That old "Pakeha Maori"—the
name by which such of our countrymen as married Maori maidens and became
half-Maories were known—had evidently been doing his good share of taihoa
since we sent for him to come to the island, for we strained our eyes in
vain down the inlet to see the white sails of his schooner making alive the
solitary though lovely stretch of water; but we looked in vain.
And so we grew impatient
exceedingly, and neither the carrying home of drift-wood on our backs, nor
the drawing of water from the well, nor the great feats we performed in the
culinary art in our cookhouse, sufficed to content us and keep the demon of
discontent from our whare-door.
For we were killing the
present, and were awaiting with eager anxiety that future which we hoped
would dawn upon us with such bright prospects, but as yet there was no break
of day, and we were both young, and youth is ever impatient.
And our impatience had been
increased by our having one day seen a small topsail schooner round the
north head of the harbour and steer straight across to Orakei Bay, and lie
there until sunset with unfurled sails; but next morning the strange craft
was not there.
Then, again, we had seen the
same craft pay a second and still shorter visit about ten days later, and on
this occasion she did not even anchor, but only "stood off and on" the bay,
whilst her boat went ashore and returned, when away the vessel sailed again.
Now it was this visitor that
had so roused our curiosity and made us discontented, for we were firmly
convinced this topsail schooner could only have come from Kororareka, where
the Government was then located, and we believed it had something to do with
the future capital, and at this epoch of our Robinson Crusoe life in our
little island we were suffering from a most persistent and continued attack
of "capital on the brain."
We should have taken our
canoe and paddled up to the Oralcei settlement, only every hour we expected
our Pakeha Maori to turn up with his small craft, the Dart, in which I was
about to make my maiden venture in the domain of commerce. In this trip I
should come in contact with the Ngati- whatuas and be able to learn all that
was known about the topsail schooner.
When at last the Dart
arrived, she did not coe careering swiftly o'er the water like a thing of
life, but, belying her name, crawled one morning slowly into sight, and,
though she had been lazy in making her appearance, still the little tub was
We got news from that late
seat of kingly power, Horekino; it had lapsed into its primitive state of
Pakeha-Maoridom, and Waipeha was no longer a king, but only Tunewha's white
man, married to his daughter. Great had been his fall, and ere long the
commerce of Te Hauraki would be transferred from Waiou to Waitemata. his
oracular utterance of "Wait till you see the Waiteinata," which was to make
those who heard him, figuratively speaking, fall down and worship her
shores, had not been spoken in vain, nor without a presentiment that the
harbour he so eulogised might one day be the seat of a great commerce, and
little Waiou fade into insignificance.
The little tub Dart had her
sails loose, all ready, waiting for the supercargo to go on board, and I
(little more than a beardless boy, as ignorant of the ways of commerce as
any green youth who had never seen life beyond the learned walls of his
university from which he took his M.D. degree could be) was going to act an
entirely new role, and transmogrify the "experienced surgeon," late of the
Palmyra, into supercargo of the tub Dart, starting on a trading voyage!
There is but a step from the
sublime to the ridiculous. Supercargo is sometimes a grand title, to be
supercargo of an Indianian 1,000 tons burthen, A 1, with from ten to fifty
thousand pounds' worth of merchandise to barter for gold, ivory, and spices,
is grand; but to be supercargo of the tub Dart—not A 1 by any means, and
only 10 tons burthen, and with some "trade," only worth two or three
ten-pound notes, which we intended to barter for some pigs, possibly a stray
goat. or two, and the wherewithal in shape of potatoes and maize to store
the cookhouse and keep body and soul together—well, it was very small rain
on the tender herb of our budding commerce!
But what would you? Was the A
1 1,000-tonner built in a day? Were the tens of thousands of money made in a
week? Were not grand merchants once—said I in confidence to myself as I
discounted my situation--were they not once small merchants?
And why should not I, then,
the supercargo of small wares, have a grand future?
And so I dreamed my happy
dream of youth, far away into future days, and was comforted.
Ah! in looking back—now so
long, long back—to those days buried in the past, to those days of pioneer
struggles, never to be erased from the tablets of one's memory, with what a
halo of romance, notwithstanding all that was then encountered, is the
remembrance surrounded now that youth's brightest dreams have been far more
'Tis so easy now to set down
sapient reflections— to wit, it is no use for a young man to sit down with
his hands before him, and say, "It is not worth while to do anything in this
small tub Dart way," for if he so says, ten to one he will never do much in
a large way. It is the spirit and the feeling that you must be doing
something that is the true secret of success. Put pride in your pocket and
your shoulder to the wheel and early prejudices under foot, and put that
foot down, fearlessly, even though it be only on the first rung of the
lowliest of ladders; look not back; let your motto be "Onward ever."
