited to a meal prepared in the schoolroom.”
2. A NIGHT IN THE FOREST.
On Monday, June 14th, the little party, consisting of Mr. and Mrs. Shaw, the two teachers and their wives, with twenty bearers, left FIANARANTSOA for the east. The churches in the town accompanied them some distance on the road, cheering them with good wishes and offering parting presents to the teachers. They passed through IMAHASOABE the same afternoon, and encamped some distance beyond that town. Early on Tuesday morning the tents were struck, and the cavalcade was again formed.
"Very soon after starting, the vegetation assumed a far more tropical character than that on the table-land we had left, where, at this time of the year, all looks very brown and bare. At noon we stopped by the side of a stream in a little dell at the foot of a magnificent waterfall. Here the men made fires and cooked their rice -some in the pots we had brought with us, and some in pieces of bamboo which they sought, and used as substitutes for saucepans; while Mrs. Shaw spread our table-cloth under some fine forest giants, where we enjoyed the cool shade and our midday meal. In about two hours we were again on our road, which now became more difficult, often necessi
tating walking, and in single file. The boughs were so low that riding was out of the question, and the filanjana was altogether useless owing to the extreme narrowness of the road, not to mention the broken character of the ground. The scenery was exquisitely beautiful, and on the summits of some of the hills crossed by our path a most extensive view was obtained of a rich variegated foliage, from the pale green of the bamboo to the dark bronze of the 'varongy.'
"It very soon became apparent that we would not get out of the forest before dark, for we found that travelling as I did last year with only three or four men, and this year with thirty, including the bearers of Mrs. Shaw,
were two very different things. Still we pressed on hoping to reach a clearing made near the end of the forest road. Here I remembered to have seen on my former visit several roughly-constructed huts that would form capital shelter for our men. All were eager to reach this place, but, notwithstanding our best efforts, darkness came on while we were still in the depth of the forest, and very soon the path was altogether undistinguishable. We stumbled on, however, for two hours or more in hopes of arriving at some place a little clearer of trees, where we could pitch the tent and rest for the night. This was most laborious and difficult, as we had to feel for the path every step we took, and occasionally we came to steep breaks the height of one's chest, down which we had to scramble as best we could. To add to our discomforts it began to rain. In this way we stumbled on, constantly falling, or becoming entangled in the overhanging creepers, many of which were armed with sharp
horns; through streams, over stones, and fallen trunks till we reached the summit of a hill overlooking a deep ravine, and where we could not find the path. We could hear a goodsized stream rumbling over the stones far below, and in the darkness and uncertainty our men were afraid to go any farther. Fortunately, by chopping down some of the underwood and young trees, we got a place large enough to pitch the tent, while the men, after quickly gathering grass and a few branches, and standing them up in the form of a roof, were soon asleep on the wet ground, without waiting for supper. After many attempts and many failures, we succeeded in raising a fire, and getting some food cooked, and after a couple of hours or so (about twelve o'clock) some of the men woke up and prepared their rice. This was no easy task, no dry wood being obtainable, and I seemed to hear talking throughout the whole night."
3. RECEPTION AT AVIAVY.
In the morning the tent, which, owing to the thickness of the surrounding wood, could be only partially unfurled, presented a singular appearance, while the leaf-huts of the bearers had evidently formed but a poor protection from the wet and cold incident to the locality.
"When the mist cleared, we saw that we had done well to stop where we did; for the road in front was extremely precipitous, and the vegetation thicker, if possible, than that we had already passed through, and no clear spot presented itself suitable for encampment during another three hours' march. After the usual discomfort from innumerable leeches which abound in this part of the forest, and fasten upon any exposed part of the body, we reached Aviary at about mid-day. This is the
first town in the Ikongo district, and consists of about thirty houses. Here, although only noon, we determined to stay for the remainder of the day and night. So we selected a level spot at a distance from the town, a lively recollection of the nightly concert of dogs when I was here before deterring me from pitching too near the houses.
"The people were most enthusiastic in the welcome they gave me. After they had asked the usual formal questions relating to the Government, the health of the governor, ourselves,
&c., the town, as a whole, brought us a good present of rice, and fowls, and eggs, and during the course of the afternoon and evening several individuals brought us like presents on their own account. They were glad to welcome the two teachers I had brought, and seemed as if they would never be done staring at the 'white lady and child,' being quite a new sight for them. The old
governor of the village was very demonstrative in his greeting, and wanted to know if I thought an old man like him could learn to read and write, as he had a great desire to profit by the labours of the teachers. Of course I told him that none were too old to learn, and that although he might never be able to write well, yet he could certainly learn to read well. He intends to make the trial.”
