CHAPTER I. THE MAORI AS I KNEW HIM
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CAMP-FIRE YARNS OF THE LOST LEGION
THE MAORI AS I KNEW HIM
CAMPED in a London flat, sick of the turmoil, rows and worries of the big city, with its pushing, hurrying and ill-mannered crowds, can it be wondered at that I let my thoughts often wander far away to the days of my early manhood, when I passed over ten years in the dense and silent, though beautiful, bush of New Zealand, or rode across the wild, open and breezy plains of its inland plateaus? During this time I had ample opportunities for observing and studying the natives, both in war and peace: in the former especially, as I not only fought against them, but I also fought side by side with the brothers, cousins and quondam friends of the very men we were engaged against.
Queer, very queer, people they were, and, to describe them in a few words, I should pronounce them to be bundles of contradictions, whose faults made them hateful, but whose many good qualities rendered them one of the most charming race of people it has ever been my lot to meet. They
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have been described by numerous writers far more capable than myself, and whose pens are far more graphic than my own, but yet perhaps a few traits in their many-sided characters, that I have experienced myself, may interest you.
To begin with, let me speak of their courage, which was displayed in such a marked degree during the long wars that lasted from 1860 to 1871, for the whole of which period the Maoris were hopelessly outnumbered and, as far as armament went, were equally outclassed. Yet these brave fellows fought on and on, and even when the end came, and the shattered remnants of the so-called rebels took refuge in the King Country, the New Zealand Government, fearing to risk further war with the powerful Waikato tribes, resorted to what was called the blanket-and-sugar policy, rather than follow Te Kooti or demand his extradition from King Tawhiao, who at that time was just as independent of English rule as France was.
The first fighting took place in 1860, and soon General Sir Duncan Cameron had over 1000 Imperial troops under his command, as well as an equal number of Colonial Militia and Irregulars, and also a powerful Naval Brigade. He had also a strong force of Artillery, and was well supplied with ammunition and stores of all kinds. Yet perhaps you will scarcely credit me when I tell you that never at any single moment had he more than 2000 natives in arms against him, and that he was never opposed in any single action by even 1000 men.
It must be borne in mind that Sir Duncan's force was one of the most powerful that England, up to that time, without the assistance of allies,
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had ever put into the field; that the men who composed it were all of them good, seasoned men, many of them being veterans of the Crimea and Mutiny; that the Militia were highly trained, most of them old soldiers, under the command of ex-Imperial officers; that the Irregulars proved themselves to be second to none in the field, and that the natives only possessed old muskets and fowling-pieces.
Now these numbers are staggering, but absolutely correct, as it is also that the above force made but small headway against this handful of savages; for although Sir Duncan forced his way into the Waikato and held a chain of forts there, yet on the west coast, especially in the districts of Taranaki and Wanganui, the settlers had to abandon their homesteads, the women and children being sent for safety to the South Island, and no man's life was safe beyond rifle range of the forts. This was the state of New Zealand in 1866, after six years of incessant war, and it can only be accounted for in the following way:--
To commence, the General and his officers were hidebound with the old traditions and maxims of the British army. They simply would not or could not adapt themselves to the exigencies or tactics of irregular warfare, nor could they be made to understand or believe that a regiment that could march in line like a brick wall might easily be worsted by a mob of savages in a New Zealand bush. Then again when attacking pahs: the General considered that the correct way to do so was, after a sharp bombardment, to rush the place with the bayonet.
Who could imagine for a moment that natives
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could hold their flimsy stockades against men who had stormed the Redan and taken Delhi at the point of the bayonet. Yet they did. Rangiriri was assaulted three times, and on each occasion, notwithstanding the splendid devotion and courage of our gallant Tommies, they were driven back with great loss. Yet on the following day the 180 defenders marched out and laid down their arms. Why? For three days they had been without one drop of water. The General knew they had no water, then why did he risk the lives of his splendid men by ordering futile assaults? Rangiriri took place in November 1863, and one would have thought that the General might have learned something, by its lesson, of the ways how best to deal with a Maori pah; but he had neglected to do so, for in April, the following year, he invested Orakau Pah, the defenders of which exhibited gallantry seldom equalled and never surpassed in all the annals of human warfare. Let me try and give you a brief account, as I heard it some years afterwards from the mouth of one of its defenders:
"Listen, Te Parione, I will tell you how I first saw white men and fought against them. It was at Orakau, in the land of the Waikato tribes, and the fight happened in this manner:
"We of the Taupo tribes must pay a visit of ceremony to the chiefs and people of the Waikatos, and at the same time the Uriwera people wished to do the same. Our intention was to discuss many things with the Waikatos, and to hold a big runanga (deliberation) concerning the war. We journeyed there, although we knew much war was
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going on, and we were most anxious to hear about and see something of this war, so that we could judge for ourselves the might and fighting customs of the white men. It was necessary for us to do this, as at that time we knew but little of the white man, or the war customs of the soldiers; and as we might have to fight them later on, it was well for us to know their manners in war. We travelled together, in two parties, as our love is not great for the Uriwera, and reached the land of the Waikatos. These could give us but a short tangi (reception ceremony), as the war was hot in the land and the people much engaged in fighting; but they gave us the Orakau Pah to dwell in, until such time as the runanga could be held. Some chiefs of the Waikatos also stayed with us in the pah, as hosts, and food was sent us daily, our women, some forty in number, having to fetch water from a distance, as there was none close to the pah.
"We heard daily of the advance of the white men, and we hoped to see them, but did not go near them. It would not have been right to do so: we were on a visit of ceremony, we had no anger against them, and no cause to fight with them.
"One day we heard they were quite near, and our hearts were glad, as perhaps we should get our desire and gaze on them. Next day they came in sight, long columns of them, each man in his place. And it was good to look at them. They were in great numbers. We had never seen so many men at one time, and our hearts grew dark within us at their might and order. Instead of passing on their way as we expected, some of them turned to the right and some moved to our left, until we were quite
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surrounded; and when they were all placed they stood still and remained quiet. We were surprised and in great wonder; nor could we understand the meaning of this, until there came to us, as herald, the mouth (interpreter) of their war chief, who told us, in the name of the Great White Queen, to give up the pah, lay down our arms, and render ourselves prisoners to the white men. Our head chief told him that we could not do this, that we were not there to fight against the white man, but that we were Taupo and Uriwera Maoris, that we were on a visit of ceremony to the Waikatos, and that we had no anger or cause against the soldiers. But the white chief was mad, and sent the mouth again, saying we must give up the pah to him or he would attack us.
"Our hearts were very dark with fear at the might and number of the soldiers, and we discussed the situation. How could we give up the pah? Had not the Waikatos lent us their pah to live in? And were we not responsible for the honour of it? How could we give it up? No, we must guard the pah with our lives, or our disgrace would resound through the land and our shame live for ever. We had no wish to fight the soldiers, but we must. Now the white man is not ceremonious, for he gave us no time to dress for war, dance the war-dance, nor even to utter our war-cries; for as soon as the herald returned to his chief we saw a taua (war party) leave their army and come straight for the outer fence, and we had to hasten, so as to get into the trench and flanking angles.
"Very great is the courage of the soldiers, but great is their folly; for this taua moved all in a
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body, close together, with a young chief walking in front of them with his sword in his hand. Soon they came near, and the young chief raised his sword and shouted. The taua at once rushed at us, all of them shouting loud.
"Our hearts were dark with fear, for the anger of the white man was very great. Rewi (a great fighting chief of the Waikatos') had told us before to harden ourselves against the anger and shouts of the white men, and had given us orders not to fire until he gave the signal, then all to fire at one time. When the taua was within six fathoms of us he gave the signal, and our fire darted out from under the fence. Many of the white men fell, but the rest rushed on, some of them trying to pull down the fence with their hands, others firing through it with their guns, and some thrusting at us with their bayonets. None of them seemed to fear death, though they fell fast. We now fired our second barrels, reloading as fast as we could, the women helping us, the men in the flanking angles also firing, so that the smoke rose in clouds, and the sky resounded with the shouting of the white men and our war-cries. All fear had fallen away from us, and we now saw that the great white chief was ceremonious, as he had only sent such a number of men as we could cope with, all his other men remaining where they had first stopped and not interfering with us. But it was otherwise with the men with whom we were fighting, as they swore at us and called us many bad names. And this was wrong, and filled us with wonder, as we had done them no evil. But perhaps it is the custom of the soldiers to do so.
