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A History of the English Church in New Zealand

Fairburn proposed that we should thus close the day


It

was in 1835 that Wilson and Fairburn heard of the dangerous position of a party of women and children belonging to the Waikato tribe. They were encamped on a stream called Maramarua, and a strong _taua_, or fighting party, was preparing to set off from the mouth of the river Thames, with the object of cutting off the retreat of these unsuspecting people. The two missionaries determined to baulk this scheme, and by rowing all night succeeded in getting ahead of the pursuers. Next day they had a toilsome walk of many hours. The _taua_ was on their track, the way was longer than they expected, and only by a few seconds did they at last succeed in giving warning to the Waikatos, and thus saving their lives. But now the baulked hunters had to be reckoned with. Respect for the white man kept them from actual violence, but as night came on the situation was a decidedly difficult one. Wilson's journal continues thus:

"It was now nearly dark, the rain and wind increasing, and the only shelter was the long, narrow shed, partly finished--half of the roof still uncovered. This hovel was about 18 feet long, 9 wide, and 7 feet in height. The natives, to make up for the rain which came through in every direction, lit two fires with green wood, near each end of the house, which filled it with smoke. Into this the _taua_, about thirty men, entered, and began to take off their wet garments and crouch round the fires; and into this pleasant abode for the night

we, too, with our four natives, had to creep: it was either this or remain outside in a winter easterly gale. After a time we attempted to dry some of our clothes by one of the fires, but the smoke was so intolerable, and the heat of the place so great, notwithstanding it was only half roofed, that we were obliged to lie down with our faces nearly touching the earth. We remained in silence a long time, perhaps two or three hours, not a word being addressed to us, either by the chief, or his followers; this by no means a good omen in native etiquette and custom. We had brought no provisions with us, supposing Maramarua to be nearer to the coast; and after long waiting to see the mind of the _taua_ and how things would be, we at last were about to lie down to try to sleep, to forget our hunger, lodging, and society. Now, it is an established custom in New Zealand never to begin or end the day without prayer, and though in this wretched predicament, Mr. Fairburn proposed that we should thus close the day. The armed men were sitting moodily by the fires, when we signified our wish to our people, who were all Christians. This night's service will never be forgotten by me; it was commenced by singing the sixth native hymn, the first words of which are:

Homai e Ihu he ngakau, kia rongo atu ai, Ki tau tino aroha nui, i whakakitia mai.

[Illustration: THE CATHEDRAL, NELSON.]

"The hymn--an invocation to Christ for the Holy Spirit's aid to regenerate the natural heart, and impress it with love to God--I had often heard and sung; but never before had it come home to me with such reality, or sounded with such sweetness and power, as in _this_ solemn appeal to the Most High.... We then prayed for this dark world, its sorrowing and erring children, that the God of mercy would be graciously pleased to bring them to a knowledge of himself; and after thanks for the mercies of the day, we commended ourselves to God. Our simple service over, we said no more. For a time all remained quiet; none seemed willing to interrupt the silence in this strange place and on this still stranger occasion; nothing was heard but the storm, which appeared to be tearing the remainder of the roof from the shed, and the rain rattling against the _raupo_. The _taua_ seemed as if struck by the fabled wand of some mighty magician! Their former reserve and low whispering ceased; and after a while they began to talk quietly to each other, and shortly afterwards they spoke to ourselves and to our natives. The gloom had passed away, their countenances became altered; and they now began to prepare some refreshments. Each of the _taua_ had carried at his back a small flax basket of potatoes, containing some three or four handfuls. Of this slender stock they passed along (for there was no moving for want of room) a liberal share for ourselves and our natives. After this the pig was cut up and roasted; but, faint and hungry as I was, it was nearly impossible to eat it. And now all restraint was thrown off, and the Maoris conversed freely and pleasantly. So the night wore on, better than it had begun. At last, cold and weary, overpowered by the smoke, I fell asleep on a bundle of bullrushes; and when I awoke, I found that I had been sleeping unconsciously on one of the men's heads."


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