Poenamo Book the Second - Chapter II.
We Start on the Exploring Expedition
THERE was an unusual bustle
one morning on Herekino's now-deserted beach, and it was about a week
subsequent to that dinner in which I had been initiated into the mysteries
of how to make a leg of mutton with caper-sauce out of the unclean animal,
and when Waipcha had fired our imaginations by his oracular enunciation of
"Wait until you see the Wraiteinata."
Herekino beach seemed
awakened from the sleepiness into which it had so sadly and permanently
dropped, and as if it were reviving the bygone days when grand land-hunting
expeditions used to start therefrom. To the land-sharks Waipeha gave a
certain amount of line to play with, just as much, as suited his purpose and
no more, for whenever they ran off in any wrong direction that interfered
with himself he landed them safely on the bank of some native difficulty or
other, which he had no difficulty in creating mentally and declaring as an
The bustle at Herekino on
this occasion arose from a land-hunting expedition of Waipehas own
originating, and we were starting to go and see the Waitemata.
It had all been discussed and
settled. We were off on an expedition which was to result in the making of
all our fortunes. Downright inheritances for our very children's children
were to be forth-coming from it, not to mention handing all our own five
names—the sapient originators'—down to posterity. Waipeha had fairly
infected us with his enthusiasm for the Waitemata. In. the most glowing
colours he had depicted the extent and magnificence of the harbour, the
beauty of its sloping shores, the richness of the land on the isthmus—for
there was still another harbour, but it opened on to the opposite or west
coast. Waipeha. had not received an education which made him conversant with
any more classic Corinth than the one he had heard of in his own Yankeeland;
or no doubt he would have made his glowing descriptions still more glowing
by telling us he was going to show us an isthmus more beautiful still and
more grandly situated than even the Corinth of the ancients. If it had not a
high rocky Acropolis it had its towering extinct volcanic crater, which
commanded the two seas and looked down upon both.
But I must not anticipate.
You will learn all about it in good time, but first we have to start, and
then we have to cross the gulf, and by the time we have done that I shall be
at the end of another chapter at least, but not at the end of our journey.
The native crew have launched
the boat down the beach into the water. A fine stalwart crew they are, who
can pull an oar and feather it just as well as they call paddle their own
canoe." They are carrying the requisites for our expedition down to the boat
in great glee and good-humour, for they always enjoyed going with Waipeha in
any of his visitations to his trading stations, or on excursions such as we
were about to make.
The day was a glorious one.
Nature had robed herself in her brightest and sunniest of colours, and the
gentle breeze just rippling the water gave promise of a fine and smooth
passage across the gulf.
The reader of to-day may
perhaps be wondering whether in our equipment we had provided ourselves with
firearms. No, not with an arm of any kind, save plenty figs of tobacco!
These constituted the arms with which we should be able to repel all attacks
upon us. With plenty of that "shot in locker" we well knew we could both
fight and pay our way through the length and breadth of the land.
These were the happy "piping
times of peace," when the country was literally ruled by the power of pipes
and tobacco. The Pakeha was much too valuable an animal in those days to be
killed and eaten; that game did not pay at all. Cannibal feasts did come off
now and again on the sly, but the Pakelia was too clear a morsel, and,
moreover, was far too salt to be put into a Hangi (native oven) for
epicurean Maories. The native grown and fed article was not only the
cheapest but nicest; it was not too salt.
Alas! in later years it came
about that the aborigines fell away from the good taste of their earlier
bringing up, and then came the epoch when "cold missionary on the sideboard"
I have already stated that we
were a Scotch quartett headed by a Yankee, but whether the word cannie was
applicable to any of us time will reveal; all I know is, we were all under
the delusion we were wondrously smart clever fellows. As I was the youngest,
I have no doubt I considered myself quite the cleverest of the lot! Of
course I cannot paint my own portrait to you, nor is it necessary that I
should do so with regard to two or my fellow-countrymen, but the fourth was
in every way a man of such peculiar ways—a character— and as he has long ago
taken that long excursion which we must all take once, he cannot look upon
his own portrait, unless, indeed, he can through some spirit medium, and
then he will see it has been painted by a kind and friendly hand.