4. A SUNDAY AT IVATOFOTSY.
Next day, proceeding in a southerly direction, the party reached the town of IVATOFOTSY before noon. A large number of the inhabitants assembled to receive them, "but," adds Mr. Shaw, "they gave us some unwelcome news."
"A son of Ratsiandraofana was dead, and we should be compelled to wait some time before we could proceed. That I,as I had been there before, and was 'a relation' of the King's, could go on, but the teachers, who were strangers, would have to stay. Under these circumstances there was no choice but to make the best of a disagreeable business, and find the most pleasant spot in which to encamp, and wait as patiently as we could. Some of the people began at once to urge the teachers to commence teaching them their letters, and before we left on the following Tuesday several knew the alphabet.
"On Sunday morning I sent for all our men to come to the tent for worship, and many of the people from the town came also. After reading and singing-which will form a very powerful instrument in the hands of the teachers, as the people cannot sing yet, but are passionately fond of music-I told the people we were going to pray, that is, talk to the Great Creator who made the heaven and the earth and all things on the
earth. They were very quiet, and seemed to pay great attention. After this I gave an address, in which I took care to speak chiefly to the Ikongo in as simple language as possible, pointing out the duty of all men to God, and the means we have of coming to Him through Jesus Christ; the hope that we have through His blood shed for us; and the love we ought to cherish towards such a Saviour. The tent was full, and a large space outside was filled with eager listeners. I was much struck with the rapt attention of the strangers,considering the subject to be one that they had never heard much about. I pray that some light may have entered a few dark minds.
"In the afternoon Mrs. Shaw, by using beads and trinkets as a bait, collected a large group of youngsters round her, and made them repeat after her that key-note to the Gospel, For God so loved the world,' &c., explaining its meaning and bearing on her motley class. Those who learnt it by heart carried off a prize of beads, together with words that will remain with them probably all their lives."
5. RECEPTION BY THE KING.
The arrival at Fianarantsoa of messengers from the Hova Government shortly after Mr. Shaw had left that place, led to some anxiety on the part of the King and people of Ikongo which was communicated to the bearers accompanying the mission party. Mr. Shaw, however, resolved to press on to TANANAN-D'RAMALY, the town at which he met with the King on his previous visit. There he found a great number of princes and judges assembled, who, after satisfactory explanations had been made, presented gifts which they had brought from the King.
"On the following day Ratsiandraofana sent word to say he would meet me on the Friday. Quite early in the morning, the King came to our tent without any soldiers or followers, and stayed chatting till dinner time. I told him I had brought the teachers, and introduced them to him, and asked him to be their father as they had left their homes to come and teach his people. He was much pleased, and hoped they would soon feel at home with him and his subjects, and that nothing should harm them while they were under his charge. I then spoke about the need for a dwelling-house for them, and a school in which to teach. These he said he would make himself responsible for, and that the people should erect the buildings required for the use of their friends the teachers. There was still the one prohibitionnothing must be taught about 'the praying in Imerina,' &c. I gave him and his chief men some presents provided by young friends in Glasgow, and they left us till the evening, when he came for another chat, examining all the things I had brought with me. My stretcher (an iron one) was a great
marvel; table, bedding, boots, compass, watch, and gun all came in for a close inspection, as most of these were quite fresh objects of curiosity to the old Like the majority of such people he is a consummate beggar, and, as each new article he espied and asked to examine was handed to him, I was on thorns for fear he would ask for it. Fortunately his requests were limited to an empty bottle, some soap, salt, beads, percussion caps, &c., with which I readily supplied him. One thing struck me very forcibly more than once; whether from fear or from a natural feeling I cannot say, but the Ikongo are far more honest than the Betsileo. I lost nothing from the tent, though numbers of little things were lying about, and the tent often crowded with people. Had this happened in many of the out-of-the-way places among the Betsileo, I should certainly have lost one or more articles. This was no fancy on my part, as I overheard our servants in their tent talkwith one another, and in a most astonished tone saying, 'The Ikonge are no thieves.'"
6. SETTLEMENT OF THE TEACHERS.
The next day (Saturday) permission was accorded to Mr. Shaw to remove to AMBOHITSIVALANA, the town where the King was staying, and which is within the borders called "tany fudy," or "the land not to be entered by strangers."