1884 - Lady Martin. Our Maoris - CHAPTER VI: OUR HOSPITAL. 1842-56.

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  1884 - Lady Martin. Our Maoris - CHAPTER VI: OUR HOSPITAL. 1842-56.
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THIS title sounds very grand, and may suggest a picture of a wooden or brick building with all sorts of comfortable appliances. Ours was rough and primitive: at first, it consisted of two or three rough huts and a blanket tent, but friends from England sent us some money, and we had a three-roomed house built. Our Waiheke people took the contract, and brought uprights and much raupo (bulrush) in their canoes. When it was finished, we and they looked at it with great admiration, for there were two windows and a door supplied by an English carpenter. There were two bed places in each room, raised a foot from the ground. Instead of mattresses we had fresh-cut fern, which could be renewed with each new patient. No fear of hospital fever clinging to the walls: the wind blew freely in through the open door. Kitchen physic came from our house: in those days we rarely could get beef, or fowls, or butter, and the Maoris would not eat mutton, nor did they like milk; rice, and sugar, bread and treacle, and sometimes pork was all we could supply.

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We abstained from the "twa simples, laudamy and calamy," which Sir Walter Scott's ex-horse-doctor delighted in, and used only safe drugs. For coughs we made rosemary tea with treacle and a soupcon of ipecacuanha; for dropsy, the tops of elder shoots and Spanish broom. For swelled joints we applied poultices of sea-weed, and the wild marsh-mallow for sores. Mustard plasters were in constant request. The sternest homoeopathist would have been softened by the sight of the enjoyment afforded by these irritants. If a man had one on his chest, no sooner was it taken off than he would beg leave to apply it to back or side. Often after doing much duty on his own person, he handed it on to an ailing friend.

In 1847 a Government Hospital was built, and one ward set apart specially for native patients. We could rarely, however, persuade one to go, though we dwelt on the advantage of a regular doctor and the many appliances. The homeliness of our arrangements and the simplicity of our rules, and above all the fact that we could talk Maori, made our place popular. Then, too, they were close to the sea; and on all fine days (and sometimes, to our wrath, on wet ones) they crawled out to watch the canoes skim by and to enjoy the sea breezes.

Many touching tales could be told of hopeless cases brought to us during fourteen years of hospital work. One of these was a slave lad, who had been carried

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away from his home in the south by a war party, when he was a child. We had seen him before and employed him to cut firewood. He was a dull, plain-looking lad, very quiet and obliging. When he fell ill, the people of the village where he lived brought him by canoe some forty miles and laid him on the beach below our house. We could not leave him there to die, with no one to minister to him, so our native boy put up a rough shed close to us. From the first his case was hopeless: he had pleurisy and fever, the weather was intensely hot, and he lay parched and restless on his fern bed. We could do little to relieve him save to stand by and brush the flies from his face, or to give him cooling drinks or fruit. After some days of suffering borne most patiently, he asked to be baptised. My husband put some questions to him as to his knowledge of and belief in the Christian religion, and was so well satisfied with his answers that he fetched the English chaplain, who could read though he could not speak Maori. He came at once and began the service; it was a wonderful scene: the rough shed, the wasted body of the dying boy, the dim, lustreless eyes, and then the contrast. As the last words were ended and Merika was baptised by the name of William, he opened his eyes with a brightness unseen before, and, looking up steadfastly, a happy smile lit up his face, and without a struggle he fell asleep. "Carried of angels," perhaps, as such

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another sufferer was. Devout men laid his body to rest in the little churchyard close by, with sure and certain hope of a blessed resurrection.

