Poenamo Book the Fourth - Chapter X.
We Adopt our Child
The first month of summer was
now drawing to a close. Christmas—not white snow-clad Christmas as at home,
but the bright and brilliant floral Christmas of the sunny Great South Land,
was at hand.
My last Christmas, and first
one away from the parental roof, had been spent where the "experienced
surgeon" got eclipsed by the "cow," and where I walked on shore to try my
fortune wvith the world.
The year which had elapsed
had brought its experiences, and a certain amount of my utter greenness had
given way to a modicum of that worldly wisdom without which no man can elbow
his way beyond the ordinary bread and butter of life.
Now I had the ambition to
soar higher than this, and nothing less than cakes and ale ad libitum
was going to satisfy my youthful aspirations.
The inexperienced youth of a
surgeon had now thrown physic to the dogs," and was with a still greater
inexperience, and with a cool self-reliance belonging only to the
self-conceit of immature years, going to boldly try his unfledged wings in
the flight of commerce.
I once laboured under the
delusion that modesty was the one beautiful trait in my character, but when
I revise my past life I am a little shaken in that belief, and now have more
than a mere suspicion that there was what other people would designate as
egregious conceit stamped on one or two passages of the early career of my
young manhood, or else how could I have had the presumption to take the
appointment of the "experienced surgeon?" And now I had dubbed myself
merchant without ever having "walked the hospitals" of commerce.
Truly the boldness of
ignorance is often bliss. Happy indeed that we are not always wise before
our wisdom teeth are cut—heaven is my witness I was not—but as I never fell
into any great mishaps I suppose a kind Providence must have taken
compassion on me and bridged over the difficulties.
The time had at last arrived
when I must make my new departure in life and commence the role of merchant.
The die was cast, for better for worse I had taken the leap, and must risk
whether I landed on my feet or came ignominiously to the ground.
The tub Dart lay once again
at anchor a few cables' length from the shore, opposite our whare, and we
were plying the canoe to and fro. I was taking my departure for the capital
to establish its first mercantile firm! There in the hold of the schooner
lay the now historical little tent. You have seen it put to many various
uses at various places, but the climax of its history had now come; it was
about to be pitched at the embryo capital to represent the business premises
of the embryo firm, and therein I was to be representative thereof. The
senior partner could not be spared as yet from the graver stake we had in
pig-run, and as it had to be watched over by the more experienced member of
the firm, he had to remain on the island for a time, looking forward
to joining me when I had succeeded in a Maori whare erected to replace the
tent as more befitting business premises.
By the time this was
accomplished we hoped either to have sold off all our pigs or got hold of
some one to live on the island and look after the rapidly increasing
litters. Of course the presence of the senior partner was indispensable at
the founding of the firm, so "we twa" sailed away in great state in the tub
Dart, the Waiomu towing astern, and we dropped anchor off the capital. And
the senior and junior paddled to shore in the Waiomu not only themselves but
the firm's premises and all the stock-in-trade with which it was thought
necessary to commence business.
The inventory of effects had
not been an arduous task; for the senior, wise in his generation, and in the
knowledge of the supreme greenness of his junior partner, had deemed that
all that was necessary for him in the establishing the name of the firm was
a couple of three-legged pots, a quart tin pot, and, a pannikin, which, by a
figure of speech, rnight be said to represent the hardware department; the
soft goods department was as yet only represented by the contents of the
junior's personal effects in his sea-chest; and as to the provision
department—well, there was a little tea and sugar to the good, with some
kits of potatoes and a few junks of corned pork. The stock-in-trade of a
general merchant in the days which I depict in a newly-formed settlement was
of the character graphically summed up in the old phrase, "from a needle to
So we reared aloft the poles
of our tent, stretched. the canvas over the roof-tree, and then—we shook
each other cordially by the hand, and thus standing under it wished each
other joy, and declared the firm was now born to the capital and an existent
The business transacted that
summer evening by the two partners was a large speculation in the line of
"bedding fern," as much as could be stored on the premises, and then the
partners, resting from their labours, might have been seen sitting on the
ground, a wreath of blue smoke from the fire in front of them curling
The sun set to the music of a
pot of water hubble bubbling, the stars shone out and became brightly
brilliant by the time the quart pot of water was boiling to make the tea,
and just as the moon rose the partners retired within the folding canvas of
their tent-premises to practically prove if their "fern bedding" venture was
of that genuine quality which would insure their peaceful slumbers.
And thus it was that that
first firm of the capital of Poenamo started, and that firm has endured even
unto the present day, through two score years! And the then verdiest of
verdi juniors has now got all his innocent greenness taken out of him many
was the eye-opener he got, but he has survived not only to become senior but
sole partner, and lives to tell all this to his children.
But I am not going to travel
over all these long years with a narrative of what would prove but a dreary
personal record of the everyday routine of life. But before the capital
reached the stage when one day became a repetition of another, it passed
through epochs peculiarly its own, and although I have already written more
than enough for my first half of my manuscript, I shall still write on a few
pages to bring these epochs to a close. I shall then have to cease the
chronicling of what have hitherto been almost purely personal memoirs, and
my narrative will assume the character of the "Early history of the Colony."
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