The Long White Cloud
Chapter VII — The Muskets of Hongi
The Muskets of Hongi
He sang of battles, and the breath
Of stormy war and violent death.
Marsden's notes help us to picture his first night in New Zealand. The son of the Yorkshire black-smith, the voyager in convict-ships, the chaplain of New South Wales in the days of rum and chain-gangs, was not the man to be troubled by nerves. But even Marsden was wakeful on that night. Thinking of many things—thoughts not to be expressed—the missionary paced up and down on the sea beach by which a tribe was encamped The air was pleasant, the stars shone brightly, in front of him the sea spread smoothly, peacefully folded among the wooded hills. At the head of the harbour the ripple tapped lightly upon the charred timbers of the Boyd. Around lay the Maori warriors sleeping, wrapped in their dyed mantles and with their spears stuck upright in the ground. It was a quiet scene. Most of the scenes of that time which have come down to us were not of quietness. Some of them have been sketched in the last two chapters, and are examples of the condition of things which the missionaries landed to confront, and amidst which they worked. More have now to be described, if only to show things as they were before annexation, and the miseries which the country, and the Maori along with it, suffered before the influences of White adventurers and their fatal gifts were tempered by a civilized Government.
From 1818 to 1838 was a time of war far surpassing in bloodshed and ruin anything witnessed in the Islands before or since. For the first time the Maori used firearms. Probably a fourth of their race perished in this ill-starred epoch. Hongi, page 111 the chief of the Ngapuhi tribe, before referred to, is usually spoken of as the first to introduce the musket into the tribal wars. This was not so. His tribe, as the owners of the Bay of Islands and other ports frequented by traders, were able to forestall their fellow-Maori in getting firearms. A war-party of the Ngapuhi, only one hundred and forty strong, is said to have gone through the length and breadth of the North Island putting all they met to flight with the discharge of two old flint-lock guns. The cunning warriors always followed up the awe-inspiring fire with a prompt charge, in which spear and tomahawk did the work for which panic had prepared the way. Another Ngapuhi chief, the leader of an attack on the men of Tauranga, managed to arm his men with thirty-five muskets, which they used with crushing effect. This was in 1818. Hongi saw the bravest warriors run before the new and terrible weapon. He never forgot the sight. To go to England and get guns became the dream of his life. A hopeful pupil of Marsden, in Sydney, he knew the ways of the White men. In 1820 he and a brother chief were taken to England by Kendall to help Professor Lee with his grammar and dictionary. The pair were lionized, and on all sides presents were made to them. They were presented to King George IV, who gave Hongi a suit of armour. On his return this grammarian's assistant heard at Sydney that his tribe was at war with the natives of the Hauraki or Thames district, and that one of his relatives had been killed. Now was his time. He at once sold all his presents, except the suit of armour, and bought three hundred muskets and a supply of powder and bullets. The Sydney Government did not prevent him. At Marsden's table, at Parramatta, Hongi met a chief of the offending tribe. Grimly he warned his fellow-guest to take himself home, make ready for war, and prepare to be killed—and eaten. Landing in New Zealand, he determined to imitate Napoleon. Allowing for the enormous difference in his arena, he managed to be nearly as mischievous.
His luckless enemies, armed only with spears, tomahawks, stones, and clubs, were shot and enslaved by thousands and eaten by hundreds. Wide districts were swept bare of people. No man cared for anything except to procure a gun and page 112 thereby have a chance to save his life. A musket was, indeed, a pearl of great price. It has been pleaded for Hongi that he protected the missionaries, and that by forcing his race to get guns at any price he unwittingly developed trade. It is indeed true that in their desperate straits the tribes sold flax, timber, potatoes, mats, tatooed heads, pigs—even their precious land—for firearms. Without guns their lives were not worth a month's purchase. Men and women toiled almost frantically at growing and preparing flax or providing anything exchangeable for muskets, powder, and lead. An old Brown Bess was worth three tons of scraped flax. Undoubtedly Whites were welcomed, both as traders and fighters, with a readiness unknown before. In 1835 New Zealand exports to Sydney alone were valued at £113,000, her imports at £31,000. It was a poor set-off against an era of butchery.