Another slave was with us till his death. He too had been carried away in childhood to the north by old Hongi, the great Nga-pu-hi warrior. After his release he came down intending to go to the south after years of absence to visit his own home and people. But he was in decline, and could not travel further; he waited on a poor old man, a stranger to him, in a most kindly way while he had strength, doing offices of love which must have been very trying to him in his weak state. As a rule the Maoris are unwilling to nurse any people not of their own tribe. Poor Stephen grew rapidly worse, and became for a while very restless; it was so desolate for him to pass away without one familiar face near him. A Christian teacher from Waikato, who had a child sick in the hospital, ministered to him in his last hours. We were obliged to have a little hut put up for him to die in; so strong is the native feeling against occupying a house in which any one has died that the hospital would have been deserted. The night before Stephen's death he was asked, "What part (or side) have you chosen?" He answered, "Christ have I chosen." "Is your heart dark?" "No, it is all light." "Are you suffering much?" "No, no pain, no sadness; this is my desire, that I may go to God, and that my

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dwelling in this evil world may cease." These were his last words to the native teacher, as he left him alone for the night with a candle burning. In the morning he found him dead.

A man was brought to us one summer by canoe from the Thames District. A large abscess in the hip had so spread towards the spine that the doctor whom we consulted gave no hope of recovery. He was named Martin Luther, and was still a remarkably handsome man. His mother, a heathen woman, his wife, two little children and several friends, accompanied him, and were devoted to him. His brother, a Christian man, was a most faithful nurse. We got very fond of the poor invalid. He was so patient, gentle, and submissive. He was always pleased to be read to, and to talk on religious subjects. When he was near his end, his people determined to carry him away to his own home. We were very sorry, but could do nothing. Martin himself would have been content to die and be buried where he was, but the native feeling was too strong. He must die in his own place, and there must be a great weeping and a funeral feast.

The night before he sailed, the dying man called his relatives and the large party that had come to fetch him, and besought them to accept and to cleave to the Christian faith. He was very weak, but roused himself to speak of his own trust in God, of

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his sorrow at seeing the faith of many waxing cold, and ended with the words--

"Let your hearts cling fast to Jesus Christ."

The next day he was lifted into his canoe, and only lived till they got him on shore. The two children died young, and their mother, a pretty young woman, was carried off by an epidemic. A few years after Martin's sister Mary happened to visit Auckland, and came to tell me how all were gone. As she held my hand she burst into tears, and after true native fashion coupled my name with theirs as one who had known and befriended them: "I greet you and Martin, I greet you and Sarah," and so on through the sorrowful list of her dead.

A poor heathen woman, very ignorant, but full of love for her child, brought a little emaciated girl of five from the Lake Country to us. She was dying of mesenteric disease, and having been taught in an infant school, used to say in a piteous wail, "Mother, let me go to my Lord." But the mother would answer with tears day by day, "I cannot let you go." There is a strong belief among the Maoris that they can keep back the spirit of the dying by refusing to let it depart. Sometimes relatives would be distressed when a prayer was read by their sick, lest it should be a dismissal. The mother would, however, bring her child up to me that I might pray

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beside her, and one day, with the tears running down her face, she said: "Mother, I have told my child that she may go to her Lord." In an hour or two the little one was at rest, and the bitter wail came shrilly up from the valley.

While our Christian converts embraced with a child-like trust the blessed hope of the resurrection from the dead and the life of the world to come, we must not forget that the Maoris in their days of heathenism believed that their spirits would live again. The natives in the north of the island still point out the cliff from which the spirits made their descent into the sea on their way back to the Island of Hawaii, from whence their forefathers came. This cliff was called the Re-i-nga, i. e., the leaping-place. Some who lived near this spot used to affirm that on certain nights they could hear the rush of the spirits as they passed on their way. They said, too, that before these spirits leaped from the cliff into the sea, they turned round and looked back at the home where all their life had been passed, and made a ta-ngi or lament towards it. A very intelligent man from the south, who was reading for holy orders in Auckland, told us that his mother used to terrify him as a little child with the story of a hideous, ill-shaped old woman who sat in an angle of the rock waiting for the spirits to pass. If any one had in his lifetime stolen an ear-ring, or neck ornament, or stone

