Tikera; or, Children of the Queen of Oceania
Chapter V Through the New Zealand bush
Chapter V Through the New Zealand bush
At last we reached the magnificent Waikato River, whose waters had for the past year run red with the blood of English soldiers and Maori insurgents. First we stumbled across a small settlement, established to serve the neighbouring military camp with its motley garrison of troops, some tried veterans, some proven recruits. The camp teemed with regular soldiers, sailors transformed into artillerymen, settlers who had volunteered after their farms had been seized by the enemy, and native militiamen recruited from among the loyal Maori tribes. A new formation of forest rangers—part soldiers, part farmers—was being organized. This group was composed of men who had enlisted in Australia shortly before my departure from that country.
Perhaps to outrage Maori feeling these last had been installed in a military compound set up on the site of a Maori pa which had recently been captured. The dwellings of the pitiful little town were all constructed from a kind of wattle, made of a local plant, and were roofed with canvas. Our appearance broke the monotony of the everyday semi-disciplined routine. There was general astonishment, and even suspicion, at the sight of two young men, apparently strong and healthy, but not in uniform. Naturally enough we were taken for deserters from a front-line detachment. We were immediately arrested and kept locked up for almost half a day. Before they would let us free we were confronted by various officers whom we had to convince that we belonged neither to any regular units nor to the militia.
Luckily I still had my discharge papers from the Woodpecker, which I had received only a few days earlier, and my companion had his Prussian passport to prove his nationality. That was the only time during my travels through any English dominion when I had to produce documents to identify myself. The war and the frequent desertions from the armed forces explained this officiousness.
The last captain to examine our papers was the recruiting officer for the troop of forest rangers. We had to report to him because he had enlisted almost all the Australian settlers who made up the troop, and therefore knew each of them personally. So he was well qualified to know whether or not we had accepted the recruiting sergeant's page 42 shilling, which changes a free Englishman into a soldier of the Queen. Once he was convinced that we were beyond his jurisdiction, he asked: ‘Where are you going?’
‘South,’ I answered, ‘where there is no war and therefore work in plenty for willing hands.’
‘You'll never get there. The Maoris won't let you. You had better join our forest rangers. Sign up for one year's active service. You'll draw half a crown a day plus rations and full equipment. After a year—or sooner, if the war is over before then—each enlisted man will receive forty acres of confiscated land, a house, cattle, working tools, and a voucher for two years' rations.’
‘Where is this land you are promising?’ I asked.
‘At present it belongs to the rebel Maoris, but a Bill has been passed by both Houses of the Colonial Parliament which provides for its confiscation.’
‘And what becomes of your promise, sir, if they won't allow you to confiscate their land? It's unwise to count your chickens before they're hatched.’
‘These chickens are well within England's powerful grasp. The rebels, men, women, and children, scarcely number twenty thousand. We have almost as many soldiers. We shall certainly take the land from them. We have to, for we have mortgaged the greater part of it as security against a debt contracted by the Colonial Government from its London bankers.’
‘So the chickens are already sold. Suppose you do take the land and install us on it, who will guard us against attack from the rightful owners?’
‘You'll do it for yourselves. Your farms will guard the frontier. Each of you will be a farmer-soldier, and if ever there is another Maori rebellion you will have to join the ranks of the militia to defend your property. What a noble task,’ he added, with the sham enthusiasm of a shrewd salesman, ‘to stand fast in the defence of a flourishing colony and shield with your armed farmsteads the peaceful homes of millions who will come here to settle under your protection.’
‘Wouldn't we be doing the same job as the Austrian frontier guards or the Russian Cossacks?’
‘My dear sir, how can you make such a comparison?’
‘Well, many thanks for the kind offer. Farming doesn't attract us, particularly when the natives may burn the farms or kill the farmers for having them.’page 43
‘You are young and obviously intelligent men,’ interrupted the officer in a somewhat nervous voice. ‘You might well become officers In fact, I'm sure you would, because my troop are a terrible lot of ragamuffins … half of them can't even read or write.’
‘That's all the more reason for us to avoid your troop. Goodbye, sir.’
‘Don't you want to serve in the defence of civilization? What if I conscript you?’
‘You can't force us to join your gang of freebooters.’
‘You damned ruffian! How dare you call the soldiers of the Queen freebooters?’
The officer's face grew as red as a beetroot. He clenched his fists and took up a belligerent stance, as a blustering Englishman always does when somebody treads on his toes.
