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William and Louisa Anderson
Part III - Old Calabar Period, 1849-1889, & Closing Years, 1889-1895
Chapter 7


Mr. Anderson's First Severe Illness

The dry season, or "smokes," of December 1852 to February 1853 was one of the periodically specially unhealthy seasons which seem to occur every seven or eight years with fatal effects. Mr. Goldie, writing on 14th December, said:—

This seems to be the year of the visit of the periodical sickness, which occasionally cuts off many in the river, and gives to the climate its bad name. Almost all the Europeans in the river are sick. With one exception, the crews of all the ships arc almost entirely laid down by sickness. I trust there will not be a mortality as there was in the year previous to the establishment of the Mission, but the greater part of the smoke season is yet to be passed through. I earnestly hope that no breaches will be made in our Mission band.

It was during this unhealthy season that Mr. Anderson's first great illness took place. The following "touching and instructive letter," as it was called in the Record, dated 17th January 1853, gives particulars of his illness and recovery, of a visit to Creek Town, and resumption of work at Duke Town :—

When I was at Old Town a few days ago, I requested Mr. Edgerley, who was then writing to you, to state to you that I was keeping better, but felt unequal to the task of writing. As I see the Petrel still reposing at the foot of our hill, however, and as I feel strength fast returning, I embrace the opportunity of sending you a few lines.

By last opportunity (in December), the brethren, Messrs. Goldie and Edgerley, informed you that I was then confined to the bed of affliction. I have been sick indeed, nigh unto death. For several days I lay expecting every hour, and frequently expecting every minute, to be the last. God has dealt very graciously during my past pilgrimage in regard to bodily health. My late illness has been the first serious sickness which I have been called on to endure since January 1823, exactly thirty years ago, when I was left a little orphan boy.

Perhaps a few particulars respecting my sickness, though from my own pen, may not be unacceptable to you. I was exceedingly worn out by the services of Sabbath, December 5th. While preaching on board the Tapley, about 11 o'clock A.M. of that day—it was my fourth sermon that forenoon—my voice failed me for a little, and I felt for a short time as if all my mental powers were going away. The surgeon of the vessel ordered a boy to hand me a glass of water, which somewhat refreshed me, and I was able to conclude as usual. At the remaining meetings of the day I spoke very shortly. During the week I did not feel altogether well, and took a little medicine; but I was able to be in school as usual both A.M. and P.M., and on the afternoon of the Saturday, December 11, took my usual rounds through the town to announce the Sabbath. In the evening I felt quite delighted at being much better prepared than usual for the approaching Sabbath. I felt all ready for two services in English (one on board ship), and four or five in Efik, as opportunity might be presented. Shortly after eight o'clock I went to bed. No sooner had I laid myself down than I was seized with a cold shivering; hot fever soon followed, and, with the exception of a few hours' respite on the following Saturday, December 18, it raged and boiled till the morning of Wednesday, December 22— that is, for upwards of ten days. . During a considerable portion of that time I was insensible. For some days all my consciousness of life consisted in my perception of a dim light when I opened my eyes, and in feeling a throb at the heart. That throb sometimes became a feeble flutter, and, as already stated, 1 frequently felt as if the last beat were near. After being confined to bed for two full weeks, it was pleasant to be able once more to set foot on the floor. I was not allowed to set foot on " the green sward " till New Year's Day, and then—

"How sweet the first breath of the breeze
Around my temples played!"

A few days after I began to move about a little, I happened to Took into a mirror. At the first glance I was almost paralysed—I looked so corpse-like. My head had been completely shaved, my eyes seemed so sunk, my cheeks so thin, and the whole countenance so changed and pallid, that I could not help ejaculating, "Well, I have seen less deathlike faces in coffins."

I have great reason to bless God for the affliction —for support under it—for deliverance from it.

