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Distant Homes; or the Graham Family in New Zealand

Chapter XI

page 67

Chapter XI.

Lucy and Beatrice become Teachers—Native Religion—The first Missionary—Letters from England.

As soon as he had seen his wife and family settled in their comfortable lodgings at the Scotchwoman's, Captain Graham set about his arrangements for going to his farm, having determined to take the agent's advice, and prepare a house for his wife and family before he let them face the hardships of a settler's life.

This plan disappointed Lucy more than even having to give up the overland journey; and she began to hint to Tom and Beatrice, that she thought she might just as well have stayed at school in England, as come out to be left in a paltry lodging in a town, there being no difference, that she could find out, between the lodgings they were now in and some they had two summers before, in England. Even the few natives she saw were scarcely different from Europeans, and, except for their tattoed faces, might have passed for gipseys. After a great deal of grumbling, she ended by her old complaint at not being a boy, so Tom ran off, and brought in a suit of his clothes, gravely offering to cut her hair for her, so that she should be ready to start with them for the plains.

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Lucy got very angry at his joke, and cried bitterly when he finished off, by saying:—

“Well, Luce, if you cannot wear my clothes, you can mend them. I'll leave you those I wore on the journey, to amuse your fingers with while Papa and I are clearing. Girls are not fit for rough work. Papa and I shall wear out no end of clothes, so you and Beatrice will have lots of easy, quiet going work to do. There, now, don't make such a fuss. What's the use of crying; crying won't make a boy of you, or mend my shirts. There, kiss me! that's a good old girl, and don't be silly. Cheer up, old Luce, you're a capital fellow—for a girl!”

And, so saying, Tom dashed out of the room, saying to himself, “Girls are such soft-hearted things; I wish poor Luce were not one.”

After Tom and Captain Graham had departed, with two hired men, and a few sheep, and a cow, to their farm, Mrs. Graham began to think how she could most profitably employ the girls during the intervening time. Of course there was a great deal of sewing to be done, but she did not wish to keep them stitching all day. At last it struck her Captain Graham had mentioned there was a large native Pah, very near their future home. If that was the case, what better or more useful employment could they have than learning how to teach the native children.

Both little girls were delighted with the plan, Lucy, particularly, who (between ourselves) would have hailed anything that offered a chance of release from the use of her thimble; so they gave their Mamma no rest until she had called in the clergyman to her aid, and from him found out that there was a large school for native children, page 69 which, being entirely managed by some charitable ladies, he could get the little girls permission to attend. Indeed, he was so much pleased by the anxiety they displayed to be useful, that he invited them to come, with Mrs. Graham, to his house, next day, when he introduced them to the lady-manager, who made an appointment with them to meet her at the school-house, next day. There were two or three girls, about their own age, whom the clergyman had also invited to meet Lucy and Beatrice. At first they were rather shy, but, finding the “English girls” were very merry, they too began to romp about, and ask all sorts of questions about England, which only one of them remembered—the extent of her remembrance being that she saw a lion in the Zoological Gardens. Lucy was quite happy now: she could talk as much as she liked; and, as she was very fond of telling stories, she enjoyed her first tea-party in New Zealand very much, and began to think it might be the best plan, after all, for her Papa and Tom to go and prepare a house while they remained quietly in Christchurch.

Next day, at twelve o'clock, the girls set off for the school. It was a large building, containing only one room, however. In this were assembled a great number of tidy, clean-looking girls and boys, all arranged on forms, and busy with their lessons. Lucy was disappointed at once. It was just like an English school; and with a feeling just as if she had been deceived, she sat down beside one of the teachers, while Beatrice went to another, to watch how they managed.

For about a week, Lucy said nothing; but then she could not hold her tongue any longer, and begged her page 70 Mamma to let her give it up: she was sure she could teach the children now. This Mrs. Graham would not hear of; indeed, proposed that Lucy should begin learning the native language, as, although near Christchurch they all spoke pretty good English, it was not likely they would know anything of it up the country.

Anything like a change was acceptable to Lucy; and, as Beatrice always thought anything her Mamma approved of was the very best thing in the world, they were soon in the midst of their Maori lessons, and, what with these, and attending the school, their time was pretty fully occupied.

One evening, Lucy sat down on a stool at her Mamma's feet, and said:—

“I am so glad you made me go, Mamma, dearest. Do you know, you are quite right, as you always are; and I do really like the native children, some of them, particularly; and I do think I have learnt a good deal myself. Besides, they are so grateful; only think, dear, one of the girls came to me to-day, and asked me to let her kiss me, because she was going home, and, after she had kissed me, she said she would teach her father and mother the hymns she had learnt at school, particularly that one you told me to teach the children.”

“Which, dear? I gave you several, I think. Repeat it to me; I like hearing you do so.”

And Lucy, in a quiet, solemn voice, repeated Cowper's beautiful hymn:—

“The billows swell, the winds are high,
Clouds overcast my wintry sky;
Out of the depths, to thee I call,
My fears are great, my strength is small.

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“Oh, Lord, the pilot's part perform,
And guide and guard me through the storm;
Defend me from each threatening ill,
Control the waves; say, ‘Peace! be still!’
“Amidst the roaring of the sea,
My soul still hangs her hope on Thee;
Thy constant love, Thy faithful care,
Is all that saves me from despair.
“Dangers of every shape and name
Surround the followers of the Lamb,
Who leave the world's deceitful shore,
And leave it to return no more.
“Tho’ tempest-tossed, and half a wreck,
My Saviour, through the floods, I seek;
Let neither winds nor stormy main
Force back my shattered bark again.”

