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Frank Leward: Memorials

Same to the same

page 77

Same to the same.

Auckland, New Zealand, June 1841.

My dear Mother We managed to get here but it was all we could do its a very old ship and wasnt properly refitted at Launceston. I have left her here and I expect she will be turned into a whaler. This is a splendid country and I have been going about all over this part of it. It has been awfully mismanaged by the stupid missionaries they have done their best both to spoil the country and the natives. Their great object seems to have been to enrich themselves. The New Zealand Company might do a good deal if it wasnt for the missionaries who do all they can to ruin the company to stop them from disputing the right to the land the missionaries have secretly taken from the natives for themselves.

The Maoris are a curious lot awfully fine looking fellows and some of them not at all bad looking especially the young ones. I went with a man I met here right into the middle of the Island. He knew their language and we got on very well with them. If you are civil to them and treat the chiefs like you would treat any other gentlemen you were staying with they behave beautifully to you, it all depends on how you treat them. One place we got to called Ohinimuto on lake Rotoroa, that means the big lake, was the most curious place you ever saw. Steam all over the place that comes from a lot of boiling springs some just bubbling up out of the ground and some going right up a long way in the air. The page 78Maoris come there from all over the Island to get cured of rheumatism or anything like that. Its the jolliest thing in the world to bathe in the hot springs. The water is so hot they do all their cooking in it without having any fires. Then we went on horseback through some pretty country to another lake called Tararoa and the Maoris took us in a big canoe over it. Its a long rough sort of lake with mountains all along and we put up a sail. They are tremendous duffers at sailing and a squall came along I saw it coming and just got the sail down in time or we should have capsized and all gone to glory. We landed at the mouth of a jolly little river and got into a smaller canoe and they paddled us up to another lake called Rotomahana, that means hot lake. At the end we came to there is the most curious sight I ever saw beautiful white marble terraces one above the other reach from the water of the lake a long way up and over the terraces comes boiling or at least very hot water, the terraces are really basins full of this hot water and you can walk over the edges of the basins from the lake right up to the top and the hot water comes over your feet. I cant discribe things I wish I could Im a dreadful duffer at that sort of thing you cant imagine how beautiful it looked. Then when we had seen a lot of other boiling springs and looked down a beastly hole the Maoris call the Devil's Blow hole where there is the most frightful row going on we got into one of the canoes again and crossed the lake to the other side higher up it did seem funny if you put your hand into the water it was quite warm. As we were going page 79across we came in sight of more terraces more beautiful if possible than the ones we had left perfectly pink terraces and quite smooth not rough like the others we walked up them with bare feet. When we got near the top we undressed and went into one of the basins Maoris and all it did seem curious to see the dark Maori girls swimming about among the men. They are so innocent they dont see any harm in it. They seemed to enjoy it as much as we did. It was jolly the water as blue as anything and perfectly blue sky over head and the jolly mountains all round. If it wasnt warm enough in the big basin you were in you could go up to the next one higher up and then we went into the one above that. That was fearfully hot. We stayed in altogether nearly an hour. The top ledge where the water flows from is boiling hot. You have the most delightful feeling all over when you come out a sort of splendid glow quite different to the feeling of coming out of a common hot bath.

