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Distant Homes; or the Graham Family in New Zealand

Chapter XXVII

page 189

Chapter XXVII.

Rumours of War—Captain Graham's Determination—His Speech to the Natives—The Hymn in the New Church.

While the events we have been recording were going on at the farm, equally important ones were agitating the native Pah. A stranger had arrived; at first supposed to be merely a chance traveller, and treated in the most friendly way, by the chief and whole tribe. Gradually, however, his manner changed; he became inquisitive, and kept prying about the farm, and, at last, was observed to meet another stranger in the forest, who, however, did not come to the settlement, but disappeared again, in the same mysterious way.

The chief began, now, to watch the movements of his guest; and, to find out what his object was, pretended to be very fond of him, asked him many questions of his tribe, and then found that he belonged to that tribe, of which Wiremu Kingi was the leader. This at once seemed to justify suspicion; so, after a secret counsel, it was determined to tell him he must go away—that they wished to live at peace, and cultivate their fields beside their brothers, the English.

He accordingly went away; but; directly afterwards, a feeling of dissatisfaction began to shew itself in the Pah,

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Some idle and evil-disposed natives began to whisper together, and hint that the English wanted to take all their land, and make them slaves. They dare not speak openly and before the chief, but they did worse—they spoke in secret; and, as there was no one opposed them, they had time to persuade several younger men that they were right.

But, getting bolder, they took less care to hide their feelings, and the chief found out what was going on; so he and his friends came over to the farm, and told Captain Graham all about it; and asked what they should do, and what the Queen of England would do, if she had such unruly subjects.

After a long and serious discussion—for it was by no means a thing to be treated lightly—it was determined to say nothing particular about it, but to watch carefully, and prevent any of the conspirators holding communication with another tribe.

The Grahams began to feel very anxious; not that they feared a regular outbreak, such as that at Taranakie, but the bad feeling spread among the few tribes in the middle island. Although they were not strong enough to take the field, as the others had done, they could do a great deal of mischief and injury, and it would not be safe for either women or children to remain out in the bush.

A few days after the interview I have told you of, the chief came over to the farm in a great hurry. A messenger had arrived from Wiremu Kingi, and had made a great speech, calling all of them to join the fighting tribe. He said, all the tribes near Nelson were their friends; and promised each man who went back with him, a rifle and a page 191 sword. Those men who had been plotting together rushed up, and danced a war-dance; and, as this has a magical effect upon the wild feelings of the natives, there was no saying how general the bad feeling might become, or what acts of violence they might perform, when blinded by the excitement caused by this stranger's speech.

When he had finished speaking, the chief sat down, and waited to hear Captain Graham's opinion.

“I will go to the Pah, with you,” he said, at once. “I will tell your people the truth; here is a newspaper, which tells that the troops of the Queen have taken Kingi's Pah, killed many of his soldiers, and he has held out the white flag of peace. The Governor is going to send a new general who will take with him a multitude of soldiers, and Kingi must make peace.”

“It is well, brother,” said the chief; “let the Queen conquer; let the red coats take the bad man and kill him. He is a rebel; he has killed others, and it must be blood for blood. Listen, brother; read the news to my people; then open your mouth, with good and great words,—and when you see they are looking kindly at you, and when I say,‘It is enough,’ then do you point to the stranger, and bid them drive him out, as a spy.”

So Captain Graham accompanied the chief. When they got near the Pah they heard loud voices, and a great disturbance, so much so, that at first it appeared they were all fighting. This was not the case, however. They were only disputing about who was to go to the war, and who was not. As soon as they saw the chief and Captain. Graham they stopped quarrelling, and stood waiting to see whatever was to be done.

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Captain Graham walked on until he reached the chief's house, which was built on a higher part of the ground, and gave him a good view of the whole Pah. Having reached this, he turned his face to the people, and asked them to gather up, and listen to what he had to read to them, holding up the paper, to shew them it was something from a distance.

They were very proud of hearing news, and, being naturally inquisitive, they forgot their disputes for the minute, and clustered round, all except three or four, who turned away; and, although they stayed near enough to hear, pretended they were not paying any attention. But, as soon as Captain Graham read the first few lines, they ran up and joined the crowd.

