I had no misgivings in
leaving my brother-Pioneer alone on the island; he would be just as safe
there in his solitary glory with Tartar as I should be all alone in the
midst of the strange tribe to whom I was bound. He had no more firearms than
I had, but he certainly had a large stock of ammunition with which he could
fight any number of natives likely to come his way. I too had armed myself
with like munitions, my cartouch-box being filled with tobacco cartridges.
With half a fig of tobacco
any native appearing on the scene of action could be shot off (if not
finally disposed of) at all events until that shot from that locker was
smoked out, when perhaps a return of the tobacco fight might come off—a
fight of words only.
On the evening of the same
afternoon that I left the island I was landed at the other end of the inlet
at my place of destination, Oinapuhia, by Rama, and he proceeded home to
My letter of credentials from
Kanini to Te Tara, head chief of the Ngatitais, was received by him with
every sign of high respect for the quarter from which it proceeded, and I
was immediately made much of.
Te Tara appointed his own
wife—he had only one, having been converted from his ways of polygamy —to be
my handmaiden and attend upon me. The handmaiden being a rather ancient
party, and mother of a grown and growing-up family, I was safe from falling
an untimely victim to her charms.
The largest whare in the
village was swept and garnished—with clean fern—for me. No one had to vacate
the premises, for it was the meeting-house which had arisen when Te Tara
forswore his extra wives and turned "meetinary," was converted from his
heathen ways, and took to psalm-singing at the solicitation of his reverend
During my sojourn, however,
at Omapuhia, this big whare became occupied by all the personages of
importance, male and female, irrespective of age, of the tribe, to do their
smoking and gossiping korero-ing, not a few making it their sleeping
quarters as well.
The nice clean fern covered
the earthen floor; then a new clean mat was spread upon it for me, and a
good many not nice clean ones were also spread either side of mine, which
told me I was not going to be without company.
By the time these
preparations were made I had heard my letter of introduction read a dozen
times, for every new-corner who kept dropping in from the kumera plantations
had the benefit of the composition.
Such a great arrival, a live
Rangatera Pakeha bringing such a letter, did not happen every day at
Ornapuhia; no, indeed! this was the first occasion of the kind, so little
wonder the most was made of it.
Before dark I found myself
comfortably stretched full length on my mat, and large as was the whare, it
was as full as it could hold of the tribe gentle and simple, all in the most
intense state of gratification that they had got hold of a Rangatera Pakeha
to smoke and talk over. Although I hated tobacco-smoke above all things, I
had to suffer and be strong and minister to my own discomfort by
distributing gifts of the, to me, noxious weed to my new friends to make
them happy in the possession of their pipes of peace.
As-the evening went on denser
and denser drew the smoke, which kept pouring out in volumes from all around
me until I was fain to lie down flat on my back to get my head as low as
possible to avoid gulping down solid mouthfuls, for there was a space of
about two feet high from the ground which was free from it. Heaven knows, I
felt myself utterly unable to hold a high head that night amongst my new
friends. I made occasional rushes out into the open air to breathe more
freely for a few minutes and cool myself down, for the whare was intensely
warm, a large fire blazing away in the centre of the floor, surrounded by
old and young, and pipes here, pipes there, and pipes everywhere in fullest
Ah, did I not envy the
solitary occupant of the snug little tent on Korea?
The infliction lasted the
whole night. I got snatches of sleep, but, it mattered not when I awoke, I
saw a knot of smokers round the fire hard at work. I heard them talking
about Kanini, Waiomu. Motu Korea, te whare, te Pakehia, and utu—this last
word payment—being the burthen of their song, To that one word I fell asleep
to that one word I woke again; sleeping or waking utu it was—utu evermore.
But I had one reflection to
comfort me during this small purgatory I was undergoing. Te Tarn had
consented to come with his people to Motu Korea to builds a whare, so I
could well afford to allow them to discuss in anticipation the "utu" they
would receive for building it.
Oh! how I wished that night
that I could have loved tobacco as they did, and smoked a pipe myself! But
it was never vouchsafed to me, neither then nor throughout my life, to smoke
the pipe of consolation. I hate tobacco now even as I did then; more was the
But how remiss I have been I
have failed to chronicle at its proper time, shortly after sundown when I
took possession of my quarters, a circumstance which would have rejoiced the
hearts of all subscribers to Exeter Hall in general and Foreign Missions in
particular. As the sun dipped behind the distant hills an old woman could be
seen holding in one hand a three-legged pot, suspended by a blade of flax,
which she struck with a stone held in the other hand, and thus tolled a
chime which called the tribe to evening prayers.