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"The fight had lasted but a short time. I had loaded my tupara (double-barrelled gun) twice when a bugle called out, and the soldiers, leaving us, went back. No, they did not run away, they went slowly, looking back at us as if sorry to leave the fight and taking their wounded men with them.
"We were greatly elated that we had saved the pah, and thought that now the white men, having no cause of war against us, and having done all that was necessary for both their own honour and ours, would pass on their way, leaving us in peace.
"It was also near the time for our evening meal. The Waikato women had not, according to their custom, brought us any provisions that day, this having been delayed, we thought, on account of the fight. But as that was now over, there could be no further cause for their not coming, and if our women were to fetch water, it would be ready for the food when it presently arrived.
"Our women left the pah for this purpose, and had been gone but a short time when they returned and told us that the soldiers would not allow them to pass, and that, on their insisting on doing so, telling the interpreter that there was no water or food in the pah and that they must get some, the mouth had told them that the big chief had given orders that no food or water should be carried into the pah and that if they passed through the soldiers they would be prevented from coming back. So they had returned.
"This news filled us with wonder. Surely the white chief must be mad. Enough fighting had been done for the honour of ourselves and the soldiers. Even should he require more, how could
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he expect our hearts to be strong and for us to be able to fight well if he was to stop us obtaining food and water? It was folly. No man can fight as he should do when he is weak and famished. He had very many men. There had not been 300 Maoris, including women, in the pah from the beginning, and some of us had been killed and wounded; so we felt bitter towards the white chief, for our thirst with fighting, shouting and the powder smoke, was great.
"Next morning we saw many more soldiers had arrived, bringing with them several big guns, and the herald again approached us. This time he told us that if we would not render up the pah the big guns would fire on us. He also said we should have no food or water. To this Rewi made answer: 'We will not render up the pah and our honour. Enough, we will fight right on for ever.' And we all shouted, 'Ake, ake ake' (For ever, for ever, for ever).
"Then the white chief sent word: 'Save your women, let them come out, they shall pass in safety and honour through the soldiers.'
"But the women refused, and Rewi answered: 'The women will fight with us.'
"No sooner had the herald left us than the big guns began to shoot, also some short, fat guns (cohorns) that threw iron balls up into the air, so that they dropped inside the pah. And these balls, being filled with powder, burst, inside the pah, with great noise, and pieces of iron flew all around, while a great number of soldiers, drawing near, began to fire at the pah, so that soon the whole place was filled with dust and confusion, while the
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air was torn with the shrieking of the pieces of iron and the whistling of bullets. We were stricken with fear, and were glad to take refuge in the underground houses of the Waikatos. And now we understood their reason for building these, and our fear soon left us, when we discovered that all this noise and trouble did us no harm. After this had gone on some time, Rewi called to us that a taua was getting ready to attack us, and ordered us to make ready for it. And just then the fire from the big guns ceased, so as to enable us to do so.
"This was quite right, for, if they had continued to fire, we could not have left the underground houses, and then should not have had time to get into the trenches to welcome the soldiers. This made us think better of the white chief, who, we now saw, was most ceremonious, as he again only sent as many men against us as we could contend with on equal terms. And in all things, except the matter of food and water, he proved himself to be a great and wise war chief.
"The hapu (tribe) of soldiers sent against us this time was not the same tribe as that which had attacked us previously, as they wore another number on their head-dress. And this was as it should be, for the chief had many different tribes in his army, and each of these must be given a chance of honour. But he must have been blind in his great folly, as if he wished to send all his tribes, each in its turn, against us, at the same time refusing us food and water, how could he expect us to keep our hearts strong, so as to be able to resist in a befitting manner those whose turn came later on? Then
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again our powder would fail. But this he had provided against, as I will tell you shortly.
"Now this new taua acted just the same as the other had done. They all moved in a body, and when the chief, who walked in front, raised his weapon they all ran forward to try and tear down the outer fence. Some of them had also brought with them large tomahawks with which to cut it down, and Rewi called to us to use our second shots on these men. Shouting loudly, the taua charged at us, and when they reached within six fathoms of us our fire rushed to meet them. Many of them fell, and those who reached the fence failed to break in, though they did all that brave men could do. The men with the tomahawks were soon shot down, and the fight waxed very hot, although our war-cries were small, our thirst being very great.
"Soon the bugle again called, and the white men went back slowly and in great anger, some of them shaking their hands at us and swearing loudly. But this we did not heed greatly, as we had decided, among ourselves, that this was their custom and that they did so with no intent to insult us, who had done them no wrong.
"Soon the big guns began to shoot again: this time at the pekaranga (outer fence), so as to try and break it down. But the fence was made of very many slender manuka poles, lashed firmly to many cross-pieces, these being made fast to stout posts set firmly in the ground, the lower part of the fence being just clear of the ground, so that we could fire under it from the trench that was just behind it. And behind this trench, in which we stood, were
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the earthworks and heavy palisading of the pah.
"Now the outer fence being composed in this way, the shot from the big guns only broke one or at the most two sticks of the fence, and then buried themselves in the earth. This did but little harm to us, as the holes made in the fence could be easily repaired and were not nearly large enough for a soldier to pass through. The short, fat guns also began to throw their balls into the pah. But as long as we remained in the underground houses these did us no harm. And it was by them the white chief showed his wisdom, insomuch as he employed these balls to furnish us with powder, so as to enable us to continue fighting, as we quickly discovered that very many of these balls did not burst and from them we extracted very many charges of powder. All these big guns fired with great fury at us for some time, and then ceased, so as to give us the opportunity of getting into the trenches to receive another taua.
"This came in the same manner as the previous ones, and went back as they did, not being able to break through the fence, and losing many men.
"All the rest of that day the big guns continued to shoot at us and the soldiers to fire into the pah, while we suffered much from the want of food and water.
"That evening the mouth came to us again with word from the chief to render the pah and ourselves to him.
"This we again refused to do. True, we had fought enough to save the honour of the pah, and we should have left it before, had we been able to
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do so; but we were, on all sides, surrounded by soldiers, so could not escape. And if we rendered ourselves up as prisoners, we, who were, with but few exceptions, all well-born rangitera (gentlemen), would lose caste and become slaves. Therefore we must fight for ever, even if we should have to die from thirst. All that evening, and also at intervals during the night, the big guns fired at us; and we had to take the time between these to lick with our tongues the dew that fell from the sky, so as to try and cool our parched throats, as by now our thirst was very great.
"We could get no rest that night, as the white men frequently fired these powder-filled balls into the pah. And we discovered another reason for their use: one being to bring us powder, the other to keep us awake, so as to be ready to resist an attack should the chief desire one to be made. We had thought, at first, they had been intended to kill and injure us, but as they had hurt no one, we now understood their proper use. And we again wondered at a chief who, being so wise in some matters, should be so foolish as to keep us without food and water, as he still had many more tribes to send to fight us.
"Next morning we saw that the white men had dug, during the night, many rifle pits, and had begun to dig trenches, so as to be able to approach us closely, without our being able to fire at them. Escape we had deemed impossible before, but when the mouth came to call us to render ourselves prisoners, we again cried, as loud as our thirst allowed us: 'We fight on; ake, ake, ake.'
"That day the big guns fired frequently, and
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tauas attacked us twice, always in the same manner as I have already told you; but the last taua were very full of anger, and the bugle had to call twice before they left us.
"The soldiers also kept on digging their trenches, and kept on firing both from big guns and muskets.