Providence helps those who help themselves. Go ahead and win.
These reflections are quite
appropriate to the occasion which they herald—that of my finding myself
floating away in the tub Dart. Here was I, all M.D. Edinensis, with a long
line of highland ancestors, too numerous to mention, and too dangerous to
scrutinise even through their grand baronial walls, turned incipient
Yes, I floated grandly away
up the Tamaki River with the flood-tide, and, stealing up a little creek, we
came to where a portage of about half a mile— owing to the interlacing of
the waters of the eastern and western harbours—enabled us to reach the head
waters of the Manukau.
Walking across the portage we
found a canoe, and having transferred to it my merchandise alias "trade," we
dropped down to the Ngatiwhatuas' kuincra grounds and fishing station of
former acquaintance, at Onehunga, and here we found all the tribe.
"We" consisted of the
supercargo, and the commander of the Dart, who, from his Maori marriage
connection, was perfectly conversant with the language of his better-half,
so I had him to fall back upon if my own limited knowledge should fail me in
the weighty transactions in which I was about to be engaged.
It was immediately given
forth that I had come to "hoko" for pigs, as I wanted to stock the island
with the unclean animal, and that I also wanted a small supply of potatoes
and kumeras for domestic consumption.
So I spread out my small
store of blankets, shirts, printed calico, spades; &c., to tempt the owners
of pigs to drive them to a barter market, and I sat me down and began to
whistle the tune of taihoa, secretly invoking the shade of Job to support
me, for I now had it instilled into my youthful impatience that taihoa was
a. power in the land, not to be combated except to one's own great
detriment, so I whistled away "taihoa" to the English version, "hurry no
man's cattle," preparing to suffer and be strong to an unlimited extent.
I was not a little startled
and surprised, however, that there was not going to be any taihoa whatever
as to the appropriation of my wares; as a most startling rush was made to
tapu everything right and left.
This proceeding was performed
after the following fashion, the chiefs and chieftainesses being allowed
precedence, before the oi polloi took up the balance of tapu-ing.
When any article was fancied,
the intending purchaser took a thumb from the fringe of his or her mat, and
fastened it on to the chosen article. If the selector happened to be wearing
a blanket or shirt or, mat without a fringe, or wearing nothing at all, as
was sometimes the case, from which any tape-ing mark could be detached, then
a neighbouring flax bush, or piece of flax from a potato kit, supplied the
wherewithal to affix the tape.
This once done, no one ever
dreamt of disturbing or disputing the choice so made. I saw all my "trade"
rapidly labelled "sold," by this process, but neither heard nor saw a sign
of a grunter being forthcoming.
At last old Kawaw came to
close quarters, and, squatting himself down beside me, he opened fire by
propounding the question—"Ehiai te tare mo teiiei paraikete?" How many
dollars for this blanket? paraikete being the nearest approximation the
Maori can make to the pronunciation of the word blanket. I repeated the old
chief's question with an inquiring stare, as much as to say, "I don't know
what you mean," and thought to myself; "Why the mischief doesn't the old
fellow bring me a pig he thinks the value of the blanket?"
"Ekiai?"—How many? repeats
the old man.
"Ekiai?" I repeated; "what
have dollars to do with pigs?" I exclaimed aloud in my own vernacular, quite
forgetting he did not understand me.
"Ekiai?" again repeats Kawaw,
drawling out the word while fumbling with the corner of the blanket he wore,
and which at last he succeeded in opening, when out there jerked into his
lap quite a small shower of—gIittering sovereigns!
Again benignly looking me in
the face, and breaking into a smile which caused to curl up still higher the
tattooed wave-line at the corners of his mouth, he repeated in the most
mellifluous tone-"Ekiai to tara?"
Why, the old man means what
he says after all, but where the devil have all the sovereigns come from?
And on my face wonder must have been so plainly written as I stared at the
old man, that he said-"Te utu mo to whenua"—The payment for the land.
"Hallo!" I sang out in the
most excited manner to the commander of the Dart, "come here, look here;
Kawaw has got heaps of sovereigns—payment for land he says."
"What land?" we both asked In
For this land and the
Wraiteinata land," replied Kawaw quietly; "we have been to Kororareka to get
the ulu and sign the puapula, and this is some of the money."
