Chapter IX. Increased difficulties and dangers--Destruction of Wesleyan settlement--Quiet restored--Hongi's death--Mediation between hostile tribes
AS years passed on, there was no improvement in the external aspect of New Zealand. Many of the chiefs increasingly desired peace; but fear of each other prevented them from openly acknowledging it, and they continued to follow Hongi in his destructive expeditions. [There were, however, a few, more bold than the rest, who had the courage to refuse. One of these was Temorenga, the young chief who had accompanied Mr. Marsden on his inland journeys, (see page 78,) and who even ventured to remonstrate with Hongi on the subject. Waikato too, since his voyage to England, had learnt to detest the scenes of cannibalism that attended these expeditions, and refused to have anything more to do with them.]
As these expeditions became more frequent, the people became more wild and turbulent; and the absence of Hongi from the neighbourhood was a signal for plundering parties from a distance to attack the settlement of Keri-keri. Again and again were the brethren subjected to the outrages we have before described; more than once their faces were spit on; Mr. Shepherd was several times struck with a spear; and Mr. Clarke only escaped destruction from an uplifted [100/101] hatchet by the quiet fearlessness of his demeanour. He might well write on this occasion, "Our preservation among this people is little less of a miracle than that of the Three Children in the fiery furnace, for we are in the heart of Satan's kingdom."--Mr. R. Davis, who had only lately arrived, says, "The Mission is in a very dark state; we are surrounded by enemies. But the hand of the Lord is very visible, and though we may be obliged to leave the country for a time, or may even be devoured by these cannibals, yet the cause of Christ is beyond the power of Satan to hinder. Only, O Lord, increase our faith."
At times, however, there were seasons of rest even for Keri-keri, and the Missionaries were now and then able for months together to pursue their labours without any serious molestation. At one time indeed a hope was entertained that Hongi himself would become tired of war, and apply himself to more peaceful pursuits.
In an expedition he had undertaken in July, 1820, against Kaiparo on the western coast, the eldest of his sons was slain; and the deep grief in which some of the Missionaries found the unhappy father, when paying him a visit of sympathy, led to a hope that his mind might now be more open to a sense of the miseries of his cruel course. [We shall have occasion to refer to this visit at a future time.] Encouraged therefore by the solicitations of their more peaceable neighbours, Mr. Williams and his brethren invited Hongi and his war-loving allies to a conference on the subject at Keri-keri, when, laying before them the sorrows and sufferings which they brought upon themselves and their [101/102] people by their present habits, they urged them in the most earnest manner to turn to the cultivation of the arts of peace. All seemed softened: and some even, spoke of leaving off fighting at some future time, hut for the present none would relinquish their purpose of avenging the death of the young chief. "You are rushing into the arms of death as down a precipice," said one of the Missionaries. "I know it," returned Hongi, "but a man that has a large heart for his friends who have been killed, will bid the world farewell, and jump down the precipice." Missionaries, ""We pray every day for you that God may give you new hearts, and make you leave off fighting." Hongi, "My heart is as hard as a piece of wood, and I cannot stop; I must go, I must kill that one man, Toko," (chief of Kaiparo,) "but I believe you speak to us out of love."
Disappointed in their hope, the Missionaries could only still wait upon God.
But the most critical period in the history of the Mission, was the beginning of the year 1827.
A few months previously, Hongi had been visited with severe domestic affliction of the most painful and mortifying nature, and his health and spirits were so much affected that the Missionaries became alarmed as to their own personal security; for, according to New Zealand custom, the death of a chief subjects all who are under his protection to spoliation and ill-usage, as a matter of right, from any who choose to attack them; and' insolent messages to this effect were several times sent to Keri-keri. The chief himself was already suffering from this same custom, which permitted a partial plunder of any one who was, as they called it, "broken;" a band of 200 men visited Waimate, and as [102/103] a proof of sympathy and regard, [It is really considered so!] carried off every article of property they could find in the village. The Missionaries failed not to take this opportunity of renewing their earnest endeavours to lead the mind of the chief to eternal things, but all in vain; his personal friendship for themselves was coupled with a determined hatred to their message, and as they saw him gradually recovering his health and energy, their hearts mourned over the reflection that the salvation of his soul was likely to be less and less the object of his care. [Col. Mundy is mistaken in stating (See Our Antipodes, vol. ii. p. 56) that the Missionaries at any time considered Hongi as brought within the pale of Christianity. He always rejected it.]