"During the night we again tried to quench our thirst with the dew, for we were getting weak and suffering greatly; and Rewi with the rest of us chiefs consulted as to what we should do, for we saw that by the next evening the soldiers would have dug their trenches up to the outer fence and that the pah must fall. These were the words of Rewi, and we all agreed with them:
"'O ye chiefs of Taupo and Uriwera, we have done all that brave men can do. We have saved the honour of the pah, we must now look to ourselves. The soldiers will enter the pah tomorrow, and we, through the folly of the white chief, will be too weak from famine and thirst to resist them. It is unbecoming that we, who are gentlemen, should render ourselves prisoners; therefore only one thing remains for us to do. We must charge the enemy and try to escape by breaking through them. Perchance some of us will succeed, the remainder must die as it befits warriors to die.'
"He then told us his plan. 'At midday the soldiers take their meal, leaving only guards in the trenches. We will leave the pah quietly in a body and rush those who are behind the bank--that is, in front of the gate--and we will break through them there. They will be eating. Perchance we may find them unprepared.' To this we all agreed, each man determining to escape or die.
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"Next morning we saw the trenches had approached us closely, and so near were they that the soldiers were able to throw great numbers of small balls filled with powder into our trench and the pah itself. These balls burst on reaching us, and were thrown by the hands of the soldiers themselves, not by the big guns, though these also kept firing all the time, and we saw before night came again the pah must fall.
"No taua attacked us this morning, as they wished the big guns to break down our defences, as much as possible, before they again assailed us. The sun reached its height and the firing somewhat ceased. Rewi said the time was come, and we gathered together at the gate of the pah, all the women being with us. Yes, it was certainly the time for the soldiers' meal, and we, who had neither eaten nor drunk for more than three days, tried to laugh when we thought how we were shortly to disturb their eating it.
"Now, Parion, so that you may understand fully how these matters took place, I must tell you that about 100 fathoms from the gate of the pah was a bank, behind which were one of the tribes of soldiers, who bore the number 40 on their head-coverings. This bank had not been dug by them but was natural. It was not a high bank, and it sloped towards us, but was steeper on the other side and afforded the soldiers good protection from such of us as possessed rifles. There had been no trenches dug on this side of the pah, as the ground was hard and rocky, so there was nothing between us and this bank. When we were all ready the gate of the pah was removed, and we
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all rushed out, but without noise, and ran as fast as we could for the bank; and we had crossed more than half the distance before the soldiers seemed to notice us, as the smoke and dust lay heavy on the pah and around the spots from which the big guns fired. Then we were seen, and immediately many bugles gave their calls. There was much shouting, and many soldiers in the trenches jumped out and fired at us, many others running to take their allotted places. There was much confusion. We, however, ran steadily on, turning neither to our right nor our left; nor did we return the fire. We soon came to the bank, and as we ran up the slope we could see the soldiers rising from the ground, on which they were eating, and who, when they saw us running towards them, ran to the bank, fixing their bayonets on their guns. Only a few had time to fire at us before we were on them, and with our rush we jumped from the top of the bank right over their heads. Some of them thrust bayonets at us, but as they were in confusion we broke through them, or jumped over them, without trouble, only very few of us falling here, and continued to run towards the hills that were not far off. We should have reached these, and most of us would have escaped, but all at once we were cut off and attacked by other men, not soldiers, some of them mounted (Colonial Irregulars). These men do not have the fine appearance of soldiers, but know more about war, and are greatly to be feared; for they did not wait to get each man into his right place, but attacked us each man as he could, and being, moreover, good fighting men, they killed many of us and delayed
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us so much that the soldiers, having had time to regulate themselves, reached the hill almost as soon as we did. They were in great numbers and fired heavily on us as we struggled up the hills, all of us so weak that we could scarcely surmount them. The big guns also fired at us, but the horses could not follow us, and so 120 of us escaped, Rewi and myself being among these, the remainder dying as it became them. Very many of us, however, were wounded; and I must not omit to tell you that thirty of the others who did not escape, through being wounded severely, were taken by the soldiers. These the soldiers treated with honour; nor did they make them slaves or kill them, but conveyed them carefully to big tents, where their wounds were made whole, and they were attended with much care. The women, of whom some were taken, were also treated with honour. But this was the custom of the soldiers once the fighting was finished. They bore no anger towards the Maori prisoners, but brought them much tobacco and waipero (rum) to show their good will and appreciation for the trouble the Maoris had taken to fight them five times. But on the medicine men learning of this good will on the part of the soldiers, they were angry, and drove them away; which I myself consider to be wrong. But perchance it is the custom of the medicine men.
"And now, Te Parione, I desire your explanation on some matters; for my heart is darkened with indecision as to the reasons the great white chief had in carrying the war on against us in the manner he did. You, who are a fighting man, belonging to the tribes of soldiers, for I have been told your ancestors have
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all been chiefs among these tribes, may be able to clear my mind on these matters. I will place my ideas before you, then you can make my mind light.
"First, why did the chief attack us? We were on a visit of ceremony, not of war. Yet he, having a big army, and the Waikatos at the time avoiding him, must find war for his men. In so much he was right, and that I understand. Again, he showed great knowledge of war, by only sending small bodies of men against us, he having so many that we should have been crushed at once had he sent them all at the same time. He also showed his great wisdom by sending us powder in the iron balls, which also kept us awake at night, so that we might be ready in case he attacked us. But as he did not attack us during the night, it was folly, as a fighting man needs rest. That he did not want to kill us we know, or he would not have made whole the wounded men. Again, he could not have wanted the pah itself, to dwell in, or he would not have tried to destroy it with his big guns. And he knew we had no food or water, so must all perish from thirst, in a few days, when he could gain the pah without losing any men at all. He could not want our arms, as his men do not use double-barrelled guns, and if he took them from us we should have been unable to fight him, in case he saw fit to come to Taupo from the Waikato, seeking war. No, he must have wanted to let each of his tribes enjoy the honour of fighting us in their proper turn. But then why, O Te Parione, did he forbid us food and water? How could he expect us to render full justice to his men when our great thirst even prevented us from crying our
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war-cries, or fighting in such a manner as would confer honour on his men whose turn came late. As it was, we could only manage to hold out long enough to fight five of his tribes: and he had many.
"And now, Te Parione, the night grows old, and I have talked much. Thinking of Orakau excites my thirst and the rum bottle is empty. At daylight you go to shoot ducks, and it is needful to sleep. Think over what I have asked you, and to-morrow night, when we talk once again on war, you will be able to set my mind at rest on these matters. War is a great art, and we are never too old to acquire wisdom. Perchance that white chief had reasons that, if I understood, would exalt my name should I practise them when we fight again. Till then, my guest, rest in peace."
The above yarn is greatly epitomised, as my old host not only described most of the blows struck during the fight, but also gave me the roll-call of the Maoris, and most of their pedigrees. A Maori considers it to be a waste of words not to describe minutely every circumstance of an event, and by doing so differs from our ideas of yarn-spinning, as we consider brevity to be the soul of wit. Nor did the brave old warrior lay claim to any special merit that his band of 250 men, armed with old fowling-pieces and muskets, should have resisted the attack of over 5000 British troops, should have repulsed five desperate assaults, and for three days have braved the fire of a powerful train of artillery, while at the same time undergoing the torture of thirst.
Surely their heroic answer to the General's summons to surrender, "Ka whawhai tonu, ake, ake,
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ake" (We fight right on, for ever, for ever, for ever), is worthy of a place among the mottoes of the proudest regiments the world has ever contained. As for their desperate and somewhat successful attempt to escape: the fact that this handful of famished men and women, in broad daylight, should charge and break through the investing lines of their enemies and, but for the intervention of the Colonial Irregulars, would have nearly all got away, is a wonderful instance of unconquerable courage.
Perhaps I may be excused for recounting one or two more instances of Maori chivalry.
During the negotiations that took place at the end of the Waikato war, the General asked Wirimu Thomihana, through his interpreter, how it was that the Maoris had not attempted to cut off his convoys at a place called the Hog's Back? --the said place having such natural difficulties as to render its passage almost impossible, had it been obstructed by a hostile force. Thomihana's reply was: "What a foolish question for a great war chief to ask. If we had prevented you from obtaining food, how could you have continued to fight?"
