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The Southern Districts of New Zealand

Chapter XV

page 272

Chapter XV.


Feb. 15.—The Government brig having failed to arrive, the Bishop made arrangements to go on to Wellington in Tuhawaiki's schooner; and offered to give me a passage. As her crew, however, wished to remain at Hakaroa, on their own affairs, for a few days, he determined in the mean time to walk overland to Kokourarata, the natives of which place he had not yet visited, and wait there till the schooner called for us.

Dined on board the corvette, meeting the Bishop and police magistrate. Commodore Bèrard, adverting to the subject of the French Company's claim, requested me to give him the names of the natives who had a right to lands page 273 about the harbour, with a form of deed such as was used by the Government in purchasing land from the aborigines.

Feb. 16.—Wrote a letter* to Commodore Bèrard, giving him, as well as I was able, the information he wished for respecting the natives of Hakaroa; and, in order that any future disappointment which the French Company might have to put up with should be referred to its true source, I took this opportunity to explain how difficult a matter it was—especially for persons who had not the advantage of experience in such affairs—to purchase from the aborigines their lands, so as to secure the title from being disputed thereafter.

In the afternoon, we pulled to the north end of the harbour in the Custom-house boat, landing near a deserted Pa, the earth ramparts of which remained. This had been destroyed by Te Rauparaha; and, as we looked down on it from the higher ground, his son Tamihana, one of the Bishop's attendants, described how it was attacked and taken. In his recital the spirit of former days seemed to gain the mastery over page 274 him, and he betrayed a want of sympathy for the fate of the vanquished ill becoming the character of a Christian, which drew down on him a reproof.

It was late when we reached Pigeon Bay; and, the path beyond being a difficult one to find amid the shades of evening, it was resolved to accept Mr. Sinclair's proffered hospitality, and sojourn there till morning. His Lordship seemed as much gratified with his introduction to this happy family as I had been.

Feb. 17.—The Bishop's arrival at the native settlement, Puari, caused a great stir among a large part of its inhabitants, who had various matters to refer to the head of the Church. They had hitherto received no religious instruction, except from native teachers, and a priest of the Church of Rome, who had not remained there long.

Feb. 18.—Sunday. A half-cast child was brought to the Bishop to be christened, by one of the whalers who lived on the opposite side of the harbour. About twenty Europeans, chiefly whalers, resided near the same spot; cultivating small gardens in the summer, and returning page 275 to the fisheries as the whaling season drew nigh. A small schooner lately built there was now ready for sea, and was to sail for Port Nicholson the next day; and the Bishop being anxious to reach Wellington by the time he had named for his return, determined to profit by this opportunity, if Tuhawaiki did not arrive first.

Feb. 19.—I paid a visit to the owner of the schooner, and agreed to give five pounds each for the passage, that sum to include our natives, four in number. In the evening we went on board, and set sail soon after with a light land-breeze.

Feb. 20.—We made but little progress during the night. The vessel proved to be leaky, and ill-found, the foresail a fixture—the halyards being made fast to the mast-head for want of rope. The cabin was very small, and was fitted up with three standing bed places—two on one side, which we occupied, and one opposite us, where the owner slept; a table and two benches filling nearly the whole of the intermediate space. Our meals saw no variety of food. At all we had tea and biscuit, fried pork and potatos. Half an oil cask filled with earth, with a few page 276 stones arranged so as to form supports for a pot and a kettle was dignified by the name of the galley: and our cook's appearance was not more respectable, for he looked as if he had not washed for a month.

Feb. 21.—Reached Motunau, an island close to a bold coast about twenty miles north of the Peninsula. We anchored under its shelter, opposite to the small bar river Waipara, where there was a whaling station. Several boats now came off to receive planks and other material which we had on board; and, as they brought no ballast to replace our lost weight, we soon became too light to make any way at sea, except with a fair wind. This circumstance, however, did not seem to make any impression on the captain, who had gone ashore, although every boat carried him a message, urging the necessity of sending some stones from the beach. In the evening he came on board, bringing with him a passenger but no ballast; and we got under way with the sad prospect of a long and disagreeable voyage.

Feb. 22.—We had a fair wind during the night; but the next day about noon it shifted page 277 to the N.E., and coming on to blow hard, we ran back towards Motunau, intending to take shelter there. Towards evening the wind suddenly shifted to N.W.—a dry hot blast. We now found that we were too light to make the island, and determined to return to the port from whence we had originally started, and wait there for a southerly wind.

Before daylight, however, it fell calm, when we were not more than two miles from the entrance of the harbour. I had laid down to sleep the night before mentally resolving to desert the moment the anchor dropt; but in this I was disappointed—for we had hardly got on deck before another gale came up strong from the S.E., and drove us away. We now drifted into the bay between Wakaraupo and Motunau, with a certainty of going ashore in a few hours, unless the wind changed. Happily for us it soon began to draw more to the westward, enabling us to steer for Cook's Straits; and at the same time Tuhawaiki's schooner was seen coming out of harbour. During the day the weather was thick with light rain; but at night it cleared, and the wind moderated.

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Feb. 24.—At morning—becalmed twenty miles south of Cape Campbel. Being light we had run away from Tahawaiki, who was to be seen a long way astern. We could observe, by the change in the relative position of the hills on shore, that a strong current was setting us to the south. At noon the wind was N.W., with much head-sea; and while we were drifting bodily to leeward, Tuhawaiki passed us.

Feb. 25.—Same wind. We had a most disagreeable night. The schooner rolled much, and leaked so that it was necessary to pump her out every hour. It being Sunday, the Bishop read prayers to the crew, who had cleaned themselves out of respect for the day; and afterwards called the youngest of them down to the cabin, to examine him as to what he knew of the religion he professed to believe. He could say the Lord's Prayer, but had quite forgotten the Catechism, although he said he had known it as a boy. The Bishop then commenced explaining it to him in a manner so impressive that no one could have avoided paying attention to every word he uttered, while the language he used was so clear and simple that a mere child might have under- page 279 stood it. I had several times heard his Lordship preach; but this simple exposition struck me with greater admiration than the most eloquent of his sermons.

When first we came on board, at every moment an oath sounded in the ears. Such had so long been the common form of their conversation, that oaths were mere tropes and figures of language, which meant very little to those who were used to them. A remark made by the Bishop in a very kind manner served to check this habit. Occasionally half an oath might be heard; but by the time we came to the end of our voyage it would have been difficult to find a more decent-tongued crew.

Feb. 26.—A foul wind, and another stormy night. Our passenger was a whaling master, named Aimes, a very intelligent and agreeable person. Going on deck by daylight, he found the helm lashed and all the crew snoring. The wind was now fair, had we been in the position we were the day before; but having neglected to profit by it for several hours, we had drifted away from our course, and could only fetch the west head of Palliser Bay; whence we stood page 280 back across the Straits, in despair of ever getting into port.

Mr. Aimes at last cheered our spirits by pointing out what he said was a sure sign of a southerly wind—a bank of clouds just begining to collect over the hills at the back of Cloudy Bay. At the same moment the sun, which had been obscured, tinged the clouds and waves with a bright gleam of light, which was also received as a good omen. A light air, the first breath of a southerly gale, soon after sprung up, and at 5 p.m. we were at anchor in Port Nicholson.

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* Vide Appendix VII.