Cook—for so I shall designate
him—had numbered his thirty summers, and the outward form and manner of the
man revealed a good deal of the inward nature. He was most particular in his
dress, and on the beach at Herekino, where a free-and-easy style of costume
prevailed, he always appeared in strong contrast, and looked as if he had
just been kidnapped from Regent-street without having been allowed to alter
his costume, so little did it or the wearer seem to belong to the general
surroundings. The black cloth coat, the stiff and elaborately-tied neckcloth,
and the black chimney-pot hat always made him look as if he had dressed
himself for some particular occasion to pay or receive some visit of
ceremony; and but for the fact that one knew quite well there was no one
with whom any visits of ceremony could be interchanged, one could never have
got over the inclination to say, "Hallo, what is Cook dressed for?" —it took
some time to get accustomed to the fact that this was his natural state. his
conversation and manner of speaking were after the same fashion as his
dress—very set phrases, with grand and peculiarly expressive words, often,
it is true, used for very trivial subjects. He had most indomitable
perseverance and great energy of character in his own quiet, determined way,
and once engaging in any undertaking he would go through fire and water
rather than be beaten. If he ever espoused the cause of a party, or the
quarrel of a friend, he would stand by them through good report and through
evil—desert them never.
The boat is nearly ready, and
we have all got our odds and ends on board save Cook. This morning our
worthy friend is not the Regent-street swell of yesterday. He looks as if he
were just starting for the moors on a 12th of August, but he is still the
same precise, stiff-looking person. He is standing on the beach close beside
the boat, and at his feet are arranged a row of ever so many small boxes and
little bundles, and not until he has ticked them all off upon his list does
he allow them to be put on board by the crew. Cook liked to "rough it" just
with as many little comforts as it was possible under the circumstances to
take with him. I had brought a nice little lined tent with me to the colony,
and as we were taking this with us, Cook anticipated quite a pleasure
excursion, for we should not be compelled to sleep in native huts, always
disagreeably over-populated, making the Pakeha flee from them when he had
the chance. If we got beyond the sheltering roof of native huts, no doubt we
might have fallen back upon the resource—one not to be despised either—of a
sail stretched over an oar for a ridge-pole, and so improvised a tent after
a fashion, but with a nice comfortable lined tent Cook did not see why he
should not take along with him comforts to match, so he had made his
We were all having a quiet
joke at his expense and poking fun at him as we stood on the beach ready to
start, declaring that so much baggage could only be accounted for by the
hypothesis that he had a hidden supply of female attire, and that some
hitherto unknown Mrs. Cook must be going to take us by surprise and make one
of the party.
Cook entered into the fun and
carried on the joke against himself, but he kept a wary eye to see that all
his little treasures were duly and carefully stowed away in the boat.
We were quite a large party
as we settled down into our places in the boat. There was the king, tiller
in hand, and one of his Pakeha traders whom we were to leave at a station in
passing, we had four Scotch "cannies," a young native boy (Cook's page!) and
a crew of eight—no less than fifteen in a rather small boat. In fact, we
were little more than a streak clear!
We push off from the shore
and are in deep water. Look on shore. Do you see that funny-looking bundle
of blankets on the beach with a black topknot? Scrutinise it more closely
and you will discover it to be a head of black hair, a forehead, and a pair
of eyes! That is Madame Waipeha seeing her lord and master pro tern. away.
You can see a good many bundles of blankets and black topknots scattered
over the beach, all immovable. That is the native fashion of bidding
good-bye, and as we pull away from the shore many voices are heard to say, "Haere,
haere," and from the boat is wafted back the response, "Encho, encho ne?"
"Go, go," is the word of farewell. " Stay—stay there, won't you?" is the
reply. Such is the native manner and custom. They do not shed tears when
parting from each other; they do so when they meet after a long absence. You
see, my children, this is because we are in the antipodes and everything is
upside down. I may have an opportunity hereafter of explaining how this
comes about according to Maori philosophy, and I can assure you their
conduct is based on perfectly sound philosophical principles. But meanwhile
we must "haere" along or we shall never get clear of Herekino.
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