I am no less touchy, so I bristled up like a fighting cock, saying that a damned foreigner was a better man than any hireling hangman of the Queen.
At that the whole incident took on another colour. The officer began to attack me, then changed his mind and called loudly to the men loitering outside the hut.
‘You damned good-for-nothing! You'll pay for that. You seem to forget that there's a war on and that we have special measures to deal with people of your sort. You can be flogged with the cat in good Navy fashion for insulting the Queen.’
‘You and your countryman can keep the cat!’ I retorted.
‘She's good enough for you, even though you come from a country where the lash is common enough.’
At first I did not bother much about his ill-temper, but I began to realize that I was up against heavy odds. I grew alarmed. I could see that the soldiers meant business. As for my companion, who had so far kept silent, he began to excuse himself. I knew that the infuriated men would vent their anger on me by giving me a thorough beating. I resisted, shouting as loudly as I could, in the hope of being heard by some regulars. In a minute or two I heard the sound of a horse's hooves at the threshold of the hut. Its rider bent until his head almost touched his horse's ears, so that I was able to see his features clearly.
‘What's going on here?’ he asked, in the voice of a man well used to command.
A torrent of accusations and justifications followed. Soon the mounted officer clearly understood that a free man was being page 44 threatened with undeserved arrest, and probably with a brutal beating. So indignant was he that without even asking whether I had really insulted the recruiting officer he shouted at him, ‘You should be ashamed of yourself, Captain, to call upon your men to avenge a personal grievance.’
He ordered all the men to leave the hut save one, who was to escort us to the quarters occupied by the regular troops, where we should be safe. Then, shortening his horse's reins, the rider backed from the doorway and straightened his body. His face disappeared. What I had seen of him, and his accent, gave me food for thought.
We were set free without much more ado. As we left the hut, I asked our protector, ‘Who was that?’
‘Who do you mean?’
‘I mean the officer who rescued us from your captain's clutches.’
‘Major Tymp …. what a damned name …. Tymp … Tympyski!’ I cannot possibly imitate the way the trooper pronounced this Polish name.
‘Tympyski? Where's he from? What nationality is he?’
‘I believe he's a Pole. He is commanding officer of all the irregular troops in the colonial army. By rights, he should be a general, but he holds rank as a regular major.’
I meditated on the strange coincidence by which one Pole had saved another from disaster in the faraway Southern Hemisphere.
‘Are his headquarters somewhere near here?’
‘No. He's here from New Plymouth on a tour of inspection.’
Another strange coincidence. Should Providence allow me to reach New Plymouth, perhaps I might have a chance of meeting this Polish-English-New Zealand general. Continuing my inquiries, I discovered that his name was really Tempski. That was all I could learn. The English regulars knew no more about him and explained that, one way and another, they did not have much to do with the militia.
Now that I had been rescued from the clutches of the forest rangers and was in the safe custody of English soldiers of the line, who understood that an armed man must behave with some consideration towards one who is unarmed, I resolved to ask one of the officers how best to get out of this area where everybody, white or brown, was the enemy of a neutral such as I.
With this aim in view I approached a crowd of several hundred men who had assembled in a deep circle, apparently watching something in their midst. The men made a large circle, the officers a smaller one in the middle. Anyone who broke ranks and got into page 45 the empty space surrounded by the officers was encouraged by shouts of ‘Ring! Ring!’ (meaning ‘stick to it’). Some hissing mingled with the applause.
I thought a boxing match must be in progress, because the English custom is for spectators to form a ring and watch prizefighters exchange blows. Indeed, I was not far wrong, except that it was not humans fighting in the ring but dogs. A sleek dun-coloured bull terrier struggled with a hairy Scottish sheepdog. The bull terrier was a good strategist, but the sheepdog had a long, thick coat. The bull terrier knew all about gripping and how to bite off his opponent's paws if only he could get at them. Unfortunately for him the sheepdog also had some tricks up his sleeve. He kept on turning his hairy back on the smoother dog, wearing his enemy out, until the poor bull terrier had had enough of it and simply surrendered. The sheepdog was declared champion by general acclaim. A fine-looking gentleman stepped forward and offered an enormous sum of money for him because, until now, the vanquished bull terrier had been the champion of all the dogs in the army. This honour now passed to the sheepdog. The moneyed gentleman wore the insignia of a staff officer and had the reputation of being a great sporting man. Either by tradition or by general consent, the colonial code of sportsmanship considers such pastimes as pugilism, cock-fighting, dog baiting, or killing of hundreds of rats with the assistance of specially trained terriers, equally as suitable for well-bred dandies as horse-racing, rowing, chess, or billiards.
