It has been my endeavour in the following pages to bring together the results of such observations as many years' acquaintance with Melanesian people has enabled me to make. I had once hoped to have been able to give something more like a full account of the beliefs and practices of the natives of those islands concerning which I have had the opportunity of collecting information; but my stay upon my last return to the Melanesian Mission was too short for this, and I have now to put forth what I know to be very incomplete.
My observations and enquiries were carried on, and my notes were made, in the years from 1863, when I first visited the islands, to 1887, when I left the Mission; partly in the Melanesian Islands, but mostly in Norfolk Island, where natives of many of these islands have for many years been brought together for instruction. Twice during this period I made with natives of the various islands a systematic enquiry into the religious beliefs and practices of the Melanesians, and the social regulations and conditions prevailing among them. On the first occasion I had, as regards the Banks' Islands, the very valuable assistance of a native who was a grown youth before his people had been at all affected by intercourse with Europeans or had heard any Christian teaching—the Rev. George Sarawia, the first,