Between 1821 and 1827 Hongi carried fire and sword into almost every corner of what is now the Province of Auckland. At first none could stand before him. He assailed in 1822 two large pa near where the suburbs of Auckland city now spread. In vain the terrified inmates tried to buy off the savage with presents. Nearly all were slaughtered or taken, and Hongi left naught in their villages but bones, with such flesh on them “as even his dogs had not required.” He invaded the Waikato and penetrated to a famous pa—a triple stockade at Mataki-taki (Look-out). To get there he dragged his war-canoes overland across the Auckland isthmus, straightened winding creeks for their passage, and, when the Waikatos felled large trees across one channel, patiently spent two months in cutting through the trunks. At length the Look-out fortress was stormed with horrible slaughter. Defended on one side by a creek, on another by the Waipa river, elsewhere by deep ditches and banks that were almost cliffs, the lofty stronghold was as difficult to escape from as to enter. It was crowded with women and children: ten thousand people were in it, says one account. When the spear-men broke before the terrible musket-fire, the mass of the despairing onlookers choked the ways of escape. In their mad panic hundreds of the flying Waikato were forced headlong over a cliff by the rush of their fellow-fugitives. Hundreds more were smothered in one of the deep ditches of the defences or were shot by the merciless Ngapuhi, who fired down upon the writhing mass till tired of reloading. It was the greatest of Hongi's victories, though not bloodless for the conquerors, like that of Totara, where only one Ngapuhi had been killed. Famous fighting men, the Waikato chiefs had died bravely, despite the amazement caused by the mystery of firearms. One had killed four Ngapuhi before he was shot.
Another of Hongi's triumphs was at Rotorua in the Hot Lakes district—the land of the Arawa tribe. He began by defeating them on the Bay of Plenty, and thence turning inland found the tribe gathered in strength on the green page 114 island-hill of Mokoia, encircled by the Rotorua lake. Hongi's war-canoes were twenty-five miles away on the sea-beach, and the Mokoians ridiculed him as he lay encamped by the edge of their lake, unable to get at them. Day after day they paddled to within hailing distance and insulted him with yells and gestures. But the Ngapuhi general was not to be stopped. Like Mahomet the second, he made his slaves drag their craft overland, and the astonished islanders saw his flotilla sweep across Rotorua bearing the irresistible musketeers. On their exposed strand they were easily mown down. Flying they were followed by the Ngapuhi, and few indeed were the survivors of the day. Hongi's ravages reached far to the south and east. Even the Ngatiporou, who dwelt between Cape Runaway and Poverty Bay, felt his hand. Their pa fell one after the other, and only those were not slaughtered who fled to the mountains.
For a while it seemed as though Hongi's dream might come true, and all New Zealand hail him as sole king. His race trembled at his name. But his cruelty deprived him of allies, and the scanty numbers of his army gave breathing time to his foes. He wisely made peace with the Waikato, who, under Te Whero Whero, had rallied and cut off more than one Ngapuhi war-party. In the Hauraki country he could neither crush nor entrap the chief Te Waharoa, as cunning a captain and as bloodthirsty a savage as himself. Other enemies, the Ngati-Whatua, getting muskets and gaining courage, met him north of the Auckland isthmus; and though he beat them there in a pitched battle, it cost him the life of his eldest son. He became involved in feuds with his northern neighbours, and finally marched to attack our old acquaintances the Whangaroans of Boyd notoriety. In a bush-fight with them he neglected to wear the suit of chain armour, the gift of George IV, which had saved his life more than once. A shot fired by one of his own men struck him in the back and passed through a lung. He did not die of the wound for fifteen months. It is said that he used to entertain select friends by letting the wind whistle through the bullet-hole in his body. Mr. Polack, who was the author of the tale, was not always implicitly believed by those who knew him; but as Surgeon-Major Thomson page 115 embodies the story in his book, perhaps a writer who is not a surgeon ought not to doubt it.