"Hurrah! hurrah! hurrah!"
shouted I, jumping up; "the isthmus is bought—the capital fixed— hurrah I
And I there and then
extemporised a war-dance, poor old Kawaw looking unutterable amazement, and
firmly believing I had gone clean mad.
Here was the explanation of
the little topsail schooner we had seen from the island slipping in to
Orakei Bay. The chiefs had been taken up to sign, seal, and deliver the
deeds, and get part of their money, and here was some of it glittering
before me in veritable proof.
"But Orakei, have you sold
that?" I asked.
"Kahore, kahore!"—No, no! he
said which word was chorussed from a dozen voices all around.
No, indeed! Orakei and its
lovely slopes were not sold. The land was higher up the harbour, and cutting
across the isthmus to Onehunga, a narrow strip only a little to the west,
embracing a large shore frontage to the Waitemata and of very miserable
quality. It was a Maori bargain, and he had been equal to the
occasion—indeed, when was he not? he always kept the cream of the land, and
sold the skimmed milk to the Pakeha. In after years it became proverbial
that if in travelling through the country and crossing poor tracts of
stunted fern you asked, "Whose land is this?" the reply would be "The
Queen's land." "And these beautiful fertile spots?" "The land of the Maori,
of course; you did not need to ask."
But enough land, and good
land too, had been bought to give a shore on both east and west harbours and
transit across the isthmus.
"Ehiai te tara?" quoth the
old man. He was quite shrewd enough to know that, pretty as his gold looked,
after all glittering, sovereigns were a very useless commodity to him.
Waipeha's trading Pakeha had departed; there was not any whare hoko from
which blankets and tobacco could now be drawn; the gold might remain long
enough tied up in the corner of his blanket, and here was a rare chance to
get rid of it.
This fact had become patent
to the old chief, and he kept constantly repeating his question. But it had
also dawned upon me that if I took gold it would be just as useless to me on
the island as it was to the old man here, for gold would no more bring forth
and multiply in my purse than in the corner of his blanket. But good
breeding sows might, if left to themselves, roam over and fatten upon the
rich fern-root of Motu Korea.
"Ekiai te tara?" persisted
"I want pigs," I rejoined.
"Healia te pai te moni?"—What
is the good of money? I can't put it on my back and wear it, or in my pipe
and smoke it. Very good is gold for the Pakeha."
"And what is the use of gold
to me? Sovereigns put on Motu Korea won't eat up fern-root and multiply—pigs
"Ehoa ma"—Friend of mine—"
that is what I want my pigs to do for me. I have plenty of fern-root too."
"But you have lots of pigs,
and I have not any at all."
I thought I had played a good
card by that remark.
Silence for some time on part
"hanui pai te gora mo te
Pakeha"—Exceedingly good is the gold for the white man.
Not being able to contradict
that assertion, I shelved it and played the waiting game. Long silence, the
old man deeming he had shut me up. At last I ventured upon saying,
"Exceedingly good is the Pakeha's trade at Motu Korea—better than gold in
the corner of a blanket!"
I thought this remark might
serve as a draw.
"Ae pea"—Yes perhaps—at last
came from him, his voice assuming a tone of superior wisdom. "Ae pea two
blankets may become three at Motu Korea if the rats don't eat them. Rats
don't eat gold."
Well delivered that thrust—a
veritable trump card which made me feel the crisis was at hand, and if I
could not play a better it looked as if the game was to be the old chief's,
and he was going to take the trick.
But a happy idea came to my
rescue. "There is no tribe in the land, then, but the Ngatiwhatuas, and no
pigs in the land but your pigs."
And I rose and began
deliberately to unfasten his tapu mark from the articles he had chosen. This
was the ace of trumps.
"Haeremai nei, Iiaeremai nei"—Come
here, come here, and sit down—said the old man quickly, "and
let us korero."
He could not stand seeing his
tapu marks removed, which meant that I was going away with all my small
And so we sat down, and it
thus came about that I had to bring my shrewdest wits to bear upon this my
maiden transaction in the commercial world, and I only just managed to prove
equal to the great small occasion.
After much korero-ing and
long battling we arranged a compromise over the glittering gold's much
But I only made it a drawn
game—half in gold, half in produce—half gold old Kawaw's winning card and
half produce mine.
And so I departed in
peace—thirty gold sovereigns in hand, sixty pigs driven on foot.
Ho for Motu Korea!