On another occasion two companies of soldiers, while on the line of march, piled their arms, sat down to rest and eat their dinners. Not far away a body of Maoris were lying perdus. These crept up, through the long fern, to the unsuspecting Tommies. Then, jumping to their feet, rushed through them, seizing en route all the rifles, belts and pouches, they disappeared with them again into the fern. The Maori chief presently informed the discomfited and helpless troops that he would not allow his men to injure them, as he considered that
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both themselves and their officers were far too ignorant of war to be treated as warriors, and that they might therefore return in peace to their camp, where he advised them to learn how to take care of themselves before they again came out to fight.
The 65th Regiment had been stationed very many years in New Zealand, it being supposed that their existence had been forgotten by the War Office, who had most probably lost their postal address. Some of the officers and very many of the men had married Maori women, so that the regiment was on very friendly terms with the natives. War broke out, and, naturally, the white man and Maori were on opposite sides and fought bravely against one another. This did not, however, affect their mutual esteem, for when at sunset the firing ceased numbers of Maoris used to leave their rifle pits and stroll over to their opponents' shelter trenches to exchange compliments, while the Maori women brought over plentiful supplies of pork and potatoes with which to regale their husbands, who, during the day, had been trying their best to pot their fathers and brothers. These latter, with plenty of quiet chaff, would quietly discuss the prominent events of the past day's fighting, and the possible occurrences of the coming one, with no more animus than teams of cricketers discuss together, at dinner, the events of that day's play. At guard-mounting these friendly enemies would part, and at daylight next morning each would do his level best to put out of action his relative by marriage. This sporting relationship was kept up for some time, until, reinforcements pouring into the country, another regiment was sent
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to strengthen the Haki-Hakis (the 65th), when the Maoris, thinking that the new-comers might be enemies to the 65th, promptly left their rifle pits and, coming over to their opponents, proffered their assistance to drive away the supposed undesirable new-comers, and then continue their own fight.
I have frequently talked to Maori warriors of their old-time wars, tribe against tribe, when they have related accounts of the awful raids of Hongi, Heki, Rauparaha and others. And these stories not only teem with incidents of splendid courage, but are also blackened by the recital of as many acts of brutality, treachery and cold-blooded slaughter sufficient to satisfy Moloch himself: and relate to men who would on one occasion perform feats of heroic chivalry worthy to stand beside those of Bayard or Sir Walter Manny, while on the next day they would commit acts that would have been considered bad form in Hades even by Tilly and Cromwell. Chivalry was to disappear entirely when the natives adopted the extraordinary and debased form of nonconformist Christianity called the Pai Marire or Hau Hau faith: at which time, retaining only their courage, they relinquished every other good quality they may ever have possessed.
During the bitter and savage fighting of the later sixties, splendid actions were done by these men while attempting to carry off, from the field of battle, their wounded or dead comrades; and their determined resistance, offered up to the last, threw a halo of glory round them that even their coldblooded murders and torturing atrocities could scarcely obliterate.
Well I think I have said enough about their
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courage; let me turn to the next greatest virtue possessed by man--viz. hospitality.
The hospitality of the Maori was unbounded. The best of everything he had was readily placed at the disposal of his guest, and even should he be so circumstanced as to have only a few potatoes between himself and starvation, these would be cheerfully surrendered for his visitor's consumption; nor was any payment expected, and if offered would have been indignantly refused; notwithstanding the fact that the recipient of the bounty might be a perfect stranger.
In those good old days, when the inmates of a pah or kainga saw a white man, of any rank or position, approaching the place, all the women, girls and children would seize mats, or anything else that came handy, and, waving these, cry as loud as they could the greetings of welcome: "Haere mai! Haere mai!" (Come to us! Come to us!). And these cries would continue, and be joined in by all the inhabitants, until the stranger had entered the village. On doing so, the visitor, provided he were acquainted with strict Maori etiquette, would pay no attention to anyone, but, handing his horse over to the nearest boy, pass through the screaming, gesticulating crowd, and seat himself in front of the guest hut, usually the best whare in the village. Here he would be faced by all the principal men of the place, who would squat down, in a semicircle, in front of him, the women, boys, girls and men of low degree standing in rear of them, when with one accord the whole multitude would lift up their voices and weep--and when I say weep it was weeping, real
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weeping, and no make-believe about it. This weeping, known as a tangi, was to me always a matter of wonder, as I could never understand how a Maori should be able to turn on the water-tap of his emotions at any moment he might desire to do so. I have frequently seen scores of grand old kai tangatas (man-eaters) squat down and, at will, cry and sob, with big tears hopping down their tattooed cheeks, as bitterly as some tenderhearted little girls would do if their favourite cat had just murdered their pet canary; and these grim old warriors, in less than a minute, would be in more urgent need of a big bandana handkerchief than a small boy with a bad attack of influenza. Old men and women would crawl out of their huts, stragglers would hurry up to join the throng, until every man, woman and child belonging to the tribe would be rocking and wailing as if their very heart-strings had been wrung with woe by the most personal disaster.
After these lamentations had lasted a few minutes, one of the principal chiefs would rise to his feet and make a short oration, somewhat in this fashion: "You have come to us, O stranger, welcome! welcome! welcome!" Then, turning to his people, he would say: "What is the use of this crying? Dry your tears. Our friend is with us, make him welcome. He is hungry, prepare food for him. He is fatigued, let him rest. Bring him water, let him drink. Our friend is with us, cease this foolish weeping. Our hearts grow light at seeing him." He would then advance to the visitor and offer his hand, in the case of a white man; but if the said stranger should be a native,
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of rank or family, he would squat down in front of him and rub noses. Then, placing their hands each on the other's shoulders, they would dissolve once more into tears, mussle their noses together, and for a minute or two mingle their weepings: this process having to be gone through by the stranger with every man in the village, whose rank entitled him to approach the guest.
The salutations having been finished, the stranger was left in peace, everyone retiring, with the exception of a chief, or some particular friend, who would remain to see to his comfort. And here at once the innate good-breeding of the Maori came to the front: insomuch as, no matter how anxious the natives were to hear the news, or the purport of the visit, the guest was never pestered with questions, not even as from whence he came, or whither he was going, and it remained entirely to his own discretion as to whether he gave them any information or not. In the meantime, girls brought him water to drink and wash with, others had swept out the whare, brought in fresh fern and laid down new mats for his use. Presently the sound of singing would be heard, and a group of girls, carrying small open trays made from the broad, glazed leaves of the flax plant, would, with a dancing step and a little song, approach him and place them in front of him. These trays contained food, such as pork, eels, enunga (fresh-water white-bait), kora (the delicious fresh-water crayfish), potatoes, pigeons, and sweet potatoes, or any of them the village contained. Anyhow, the guest might be quite sure it was the very best his hosts had to offer. On their arrival the man who had
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been looking after him would take a morsel of food from one dish and eat it; then, rising to his feet, he would retire, at the same time wishing his guest a good appetite. Everyone else would depart with him, with the exception of one or, perhaps, two girls, who would remain on their knees beside him, to wait on him and tempt him to eat.
The evening meal being over, the chiefs would gather round their guest, and, if he should happen to be a man of any importance, long and deep would be the conversation: the subjects ranging from the health and doings of the Great White Queen and her governor, to the most trivial topics of the day. Each man in his turn would state his ideas and reasons, and was listened to with attention; while the guest's words were carefully weighed, and even, if his hearers disagreed with him, the arguments adduced to refute his statements were always expressed in a manner so polite, and in words so carefully chosen, that it was impossible for him to feel personally hurt in regard to his amour propre. Of course if the visit had been premeditated the stranger would have come amply supplied with tobacco, which would be passed round, and accepted with a bien aise that quite disguised, or rather hid, their intense longing for it, and would be enjoyed with many a hearty grunt of satisfaction and approbation. Then the girls would haka (dance with songs) in the moonlight, some of them having placed glow-worms and fireflies in their hair. And the sight of flashing eyes, gleaming white teeth, flowing locks and lovely, swaying figures was sufficient to have made old Saint Anthony himself sit up; although the words of the
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songs that accompanied the dances, and the gestures that in part composed them, were of a nature to shock a far less austere saint, and would perhaps have even extracted a blush from an habitue of the old-time Jardin Mabille.