Of Hongi's antagonists none were more stubborn or successful than Te Waharoa, a fighting chief whose long life of warfare contains in it many stirring episodes of his times. Born in 1773 in a village near the upper Thames, he owed his life, when two years old, to a spasm of pity in the heart of a victorious chief from the Hot Lakes. This warrior and his tribe sacked the pa of Te Waharoa's father, and killed nearly all therein. The conqueror saw a pretty boy crying among the ashes of his mother's hut, and struck with the child's face, took him up and carried him on his back home to Lake Rotorua. “Oh! that I had not saved him!” groaned the old chief, when, nearly two generations later, Te Waharoa exacted ample vengeance from the Rotorua people. After twenty years of a slave's life, Te Waharoa was allowed to go back to his people. Though, in spite of the brand of slavery, his craft and courage carried him on till he became their head, he was even then but the leader of a poor three hundred fighting men.
To the north of him lay the Thames tribe, then the terror of half New Zealand; to the south, his old enemies the Arawas of the Hot Lakes. To the west the main body of the Waikatos were overwhelmingly his superiors in numbers. Eastward the Tauranga tribe—destined in aftertimes to defeat the Queen's troops at the Gate Pa—could in those days muster two thousand five hundred braves, and point to a thousand canoes lying on their beaches. But Te Waharoa was something more than an able guerilla chief. He was an acute diplomatist. Always keeping on good terms with the Waikatos, he made firm allies of the men of Tauranga. Protected, indeed helped, thus on both flanks, he devoted his life to harassing the dwellers by the lower Thames and the Hauraki Gulf. One great victory he won over them with the aid of his Waikato allies. Their chief pa, Mata-mata, he seized by a piece of callous bad faith and murder. After being admitted there by treaty to dwell as friends and fellow-citizens, his warriors rose one night and massacred their hosts without compunction. Harried from the north by Hongi, the wretched people of the Thames were between the hammer and the anvil. When at last their page 116 persecutors—the Ngapuhi and Te Waharoa—met over their bodies, Te Waharoa's astuteness and nerve were a match for the invaders from the north. In vain the Ngapuhi besiegers tried to lure him out from behind the massive palisades of Mata-mata, where, well-provisioned, he lay sheltered from their bullets. When he did make a sally it was to catch half a dozen stragglers, whom, in mortal defiance, he crucified in front of his gateway. Then he challenged the Ngapuhi captain to single combat with long-handled toma-hawks. The Northerners broke up their camp, and went home; they had found a man whom even muskets could not terrify.
Te Waharoa's final lesson to the Ngapuhi was administered in 1831, and effectually stopped them from making raids on their southern neighbours. A war-party from the Bay of Islands, in which were two of Hongi's sons, ventured, though only one hundred and forty strong, to sail down the Bay of Plenty, slaying and plundering as they went. Twice they landed, and when they had slain and eaten more than their own number the more prudent would have turned back. But a blind wizard, a prophet of prodigious repute, who was with them, predicted victory and speedy reinforcement, and urged them to hold on their way. Disembarking on an islet in the bay, the inhabitants of which had fled, they encamped among the deserted gardens. Looking out next morning, they saw the sea blackened with war-canoes. Believing these to be the prophesied reinforcement, they rushed down to welcome their friends. Cruelly were they undeceived as the canoes of Te Waharoa and his Tauranga allies shot on to the beach. Short was the struggle. Only two of the Ngapuhi were spared, and as the blind soothsayer's blood was too sacred to be shed, the victors pounded him to death with their fists. Never again did the Ngapuhi come southwards. So for the remaining years of his life Waharoa was free to turn upon the Arawa, the men who had slain his father and mother. From one raid on Rotorua his men came back with the bodies of sixty enemies—cut off in an ambush. Not once did Waharoa meet defeat; and when, in 1839, he died, he was as full of fame as of years. Long afterwards his mana was still a halo round the head of his son Wiremu Tamihana, whom we shall page 117 meet in due time as William Thompson the king-maker, best of his race.