No one would pay the least attention to us until the important transactions of purchasing the victor and paying up the bets lost by the incompetence of the bull terrier had been concluded.
We were then told that it might well be extremely dangerous for us to wander through the bush in the vicinity of the upper Waikato River, in spite of the fact that General Cameron's army was operating successfully there, had captured several pas, and was nominally in control of the eastern bank of the river. We were also told that Maori guerillas often sneaked through the cordon of European troops to attack travellers and wagon trains on the newly made road.
‘No one with any sense will go in that direction,’ added our informant.
This warning did not alter our decision to get away from the theatre of war, even if that meant crossing an insurgent area. While still in Auckland I had exchanged the major portion of my earnings for a draft on a New Plymouth bank. As a penniless traveller I was considerably less afraid of the Maoris, or of the white scavengers page 46 who hang around the military camps knowing that a robbery can easily be blamed on the natives.
Beyond Waikare we met only a few cavalry patrols and a long line of military wagons. We also passed some reinforcements marching to join the front-line troops. Then we rested in a forest between the road and the river.
Several times we had to leave the road for the river. While conditions on the highway were orderly, here there was utter confusion. The war was the only master. The river was a natural frontier between the land already conquered by the English and what still remained in Maori hands. Its waters naturally became the scene of constant fighting. The moment a column of smoke from the funnel of a steamer was seen rising above the trees the bushes on the opposite bank of the river would come to life. Mysterious beings would move into ambush. As soon as the steamer passed a bend in the river and began advancing slowly closer to the Maori bank, where the water was deeper, gunfire would burst from every bush. Maori bullets would fall like hail on the steamer's deck, without causing any casualties. Naturally the crew knew in advance what to expect and were safely under cover. Then the steamer's guns would reply, sending grapeshot to hack the bushes to pieces and trace a straight line through the foliage, so that it seemed as if a party of surveyors and woodcutters had been that way. Needless to say, all this cannonade did little harm to the ambushers. The Maoris always fired from behind little ramparts of earth, hastily thrown up from holes in which they concealed their bodies while the crumbly piles in front of them protected their heads.
Much fiercer battles would follow the passage of a Maori war canoe. These craft, hewn from a single piece of wood, usually totara, are from forty to fifty feet long and four feet wide. Their tall, curved stern pieces are beautifully carved and finished. The boatmen stand in two rows, rapidly propelling the craft with their paddles, which they hold in both hands. Warriors armed with muskets kneel among the paddlers. Once the pakeha vessel was out of sight, a flotilla of these war canoes would set out straight for the other bank from among the reeds near the shore or from a shallow tributary which the English boats could not negotiate. Reluctant to expose ourselves to Maori bullets, we would look for shelter behind the trees, convinced that we were the only people there to see the graceful canoes. Suddenly the forest on both banks would echo to gunfire and the clatter of reloading arms. Some of the natives would fall into the water, while their kneeling comrades kept up a sporadic fire. Then page 47 completely oblivious of the danger, the Maoris would come ashore. Hand-to-hand fighting between the savages and the closing ranks of the English skirmishers would begin. The first time we witnessed such a battle, we had never for a moment imagined that the English were in the neighbourhood, so quietly had they been hidden in their clumps of flax or fern or supplejack. After a short engagement, during which Maori hatchets would shed as much blood as pakeha bayonets, the enemy would be repulsed. Under a steady stream of bullets the canoes would return to their enclave of reeds, bushes, and small islands. Silence would reign once more, broken only by the ducks and swans alighting on the water. Deluded by the temporary peace, never guessing that each tree concealed an armed man, the birds would dive and splash happily on the smooth surface of the majestic river.
Shortly after an engagement of this kind a turretted flat-bottomed naval monster, built on American lines, its sides protected against enemy fire by a projecting iron roof, would usually come on the scene. Only a specially designed vessel of this kind could withstand the Maoris' assaults. It was eminently capable of exploring the shallow tributaries, circling the islands, destroying the Maori canoes it occasionally discovered, or sweeping the littoral with grapeshot. Only once did we see the Maoris attack it. A long, dogged fight that was. They were tricked into boarding the ship, whose decks had previously been cleared. The Maori warriors did not stay on board for long. They were painfully surprised by jets of hot water and steam which issued from the revolving turret near the funnel. Despite severe scalding the Maoris did not abandon their dead but carried them away, either in their canoes or by simply swimming ashore with them. They risked their own lives for the sake of their fallen comrades. The raiders' fighting qualities were certainly something to be reckoned with.
