1832 - Earle, A. A Narrative of a Nine Months' Residence in New Zealand, in 1827 - New Zealand - [Pages 201-250]

E N Z B       
       Home   |  Browse  |  Search  |  Variant Spellings  |  Links  |  EPUB Downloads
Feedback  |  Conditions of Use      
  1832 - Earle, A. A Narrative of a Nine Months' Residence in New Zealand, in 1827 - New Zealand - [Pages 201-250]
Previous section | Next section      

[PAGES 201-250]

[Image of page 201]

For twelve years past, notwithstanding all the disadvantages, this has been the favourite resort for ships in the above-mentioned trade. Here, surrounded with savages and cannibals, they heave down their vessels, land the cargoes and stores, and carry on work, both on board and on shore, in tolerable security. The safety of the harbour, the facility of wooding and watering, the supplies of pigs and potatoes, tempt them to run the risk of placing themselves in the power of capricious and barbarous people.

It has been imagined that the residence of missionaries would have the effect of civilising the natives, and adding to the safety of ships touching here; but experience fully proves the fallacy of such an expectation. These people, abstracted by their own gloomy reflections, look with contempt on all who are in the pursuit of "worldly wealth;" and regard the arrival of a whaler as an enemy coming to interfere with the spiritual interests of "their flock," as they term the inhabitants; though I never yet saw one proselyte of their converting.

[Image of page 202]

They never visit a whaler except on a Sunday, and then it is to beg for the benefit of their society. It cannot, therefore, be expected that much sympathy can exist between parties, where the cold formality of one excites the contempt and disgust of the other.

The ship "Anne," of which I have formerly spoken, arrived here lately from Wahoo, one of the Sandwich Islands, which possesses the advantage of a British consul. The pacific disposition and orderly government of the natives do not require a British garrison, or any warlike force; and of the excellent effects produced by this representation of our government Captain Gray speaks with admiration and enthusiasm. The harbours were crowded with shipping; houses, nay, even streets, were beginning to appear; the savage character of the people was gradually subsiding into industrious and peaceful occupations; and comfort and prosperity were spreading their benign influence over the whole island: yet Wahoo is not nearly so well situated as a rendezvous for South Sea whalers as New Zealand; at least so I have

[Image of page 203]

been informed by all the captains of those ships who have conversed with me on the subject.

It is rather a remarkable and novel circumstance that the natives, who have been now for fourteen or fifteen years in close intercourse and carrying on traffic with Europeans, should not, in the course of that period, understand the nature and value of money; a laughable instance of which occurred to us a few days since. A native came to our house with a serious countenance and business-like manner, and said he wished to purchase a musket: we asked to see what he had brought in exchange for one; when, with great ceremony, he produced a copper penny piece in the way of payment. We, of course, refrained from laughter; but he was quite astonished and mortified when he was made to understand we could not trade with him. He took a stroll round the beach, offering his penny, by way of barter, to every white man he met, but every where with equally bad success. The poor fellow had, doubtless, seen some one pass a doubloon, and had mistaken

[Image of page 204]

his penny for one; as a doubloon is about the price given for a musket in our regulated list of charges.

When our brig left Tucopea she brought away two natives of that island, who had most earnestly entreated the captain to take them off, and leave them upon any other land he pleased, as, according to their statement, Tucopea was so overstocked with inhabitants that it was scarcely possible to find subsistence; and the scarcity of food had become so general, that parents destroyed their children, rather than witness their sufferings from famine. Captain Kent, therefore, from motives of compassion, received them on board his ship; and, not having touched at any inhabited spot, brought them with him here. Their extraordinary appearance excited a great deal of surprise, both among Europeans and New Zealanders. They appeared simple, timid creatures, though stout and comely; but their hair was unlike any thing I had before beheld, as in length it reached below the waist, and was so abundantly thick as completely to conceal their faces. By some

[Image of page 205]

curious chemical process which the natives of Tucopea have discovered, they render their hair a bright sulphur colour; and, as this mass of yellow hangs over their faces and shoulders, they bear the most striking resemblance to the lion monkey of the Brazils.

These poor creatures, upon landing, shook with fear, and trembled greatly when they beheld the New Zealanders, whose character for cannibalism had reached even their remote island: when our friend George went up to them, and lifted up (in order to examine closely) the curious mass of hair in which they were enveloped, they burst into a passionate fit of tears, and ran up to us for protection. The New Zealanders, with characteristic cunning, perceiving the horror they had created, tormented them still more cruelly, by making grotesque signs, as if they were about to commence devouring them; and, at the same time (like most savages), evincing the most sovereign contempt for them, from their apparent pusillanimity.

After they had been some days on shore, we had a very diverting scene with them,

[Image of page 206]

which exhibited strongly the great difference there is in the nature of the two classes of savages we now had such opportunities of observing. I had brought my violin from Sydney, on which I used to play occasionally. The New Zealanders generally expressed the greatest dislike to it; and my companions used to rally me much on the subject, saying it was not that the savages did not like music, but it was my discordant playing that frightened them away; which might be true. It was, however, a useful discovery for us all; as I often took that method of civilly driving them out of our house when we grew tired of their company. But when I began to play before the Tucopeans, the effect it had instantly upon them was ludicrous in the extreme. They sprang up, and began dancing most furiously; at the same time, so waving their heads about as to keep their long hair extended at its fullest length: as I played faster, they quickened their pace. A lively Scotch reel seemed to render them nearly frantic; and when I ceased playing, they threw themselves down on the floor

[Image of page 207]

quite exhausted, and unable to articulate a word. I have observed (generally speaking) that savages are not much affected by music; but these two Tucopeans were excited to a most extraordinary degree.