Hongi once dead and the Ngapuhi beaten off, the always formidable Waikato tribes began in turn to play the part of raiders. At their head was Te Whero Whero, whom in the rout at Mataki-taki a friendly hand had dragged out of the suffocating ditch of death. Without the skill of Hongi or the craft of Te Waharoa, he was a keen and active fighter. More than once before Hongi's day he had invaded the Taranaki country, and had only been forced back by the superior generalship of the famous Rauparaha, of whom more anon. In 1831 Rauparaha could no longer protect Taranaki. He had migrated to Cook's Straits, and was warring far away in the South Island. Therefore it was without much doubt that, followed by some three thousand men, Te Whero Whero set his face towards Mount Egmont, and swept all before him. Only at a strong hill-pa looking down upon the Waitara river did his enemies venture to make a stand. They easily repulsed his first assaults, but hundreds of women and children were among the refugees, and as was the wont of the Maori, no proper stock of provisions had been laid in. On the thirteenth day, therefore, the defenders, weakened and half-starved, had to make a frantic attempt to break through the Waikatos. Part managed to get away; most were either killed at once or hunted down and taken. Many women threw themselves with their children over the cliff into the Waitara. Next day the captives were brought before Te Whero Whero. Those with the best tattooed faces were carefully beheaded, that their heads might be sold unmarred to the White traders. The skulls of the less valuable were cleft with tomahawk or meré. Te Whero Whero himself slew many scores with a favourite greenstone weapon. A miserable train of slaves were spared to labour in the villages of the Waikato.
Ahead of the victorious chieftain lay yet another pa. It was near those quaint conical hills—the Sugar-Loaves—which, rising in and near the sea, are as striking a feature as anything can be in the landscape where Egmont's white peak dwarfs all else. Compared to the force in the Waitara pa the garrison of this last refuge was small—only three page 118 hundred and fifty, including women and children. But among them were eleven Whites. Some of these may have been what Mr. Rusden acidly styles them all—“dissipated Pakeha Maori living with Maori Delilahs.” But they were Englishmen, and had four old ship's guns. They decided to make a fight of it for their women and children and their trade. They got their carronades ready, and laboured to infuse a little order and system into the excitable mob around them. So when the alarm-cry, E! Taua! Taua! rang out from the watchmen of the pa, the inmates were found resolute and even prepared. In vain the invaders tried all their wiles. Their rushes were repulsed; the firebrands they showered over the palisades were met by wet clay banking, and their treacherous offers of peace and good-will declined. Though one of the carronades burst, the others did good execution, and when shot and scrap-iron failed, the artillerymen used pebbles. Dicky Barrett, already mentioned, was the life and soul of the defence. The master of a schooner which came upon the coast in the midst of the siege tried to mediate, and stipulated for a free exit for the Whites. Te Whero Whero haughtily refused; he would spare their lives, but would certainly make slaves of them. He had better have made a bridge for their escape. The siege dragged on. The childish chivalry of the Maori amazed the English. Waikato messengers were allowed to enter the pa and examine the guns and defences. On the other hand, when the besiegers resolved on a last and grand assault they sent notice thereof the day before to the garrison. Yet, after that, the latter lay down like tired animals to sleep the night through, while Barrett and his comrades watched and waited anxiously. The stormers came with the dawn, and were over the stockade before the Whites could rouse the sleepers. Then, however, after a desperate tussle—one of those sturdy hand-to-hand combats in which the Maori fighter shone—the assailants were cut down or driven headlong out. With heavy loss the astonished Waikato recoiled in disgust, and their retreat did not cease till they reached their own country.
