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Poenamo
Book the Fourth - Chapter VIII.
We Change the Current of our Lives.—We Visit our Newly-born Child


The Deputy-Governor's visit had, no doubt, left us with a small skeleton in the corner of our raupo whare, but we stowed it away out of sight, and it got lost for the time being, though afterwards it was brought to light and aired again, and by no less a person than His Excellency the Governor in propria persona; but his visit to the island I shall hereafter chronicle.

The Deputy's visit had meanwhile left a most pleasing impression behind, for we not only felt we were once again within the pale of civilisation, such as it was, but the prospect which had led us to come to live on the island was an accomplished fact.

Our anticipations, when standing on the crater summit of Remuera, that on the shore of the isthmus somewhere or other the future capital would arise, were now fulfilled, and the object for which we had purchased the island—a resting-place until we could settle at the new-born capital itself—was gained.

The first chapter of our new life was, we felt, now nearIy closed. The island as a pig-station was all very well when we were compelled to consider ourselves the solitary Pakeha guardians of the whole broad waters of the Waitemata, but now that the infant capital was born to us we were anxious to adopt our child at once and go and live with it.

So we were now about to enter on the second chapter of our lives in Maoridom—one which would have but small connection with the past. The past was a past associated with Maories and Pakeha Maories, with Paipehas, Pamas, the good old Kanini, and with Kawaw, native scenes, customs, and Maori life; but now we felt we were entering on the first steps of civilisation. True, we saw, and could well foreshadow, that the path would be a wearily rough one for many a long (lay to come. But we had arrived at the new starting-point of our lives, so we now took counsel together what course we ought to pursue.

Until now we had only had one fixed determination, and that was to become purchasers of town lots in the new capital and settle down there, acting as very small landsharks with the very small capital we had to invest, and with some rather hazy sort of idea that we would practise our respective professions.
But when we came to analyse this crude idea, and reduce it to its component prospects, so to speak, we could not flatter ourselves that there would be a very wide field in which to exercise the undoubted talents we both believed we respectively possessed! We quite came to the conclusion that we should be wasting the fragrance of sound law and good physic oindesert air of a yet-to-be populated capital, and that there would not be a legitimate field for our great, though still very youthful, energies, mentally and bodily, in more quill-driving and pill-making.

On being mooted whether we should turn merchants, I had no hesitation in declaring, with that fine self-assumption which pertains to very young manhood's years, that, as far as I was concerned, I would "throw physic to the dogs" if he would "cut the law," and we would start as merchants, commission-agents, pig and potato brokers; anything and everything, in both a large and a small way!

What though my experience was nil, or, say, confined to and summed up in that great "Eliai te tara" transaction on the shore of Onehiunga, what though I was only green from my university and taking my medical degrees, and did not even know what a promissory note was, far less had discounted one, and as for the term "del credere," it might as well have been Hebrew on any other to me unknown language; what though, in a general way, I was all round just as ignorant of commerce as any village school-boy?
After all, the field of commerce in the young capital must be of a very restricted kind for some years to come; we could surely, in learning our lessons, keep pace with its growth, and get on nicely. And what all idea it was that we should be instrumental in  developing the resources of our adopted country," and be the fathers of the commerce of a future nation! Was that to count for nothing? Most assuredly not, and we worked up that idea until it stood foremost as the grand beacon-light by which we were to steer.

Yes, quite unknown to ourselves we kept jingling up this fine patriotic idea with the two or three sixpences in our pockets until we quite believed it constituted a prominent element in the decision we had come to as to the new path in life, which we expected to convert all our sixpences into bright gold pieces!

At the same time, of course, we should be doing wonders in developing the resources of our adopted country!

The future course of our lives was all fixed and determined upon, with the happy self-conceit of youth, one forenoon as we jauntily paced up and down the shingly beach, looking now and again away towards the white tents of the infant capital, and looking away into the future, conjuring up a mighty city,. and ourselves very big men indeed in it.

Meanwhile our existence was not altogether of a character to prepare us for this great future— potato and pumpkin growing, and having a turn through the fern to see how pigs improved the occasion, were not employments to sharpen the intellectual faculties. The dire necessity of getting through certain given daily domestic avocations pretty well consumed the day. These had to be done, however disagreeable the doing them; we were our own cooks, our own maids-of-all-work, our own laundresses. I much fear the proximity of a native village might have made one or other of us succumb to the temptation to marry a chieftainess to escape from these domestic drudgeries—in fact, one night, just to see which way the wind blew, I propounded the question, and proposed drawing lots to see which was to be the victim, but the thing was not recognised even as a joke! We did make the best attempt we could to prevent our brains from getting cobwebbed over and mouldy by devoting our evenings to such literary pursuits as half-a-dozen books afforded. The pages of our Shakspeare were illumined dimly enough certainly, and by nothing half so civilised as even a farthing rushligat. A piece of rag on a stick planted into a paninkin of fat was anything but sightly to look upon, and not a little disagreeable to the olfactories, but it did brighten up the darkness of our evenings when combined with the light of the great poet ; better this than go to bed at sunset, which would have been the only alternative.

