Sketches of Early Colonisation in New Zealand and its Phases of Contact with the Maori Race
A Maori Wedding. — Prodigal Hospitality
A Maori Wedding.
AT the Grammar-school where I received the final portion of my education, there were, amongst other boys, several half-caste lads, the sons of well-to-do settlers who had married Maori women from the fact that there were, during those early days, very few eligible white women to select from, and who were, thereby, compelled to form marriage alliances with the native families of the country.
These Maori women as a rule, made fond and affectionate mothers, and virtuous wives, being devotedly attached to their white husbands, often showing an aptitude for acquiring a knowledge of civilised domestic duties that would most certainly have surprised and pleased some of our wh te sisters.
The homes of most of them being pictures of neatness and cleanliness, the majority evidently trying to the best of their abilities to make their homes as attractive and comfortable as possible for their white husbands.
Of one such family, in particular, I can bear personal testimony to, having sat down to many delicious repasts at their hospitable and festive board, their eldest son and myself being "school-chums," and as much attached to each other as two brothers, which secured to me the freedom of his home at all times.
Well do I recollect that upon one occasion whereon a European gentleman and his wife (both late arrivals in the Colony), were dining with them, when the lady made use of some complimentary remarks about the excellent cookery, whereupon the Maori wife replied, in very good English, her face beaming with pleasure the while, "that all the pastry was made and cooking done by herself, for page 141which knowledge she had to thank her husband, as he himself had taught her;" and this Maori, be it understood, was a woman of very high rank, in fact an Ariki Wahine or princess amongst her own people.
Often has the writer heard some of the early settlers declare that—" If they had searched the whole country for a marriageable white girl they would not, at that time, have found a dozen that they could or indeed would have thought of allying themselves with."
Such, then, were some of the reasons to be assigned for this social state of affairs, and all that it required to set this to rights was time and the increase of white population.
Many of these settlers had married native women of rank, the daughters of Chiefs, Wahine Rangatiras, as the Maoris called them, which act brough; their husbands great influence and broad acres of land if they would only elect to go and live amongst their wives' people.
Some did so, and reaped the reward of so doing; but others, the greater portion, however, preferred the associations and comforts of civilization and their own colour to a life of idleness and semi-barbarism.
It is a recognised law with the Maori, as it indeed is with the greater portion of the South Sea Islanders, that, should any man marry a native woman of rank, she immediately raises him to the same social position in the tribe as she herself holds, even though he be of humble or common parentage.
But, putting this the other way, that is on the part of the male, this law does not hold good, for, should a chief marry a woman of humble degree in the tribe, she could never, by any means, aspire to the same rank as her husband, but must always remain in the same position as she was before marriage, although her children are born to the same power and influence as the father.
This law must appear a strange one to the civilized mind, but nevertheless it still holds good with many of the Maori tribes even to the present day.
The Maori of to-day is a very different person to the man whom the early settlers had to deal with, he having in meantime passed from savagedom to barbarism, and from thence into civilization, where he now stands, conscious of his nobility, the living witness to the years page 142of toil and self-sacrifice of that noble band of good men, the Early Missionaries, who spent the best portion of their lives in the self-imposed task of regenerating and leading the most noble and progressive savage race the Aglo-Saxon colonist has as yet come in contact with, to a knowledge of the true God, and to worship him in spirit and in truth, the breaking down of their idolatrous ways and practices, and the introduction to them of the blessings of Christianity, and so preparing them to take their stand upon the same platform and side-by-side with their white brothers to shape and fashion the destinies of a young and prosperous colony in its budding forth into a great and powerful nation.
My meaning will no doubt be better understood when I state that in many of the learned professions members of the Maori race are to be found—the law, clerical, medical, engineering, and survey, all of which are represented by them; whilst upon the floor of both Houses of the New Zealand Parliament were to be found Maori orators who would shine as such amongst the legislators of the old world—one of whom is invariably selected as a Minister of the Crown for the Colony, although it may be without portfolio.
Such, then, is the Maoi i of to-day; a man respected by his white fellow citizen, and on equal footing with him politically and socially; all honour to the New Zealand settlers and electors for the honesty of purpose, fairness of action and liberality that has prompted them through the past and present in their dealings and political intercourse with this intelligent, progressive, and interesting race.
Some three years after this event a sad affliction befel this comfortable and happy family, when death placed its cold relentless hand upon the fond and affectionate father and bread-winner, carrying him "across that bourn" from whence none ever return.
By will the trustees were empowered to dispose and realise the greater portion of the property (excepting the house and furniture, which was reserved to the widow whilst she remained as such and elected to reside in Auckland City), placing the proceeds at funds in bank for the education of the children and their future benefi, also allowing the widow a small annuity per annum.page 143
By the same instrument the trustees were directed to take and send each child to a boarding school, so soon as they became of sufficient age to be able to leave their mother.
This latter instruction, no doubt, some people would say was to the mother harsh, and of doubtful wisdom; but evidently the testator's desire was to have his half-caste children brought up entirely as Europeans and away from the undesirable influence and associations of their Maori relatives, which, according to native custom, it was to be supposed a number would always be found living as parasites upon the parent, which, in reality, was afterwards found to be the case.
The three elder children (two boys and a girl), being of the required age, were the first to be taken away, the boys being placed at a boarding school, but the girl was taken to the home of one of the trustees and there installed as a member of the family, receiving the same scholastic instruction and nurture as the rest of the children.