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hatchet, or other treasure, his spirit had to carry the ata, i. e., the shadow or spirit of the stolen property with him, and as soon as the old hag spied it she made a rush at him and hurled him over the cliff, and he was seen no more. A curious story was once told to us by a gentleman who was a very good Maori scholar. It was told to him by the nephew of the woman who came back from the spirit-land. She was an old lady of rank, and after a severe illness apparently died. The body was left in the house, the window and door made fast, and her relatives departed; only they left a gourd containing red ochre and water on the floor, with which to anoint the corpse in due time. A day or two after the old lady's nephew, with some other men, passed in a canoe near the place, and to their astonishment they saw her sitting on the shore beckoning to them. In much fear they pulled to the bank, and found that the poor woman was alive. She was faint for food; and after she had eaten and revived she told them what had befallen her. Her spirit, she said, took flight to the North Cape, and reached the gateway of the Re-i-nga. Then her path lay down the steep cliff. She got down safely by the help of a long piece of supple jack. At the bottom of the cliff she found herself on the sandy beach of a river, and to her dismay she saw an enormous bird, taller than a man, coming

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towards her. She was so frightened that she tried to climb up the cliff again, but, seeing an old man paddling in a small canoe towards her, she ran to meet him. The old man ferried her across, and she told him the names of her kindred and asked where their spirits lived. He showed her the right path, and she hurried along it, wondering that the look of the country, of the trees and plants, were all just such as she saw on earth. Then she reached a village, and recognised among a crowd of people her father and many relations who were dead. They wept over her, and her father asked her about the relations still living on the earth, and specially about her child. He told her that she must go back to take care of the child, and warned her not to eat anything offered to her, for that if she did she could never more return to earth. So when the spirits put a basket of baked ku-me-ras (sweet potatoes) before her she refused to eat. Some of the spirits tried to hinder her return, but her father guided her back to the river where the canoe still lay hauled up on the beach. One young man seized her by the arm. It was only by her father's help that she was released. When the canoe reached the base of the cliff he gave her two huge kumeras, and bade her plant them in her own place for his grandchild's eating, and bade her farewell. As she began to climb two spirits of children tried to pull her back by her cloak. She threw one of the kumeras

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to them, and one caught it and began to eat, but the other held her fast. Then she threw the other to him, and while he was seizing it she swung herself up by the supple jack, and her spirit flew back into her body. When she awoke she was very thirsty, and seeing the gourd by her side, drank the ochre-water, and being strengthened, opened the door and crawled to the beach, and so was saved from real death by cold and hunger. Her hearers, who devoutly believed her story, felt much regret that she had not been able to bring one of the huge kumeras from spirit-land.

It must not be supposed that all our patients died. On the contrary, the larger number got well. Many forms of disease were presented to us in the course of our work, of which the larger number were brought on by bad food and neglect of the ordinary rules of health. Skin disease was very common, for these people, who in the warmer climate from whence they emigrated would have spent hours in the water, had a dread of washing their bodies. They suffered much from inflammation of the eyes also. This was mainly caused by the acrid smoke of their wood fires. These were lit every evening in the middle of the house, on a fire-place of rough stones, and allowed to smoulder on through the night, the door being shut and window and chimney alike luxuries unknown.

Dysentery was very common in the spring of the

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year, and also in the autumn, when the rainy season began, after a long spell of hot weather and drought. In the spring it was brought on mainly through a long course of bad and insufficient food. The best of their summer crops had been sold to the English, and often the poor people were compelled to eat the seed potatoes on which their next year's supply of food depended. When things were at the worst, the women used to go out to dig up the root of the edible fern. This was boiled and pounded till all the stringy fibres could be removed, and then baked into thin cakes. The taste was not unpleasant, but it was a very indigestible food, and was the cause of much suffering. So also was their rotten corn, which was always prepared in the autumn for winter consumption. The Indian corn was laid in a pit (carefully built round with stones), well soaked with water and covered over; when opened a month or two later, the corn was all in a pulp and sour through fermentation. How disgusting! our readers will say, though after all they might not object to cheese in a decayed state, and our German cousins relish Sauerkraut. Poor folk! When we talked to them, the answer always was, "We want a relish"; and this was not unnatural, as they had no salt and rarely could get meat, and so had to live for months on very indifferent potatoes. After having eaten corn thus prepared for any length of time the people were sure to have bad abscesses.

