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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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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