We at length received authentic intelligence of the death of the celebrated Shunghie. Finding his dissolution fast approaching, he convened a meeting of all the neighbouring chiefs; and as many as could reach the spot in time attended. The wounded warrior expired, surrounded by the men he had so frequently led to battle and conquest. After the numerous and desperate risks he had run, the many encounters he had sustained with various enemies, it appeared extraordinary to us Europeans that he should die quietly in his hut. It is the custom to keep a guarded and mysterious silence relating to the subjects which are spoken of by a dying chief. I questioned several who had attended Shunghie: all spoke with the greatest solemnity of his last moments. One sentence (uttered by him) was all I could

[Image of page 208]

obtain after much manoeuvring, and that was spoken but a few minutes before he breathed his last; which was, that "Shulitea (viz. our friend George) would not live one week longer than himself:" but, as our patron was in perfect health at the time, and all seemed peaceful around him, I only laughed at the improbability of the prophecy being fulfilled.

The natives of New Zealand pay the greatest respect to courage and warlike talents: these were the only distinguishing characteristics of Shunghie; yet, by possessing these, he was more feared, and had a greater number of followers, than any other chief in the island. His hereditary possessions were but small, and his name was little known; yet his undaunted courage, his skill, and success in many sanguinary battles, made him, at length, a most powerful chief; and obtained for him that which is considered wealth in this country, namely, an immense number of slaves. In his last moments he was attended by more men of rank than had ever before assembled to witness the dissolution of

[Image of page 209]

a warrior, and this is considered the greatest proof of attention and respect one chieftain can show towards another.

Our brig now sailed for E O Ke Angha to take in a cargo of planks; and my friend, Mr. Shand, being tired of wandering, accompanied her; but I, being still anxious to procure more sketches of this interesting country, determined to remain as long as possible, and to take one more walk across the island, and join the brig by the time she was loaded. I was preparing to start on my last pedestrian tour, when a chain of events occurred which threw all the tribes into confusion. Bloodshed and devastation stared me in the face from all quarters; and from the state of security I had imagined myself to be in, I was roused to behold myself beset with difficulties; to crown which, our brig, which would have been a place of safety and refuge, was now on the opposite side of the island.

Arising from a trifling circumstance, which was partly caused by us, though innocently, Pomarree's only son had lost his life; and, as

[Image of page 210]

is usual among savage tribes, the severest retaliation soon took place.

By relating the particulars, the reader will perceive how easily the war-cry is raised among these turbulent savages.

Pomarree's only surviving son, Adicky, was a very finely formed, handsome young man, of twenty years of age, and he had made an arrangement with a captain of a ship here to supply him with a certain number of hogs. Accordingly, accompanied by a party of his friends, he started into the interior for the purpose of collecting them. In making his selection, he not only proceeded to drive off some of his own, but actually laid claim to, and began marching away with, some belonging to his neighbours. The right owners remonstrated with him in vain. He, being an insolent overbearing young fellow, persisted in his unjust claims, and set them all at defiance. They were compelled to yield up their property, as his tribe was a most powerful one; and Adicky was driving away the stolen hogs in triumph, when a sudden stop was put to

[Image of page 211]

his predatory career. Finding words were of no avail to induce the young man to restore the swine, one of the injured party had recourse to a musket. A bullet, aimed from behind a tree, killed Adicky on the spot; but from whose hand it came could only be conjectured. The greatest confusion instantly took place. His companions, being well armed, the war-cry was immediately raised; and the fray becoming general, seven more lives were lost.

When the account of this melancholy affair reached our beach, every one flew to arms, even all the women, for the young man was a general favourite. The war-cry spread in every direction. "Here," they exclaimed, "is the last of the Pomarree family killed treacherously, a warrior related to and connected with every chief of consequence in ,the country, and a nephew of the great Shulitea." The cry for blood and revenge was universal. I must confess that, added to the danger it placed me in, I was much shocked when I heard of the fate of poor Adicky, for he was one of our particular

[Image of page 212]

friends, and had passed many an evening in our hut. I had taken leave of him only the day before, when he had set out, full of health and spirits, on this hog expedition, which had terminated thus fatally.

The death of this young man excited the highest indignation in the minds of his countrymen, as well as in those of his numerous intimate friends and relations; for a report was industriously circulated that he had fallen by the hands of a slave. This was considered by his tribe as a degradation infinitely worse than the murder itself. The offended chiefs assembled on our beach, with all their followers, armed: and none appeared more indignant at the transaction than our friend George, who, with his brother Kiney Kiney, placed themselves at the head of the party, to revenge the insult which had been offered them.

The night before they started on this expedition, George spent the evening with us. He was in particularly low spirits, and said he did not at all like the business he was going upon: but, as he was the nearest re-

[Image of page 213]

lation of the deceased, and the eldest of the tribe, he went in hopes of being able to prevent a great effusion of blood, and also to restrain the impetuosity of the young men. Little did we then think he would be the first victim; although his unusual depression of mind brought to my remembrance the prophecy of Shunghie; and, spite of my endeavours to banish my forebodings, I felt convinced that the prediction would in all probability be fulfilled.