The two boys became members of the grammar-school where the writer was also a pupil, and in which institution they remained until it was considered that their education was sufficiently advanced for each to take his place in the "hurly burly" business of colonist life.
The elder son entered one of the learned professions, in which he ultimately took a prominent and leading position; but the second it was deemed advisable to send to Italy to study as an artist, where, it was hoped, he would develop and perfect that remarkable talent for which he had shown such aptitude from early boyhood.
This promising youth, after a sojourn in that country of two years, succumbed to the fell scourge of the Maori half-caste people, consumption, which cut short the young life of a very promising colonist.
The elder son and myself were always close and intimate companions, and that mutual respect and friendship was in no way lessened after leaving school, though our paths in life were different; nevertheless, we frequently met afterwards, and such social meetings were always pleasant and fraternal.page 144
Eight years had now elapsed since the death of the father, when he, my old school companion, called at my home one morning, and invited me to accompany him to a "jollification," as he termed it, which was to take place at a creek a short distance up the Waitemata.
I accepted with pleasure, little suspecting what that "jollification" really meant.
I was greatly surprised and pleased upon finding that a dozen others of our old school companions were also invited, and accompanying us to the same place and for a similar purpose, all upon please bent, and right jolly fellows they were, most of them being vocalists whilst others were musicians, who carried their instruments with them.
My old chum, in conversation shortly afterwards, acknowledged that he had particularly selected them on that account.
A merry time we had in the pull up, our boat being a whale-boat, manned by a Maori crew, who mysteriously seemed to be possessed of as much fun and buoyancy as ourselves.
Not one of us Pakehas (white men) as yet suspected what was in store—only that our outing was to be a "jollification," which we were to experience to our hearts' delight for two days and nights.
Upon rounding the headland and entering the creek, we were surprised upon beholding a large crowd of Maoris assembled, who, upon seeing us approaching in the boat, immediately gave utterance to the native call of welcome—Haere mai, haere mai, Emara Pakehas! Aumihi, aumihi! that is to say "Come here, come here, friend Pakeha! Welcome, welcome!" whilst at the same time they waved their rikos (mats), shaws, or caps most enthusiastically.
Upon landing we had to undergo the ordeal of shaking hands all round, but should any have been missed or omitted, these latter would push themselves prominently forward, with the expression of Homi te ringa ringa, homi nomi! which means "Give me your hand, give it me!" showing thereby that our we come by them was universal, and of the heartiest kind.page 145
Prompted by the spirit of fun and good nature the writer offered to rub noses with some of the most prepossessing of the Maori girls close around, which was willingly accepted in many cases with the greatest good humour, amidst peals of laughter from both young and old.
But further surprises were in store for us as we proceeded, for we found that a very large and commodious whare (house) had been erected, which measured abont one hundred feet long by thirty broad, its sides being beautifully plated with flax (phormium tenax), whilst the roof was covered with neatly plated leaves of the Nikau (New Zealand's representative of the palmœ family), forming a most picturesque but novel sight to the uninitiated eye, whilst stacked around us, on all sides, were immense quantities of food, with Maoris bustling about in every direction.
It was now that the meaning of our old schoolfellow's euphonious term "jollification" became perceptible, and all we Pakehas mentally resolved to be as jolly as any in that great crowd surrounding.
Upon making enquiries of some of the natives whom I knew personally, I elicited the fact that this was to be a tangokanga hakari (marriage feast); also, that the marriage of our old scoolfellow's mother with another Maori had been solemnized early that morning by Bishop Selwyn, at his private chapel, Judge's Bay, after which they had taken boat for the Creek, and were then both present, attending to and superintending the preparations for the interesting festival.
We all deemed it advisable to keep this information to ourselves, and let events take their course, when, in due time no doubt, we would be expected to make our congratulatory speeches upon the happy event.
Considerably over five hundred persons were here assembled to do honour upon the occasion; there being present representatives of tribes from the Bay of Islands and Northern Districts, the Kaipara, the Thames and Piako, the East Coast, and Manakau Districts.
As the bride, amongst her own people, was an Ariki Wahine, or Chieftainess of Chieftainesses, the different tribes in their selection had sent men of high standing and influence to do honour to the bride and congratulate her on so auspicious and happy an event.page 146
It was a strange sight this, but nevertheless a silent and faithful witness to the soothing and peaceful influence of Christianity over the savage and the cannibal, to see and to know that so many renowned chiefs and warriors here assembled in peace and amity, that only a few years back were thirsting for each other's blood, and that nothing in this life would have afforded them so much pleasure as the feasting upon one another's bodies after having been cooked in their native ovens.
More wonderful still when it is considered that the bride was the lineal descendant of that great warrior chieftain who had carried death, destruction, and almost annihilation to many of the tribes here represented at this festival.
What a tribute to the memory of that good and noble Christian the Rev Samuel Marsden, who was the first to conceive and execute the project of preaching God's Holy Word to the benighted savage, and sowing the seeds of peace, brotherly love, and concord upon virgin soil!
Upon Christmas Day, 1814—Oh! what an auspicious one for the commencement of the great and glorious work undertaken by this noble and worthy Christian and his honoured fellow co-workers!
The day held so sacred and joyful by all Christendom was the one whereon these benighted savages were to hear of peace and good fellowship towards their fellow men.
Mr. Marsden preached for the first time to an immense audience, and took for his text a portion of that passage in St. Luke, which says—"Behold! I bring you good tidings of great joy;" upon which he discoursed most eloquently.