Frequent repetitions of similar scenes along several miles of the river did not promise a happy ending to our long walk across the upper Waikato. There were no steamers in that area. The natives controlled the river. Attacks on military outposts were more determined, and brought better results. Maori manoeuvres outflanked the European troops or penetrated their extended lines, often with success. Our desire to cross the region cooled. Eventually we resolved to change our route.
One day we heard of a downright defeat, suffered not by a mere outpost, but by a small army corps composed of a regiment of infantry, a battery of artillery, and several militia units. The infantry page 48 was (if my memory serves me right) the Fortieth, an Irish regiment known as the Queen's Own because of the valour it had shown during the last hundred years. The regimental colours displayed proud decorations won at Waterloo and in the Crimea. Yet this famous regiment allowed the Maoris to smash it to smithereens during the siege of an insignificant fortified village. As a result, the whole English column was cut as it advanced inland. Raiding parties of the Waikato tribe were thus able to contact the neutral Maoris and incite them to rebellion.
The regiment's disaster was as bloody as it was decisive. The Maoris, dug in behind their palisades, survived the initial bombardment by literally doing nothing to protect the breach in their defences against the storming column. On reaching this gap, the infantry entered it in loose formation, concluding that the defenders had already abandoned the pa and that victory and plunder were within their grasp. The earth quivered beneath the Irishmen's feet. A rain of bullets came from countiess trenches within the fortress. Invisible hands unerringly picked off the officers. The leaderless regiment turned and fled. In their flight many soldiers fell into the trenches. Others ran towards the breach. The compact mass of redcoats made an easy target. The attack on the pa was abandoned. The retreating soldiers straggled back through the bush studded with Maori sharpshooters. The retreat claimed many victims. Because of this massacre no insurance company would have done business with us, for it would have been more difficult for us to return through that country even than it had been to advance.
The whole western part of the North Island was so inflamed that the tribes in the vicinity of Auckland took up arms and threatened the capital. Behind us and the army, sawmills and farms were already burning and a massacre of the settlers was begun by natives who until now had been neutral. We had therefore to stick with the army to the bitter end. This meant that we would be conscripted, a possibility which had long threatened the white male residents of the Island. Our alternative was to get over the mountainous watershed which separated the Waikato valley from the rivers flowing to the Firth of Thames. A hard choice, difficult to carry out whatever we did. We should first have to cross the mountains which formed the spine of the North Island. We should then enter nominally neutral territory, which might well join with the rebels. Moreover, there was no road to follow. All efforts of the surveyors to trace a line across the mountains had been vigorously resisted by the Maoris and often ended in fighting. Later, Maoris even warned the Colonial page 49 Government that its persistence could lead to open war. The country was therefore without roads. Those few white travellers up-country risked their lives, albeit with the Maoris' permission, straying along a maze of primitive paths. Some intrepid travellers had marked the easterly directions by blazing trees at regular intervals but this so-called ‘mark line’ was not easy to find. A traveller standing by a marked tree should, with reasonably good eyesight, be able to see a light spot on a dark tree trunk approximately a hundred paces distant. If he cannot, he will have to walk round the marked tree in widening circles until he finds the next mark. If this fails, and he is unable to make his way back to his starting point (as very often happens), he may wander through the bush for days on end.
As a former seaman, I carried a small pocket compass, so I was not afraid of losing my sense of direction.
The rest of the day we washed our underclothes and mended our jackets, torn on the clinging creepers bordering the Waikato River. Men are entirely unsuited to such chores. In certain circumstances they are forced to undertake them. They are very hard on needles, and break them in extraordinary numbers. Their attempts at laundry-work also do serious harm to soap and cotton. Normally, we use more soap for one garment than a woman will use for the whole wash. A brook serves us for sink, and the faster it flows the better. Its rapid current saves us the effort of rinsing out the soapsuds and carries the dirt away almost without effort on our part. Incidentally, it also carries away pounds of soap.
