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Ngamihi; or The Maori Chief's Daughter

Chapter VI. Murder of the rev. Mr. Volkner

page 30

Chapter VI. Murder of the rev. Mr. Volkner.

The next thing that I had to think of in connection with my visit was a decent suit of clothe and other necessaries. I fortunately found a tailor that fitted me out "like a swell," as Andrews said. About five o'clock I rang the bell at Mr. Munroe's gate, and was shown into the drawing room. Miss Munroe was there, and on my entrance stood up and looked at me inquiringly. I made an awkard bow, and felt very hot about the temples.

"Ah, how stupid I am, Mr. Douglas," she said, "I did not know you at first in your change of dress. I will call my father; he said that he expected you—excuse me a moment."

She tripped away, and soon came back with her father, who received me with a hearty welcome.

"Now, Mr. Douglas," said he, "are you going to stop with us? I thought I had better see if you could be spared by your Captain before I asked you."

On answering in the affirmative he at once despatched a servant for my portmanteau, and I was formally installed as one of the family for the time being.

page 31

Miss Munroe (Jessie) played some excellent music during the evening, and my host entertained me with some of his experiences. I remarked that I wondered at him returning to New Zealand while the war was in progress, at which he said that he would not have done so but for a lull in the hostilities, which at that time had every appearance of being permanent. The barbarous murder of Mr. Volkner, however, added to the daily increasing boldness of the Maoris, had roused the Government to action again, and no effort was now being spared to subdue the turbulent natives. The murder alluded to is one of darkest spots on the records of the early history of New Zealand, and gives a painful insight into the worst phases of the Maori character. The friendly natives were horrified at the atrocious deed, and in conjunction with the British troops spared no efforts to bring these Hauhau fanatics to justice.

Mr. Volkner was a Prussian by birth, and belonged to the Lutheran Church. He came to New Zealand in connection with a Hamburg Society, but afterwards joined the Church of England, and was ordained by Bishop Williams of Waiapu. He was a man of remarkable character, and of an extremely conciliatory and kindly disposition. He had been stationed for some time at Opotiki, at the south eastern extremity of the Bay of Plenty, among some of the wildest tribes in New Zealand, who had had little or no intercourse with the English and no religious instruction. He gradually won his way among them until he had gathered together a large body of converts, and a handsome church and house were built. When the war broke out in the Waikato, and the East Coast tribes were getting implicated, Mr. Volkner was put under arrest, but was subsequently released, when he availed himself of the opportunity of taking Mrs Volkner to Auckland for safety. During his absence, a party of page 32Hauhau fanatics from Taranaki led by Patara, arrived at Opotika, carrying with them the head of a European, also a captive soldier who had been taken prisoner and dragged through the country with them in great misery. Notwithstanding the rough treatment he had received, nothing could persuade Mr. Volkner that he was jeopardising his life, and during the war in the Waikato and Tauranga, he often paid visits to his church.

On the first of March, Mr. Volkner, accompanied by the * Rev. Mr. Grace, arrived at Opotiki in a small schooner called the Eclipse, commanded by a man named Levy, who had a trading store there. The vessel was no sooner inside the bar than she was boarded by a strong party of Hauhaus, and the two missionaries were dragged ashore. It was soon announced to Mr. Volkner that he was to be killed, but to the last he refused to believe that such was their intention. A night of miserable suspense ensued. The next morning Mr. Volkner executed some few commissions which he had undertaken at Auckland, and in the afternoon about twenty well armed warriors came to the house, and after performing some ceremonies outside, called Mr. Volkner out and took him away, locking up his companion in the meanwhile. Mr. Volkner was then taken to the church, when his coat and waistcoat were taken from him, and he was then led to a willow tree at a little distance, where they had rigged up a block and tackle which they had procured from the schooner. He now for the first time realised that they were in earnest, and asked for time to pray. After a few minutes he rose up, and said, "I am ready." While page 33he was shaking hands with some his murderers, many of whom he had converted, a rope was thrown over his neck, and he was run up to an arm of the tree. There he hung for an hour, when he was cut down. They then cut off his head, and a savage called Kereopi tore out his eyes and swallowed them. They drank his blood, and smeared their faces with it, many of his old friends assisting in the diabolical deed. The women were worse than the men, and scrambled for his blood as it dripped on to the ground. His body was then thrown to the dogs, but was taken away from them and afterwards buried by Levy and some of the friendly natives. Levy afterwards rescued Mr. Grace at the risk of his own life, and put him on board the Eclipse.

The Government did their best to punish the murderers, and most of them have since suffered for their crime. The savage, Kerlopi, was shot through the head by one of our men soon afterwards. These particulars may seem exaggerated, and the horrors depicted overdrawn, but they are quite true and are inscribed on the records of the early history of New Zealand.

* Mr. Grace not many years ago met with a horrible death at his residence in Tauranga, a seaport village in the province of Auckland, where he permanently took up his residence after the Maori troubles were over. While walking through one of his paddocks he was rushed by a cow, whose horns penetrated his abdomen. After suffering intense agony he died not many hours after the tragic event He was a fluent Maori speaker, and was held in the highest respect by the natives, among whom he laboured with much success.