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A History of the English Church in New Zealand

Rauparaha travelled down the coast to Kapiti


It

must have been in the year 1836, or somewhat earlier, that the little cemetery at Paihia became the receptacle of the headless body of a Maori who had been killed in a quarrel. With the body came a slave who was now left without an owner. The missionaries took him into house and school, and were pleased with his behaviour. Ripahau showed no signs, however, of becoming a Christian, and after a time asked leave to join a fighting party which was leaving the Bay for Rotorua. He seems to have become known there to Mr. Chapman, but he soon disappeared, and for two years nothing was heard of him. At last, Chapman received from him a letter asking for books. The letter came from Cook Strait, and explained that the people of that neighbourhood were eager to receive instruction. Shortly afterwards two young chiefs from the same quarter presented themselves at the Bay of Islands with a story which thrilled the hearers with wonder and gratitude.

To understand its purport it is necessary to cast a backward glance over the years since the early days of the mission, when the Ngapuhi were procuring firearms from traders and missionaries. Hongi was not the only man in those days who foresaw the power which the musket would give. Rauparaha, the young chief of a small tribe living round the harbour of Kawhia on the West Coast, realised that his Waikato neighbours must from their geographical position acquire the precious weapons before his own tribe could do so.

The outlook was desperate, and the remedy must be of an heroic nature.

Rauparaha travelled down the coast to Kapiti, and there saw a European whaling-ship. Here then was another spot to which the white men resorted, and from which the coveted firearms could be obtained. The Maori at once made up his mind to remove his whole tribe thither, and thus place them in as good a situation as that of the Ngapuhi at the Bay of Islands. How the migration was effected--with what blending of statecraft, heroism, treachery, and cruelty--is a subject which does not come within the purview of a history of the Church. Suffice it to say that, at the date to which our narrative has now arrived, Rauparaha was securely settled in the island fastness of Kapiti, while his Ngatitoas had their habitations on the mainland opposite. They had ravaged the south of the island, as the Ngapuhi under Hongi had devastated the north; and Rauparaha was the most powerful and influential personage in New Zealand, except--Henry Williams. And now the two powers had met, for the young men who had arrived at Paihia were none other than the son and the nephew of Rauparaha, and the cause of their coming was due to the forgotten slave Ripahau himself.

This seemingly insignificant person had reached Otaki in the new territory of the Ngatitoas some three years before. There he had met with Rauparaha's son, Tamihana, a young man who was sick at heart of his father's violent ways. Fascinated by the slave's story of the peaceful life of the missionaries at the Bay of Islands, he had compelled him to teach his friends and himself to read. Ripahau had but a Prayer Book with him, and it was hard to teach a class from one book. But he remembered that a few more books had been brought from Rotorua by the party with whom he travelled. These he procured, and among them there was a much-damaged copy of the Gospel of St. Luke. This bore the name of Ngakuku, and was in fact the very copy upon which little Tarore was sleeping when she was murdered in the night! In order to study in quiet, Tamihana and his cousin Te Whiwhi took Ripahau to the island and made him teach them there. The two cousins had Tarore's gospel for their lesson book. "We learnt," they said, "every day, every night. We sat at night in the hut, all round the fire in the middle. Whiwhi had part of the book, and I part. Sometimes we went to sleep upon the book, then woke up and read again. After we had been there six months, we could read a little, very slowly."


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