Even this victory could not save Taranaki. With the fear of fresh raids in their mind the survivors of its people, together with their White allies, elected to follow where so page 119 many of their tribes had already gone—to Cook's Straits, in the footsteps of Rauparaha. So they, too, chanted their farewells to their home, and, turning southward, marched away. When the Waikato had once more swept down the coast, and had finally withdrawn, it was left empty and desolate. A remnant, a little handful, built themselves a pa on one of the Sugar-Loaves. A few more lurked in the recesses of Mount Egmont. Otherwise the fertile land was a desert. A man might toil along the harbourless beaches for days with naught for company but the sea-gulls and the thunder of the surf; while inland—save for a few birds—the rush of streams and pattering of mountain-showers on the leaves were all that broke the silence of lifeless forests.
To the three warrior chiefs, whose feuds and fights have now been outlined, must be added a fourth and even more interesting figure. Rauparaha, fierce among the fierce, cunning among the cunning, was not only perhaps the most skilful captain of his time, not only a devastator second only to Hongi, but was fated to live on into another era and to come into sharp and fatal collision with the early colonists. One result among others is that we have several portraits of him with both pen and pencil. Like Waharoa and Hongi, he was small, spare and sinewy; an active man even after three-score years and ten. In repose his aquiline features were placid and his manners dignified. But in excitement, his small, keen, deep-sunken eyes glared like a wild beast's, and an overhanging upper lip curled back over long teeth which suggested to colonists—his enemies—the fangs of a wolf. Born near the picturesque inlet of Kawhia, he first won fame as a youth by laying a clever ambuscade for a Waikato war-party. When later the chief of his tribe was dying and asked doubtfully of his councillors who there was to take his place, Rauparaha calmly stepped forward and announced himself as the man for the office. His daring seemed an omen, and he was chosen. In 1819 he did a remarkable thing. He had been on a raid to Cook's Straits, and when there had been struck with the strategic value of the island of Kapiti—steep, secure from land attacks, not infertile, and handy to the shore. It was the resort, moreover, of the Pakeha tradingships. Like Hongi, Rauparaha saw that the man with the page 120 most muskets must carry all before him in New Zealand. Out of the way and overshadowed by the Waikato, his small tribe were badly placed at Kawhia. But if he could bring them and allies along with them to Kapiti and seize it, he could dominate central New Zealand.
He persuaded his people to migrate. Their farewell to their old dwellings is still a well-known Maori poem. Joined by a strong contingent of Waitara men under Wi Kingi—to be heard of again as late as 1860—they won their way after many fights, adventures, and escapes to their goal at Kapiti. There Rauparaha obtained the coveted muskets. Not only did he trade with the visiting ships, but he protected a settlement of whalers on his island who did business with him, and whose respect for the craft and subtlety of “Row-bulla” was always great. Rauparaha set out for Kapiti a year before Hongi sailed for England on his fatal quest. From his sea-fortress he kept both coasts in fear and turmoil for twenty years. More than once he was defeated, and once his much-provoked foes attacked Kapiti with a united flotilla. But though they “covered the sea with their canoes,” they parleyed after landing when they should have fought. By a union of astuteness and hard fighting Rauparaha's people won, and signal was the revenge taken on his assailants. Previous to this he had almost exterminated one neighbour-tribe whose villages were built on small, half-artificial islets in a forest-girt lake. In canoes and by swimming his warriors reached the islets, and not many of the lake people were left alive.
More than one story is preserved of Rauparaha's resource and ruthlessness. One night, when retreating with a weak force, he had the Waikato at his heels. He held them back by lighting enough watchfires for a large host and by arming and dressing his women as fighting-men. Again, when he was duck-hunting near the coast of the South Island, his enemies, led by the much-libelled “Bloody Jack,” made a bold attempt to surround his party. Most of his men were cut off. Rauparaha, lowered down a sea-cliff, hid among the kelp by the rocks beneath. A canoe was found and brought, and he put to sea. It was over-loaded with fugitives, and their chief therefore ordered half to jump overboard that the page 121 rest might be saved. The lightened canoe then carried him to a place of safety. Yet, after the capture of Kaiapoi, he showed generosity. Amongst the prisoners, who were lying bound hand and foot waiting for the oven, was a young brave who had killed one of Rauparaha's chiefs in a daring sortie. Him now the conqueror sought out, spared his life, cut his bonds, and took him into service and favour.