Hongi sought to relieve his burdened heart by very different means; and as if the only pleasure he could now enjoy was that of inflicting misery on others, early in 1827 he sot out to attack Whangaroa. As usual, he was victorious; and, as usual, the carnage and wanton cruelties that were committed were almost too dreadful to be believed.
In the midst of the confusion, the Wesleyan .settlement was attacked, plundered, and burnt to the ground; and the Missionary families were forced to flee for their lives twenty miles on foot, through woods and swamps, to the friendly hospitality of Keri-keri. But Keri-keri itself, as well as the other stations, was now in peril, for Hongi was wounded, and it was said mortally; the whole Bay was in commotion; the turbulent party renewed their triumphant threats; sickening scenes of cannibalism were again perpetrated close to [103/104] the Mission houses; and almost every hour brought some fresh report of tribe rising against tribe, while the few that desired peace united with the friends of the chief in mournful wailings at the prospect of the coming storm. [The Missionaries' anxieties were increased by the arrival in the Bay of a small vessel with sixty convicts, who, while on their way to Norfolk Island, had risen on the captain and crew, possessed themselves of the ship, and had now landed at Kororarika, perpetrating dreadful outrages, and threatening more, especially against the Missionaries.]
The Missionaries were greatly alarmed, for they well knew the imminent danger they were in; they met and prayed and deliberated; and the God who had sent them there gave them courage according to their day, and they determined to remain at their posts till actually forced away. "When the natives," writes Mr. W. Williams at the very time, "are in our houses, carrying away our property, it will be time enough for us to take to our boats;" and Mr. H. Williams, writing in the same spirit, says, "Our minds are stayed on the Lord, believing that, whatever may be the result, it shall tend to his glory." Such was the unanimous feeling and resolve throughout the three stations, nor was there a wife or mother among them, trembling as each must have done for husband and children, that shrunk from this decision, or suffered her own feelings to unnerve her for active exertion, though some were in a state of health that made them peculiarly susceptible of alarm and anxiety.
The Missionaries, however, took the precaution of burying their money, concealing the articles in common use, and of packing up as quickly as possible and [104/105] sending off to Port Jackson, by a vessel just leaving the Bay, all their books, stores, and everything they could possibly do without; thus lessening the temptations to plunder, as well as securing some portion of their own and the Society's property. This last-mentioned step alarmed the few chiefs who remained peaceable and friendly; they feared the Missionaries were intending themselves to quit the Island; and Tekoke, Bewa, and several others gathered round them, entreating them not to leave their posts, and assuring them that in case of any attack they would lay down their lives in their defence: while Ware-poaka of Rangi-hona, and nil the natives residing on the Mission premises at the three stations, declared their determination to accompany them, should they be driven away from the country. Had an attack been really made, all their combined efforts would have availed but little against the hundreds of furious aggressors; but these unexpected proofs of attachment helped to uphold (he spirits of the Missionary band, and showed the influence they had almost insensibly obtained.
The week passed away slowly and anxiously, some fresh report continually arriving to harass and perplex them; but the Sunday services were felt as peculiarly soothing and encouraging; and a day or two afterwards they were relieved by finding that Hongi's wound had assumed a more favourable appearance, and that he was out of immediate danger. Once more things settled down into their usual course, and the Missionaries were again permitted to enjoy a season of quiet. [It was January 14th, and the 71st Psalm seemed as if written expressly for them, while the 72nd cheered them with its prospect of the glorious future.]
