So concluded what may be called the first term of Coley Patteson’s tutorship of his island boys. His work is perhaps best summed up in this sentence in a letter to me from Mrs. Abraham: ’Mr. Patteson’s love for them, and his facility in communicating with them in their own tongue, make his dealing with the present set much more intimate and effective than it has ever been before, and their affections towards him are drawn out in a lively manner.’
St. John’s college and Lifu. 1857-1859.
It seems to me that the years between 1856 and 1861 were the very brightest of Coleridge Patteson’s life. He had left all for Christ’s sake and the Gospel’s, and was reaping the blessing in its freshness. His struggles with his defects had been successful, the more so because he was so full of occupation that the old besetting trouble, self-contemplation, had been expelled for lack of opportunity; and he had become far more simple, since humility was ceasing to be a conscious effort.
There is a light-heartedness about his letters like that of the old Eton times. Something might have been owing to the impulse of health, which was due to the tropical heat. Most probably this heat was what exhausted his constitution so early, but at first it was a delightful stimulus, and gave him exemption from all those discomforts with which cold had affected him at home. This exhilaration bore him over the many trials of close contact with uncivilised human nature so completely that his friends never even guessed at his natural fastidiousness. That which might have been selfish in this fastidiousness was conquered, though the refinement remained. Even to the last, in his most solitary hours, this personal neatness never relaxed, but the victory over disgust was a real triumph over self, which no doubt was an element of happiness.
While the Bishop continued to go on the voyages with him, he had companionship, guidance, and comparatively no responsibility, while his success, that supreme joy, was wonderfully unalloyed, and he felt his own especial gifts coming constantly into play. His love for his scholars was one continual well of delight, and really seemed to be an absolute gift, enabling him to win them over, and compensating for what he had left, even while he did not cease to love his home with deep tenderness.
Another pair of New Zealand friends had to be absent for a time. Archdeacon Abraham’s arm was so severely injured by an accident with a horse, that the effects were far more serious than those of a common fracture. The disaster took place in Patteson’s presence. ‘I shall never forget,’ writes his friend, ’his gentleness and consideration as he first laid me down in a room and then went to tell my wife.’
It was found necessary to have recourse to English advice; the Archdeacon and Mrs. Abraham went home, and were never again residents at Auckland.