He did exactly as the chief had advised him, he first read the newspaper, translating it into their own language. None of them uttered a word while he was reading, although he could see, by their faces, how eagerly they were listening; and noticed that they cast glances at each other, and the stranger—those who were near him edging away, so that, when the newspaper was all read, he was left standing almost alone. Now the speech began—Captain Graham reminded them of the state the country was in before the English came, and told them it had been once the same in England, but that a great people, called Romans, came from a distant country; they did not behave in a friendly way, as the English had done in New Zealand, but came armed all over, and killed the naked inhabitants, until they had conquered them; but that, after doing this, they treated them better, and taught them to cultivate ground, build houses, and make clothes.

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Having attracted their attention by this, and seeing that they were all listening, he went on describing all they were learning from the English, and that the country was called the England of the South, and thought one of the best countries in the world, besides being large enough to hold, both the original natives and their English brothers, who wished to teach them to live as comfortably as themselves.

He then described war, and how everything was destroyed—and told them how he had seen whole regiments fall before a heavy fire from English cannon, and that a ball could kill a man five miles away. Lastly, he spoke of religion, and, pointing to the church which they had all taken a great interest in, and the top of which they could just see, he asked them what the words of the Bible taught them of war—and whether they did not remember that the Lord Jesus told his servant to put up his sword, for that all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.

When he said this, the chief who was standing beside him, said:—

“It is enough.”

Then Captain Graham, turning suddenly towards the stranger, pointed to him with his hand, and told them to drive him forth from the Pah, for he was a spy and a slave.

The words came just at the right moment, the man himself took fright, and, seeing their eyes all turned upon him, he made a spring past the nearest line of people and ran off. In an instant the whole tribe were running after him, screaming, shouting, and calling him a spy and a slave.

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The chief now turned to Captain Graham, to thank him, telling him he had saved them from war; for he was sure the young men who had been inclined to join Kingi would never go to fight for a man who, calling himself a chief, could have such cowardly messengers.

The event proved he was correct. The young men never spoke of joining Kingi again, and when even news came of the war, they all assembled at the farm to hear it, taking every plan to show the Grahams that they might trust them implicitly.

When other and smaller tribes and Pahs heard of the way our friends were living, and that the chief was building a flour-mill, and had sheep, cows, and horses, they saw the good they might gain from the English, and none of them attempted to awaken any disturbance, in fact the event seemed to improve the friendship existing between them.

The consecration of the church had been appointed for Christmas day, and the bishop had made every arrangement to come, so Mrs. Graham was very busy preparing everything.

Since last Christmas, two rooms had been added to the house, and the girls both insisted upon sleeping in a little bedroom at Bridget's cottage, for the two nights the bishop was to stay with them.

The only thing that saddened their Christmas was the absence of George and Tom, especially the latter, whose merry face had brightened the last Christmas-day, and whom they could not hope to see for many a day, while George, in all probability, would be with them during the year, and settled down as the clergyman of the newly-formed parish.

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The natives crowded to the church, and, in the evening, the bishop preached to them in their own language, which seemed to please them very much; but the most touching part of the service was when they sang the Evening Hymn.

Most of the New Zealanders have good voices, all of them have a great taste for music, and, when they sing keep such good time and tune that they never make confusion or discordant sounds.

The school-children led the hymn, and, for the first verse, sang almost alone, then, as if by one impulse, the whole congregation joined. The good bishop was startled, and stood, looking down from the pulpit with tears in his eyes, trying in vain to steady his voice sufficiently to join.

It was a sight such as can never be forgotten, and one, which awakens the best and purest feelings of the heart. There is nothing, I think, that is so impressive as the combined voices of a large number of people joining in the praise of God; the sound carries us, as it were, with it, beyond earth and earthly cares, giving us an idea, though incomparably less than the truth, of the praises offered up continually before the throne of God: “The voice of a great multitude, as of many waters, and as the voice of many thunderings, saying, Alleluia! for the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth!”