The most famous and far-reaching of Rauparaha's raids were among the Ngaitahu, whose scattered bands were masters of nearly all the wide half-empty spaces of the South Island. In one of their districts was found the famous greenstone. On no better provocation than a report which came to his ears of an insulting speech by a braggart southern chief, Rauparaha, early in 1829, manned his canoes, and sailed down the east coast to attack the boastful one's pa. The unsuspecting natives thronged down to the beach to meet the raiders with shouts of welcome and on hospitable thoughts intent. Springing on to land, the invaders ran amongst the bewildered crowd, and slew or captured all they could lay hands on. Then they burned the village. Further south lay a larger pa, that of Kaiapoi. Here the inhabitants, warned by fugitives from the north, were on their guard. Surprise being impossible, Rauparaha tried guile, and by assurances of friendship worked upon the Kaiapoi men to allow his chiefs to go in and out of their pa, buying greenstone and exchanging hospitalities. But for once he met his match. The Southerners waited until they had eight of the chiefs inside their stockades, and then killed them all. Amongst the dead was Te Pehi, Rauparaha's uncle and adviser, who three years before had visited England. Powerless for the moment, Rauparaha could but go home, vow vengeance, and wait his opportunity. After two years it came.
Pre-eminent in infamy amongst the ruffianly traders of the time was a certain Stewart. At the end of 1830 he was hanging about Cook's Straits in the brig Elizabeth. There he agreed to become Rauparaha's instrument to carry out one of the most diabolical acts of vengeance in even Maori annals. The appearance of Stewart, ripe for any villainy, gave the Kapiti chief the chance he was waiting for. For thirty tons of flax the Elizabeth was hired to take Rauparaha and a war- page 122 party, not to Kaiapoi, but to Akaroa, a beautiful harbour amongst the hills of the peninsula called after Sir Joseph Banks. It lay many miles away from Kaiapoi, but was inhabited by natives of the same tribe. There, moreover, was living Tamai-hara-nui (Son-of-much-evil), best-born and most revered chief in all the South Island. Him Rauparaha determined to catch, for no one less august could be payment for Te Pehi. Arrived at Akaroa, Rauparaha and his men hid below, and waited patiently for three days until their victim came. Stewart, by swearing that he had no Maori in the brig, but merely came to trade, tempted the chief and his friends on board. The unhappy Son-of-much-evil was invited into the cabin below. There he stepped into the presence of Rauparaha and Te Pehi's son. The three stared at each other in silence. Then Te Pehi's son with his fingers pushed open the lips of the Akaroa chief, saying, “These are the teeth which ate my father.” Forthwith the common people were killed, and the chief and his wife and daughter bound. Rauparaha landed, fired the village, and killed all he could catch. Coming on board again, the victors feasted on the slain, Stewart looking on. Human flesh was cooked in the brig's coppers. The entrapped chief was put in irons—lent by Stewart. Though manacled, he signed to his wife, whose hands were free, to kill their young daughter, a girl whose ominous name was Roimata (Tear-drops). The woman did so, thus saving the child from a worse fate. Returning to Cook's Straits, Rauparaha and comrades went on shore. A Sydney merchant, Mr. Montefiore, came on board the Elizabeth at Kapiti and saw the chief lying in irons. As these had caused mortification to set in, Montefiore persuaded Stewart to have them taken off, but the unhappy captive was still held as a pledge until the flax was paid over. It was paid over. Then this British sea-captain gave up his security, who with his wife was tortured and killed, enduring his torments with the stoicism of a North American Indian. The instrument of his death was a red-hot ramrod.