Late night would put an end to the festivities, and the stranger, all his comforts well seen to, might retire to his fern bed in peace.
It was a point of honour among the Maoris to protect their guest, as it was a point of honour, on the part of the guest, to stand by his hosts. In the yarn I spun about Orakau, I pointed out how the Taupo and Uriwera tribes refused to render up the pah lent to them to dwell in by the Waikatos, and that sooner than do so they fought to the bitter end. Again, in 1811, [1871?] when Te Kooti, flying from us, took refuge in the King Country, and demanded the protection of the Waikatos, this was readily granted him; and the Waikato tribes, although they had no personal esteem for him, much less love or even family ties, would have gone to war with us rather than have surrendered him, had the New Zealand Government demanded him from them.
A Maori tribe considered it most unfortunate should even an accident befall a guest while dwelling in one of their villages; for if such an occurrence should happen, they ran the risk of being chaffed and held up to ridicule, by the surrounding tribes, for their inability to take care of a visitor.
Much more so was this the case during wartime. Should a white officer be detailed for duty to a native contingent, he would be looked after and
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his safety guarded in ways almost ludicrous and by no means congenial to himself.
This was done, because if that officer were killed or wounded, it would reflect the deepest disgrace on the tribe with whom he served; they would never hear the last of it, not only from their friends, but also from their enemies. And these would continually rate them, and charge them with the accusation that it was through their carelessness or cowardice that the misfortune had happened to the man who had been entrusted to them.
The Maori was very superstitious. He firmly believed in dreams, visions, omens of all sorts and the gift of prophecy, while the number of unlucky acts he might involuntarily commit during one day was quite sufficient to account for a whole chapter of accidents on the morrow. He regarded the tohungas (magicians) with great respect, so long as their divinations and prophecies panned out; but there are plenty of well-authenticated cases where a warrior has wreaked his vengeance on a tohunga through whose false prognostications the tribe has got into a mess. Nor are incidents lacking to show that prophets, who had earned a reputation for themselves, would not rather commit suicide than allow themselves to be proved wrong in their divinations.
Let me spin you a couple of yarns to illustrate what I have just written.
It was in March 1865 that the Hau Hau apostle Kereopa, in the course of a few hours, converted the swagger flock of red-hot Christians, who, under the guidance of Bishop Williams, had earned a mighty reputation for sanctity, to the new faith of
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Pai Marire. The good bishop and his family, barely escaping with their lives from his own sheep, departed to Napier, leaving the Hau Haus in possession of his residence at Waerengahika, at which place they built a pah that was, in November of the same year, attacked by the Colonial forces. The Hau Haus were superior in numbers, but during the first few days the Colonials gained some trivial advantages, and on the fourth day began to sap up to the works, which they had surrounded. This day chanced to be a Saturday, and the working party were surprised by an attack, in their rear, from a body of the enemy's reinforcements seeking to enter the pah, which they succeeded in doing, the working party having to beat a retreat, with the loss of six men killed and five wounded. This trivial success greatly elated the natives and so bucked up one of the apostles that he at once started in and prophesied nineteen to the dozen.
Now this Johnny possessed that small amount of knowledge that is so dangerous to its owner. He had been brought up at a mission station, and accustomed to going to church, with great regularity, every Sunday. He therefore thought that all Christians acted in the same way, and that the Colonial Irregulars would be just as methodical in their religious observance as the goody-goody hangers-on at the various mission stations he was acquainted with.
Here of course he made a blooming error, for what member of the Lost Legion ever allowed preaching to interfere with fighting, or carried devotional books about with him when he had to hump his own swag.
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Now this josser, thinking he knew all about the customs of the white man, considered he was quite safe in turning on his prophetic tap. So on the evening after the small success already spoken about he started in and informed his hearers that he had received a revelation, directing the Hau Haus that on the following day, which was Sunday, they were to leave the pah an hour before noon and advance on the white men's shelter trenches, which they would find empty, and that the majority of the latter who had not been turned into stone by the angel Gabriel would be surprised at their devotions and fall a prey, without any resistance, to the tender mercies of the Hau Haus, who, he guaranteed, were to escape, scathless, from wounds or death.
These promises seem absurd to white men, but they were implicitly believed by the Maoris, who next day acted on the strength of them.
The main position of the Colonials was in the rear of three strong thorn hedges, two of which flanked the third, and these had all been well trenched and were, of course, held, day and night, by a strong guard; in fact the men lived and slept in them. Between the centre hedge and the pah, a distance of less that 500 yards, stretched a smooth meadow, without a particle of cover, and the astonishment of our men was intense when, at 11 o'clock A.M., they saw some hundreds of the Hau Haus quietly leave the pah and advance in two wedge-shaped columns against the centre of their position. At first they thought it was a general surrender, but the war flags the enemy carried rapidly dispersed that idea; and when the
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two columns were well between the three hedges, and not 100 yards from any of them, the bugle sounded and a tremendous volley was poured into the misguided Maoris, who fell in heaps of dead and wounded men. Notwithstanding the awful shock their nerves must have received from this quite unexpected slaughter, these gallant though fanatical warriors at once charged home and tried to force their way through the strong thorn fence, only to be swept away like flies. And soon the survivors had to beat a hasty retreat back to the pah, lashed the whole way by the heavy fire of the white men, who did not go to church.
It was during the advance that the incident I originally alluded to took place. The first volley had smashed the Hau Haus' leading column, the advance of which the apostle led in person; for, to give these prophets only their just due, they never hung back from taking the post of the greatest danger in any of the crazy enterprises that they persuaded their disciples to undertake.
Well, the first volley knocked over the prophet, who fell badly wounded, but succeeded in regaining his feet, whereupon one of the chiefs, disengaging himself from the mass of stricken and shaken men, deliberately walked up to him, drew his tomahawk and cleft his skull, then, springing forward, led his surviving followers to almost certain death. This might be called an instance of sharp and ready reckoning, but it was by no means a singular case of rough and rapid retribution; so that, taking into consideration the number of apostles who were knocked over, in a legitimate manner, fighting, and those who were tomahawked by furious and
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disappointed votaries, the trade could scarcely be called a healthy one, and it must have required a great amount of pluck on the man's part who took on himself the prophetic role. But, then, what will not some men risk for notoriety?
Now, having finished with this Johnny, let me tell you about another of a somewhat similar kidney.
The friendly tribes of the Wanganui sent a contingent to the east coast, to assist us during the Opotiki Expedition, and among them was a first-class, up-to-date prophet named Pitau. The Wanganui, at this time, were not strong in prophets, so that this man was made much of by his tribe, for although some of the young men had begun to deride prophecy, yet the old warriors still implicitly believed in the ancient cult, and regarded Pitau as a valuable adjunct to the field force.
Now it was the usual custom of the various tribes, when they went to war, to hold deep consultations with their tribal prophets, who for a consideration would advise and foretell what was going to happen, and if the war was going to prove successful or otherwise. It was so in this case. Pitau was called on to lift the veil of futurity, and, having gone through the necessary incantations, the oracle spoke as follows:--"You will be successful in all things, O Wanganui: only one man will die, and that man will be Pitau." Now this was distinctly rough on Pitau, who must either die or be declared an impostor. Anyhow, the oracle had spoken, and the war party started. The Wanganui reached Opotiki, did their duty well, and on the completion of their service were to take ship for home. Up to this time nearly everything
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had panned out all right for the soothsayer, with regard to his prophecy: the Wanganui had been successful and had not lost a single man; but the oracle had distinctly stated Pitau was to die himself, yet here he was still alive. It certainly was not his fault, for at the fight at the Kiori-kino, and also in other skirmishes, he had done his best to get killed, but seemed to bear a charmed life; yet if he returned home alive, his name and reputation as a high-toned prophet would be gone for ever. The Fates, however, gave him one more chance, and he grasped it. Canoes, heavily ladened, were pushing off from the shore to the ship: he sprang into one of these, and by his extra weight swamped the canoe. The amphibious natives easily swam ashore, but so did not Pitau, for, raising his arms above his head, he allowed himself to sink down to his rest, among the eels and crabs, rather than allow his prophecy to be unfulfilled. Surely there are many names on the scroll of martyrs who have laid down their lives, to prove the truth of their convictions, less worthy of fame than that of Pitau.
