But time, tho' slow, is
strong in flight, and years rolled swiftly by;" saith a fine old song which
I used to sing in the days of my youth, and truly time slacks not his pace,
but swiftly courses along, and with the passing away of twoscore years hath
my youth also passed away.
Yet how vivid still the
remembrance of that year of grace 1840 when I first learnt a "settler's
experiences" on the Antipodean shores of Poenamo, with life's "young dream"
all before me, creating glowing visions of the future, couleur de rose on
all sides! There were no dark shadows falling any- where on the bright
picture conjured up by an imagination ignorant of the world's battles which
had yet to be fought!
Ah!, the chateaux en Espagne!
how fearlessly youth builds them, and what noble structures come to an
delusions! what were life without them? How they entice us along, bright
hope leading the way! What though realisation fades away, and, "like the
baseless fabric of a vision, leaves not a wrack behind", what though "Hope
told a flattering tale," and it was a fiction only—a reality never. Did not
the fair goddess lead us over pleasant pastures, and did we not pleasurably
disport ourselves for the time being? "What a little day of sunny bliss" was
ours! Still we had it; it was ours. Ah, thrice-blessed Hope!
having now blown off my prefatory steam to my Book the Third, I suppose I
had better proceed to practical work without more ado.
In my last sketch I introduced you to quite a
civilised little spot on the Hauraki Gulf, where twoscore years ago a table
d'hote was daily spread, and I told how the spreading thereof had died a not
natural but quite a sudden death, and how its once great glory had departed
until the King of Waiou had only four subjects (and these Scotch ones) left
to support his presence. And now I have to chronicle the sad fact that the
king was left absolutely alone in his glory, for of his four last subjects
two had already winged their flight, and the other two were now bidding
farewell to Herekino, and starting on the race of life on their own account.
I am not going to write one word of fiction.
Even as "The Town that Never Was" told only a simple story of actual fact,
so "With the Maorics on Te Hauraki Shore" facts only will be narrated.
To those who have ever lived amongst the
natives, what I am about to set down will read "stale, flat, and
unprofitable," but there is now here so large a population who know not
Tongata Maori nor his manners and customs, and who can have but a faint idea
of how the first settlers had to find their footing in the land before any
permanent settlement had been established, to whom the actual life-pictures
I am about to portray may be a new book containing matter all unknown
before, that I would fain rescue from oblivion the chivalrous conduct of the
Maori, when his power was supreme, towards the invading Pakeha.
Cooktown was a thing of the past and of the
imagination; we had sown our township speculation wild oats, and awoke to a
more sensible frame of mind, and to the inevitable quarrel which would have
arisen with the Government had we been so bold as to have laid out an
independent township and sold it off in their very faces. True it would not
have been difficult for us to have done this, but it would have been quite
impossible to have given the purchasers of our town lots a title, and in
default of this the speculation would have come to grief.
The Maories would have maintained Waipeha in
possession of any purchase he made from them, but that would not have served
the purpose, for people won't buy land unless with a transferable title, and
that most assuredly would not have been forthcoming. Our wild excursion only
proved how even the most sensible of men can be led away at times.
But though the idea of "lots in Cooktown" had
died away from our creative brains, the remembrance of the glories of the
grand Wraiteinafa waters lived there, never to be effaced from the memories
of the two who had scrambled to the summit of Remuera's Mount and looked
town would one day sit like a queen on some part of Waitemata's isthmus
shores we both implicitly believed, and this belief had taken a turn which
shaped our future lives.
Loitering up and down Herekino beach we had
already found to be very hard work indeed, and we were yearning for
something to do—for anything, in fact, that would hold out the hope of a
profitable result. Paying a few dollars a week for a bunk in the Herekino
barrack-room and a seat at the table d'hóte was of course not a very heavy
pecuniary infliction, but having nothing to do but lounge about Herekino had
become simply intolerable, and had caused us to exercise our wits as to how
we could exchange such a life for something better. We wanted to kill time
somehow or other until Government fixed where the capital of the colony was
to be, as we fully intended to be purchasers at the first town sale wherever
and whenever it came off. We had first thought of exchanging Herekino for
Orakci, and asking old Kawan if he would take us in and do for us at his
village, but that would only have been exchanging one lounging idleness for
another, and, moreover, we could do nothing there any more than at Herekino
which would in any way benefit us hereafter. But if we could purchase a
little spot of our own where we could even grow our own potatoes, that would
be a step up the right direction, and it would be "a home of our own"—that
Ultima Thule of every human being save a wandering Arab, and even he claims
his tent as that.
remembered how we had seen from our camping-ground at the headland the
little island lying in the morning sunlight when we rose, and, opening the
tent, looked forth. And we had more than once remarked what a nice little
"home of our own" that island would make until we invested in lots in the
capital to be, and settled down for good and all.
On it we could always grow cabbages, provided we
could procure the seed from which to raise them. I firmly believe we could
not have procured an ounce of cabbage-seed for love or money; but at all
events we could grow our own potatoes, and if the worst came to the worst we
could dig up our own fern-root, for that dernier ressort would be duly
forthcoming, thanks to a most bountiful Nature. Food for the trouble of
digging it and aim inexhaustible supply! Think of that!
