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Poenamo
Book the Third - Chapter II.
We are Adopted by the Ngatitamateras


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.

"Haere—haere!" exclaimed 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 know it.

"You'll come back here when the boat is finished before you go to the Waiternata," shouted Waipeha to us.

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 supreme power.

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 language.

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 people.

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 efficient to-morrow.

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 Poenarno.

Over the 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 look at.

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 the day.

This ceremony 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.


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