I have just been thinking that I resemble a child, whom his indulgent father permits to have much of his own will and way for a long period, till he becomes so wayward that his kind parent is reluctantly compelled to inflict on him some severe chastisement. God has given me a long period of bodily health, but, having seen some "need be" for the dispensation, He brought me down almost to the dust of death. Oh, it is comforting to an afflicted one to reflect that his Heavenly Father is treating him as a son, and not as a bastard!

I need not say that all the brethren here—Messrs. Goldie, Kdgerley, and Thomson—showed the utmost kindness to Mrs. A. and myself during the season of our affliction. I know that each of them has watched by me during the whole night, that Mrs. A. might get a little repose ; but I do not know how many nights one or other of them watched beside me. Dr. Hutchinson was most indefatigable in his attentions, coming as cheerfully when sent for at midnight, as was the case once or twice, as at mid-day. We are also much indebted to Dr. Morgan, who was residing with us during the first week of my sickness. He spent about four weeks with us, during which time he had a severe attack of yellow fever, which brought him to the brink of the grave. All the captains in the river were exceedingly kind and attentive. We had almost daily visits, and kind inquiries from all. The Lord repay captains, surgeons, and brethren for all the kindness they have shown to us in our dark and gloomy day—we cannot. Mr. Thomson kindly conducted the meetings at Duke Town two of the Sabbaths on which I was "off duty"—or rather, on a very different kind of duty from that; of preaching ; and Mr. Haddison, my assistant in school, conducted them on the other three Sabbaths. I am glad to learn that there was no falling off in the attendance.

On Thursday, the 6th inst., Mrs. A and I went up to Creek Town to spend a few days. Captain Baak, a Dutch gentleman, kindly placed his boat at our disposal, so that we might have it whenever and wherever we wanted it. On the Sabbath I attended the meetings held in King Eyo's yard and Young Eyo's house. Was much delighted by seeing so many people at both. Spoke a few words in Young Eyo's, as a man brought back from the brink of the grave and the very gates of the eternal world, to assure all who heard me that nothing is of any avail to a man when he comes to die, except the word of God and an interest in the Saviour of sinners. Young Eyo interpreted fully and faithfully, and enlarged on some points which I did not touch at all. One such point was, the folly of people when any big man dies, as if the murdered persons could do any good to a dead gentleman in another world. Was much delighted with an extemporary prayer offered by Young Eyo at the commencement of the meeting. It was in Efik, and the assemblage repeated it after him. I could not help feeling that the spirit of grace and of supplication was at work in that young man's heart. Was much pleased to see the deep interest shown by King Eyo and others in Mr. Goldie's discourse. Mr. G. preaches to them in Efik. It was also pleasant to see that whenever Mr. G. announced the hymn to be sung, King Eyo got on his spectacles and sought out the hymn, just as I have seen some worthy elders in Jamaica do. He seemed to find it pretty readily, and I understand that he also sings as well as he is able. He also stands up reverentially during prayer. In the evening we observed the ordinance of the Lord's Supper. Mrs. Edgerley's illness prevented Mr. E. from being with us. Mr. G. both preached and dispensed, and afterwards Mr. Thomson addressed the large number of young people present in their own tongue, explaining to them what we meant by this service. Some of the Duke Town gentlemen say that Mr. T. knows their language better than they do themselves.

On Thursday evening we returned to Duke Town. I felt much strengthened and refreshed in spirit by the change. Mrs. A. also felt much benefited thereby. She was very much worn out. She had a good deal of extra labour, first by Captain Riekcn's sickness, then by Dr. Morgan's, and then by mine. She is now quite revived. We have great reason to sing of the mercies of the Lord.

Since I last wrote you, school has been pretty well attended. Mr. Iladdison has had it under his exclusive management since I became sick. I scarcely expect to be able for its duties for some weeks to come.

After five silent, or all but silent, Sabbaths, I felt anxious to do a little yesterday and attended two meetings—those at Henry Cobham's, and in the palaver-house. Mr. Haddison conducted the devotional exercises, and I read a Calabar discourse (which occupied just about half an hour) at each. My hour's work fatigued me exceedingly. Felt drowsy and giddy all day afterwards, and quite unable to go over to school to say a kxv words in English at four o'clock, as I had purposed to do.