Three days had elapsed from the time the avenging party had gone on their mission, when, at midnight, a messenger, faint and nearly exhausted, arrived on our beach with the following dreadful intelligence; and that night no other sounds were heard than those of agony and woe, the yelling of women, and the shrieks of slaves.

The substance of the man's information was, that George and the offending party had met; but, as several days had passed since the murder of their friend, their feelings were in some degree appeased, and they had contented themselves with a general plunder of

[Image of page 214]

whatever property their enemies possessed. They had spared their lives, and the outrage was considered as atoned for. The chiefs were on their return home, laden with spoil, when, like other coalesced armies, disagreements began to take place among themselves, and discord long smothered, broke out in every quarter of the camp.

George, the principal person of their party, was the one marked to be dissatisfied with. All were jealous of him, in consequence of his possessions at Ko-ro-ra-di-ka giving him such a decided advantage over every other tribe, by his trade and intercourse with Europeans. It is probable, also, that as the other tribes went forth with an intention to fight, they were resolved not to be disappointed, and therefore determined to create a feud among themselves, rather than return home devoid of the pleasures or the trophies of a combat.

Some irritating language had been uttered by both sides, when an accident of a fatal nature took place, which produced an instantaneous and general appeal to arms. At

[Image of page 215]

the close of the day a halt was made, as usual, and each party began erecting their temporary huts to pass the night in. One of George's wives, assisted by a little boy, his nephew, was busily engaged in constructing one; arms and baggage of every description being strewed about in all directions. At this period a lad took up one of George's muskets, and began to play with it; but not understanding the management of it, he, by his injudicious handling, accidentally discharged the piece, and killed both the wife and nephew, the ball passing through both their bodies.

The sensation produced by this unfortunate accident may readily be conceived. As the woman who was killed was related to the tribe who had been disputing with George all day, her death furnished an ostensible motive for open war; and before the real cause of the accident could be explained, another shot was fired, which wounded a chief of the name of Moo-de-wy in the thigh. This proved the signal for a general fight: each party ran to

[Image of page 216]

their arms, ranged themselves under then-different leaders, and a general discharge of muskets immediately took place.

Almost at the beginning of the combat, George received a shot, which broke both his legs: his brother and friends endeavoured to support him in their arms. It being then nearly dark, added much to the confusion, as it was difficult to distinguish friend from foe; indeed, so sudden had been the onset, that many could scarcely have been aware of the cause of the contest. But our unhappy friend, who seemed particularly marked out in this unfortunate affray, soon after received another bullet, which struck him on the throat, and terminated his existence; thus dying before a week had passed since the death of his rival Shunghie. I heard from one of his friends who supported him in his last moments, that he died like a hero: finding both his legs were broken, and that consequently he was totally unable to move, he begged those friends who were about him to leave him to his fate, and either again enter the fight, or make their escape while they yet had time.

[Image of page 217]

He then gave his musket to one; took off his mantle to present to another; and while thus in the act of exhorting his friends, and distributing amongst them his tokens of regard, he received his death-wound, and expired without a groan. When George fell, a general flight took place; and though the engagement had lasted but a short time, great numbers had fallen on both sides.

This news caused mourning and lamentation along our beach, and filled all the Europeans with dismay. We could not calculate the extent of the injury we might receive, but felt certain we should be considerable sufferers in some way or other. The light of day seemed to add to, rather than to diminish, the moans of George's faithful subjects. The violent sobbings from every dwelling were most dismal. Groups were scattered about, forming small crying parties, and cutting their skins deeply with knives and pieces of broken glass; in short, nothing was heard but yelling and groaning, and nothing was seen but streams of blood!

But however shocked I might feel by the

[Image of page 218]

train of accidents and deaths which had made such cruel havoc amongst my friends, and notwithstanding my sincere grief and regret for the fate of poor George, who was a most humane and intelligent chief, and particularly kind to all the English; the predicament in which I was now placed demanded all my energies, for I felt that I stood in a situation of great danger.

I have before noticed their barbarous custom, on the death of a chief, of plundering his family and friends. As we had always been considered as a part of George's family, living under his protection, adopted by him, and admitted into his tribe, I entertained great suspicions that we also should be sufferers by the general plunder about to take place: besides, I was so circumstanced as to be obliged to cross the country with all my goods, and my route lay through the territories of all those chiefs who had been fighting against George; and I was at no loss to guess in what light they would regard me. Depending, too securely, on the general tranquillity, I had not sent my luggage by sea, as

[Image of page 219]

I might have done, and which would have saved me great anxiety, as I should have ventured alone without fear, but could not manage to carry what I possessed; and to engage any to convey them was an impossibility; for the moment I made the proposition to any (even the meanest of the slaves) to accompany me, they ran off into the bush, nor could any entreaty, presents, or threats, induce them to venture with me; so, for security, I removed all the property I had, and went with it on board "The Marianne" whaler.

For three days after the death of George, all gave themselves up to grief; no work was done, and not an individual was to be seen but in an agony of tears. I began to feel strangely affected with melancholy myself, when, on the fourth morning, a scene of bustle took place, and low spirits were banished by tumult, noise, and confusion.