The Maoris were very civil to us and said we were nearly the first pakehas that is white people who had seen these things. They wont let pakehas go there generally because they have been treated so badly by them and been so robbed. They catch jolly little sort of cray fish in one of the rivers near and cook them in the hot springs we eat a lot of them bathing makes you so hungry and you feel so well and good-natured. Then we paddled back over Rotomahana to the river we had come up. This river runs with so strong a current from Rotomahana to Tararoa there was no need to paddle. page 80A splendidly made Maori boy quite naked stood at the bows of the canoe and steered it round the corners, and there was a girl his sister in the other canoe steering that one in the same way. It looks almost impossible to prevent the canoe being carried into the bank as you go round the corners but they keep it off by a single turn of the paddle in a very clever way. You sit at the bottom of the canoe not on seats but on dry fern leaves and so your head is almost on a level with the water and it feels awfully jolly as the water rushes by. I was sorry when we got to Lake Tararoa. We went back to sleep at a place called Wairoa, that means big river, and we slept in a whare with a Maori family. They were very glad to have us and I shall never forget my visit to the terraces as long as I live. The whares are not half bad places to sleep in. They are long sort of sheds with two long wooden walls at the side and one at the back and a slanting roof supported by poles in the middle. The roof and the side walls stick out in front some way past the enterance part where there is a door and one small window, and the roof and side walls in front of the enterance door make a sort of porch in which the men lie about smoking or sleeping all day and the women cook in front of that in the open air or sit squatting on the ground talking and laughing like anything. I send you a picture I drew of the one we slept in it was the biggest in the pan and the picture of a Maori man and woman who own it. They sleep altogether grandfather and grandmother uncles and aunts and heeps of children. They lie on fern leaves and cover page 81themselves over with large blankets. They are just like grown up children and awfully merry. It was rather late when we got there. The chief who owned the canoe that took us hes not a big chief but a little one they have lots of chiefs owned the hut and led us in. It was quite dark only a small sort of charcoal fire in the middle of the whare and when we went in all the people sat up and asked what was the matter the man said Pakeha and they were astonished. The women got out their pipes directly, they smoke more than the men, and asked us for some baccy which we gave them and then they sat up talking and laughing and smoking till I dont know what o'clock. I was rather tired and was glad to lie down on my fern leaves. The chief was awfully hospitable and gave me and my friend the best place to sleep in and turned two of his wives out to make way for us. I didnt like to see them turned out but they didnt seem to mind much and my friend said the chief would be awfully offended if we didnt accept the bed he offered us. It was very warm and I was soon asleep. They dont get up very early. I could hear the children playing about soon after it was light and one or two of the women were talking and cooking outside but it must have been ten or eleven before the men were up. Then we all sat round a big fire outside and eat some fish they had caught in the river out of a big dish, you should have seen us all helping ourselves out of it with our hands. If the chief saw a particularly nice piece he would make us take it. Then we had some stuff they are awfully fond of and live on when they cant get any-page 82thing else. It is made out of the root of the ferns. They roast the root and then grate it into powder with stones and then cook it and its not at all bad.

We stayed about there some time and got to know them quite well they seemed awfully sorry when we went away. I got to be able to speak a little of the language which is very pretty and easy to learn and I got to like the poor people tremendously. One girl the daughter of the big chief about there an awfully pretty girl and not half so dark as some of them got fond of me and asked me to stay and marry her but I told her I had some one a beautiful white lady a long way off in England I was fond of and hoped to marry some day she came and waved her arms about in the air as we went away I could see her a long way off I was awfully sorry to go I suppose I shall never see them again. They are a splendid race quite different to the stupid natives in Van Diemens Land if the missionaries would only let them alone and white people wouldnt teach them to get drunk they would be all right. They are a quarrelsome lot amongst themselves. Though they dont exactly understand what we mean by owning land each tribe has a certain district they have a right to live in and if any other tribe comes on that land by Jove theres a row. Only the chiefs fight that is the free people slaves arnt allowed to. If a chief is once taken prisoner he cant be a chief any longer he becomes a slave to the man who has taken him, if at all a big chief is taken in battle it is a matter of honour to kill him so that he may not be a slave. They would rather die than become page 83slaves. When there is a tremendous row between two tribes one will sometimes get the English to come in to help them exterminate their enemies.

Thursday. Weve only just got back to Auckland its been beastly rough travelling the rain has begun. I havnt settled yet what I am going to do. I have spent nearly all the money I brought. I think I shall go round to Wellington to try to get some land from the New Zealand Company and see what I can do with it. I had a letter from Lady Franklin just before we left Launceston asking me to go to see them but of course I couldnt. I saw Edwards Baccy Edwards in Launceston he is getting on very well and awfully rich. I hope I shall find a letter from you at Wellington with good accounts of you and Granny and all.

Your affectionate son