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Consumption was common, and still is, among the young and middle-aged. It often took the form of atrophy, or what our own poor call "a waste." The liver and lungs were both diseased in such cases, and the whole frame became frightfully emaciated. The natives called this "a gathering up of the flesh." If the scrofulous sores in neck or hip were too rapidly healed, the mischief at once fell on the lungs and the patient went off in galloping consumption. The Maoris suffered much from the change of dress brought in, by contact with the English. Their own native mats were warm and waterproof. It is wonderful to see what a beautiful fabric can be produced from so rough a loom. But formerly they had not only the kaitaka, made of the finest flax and ornamented by a handsome border, but a rough garment made of the coarse fibre of the flax and dyed black, through which no wet could penetrate. When blankets could be bought, these native manufactures almost ceased. The women grudged the time for weaving, when they could be growing corn and potatoes for sale, and the woollen garment seemed a great improvement on their own. The result was that the one blanket, obtained with difficulty, was worn by night and day in all weathers, to the great increase of disease. This ought to be taken into account when we hear that remark glibly repeated, that coloured races must disappear before the white. There is no natural reason

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why this should be the case. The great loss of life among the Maoris at one time came mainly, as among our own poor in the middle ages, from ignorance and neglect, and from change of circumstances--e. g., in the days when every man's hand was against his neighbour the Maoris built their villages on hills, as the Etruscans did, and fortified them. When, after the reception of Christianity, wars to a great extent ceased, the people scattered themselves about on the plain country wherever they found land good for cultivation. They liked to settle in a valley near a stream, and there in the undrained hollow came low fever and ague to lay them low. At one time we had an epidemic of influenza, which attacked first poultry and pigs and dogs, and afterwards was very fatal to the natives. Some of the old men told us they remembered a similar visitation when they were children, in which half the inhabitants in their villages were carried off. Influenza is very fatal in some of the northern islands of the Pacific. We had many cases of mesenteric disease among the children, specially between the ages of two and five, unwholesome food after weaning being the main cause.

Once there was a great epidemic of measles among us, followed by dysentery. We then got to understand why measles and small-pox are so fatal to native races, as indeed they were formerly to Europeans. At St. Stephen's School thirty girls were attacked.

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They were kept warm in bed and fed on light food, and did as well as English patients. Those who came to our Hospital all recovered, though through having neglected the first symptoms they had more or less sharp attacks of dysentery. But in the country districts the mortality was frightful. Some, irritated by the heat of their bodies, leapt with the rash on them into the river to cool themselves, and the disease struck inwardly. Others consulted native quacks, who gave them a compound of some very astringent bark mixed with rum. Many died in great agony after taking this. Now and then, but not often, our own patients gave us trouble. A lank, cadaverous-looking man, with frizzy, reddish hair, fell ill with colic, and lay writhing with pain. He had been fomented in the morning and was easier, but by evening he was worse than ever. After questioning him sharply he confessed that he had had wild cabbage boiled, and had drunk the water quite hot, it being considered a sure remedy.

One of our first patients had long-standing abscess in the hip, and was brought on a litter as a hopeless cripple. He recovered after many weeks of nursing and good feeding; but the limb was shrivelled. This is very unusual. On visiting, when once in England, through Sir James Paget's kindness, the strumous wards in St. Bartholomew's Hospital, I found, with satisfaction, that the treatment there

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differed but little from our hedge practice. One thing struck me much, namely, that numbers of both children and adults there had the hip or elbow-joint contracted. This was rarely the case with the natives, though their sores were of frightful size and depth. Perhaps the freer life in pure air may account for this.

Our lame friend was a man of great spirit, and, with the aid of a stick, would hop briskly. Indeed, a year or two after he paid us a visit and informed us that he had been on a preaching tour. He got to a heathen village and began to repeat to them a sermon which he had heard the Bishop preach from Eph. iii. 18, 19, of the length, and breadth, and depth, and height of the love of Christ, and that whether men were rich or poor, weak or strong, wise or ignorant, sinful or miserable, He would save them.