At six o'clock on that morning we discovered upwards of twenty sail of war canoes, crowded with armed warriors, coming into the bay. What their intentions were we

[Image of page 220]

could not imagine; but for fear of the worst, the ships in the harbour shotted their guns, and when the canoes were abreast of us, we fired a blank one over their heads. On this they all stopped, and we saw some stir amongst them: at length a very small canoe left the main body, and pulled directly towards us; it contained the chief persons of the expedition: they came on board, and assured us they meant no harm to any persons; they were merely some of the late George's friends, who were going to pay a visit of condolence to his relations; and, after making a most hearty breakfast with us, they went on shore, and we accompanied them.

Whether the account they gave of themselves was correct, or the reverse, we knew not at the time; but we felt assured their intentions were not hostile towards us Europeans; and their quarrels with each other we were determined not to interfere in. We soon discovered their falsehood; for George's eldest daughter informed me, that amongst the chiefs who landed with us were several of the most inveterate foes of her father, and

[Image of page 221]

that they were only restrained from committing the most dreadful outrages, and carrying off all her relations as slaves, by witnessing the many friends of George by whom they were surrounded. The day was spent in savage dancing, yelling, making speeches, and debating as to who the proper person was to succeed George in his dignities: several times I thought the affair would end in blows. George's relation, Rivers, made great exertions "to keep the peace," and finally, by force of argument, succeeded: it was at length unanimously agreed, that Kiney Kiney was to succeed his brother, and that Rivers should take the command until the time of Kiney Kiney's mourning for the loss of George should be completed.

After these important matters were amicably disposed of, I made a sign to Rivers, and, separating him from the crowd> I explained to him the nature of my situation, and asked his assistance in getting me safely over to E O Ke Angha. He replied, there would certainly be great danger in attempting it: but I soon discovered that he magnified

[Image of page 222]

the difficulties in order to increase his demand for payment; for even the greatest chiefs have here their price. He said (and I had every reason to think he was correct) that I ran no risk of being molested by any chiefs, like himself, who would always protect rather than molest every European; but that the country being in such a state of commotion, in consequence of the late events, it was full of runaway slaves, who always took advantage of such times to make their escape; and if I chanced to fall in with any of them, I should be exposed to great peril: "However (he added), keep up your spirits; I have two confidential slaves, who shall conduct you over, and carry your luggage, if you will make me a present of a stocking full of powder, a bag of small shot, and a powder-horn." He also proposed, as he himself was going to the Kiddy-Kiddy, and thence to a village in the interior, to meet a large assemblage of chiefs, in order to talk over the late tragical events, that I should journey the first part of my way with him, in his own canoe.

Accordingly, after having made prepar-

[Image of page 223]

ations for my departure, I took leave of all my friends at the Bay of Islands, both civilised and savage. I must say, I felt considerable regret when I found myself really going to take a final leave of several native families, with whom I had been on terms of intimacy since my residence here, from whom I had received many proofs of personal regard, and whom, I felt convinced, I should never meet or hear of more: none I regretted parting with more than the family of poor Shulitea; the mere sight of me seemed to rekindle all their grief for the loss of their kinsman, and to remind them more forcibly than ever of his tragical fate. His mother, old Turero, in point of grief, had rivalled Niobe; she had never ceased weeping and lamenting from the time she heard of her son's death, and had twice attempted to strangle herself. But even in the midst of her passionate sorrow, I could scarcely refrain from laughing, while observing her care and anxiety to get all she could from me. After deploring the sad fate of her dear son, "You know," she continued, "you promised him that you would send him a

[Image of page 224]

handsome new musket from Sydney; and now, poor fellow, he is dead, and cannot shoot with it: but then you must remember that his brother Kiney Kiney is still alive, and he can shoot with it; and poor George would wish that his brother should have his new musket." This speech I felt quite irresistible; therefore, in order to comfort the old queen, I promised that I would send the musket for her second son; which declaration seemed to afford her great consolation, and considerably abated the violence of her grief.

Just at the dawn of morning we started from the bay in Rivers's canoe, accompanied by his wife, one child, and the two stout slaves he had mentioned to me. My luggage, which consisted of one leathern portmanteau and my bed, was placed in the centre. I had also provided myself with a small basket of cooked meat, with bread, and a small bottle of brandy, which was given me by the captain of one of the whalers. The day broke around us with more than usual brightness; the dewy mists of night were just rising from the waters, and the huge and abrupt forms of

[Image of page 225]

the mountains were beginning to develope themselves; flights of wild ducks and stray birds skimmed rapidly by us. The thoughts that crowded my mind were strange and varied, while contemplating scenes of such tranquil beauty as were now presented, glowing with the tints of the rising sun. I contrasted these with the difficulties and dangers I might have to encounter from hordes of ferocious savages, who, now flushed with conquest, were plotting murder and destruction against each other: even a glance at my companions banished all peaceful illusions. While the wife, son, and slaves were using the paddles with the greatest exertions, Rivers was carefully examining his weapons. The beauty of the morning and the romantic scenery was unnoticed: his thoughts were directed solely to contemplating the depth and the width of my stocking of powder, which seemed to afford him infinite satisfaction. He had with him a beautiful double-barrelled gun, and a very good Tower musket; and seeing so many wild ducks fly past, he drew the bullet out of one of the barrels of the

[Image of page 226]

former, and, with some of my stock of small shot, fired occasionally amongst them.