For a considerable time after Archibong's devil-making was over, I had the utmost difficulty in getting any of the gentlemen to attend the palaver-house meetings. I could not conjecture what was the matter, till I received the following letter. I interline a few words to make it intelligible:—

Dear Friend Mr. Axderson, —I am let you know how all Calabar gentlemen. The(y) send this word to you, and let you know what the all Calabar gentlemen been stop all time of God day, because (they are) vex(ed) with you. What the Creek Town God man {i.e. missionary) make any Creek Town gentleman have good dress for any God day, then that make we say, suppose you give we fine dress, then we be glad to come for palaver-house of God day; then we say, if you cannot doing so, we done palaver of God; then God no (say) we been do bad thing to Him, because we like very good of God ; then we thank you to do so for we; then suppose we have any dress of God day, (we) glad to God,—I am your friend,

John Archibong, Esq.

The substance of it is this—That if I give them all fine dresses, as Mr. Waddell gave to Creek Town gentlemen, then the)- would attend the meeting to hear God's word; but if I would not give them fine dresses, the)' would not attend, but as they say, "We done palaver for God."

I wrote a long reply, contrasting the difference of the reception given to God's word by Creek Town people and Duke Town "people, the number of children sent to school in both towns, etc. etc. I stated that all the missionaries who had been at Creek Town had been able to send home "plenty good news" from Creek Town, such as the stopping of Sabbath-day's market, etc.; and that, when friends at home read this good news they felt glad, and some sent dashes to Creek Town gentlemen, but that very little good news could be sent home about Duke Town gentlemen. I promised that if they all attended meeting to hear God's word—send plenty children to school— abolished market on God's day, etc.—I should not fail to report their good deeds to friends at home ; and should anyone send them presents—dressing-gowns and caps are what they chiefly wish—I should faithfully deliver them. I reminded them, moreover, of the fine dresses sent to Archibong and Mr. Young some years ago. I also protested that a begging letter like theirs was not fit for any gentleman to write. I could add to the professed writer of the letter—the real writer was my friend George Duke—John Archibong, Esq., now chief of the Archibong family, that his late brother, King Archibong, though very glad when he got any dash, never yet begged me for a single thing. I cannot remember all particulars; but the result was, that on the following Sabbath, as almost on every Sabbath since, the whole band of those represented in the letter have attended meeting on Sabbath. Indeed, the palaver-house has frequently been quite filled. It is but due to the late Captain Rieken to say that, from the time of his arrival here, he took a deep interest in our work. Being- an old and much-esteemed trader, his influence with the native gentlemen was very great. lie spoke very sharply to King Duke, Mr. Young, and others, on account of their carelessness in regard to the word of God.

Feeling wearied with the exertion of writing, I must stop.

In a letter dated 14th April 1853, referring to Mr. Anderson's illness, the Rev. A. Elliot says:—

It appears from what you say that it has been a very unhealthy season at Calabar. . . . At the same time, I cannot but have a deep impression that you have been overworking yourself, and consequently that you have been somewhat instrumental in bringing upon yourself, or at least rendering yourself more liable to, the fearful disease which has nearly cost you your life. I am well aware that the absence of Mr. Waddell, and the whole care and labour of the station devolving upon you, would render it very difficult not to task yourself above your strength, and that with so man)- calls to labour you would scarcely feel at liberty, or have it in your power, to spare yourself. Still, you ought to have remembered that you had not two lives, nor two men's strength, and that you were required to act only according to what you had, and not according to what you had not. I trust that among other good things the fever will have taught you, this will be one—to husband your energies—to be careful of yourself, and not to be too ambitious of a martyr's grave. We should be studious not only of living as much, but as long to the Lord as we can ; and to consider life, as well as everything else, as a talent committed to us, which we are to occupy for the advancement of His glory, neither uselessly hiding it, nor thoughtlessly and imprudently spending it. . . .


 


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