Big bluff Waipelia, King of
Waiou, but now of no subjects dependent on his barrack-bunk and table d'hote
six-dollar-a-week hospitality, gave us a kind, hearty shake of the hand and
our boat a vigorous shove into deepwater as we bade him farewell that
eventful morning when we started, not only for Waiomu, but in the race of
life, for in reality this was our true starting point.
We had been hovering about
the course, not knowing exactly for which stake we were going to run, but
the die was cast now. We had the world before us, and we must make or mar
our own fortunes, for on ourselves only we must depend. It did not seem a
's-cry aspiring step to go and live at a small Maori village and help a
Pakehia carpenter to build us a boat, but here we were, turning our backs on
civilisation, deserting the grand Herekino promenade, with no higher object
than first to have a boat built, and thereafter to go and squat on a little
island utterly beyond the pale of even Pakelia sympathy. However, it was
setting our feet on the first round of the ladder.
Waipeha as the rowers dipped their oars in the water, and we turned our
backs upon the glories of Herekino. There stood the king all alone. How
changed the scene from what it was when I first landed and saw a knot of gay
young fellows playing pitch-and-toss with sovereigns! Those coins were not
so plentiful again for many a long year, though, fortunately, we did not
"You'll come back here when
the boat is finished before you go to the Waiternata," shouted Waipeha to
We waved our assent, turned
the point or the bay, and were out of sight.
Many were the occasions upon
which afterwards for a decade of years I stumbled across Waipeha, but from
that day when we left him standing on the shore of his deserted kingdom, his
former glory, which had now so completely waned, never returned, and the
King of Waiou, by slow but inevitable degrees, was robbed of his once
For the influx of Pakehas,
consequent upon the colonisation of Maoridom, killed his monopoly with the
aborigines. He was elbowed on all sides, but lie strongly held his own for a
good long time through his early knowledge of the natives and their
When the Californian diggings
were discovered in after-years, he, with many others, sailed for the Golden
Gate, and Poenaino has known him no more.
Kindly are the recollections
I have of him, though some avowed he had just that little "dash of
unscrupulousness without which no man can be great" which General Miles
McLasky declared to Pio Nono that he flattered himself he possessed which
offering to take command of the Fenian Army.
The day smiled brightly upon
us as we pulled along the shore, shaping our course for Waiomu. There was
hardly a breath of wind, though few are the days on Poenarno's shores that
there is not a breeze of some kind, which in summer is especially grateful,
tempering the warmth so that you repine not at the sunshine, nor growl
fiercely at it as they do in Australia. The bright sunshiny winter days,
when there is a calm, are feast-days of physical enjoyment, and to those to
whom it is given to enjoy a mental feast in gazing on the beauties of Nature
those days live in the memory for ever.
Even now I can recall the
delight of that long-ago day. As we closely skirted the shore, every little
bay displayed to us its own peculiar beauty. A bright white shelly beach
here, a rich chocolate colour there, one point crowned with overhanging
puhutukaua trees; from another would rise 'the brilliant green of the
karaka, no naked deciduous trees anywhere, but a rich and varied foliage
from water's edge to mountain summit, where the grand spreading tops of the
kouri could be distinguished, surmounting every other tree, and proclaiming
itself the king of the forest.
The shore in those days was well studded with
native villages, and the cultivation around them bespoke an industrious
There was a
stimulus to their industry at this epoch of their history, for they were
labouring under the "tupera fever." The percussion-gun had made its
appearance, and the natives were not slow to see how much more effectual a
weapon it was than the old flint "brown-bess." And when they saw the tupera
double-barrelled gun, the rage at once set in to possess it. They still
feared warlike inroads from hostile tribes, and to be able to deliver two
shots for one, spoke home to their warlike understandings without any Pakeha
persuasion in trading with them. They only did then what we are doing now
for the great tribes of Europe must ever replace the Henry of yesterday by
the Martini-Henry of to-day, and by something more quickly and deadly
The Maories planted great fields of maize and potatoes, and sold the product
to Wiupelia to provide themselves with tuperas and gunpowder. It is to be
regretted that in the present day the sale of their lands, and the money
thus acquired, have converted an industrious into an idle people. Waipeha
sent away shiploads and shiploads of produce to the Australian markets, but
shipments to foreign ports would not now be necessary, for European local
consumption would absorb all. How I should rejoice to see the Maori of
to-day the same tiller of the soil he was in the days of which I write!
Alas! lords of the soil, they now sell it instead, and idleness doth beget
bad habits, and the race deteriorates and dwindles away.
On that long-ago morning we could see them at
work in their fields, and as the crew of our boat sang at their oars—the
song proclaiming how two Rangatera Pakehas were on their way to Waiomu they
would cease working, and for a minute or two groups would cluster on the
shore, and send us on our way with the "Haere—haere" greeting—the salutation
of their good wishes.