The Elizabeth, with thirty tons of flax in her hold, sailed to Sydney. But Stewart's exploit had been a little too outrageous, even for the South Pacific of those days. He was arrested and tried by order of Governor Darling, who, it is page 123 only fair to say, did his best to have him hanged. But, incredible as it seems, public sympathy was on the side of this pandar to savages, this pimp to cannibals. Witnesses were spirited away, and at length the prosecution was abandoned. Soon after Stewart died at sea off Cape Horn. One authority says that he dropped dead on the deck of the Elizabeth, and that his carcass, reeking with rum, was pitched overboard without ceremony. Another writes that he was washed overboard by a breaking sea. Either way the Akaroa chief had not so easy a death.
Next year, Rauparaha, whose revenge was nothing if not deliberate, organized a strong attack on Kaiapoi. With complete secrecy he brought down his men from Cook's Straits and surprised his enemies peacefully digging in the potato grounds outside their stockade. A wild rush took place. Most of the Kaiapoi escaped into the pa, shut the gate, and repulsed a hasty assault. Others fled southward, and skulking amid swamps and sand-hills got clear away, and roused their distant fellow-tribesmen. A strong relieving force was got together, and, marching to the beleaguered pa, slipped past Rauparaha and entered it at night, bending and creeping cautiously through flax and rushes as they waved in a violent wind. But sorties were repulsed, and the garrison had to stand on the defensive. Unlike most pa theirs was well supplied with food and water, and was covered on three sides by swamps and a lagoon. A gallant attempt made on a dark night to burn the besiegers' canoes on the sea-beach was foiled by heavy rain. At last Rauparaha, reaching the stockade by skilful sapping, piled up brushwood against it, albeit many of his men were shot in the process. For weeks the wind blew the wrong way for the besiegers, and they could only watch their piles—could not fire them. All the while the soothsayers in the beleaguered fort perseveringly chanted incantations and prayed to the wind-god that the breeze might not change. At length one morning the north-west wind blew so furiously away from the walls that the besieged boldly set fire to the brushwood from their side. But the wilder the north-west wind of New Zealand, the more sudden and complete may be the change to the south-west. Such a shifting came about, and in a moment the flames enveloped page 124 the walls. Tawhiri Matea, god of winds and storms, had abandoned the Ngaitahu. Shouting in triumph, Rauparaha's men mustered in array and danced their frenzied war-dance, leaping high in air, and tossing and catching their muskets with fierce yells. “The earth,” says an eye-witness, “shook beneath their stamping.” The dread dance beating the ground with many-footed precision; the deep chest-notes bursting out in terrifying unison; row upon row of glaring eye-balls and red, mocking, protruding tongues; and the blue lines of the grim tattoo twitching convulsively on murderous faces, proclaimed to the garrison the coming of death. Then, worked up to battle madness, the North-Islanders charged through the burning breach, and the defenders fell in heaps or fled before them. The lagoon was black with the heads of men swimming for life. Through the dense drifting smoke many reached the swamps and escaped. Hundreds were killed or taken, and piles of human bones were witnesses many years after to the massacre and feast which followed the fall of Kaiapoi.
Nearly a century has passed since these deeds were done. The name Kaiapoi belongs to a pretty little country town, noted for its woollen-mill, about the best known in the Dominion. Kapiti, Rauparaha's stronghold, has been reserved by the Government as an asylum for certain native birds which stoats and weasels threaten to extirpate in the North Island. Over the English grasses which now cover the hills round Akaroa sheep and cattle roam in peace, and standing by the green bays of the harbour you will probably hear nothing louder than a cow-bell, the crack of a whip, or the creaking wheels of some passing dray. Then it is pleasant to remember that Rauparaha's son became a missionary amongst the tribes which his father had harried, and that it is now half a century since Maori blood was shed in conflict on New Zealand soil.