The heathens were very ungracious, and told him they did not want Maoris to come and teach them. They would listen, perhaps, to Pakehas. Then they began to question him what became of a man's body when he died, whither did he go after death? One man said, half-jeeringly, he should become a Roman Catholic, at which Nathanael fired up and said, the Roman Catholics worshipped idols. "Have you not heard," he began in the most confident tone, "that of old men worshipped Remphan and Moloch?" "Whose gods were they?" asked one of his hearers "The gods of Rome, to be sure," quoth he.

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He did look a quaint controversialist as he sat by our drawing-room fire. He had on a pair of trousers, a check shirt, and an old mackintosh. He had carefully wrapped his bare feet in a piece of calico,-- which was occasionally used as a handkerchief,--lest he should dirty the carpet. As he grew animated, he stretched his crooked, shrivelled leg out before the fire, and brandished the tongs.

He brought a huge fellow, named Mohi, who had a tiny girl with him, as a patient. The man had fever, and grew light-headed, and roamed away in the night. Our crippled friend got up at dawn of day, put the little Damaris on his shoulders, and hopped up and down the steep hills till he found the patient, and brought him back in safety.

Mohi, our gigantic friend, soon got well, but again and again he returned with his frail little Damaris. It was the prettiest sight to see the two walking up and down the garden, hand in hand. She was in a "waste," and had all the wise, precocious ways of children suffering in this way, and talked to her father in a womanly, grave way, and he, more simple than she, listened with a broad grin of delight. She only lived till she was eight years old, and was laid to rest in our little churchyard. And then Mohi clung more to us than ever, and when his hard, shrewish, heathen wife was dead he came to live altogether on our ground, only going now and then

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to cultivate on his own island, and to dig up his crops and bring them over. Wild, huge, and grotesque-looking as he was, he was loved by all English children. No wonder, for he was devoted to them, and would carry them about in his arms, and play with them by the hour together. He was in constant request as out-of-door man to our neighbour, the Attorney-General. On all fine days he rowed his boat to and from town. We called him one day "Charon," and he highly approved of the joke, and would not answer to the name of Mohi when afloat. "No, no, I'm Charon." I remember once thinking what a good sketch Douglas Jerrold might have made for Punch of young New Zealand. We wanted Mohi to cut firewood, and after one or two summonses he appeared on the terrace in a coloured Crimean shirt, white trousers, and jaunty straw hat, and beaming with good-humour informed us he would come willingly, but the girls "were waiting for him to play croquet," and looking down on the white sands of our beach we saw four or five trim young English ladies, mallets in hand, waiting for their faithful cavalier.

Once, indeed, his huge figure inspired fear. Some new people had come to Auckland. Mohi, in all his braveries, was one of my bearers in a native litter when I went to call. Just before, a cruel massacre of a whole family had been perpetrated on the

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north shore, and the murderer, an Englishman, had mangled the bodies with a tomahawk to divert suspicion, or rather to make people suppose the Maoris had done the deed. Mohi rang the bell, and peered about to see if no one was coming. After a while I was admitted, and the eldest daughter (a great invalid) appeared, and seemed very much scared. She apologised for not coming sooner, but the truth was both she and the servants had been terrified by the sight of a ferocious-looking Maori who had stared in at the window, and they dared not open the door. Mohi was formally introduced after that, and the lady's nephews and nieces learned from babyhood to love their simple, devoted friend and playfellow.

We had much out-of-doors dispensary work, and were often much exercised for lack of medicine spoons. We had to put a label in large letters that a mouthful was to be drunk three times a day. As may be supposed, our work was "all for love and nothing for reward." Once only an old man dropped a shilling out of his mouth, where he had put it for safety, and offered it to me as a fee. But we very often got baskets of fruit and vegetables from old patients in token of gratitude.

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