So we took his majesty time King of Waiou into
our confidence, for we well knew that unless he deigned to take us by the
hand any efforts of our own would be fruitless. And his Majesty concluded
that our little project would not in any way interfere with him, and took us
in hand accordingly. He had a soul above wishing to pocket our paltry six
dollars a week—in fact, now that the shoal of Sydney landsharks had cleared
out, good, kindhearted Waipelia would have been very glad to have given us
the "run of our teeth" for the sake of our tongues, and for our company to
beguile his evenings; for, after all, Madame Waipeha was not quite the
intellectual fall-back-upon to satisfy him. He did not now require a
sleeping dictionary to learn Maori from.
Notwithstanding Waipeha's great knowledge of all
the native tribes within three days' travelling distance of his kingdom, it
gave him not a little trouble to find out the owners of that little island.
One reason was that he made inquiries of the tribes who lived nearest to it,
whereas it turned out that the owners were really quite near his own
door—only a few miles from Waiou up the Hauraki coast—and at whose
settlement he actually had a Pakehaat work building him a boat. And it
proved that the owners of that little island were quite willing to part with
it; it was a long way from where they lived, and they did not own another
acre near it, It was an outlying possession which ran the chance of being
seized upon by tribes living near at hand, nor did the owners ever use it in
any way they were only too glad to have the chance of selling it. Such was
Waipeha's report to us the first time after he had conferred with the native
owners when he went to see how his boat was getting on.
And so it came about one day in the merry month
of May, 1840, at a Maori village called Waiomu, on the shore of Te Hauraki,
that the chief of the Natitamateras, Te Kiuiiui, and the sub-chiefs Katikati
and Ngatai affixed their signatures, not a +, not their marks, but wrote
their own signatures to a deed of sale by which that little island in waters
of the Waitemata passed into Pakelta Possession. And during the forty years
from that long- go day to this day there has never been a question as to who
were the rightful owners of that island, nor a demand made beyond the
survive, but the three signataries to that deed have all been gathered to
their last home, and I call hope their Maori paradise has received them, and
that now they eat kumeras to their hearts' desire, and can for ever smoke
the dearly-loved pipe.
From Waipehua we wanted one more good office of' friendship, one he was
unable to grant, but he did the next best thing he could for us.
We had bought an island but how could we get to
it, or how, having once got to it could we get away from it, without a boat?
But a boat. Waipeha could not spare us, neither then nor in the future, for
he required the one he was having built at Waiounu for his own use. But he
said when that boat was finished then he would get the Pakeha to build one
for us, and he suggested we should proceed to the spot ourselves to help on
We had no
choice, and very heartily entered into the proposal, for it would relieve us
from loafing about on Herekino beach, it would give us something to do, and
last but not least, it would afford us an admirable opportunity of becoming
acquainted with the Maori character, as we should be living for a time in a
native settlement, and we should have the Pakelm, who was there to act as
And so I
have arrived at. the time when "we twa" last relics of the .once grandly
numerous table d'hote were about to leave the King of Waion to reign once
more alone in what glory he might, for Herekino's beach was deserted when we
quietly prepared to quit the scene.
The time had been when the departure of grand
land-purchasing expeditions caused excitement to prevail from one end to the
other of the little bay. But these days were now gone for evermore: the axe
had been laid at the root of the King of Waiou's power, for no one required
now to propitiate his good- will and crave his assent before going forth in
the endeavour to "extinguish native title." The British Government had
stepped in and extinguished all the would-be land purchasers by latitude and
longitude by a treaty with the Maories, and so those land-sharks, with their
bags of unspent gold, had all beaten a precipitate retreat.
I remember well the calm lovely winter morning
(it was always lovely when we started to go anywhere then, because time was
of no particular value, and we always waited for a fine day) when under a
bright sun and deep blue sky we pushed off in one of Waipelia's boats from
Herekino bound for Waiomu. We had no grand chateaux en Espagne on this
occasion as we had on the last, when we started with WhuIehla to behold time
Wraiteniata and rear a city on its shores: we had now dropped down to the
sober earnestness of actual "settling." Grand table d'hótes were a thing of
the past, nor were we to know them again for many a long year, and before we
should ever know them again we were destined to pass through many severe
experiences, the lightest of which was sometimes going dinnerless—of being
our own cooks with nothing to cook!
But we did not know that then, or perhaps we
should not have been so light-hearted and full of hope on that long-ago
bright winter morning. We were imbued with a certain delusion that an "early
settler's" life was surrounded by a halo of "romance" which paled the
"reality" into a pleasant episode.
And truly when undertaken in manhood's early
years, with a spirit of contented determination to work your way as best you
can, and with a certain faith in your power to conquer difficulties, the
early settler's life is one, if fortune has been kind to you, which does
bear much fruit of romance in after-years, though the reality which you pass
through meanwhile may seem to be a period savouring only of sternest work.
But when the prize is gained those early trials
are remembered, as it were, gratefully. Time has blunted and worn away their
sharp edges, and the remembrance of their hardship gives a feeling akin to
happiness instead of recalling painful difficulties, for you feel you have
fought the good fight, done battle with the world, and have had your reward.
But those only, who have so fought and gained
the victory, can enter into and understand the killing despair which falls
upon those who have also fought, but, alas! have had no reward.