 Hongi however never entirely recovered; he lingered for about a year, and died on March 5th, 1828. [Hongi was a very remarkable character, and notwithstanding his horrible cruelty and revolting crimes, there was much of noble generosity in his conduct and feelings. He had a great respect for Europeans, and not even all the insults and treachery he experienced from some of the ships that frequented the Bay, could ever provoke him to take the life of a white man. Except for a time after his return from England, when under the evil influence of one from whom better things might have been expected, he was a firm, friend to the Missionaries; and though unable to preserve them from sudden attacks or minor injuries, they felt that their lives and property were as safe under his protection, as they could expect them to be in any lawless community. His last moments were employed in exhorting his survivors to treat them kindly, and on no account to provoke them to leave the country. He also gave strict injunctions that no slaves should be sacrificed at his death. And yet, as to his soul, all was midnight gloom; he rejected the gospel to the very last.]
And now the destruction of the Missions would have been inevitable, had not God so wonderfully ordered the course of events, that the fiercer portion of the neighbouring tribes were absent on an expedition against Hokianga on the western coast, while the immediate adherents of Hongi were restrained from violence by the dying injunctions of their late chief. The station remained entirely unmolested; and not only so, but just at this very time circumstances arose of so encouraging a character, and forming so new a feature in the history of New Zealand, that setting aside chronology, we shall introduce some of them here, and afterwards return to the events of the intermediate period.
A short time before the death of Hongi, a bold and restless chief named Warehumi had found, or invented, some pretest for quarrelling with the people of Hokianga, and gathering round him a number of the fierce [106/107] Ngagpuis, proceeded to attack them. After some minor events a battle took place, in which Warehumi was killed, and his followers routed. By the "common law" of New Zealand the Ngapuis must not rest till they had obtained "Utu" by the death of some Hokianga chief of equal rank with Warehumi, and they summoned their allies, the rest of the Bay of Islands chiefs, to assist them. Rewa, Tohi-tapu, Ware-poaka, Temarangha, and several others had learnt to hate war, yet they dared not disobey the summons. In this strait they applied to the Missionaries, telling them their desire for peace, but that according to the laws of their country they were bound to avenge the death of Warehumi, and proposing that these messengers of heavenly peace should undertake to mediate an earthly one. The Missionaries wore surprised at a request so new, and contrary to all native customs; and though they had no expectation of success, yet they consented to join the expedition.
Accordingly, on March 20, 1828, Mr. H. Williams set out, joined by Mr. K. Davis, Mr. Kemp, and Mr. Clarke, and some of their own native boys; and accompanied by Rewa. The next day they reached the spot where the different parties of Ngapuis had already collected, presenting a really formidable appearance, almost every one being armed with a musket. The evening was spent in conversation with the rest of the chiefs, whom to their agreeable surprise they found well disposed to peace, and in witnessing several "nakas," or dances, in which the dancers performed so vehemently, that the ground actually trembled under them.
The next morning they all proceeded together to the [107/108] scene of action, and after passim; through thick woods and deep swamps in a storm of rain and thunder, they found themselves at noon in a most beautiful valley opposite the Pa of the enemy. At this point the valley had spread out into a level plain nearly two miles in breadth, dotted with low trees and bushes, and well planted with kumeras. Here they speedily formed an encampment of temporary huts and booths, and the Missionaries were surprised to see with what order and regularity all was done, each tribe sitting by itself, and yielding implicit obedience to the commands of its leader.
