She wanted to be where she could reach the most people. She wanted to work at Arochuku, the chief city of Aros which was also near the Efik, Ibo and Ibibio tribes. She wanted to open her first station at Itu, which was on the mouth of Enyong creek, her second station at Arochuku and a third at Bende.
The central position of Itu impressed her; it commanded the three contiguous regions and peoples the Ibo, Ibibio, and Efik, and her plan was to seize and hold it as a base, then one of the towns of Arochuku as the threshold of Iboland, and, if possible, Bende.
The mother, Iye, was a slave from Bende, light in colour and handsome, and was the property of one of the big women, who treated her with kindness and consideration. When the twins arrived all was changed.
Mary had first-hand acquaintance with the people. Refugees came to her from both Ibo and Ibibio with stories of cruelty and wrong and oppression; chiefs from both regions sought her out for advice and guidance; slave-dealers from Arochuku and Bende, with their human wares, called at Ekenge and Akpap, and with many of these she was friendly, and learned from them the secrets of their trade.
She succeeded in calming the rising passions, and in reassuring the people as to the purpose of the inoculation. "This poor frail woman," she said, "is the broken reed on which they lean. Isn't it strange? I'm glad anyhow that I'm of use in protecting the helpless." The people said if she would perform the operation they would agree, and she sent to Bende for lymph, and was busy for days.
Perhaps we educate the people too much, and make them think that education is religion." When in February she heard that the Roman Catholics were intending to settle at Bende her heart was heavy. "The thought that all that is holiest in the Church, should have been shed to create an opening for that corrupt body makes me ill. And not even a station opened or the hope of one!
The journey was by launch to Itu, by steel canoe up the Enyong Creek, thence by foot or hammock to Arochuku and Bende. He stated that Bishop Johnston of the Church Missionary Society was already in Bende prospecting. When she received his letter she said to herself, "Shall I go?" She did not wish to compromise the mission in any way, and proposed to go about the matter quietly, at her own expense.
Luke, one of the Cross River pioneers, "is that nearly all the town names in connection with it are unknown to those of us who thought we had a passable knowledge of Old Calabar. I never heard of the Aros, of Bende, or of Arochuku. It is somewhat humiliating that after over fifty years' work as a mission, the district on the right bank should be so little known to us."
Adam, a Government friend in Bende, a soldier of the Church as well as a servant of the King, and he supplied her with all the information she needed. Bende, he said, was not the place it was supposed to be; the population numbered from two to four thousand; it was not likely to become a trading centre; whilst the overland transport was a disadvantage.