We were to be landed at our destination by the Pakelma trader who was being
sent by Waipehia to Kaueranga, one of Waipeha's trading stations, and now
known to civilised ears, though then only known as a native settlement far
away up at the source of the Waiho River. Kaneranga was a long way off then;
it is not any nearer now in distance, but facility of communication brings
it so much nearer in time, that we smile as we now, in a few hours, arrive
at a place that took a long laborious day's travel to reach in those
primitive bygone days.
Pulling against wind and tide in an open boat is one timing, steaming along
at eight or nine knots an hour is quite another thing. I little thought then
that I should live to see daily steamers crossing the Hauraki Gulf at more
points than one. Passenger laden steamers larger than petty ferry-boats were
then almost an unknown quantity in Australian waters, quite unknown in
whole expanse of the Hauraki on that morning we saw never a sign of life on
its broad waters—no white sails, far less black smoke, far or near. Our own
boat summed up and represented the whole existent traffic!
And now as we neared our destination the rowers
improvised their boat-song in a louder strain; the words, of course, suited
the occasion, and warned the Ngatitamateras of our approach. It was not long
before we could see them beginning to assemble on the beach, for we had
heard them "pass the cry along," "Rua tae mai te Pakeha"—"The white men are
coming back"—which went echoing up the little valley, and we soon saw a
steady stream of all ages and sexes pour down towards the landing-place, at
the mouth of a little fresh-water creek.
Assembled on the bank of the stream, there came
to us the accustomed "Haerenzai! haeremai!" welcome, with the waving of
their mats and blankets. As our boat came within a short distance of the
landing-place the shouts of welcome died away. The principal chiefs then
retired a little to the back, and squatted down, according to their manner
and custom, to receive the visitors, who are expected to walk up to where
the chiefs are sitting and commence nose-rubbing.
The excitement consequent upon our arrival,
which extended through the whole tribe, was not simply because two Pakehas
had arrived, but because they were two Hangatera Pakehas who had come to
live amongst them. The ordinary Pakehas the natives had hitherto come in
contact with had been for the most part runaway sailors—indeed, not a few
were runaway convicts from Australian shores, and they were all addicted to
the vice of intemperance. Now, at the time of which I write the natives had
an abhorrence of that vice, and continued to have for many a long
year—indeed, I lived to see more than a score pass away before I ever saw
the spectacle of a native in a state of intoxication. At this time the
Maories were eager to have a Pakeha to come and live at their settlements,
as there was the hope he would have a whare hoko, and purchase their
surplus produce, then they would get the coveted supplies of "native trade,"
which meant in an especial manner percussion-pieces, gunpowder, tobacco, and
blankets. When at Herekino we had often heard the chiefs from distant places
asking the King of Waiou to confer on them this great boon of a resident
Pakeha and a whar hoko, but the ever-accompanying stipulation was
that he must not be a "tongata ririi"—a man of bad temper—or fond of
waiperou—stinking water—alias spirits! Such was the term into which they
translated rum, which was the prevailing article consumed.
Well, the arrival at Waiomu was not the arrival
of Pakeha' tainted with convictism or ship-runawayism, waiperouism, or any
other touretareka-ism, this last word meaning a slave or plow-born, but the
two Pakehas who had come to live with them were Rangateras.
And thus it had come about that the
Ngatitamateras had mustered en masse to give us a welcome.
The bow of the boat had no sooner touched the
beach than a rush of naked men was made on each side, and, seizing the
gunwale, they ran the boat up high and dry before we knew where we were.
It would not have been at all an imposing
landing had we come on shore astride on a Maori's back, but now we stepped
in a dignified manner on to the beach and walked up to the spot where we saw
old Kanini, Katikati, Ngatai, and the other bigwigs of the tribe squatted,
folded in their best blankets, waiting to receive us, and repeating in
subdued tones as we appeared, "Haeremai!"
Had we been Maories of course we should there
and then have also squatted down and rubbed noses. Hereafter I will explain
why at such meetings the natives do not jump up and say how glad they are to
see you, but welcome you in woe-begone "Haeremais," squatting down and
rubbing the lugubrious nose until the spectacle is anything but pleasant to
On the present
occasion this custom was not inflicted upon us—so much more pleasant in the
"breach than in the observance" - and Pakelia hand-shaking was the order of
was performed with dignified composure by the chiefs; but anon dignity took
to flight, and here was a whole tribe who had never vet shaken a Hangatera
Pakeha's hand—here was a chance which was not to he thrown away.
As we stood beside old Kanini a perfect rush was
made to experience in a practical manner the difference between rubbing the
lugubrious nose of welcome and shaking the right hand of good- fellowship.
But we soon began to think that very possibly it
would have been a lesser martyrdom to have done the aboriginal nose-rubbing,
as then we could have restricted that ceremony to the chiefs, their wives
and pretty daughters.
Help, however, came to us at last by a sense of the ridiculous seizing the
unshaken remainder of the tribe, who tacitly concluded that their Pakehas
had behaved like true Rangateras, and forbore inflicting further
hand-shaking upon them.
And it was thus we made our entrée at Waiomu
amongst the Ngatitamateras, and were dubbed their two Rangatera Pakehas, the
news thereof speedily spreading among the villages from one end of the
Hauraki shore to the other.