The country was full of ups and downs. Time, the old trickster, heavy rain, and volcanic activity had together done their best to make this countryside a masterpiece of their perverted sense of humour. It fell away in sheer ravines or reared up in sharp conical hills. The ground was paved with basalt blocks ranging from the size of a small egg to that of a three-storeyed building. Moreover, the land was riddled with deep pits. Behind each fern or creeper lurked an abyss in which a careless wayfarer could easily twist an ankle or break his neck—or even vanish, once and for all.
Our path usually led us between the almost vertical sides of a gorge. Beneath us would run a stream. There would be just enough room for us both on the narrow floor of this lofty gallery. As the stream would not give way, and we could not, we often had to plod through it, sometimes up to the waist in water. Fir trees hung on the cliffs, their roots hooked round great rocks. They clung to the mountain slopes like flies to a windowpane. The vegetation was so luxuriant here, thanks to the humidity and the mild climate, that page 50 not a square inch of ground was visible under the trees. It was thick with plants and mosses—except where noisy awful waterfalls cascaded from enormous heights, sometimes muddy yellow or even dirty black with deposits of vegetation, but often as clear as Alpine springs. Streams of water spouted from God only knows where and gushed into the valleys. They seemed to spring from the very tops of the conifers, splashing at our feet in a pearly shower, ringing down on the basalt blocks, and jingling like handfuls of glassy beads scattered on sheets of metal. Finally, this spurting water sank with a dull sound or a contrasting shrill snoring into deep holes drilled in the ground by the fountains which had fallen there for countless centuries. Small, silent pools lay beneath the falls, bordered by still throngs of conifers. The trees fired their brown cones at the watery looking-glasses they encircled, as though they were trying to shoot their own reflections. Ah, foolish trees, do you not recognize your own image?
The first day of our resumed journey dawned in a steady drizzle which became our inseparable companion, following us wherever we went in forest or mountain alike, night and day. We did not complain unduly. We knew that, together with mosquitoes and rats by night and sandflies by day, it was quite normal in this climate. Nonetheless, as we crossed the mountains we hoped to see the sky, even a minute part of it, free from cloud.
We did not always have to force our way through groves of kauri trees and supplejack. We frequently emerged into open spaces, almost completely bare of trees, known locally as ‘plains’, altogether unlike our European meadows. Thick thorny bushes known as tea-tree grew here, as did tree fern, and trees they may properly be called, with their trunks commonly one foot in diameter and as many as twenty feet high. Their fanning crowns beckoned us on. Small herds of pigs were often to be seen among the filmy leaves of the lesser plants. These herds feed almost exclusively on tender fern roots. We also used the roots as a substitute for bread. Grass was plentiful, but coarse and liable to cut our legs. Nonetheless, judging by the Maori cattle we encountered, it must have been nourishing. Flowers, modest both in size and colour by comparison with their European cousins but pretty enough, blossomed freely. Some reminded me of the golden buttercups which brighten our meadows in May and June. They were to be seen here on the edges of marshes full of raupo, from which the native huts are made.
The most intriguing plant of all was the New Zealand flax which grew in dense little clumps, reaching between eight and ten feet in page 51 height. We saw blossoms and seed pods on the same plant. The dark green leaves, some as much as six feet long, would often tickle our noses. Did they want to remind us of their usefulness? They were so common that we scarcely noticed them.
The compass, our one guide, led us safely through the plains. To reassure ourselves, we looked for the paths made by pigs, countless herds of which wandered across the country. These animals all spring from the few progenitors which the European discoverers of the Island brought with them and left here a century ago. We did not see very many of them, though we never doubted that they were plentiful. Each time we came to a plot of nourishing fern roots the soil would be thoroughly ploughed over, and not by man. The pigs seemed exceedingly cautious, probably because they are so popular; neither Maori nor Pakeha leave them in peace. Having heard so much about the wild pigs of New Zealand we expected to see either a close relative of the weighty European boar or, at the very least, a worthy descendant of the English species with its small head and short trotters and alluringly fat body. But our new acquaintances were greyhounds amongst swine. The largest could scarcely have weighed more than fifty pounds.
Each small herd looked to its own security far better than did the English army. When the grunts of the sentinels informed the herd we were near, the pigs would race away. Once or twice, though, we were clever enough to observe them at close quarters and see how systematically they rooted the earth, transforming whole provinces of New Zealand into acres and acres of molehills. Rooting apart, these animals were particularly fond of athletics. The squealing and wrestling of piglets filled the bush with a piercing noise which it was difficult to escape.