And now I think I may spin you a yarn about a personal experience I had of the superstitious fears of the Maoris, although by doing so I must confess to a mauvaise plaisanterie I was guilty of perpetrating, and of which I am thoroughly ashamed, that created a greater emotion, among a party of highly respectable old cannibals, than any convulsion of nature would have caused.
It happened in this way: I was well aware of the great superstitious dread the Maoris had of the green lizard. These, although they exist in New Zealand, are rare birds, and during the
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years I was there I saw but few of them. The Maoris, however, believe that at death one of these lizards enters a man's body, and consequently look on them with horror and abhorrence. At the period I am yarning about, I was located at Ohinimutu, in the hot lake district, and had made a short visit to the town of Napier.
During my stay there, while wandering about the streets, I noticed that a speculative storekeeper had added some children's toys to his stock in trade, perhaps the very first that had ever been imported into the country, and as they attracted my attention I stopped to examine them. We are told that Old Nick is ever ready to prompt an idle man, and he must have been mighty adjacent to me that day, for on my spotting one of those old-fashioned, wooden crocodiles, painted a vivid green with bright-red spots on it, I immediately went into the shop and purchased it. The thing was constructed of small blocks of wood, sawn in such a way, and connected together with string, that when you held it in your hand it wriggled, and looked alive, while it also possessed a gaping red mouth and staring eyes. The confounded insect would not have raised a squall out of a nervous European babe of a year old; but, such as it was,
I put it into my kit and, on my return up country, took it with me.
In due course of time I reached Ohinimutu, where, after a swim in the hot water and a good dinner, I retired to my private abode, a large hut built Maori fashion, but with European door and window, as I knew I should have to give audience to some dozen chiefs of the Arawa tribe, who would call
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on me to welcome my return and hear the news. It did not take me long to prepare for their reception, and getting the toy out of my kit, I slipped it up my left sleeve, so that it was hidden. I then sat down in a low camp-chair and awaited my victims, who soon arrived, giving me their words of welcome as they entered, and squatting down in a semicircle in front of the fire, all of them as keen as mustard to hear the news. They were a fine-looking lot of old chaps, ten in number, and some of them almost gigantic in size. Old Hori Haupapa must have stood over seven foot high, when in his prime; and the rest were all big men. Anxious as they were to hear the news, still they were far too well-bred to ask any questions, and, as I pretended to be in very low spirits and sat speechless, heaving an occasional deep sigh, they squatted there, conversing in low whispers, with looks full of commiseration for my unhappy state.
For a few minutes we sat quiet, then I made signs to the girl who attended on us to hand round the rum and tobacco: which she did. And after each man had been served, letting go a dismal groan, I said: "Friends, I thank you for your words of welcome. My heart is very dark. I have dreamed a dream." Here I paused to let the poison work; for a dream to a Maori audience is always a safe draw, and the muttered grunts and ejaculations, passed round with nudges, showed me they were quite ripe to believe anything. So I continued: "Yes, friends, last night I dreamed a dream, and the interpretation of that dream is hidden from me." Here I paused again, and slipped the toy into my left hand, which rested on my left knee, while I held their eyes with my own, so
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that, in the firelit whare, none of them noticed my sleight of hand. Then I continued: "I dreamed, O chiefs of the Arawa, that we all sat, as we are doing now, by this fire, when lo! out of my left hand crept a ngaraka" (green lizard). Here again I paused, but so did not my hearers, for old Taupua, glancing nervously at my left hand, at once spotted what he thought to be a dreaded lizard. The grim old warrior let go a howl of consternation and promptly turned a back somersault, thereby drawing the attention of all the others to the noxious reptile; and in one moment these dignified old savages, who would have faced without flinching the fire of a battery of artillery sooner than have committed a gaucherie, were trying to push and struggle through the door, with no more regard to manners or manhood than the ordinary well-dressed Englishman displays who pushes ladies on one side while boarding a tram.
The first one to reach the door was an ancient, who did not understand the mechanism of a white man's lock, so failed to open it; and in a moment they were climbing over one another's backs, in their frantic endeavours to escape until the end of the whare gave way, and the big chiefs of the Arawa tribe precipitated themselves, door and all, into outer darkness, where they formed a confused heap of writhing, howling humanity. At last they struggled free, and each man made for his own hut, all fully convinced that something dreadful was going to happen and that the whole community was past praying for. Nor did the panic end here; for in a moment the tribe was roused up and, the awful news being promulgated, in two flirts of a cat's tail,
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every man, woman and child had cleared out of the kainga. Yes, those who had canoes took to them, and those who had none used their legs, and used them to some advantage, for in less time than it takes me to write it the whole of that congregation of peaceful natives had abandoned their happy homes and fled.
Well, after my first burst of laughter was over, I began to count up the cost of my stupid joke, and at once saw I was likely to have to pay dearly for my fun. To commence with, my hut would have to be rebuilt; but that was a trifle. What I had to fear was the censure of the Government, as the Defence Minister was an old Scotsman, without a particle of fun in his whole corpus, so was not likely to view the scatterment of his most pampered tribe with equanimity, and visions of reasons in writing and prosecutions danced before my eyes. It was clear that the first thing to be done was to get the natives to come back to their kainga; but how? I knew full well they would not suffer me to approach within a mile of any of them, and although I had some sterling friends among the fighting chiefs, yet, if I could not get speech with them, so as to explain matters to them, their good will would be of no use to me.
Fortunately, among the men dwelling at Ohinimutu was a Ngapuhi native, and I engaged him to act as messenger; but, although he was a red-hot Christian, nothing would persuade him to come near, much less touch, the wretched toy. I, however, induced this man to go over to Mokoia Island, see the principal tribal tohunga, and get him to come across and interview me. Fitting him out with a gallon of rum and plenty of tobacco, I despatched my Mercury and awaited his return in
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trepidation. On the morning of the second day he reported himself, and informed me that the tohunga awaited me, but that, as nothing would induce the limb of Satan to land, I must go down to the lake, and he would discourse with me from his canoe. So I had to go to the lake and collogue with the old sinner from the point of a jutting-out cape. After I had tried to make him understand the true state of affairs, I produced the toy; but nothing I could say would induce him to believe that it was composed of inanimate wood. No, he could see it move, swore it was alive, and sternly refused to touch it, or even come closer to me, so that he could examine it. At last, happy thought, I suggested I should burn it. To this he consented. So, putting the unfortunate crocodile on the top of a flat stone, I collected some dry sticks and, with him watching every movement, constructed a funeral pyre, and cremated the wretched toy to ashes. Then he consented to land and came up to my hut, where he went through many incantations and gesticulations, although he avoided touching or entering it. Presently he turned to me and said: "This and all it contains must be at once burned. Have you removed anything from it?" I had not; though, expecting something of this sort to happen, I had taken every care that my servant should do so, and that absolutely nothing of value remained within it; so, like a Radical Minister, I only told half the truth. "Set it on fire," quoth he, and this I did with equanimity, as it would only give the Maoris the trouble of building me a better one, so that in a few minutes not a vestige of my late mansion remained. As every-
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thing that had been contaminated by the penny toy was now supposed to be destroyed, the old tohunga consented to discuss terms of peace, which consisted as follows:--first, that I should hand over, privately, to the tohunga himself, one gallon of rum, three pounds of tobacco and twenty-five pounds of flour, the said tohunga guaranteeing to at once dream a dream directing the natives to rebuild my house, with great rapidity. Secondly, that at the general tangi, to be held next day, on the return of the natives, I was to provide ten gallons of rum, twenty pounds of tobacco and half-a-ton of flour, all of which was to be consumed thereat. And lastly, should I on any future occasion go to Napier, and discover any more instruments of white man's devilry, I was to bring them to him, when, with a little judicious management, we could work many miracles to our mutual advantage.