The natives, of course, understood not one word, for Mr. Marsden spoke in English, that gentleman not having as yet mastered the Maori language.
After the conclusion and when all was over, the natives danced the War Dance, thereby, as it were, showing that Christianity and cannibalism had come in contact, and were about to engage in mortal combat; but it was left to be seen, hereafter, which of these two were to be the victor.page 147
The gospel of peace and good will towards all men was destined to be preached and accepted throughout the length and breadth of the land, and cannibalism to become a thing of the past, to be held in abhorrence and detestation by the greater portion of the Maori race.
Honour be to the Missionaries all, say 1, for very many of them voluntarily exiled themselves from society and civilization, and wore out their lives in a lonely island, half forgotten by their kindred, entirely unknown to fame, and only cheered by the considerations of their high and holy calling.
Some of our party, prompted by curiosity, and having as yet little else to do, made an inventory of the heaps of food surrounding, but after a little time spent in the self-imposed task, had to give up, from the fact of the great amount and extent of such to be seen stacked all around, everything being supplied upon a profuse not to say prodigal scale.
Though I have since witnessed other native feasts where many more persons were assembled, I have never seen so liberal a catering for the numbers present and to be provided for as took place upon this occasion.
I think I am within the bounds of fact when I state that £1,000 would not have covered the cost of the provisions here exposed to view, and to be given away as food for this great gathering of Maoris.
No doubt it would be interesting to the reader to peruse the enumeration of those articles as taken, which were as follows:—
Five canoe loads of bread, ten sacks of cabin biscuit, one ton of flour, ten mats of sugar, two chests of tea, three firkins of butter, thirty ton schooner load of potatoes, thirty sheep, two bullocks, one hundred pigs; and of eels, shark, and other fish, there were many tons' weight.
Then again there were of kumeras (sweet potatoes) vast quantities, as well as other varieties of vegetables in enormous heaps.
Another item, and one for which the Maori has shown a particular liking, following closely in the wake of his white brother, considering a feast imperfect without some strong stimulants to assist in washing down the good things provided by over-generous hospitality.page 148
This was not omitted on the present occasion, for hundreds of gallons of the fiery liquor (sufficient for them almost to swim in), was provided for their special benefit.
I will here enumerate these articles, and allow the reader to picture to himself (for I wish not to describe), the scenes which took place amongst such a volatile and excitable people as the Maoris are, after the "fire-water" began to circulate and take effect.
To us Pakehas it was simply "Bedlam let loose," but the presence and influence of so many high and powerful chiefs restrained and kept in subjection those disposed to be unruly and quarrelsome.
The following is a list of the liquors and their quantities as provided on this memorable occasion:—
Five hogsheads of beer, two barrels of rum, one barrel of brandy, and one kilderkin of port wine, with a large boat load of ginger beer and lemonade in casks.
To sell liquor to the Maoris then, eiter in large or small quantities, was against the law of the land, and how or where this was procured from has remained a mystery to the writer to this day.
It is not to be supposed that the bride and bridegroom went to all this expense themselves. Not so, for the bride's tribe as a whole provided everything, having given orders for those articles they could not produce within themselves, nearly a week beforehand.
She was the lineal head of their tribe, and in her veins flowed the last surviving blood of their high and mighty warrior chief.
They were exceeding proud in the knowledge that their beloved and gifted chieftainess was again about to take up her home amongst her tribe, to use the great influence of her rank, and the knowledge she had acquired whilst a resident amongst the whites, for the benefit, future advancement, and well-being of her kindred and people, both socially, intellectually, and morally; also, to shape and fashion their course in the paths of peace, prosperity, and happiness.
For this reason had they made these great and costly preparations to do honour to her exalted rank and acknowledged worth.page 149
Well and worthily did this noble woman afterwards carry out her self-imposed task of regenerating and leading her kindred and people upon the ownward march of Christianity and civilization.
The fame of this distinguished Maori Chieftainess is destined to be engraven upon the hearts and memories of the Maori people throughout the length and breadth of the land, and her name handed down with honour to generations as yet unborn.
It was amusing and instructive to witness the preparations taking place with regularity and precision everywhere around.
Parties of natives were occupied in the operation of killing, singing and scraping, and cleaning, as well as cutting them up into conveniently sized pieces afterwards, as by that process the Maori prepares his pig for cooking in the earth ovens.
To the European eye, accustomed to the scalding process for cleaning this useful animal, the Maori method does not commend itsef, the carcase having a brown and dingy appearance, so strikingly different to the beautifully white and clean looking animal dressed by the European method.
But the reader can rest assured that it is only in imagination, for the carcase, though of dingy colour, is quite as neatly and well manipulated as if performed by white experts.
Others again were operating on the sheep and bullocks, which was carried out according to approved European methods, and preparing them in similar manner for the ovens.
Numbers of natives were cleaning and dressing vegetables, the potatoes, in paticular, being scraped with a pipi (cockle shell), with singular rapidity and perfection, the Maori being an adept at this sort of work.
Again a large party of natives, composed principally of women and children, were employed in making small square kits or baskets of flax, as well as mats of various sizes, the purpose and use of which will be explained further on.page 150
Large parties were also employed in cutting and carrying firewood for the ovens, whilst others were employed in gathering suitably sized stones and preparing places for the ovens.
