Poenamo Book the Fourth - Chapter VII.
The Capital is Born to Us.—The Flagstaff that never was Erected
The solitude of the little
island of Motu Korea hath departed—yes, for evermore departed. No longer
solitary are the waters of the Waitemata, stretching away from our primitive
whore on the beach to the foot of the western ranges—never to be solitary
again in our day nor for many generations yet to follow. How many who shall
There lies at anchor, a
little way above Orakei Bay, a three-masted vessel.
Boats are plying to and from
the ship and shore. White tents are seen dotting the fern-slopes, reclaiming
them from the wilderness, and making the hitherto solitary place glad.
Only a single ship, a few
tents, and a handful of the Saxon race.
They have planted their feet
on a far-distant land, and in a little time to what a great end this small
beginning shall grow!
The pilgrim fathers have
pitched their tents on that shore, a spot in the unreclaimed wilderness has
been named a name, an embryo capital has been born, the flag of England
floats over it, and under its protecting folds a new people will arise and a
future nation create a history.
And as we looked away along
the waters from our place of Mota Korea we saw our long-hoped-for infant
born to us, and solitude fled, for evermore.
Our little island is no
longer a place unknown and unseen of men, for daily, unnumbered generations
of the dwellers on the heights of the Remuera slopes, when they look to the
east as they rise to their day of toil, shall see lying between them and the
rising sun the crater summit of Motu Korea illumined by the morning rays.
How quickly it had come upon
us, and yet how long a few weeks of our solitary sojourn had appeared on the
Day after day we never saw a
sign of life as we gazed all around, looking into every distant bay,
watching the headlands, and wearying to see a sail round some promontory and
gladden the eye, but in vain. Beautiful Nature enchanted the sight, but gave
that feeling of utter solitude that creates unrest. What though it might be
said that "All save the face of man was divine" in the landscape? The want
of that undivine thing was just what we had felt so severe!, and when that
missing feature arrived we felt once again that we belonged to the outer
world, and that the time was at last at hand when we must take our place in
it and form a part of it.
We were not doomed to wait
long before we came in contact with our fellow-men, but the occasion was not
of that happy and agreeable kind which our rising hopes had pictured. In
fact, our first experience was of anything but a satisfactory nature. The
first wave of civilisation which reached our hitherto benighted shore was of
a decidedly cooling character, being none other than an attempt to
dispossess us of our little island home.
I had just returned from
Waiomu. I had been there to ask Kanini to come to the island to receive the
payment for it—he had as yet only got the earnestmoney—and he had brought me
back in his largest war-canoe, and it thus happened he was on the island
when what I am about to narrate occurred.
It was only a day or two
after the pitching of the Government officials' tents which now marked the
spot of the future capital that we saw a canoe making for the island, and
steering directly for our whare. It seemed to make but very little way
considering the very vigorous manner in which the paddlers worked. As the
canoe neared the shore we soon discovered the reason—a large spar was being
towed astern. We also saw that two Pakehas were in the canoe, and that my
old friend Kawaw—old "Ehiai te tara"—was in the place of dignity and was
When the canoe reached the
beach the two Pakehas landed, not only themselves, but also some picks and
shovels. To our inquiry for what purpose they had come, and for what
possible purpose the picks and shovels could be, we were informed that the
Deputy-Governor - here indeed we were at once face to face with
civilisation-yes, the Deputy- Governor was following in their wake;
meanwhile they were to go to the top of the hill, and there dig a deep hole,
into which the spar they had brought, and which the natives were going to
drag up, was to be put; from it was then to float the British ensign, as the
Deputy-Governor was going to take possession of the island in the name of
Her Majesty the Queen!
Such was the interesting
ceremony about to be performed to inaugurate our first contact with the
"civilised faculty" which had arrived to replace the savage one, leading us
to believe that we had better have remained under the latter.
Whilst we were extracting
this highly-interesting information, Kawaw, on landing and seeing Kanini
squatting on the shore, of course made a bee-line with his nose, for that of
Kanini, and they were duly rubbed in the lugubrious tangi of welcome after
which the korero began. Of course it was pipes and tobacco first, and of
course taihoa the dragging up the spar.
And taihoa the dragging the
spar remained. Even after the Deputy-Governor's boat came in not a move was
made--the spar lay where the ebbing tide had left it on the beach.
The state of the case was
this:—Kanini had told Kawaw how he had sold the island to his two Rangatera
Pakehas, and he would like to see the Governor that would take it away from
them—put up a flag- staff indeed!—would they?—where would he be, and his
Kawaw drew the required
inference, and said the spar might lie on the beach to the crack of doom—of
course Maori intellect had invented equally expressive words, and had them
ill phraseology—yes, might be there for ever as far as his dragging it up
the hill was concerned.