We moved steadily south, or rather south-east, struggling through tall sticky grass as sharp-edged as knives. It was just as tricky to find the right direction in the open as in the bush. In the bush, kauri roots stuck out of the ground and prickly nets of creepers constantly forced us to stop for half an hour or more to hack our way clear before moving further. Twilight reigned here all day long. The soil never dried out, lacking sunlight and breeze. It was slippery, Micky, and covered with loathsome mosses. Rain fell each night and would not allow us to push our march on in the cool evenings. I doubt whether even in fine weather it is possible to cross the bush at night, without even the small amount of light available during the day. In the darkness of a rainy night it would have been completely impossible. Consequently we advanced very slowly, sheltering by day page 52 in the thickets, not daring to light a fire for fear of being noticed by the Maoris, to whom this country unquestionably belonged. We could press on only early in the morning or late in the evening, believing that the Maoris left their villages late and returned to them early because they had a superstitious fear of losing their way and being forced to stay in the bush overnight.
It is hardly surprising that with these handicaps augmented by the steep mountains and the many rapid streams our journey lasted several days. The small deep rivers did not present a serious problem. We could swim across them, pulling our packs behind us with a rope which my companion, an excellent swimmer, would first take to the opposite bank. Fish were plentiful. We could tickle a fat eel out of any fair-sized pool. I would cast my line, nicely baited with a fly, into the streams and catch exquisite but exceedingly bony little fish. This annoyed my companion who, quite in vain, would dig worms for his line or whittle away at a wooden sinker. Nothing is more irritating than to wait poised with a fishing rod held scientifically in one's hand, eyes alert and lips tight, watching a fish sniff at the hook and then swim safely away. Anger soon changes to blasphemy when one's friend, sitting only ten paces away, catches fine lively fish with every cast. It was only human of my German companion to curse the unlucky lack of foresight which allowed him to omit to buy artificial flies of steel and fine feathers while we were still in Auckland.
To console him, I showed him freshwater crayfish which are very prolific in these parts, each more than three times the size of the common European variety. While we were forcibly immobilized during the day, I would catch fish and Charles would wage war against these creatures, pulling them out from their hiding places under the bank, often at the expense of his fingers. The poor wretch was frequently on the point of calling out, but dared not utter a sound in case even a murmur would betray our presence. The bush has long ears.
The journey was really melancholy, without even the company which Nature provides in other countries, such as deer, buffalo, kangaroos, or rabbits. New Zealand has no quadrupeds of her own. The naturalized cattle do not visit the bush. Company of a kind was to be had in the open, but we did not care for it: swarms of noxious insects did not appeal to us. At night there was not even the chorus of frogs to lull us. There are none in these islands. Only the mosquitoes did not forget us, and numbers of rats which made a regular nightly habit of examining our food supplies.page 53
As to birds, they were invisible, silent, perched on the highest branches of the trees. Occasionally a short ‘koo-koo’ betrayed the nearness of pigeons, small fat birds, no bigger than spring chickens, which are much appreciated by connoisseurs for their refined flavour. Apparently these birds love their brothers and sisters to such an extent that they are quite unable to abandon their dead relatives. They will gather round the corpse crying ‘koo-koo, koo-koo’; and a heavy price they pay for their respect. The more they mourn, the better targets they make. Half the flock may be killed. It is only then that the other half ends its requiem and flies away.
Sometimes the silence would be broken by the melodious note of a tui, a dark brown bird with a white spot on its chest which we had seen in cages in the capital. The little fellow would look at us with his curious black eyes before he darted away in dark-winged flight to his mate. The natives call this bird ‘the parson’, for so dark is its colouring and so white its neck that it looks for all the world like a clergyman in his dog-collar.
The cries of tuis, the warbling of native pigeons, and the squealing of wild pigs were the only music in the shadowy bush. ‘Parsons'’ ware provided our only entertainment, for they fight more fiercely among themselves than sparrows will.
A few days elapsed. We passed the ridge of the watershed between the Waikato and the Thames without meeting a single soul. The streams now flowed northwards. We began to notice tracks of bare feet on the ground more frequently. Now and then, Maori palisades and raupo huts loomed from behind dense thickets.
‘In a day, maybe sooner,’ I said to my companion, ‘we shall enter the white men's country. We'll dry our clothes, have a decent meal, and quickly forget the dangers which might have surprised us when we least expected them.’
My prophecy was not fulfilled right away. It was somewhat delayed, for reasons which we did not foresee.