At about eight o'clock a light sea breeze sprung up: they then set their sail, and all went to sleep, excepting one slave, who was employed to steer the canoe; so that I had ample time to ruminate upon my solitary and perilous situation. The tide failed us at twelve o'clock; and we then went on shore, kindled a fire, and soon collected such a supply of shell-fish as furnished us a splendid repast. Here we remained till the flood-tide set in strong; when again hoisting our sail, we arrived at the Kiddy Kiddy about sunset.

I here found the missionaries in the greatest consternation and dismay; and learned that it was one of the chiefs of E O Ke Angha who had shot George, and they dreaded lest the result of that deed should be, that the whole of the savage tribes on that part of the island would be opposed to each other; that combats would ensue; and which side soever might be victorious, it would prove equally injurious to them, as they had settlements on both sides of the island. But their greatest

[Image of page 227]

alarm was occasioned by their possessions at E O Ke Angha, as the most violent depredations were there being committed; and as this was the very point of my destination, the news was not very consolatary to me. "So anxious," said one of "the brethren" to me, "were we to inform our Christian brethren of our danger, that we actually gave a warm piece to a native to carry a letter over to you, although that is strictly contrary to our orders." I expressed a desire to know what he meant by a warm piece: he kicked his foot against the stock of a gun I had at the time in my hand; and, looking at me with an expression of the greatest contempt, said, "It is what you worldly folks call a musket!"

They were making considerable preparations to repair to the great meeting of the chiefs, to which Rivers was journeying. This was a wise and politic measure for them to pursue; and they were highly delighted to have such an addition to their party as this well-known chief; and though they would not acknowledge it, their satisfaction was very visible. I earnestly requested them to

[Image of page 228]

inform me candidly, from all they had heard, whether they thought I might, with safety, venture across the country; but I could get nothing from them but vague and mysterious answers: one thing, however, they made me very clearly understand; which was, that they neither cared for me nor for my drawings; that their own safety engrossed all their thoughts; and that a worldly-minded, misguided creature like me was but as dust in the balance, compared to such godly people as themselves, who were now placed in jeopardy. They, without scruple, applied quotations from the Scriptures to themselves; such as "Why do the heathen so furiously rage," &c. &c.

My necessities compelled me to request a favour from them; which was, that they would allow one of their boys, who could speak English, to accompany me, as our loads were heavy; and his being known to belong to their establishment I thought might be some protection; but the short answer of the monosyllable "No" soon made me repent having asked it. I spread my bed in one

[Image of page 229]

of their empty rooms; and started at daybreak next morning, with my two native slaves. I could not banish from my remembrance the inhospitable conduct of these missionaries: they never even enquired whether I had any provision for a journey they themselves would not have dared to undertake; which was evident by their giving a native a warm piece for merely taking a letter for them. As my shoes were nearly worn out, and I had a long distance to go, over execrable roads, I had intended asking them for a new pair, as they had abundance of every thing of the kind sent to them from England, to distribute to the needy (and I fully came under that description of character); but finding them so selfish and cold-hearted, and meeting with one refusal, I refrained, and set off, literally almost bare-footed.

We journeyed on all day by a road I had never been before; my attendants evidently taking by-paths to avoid meeting stragglers or runaways. I was well laden, having to carry my musket and my basket of provisions; and each of my men, in addition to

[Image of page 230]

the loads I had placed on his shoulders, bore a basket of potatoes. Once or twice, during our route, we saw some persons at a distance; and I was sorry to notice the great alarm it occasioned to my companions, as I now had every reason to apprehend, that, in case of danger, they would slip off their burdens, make their escape, and leave me and my baggage to my fate; which the missionaries had told me they considered a thing very likely to happen. Once we heard a great firing of muskets, which I afterwards ascertained to be the feu de joie fired at the first meeting of the chiefs, at their grand assembling in the neutral village.

At night, we arrived safe at Pationi's Village, where I had slept on my first journey across the island; but it now presented a very different appearance to what it had done then: instead of the tumult I had formerly heard, all was silence; the numerous families then there, all fully occupied, were exchanged for a few old surly-looking slaves, and the huts were all deserted. The inhabitants, in consequence of the rumour of approaching war,

[Image of page 231]

having betaken themselves to one of their fortified pars, I had no alternative but to pass the night with these suspicious-looking creatures; who, feeling themselves beyond the control of their cruel masters, soon gave way to their own vile passions, and became most impertinent and intrusive -- taking every advantage of my loneliness to indulge their curiosity and familiarity.

On my arrival, I had deposited my things in one of the empty huts, and spread my bed, hoping to enjoy the luxury of a few hours' repose after the fatigue and great anxieties of the day; but these fellows would force themselves into the hut I had chosen, where they lighted a fire, and sat chattering around it all the night long. Finding that I did not appear alarmed at their intrusion or noise, they kept doing every thing they could think of to rouse my fears. They threatened to break open my portmanteau; and one old wretch sharpened his knife, and made motions as though he were going to cut my throat and eat me. I knew my only chance of safety was not to betray any sign of apprehension:

[Image of page 232]

so I forced a laugh, and made them believe I considered their tricks as an excellent joke. I gave them all my tobacco to keep them in good humour; but I passed a most miserable night, nearly suffocated with smoke, distracted with their noise, and annoyed by vermin of every description.

