CHAPTER V: NATIVE SCHOOLS. 1848.
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THE happiest result of restored peace in the country was the establishment of boarding-schools. The Bishop, when he had to leave the Waimate, brought down his staff of students, teachers, and native and English boys; and set to work at once to get buildings erected on a site chosen by himself and the Chief Justice, for the future St. John's College. Meanwhile the whole party encamped beside a little copse, at the head of a creek about half-a-mile off. It was a lovely spot, for the high banks were thickly wooded to the water's edge, and the rimu, which droops like our weeping willow, and the yellow kowai, abounded. The College, when the party moved up to the higher ground, was far less picturesque. The grey scoria houses stood out on the bleak, high ground, unsheltered by a single tree, and all around was fern-land. The view over the harbour was, however, magnificent, and the position a very healthy one. There were great capabilities, too, for landscape gardening, which the Bishop at once recognised. The ground sloped through a wooded
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glen, full of tree-ferns, to the sea. He had winding paths cut, and the lads made flower-beds, and planted fruit-trees and flowering shrubs in the hollow. Every year saw some improvement. The sour clay soil, tilled for the first time, improved under culture; the fern gave way to grass. There were playing fields for cricket (at which the Maori boys were quite equal to their English companions and partners), and pastures for the cattle and sheep; and after a while College hall, and hospital, and chapel were built, and the place grew into working order. Year by year the Bishop went the round of his diocese in his little vessel, and never failed to bring up from the southern settlements a party of bright-eyed little lads. This alone showed the wonderful change effected by the new teaching. No Maori in old days would have dared to trust his child into the neighbourhood of enemies such as the Waikatos had been; but now the applications were more than could be entertained, through want of space in the vessel and want of funds, and these from old prejudiced, superstitious relatives, who, brought up themselves amid bloodshed and evil, desired a better training for their children. The boys themselves soon settled down cheerfully to their new life. Some learned to print, some to weave, some to work on the farm; one rather dull, heavy-looking lad, named Solomon, was set in charge of the poultry-yard, and in his weekly written list of his
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work out of school entered "feeding fools." Two young married men from the South volunteered to spend a year at the College. One of them was the son of the great warrior, Te Rauperaha. They brought their wives, and made themselves quite at home. The elder one, Thompson, was, however, quite of the mind of many more civilised men. He did not see the good of working for posterity. After a hard day's work of ploughing he came grumbling to us: "One might as well be in Egypt under Pharaoh! I would not mind a bit putting in potatoes, because I should be here to eat them; but why should I toil to grow wheat for new-comers?"
It was a joyful day when the College Chapel was finished and opened. It was only a wooden building, with hip roof, but it had transepts and a double apse, with five lights in each, filled with good painted glass. A friend gave a stone font for the west end, with the words in Maori carved round it: "Go ye into all the world and baptise." The woodwork inside was varnished to a rich, warm, brown colour.
It was a grand sight to look round, and see the chapel crammed with boys and youths--English, Maori, Melanesian--all taking their part in the daily service. It brought home forcibly to the heart the old Bible truth that "God has made of one blood all nations of men." None present could forget the service held there on St. Bartholomew's Day,
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1850, after the Bishop's faithful friend, Mr. Abraham (afterwards Bishop of Wellington, N. Z.) had joined him, and the first College Council was held. There was a confirmation of some of the native boys, and then the Bishop preached, and took for his text, "Bartholomew." He began by saying that all really known about the Apostle was his name, and then, with kindling eyes, he spoke of three eras in the Christian Church--first, of that happy time when there was work without talk; of the present time, when there was work going on and much talk; of the danger of a time coming, when there might be talk without work.
Remembering his silent steadfastness of purpose, always doing the work before him, whether great or small, as under the Master's eye, we listened with reverent awe. How many of his sayings have sunk into the hearts of his hearers. "If you are in any doubt what to do, do the thing least pleasing to yourself, and you will be generally right." He used to dignify all work, the homeliest and lowest, by pressing on us the thought of its being entrusted to us as stewards to be done faithfully as unto the Lord. Once, when the cutting up of meat for daily rations was an unpopular task with the students, he preached a sermon, which his friends called the sublimation of Carnefex.
He shrank from no work. I have seen the Bishop
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for an hour at a time taking the dullest of the English or Maori boys, and patiently trying to draw out what they knew. He would put a question again and again, altering the form of it, helping the hearer by some illustration, and well content if he got at last an answer. He delighted in the rule of a great catechiser: "Put the facts in during one lesson, and pump them out in the next." He was trying once in chapel to get out of his Melanesian class, who knew some English, what was the meaning of the word in Scripture, "liar." After much patient questioning, the face of one of the boys lit up, and he answered gravely: "All same gammon."
After a while, boarding-schools were started in the Waikato, on the same broad outline as St. John's, and at much less expense. The Government gave head-money, the missionaries gave their services freely as teachers, the parents brought produce instead of school fees. At first it was feared that the children would dislike the restraint, and run away. A few did at first, but the elder lads, who liked the training, formed themselves into a police force, and brought the runaways back. But soon boys and girls flocked in and remained for some years. We had a large girls' school near us, built by the Government on Church land. Many of the pupils came from the East Coast, 200 miles' distance, to be under the care of their old, loved missionaries, Archdeacon and Mrs. Kissling.
