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A History of the English Church in New Zealand

The missionaries passed a sleepless night


In

the same month a band of the fanatics reached Opotiki in the Bay of Plenty. The mission station at this place was now under the charge of Carl Sylvius Volkner, a fair-haired, blue-eyed German, who had been ordained by Bishop Williams in 1860. He had acquired great influence over the people, and had built a church and a school; but so threatening had the aspect of things become that he had taken his young wife for safety to Auckland, as Mr. Grace had done his family from Taupo. The two missionaries returned in a schooner on the first of March to Opotiki, bringing food and medicines for the sick and starving people. Their vessel was descried just at the time when the Hauhaus were indulging in one of their wild orgiastic dances. Their leader, Kereopa, announced that their god demanded a victim. On arrival in the river the schooner was seized by the excited crowd. After several hours of anxious suspense, the missionaries were ordered on shore, where, amidst taunts and revilings, they were conducted to a small house, there to await their fate.

The hours of respite were not wanting in consolation. The cottage was not locked nor guarded; the prisoners were even able to recover their belongings; the sailors who shared the peril gave the best end of the little room to the two clergy, and joined them heartily in their evening prayers. But the Hauhaus were working themselves up in the Roman Catholic chapel to a devilish frenzy, and the noise of their shouting

could be heard long after darkness had fallen. The missionaries passed a sleepless night, sustained only by the evening psalms and by one another's society.

The morning of the second of March brought no relief to their anxiety. Efforts for a ransom failed, and the captives fell back upon their unfailing refuge--the psalms for the day. These were startlingly appropriate to their situation, though hardly calculated to raise their spirits very much. But his companion could not help being struck with the calmness of Volkner's manner, and the beautiful smile upon his face. Like a more illustrious sufferer,

He nothing common did, or mean, Upon that memorable scene.

At one o'clock the two friends prayed together for the last time. The psalms had now become terrible in their urgency:

Eating up my people as if they would eat bread. Their feet are swift to shed blood.

Swift indeed! Before an hour had passed, a number of armed men appeared and summoned Volkner to go with them. "Let me go too," said his companion; but he was forced back with the ominous words, "Your turn will come next." The young German was marched to a spot near his church, and stripped of his coat. A willow-tree was near at hand, and he was soon stationed beneath it. He asked for his Prayer Book, which had been left in his coat pocket. When it was brought, he knelt some time in prayer. On rising, he shook hands with his murderers, and quietly said, "I am ready." With strange inconsistency his executioners continued shaking hands with him until the moment when he was hoisted up.

An outburst of demoniac savagery followed on the cutting down of the martyr's body. The head was severed from the trunk, and the blood was greedily drunk even by some of the friends of the victim. The Taranaki leader, Kereopa, forced out the eyes and swallowed them. Part of the flesh was taken far inland, where memories of its arrival have been found quite lately by Bishop Averill.


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