These were made in the following manner:—
A hollow having been made in the ground, of the desired size of the proposed oven, a fire was then made and kindled within this hollow, then stones of the average size of your closed hand is placed upon top of the fire; when these stones become red hot, all the burning embers are carefully picked out, and the stones allowed to fall to the bottom, but so arranged that no two are permitted to remain one on top of the other, whilst great care is taken to retain the concave form of the hollow: afther this a small bundle of kakariki rahurahu (green fern) is spread upon the top of these red hot stones, and again upon top of this fern one of the before mentioned mats is laid; now the fleshmeat that has been cut up into convenient pieces is placed on top of the mat, according to the capacity of the oven, then another mat on top of the meat (which keeps the food beautifully clean and whole-some to look at after being cooked); upon top of this again another bundle of fern or ti-tree or both mixed—the latter, in particular, giving a most delicious aroma to the food, care being taken to spread evenly, and water is now freely sprinkled over the heap, which, of course, creates a dense steam; whilst now and lastly loose dry earth is rapidly shovelled upon top of all and beaten down firm, but should any steam be seen to arise from the oven, more earth is at once placed upon that spot so as to prevent its escape.
By this process fleshmeat will be perfectly cooked in a little over an hour, no matter what the size of the oven or how much it may contain.
I can assure the reader, from personal experience, that fleshmeat cooked after this manner is the most tender, juciest, and sweetest of all known proces of cooking.
Fish and vegetables are cooked in pretty much the same manner, only it takes up less time.
Natives who prefer eels toasted, perform that operation by twisting them round a forked stick, aud toasting them in front of a fire.page 151
Kumeras (sweet ptatoes) the Maori prefers toasted in hot embers, and it was by that process the greater portion of this most delicious of Maori vegetables was prepared.
After noting all these preparations taking place, with the regularity of clockwork, the attention of us, Pakehas, was attracted to a small knot of native women, whose unusual merriment and loud laughter we rightly surmised there was some peculiar reason for, so we at once bent our steps thitherward.
Upon approaching the spot and entering within the circle of surrounding women, we were rather taken aback by perceiving the bride herself—partially arrayed in the finery of her morning's toilet, as she had appeared at the alter to undergo the solemn ceremony of marriage.
Her really beautiful hat and expensive cloak were off and thrown in the most careless manner upon a neighbouring bush, whilst she herself was standing before an upturned barrel, in lieu of a table, with a "bran new" pasteboard, covered with all the paraphenalia for the mixing of a gigantic plum pudding.
There she stood, that really noble woman; tall, erect, and of grand physique, a splendid sample of Maori womanhood of high degree, who considered it not derogatory to her rank as an Ariki wahine to perform some of those offices which were left to menials, and endeavour to teach her Maori sisters, by ocular demonstration, a portion of those domestic accomplishments she had acquired whilst residing amongst the whites.
Here she appeared with the sleeves of her expensive blue silk dress tucked up to her armpits, having over it a long white pinafore which covered the dress from throat to feet, her beautifully moulded brown arms (but slightly covered with flour,) appearing to perfection, busily engaged in mixing the condiments to form the pudding, all the while explaining to the surrounding and interested females the names and quantities of the ingredients to be so used.
Patiently did we watch the interesting operation, which, I have every reason to believe was performed according to true orthodox European methods.page 152
Our curiosity to see how this pudding mixture was to be further treated was quicky appeased, for, upon an order being given by the bride, two ordinary sized but new pillow-cases were produced, and into each of these the pudding material was proportionately placed, their mouths being afterwards securely tied with flax.
They were then lifted and carried by willing hands, amid mirth and jollity, to a large whale try-pot, close by (a relic of a former industry that had once thriven in that locality), which was converted for the time into a spacious pudding boiler.
We afterwards had the pleasure of eating some of this plum pudding, and the unanimous verdict of us all was that it could not have been excelled.
It was only now that the heroine of this story found time to devote attention to us Pakehas, and our reception by her was genial and kind, but to myself, in particular, it was marked by the warmth and affection of a mother, showing thereby an appreciation of her son's regards for one of his oldest and closest companions.
It was remarkable to witness with what regularity all the details of this great festival were carried out.
Parties of men or women, or both together, were appointed for certain duties, which they carried out without a hitch, each and all seeming to thoroughly understand what he or she was expected to perform, and executed it without confusion or fuss.
Such progress had now been made in preparation for the feast, that it was considered advisable, and orders were issued accordingly, for the different hapus (sections of tribes or families), to assemble and take their places in convenient detached positions, and to remain so, for the better distribution of the food, according to their respective numbers.
These having been carefully counted by those appointed for that purpose, who reported the numbers to the distributors, and. by them made note of for future use.
Those of high rank and influence amongst the assemblage were expected to adjourn to the runanga ware (council house), which had been erected for their special honour and convenience.page 153
Parties having been detailed, orders were issued for the ovens to be uncovered, which operation was easily and expeditiously performed by one or more persons taking hold of the uppermost of the mats covering the oven, and then, by a quick movement upwards and out-wards, exposing the well cooked food, clean and toothsome beneath, the whole atmosphere around becoming redolent of the savoury aroma of cooked meat, which had the effect of causing the mouths of many to water in anticipation of the good things to come.
Now was to be seen to what use those baskets and the small square or round plates of flax were to be put, which we had observed the women and children so industriously making upon our arrival.
With wonderful dexterity were these baskets filled with fleshmeat or vegetables from the ovens, and then distributed amongst the assembled natives "smoking hot," not a single one being omitted.