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We tried to get some children from Waiheke, and William Jowett and others entrusted five little girls to "Mother's" care. But after a while the mothers came up and found their girls doing some little bits of house-work, and went back in high dudgeon to say that they were being made slaves of, and must return. So the fathers came up by canoe the next morning. The children were having lessons in our house, looking bright and happy in their print frocks and white aprons, with their hair smooth and glossy. We used every argument with the men in vain, and at last I cried out in despair, "Why do you men listen to your wives in this way?" One of them, with a droll, sheepish look, caught up a bit of wood, and whittling it to a sharp point, which he prodded against his hand, said, "Mother, your words are just; but, you see, though women's words are not powerful, they are very sharp, and they go on--on--on." So we lost our scholars. Tribal jealousies kept some from sending their daughters, lest the boys from St. John's College should fall in love with them, and try to marry them, and so the wife's land would be lost to her people. And so it turned out The lads and lasses did fall in love with each other, and we had many a gay wedding. The first of these went off brilliantly. The bridegroom was a north-countryman, and had been brought by the Bishop from the Waimate. He was clever and steady, and
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spoke English fluently. Years after, when Philemon was in holy orders, he not unfrequently read the lessons in English at our church, with less foreign accent than most Germans. The bride, Harriet, was a very pretty, gentle girl. We went across in boats and canoes to the College creek. There was one drawback. The bride's great friend was to have been married at the same time to another Colleger, but her relatives refused their consent. He was not of high rank enough, and of a hostile tribe. Many "committees" were held; at last the old mother and the brothers yielded, and the wedding clothes were bought, when down came a blustering heathen party, and forbade the banns. Poor girl, she came to the shore with us, looking like Cinderella in her working dress, and sat crying there, and the bride cried too, for sympathy.
A canoe, gay with red ochre and carved prow adorned with bunches of white sea-birds' feathers, conveyed the bride across the harbour. We stopped at a cottage in the wood at the landing-place. Hogarth might have liked to sketch the scene. The light streamed in through the half-closed shutters of the empty house. Some of the girls, seated on heaps of straw, were smoothing their black hair; others knelt by the bride, and tied a white satin ribbon round her head. We were met by the parents and twenty men who were waiting to escort her to
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the chapel, at the door of which stood a party of English, Maori, and Melanesian lads, who had been decorating the church with flowers and tree-ferns. After the service, we went to the Hall for the wedding breakfast.
The father, William Hobson, was a man of some standing in his own place, and of yet higher position in his own opinion. He was a thoroughly good man, who accepted the new teaching as soon as it was brought to him, and lived a Christian life ever after. But he was very solemn and pedantic, and, being appointed a lay reader, he always dressed in black clothes and wore a huge white tie. He had once suggested that he should like a bishop's apron. His face was a wonderful work of art; it was tattooed all over, save one little triangular patch on the forehead, just above the nose. His wife was a quiet, gentle body, and most loyal to her husband, whom she always spoke of as "my chief."
The real chief of Harriet's tribe came to the wedding--a grand-looking old man, grey-headed, huge of limb, and with the calm dignity of one born to command. He was dressed in Maori fashion-- a much more becoming one than our tight-fitting garments. The bride's little sister, a child of seven, sat on the Bishop's knee. After breakfast, William Hobson made a capital speech. He referred to the old time, when the Maoris had no light to guide
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them. They had not asked the English to come among them; but now they had come, the Maoris could not but see that their ways were the best, and he, for one, meant to follow the new rule of life. Then a little man in good broadcloth bustled up from the end of the hall and stood in front of the Bishop. "He did not mean to make a long speech," he said; "only to express his approval of the new rules of life, and that he meant to abide by them for ever and ever. Amen."
There were about thirteen Melanesian boys present who had been brought from different islands by the Bishop on his winter voyage. They enjoyed the roast beef and plum-pudding as though they had been English born, and joined heartily in the hurrahs. One of the students acted as interpreter to them, and Siapo, a noble-looking young fellow from the Loyalty Islands, got up and made a very modest, manly speech, and expressed his desire that his people also should be taught and trained in Christian ways.
The Maori boys and girls between the speeches sang English glees and catches with great spirit. It was a pleasant surprise to find that the New Zealanders, when properly taught, had much musical talent and very good voices. We had noticed, from the first, the perfect time that they kept, not only when responding in church, but when singing songs as they paddled. But their native music, when they
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chanted their old songs, was harsh and monotonous, and their attempts to follow our hymn-tunes most deplorable. No sooner, however, were the young people in the school taught to read music by the figure system, and trained by regular practices weekly, than we found out the gift of song that was in them. The girls used to sing some of Mendelssohn's Chorales with great spirit and accuracy. It is quite common nowadays for young New Zealanders to play the harmonium and act as organists in their native churches.
Poor Cinderella had not, after all, to wait long for her wedding. The fame of the feast spread abroad. The malcontents yielded. Forty-five men of her tribe came to the wedding, headed by their old chief, and the bridegroom was graciously received among them.
The schoolmaster was abroad all through the country, even where there were no regular schools established. Young and old set themselves to learn to read and write. One young woman whom we knew, the wife of a heathen at Ma-ke-tu, desired to be baptised. She had no one to teach her, for her husband was quite indifferent on the subject, so she determined to learn to read. It was a busy time of year, when all were scraping flax. She had no leisure in the day, but every evening she walked up to her brother's house to be taught by him. He was a
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Christian teacher, and had come from a distance on a visit. Often she sat up till past midnight taking her lesson, and at the end of three months she could read very well, and was admitted soon after as a candidate for baptism. Her husband so admired her perseverance that he began to attend church with her. Another woman, who read very well, told me that she used to look over her husband's shoulder when he was reading aloud, and so learned.
It is yet more surprising how readily the adult Maoris teach themselves to write. This is the case, apparently, with all the native races. Very unlike the painful efforts of the steadiest lads in an English night school. They enjoy writing letters heartily. When the Mission vessel goes to Melanesia there is a mail-bag full from the boys and girls to their relatives.