“Are most of the natives Christians, Mamma?” asked Beatrice, after a short silence.

“A great number are,” replied her mother; “particularly in this settlement. Upon the North Island of New Zealand, numbers of natives are said to pretend to be Christians, to make the missionaries give them clothes, or such things as may be useful to them; but, as soon as they leave the settlement, they go back to their old worship again.”

“But what do they worship? Do they bow down to idols? or pray to the sun, moon, and stars?”

“You have asked me a very difficult question, Lucy, and one that will require a great deal of explanation; so, if you will wait until Aps goes to bed, and we are settled for the evening, I will think it over and try to tell you.”

A couple of hours later, Mrs. Graham began her promised explanation.

“The natives think the islands of New Zealand were page 72 fished up from the bottom of the sea, by a god, named Maui Malli, but are not at all sure how it was first inhabited. Some of them say that one man and one woman came alone, but none of them agree in anything, except that when their ancestors landed on the island, having come a long way, they found people already there, whom they either killed or made slaves of. They brought with them the religion of the country they came from, although, as they had no one to keep them in mind of everything connected with it, they changed it a good deal, forgetting some things and adding others; so that, at the present time, it has been found extremely difficult to trace their origin.

“They believe in a future world, but do not think there is any punishment; and, when a chief dies, it used to be a custom to kill his slaves and wives, the poor people thinking, in their ignorance, that the chief would require wives and servants after he was dead.

“The soul, they suppose, becomes a star, and has the power of entering into some animals, such as a lizard or a bird. For this reason, lizards are avoided by the natives, and I dare say you remember that gentleman who told you so much about the natives, says that he had seen great chiefs run away if they saw a lizard in their path. They are very superstitious, believing in witches; and, whenever a chief is going to war, he consults the wise-woman of the tribe, who pretends to tell him whether he will be successful or not. If a witch tells a native he is going to die, he is sure to do so; and this is called the power of imagination. They are dreadfully afraid of witches, and of anything being bewitched. When they wish to pray, they sometimes take a carved peg, and, page 73 having ornamented it with a band of red feathers, they tie a string to it, and stick it into the ground; they then sit down at a little distance, holding the string, and repeat a certain number of spells or prayers, counting them by putting a bit of stick in the ground after each. If they think the god is not listening, they give the string a pull, to rouse his attention. I do not suppose they look upon this carved peg as a god, as many heathens do. They know it is only a piece of wood, but think the spirit of the god they wish to pray to will enter into the piece of wood, and thus listen to what they ask for.

“They are very patient with each other in sickness, and repeat prayers for all their friends, having particular spells to drive away different kinds of pain. It was a long time before they would believe the English way of curing, or understand how a little powder could do as well as a spell.

“They were very kind to the first missionaries, and very soon began to show they would like to know more about our God; they have, therefore, gone on very steadily in learning, and are most of them converted, though I cannot think they really know much about our holy religion, but rather adopt it to please us. You know there are a great many more natives on the North Island than on this, and it was on the North Island that the first missionaries landed. The man to whom we owe the first establishment of the Church in New Zealand, was a clergyman, named Samuel Marsden, and you will be more interested when I tell you that he was only a blacksmith, at Horseforth, a little town near where your grandfather lived, in Yorkshire. He was a very clever, good, and page 74 industrious man, and, after studying and taking orders, became chaplain to the Bishop of Australia; and it was while there that he heard so much of the inhabitants of New Zealand that he made up his mind to visit them, and, if possible, fix a missionary branch on the island. He succeeded in doing this, and afterwards visited the country himself, even bringing his wife and daughter with him, at one time. The natives all loved him very much, and would have done anything to please him, or ‘the Father,’ as they generally called him.”

“What a good man he must have been,” said Lucy, after a pause. “How is it we never hear of women doing such things?”

“Because it is the privilege, as well as the right of man, to show the way, and act as pioneer. Besides, you do not hear, it is true, of women, but almost every missionary is married, and you may be sure their wives do their share in the good work. They take charge of and teach the girls; they talk to the mothers, and give them advice about the management of their children and their houses, and how to mend their clothes, though this last is often unnecessary, the natives wearing very little clothing.”

Lucy laughed. “Oh, that puts me in mind of a girl at the school. She could not understand how to put her arms into the sleeves of her dress, and would insist they were to be put on like trousers.”

“You will like teaching better every day, dear,” said her mother. “The girls will learn to love you, and, when we go to Papa, you may be able to take two with you, to teach to be servants. I read of a missionary's wife who had two native girls in her house, and a visitor, who tells page 75 the story, said they might easily have passed for English girls, but that every time they had to cross the room, they went down upon their hands and knees, and crept under the table.”

Lucy laughed heartily at this account, and made her mother repeat it to Beatrice next day.

While Mrs. Graham stayed at Christchurch, she met a great many people who had been on the plains, and from whom she gained a great deal of useful information. The agent, too, at Lyttelton, came to see them several times, thinking nothing of the ten miles drive, to hear the wonderful stories of Tom's doings that Lucy had so much pleasure in repeating.

The mail brought a whole packet of letters from England, and, among them, a cheerful one from George, telling them how hard he was working, and how fast the time went, now he had nothing to think of but his studies. He also told them some funny stories of the people who had gone to live in their old house, and how the mistress asked him if his father had reached America yet, and hoped he would like living in the town of New Zealand, for she always heard Hew York was the best.