All these terms having been agreed to, Satan's representative among the Arawa departed, and the next morning all his congregation, accompanied by many of their country friends, returned, when a big tangi with much feasting and dancing took place; but even my very best friends looked askance at me for a long time, while for some weeks the majority of the women, girls and children would fly from me as if I had the plague.
You must not think for a moment that this avoidance was caused by ill will, or that the old chiefs bore me any malice for the shameful trick I had played them, or that I was fined the rum, flour, etc., for the evil I had done. Not a bit of it. I was mulct for my misfortune, not for my fault. In their eyes no fault had been committed. If
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Moses himself had returned to tell them I had played them a trick, they would not have believed him. No; had they not seen the beast come out of my hand at the very moment I was relating my dream? Trick indeed, not much. They looked on me as an awful example of misfortune, and therefore as a fit and proper personage to be politely robbed.
Yes, robbed. Had I been a Maori, not only myself but all my family would have been robbed of every single article we possessed in the world, in payment for the affliction of bad luck that had fallen on me; but as I was a white man this could not be done, so I was fined. For is not this in accordance with the ancient custom or law of Muru, which authorises a man smitten by a sudden calamity to be plundered of all he possesses? And what greater calamity was possible to mortal man than to have an obscene lizard grow out of his hand? Therefore I was fined. As for trick, nonsense! What man dare make fun of, or render ridiculous, the dignity and majesty of the head chiefs of the Arawa tribe?
I think I may say a few more words on this extraordinary law of muru--a law that Europeans regarded with laughter and contempt; yet it worked very well among the natives, and should any family have met with misfortune and the law not have been put in force against them, they would have considered themselves not only slighted, but insulted. It also, among others, contained one salient good quality, as it caused all personal portable property constantly to change hands, for the family that was plundered one day would, in the ordinary course of events, rob some other family
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a few days afterwards, so that a canoe, blanket or any household utensil might pass through many hands and, if not worn out during its transits, might at last return to its original possessor. Yet to a white man it did seem funny that a party of natives en route to visit another family, and whose canoe should be capsized when landing, were not only robbed of their canoe, but that the unlucky ones would have considered themselves insulted had not their friends immediately annexed it.
I remember well that once, while on a journey to visit a pah, accompanied by a chief of some importance, in fact he was a native assessor--i.e. a sort of Maori J.P. appointed by Government--a very queer illustration of the law of muru cropped up.
We were to inquire into some trivial case, the defendant being the son of the chief of the place, and the utmost penalty not more than five shillings. Just as we reached the pah my companion, who was riding a fine, high-spirited horse, was bucked off, and while in the act of rising received a severe kick on the croup. He was picked up with much solicitude, all the natives condoling with him. The case was tried and settled, the defendant being mulct two shillings and sixpence, and next day, when about to depart, the horses being brought to the gate of the pah, my companion's horse was not forthcoming. At once I demanded the reasons why, and was informed it had been annexed as muru, for throwing and kicking my unfortunate friend, who at once acquiesced in the judgment and thanked the chief of the pah for his courtesy in paying him such an honour.
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Again I was on a visit to a pah situated close to the mouth of a river, on the other side of which was another pah. One day my hosts started out to shoot a huge seine net, and of course the whole population turned out to assist or give advice. The noise, as everyone yelled at the top of his or her gamut, was deafening. However, two large canoes eventually got away with the net on board, and after taking a bold sweep returned to shore and landed the sea end. Immediately all hands, redoubling their yells, tailed on to the hauling ropes and pulled and howled with all their might. Just as the bag of the net came in view, a huge shark, that had been encompassed in its toils, made a bold dash, broke the net and escaped, letting out, at the same time, many large fish. The excited and disappointed natives were just dragging the net and the still great remainder of the catch up on to the sand, when their neighbours, apprised by the yells that something unfortunate had occurred, dashed across the river in their canoes, and after a sham resistance of a few minutes swept up and carried off all the remaining fish. They might also have confiscated the net, but did not, an old chief confiding to me that the other side of the river was full of rocks, and not suitable for seine netting; moreover, the net was broken and would require repairing. Such was the law of muru.
Of course to yarn about New Zealand without saying anything about the custom of Tapu would be on all fours with yarning about Rome and not mentioning the Pope. So here goes for a few remarks about the ancient but very confusing custom of tapu.
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Anything animate or inanimate could be rendered tapu by the will, or even touch, of a man who was tapu himself. Tapu might also render a thing so sacred, or might render it so unclean, that to touch that thing would constitute an act of unpardonable sacrilege, or cause the toucher to be looked upon as so defiled as to be ostracised by the whole community, although the act was done innocently and in ignorance.
To break a tapu was looked upon, by the superstitious natives, as a direct challenge to the greatly dreaded spiritual powers, and was certain to bring swift and awful punishment.
A big chief was tapu, and if he went to war the essence of tapu became doubly distilled, so much so that he could not feed himself, nor even touch food with his hands. Nor could he even touch a cup or utensil that did not actually belong to himself, for if he did so, the article he used at once became so tapu that no one else could use it; consequently it became either his personal property, or had to be destroyed. This in a country where there were neither shops nor manufactories was an impossibility, so that at meal-time a chief had to eat apart, and be fed by either a girl or slave. Truly the sublime approached the ridiculous, to see a grim, tattooed old warrior squatting down, with a small girl throwing morsels of food into his mouth, or with his head thrown back, and his jaws extended to their full width, receiving a stream of water, poured down his throat, from the spout of an ancient tea-kettle. Even an ordinary warrior, not being a slave, lost his back when on the warpath--i. e. his back became so tapu that he could
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carry nothing, much less provisions, on it; and this was also very inconvenient when having to march through a rough, bushed country, without waggons or pack-horses. Food could even become tapu, especially that which remained from the portion served out for the use of the chief, even though no part of his body had touched it; and there is a well-authenticated case, that on one occasion a slave, being on the warpath, found some food and ate it. No sooner had he done so than he was informed it was the remains of the dinner of the fighting chief. This news so horrified the poor superstitious wretch that he was at once taken ill with sharp internal pains, and died.
The Maoris always made their plantations in the bush, frequently at a considerable distance from their kaingas, and these, after the potatoes had been planted, would only be occasionally visited by their owners, who, to protect them, would get the chief or tohunga to tapu the plantation; and this being done, the produce would be quite safe from the depredations of others.
About the year 1870 some six brace of pheasants were turned loose in the Waikato district, and the principal chief put his tapu on them for seven years. These birds increased and throve in a manner truly wonderful. Not a Maori dare touch one, although long before the period of protection had expired the birds had not only spread all over the Waikato district, but also over all the adjoining ones. And they carried their protection with them, for notwithstanding the fact that they had become somewhat of a nuisance to the Arawa tribe, who were not in any way subordinate to the Waikato
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chief, yet they respected his tapu, and would have starved sooner than eaten them.
It was by making use of this tapu that the wonderful head of game and fish at present in New Zealand has been reared and acclimatised.
Should a chief die within his whare, that hut and everything it contained at once became tapu and was lost to use; for as soon as his body had been removed, the door was at once blocked up, and the hut with its contents allowed to moulder away, no one daring to touch, much less remove, one single article. Tapu, therefore, in a manner of speaking, was the antipoise of the law of muru, for if the enforcement of the latter rendered the portable property of an individual or tribe precarious, yet tapu made his title indissoluble; so the two laws or customs got on very well together, and may exist to the present day.
I cannot leave my friends the Maoris without speaking about their awful cruelty in torturing and killing their prisoners, and in the foul massacres of helpless women and children.
Yet even in this there may be something said in their favour, especially should you compare them, savages as they were, with the human monsters that every Christian European country has produced, when they would be found no more cruel or bloodthirsty.
Now I don't want to draw parallels in history, but it rather disgusts me to hear Alva, Tilly, Nana Sahib, or even Te Kooti, run down, while such a cold-blooded villain as Cromwell is extolled.