Each individual member, adult or child, received two basketsful, one of fleshmeat and fish, the other of mixed vegetables (potatoes of course predominating), the whole sufficient for a couple of days' hearty consumption—and this, be it understood, was only a portion of the first day's supply.
All this preparation and distribution took place with wonderful rapidity, the anxiety of the entertainers being that the guests should receive their food as hot and expeditiously as possible.
Before any one touched the viands set before them, the eldest chief or head of that hapu (section of tribe or family), advanced into its centre, with tiaha (quarterstaff) in hand, whereupon he commenced a short speech, in low measured tones at first, but, warming to his subject, would commence to walk up and down briskly, for the space of a few yards, and by the side of the food presented to them, every now and then, as he turned in his short walk would touch the food gently with his tiaha, as if to lend emphasis to his expressions whilst exhorting his hearers to emulate at all times the great courage, resolution, and sterling worth of their entertainer's tribe; finishing his panegyric upon the hospitality, generosity, and kindly feeling prompting this entertainment, but more particularly upon the happy event this festival was page 154held in honour of; winding up by counselling them to bear this great event in remembrance with pleasure and respect, whilst trusting that it would be in their power, at an early date, to return such open-handed hospitality as they were then experiencing.
As the knives and forks which were provided for the guests were only sufficient for a fractional portion of those present, the rest were of necessity compelled to use what nature had endowed them with; however as very few of those present were so far advanced in civilization as to understand their use and comfort, they were not missed on that account, being perfectly satisfied to use their fingers and teeth in lieu thereof.
After these good things were in part or whole disposed of, a loaf of bread, several large biscuits, and a lump of butter, with a pannikin of tea, beer, or a quarter of that quantity of spirits, whichever the individual preferred, was served out to each,—the latter especially having such an effect upon this excitable people that I have no wish to see it again repeated.
We will now turn and see how fared the elite of this remarkable assemblage of aborigines, who were but, as yet, upon the threshold of civilization.
Our entertainers, with commendable desire, were trying their utmost to copy the ways and practices of their white brothers, but, nevertheless, found it impossible to ignore in toto a portion of their own savage customs, thereby forming a strange medly of civilization and barbarism of a marriage festival.
The guests were now summoned to assemble at the whare by the beating of a large tea-tray with a stick, which, it is needless to say, made an excellent substitute for a gong, where we were received by a master of ceremonies with his assistants, and by them ushered to our respective places and seats.
It would no doubt be found interesting to the reader for me to describe the preparations made by this semi-barbarous people, as well as the general arrangements of the interior of their savage dining hall with its beautiful native floral decorations as well as the conveniences for their guests, as prepared and provided by these simple aborigines.page 155
It was quite evident to the European eye that these unsophisticated Maoris were trying their utmost to copy the customs of their white brothers, and well indeed, as was afterwars proved by result, did they succeed in their praiseworthy endeavours.
Down the centre of this dining hall ran a long table, about six feet wide, having a disconnected crossbench at the upper end of the same width, this latter table being reserved for the accommodation of the bridal party, their relatives, and us Pakehas.
These tables were formed by driving strong stakes into the ground at convenient intervals the proper width of the proposed table, then lashing a cross-piece of timber between these stakes, after which split bush slabs were then laid down, which formed a rough but serviceable table for the occasion.
The sitting accommodation alongside of these tables was simply formed of sawn bush blocks, eighteen inches long by six inches in diameter, placed on end upon the ground, and upon the tops of these blocks were also placed slabs, but of a little better quality than those used for the tables.
Upon the top of these tables and seats alike were spread new white linen, which covered their roughness to the eye, and gave them an exceedingly neat appearance.
Upon both sides of the dining hall, and running parallel with the tables, were benches formed and draped in similar manner, whilst between these was left ample space or road-way for those attending upon the guests.
These benches were evidently intened to take the place of sideboards, for upon them were to be seen a great display of articles accessory to the feast.
Numerous dishes filled with a variety of fruits, sweets, and cakes of many kinds, jugs, cups, and tumblers, with a most formidable display of bottles; and lastly, but most conspicuous of all, two small casks placed on end, with taps inserted all ready for use, giving promise of "something good" to wash down the more solid of the food.
At the tables were arranged seating accommodation for over sixty guests, each of whom was provided with plate, knife and fork, a pint earthen mug, and tumbler, page 156whilst by the side of each knife and fork was to be seen another plate containing three slices of white bread and butter.
Distributed over the tables were several large earthen jugs, containing water,—although it was afterwards quite apparent that very few of these dusky guests patronised or appreciated the "Adam's ale" as provided, when "so much better" was to be had in plenty.
To the surprise of us Europeans, cruet-stands were not omitted, for we counted nearly half-a-dozen spread over the tables, denoting that our entertainers had some little knowledge of their utility, although they might not make use of them themselves.
The tables and sideboards were not wanting in floral decorations, for vessels filled with a variety of lovely flowering plants and sweet smelling shrubs were distributed about in profusion, which spread a delightful perfume around, whilst the sides and ceiling of the hall were also adorned with wreaths, garlands, and bunting.
A remarkable feature of these decorations was a large British ensign, neatly looped up and draped with flowers, suspended above the "table of honour," a fitting and appropriate emblem of the unity of both races.
