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The next pah that fell into the hands of this wandering multitude was one named Te Totara, situated on the left bank of the Thames. Several valuable green stone battle axes, --hereditary heirlooms of the tribe, --were forwarded to the fiend-like Hongi and his followers, and the terrified inhabitants of the district sued for peace. A council of war was held, and it was agreed that the siege should be abandoned. In this decision, no doubt Kiri, the principal wife of Hongi, had a voice, for we are informed that this singular woman, "who, though blind with age, sustained him even in war, by her counsels, energy, and judgment." The tranquillity was of short duration; the tumultuous passions of the untutored savage speedily broke forth in all their wild fury, causing desolation and woe, and making a lovely and fertile district one vast Golgotha. Hongi, whose character seems to have been as changeable as the winds that passed over his head; under some pretence or another, ordered Te Totara to be surrounded; his mandate was obeyed by a portion only of his army headed by himself; several hundreds of his followers--to their honour be it said--refused to act in concert, with him, in consequence of the previous proclamation of peace. He was, however, in no way intimidated in reference to his hostile purposes. Hongi's indomitable spirit and personal prowess stimulated his men, and they dashed forward to execute their deeds of blood with infuriated ardour. A slight struggle and all was over. The carnage was considerable, and many distinguished Chiefs were taken prisoners. When the pah was overrun by the enemy, one of the captive Chiefs chaunted the following song:---
The deep was silent! not a sound was heard,
And not a ripple seen upon its breast,
'Twas then our noble prow "Whaowhaotupuni"
Glided thro' the waters. Ah! why was I
So thoughtless. I might have joined thee, Ahurei,
And nought would then have broke the stillness save
The splashing of the paddles. From Kohi's
Headland, lo! I might have feasted on the
Beauteous scene, and watched the mists that rise
High o'er Whakaari's lonely isle. My people!
The calm is yonder still, but we are severed
From it. The tide that might have borne you hence
To that deep sea, where our ancestor,
Taramainuku, used to cast his nets,
Has ebbed for ever. We may not see again,
Famed Moehau, the land we love! Ah, no!
Our heads, how soon,, will be exchanged for
Guns, and tossed upon some stormy shore
Far distant, as kelp is driven by the beating surge.
Among the captives was an influential and promising young Chieftain, whose noble bearing attracted the particular attention of Hongi's generals, and they were determined, if possible, to save his life. Hongi had made enquiries respecting this person, but they were answered evasively by his people, for all seemed interested in the youthful Chieftain, and hardened as were their hearts by perpetual warfare, they were found capable of compassionating the son of a valliant warrior Chief just slain in battle. No such sympathies, however, moved the dark soul of the inhuman and restive Hongi. Tired and annoyed at the reception of his frequent enquiries, he one day coolly ordered an oven to be heated, after which he went in quest of that victim whose existence seems to have deprived him of his ordinary rest. As this "proud leader of battles" laid aside his native dignity, and passed from group to group of his soldiers, a murmur of disapprobation passed through the host, but the inveterate Hongi was not thus to be deterred from carrying out his vile machinations. After some further search the hapless youth was discovered under a heap of mats which had been thrown over him in order to elude his now openly avowed murderer. Hongi seized him by the hand, and ordered his attendants to lead him to the court of the encampment. The command was instantly obeyed, and while passing through two close packed walls of human beings, he chaunted with much pathos the following song:--
My heart is folded as a withered leaf,
For those I loved have perished while I gazed.
And Mataora's chisel which carves the lines
Upon the Chieftain's brow, now waits to seal my doom.
And is there no kind priest whose incantations
By the rippling stream will ease me of the
Load of grief I feel for others? Our gun,
Famed Tikirau, was not bequeathed to us,
Else we should terrify these strangers from the North.
The clash of guns was heard; and then, on thy
Account, my father, agitation seized
This troubled breast, and while I lingered near
The threshold of thy dwelling, the fountains
Of my soul gushed forth in streams.
The effect of this song upon the vast assemblage was one loud wail; but presently their attention, was arrested by a movement at head quarters. All was breathless anxiety as the fiend-like Hongi rose from his seat with a dagger in his hand. He walked up to the youthful captive
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with a firm step, and pointing the dagger to his heart, accosted him thus:-- "You are the greatest fish hitherto caught in my net, you cannot therefore be allowed to escape." The noble minded youth looked into Hongi's face with a smile, and meekly said, --"All that thou canst do is little indeed." Scarcely had he uttered these words when he was pierced to the heart and expired.