I was taught as a schoolboy to regard Tilly and Alva as the incarnations of Satan; I suppose
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because they made it sultry for Protestants; but it was not pointed out to me that at the very same time Alva and his Spanish troops were making it hot for Lutherans in the Netherlands, the English troops of Protestant Queen Bess were perpetrating infinitely worse brutalities on the helpless Irish, while the fiendish cruelties of Tilly's wild Croats and Pandours, at the sack of Magdeburg, were equalled, if not surpassed, at Drogheda, by Oliver Cromwell and his canting hypocritical Puritans.
I am myself an Irishman, a Protestant, a Unionist and an Imperialist, just as ready to fight for our King and Flag as ever I was during the forty years I passed on the Colonial frontiers, but I can blame none of my countrymen for the hatred they feel towards England, provided they fight like men and eschew all cowardly, underhand, secret societies; and I am convinced it will require many centuries to roll past before the recollection of the Penal Laws and the foul, savage treachery of past English rule is obliterated, while the curse of Cromwell will remain for ever. Nana Sahib and Te Kooti did not, combined, kill as many helpless women and children as either Alva, Tilly or Cromwell; yet, as they killed all they could, they cannot be blamed for that, and I have no doubt that on their arrival in Hades they were assigned just as honourable entertainment and particular attentions as the aristocratic fiend, the priestly murderer or the Puritan cut-throat.
It must also be remembered that the atrocities committed by Te Kooti and his fanatical followers might be blamed upon the fiendish faith they had
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adopted and had never been practised by the Maoris during the previous six years of the war, also that they were more or less fighting in defence of their country against invaders. Again, Te Kooti had been the victim of gross injustice, at the hands of the Colonial Government, insomuch as he had been transported without trial, and that the evidence against him was not only insufficient, but was also of such a nature that the law officers of the Crown could find no excuse even to bring him to a trial, so that many of his brutalities were prompted by a desire for utu, a custom universally practised by the Maoris.
Please don't think I have written the above for the purpose of deifying England's enemy, or to slander my own countrymen like a Radical Little Englander, for I would have, at any time, blown the roof off Te Kooti's head, or that of one of his followers, with as little compunction as I have since shot a mangy jackal; but I have written it simply to show that, if savage New Zealand produced one fiend, in the shape of Te Kooti, Christian England produced a worse one in the shape of that sanctimonious hypocrite, Oliver Cromwell, and that therefore we should not endanger our own glass by throwing stones.
I alluded just now to the custom of utu, which means payment or revenge, and is very similar to the law of the Jews, that laid down the maxim of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth-- an axiom which the Maoris believe in thoroughly.
It was the practice of this custom that led to many of the sanguinary combats and massacres that took place between the armed traders and the
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natives during the first half of the past century. These traders visited New Zealand and exchanged muskets, powder, ironware, etc., for flax, whale oil, curios and men's heads. They were a hard-fisted, lawless crowd, who, in their brigs or schooners, well armed with musket, pike and carronade, would anchor in one of the splendid natural harbours and begin their traffic with the haughty, warlike savages.
Business carried on between such men as these often brought about a row, which a musket shot or a slash from cutlass or tomahawk would not improve, and the ship would then sail away, after most likely the killing or wounding of some natives. The remembrance of the blood spilt would be treasured by the Maoris, and the next trader who visited that place would have to pay for the evil deeds of the previous visitor. Now the Maori looked on all white men as belonging to the same tribe, and the custom of utu allowed any man injured by an individual to wreak his vengeance upon any member of the said individual's tribe, provided his particular enemy were absent. In this he was backed up by all the members of his own tribe, especially if blood had been drawn; for tribal blood must be paid for with blood, and no Sicilian clan ever carried out a vendetta more thoroughly than a Maori hapu. This being so, the Maoris eagerly looked for the next vessel, to take their blood payment for the blood spilt.
Knowing full well that their canoes and spears were no match for the well-armed ship, they would bide their time and have recourse to treachery. The white men would be received with apparent
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good will, and, if foolish enough, might be lulled into a mistaken sense of security. This being done, the majority of the crew would be enticed ashore, where, taken off their guard, or separated, they would be attacked, killed and eaten, while the ship, weakened by the loss of so many men, was sometimes boarded and captured, the natives thereby obtaining utu for the original injury done them.
Maoris were very punctilious about the honour of their tribes and ancestors, this being carried to an extent almost ludicrous. Par exemple, a year or two before I left New Zealand an old woman belonging to one tribe was planting potatoes, and as she shoved each tuber into the ground she called it by the name of one of the principal living chiefs or dead heroes of an adjoining tribe. This came to the ears of the said tribe, who immediately prepared for war, despatching an ultimatum that, unless the plantation and all the spuds it contained were at once destroyed, they would attack their insulting neighbours. The casus belli must seem very absurd to a white man; but it was different to the offended tribe, as when, in the course of events, the murphies became ready for the pot, the scandalous old dame would be able to declare that she was not only devouring their living chiefs, but that, vampire-like, she was feeding upon their defunct ones.
I mentioned that the Maoris performed many splendid acts of courage in getting away their wounded and even their dead. This was done not only for love or comradeship, but to prevent the enemy from using their flesh in lieu of butcher's
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meat, and also to save their bones being turned into useful and ornamental articles by their opponents.
For instance, let us suppose that during some ancient war, the Waikato tribe fighting against the Taranaki, the former should have killed and captured the body of a great war chief whom we will call Te Rawa. The flesh of the dead man, in the first place, would be eaten--a great indignity-- but that would not be the end of him, for the bones would be preserved, and turned into fish-hooks, flutes and ornaments, the teeth strung nicely on flax, making a necklace; and it was not pleasant for the victim's descendants to hear that their revered though unfortunate ancestor was still furnishing food and bijouterie for the offspring of his slayer.
Now all the aforementioned useful articles were called by the name of the man they had, in the first place, belonged to--in this case Te Rawa. The owner of the fish-hook could boast that he was still eating Te Rawa, as he would call all the fish caught by that special hook Te Rawa. Then, pointing to the necklace, he might brag he was wearing Te Rawa, and when inclined for music he would tootle on his flute and proudly declare he was playing Te Rawa; so that the unfortunate descendants of the poor old defunct, whenever they heard of this, would have to blush under their tattooed skins at the very name of their much-deplored ancestor.
It was therefore a most sacred duty to rescue a dead or wounded comrade from the enemy, even when fighting against the white men; for although the natives well knew that we did not use their
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defunct relatives for rations, nor turn them into musical instruments, yet it had become so strong a custom among themselves to guard against such a possible catastrophe, that they still practised it although unnecessarily.
I must revert once more to the custom of utu so as to point out the fair-mindedness of the natives should this law be used against themselves. Let me give you just one instance.
The circumstance took place after the capture of Ngatapa. Some 130 Hau Haus had been taken prisoners, these being shot out of hand and their bodies thrown over a precipice; but six or eight of them remained alive, in our hands, as it was not certain they had participated in the Poverty Bay massacre. They were confined in a hut awaiting trial and, as all the murdered people were dead, it was a moot point whether these fellows would not get off for want of evidence. One of the men, however, whose relations had been murdered, determined that they should not slip through the clumsy fingers of the law, as alas so many of the blood-stained villains had succeeded in doing. He volunteered to act as one of the guard round the hut and, borrowing another revolver from a mate, he took the first opportunity to enter the hut and deliberately blew out the brains of all the inmates.
This act of summary justice was fully approved of by the Maoris, as it bore out the custom of utu; for if the defunct Hau Haus had not murdered the man's family themselves, yet their tribes had done so; and they considered it a square deal, as blood had been paid for by blood.
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I could yarn on about these queer people for hours and tell you of plenty of other quaint customs, such as their wakes, marriages, etc., also about their industry and other qualities, good and bad, for, faith! they have them mixed like all other people. But if you have followed and appreciated my first attempt it will encourage me to write more of my humble experiences on the frontiers of the Empire with the old Lost Legion I love so well.