What a change this typified, when it is borne in mind that only a few years prior to this event a portion of these same people were engaged in deadly warfare with our soldiers (vide the wars of 1844-46), spreading havoc and desolation throughout the land?
Now they are considered, and justly so, amongst the most loyal and trusted of all the Marori tribes.
In proof of which, a few years after this festive event (that is to say the wars of the sixties), their Chiefs offered the Government of the day to espouse our cause against the Waikato tribes, but, which offer, for prudential and other cogent reasons, was respectfully and thankfully declined.
The whole of these pretty and tasteful displays, as might be expected, lent an exceedingly gay and lively appearance to the interior of this singular native dining hall.
After the guests were seated, proceedings commenced by the attendants carrying in, in rapid succession, large dishes containing fish, which had been cooked whole in page 157the native ovens, one dish being placed before every fifth person, but one before whom the dish was placed being expected to serve it out amongst his neighbours.
The Master of Ceremonies having seen to all these details, a short prayer was offered up and a blessing asked in the Maori tongue by a lay reader of the Anglican communion, a near relative of the bride's, after which detail no further time was lost in commencing the important proceedings of the festival.
Now in such manner, as directed, was every guest rapidly provided for, his food smoking hot and toothsome to look at, which was quickly disposed of by nearly all present, as evinced by the numerous empty plates to be seen around the tables.
These empty plates having been quickly cleared away, were replaced by others, containing in profusion beef, mutton, pork, and fowls in variety, all neatly carved and jointed, thereby offering no impediment to its rapid distribution amongst the guests; also, plates innumerable containing great piles of assorted vegetables, potatoes, as usual, predominating.
That most delicious of all Maori vegetables, the kumera (sweet potato), was to the fore, cooked according to approved Maori method, and in great abundance, of which the natives are at all times inordinately fond.
The Maori guests now appeared in all their glory, for plate after plate was returned, to be replenished with more of the savoury viands, after having been washed down by bumper mugs of nut brown ale, not to say of "something stronger," if so willing, these latter accessories acting as "lubricants," which caused the tongues of some of this volatile audience to "wag" with great volubility.
Nevertheless, they did not neglect to fortify the inner man, but continued to do so to repletion.
It was surprising to note the harmony and good feeling pervading this great assemblage, considering the diversified tribal interests, so opposed to each other, that were there represented; nevertheless, one and all appeared to vie with each other in trying to make this festival a reunion of friends rather than that of neighbours and distant tribes.page 158
The third and last, but most Interesting of the courses, in that, after it, the leading representatives of the hapus represented at the festival, were expected, and about to deliver addresses of congratulation and good will towards the bride, with the wish of a happy future for herself and people, was now about to take place.
Rapidly were the tables cleared again by willing hands of the debris of the course, whilst others, again, as rapidly filled them from the piles exposed to view upon the side-tables.
Bottles were relaid and jugs refilled and distributed amongst the guests without stint, whilst the ubiquitous Master of Ceremonies who was here, there, and everywhere seeing to the necessities of the guests, and who also actively superintended all the arrangements and details of this remarkable festival, now gave some orders in a quick authorative tone, when lo! attendants appeared, staggering under the weight of an immense dish containing one of the mammoth plum puddings hereinbefore described, all "ablaze with spirits," in true orthodox fashion, which, upon being placed on one of the side-tables, was deftly carved by attendants, and as dexterously placed upon plates, each having a small ladle full of brandy sauce poured over it.
With surprising rapidity were all the guests served, each with a plateful of this really delicious pudding (as all of us Pakehas averred), still smoking hot.
No child could possibly have shown a greater fondness for this truly national dish than did these bronzed and scarred warriors of the Maori race when once they had tasted it, for plate after plate of the savoury pudding disappeared in rapid succession until not one morsel was left.
Deep guttural expressions of pleasure and satisfaction resounded from all sides, showing how keen was their appreciation of the savoury pudding.
Upon enquiry afterwards I elicited that the second one had been distributed amongst the "lesser fry" of the assemblage outside, where, no doubt, it was seen and partaken of by many for the first time, affording them a rare and delicious treat indeed.page 159
After the empty plates had been removed and replaced by others containing fruits and cakes, with an unlimited supply of wines, and so forth, preparations were made for the representatives to deliver their addresses upon the happy event this festival was held in honour of.
Out of some half score of delegates (of greater or less influence amongst their respective tribes) who elected to address the bride and assemblage, there was one particularly noticeable and deserving of being reproduced here, as an evidence of the marked and soothing influence Christianity and civilization had upon the untutored savage cannibal, during the early days of its advent into the country, as testified to by one who was himself the great warrior chief of his tribe, and had himself taken part in many cannibalistic orgies during his younger days; also, for the remarkable oratorical power with which it was delivered, marking it the event of the occasion.
Maori orators, as a rule, delight to dwell in metaphor, and as many of their orations are profuse in such language, which, to the average white man is confusing and difficult of comprehension, therefore I shall omit such, as far as possible, in translation, and make the language clear and distinct for the reader.
No doubt it would be interesting to describe this renowned warrior chief, whose deeds of daring have been the theme of praise and admiration in every fighting pah throughout the province.
Te Hohoro (his name implying activity), as he rose to address the assemblage, leaned heavily upon his tiaha, causing it to be seen that he was bent with great age.
As he moved round (with that inborn ease and dignity peculiar to the Maori Chief of high rank), the better to view the guests, his eagle eye, bright and piercing as of youth, proclaimed the fiery spirit within the man that old age could not conquer.