I was most happy when daybreak gave me an excuse for leaving these brutal savages, and resuming my journey. Every step I took brought before me proofs of the horrors of war: villages, which had been crowded, were now entirely desolate, and, in many instances, burned to the ground. On that spot where I had left a party of enterprising Scotchmen busily employed in sawing timber, with crowds of natives assisting them, all was quiet and totally deserted, with the exception of a few nearly starved, wretched-looking dogs, who, hearing some one approach, came out, and tried to bark at us, but were too weak to utter a sound.

Our march along the banks of the river was through a most beautiful country; but all the inhabitants had fled: their plantations were

[Image of page 233]

in a most luxuriant state; fields which I had left bare and uncultivated, were now covered with Indian corn standing higher than my head, the ripe ears hanging fantastically in all directions, and none to gather in the harvest: the crops of cumera and potatoes were equally abundant. I could not help thinking that, if they expected an invasion of their enemies, they had left an ample supply of forage for their use. In the evening I arrived at E O Racky, or Deptford Dock-yard (of which I made mention in my first journey). I here found my countrymen in a state of considerable embarrassment. The various chiefs of that district had encamped all round them: so near to them had they taken up their position, that, whatever might be the result of their battles, the European settlement would be in danger. The settlers had fortified their place of refuge in the best manner they could; and all were determined to defend themselves and property to the last. They had four nine-pounders mounted on a hill, and a tolerable battery made of three-inch pine stuff.

Before the English erected their fortifica-

[Image of page 234]

tions, there was a great difference of opinion amongst them as to the propriety and utility of adopting so strong a measure; and the affair was finally put to the vote; when the majority proved to be in favour of a strong resistance. I opposed the measure all I could; for I felt convinced, that in the event of our allies being worsted, we all should be involved in one common massacre; whereas, if no resistance was made, plunder alone would have been the extent of the injury we should suffer: and even of that taking place I had strong doubts. However, as my opinion was overruled, I had to submit, which I did unhesitatingly; and, like a good soldier, I held myself in readiness in case of an attack.

The proprietor and manager of the Dockyard possessed certainly a "satisfying reason" for striving to defend himself at all hazards. The vessel I had left here, on my former visit, in frame, was now nearly completed, and a most beautiful one she was. He told me he would much rather part with life than see her destroyed; and, I confess, I could fully enter into his feelings on the subject; but as I had

[Image of page 235]

no such object at stake, and was not quite enthusiastic enough to fight for a vessel I had no share in, I felt very much inclined to let the natives war among themselves without interference; but as we Europeans had agreed to assist each other, I would not be behind-hand.

I discharged Rivers's two slaves, and rewarded them liberally for conducting me with safety through such a wild and perilous country: they departed (after expressing the heartiest wishes for my reaching my own home in safety, and thanks for my generosity) to join their master at the great meeting of the chiefs in the interior. These men, while assisting me, were performing a great service to their master, by acting as spies. When we started from the Kiddy Kiddy each was armed with a musket; but when we had accomplished about half the journey, they concealed these in a hollow tree, under pretence of extreme fatigue. I felt convinced at the time that was not their real reason for so doing; and afterwards I learned the true motive. Had they been found armed when returning to their master (who was hostile to those assem-

[Image of page 236]

bled round the Dock-yard), they would have been detained; but, by their coming unarmed amongst us, they were suffered to depart; and I have no doubt the information they carried back to Rivers was very important. I did not mention to any one the hiding of these muskets in the woods, though, according to "The Articles of War," I ought to have done so, as getting possession of them would have added two more to our strength, and lessened that of our enemy: my silence arose from a repugnance I felt to betray these poor creatures, who had behaved so well to me.

Although prepared for war, we were very well pleased to find no attack was made upon us. Indeed, from the first, it had been my decided opinion, that unless we interfered, and made ourselves by that means obnoxious, they had too much respect for us, and were too anxious to retain our kindly feelings towards them, to molest us: at the same time, I felt that it might be a very politic measure to show them what powerful resistance we could make, if driven to extremities.

After passing a week of the greatest anxiety,

[Image of page 237]

on account of our expected invasion, it afforded us the utmost satisfaction to receive a visit from Mr. Hobs, the Wesleyan missionary, one of the persons who had visited the war-camp of the assembled chiefs, who were convened, on the death of our lamented friend George, to debate and decide upon the momentous question of peace or war.

The subject (our informant stated) had been gone into at great length, and stormy and fierce had been the discussion. Finally, the good sense of the elder and more experienced chiefs prevailed over the fiercer passions of the younger, and peace was decided upon. This event forms a new era in "The Political History of the New Zealanders;" it being the first time so great an assemblage had met to discuss openly a national question, or in which they had allowed cool reasoning and good sense to prevail over their habitual ferocity. As may naturally be supposed, where such various interests were at stake, this pacific measure was not effected without considerable opposition from the young and furious chiefs. The provocations given by them to the

[Image of page 238]

elders, whose voices were for peace, were considerable. They did not confine themselves to abuse, but fired several muskets during the debate, in hopes that one shot out of the many might prove fatal; which, if it had, and any distinguished chief had been killed, or even wounded, it would have immediately thrown all into confusion. Even when pacific measures were decided upon by a very large majority, and the chiefs were about to separate, a bullet was fired from the par, which had evidently been aimed at a chief, a well-known ally of the late Shulitea, as it fell at his feet, and the earth it threw up fell upon him. For a few seconds surprise kept all silent; but, as the angry chief rose up, and was about to address the crowd, his friends eagerly surrounded him, and hurried him away.

