The Better Way
THE Rev. Christian Method went as a missionary to the Malays; and to such an extent were his efforts blessed that, no ships having come near his island home for over a year, he persuaded the Chief to abandon piracy in general and wrecking in particular. So complete was the transformation wrought upon these savages by the gospel, that the theory of moral sentiments became the staple of conversation, and every child on the island attended the annual Sunday-school picnic.
One afternoon, however, a fine brig was driven in toward the coast by a storm; and the islanders watched her with great and natural interest. As night drew on, it became evident that she was sinking fast, and that, although the wind had subsided, if she did not shortly make the harbour, she would be lost.
It was, therefore, with feelings of keen distress that the reverend man observed his parishioners preparing to kindle false lights, according to the ancient custom of that land. When he remonstrated with the chief, that economist explained that the unaided vessel would sink, in any case, and that the lights were intended only to run her on the rocks, so that, as in civilized countries, the people might profit by the misfortune of others. The islanders were poor, and the winter coming on, and "men must live."
In vain the reverend father pointed out the wrongfulness of such a course. The Chief replied that it was their country, and that they were entitled to shape its policy for their own benefit, though this involved distress to foreigners. At the word "our country " a thought flashed on the clergyman. He said:—
"This is, indeed, your island, is it not?"
"Of course," replied the Chief.
Then said the holy man, "Let me advise: pollute it not with murder or with robbery. If you sink the ship, not only will much of the goods be lost, but the lives of the sailors, too. Kindle true lights, give aid to the ship, show them how to beach her safely on the sand inside the bar, and then"—
"What?" cried the Chief.
"Why," replied the saint, "charge them all they have as rent for living on your land. "
Source:The Public. I, 34 (November 26, 1898). 12.