The longest tapu must have an
end, and poor old Kanini has at last dispensed with his provision platform,
and now luxuriates in the use of his own fingers, and is allowed to feed
himself. Faithfully had the old man kept all "tapu" observances, though in
reality he had not believe in them one jot or tittle. I have already stated
he was a man of great intellectual power, far in advance of all his own
surroundings and of his own day, and certainly had buried long ago in the
tomb of unbelief "tapu" itself. In proof I shall narrate an incident.
My friend was a great
phrenologist and a practical one, and had wished, above all things, to be
allowed to manipulate Kanini's head and take its measurements. Now the most
tapu of all things is a chief's head, and when the proposition was first
made to him, he, of course, gave a decided kahore—no. But as we became more
intimately acquainted with him, and ultimately knew that he looked upon tapu
as so much humbug, my friend kept renewing his application until at last the
old man, in a soft moment, said, "Ae pea," which literally means "Yes,
perhaps," but in reality always means "Yes"— at all events amongst the young
ladies when they give that reply to a suitor. So it came about that,
according to arrangements made with Kaitini, his Wives' being absent on a
kumera-seeking expedition, we invaded the old man's whare after midnight,
and he submitted his sacred head to be pawed - phrenologically speaking—all
over. I would not have given much for Kanini's status in his tribe if any
member of it could have seen what took place that night, but no more
convincing proof could be given as to the old chief being generations in
advance of the day in which he was living.
His evenings were invariably
spent with us, the old man holding most animated conversations with Pama,
and discussing, in the most intelligent manner, all the habits and, customs
of his race, from the abominable bore of the tapu—which he next thing to
anathamatised—downwards. Dire was the amount of questioning to which he was
subjected by his Rangatera Pakehas, but his good-nature never gave in. It
was, indeed, a pleasure to hold converse with him, or to look at his calm,
noble countenance and head, and his bright clear eye, with intelligence
beaming from it. His calm low voice fell quietly and pleasantly on the ear,
and we were lost in wonder when we looked upon the old man sitting so
sedately by our side, and listened to his placid voice remembering that this
pattern of present propriety had many a time and oft jumped savagely high,
with distorted countenance, leading a war-dance. Or yelled forth unearthly
yells in concert with his tribe, worked up to frenzied heat ha war harangue
delivered by him. An old tuau, it had been better had innocent talking only
been the end of it, and not eating.
No, we won't believe it,
Puma—get out with you we are not going to believe these cannibal-feast yarns
No; the Kanini to us is the
civilised savage we have ever found him—the one bright particular star of
his race. No black cloud shall hang over the halo with which we have
surrounded his white head; we ignore the past, and, once and for all, Kanini
is to us the Kanini of Waioinu in the year of grace one thousand eight
hundred and forty.
And pray who shall say, after
all, that it is not much better to eat than to be eaten?
Therefore Kanini was
preserved to us to minister to our winter evenings' amusement and
instruction in that year of grace on the shores of To Hauraki.
And here would fain say a
word in kind reinembrance of the "savage faculty"—thie phrase is not mine,
but Harriet Martineau's, who coined it in her Egyptian travels—the savage
faculty as I knew it, and as others of the very earliest days, like myself,
now all so rapidly passing away, also knew it, of the Maori race as known to
the pioneer settlers of the land, and not as known to those of later days,
who arrive in the colony and have on their tongues the talk of the "nigger
element," and who have no knowledge and no ideas of Maori character, save as
gathered from these later days, when a new generation has sprung into being,
whose acts and deeds on the war-path when the opposing races met face to
face have been time gauge by which Maori character has been judged. To these
new-corners the aborigines are an abomination, a delusion, and a snare.
They know not, have never
heard of; and to few, indeed, is known, the high chivalrous honour which
characterised the Maories in the early wars we had with them. Hearafter I
shall narrate such strange incidents of their high chivalry that many who
read will simply disbelieve, but what I set down will none the less be true.
I shall be writing of the Maori of forty years ago. I claim to say that a
description of the Maori character of that day is worth preserving for the
history of the race, so that the Maori of the future may know that his
ancestors possessed high and noble qualities, which, alas Pakeha
civilisation has relegated to the past. Much as has been written about the
Maori, I have never yet seen revealed in print to the public certain high
traits of character unique in the history of the races of the world.
