Mr. Chalmers asked by the natives to go to Elema—Native fears—Difficulties at the start—Namoa—Delena—A Motumotu trading canoe—Interview with Semese, chief of Lese—Christian natives—Friendly meeting with a war canoe—Arrival at Motumotu—Friendly reception—Viewing Mr. Chalmers’s feet—Natives in full dress—Sunday open-air service—Sago as an article of commerce—Peace agreed upon—Return to Boera.
When at Kabadi in 1880, the natives begged of me to endeavour to prevent the Elema natives paying them another visit, as they were now living in the bush near the hills. All along the coast the people were much afraid, expecting a raid, and at last news came in from Maiva that Motumotu and Lese were making great preparations that they would visit Motu, kill Tamate and Ruatoka, then attack right and left. Last year, when leaving, they said they would return and pay off accounts, kill the foreigners first, then all the natives they could get hold of.
Under these circumstances, I resolve to visit Motumotu, and beard the lion in his den. I did not believe they would touch me, but I feared they meant mischief to Kabadi and the coast villages. No time could be lost, as we were in a bad month for rain and storms, and the coast line is long and bad. The natives said it was too late, yet I resolved to try it.
On the 5th January, 1881, we opened the new church at Port Moresby, and baptised the first three New Guinea converts. The church was crowded, and all seemed interested. I arranged for Piri and his wife to accompany me to the Gulf, they taking the whale-boat. We cannot call at Kabadi on our way down, as we must hurry on, but our natives here were going to Kabadi, and gladly took the news.
On January 10, the flag flying on the boat told all that we were to start. Our leader ran off to Kaili last night, but Huakonio, one of the three baptised on the 5th, was willing to go. Our boat’s crew were considered fools, rushing into the arms of death. Wives, children, and friends were gathered round weeping. The men said, “Cannot you see that if Tamate lives we shall live, and if he is murdered we shall be murdered? It is all right; we are going with him, and you will see us back all right with sago and betel-nuts.” Huakonio told me in the boat that every means imaginable but physical force were used to prevent their accompanying me; and he added, “We know it is all right; the Spirit that has watched over you in the past” (naming the various journeys) “will do so now; and if we return safe, won’t the people be ashamed?”
We left Port Moresby about nine a.m. with a light head wind; outside found the current very strong, setting easterly. We arrived at Boera at four p.m., and found Piri and his wife ready to start at once. Piri has a Boera crew, and we increased ours here by two. Here the natives did not seem at all afraid, and many wished to accompany us.