Of great stature (although bent as he was, considerably over six feet,) and herculean mould, his few long silvery locks falling loosely upon his massive shoulders, gave him a most venerable appearance, thus forming a striking picture amidst those magnificent specimens of Maori manhood surrounding.page 160
Having removed his blanket, to give greater ease to his movements whilst emphasising his utterances, retaining only a short kaupara (mat) around his waist, which, thereby, brought prominently into view the innumerable scars of former serious wounds covering his body, as well as the remarkable tattooing on his loins, which, with the really handsome tattooed lines upon his face (the latter of which was executed in the highest skill of Maori art), formed a sight now seldom to be met with.
The gaze of all was fastened with admiration and surprise upon this remarkable man of a past generation— many of them for the first time, although all had heard of him by repute.
Such was Te Hohoro, renowned for his warlike achievements whilst a young man, but, during his latter days, respected and revered by all for his quiet, unassuming, and harmless life.
Te Hohoro having contemplated his surroundings for a few seconds, turned towards the bride, and then commenced thus:—
"Salutations to you, O friend, Wahine Ariki (highest chiefainness) of the Rarewa! Salutations to you, Chiefs of Ngapuhi! Salutations all! Listen friends! These are the words of all the hapus (families) of the Ngatimaru. Our hearts are light, with great joy, at the good news tangohanga (marriage) of you, our respected friend, Ariki Wahine. The knowledge that you have taken to your heart a tane pai (good husband), and to return once more to the home of your childhood and people, there to live with them for ever, and this all we, Ngatimaru, hail with great delight. We send this by Te Hohoro, that he may tell you by waha (mouth), of our great love and respect for you, Wahine Ariki. Peace, may peace and happiness be with you both, and your people always. This is all. From your loving friends, the people of the Ngatimaru tribe. I have finished."
Te Hohoro with hand on chest and head bent downs stood silent for a few seconds in deep meditation, when suddenly straightening himself and looking round the assembled chiefs proudly, he commenced to pour forth an impassioned address, with all the power and pathos so remarkable in Maori oratory.page 161
"Harken, barken, O friend, Wahine Ariki! I have a word for you! Listen, friends all! I am now old, very, very old. My hair is white, and my steps are tottering on the verge of that rangi (heaven) where my ancestors have gone before. Far back in the distant past it was black, aye, black as the Huia's wing. I was then young and active. I feared no man. In those days I took an active part in all the wars waged by my people against their enemies. These scars you see"—[here he struck his massive chest with meaning emphasis]—"were received in that cause. I became a warrior of renown, respected by my people, but feared by our foes. Ah! Wahine Ariki, those were evil days with the Maoris, for men warred and fought with one another like kuris (dogs), afterwards feasting on each other's bodies. O friend! your paternal ancestor was then alive, and in the zenith of his fame. He commanded many warriors, and was feared by all his foes. We have met!" [This was uttered with singular emphasis and deep meaning, whilst the speaker paused for a few seconds to critically scan the faces of the assembled chiefs of many tribes.] "He was beautiful to look upon (in physique). His arm was strong, and when he struck, men scattered like leaves before the hui nui (wind). I liken him unto the Rata tree, which is chief of the forest as he was of men. He was great in war, and his ovens were full of the flesh of his enemies. Listen all! Presently, Pakehas (white men) came to the country in quest of tohoras (whales), who bargained for one one (land), built houses,. formed fishing stations, and settled upon the lands of many tribes. They also took tamahines (daughters) from amongst the tribes, and raised up numerous families.These men were wild and turbulent, with whom the Maoris had many fights with varied success. Listen! Other Pakehas (Missionaries) came, who were good men. They were rongo na tangata (men of peace), and warred not with their fellow men. They spoke of an Atu (God), their God, which proclaimed peace and good will to all people. These good men also built whares and gathered, our tamarikis (children) into them, where they were taught all that was good. Afterwards they, the children, were sent abroad, so that they might teach others to be the same. Wars became less frequent, because of the page 162teachings of these good men. They set their faces against it, and by their good example got the Maoris to follow. By their teachings the Maoris forgot their tatau (disputes), and in time buried their utu (revenge). Peace and happiness now spread over the land, and the Maori people were able to pass from kainga to kainga unmolested. These were some of the good works performed by these hohou rongo tangata (peace-making men). Harken, O Chieftainness! Yet other Pakehas came to the country. They were peaceful men. Their object was to hoko (trade) with the Maoris. Both lived together in mutual respect and friendship. These men also took of our daughters as hoas (wives). You, respected Wahine Ariki, was one of them. Your tane (husband) was a good man. In the fullness of time you became possessed of a large family. But alas, marunga (death) came' in the door, and you became a matapihi (widow). Your heart was sad, and you mourned your great loss like a true wife. But that was not all. Your children were taken from you; one by one, and placed amongst tauhoe (strangers), so that they might be trained up entirely as Pakehas. Your life was now lonely, and your heart wandered back to the days of your tamarikitanga (childhood). You lodged for the associations of your native home and people. The wairua (spirit) of your father, in your mohewa (dreams), told you that it was not good to be alone. You sought for a tanepai (good man) of your own race, and found one, then maronui (married) him. Respected friend! After this tangohunga (marriage festival) you will return again to your people, there to live happy for the rest of your life. The great knowledge and wisdom of the Paheha which you have gained whilst living amongst them, you will be able to bestow upon. your kindred and tribe, for their benefit and well-being, whilst, at the same time, guiding their footsteps upon the onward march of peace and happiness. May the mamaru (rays of the sun) ever shine upon you both, and may you live long, revered and respected by all the Maori people throughout the land. I have finished my korero (talk). That is all. From your respected friend, Te Hohoro, of Te Ngatimaru."