"Kua pan te hooga," said
mild-voiced Erangi one morning as she placed before us our pannikins of
mint-tea, which informed us that time, which had kept slipping away, had
used up all the sugar. Mint-tea in puns naturalibus would not go down, so
"we twa" had to pay the penalty for being so fastidious by just falling back
upon good pure spring-water. Pork and potatoes and good spring-water for
breakfast, and good spring-water and potatoes and pork when we came home at
night, were the changes we rang, and we had to make the best of it. But
hunger is such a leveller of daintily-reared appetites, and hard labour in
the open air so rears up hunger, that we did as much justice to Erangi's
simple fare as if it had been Orakei Bay ragout of happy memory!
And "our own, canoe," in
which we were to paddle, how did it get on? The canoe was now well formed
outside, and pretty well hollowed out inside, so much so that now it was not
deemed safe to reduce the dimensions of the log any more until it was
dragged out of the forest. The log had to be sent over some rather steep
places, and it must be able to stand a good blow with impunity should it
strike against any rock or tree before reaching the water's edge.
Many had been the visits paid
by the Maories to the forest where we were at work, for our log was really
not modelled as a canoe but like a boat, with regular bow and stern. Amongst
our visitors latterly had been Te Rite, lately my patient, and also his
father, Taraia, an old warrior of dread renown. They had watched with great
attention the progress of our work, and learning from Pama the hog must now
be dragged out before any further work could be done upon it, Taraia and his
son waited upon the two 1angatera Pakehias one night to tender the services
of the tribe to drag out the waka Pakeha white man's Canoe, in gratitude—no,
I must not use-that word, for it exists not in the Maori vocabulary—it, was
"te utu mote rongoa to rutta"—the payment for the medicine of the doctor.
As may he well believed, no
more appropriate or well-timed fee could have been tendered, and as "nothing
for nothing" is Maori philosopky, we did not attempt to alter the logic, nor
was the fee refused.
It thus came about that the
explosion of the half-keg of gunpowder dragged out our canoe, for after four
days' work it lay on the beach in front of our door all safe and sound.
And on the same day there
were also piled in front of our door some forty kits—nearly a ton—of the
delicious tarro, and, tied with a flax-leaf by the hind-leg to a stake stuck
into the ground, was a huge porker grunting.
Of this provision-offering
Pama was supposed to be an equal recipient, as he had in many small ways
performed services to the old chief and his son. Of course we had to make a
considerable distribution of pipes and tobacco; indeed, it was a kind of
understood thing that the value of the food-offering was paid back again to
go amongst the members of the tribe as just a little palm-salve for dragging
out the canoe.
And so now we had no longer
to take our walk into the beautiful forest through evergreen foliage of
brightest tints, fern-trees, and nikau palms waving overhead, and flowing
creepers - and, the beauty of our forests!—no longer had we now the grand
commanding view across the Hauraki to where Pahiki stands sentinel at the
entrance of the landlocked waters that lead to Waitemata's shore. How often,
when resting from our work, we had gazed across that landscape, all that
then showed life in the gulf was but. the speck of the raupo sail of waka
Maori on few and rare occasions; daily now, steamers plough up those waters.
Our work was now only a
stone's throw from our own door on the beach in front, and in a few days we
had given the few finishing touches which removed the superfluous wood which
we had left to enable it to stand the rough usage it was bound to get on
being dragged out of the forest.
I well remember how one
morning before breakfast, when I was cutting with an adze at the outside,
and my fellow-worker was fining down the floor inside, I remarked to him I
thought he was shaving away rather too much, that if it was left somewhat
rough and thick it would be all the better, as being easier to stand upon if
rough under foot, and if thick less likely to be harmed by hard bumps on
rock. He prided himself on his large organ of cautiousness, and would not
admit but that there was plenty of thickness yet to come and go upon, and he
went on cutting away.
Alas, the words were hardly
out of his mouth when, ho! the tool went right through the bottom of the
canoe! With what a ridiculous face of consternation he looked up at me! It
was so utterly comical and I laughed so heartily that at last he could not
refrain from keeping me company. I rather enjoyed the small catastrophe, as
it gave me such a crow over him, for he had always been at me with his "Take
care what you are about; I am afraid of that small organ of cautiousness of
But the account was now
settled for evermore in after years when he used that phrase to me I had the
whip hand, and it was, "Do you happen to remember that fine morning when you
first saw daylight through the bottom of the Waiomu?" for of course we
christened our canoe by that name. The hole in the bottom, after all, was of
no consequence the skilful hand of Pama soon cut out the thin part, and
meeting plenty of thickness of wood close alongside, he fitted in a piece
which lasted as long as the canoe, and it never leaked a pannikinful.