So when the Deputy-Governor
arrived he found his emissary hawaw squatted, pipe in mouth, alongside of
Kanini, and he was at once greeted with "Taihoa te rakon" by-and-by the
I was now more convinced than
ever that "taihoa" was the most wonderful and powerful word that had ever
been invented—an unequalled talisman.
"Taihoa te rakou!" sang out
Kawaw before even the boat could touch the beach, for he knew that the
moment the Deputy-Governor put foot on shore the question would be asked,
"Why have you not dragged up the spar?" But "taihoa le rakou" was sufficient
warning that something was up, and that, taihoa, the explanation would be
We welcomed the
Deputy-Governor as he stepped on shore, his mission notwithstanding, and at
a glance we saw he was every inch a gentleman, and we flattered ourselves we
were not even the sixteenth part of an inch short of being the same
We soon fraternised. He told
us "he had a disagreeable duty to perform—in fact, he really felt very much
embarrassed—had not the slightest idea of the pleasure which awaited him in
coming here. His Excellency the Governor must have been quite misinformed.
It was said a pair of Pakeha-Maori sawyers had taken possession of the
island, and, in fact, he had been instructed to summarily bundle them off
neck and crop, and to take possession of the island, as it was required for
Of course we had our little
story to tell, that there sat Kanini, chief of the Ngatitaniateras, and we
were under his protecting wing, Her Majesty the Queen notwithstanding, and
that we had not the slightest intention of foregoing our title to our little
The Deputy accepted the
situation, and said he must so far obey his instructions as to take nominal
possession, meanwhile would we join him in having some luncheon?
We heartily thanked him,
accepting his invitation, and candidly telling him that had he not brought
his own it could only have been the hospitality of pork and potatoes that we
could have offered, for as yet we were destitute of any more civilised
The fact was, the "taking
possession" had been converted into a nice little picnic excursion, the
captain of the vessel in which the staff of officials had come having
brought the Deputy in his boat along with a brace of officials, so we reaped
the benefit in partaking of such a repast as we had not revelled in since
the long-past time of the Herekino table d'hóte days.
Whilst we were busy chatting
over and eating our luncheon one of the boat's crew had been told to quietly
splice the ensign to the end of all and stick it into the soft sand on the
beach. The ceremony was thus unceremoniously performed, hardly any one
noticing it, and the Deputy obeyed the red- tape instructions about taking
It was well that the old
Kanini did not understand or notice this ceremony, or most assuredly Her
Majesty's ensign, instead of floating thus modestly at the end of an oar,
would have ignominiously "bit the dust," only on this occasion it would have
been a clean gravelly beach!
The visit had its pleasant
side too, for we learned with extreme satisfaction that the site of the
future capital had really been fixed upon, three bays higher up the harbour
than Orakei, that the surveyors would soon be at work laying off the town
lots for the first sale, which was expected to come off in about three
months, that the Government had brought down a gang of workmen—sawyers,
carpenters, blacksmiths, &c.—to proceed with the erection of the required
Government buildings, and that Kawaw and his tribe had been pressed into
service— nothing loath—to erect meanwhile whares for the head officials.
And the Deputy-Governor took
his departure, proffering to us his best services when we "removed to town."
How civilised it sounded, to be sure! and when we saw him pull away, the
principal impression left upon us was, that we had spent an uncommonly
pheasant afternoon, accompanied with an all-overish feeling of having
partaken of an uncommonly good luncheon.
But there remained relics of
that visit of the Deputy- Governor's which it took many years to efface.
The hole was dug more than
six feet in the very highest point of the crater summit, into which the spar
was there put, and long it took before the sides crumbled in and filled it
And the spar lay washed up at
high-water mark, now and again at spring tides shifting a little its
position along the beach; but there it lay until its sap rotted away, and
then it yielded snatches of firewood to encamping Maories in long-after days
when they touched at the island when bringing provisions to the capital's
early settlers and first citizens.
Never more was the little
island a place lying in the mid-channel of waters which showed no signs of
life, for now the raupo sail of the Maori canoe was rarely wanting, soon to
be replaced by the calico sail, which, with white wings, dotted the
surrounding waters and marked still more brightly that the expanse of the
inlet leading from Te Hauraki to Waitemata had now become a great
thoroughfare to the new home of the Pakeha.
And when the sun rose it
lighted up with its morning rays not only the crater summit of Motu Korea,
but the white tents of the embryo capital on Waitematas sloping shores.
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