This was the first instance on record, in which these people had laid a statement of their private wrongs before a public assembly consisting of deputies from every part of the island, and abided by the decision of the majority; and it was the only instance of a chief

[Image of page 239]

being killed in battle, and his decease not having been followed up by the plundering and destruction of his whole family or tribe.

This had been a question of peculiar interest to us Europeans, as several of their great men had fallen in a skirmish (whether an accidental one or a decided combat made not the slightest difference). We knew their barbarous custom; and, consequently, we were preparing for scenes of deadly revenge and insatiable fury to be acted by both parties, and which must have involved all settled here in destruction. Our feelings may therefore be imagined, when we were informed that a parliament had been convened, and all the parties interested were present by invitation, and took part in the debate. A central spot was fixed on to accommodate the various chieftains. The causes of the accident were then explained; they wept and lamented the fallen chiefs, and finally retired satisfied to their several homes. Surely every one who is interested in tracing our own form of government, from the present time up to its first rude outline, will perceive the similarity

[Image of page 240]

of causes and events, and will anticipate the glorious prospect of beholding a clever, brave, and, I may add, noble race of men, like the New Zealanders, rescued from barbarism. This pacific and rational discussion among the chiefs seems, in reality, to give promise of the germ of a regular reform. Should a few more such meetings take place, and terminate in the same amicable manner, (and I think it very probable,) some clever individual may rise up amongst them, take the reins in his own hands, and establish something like a regular form of government.

Feeling that I was not likely now to be called upon to act offensively, I considered myself at liberty to make numerous excursions round our fortress, not only to admire this fertile and beautiful country, but to visit some of my old friends. I was very much astonished and shocked at seeing several very beautiful young women, whom I left only a few months back in perfect health and strength, now reduced to mere "living skeletons," and also to hear of the death of others by consumption. This disease

[Image of page 241]

seems to be the scourge of the young; and when they are once seized with its symptoms, they are very speedily brought to the grave. The natives say, "It is Atua, the Great Spirit, coming into them, and eating up their inside; for the patient can feel those parts gradually go away, and then they become weaker and weaker till no more is left; after which the Spirit sends them to the happy island." They never attempt any means of curing or of alleviating the pains caused by this cruel complaint; and all those under its influence are tabooed. I procured from the brig all my remaining stores of tapioca, sago, arrowroot, and sugar, and distributed them in the best way I could amongst my sick friends. They were anxious for wine; but that portion of my sea-stock, as well as spirits, had been long since expended.

It seems unaccountable that the natives of an atmosphere so dry as this is -- a country in which there are no marshy bogs, and where, though there is an abundance of water, it is generally seen in clear and sparkling rills rushing down from the mountains into the

[Image of page 242]

rivers -- should be subject to so fatal a disease as galloping consumption. The only cause to which I can attribute such an affliction is, their indifference to lying out all night exposed to every change of weather -- to cold and rain -- which, in young and tender constitutions, must produce the most pernicious consequences. If some few are rendered hardy and robust by this process, many, no doubt, are killed by it. I endeavoured to impress on the minds of all my female friends the great danger of thus exposing themselves to cold; but they only laughed at my precautions, and said, "If Atua wished it, so it must be: they could not strive with the Great Spirit."

I have heard so much said about the great impropriety of the white settlers admitting the native females into their society, so much of the scandalous conduct of captains of ships suffering their men to have sweethearts during their stay in port, and so much urged in justification of the indignation shown by the missionaries when this subject is touched on by them, that I feel it necessary

[Image of page 243]

to state one decided benefit which has resulted from that intercourse, and which, in my opinion, far more than counterbalances the evil against which there has been raised so loud an outcry.

Before our intercourse took place with the New Zealanders, a universal and unnatural custom existed amongst them, which was that of destroying most of their female children in infancy; their excuse being, that they were quite as much trouble to rear, and consumed just as much food, as a male child, and yet, when grown up, they were not fit to go to war as their boys were. The strength and pride of a chief then consisted in the number of his sons; while the few females who had been suffered to live were invariably looked down upon by all with the utmost contempt. They led a life of misery and degradation. The difference now is most remarkable. The natives, seeing with what admiration strangers beheld their fine young women, and what handsome presents were made to them, by which their families were benefited; feeling also that their influence was so powerful over

[Image of page 244]

the white men; have been latterly as anxious to cherish and protect their infant girls as they were formerly cruelly bent on destroying them. Therefore, if one sin has been, to a certain degree, encouraged, a much greater one has been annihilated. Infanticide, the former curse of this country, and the cause of its scanty population, a crime every way calculated to make men bloody-minded and ferocious, and to stifle every benevolent and tender feeling, has totally disappeared wherever an intercourse has taken place between the the natives and the crews of European vessels. The New Zealand method of "courtship and matrimony" is a most extraordinary one; so much so, that an observer could never imagine any affection existed between the parties. A man sees a woman whom he fancies he should like for a wife: he asks the consent of her father, or, if an orphan, of her nearest relation; which if he obtains, he carries his "intended" off by force, she resisting with all her strength; and, as the New Zealand girls are generally pretty robust, sometimes a dreadful struggle takes place: both