It was fortunate indeed that
we had taken Pama's advice and had gone to our forest work, for no other
sawyers ever came near to cut up more planking for King Waipeha—in fact, he
had to send some from Herekino to enable Pama to finish the boat he had in
hand, so but for our own canoe we should not have been able to go and take
possession of our island home at Waiteinata.
Winter was waning when at
last both Pama's boat and our canoe were finished. Pama had to deliver the
boat to King Waipeha at Herekino, so we determined to avail ourselves of the
opportunity to transport our effects there in it, as the canoe would not be
So the time had now come when
we must bid farewell to Waiomu; our sojourn on the shore of Te Hauraki had
run out; we must, turn our backs upon the village where we had spent so
pleasant and happy, and—I think I may safely style it—romantic a life.
We must bid farewell to the
Ngatitamateras and their grand old chief.
And that farewell was not
made without feelings of the most sincere regret on our part, for our
sojourn in the primitive Maori village had not been in vain.
Irrespective of having become
owners of a canoe of our own fabrication, we had acquired a most valuable
insight into native character which was yet to stand us in good stead in
later years, though we little thought so at that time.
We had witnessed scenes which
would live for evermore in our memories—for evermore even when old age would
stamp our now young heads with blanched hair, even like the old chief's we
loved so well.
A never-to-be blotted-out
epoch of our lives when we were pioneers amongst a people whose
manners and customs were doomed in our own day to change and fade away
before the civilising agency of a Saxon colour then taking root, and which
was was destined to overshadow the land to the Maori for evermore, bringing,
as it ever brings, a never-ending night to an aboriginal race of darker
The poor old Kanini had
evidently become strongly attached to his two Pakehas; this fact had been
patent to us for a long time. He had ever been a solitary man amongst his
own people, but he could not be with us too much; he gravitated to us every
evening with an irresistible impulse; he had found meet companions in two
young Pakehas—he, an old Maori!
Is it to be wondered at,
that, estimating his high native worth, and the bright intelligence we had
found under that tattooed face, we were moved to severe regret at parting
But to us the world was all
in the future, to the old chief it was all in the past.
'Tis ever so; "the world's a
stage," and the actors thereon play their little part, and having played it
do make their exit.
The tattooed Kanini was
leaving the stage of life, his two Rangatera Pakehas were advancing on to
And so they needs must part.
Pama's new boat and the waka
Pakeha are afloat on the waters of Te Hauraki, abreast the village of
We have shaked hands with
nearly the whole Ngatitainatcra tribe.
The old Kaninii sat muffled
in his kaitaka mat on the beach.
"Enoho ne?" we said to him in
a sad voice. You will stay there, won't you?" as we shook hands with him.
from him in a low voice.
Such are the Maori words in
which farewells are made. The whole tribe followed us down to the boat
tendering kind offices; We put off with a well- wishing "Haere" from all.
But he sat on the shore, that
old chief, all alone; who shall say how much more lonely that untutored mind
was then than throughout his whole life?
For was he not parting with
those whose society had revealed to him how much more he was fitted by
nature to take his place and move among civilised men than among his own
people? Did he not then sigh as he had often done when seated with his two
Pakehias on nights, when the burthen of his sighs had been, ''Ah, that I
were a Pakeha!" and when a sad sorrowfulness would fall upon him.
How much more sad now as he
sits on that shore, and we say our parting words-
"Enoho ne?" You will stay
there, won't you?
Yes, grey-haired old chief,
you must still remain there.
For the cold snow of age has
left your head with too whitened locks for you to commence a new journey in
Enoho! enoho! chief of the
Ngatitamatcras, and nature's nobleman.
Enoho! yet a little while,
and the gates of thy simple paradise will be opened to you. Enoho!
He sat alone with his sorrow
on the shore of the Hauraki, gazing vacantly at the ebbing waters as they
flowed at his feet.
He sat there an old battered
chief, the emblem of a living race and a past history, which is doomed to
disappear and be forgotten.
and pitch your tent on the solitary place of Motu Korea, for you have found
a new home—you are the pioneers of a race coming from afar to make a new
nation, and raise a new history.