Having said so much about the ferocious Hongi, it may be expected that some account of his death should be given, as well as a brief description of his personal appearance.
Hongi was of middle stature, not stout, but possessed of extraordinary muscular power. His face was chubby, his features flat, of a sombre hue, owing to the brawny colour of his skin, as well as to the great quantity of tatooing, which constitutes elegance in the estimation of the New Zealander. He was not only formidable in regard to his personal prowess, but the accoutrements he wore made him appear almost supernatural in the eyes of his bewildered and terrified countrymen; and while the adult population of the surrounding districts were horror-stricken at his approach, the youthful members of the tribes were scared at the very mention of his name. He was generally dressed in an ornamental mat, over which was his coat of mail, six pistols and a dagger were fastened to his belt, and he carried two guns, and to add to the singularity of his appearance, his black face was buried in a large mass of glittering metal in the form of an helmet. Four attendants were always at his side, whose particular business it was to load his guns and pistols.
The last expedition of consequence in which Hongi engaged was an attack upon the tribes of the Hokianga; the latter were headed by Tamati Waka Nene, and his brother, Patuone, who were well known, even in those days, as generals of no mean order. During the rage of the battle Hongi received a shot in the neck, which disabled him from the prosecution of further mischief. He was conveyed to his settlement, and a partial recovery of the wound having taken place, he lingered twelve months. This memorable circumstance occurred in the year 1827.
"The ruling passion," says a devoted missionary, "was strong to the last. He called for his guns and powder, and when they were brought to him, he said to his children, 'You have a good supply.' His battle-axes, muskets, and the coat of mail he received from George IV., he bequeathed to his sons. "As is usual on such occasions his warriors surrounded their dying leader in order to receive his last command. He charged them to punish every insult offered to the tribe, and exhorted them to fight manfully, and they would thereby repel the foe notwithstanding the enemy's numerical force. "After he had uttered the words, 'Be brave! be brave!' several times, he breathed his last."
What a page of savage deeds! and how withering is the aspect of human nature as pourtrayed in the life and death of this man! But human nature is universally the same, whether we select from the highly educated and talented British statesmen who are deservedly the pride of their country, from the compact masses of pagan China or India, --or from the ferocious cannibal of New Zealand or Feegee. The principle which impelled forward to certain victory the great hero of Trafalgar--actuated the degraded savage Hongihika, who, with the bold men of his times, considered it an honour to die on the battle field. Little surprise is felt at the conduct of a barbarian, who lives and dies to no purpose; but how truly lamentable is it that some of the world's brightest geniuses are alike indifferent as respects their present interests, and they pass into an unknown and unexplored region without one guiding star to illumine the path. We are not referring to that class of persons called "infidels"; in the sense that that term is understood, it is our unalterable opinion that no such beings exist, for the very "devils believe and tremble," and surely man, a redeemed creature, capable of the most exalted dignity and happiness, is not deeper sunk in guilt than a fiend! Those who call themselves infidels may make assertions, but we are not obliged to believe those assertions though they may bear the semblance of truth. The fact is, that men, whose minds have not been enlightened by the Spirit of God, are but imperfectly acquainted with the secret springs of the soul. They readily give publicity to their wishes, but never institute a solemn enquiry as to whether their theory of infidelity is based upon a solid foundation. They know full well that a strict investigation would revolutionize their principles, and the pride of their hearts deters them from submitting to such a humiliation. A Gibbon or a Voltaire might thunder forth their eloquence, whilst a crowd of admiring spectators esteemed them wise; --their wisdom nevertheless was of a questionable character. Mankind has virtually gained nothing by their powerful oratory, their appeals being all directed to the intellect, while the heart was permitted to wither at the core. "Ah!" exclaimed one of the most distinguished of this school when overtaken in a storm at sea, "I have tasted so much of the bitterness of death, that I shall in future entertain doubts of my own creed." The storm ceased, and with it the fears of the would-be-thought infidel. Astounding as this may seem, there are myriads indulging at this moment in the same pride and folly, who profess to believe all the precious truths which the inspired volume contains. Not only savage, but highly educated, amiable, and benevolent men, are living "without hope and without God in the world," and
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rushing unthinkingly into eternity, waking up to a sense of their fearful condition, only when their doom is irrevocably fixed. And this wholesale sacrifice of souls is traceable to the simple fact that men voluntarily choose everlasting ruin in preference to eternal and indescribable happiness.