One of the most dreadful exploits of the fighting Maori in the years after they had learned to use the musket was the conquest of the Chatham Islands by the Ngatiawa tribe of Port Nicholson. The peaceful, pleasant Chathams lie about five hundred miles to the east of Banks's Peninsula, with nothing beyond them till you come to South America. They are about two and a half times the size of the Isle of Wight, page 125 with the climate of a sunnier, less showery Cornwall. The soft, hazy sea-winds that sweep over them are so heavily laden with salt that the native trees are seldom more than twenty feet high. To make up for this the glossy-leaved karaka shrubs growing there are the largest known; a veronica attains the proportions of a tree; and the group has a palm-tree of its own, and a fine flower, misnamed a lily, which is a favourite of New Zealand gardeners. Sheep thrive there, and the islands are occupied by a few hundred Whites and Browns. New Zealand sends them a Resident Magistrate to govern them, and that bulky and excellent volume, the New Zealand Official Year Book, devotes perhaps four lines annually to the Chathams and their products.
Ninety years ago they were inhabited by a rather mysterious race, the Moriori, in number about two thousand. These had probably found their way there from Eastern Polynesia, though when found by White navigators they had no canoes worthy of the name, but when they went out fishing in lagoons or on the sea used rafts made of dried flax-sticks. In height and look they were like the Maori, but with slightly more Oriental features and a skin of a more dead and dusky brown. Having ingenuity enough to make tools of wood and stone, they lived comfortably on sea fish, eels, birds, eggs, and fern-root, and for clothing had a plentiful supply of the skins of the fur-seal. Happy, isolated, childishly ignorant and friendly, they did not fight with each other and were absolutely without weapons.
A Maori of the Ngatiawa tribe, serving as a seaman on a trading schooner, visited the Chathams and took stock of these simple-minded and defenceless beings, the Pacifists of the Pacific. He saw a genial land and a kindly, helpless, eatable people. Licking his lips he returned to Port Nicholson, and in a speech, the purport of which has been preserved, inflamed his brother cannibals with a vivid picture of the islands they could have for the taking. The Ngatiawa decided to take them. The problem was how to get there! Presently into Port Nicholson sailed the brig Rodney in quest of a cargo of scraped flax. The Maori decoyed the captain, one Harewood, into meeting them on an islet in the harbour to discuss business. There they surrounded him and terrified him into agreeing— page 126 for a substantial consideration—to convey them to the Chathams. In two voyages he took nine hundred of them packed in his hold—ruthless, resolute, and sea-sick. There was no resistance to the fierce invaders. The wretched Moriori submitted without a blow. Batches of them were slain and eaten when their conquerors were in the humour for feasts. The survivors, brutally used, took a way of escape often taken by Polynesians: they lay down and died of despair. When in 1842 the English annexed the islands and set the slaves free it was too late. By 1855 only two hundred were still living. These held a solemn meeting and resolved that as their race was doomed to vanish from the earth, their traditions should be written down so that their name and story should not be forgotten.
Nor did their destroyers thrive. They fought and killed each other, and many of them forsaking their conquest went home. One incident of their story is worth telling. In 1839 a French whaler, the Jean Bart, put into the Chathams. Scores of the Maori went on board to trade. After drinking the captain's liquor, they became so noisy and violent that he ordered them on shore. Some went, others would not budge. He therefore slipped his cable and put out to sea. Then the crew with guns and lances set to work to clear the decks of the savages. The Ngatiawa driven below found muskets in a store-room and opened fire on the crew with such effect that the Frenchmen in a panic took to their boats. By this time the ship was out of sight of land, but the undaunted Maori, steering by the sun, managed to sail back. Forty of them had been shot or speared. The remainder ran the Jean Bart on shore, plundered her in triumph and burned her. Her three boats with their fugitives were heard of no more. Doubtless they were swamped in a gale while trying to reach New Zealand.