The whare filled immediately
with devout worshippers, who, muffled in their mats and blankets, strewed
themselves over the floor in a promiscuous manner. The conductor of the
religious ceremony then gave out a psalm, upon which all assembled forthwith
"gave out" in song what I supposed to be some Pakeha tune which doubtless
the "Meetinary" had endeavoured to teach them.
But alas for the
extraordinary noise that fell upon my ear! I utterly failed to recognise it,
or from what time it was a falling away. The imitation was not to be traced
to any tune religious or profane—in fact, the sound was quite terrible, even
in the low suppressed tone in which—fortunately .for me—it was given. It had
nothing either European or Maori about it; of the former element the
instructing Missionary had utterly failed to impart any resemblance. If it
had only been allowed to assume the latter, any Maori lament and chant or
song, save the war song, would have been better than the hideous incongruity
into which the ill used psalm tune had drifted.
It was, however, decorously
given, and after it a chapter from the New Testament was read, winding up
with the Lord's Prayer—all in the Maori language, of course. Even at that
date the Scriptures had been translated into Maori, and were in the hands of
the missionaries for distribution.
On the Amen being pronounced
the whole meeting-house, as if by a stroke of an enchanter's wand, was
instantaneously converted into a gossiping hall again, with accompanying
incense proceeding from innumerable pipes, all hard at work before the
parson had stuck his Testament behind one of the rafters overhead—a sort of
depot for storing away things.
"Ah! how beautiful for this
simple, untutored race to assemble thus night and morning in their own rude
way to worship the Lord!" I can imagine the dear old ladies of Exeter Hall
exclaiming; and I can also, without any very great stretch of imagination,
conjure up the touching and telling picture a returned -Missionary could
paint when addressing an Exeter Hall audience, taking for his text the "Omapuhia
Maories at prayer."
But, dear ladies, a word in
your ear—just a little word in your ear. Do you suppose the Maori
understands what he has been—parrot-fashion— repeating? that he can in any
way enter into and appreciate the pure spirit of Divine revelation? Alas!
dear ladies, It must despoil you of the ecstatic belief in which you have
been erroneously revelling! It is a mere delusion by which both the
Missionary and Exeter Hall are deluded, and I would that I might allow you
to hug this belief to your religious hearts in peace; but my conscience
I hold the countless
thousands spent in converting the heathen to be truly "a vain thing;" they
ought to be spent nearer home—surely charity ought to begin there. Who shall
say there are not heathen steeped in deepest ignorance of Christianity
within the chime of Bow Bells in the modern Babylon?
But, alas! no éclat would
arise from missionary conversion in that quarter—no excitement to fill
Exeter hail and extract subscriptions. Yet too certainly could thrilling
tales be told of deepest human degradation, but what romance could there be
drawn from that source of supply? how much pleasanter not to hear of it! to
keep it away deep down out of sight and revealing.
But a sentimental story from
a far-off land under a sunny sky, of how savages who once had been given to
eating each other now tolled the bell— what though it were only a
three-legged pot—to morning and evening prayer on Omapuhia shore
Ah! that was pleasant to
listen to, a halo of romance enshrined a narrative drawn from that source.
These were not disagreeable naked truths speaking home to the heart
unpleasantly because too true---truths which it is a foul disgrace to have
existing in our very midst—a disgrace which no conscience dare deny, but
which is shut out of sight and relegated to an unrevealed future.
How supremely grotesque was
ever the Exeter Hall romance tale of conversions when compared with the
Antipodean reality as known to the pioneer settlers! But how could it have
The early missionaries who
came in contact with the Maori race (with. one or two bright exceptions,
whom I delight to honour) were not men who could command respect or even
cope with the "savage faculty" in intellect. I wish not to be misunderstood
in the remarks I am about to pass (made in sorrow, not ridicule) on humble
but brave men who went with their lives in their hands to live amid a savage
but highly-intellectual race to convert them to religion and teach them a
trade. It was a fatal error to suppose that men with this double
qualification would prove the .right men in the right place amongst such a
highly-intelligent race as the Maories. The trade they might have taught
them, but the grafting of
religion on to it was the tacking on mental work of which they were
incapable, save by the rule of rote. The selection, perforce, was given to
the missionary who had followed a trade and could teach it, and if lie were
willing to face the conversion of the heathen, the capability to do so was
taken for granted. But
no greater mistake was ever made. When respect for mental capacity of the
teacher is wanting, small is the effect of the doctrines inculcated, in the
mind of the taught.