[Image of page 245]

are soon stripped to the skin; and it is sometimes the work of hours to remove the fair prize a hundred yards. If she breaks away, bhe instantly flies from her antagonist, and he has his labour to commence again. We may suppose that if the lady feels any wish to be united to her would-be spouse, she will not make too violent an opposition: but it sometimes happens that she secures her retreat into her father's house, and the lover loses all chance of ever obtaining her; whereas, if he can manage to carry her in triumph into his own, she immediately becomes his wife. The women have a decided aversion to marriage; which can scarcely be wondered at, when we consider how they are circumstanced. While they remain single, they enjoy all the privileges of the other sex; they may rove where they please, and bestow their favours on whom they choose, and are entirely beyond controul or restraint: but when married, their freedom is at an end; they become mere slaves, and sink gradually into domestic drudges to those who have the power of life and death over them; and whether their

[Image of page 246]

conduct be criminal or exemplary, they are equally likely to receive a blow, in a moment of passion, of sufficient force to end life and slavery together! There are many exceptions to this frightful picture; and I saw several old couples, who had been united in youth, who had always lived in happiness together, and whose kind and friendly manner towards each other set an example well worthy of imitation in many English families.

April 2d. -- This day, perceiving that an unusual number of canoes were passing up the river, all proceeding towards the village of Par-Finneigh, we hailed one; and upon its coming alongside, we enquired what had occurred; for every appearance of bustle or commotion amongst this restless and warlike people is truly alarming. They informed us that the great chief A-Rowa, who died four months since, and the ceremony of whose "lying in state" I had been permitted by his eldest son to be a witness of, was this day to be exposed to the view of his friends; was to be cried over; and was finally to be deposited in the tomb of his ancestors. As this

[Image of page 247]

was one of their imposing spectacles which I had never yet seen, I was anxious to witness it. We soon got a boat ready; and a party of us joined the throng, and proceeded with them to the village. Upon our arrival thither, we found an immense concourse of people assembled; for here, as in most uncivilised or early states of society, the disposition and good qualities of the deceased are made known by the number of friends and followers who meet at his funeral. As these New Zealanders were all fully equipped in arms, they had more the appearance of a hostile meeting in an enemy's camp, than of a group of mourners about to be occupied in the melancholy duty of depositing out of sight for ever the last remains of a beloved chief.

Mooetara, the son and successor of the deceased, came to meet us on the beach, and seemed much gratified by our attention; our appearance on this solemn occasion giving him importance in the eyes of all the natives then assembled. He gave orders for our being conducted with much ceremony to the place of mourning; where, amidst a number of uncouth

[Image of page 248]

pieces of carving, (which, we were informed, were all tombs reared in honour of the memory of several former chiefs, and all tabooed), was erected a small hut, covered in at the top with thatch, but open at the sides. In the centre of this hut the bones of the deceased chief were exposed to view. After having undergone the process of decomposition during four months' exposure to heat, wind, and rain, they had been collected, cleaned, and decorated with a quantity of fresh white feathers, which rendered the appearance of the skull still more frightful.

The women here invariably perform the parts of chief mourners: a group of them, with the widow of the deceased at their head, kept up a most mournful cadence, and at every pause in their dismal song slashed their skins with a piece of shell, till their faces, necks, and arms were literally streaming down with blood. This mourning and cutting is completely a matter of business, and is sometimes carried on without their feeling any real sorrow or sympathy. Parties kept arriving; and when there was not room for them to thrust

[Image of page 249]

themselves round the hut, they sat down in groups, perfectly unconcerned, employing themselves in cleaning their firelocks, or playing off upon each other some practical joke; but the moment a vacant space was presented near the hut, they deliberately stripped themselves, put on a most sorrowful countenance, and seating themselves as near to the ornamented bones as possible, they immediately began their howling and slashing: no one seemed to like the idea of being outdone by his neighbour; but when the time allotted to this ceremony had expired, all instantly jumped up, wiped themselves, put on their mats, and joined the busy throng. There was, indeed, one real mourner, who never moved from the bones, nor once lifted up her eyes from them; she neither howled nor cut herself, and yet she inspired me with pity and commiseration for her forlorn state. This woman had been the only wife of the late chief; and I was informed they had lived many years together, and had a large family: she looked as if she herself was on the very brink of the grave. The contemplation of the

[Image of page 250]

mouldering remains of her partner through life, must have been, even to her savage mind, most lacerating.

After witnessing several parties perform their funeral ceremonies, and imbibing, in some degree, the melancholy tone of mind such a sight must necessarily create, we arose and joined Mooetara. Here I witnessed a scene that reminded me of an English country fair. An immense number of temporary huts had been erected for the accommodation of the chiefs and their families, where they might repose after their exertions, while their slaves cooked their provisions; of which an abundant quantity had been provided, consisting of piles of cumera and Indian corn, with heaps of fish, which were served out, to all who came for them, with a most liberal hand; and which, of course, added not a little to the pleasure of the day. After all had satisfied their hunger (and even the lowest slaves were permitted, on this occasion, to have as much as they wished for), they jumped up, flew to their muskets, and commenced their war dance with great noise and vigour. The violence of their ex-

Previous section | Next section