After the passing away of three weeks since the Deputy-Governor's visit we could no longer refrain from "paving the town a visit." We had noticed the white tents and raupo houses becoming more freely dotted over the slopes of the bay which looked towards our island, so we thought we would go to have a look at our adopted child, and see how it was getting on in the swaddling-clothes in which we saw it becoming clothed.

So one fine calm morning, locking up our whare door by tying it with a piece of flax, and leaving Tartar in charge we got into our canoe and paddled "to town."

As we skirted Orakei Bay we saw no change there save an extra number of canoes on the beach; it was now even as we had first seen it half a year ago, when on its shore we had eaten our famous pigeon soup, and did not succeed in purchasing the Reinuera slopes.

The next two little bays lay sleeping as of old in Nature's primitive state, but in the bays higher up the harbour primitive Nature reigned no longer; she had been put to flight for long generations in the future, if not for evermore.

The last time we had pulled past that shore the wild curlew stalked the beach and took to wing—it stalked the beach no longer, and had been for ever, put to flight.

Sawyers' huts were on the shore; logs of timber strewed the beach.

It was the wilderness no longer; civilised man now planted his foot upon the strand and set his mark upon the shore, and was now wresting the wilderness from Nature's unreclaimed dominion, and that spot had now a name, and was known by the unromantic but practical one of Mechanics' Bay. And then we came to the pretty slopes of the little bay, where the white tents, which we could see so plainly from the island, nestled amongst the brushwood, and this spot had a name also equally unromantic, but appropriate—Official Bay, for here the first magnates of the land had squatted themselves down; and then we rounded a point and glided into the Commerial Bay of the capital.

The capital!—a few boats and canoes on the beach, a few tents and break-wind huts along the margin of the bay, and then—a sea of fern stretching away as far as the eye could reach.

Small indeed was the change, still did it not tell us that here our infant capital was now born to us— was struggling into existence in the first swaddling- clothes of its first month's infancy?

Had we not waited in our solitary borne on our little island with an abiding faith that this very infant capital would be born to us on these very shores? And we now saw it an existent fact, and we were greatly content and accepted the parentage, and there and then consecrated our coming years to fostering it with care.

Ah! beautiful then, my dear children, was the wild spot in its still unrechuimed native beauty which had just been christened the capital of Poenamo; ever beautiful whether as then unadorned save by Nature's hand, or as now, adorned in the vestments in which she is now robed and which become her so well, as upon her lovely shores she sits the Queen of Beauty, unrivalled in the Great South Land.

We appropriately made our advent to the now stirring quay of the capital in our rnodest canoe, dug at the forest of Waiomu. What a sensation we should excite now could we only arrive as we then arrived, with blue flannel shirts serving as overcoats, paddle in hand, and the kouri log fashioned as a little boat, and many flax leaves knotted together our only painter?*

But we created no surprise then; no group of curious idlers collected to see us step out of our little canoe; no one saw us but ourselves, and we hauled it up on the beach high and dry, and betook ourselves straight away through a fern footpath to the whare of the Deputy-Governor, who had perched himself on cliff point which commanded a view of the whole harbour.

And kindly he greeted us; and we asked him how the young capital prospered and how its survey proceeded, and what prospect there was of a first sale of town lots taking place.

And the Deputy-Governor, waving his hand from his cliff point of view, and stretching it towards Official Bay, said—'You see what is going on there; our Maori neighbours have come to the rescue, and are busily at work building whares for us." And then turning round he again waved his hand away towards Mechanics' Bay, and said—"And there you can see the Government sawyers hard at work, and in due course of time we shall have some offices erected, and a roof over our heads, under which the surveyors will be able to map out their work; but, to tell you the truth, we have been more busy housing ourselves than doing anything else, and I am afraid I cannot say that the survey has even yet been begun, and the summer will certainly be well over before it can be finished, and there is no possibility of there being any sale of town land for some months to come.

"And as to that little affair of my instructions to bundle a certain pair of supposed Pakeha.-Maori sawyers off Motu Korea, his excellency has not vouchsafed to take any notice of the report I sent him on the subject, or transmit any further turning off instructions—not likely he would after what I wrote him."

And so we betook ourselves back to our canoe, and we saw the little tents and whares basking calmly and peacefully in the warm sun, and we got a glimpse of a stray figure flitting through high fern; but the only noise in this embryo capital that fell upon the ear was the low chant of the Maori worker, as he leisurely, on purest taihoa principles, tied the raupo on to the walls of a whare he was building for the Pakeha—the Pakeha who would overrun the far land on which he had now first set his foot.

The infant capital was still asleep in its first nursery cradle, and it was evident that we might safely leave it to slumber yet awhile before we took it by the hand.

And so we two pioneer fathers who had sojourned at Motu Korea in anticipation of the great event which we had now seen realised did not "shake the dust off our feet as we departed that city," because it was of our adoption, and already our hearts warmed towards it, and as we took our seats in our little canoe we raised our paddles high in the air, and plunging them into the waters of the Waitemata we sent a shower of spray as a christening blessing on that shore to which we hoped, ere long, to return and. claim as our future home.


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