In the afternoon, the chief promoters of the peace movement, Rewa and Tohi-tapu, requested the Missionaries to go into the Pa to ascertain the feelings of the enemy towards an amicable arrangement. It was a bold request, for nothing was certainly known of the dispositions of the Mahurehure; and should they be ill-disposed, the lives of the messengers would probably be sacrificed. But the maxim and practice of -the brethren was to go straight forward in the path of duty, and leave the results with God. They resolved to undertake the dangerous mission, and Mr. Williams and Mr. Davis, accompanied by two friendly natives, set out. To their thankful joy they found Patuone, the chief, very pleased to see them, and well inclined to their proposal. After a good deal of conversation with him, they returned to the camp with the acceptable news, and spent the evening in. visiting various chiefs, and strengthening their pacific resolutions. The morrow was the Sabbath; but as all seemed anxious that no time should be lost in ratifying a peace, lest the slumbering passions of the leaders should by any [108/109] accident be again aroused, the Missionaries thought it consistent with the spirit of the commandment, not to oppose the general wish, and consented to carry on the negotiations the following day. They simply reminded Ware-poaka, Rewa, &c, of the circumstance; and, to the grateful surprise of the brethren, these men immediately agreed that they would "sit still" on the "Ratapu" if Mr. Williams could procure the consent of the other chiefs. Tohi-tapu and Uroroa themselves addressed the assembled people in very animated terms; and it was agreed on all hands that the business should be deferred till Monday.
It was a strange and yet very interesting Sabbath, that the Missionaries spent among these people. In the morning all was quiet throughout the camp, two of the brethren proceeded to the Pa to explain the cause of the delay, and to declare to the Mahurehure the glad tidings of a Saviour's love; and the others prepared to hold Divine service in the Ngapui camp. It was a very striking scene. A large white linen flag was hoisted in the middle of the camp. At a little distance on either side were the booths and huts of the encampment, with many of the people variously employed; behind were the wooded hills they had traversed in their way; in front, across the plain, the height was covered with the fortified village of the enemy, strong in its rude but picturesque defences of stockades, and trenches, and palisades of brandies of trees; among which stood the native dwellings. Immediately around the Missionaries were seated in close circles on the ground, attired in their parti-coloured mats, five hundred warriors, whom Tohi-tapu had prevailed on to attend the service, all with immortal souls, [109/110] but all in heathen darkness. The Missionaries and their school-boys began their service with a hymn, and as the melody of heart and lip floated on the air, it seemed to breathe a holy calm around; and these sons of the forest and the battle-field sat silent and attentive while the messengers of peace told them of Him who had shed His blood for them, and offered up prayer to God for the salvation of their souls.
The rest of the day was spent by the Missionaries in going from hut to hut, speaking more individually to the people; and "thus," writes one of the party, "we spent our Sabbath in the midst of this large body of armed savages, without the least fear or apprehension." How little, when they left their Bay of Islands homes, could they have anticipated such a day in the Hokianga valley!
And now arrived the eventful morning which was not only to decide the question of peace and war between two powerful tribes, and to result in the preservation or destruction of human life, but, if peace should be concluded, it would, for the first time in New Zealand, establish the principle that it was possible for a reconciliation to be effected with some other "utu" than blood for blood.
The negotiations were not very complicated: Tohi-tapu, though not without some shrinking back, consented to accompany the Missionaries to the Pa; when they reached the boundary ditch, the white flag was planted, and they passed on. Patuone received them courteously; himself accompanied them back to the entrance of the village, and sent forward his eldest son and other persons of distinction to the flag of peace. Rewa came forward from the camp, crossed the ditch, [110/111] rubbed noses with the Mahure-hure, and peace was concluded.
A loud noise was now heard in the camp, and soon a body of 700 men were seen advancing in great order, threading their way among the bushes on the plain. A stranger would have trembled for the result; for when within 150 yards of the flag, they rushed forward with a horrid yell. But it was all in due order, and after both parties had performed various "nakas," and fired volleys of musketry, they quietly dispersed; and the chiefs rejoiced to get their excitable followers once more on their road homewards.
Thus happily terminated this courageous attempt to mediate between two hostile tribes; the blessing of God was on it; and, as Mr. W. Williams observes, a more evident inroad was made in the kingdom of the great enemy than had yet been seen.