Such, in a word, was the
state of the case between the early Missionary and the Maori. Kanini's
little trip-up of the converting Missionary, when he told him there could be
no "casting into outer darkness' when "fire and brimstone" were hard at
work, was but a little side-play compared to the strong reasoning with which
lie could have coped with his adversary.
The Missionary teacher in his
own mechanical way—which caused his selection for his work—would have been
convincingly overwhelming, he could have rattled his wheelwright's hammer
about old Kanini's ears and flashed his chisel before his eyes in a way
which would most infallibly have convinced the chief that Te Meetinary. was
the better man of the two—at that work! Kanini would have felt a strong
conviction that it was but a mere matter of time before he, too, would be
able to make wheeled vehicles strong enough to carry his whole tribe, laden
with their ancient superstitious tapu and all, over the roughest road to
Christian conversion—could the missionary but have shown him that path.
But that was just what the missionary could not do. He had taught his pupils
to read and write their own language in our characters—for no Maori one over
existed—he had taught them the reading of The Scriptures by rule, and the
saying of prayers by rote, and the singing of hymns to a hideously
discordant noise, but to these outward forms of worship no inward feelings
of conviction had been added. it was mere word-worship, not
heart-devotion--a mere substitute of one kind of superstition for another in
Very sad this, my dear ladies
of Exeter Hall—sad, but none the less true.
I promised the proof some
chapters back, and I shall now give it you.
Five years later than the
date of which I now write (which period I throw in to Exeter Hall to allow
the Maori a still longer time to become properly imbued with the proper
appreciation of the religion to which they had
been—outwardly—converted)—five years later, when the chief Heke stood
arrayed in hostile attitude against the Government, but not the settlers,
and when Nene took up the quarrel and fought for us until Her Majesty's
troops could take the field, our native allies included both converted and
unconverted tribes. One morning, before going forth to do battle, two
priests, a heathen and a missionary, were offering prayers side by side for
success to their arms, each performing their respective parts—I use this
language designedly —the heathen priest his incantation; the converted
priest the Lord's Prayer. The first sentence only of the latter had been
repeated, when, suddenly stopping, the missionary turned to the
incantation-man and said, "Now take care and don't make a mistake in your
part, and I won't make a mistake in mine!"
In his what? Oh Exeter Hall?
A Christian prayer?
Can you call it such?
I cannot; the word I am
constrained to use is simply —incantation.
And it is for such conversion
England spends her countless thousands—alas.
Oh ladies of Exeter hall, why
look you not nearer home? Have you no bowels of compassion for your own sex
who are daily driven by cruel starvation beyond the reclaiming aid of any
missionary, who sell both body and soul for the means of subsistence,
dragging through a living death, and you might assuage their sufferings and
save their souls from perdition?
But you will not.
"Convert the heathen" is your
motto—not the heathen at your own door, more numerous than in all the isles
of Polynesia—but the heathen basking in the sunny climes of far-off
lands—the heathen bountifully supplied by nature's prodigal hand.
Oh! ye Foreign Missions that
only make your heathen change one form of Incantation for another and that
so miserably fail to imbue your converts with any true idea of the guiding
Principle of Christian faith, pray ye stay at home.
Note.—Since these lines were
penned many years have passed, but have only too truly and painfully proved
that the missionary teaching resulted ill nought but substituting one
outward form of worship for another. And what resulted, even after one great
master-mind followed in the wake of time simple early missionary, and took
up the "good work?"—I believe that is the accepted and proper phrase to use.
The Maori wars, only chronicled in painful characters of blood, the utter
failure of all missionary labour when the newly-converted tribes fell away
from the Christian faith—faith indeed !and invented new faiths of their own
and ran riot in them.
Yes, even the teaching of
Selwyn failed to leave any impress; and after many years, and ill his own
day and time, he had to weep to see the heartrending collapse of his great
And if his great grasp of
mind and character, imbued with such a generous and chivalrous devotion to
time Maori race, whose motto indeed was Maoriland for the Maories—if his
indomitable zeal failed to instil true religion into the native mind, how
could the simple primitive "mechanic missionary" ever have succeeded