Throughout the course of his remarkable address, the utterance of which was peculiarly intoned and page 163delivered with splendid elocutionary effect, Te Hohoro received many marks of approval from his Maori listeners; but it was whilst on taking his seat, that the audience, as if carried away with enthusiasm, broke forth in one loud and prolonged roar of applause, thereby showing how keenly his address appealed to their hearts, and was appreciated by all.
After the excitement and enthusiasm had somewhat abated, a general call for the Pakehas to speak was heard, which, for the moment, took us whites rather aback, no understanding having been come to or arrangements made for the one who was to be spokesman on the occasion.
Consulting amongst ourselves hurriedly for a few minutes, the unanimous and expressed wish was, that I should address the assemblage on their behalf.
Upon learning this decision, I pointed out to them the fact that although a large proportion of those present understood and could converse fairly well in the English language, the address would have to be delivered in the Maori tongue to be better understood by all.
That although I myself could speak the native language moderately, I had not practised nor yet had I ever addressed so critical an assemblage of Maoris such as was then present.
I also stated, distinctly, that if I was compelled to make a speech, and deliver it in the Maori tongue as well, I should most certainly fail.
To this assertion my old "school chum" replied that "He would come to my help by standing beside me whilst speaking, and translate it into the Maori language, sentence by sentence, as delivered."
Upon this promise being given, I acceded to their request, but told them I had grave doubts of a successful issue.
Upon rising to my feet I first stated that—" It was with diffidence and some little apprehension of failure that I rose to give a short address suitable to the occasion; but, before commencing, it would have to be distinctly understood that it was only upon the earnestly expressed and unanimous wish of my white companions that I had Consented to do so." (Hear, hear, from the whites).page 164
Here my old school companion, by voice and action, encouraged me on, playfully giving me "sundry punches under the ribs," whilst at the same time exclaiming in tones distinctly heard by all,—"Bravo! Go it, old boy! Go it! Go it strong!"—amidst a ripple of laughter all round.
Now turning, and addressing myself to the bride and bridegroom, I comenced thus:—
"Dear Madam and respected Sir,—The duty that devolves upon me now, at the expressed wish of my companions, is one of a heartfelt and pleasing kind to me. In calling up memories of the past, and of the years spent by myself, as a boy, in close and intimate social intercourse with your, dear Madam's respected family, the innumerable proofs of sincere friendship and motherly care which I have experienced at all times at your hands, has caused me specially to regard and venerate you as one of my truest and most respected friends. Nor am I alone here, for during your long residence amongst the whites, you have, by your many kindly acts, courtesy, amiability, and consideration for the feelings of others, endeared yourself to an exceedingly numerous circle of friends and neighbours." (Hear, hear from the whites). "But it was, dear Madam, more particularly in your domestic home life that your sterling qualities shone out so conspicuously, for as wife you were ever kind, affectionate, and true; and as mother, devotedly attached to your children; whilst, at the same time, no bread of idleness ever passed your lips,—your home, at all times, being a picture of neatness, cleanliness, and comfort. It is here that we can appreciate those few lines of the poet when he speaks thus:—
'But we can fill a lifetime,
With kindly acts and true;
There's always noble service,
For noble souls to do.'
It could not possibly be taken or considered as a surprise by your numerous circle of Pakeha friends, this serious and important step that you have just taken, seeing the peculiarly lonely life you have experienced these last few years. Nevertheless, dear Madam, it is to be hoped, whilst I myself believe, that this change in your life was page 165for the best interests of both yourself and people. There is one thing most certain, and that is, that your relatives and tribe will benefit greatly by your return amongst them. The knowledge you have gained whilst a resident amongst the whites, the great influence you can command, your known strength of character and power to mould others to your way of thinking, mark you for a regenerator and leader of your people in the paths of peace, happiness, and progressive civilization." (Hear, hear, from the whites and guttural applause from the Maoris). "It is a great pleasure to your Pakeha friends, dear Madam, to be able to feel so much esteam for the gentleman to whom you have confided your life's happiness by this marriage, and we all unite in the hope that every year will knit your hearts more closely in the bond of that union. If our beneficent wishes were the only requisite to insure your happiness in the married state, you would never have occasion to regret the serious step you have just taken, for there are none whom we more ardently desire to see surrounded with all the blessings of this life than you both. I unite most heartily, dear Madam, with my fellow whites in wishing you both to live to a ripe oldage, honoured, revered, and happy— 'until life's weary race has run.' "(Loud and prolongued applause from both whites and Maoris).
This concluded the singular proceedings of the day, which was conducted throughout with all the decorum and courtesy of civilized life, reflecting the greatest credit upon these semi-civilized Maoris.
After an hour had been spent in general tribal and interesting social conversation, the guests, one by one withdrew, to seek that repose which Dame Nature demands at the hands of common humanity,—but more especially after having partaken too heartily of the numerous and varied viands provided by over-indulgent hospitality.
Thus ended wich us Pakehas, a day of strange but enjoyable entertainment, and one which, from its peculiarity, must be borne in pleasing and happy remembrances by all concearned.