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War to the Knife, or, Tangata Maori

Chapter IV

page 65

Chapter IV

With the exception of certain yachting trips, Mr. Roland Massinger, as he now called himself, having decided to drop the title for the present, had no experience of ocean voyaging. A well-found yacht, presided over by an owner of royal hospitality and fastidious friendships, with carefully selected companions, and the pick of the mercantile marine for a crew, leaves little to be desired. Fêted at every port, and free to stay, or glide onwards as the sea-bird o'er the foam—such a cruise affords, perhaps, the ideal holiday.

But this was a far different experience. A shipload of perfect strangers, many of them not indifferent, like himself, to changing scene and environment, but unwilling exiles, leaving all they held dear, and murmuring secretly, if not openly, against Fate, presented no cheering features. The weather was cold and stormy; while, in crossing the Bay of Biscay, such a wild outcry of wind and wave greeted them, that with battened-down hatches, a deeply laden vessel, frightened passengers and overworked stewards, he had every facility afforded him for speculation as to whether his Antarctic enterprise would not be prematurely accounted page 66for by a telegram in the Times, headed "Another shipwreck. All hands supposed to be lost."

This, and other discouraging thoughts, passed through the mind of the voyager during the forty-eight hours of supreme discomfort, not unmingled with danger, while the gale ceased not to menace the labouring vessel. However, being what is called "a good sailor," and his present frame of mind rendering him resigned, if not defiant, he endeared himself to the officers by refraining from useless questions, and awaiting with composure the change which, as they were not fated to go to the bottom on that occasion, took place in due course. How the storm abated, how the weather cleared; how, as the voyage progressed, the passengers became companionable, has often been narrated in similar chronicles.

The mountains of New Zealand were finally sighted, and the good ship Arrawatta steamed into the lovely harbour of Auckland one fine morning, presenting to the eager gaze of the wayfarers the charms of a landscape which in many respects equals, and in others surpasses, the world-famed haven of Sydney.

It was early dawn when they floated through the Rangitoto channel between the island so called—the three-coned peak of which, with scoria-shattered flanks, denoted volcanic origin—and the North Head. Passing this guardian headland, "a most living landscape," the more entrancing from contrast to the endless ocean plain which for so many a day had limited his vision, was spread out before the voyager's eager and delighted gaze. Land and water, hill and dale, bold headlands and undulating verdurous slopes, combined to form a panorama of enchanting variety.

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The city of Auckland, which he had come so far to see, rose in a succession of graduated eminences from the waters of a sheltered bay. Bold headlands alternated with winding creeks and estuaries; low volcanic hills clothed with dazzling verdure, ferny glens and copses which reminded him of the last day's "cock" shooting at the Court; while trim villas and even more pretentious mansions gave assurance that here the modern Vikings, having wearied of the stormy seas, had made themselves a settled home and abiding-place. Glen and pine-crested headland, yellow beach and frowning cliff, wharves and warehouses, skiffs and coasters, the smoke of steamers, all told of the adjuncts of the Anglo-Saxon—that absorbing race which has rarely been dislodged from suitable foothold.

On the voyage Massinger had noticed a good-looking man, about his own age, in whom, in spite of studiously plain attire, he recognized, by various slight marks and tokens, the English aristocrat. Most probably the stranger had made similar deductions, as he had commenced their first conversation with an unreserved condemnation of the weather, after a passing depreciation of the food, concluding by a query in the guise of a statement.

"Not been this way before?"

Massinger admitted the fact.

"Going to settle—farm—sheep and all that—take up land, eh!"

"I thought of doing so, unless I change my plans on arrival. I suppose it's as good as any of the Australian colonies?"

"Beastly holes, generally speaking, for a man who's page 68lived in the world. Don't know that New Zealand's worse than the rest of the lot. Australia—all black fellows—kangaroos—sandy wastes—droughts and floods. Burnt up first—flood comes and drowns survivors. So they tell me!"

"But New Zealand is fertile and well watered; all the books say so."

"Books d——d rot—lies, end to end; must go yourself to find out. My third trip."

"Then you like it?" pursued the emigrant, stimulated by this wholesale depreciation of a country which all other accounts represented as the Promised Land.

"Have to like it," answered the other; "billet in this infernal New Zealand Company. Wish I'd broke my leg the day I applied. Heard of it, I suppose?"

Mr. Massinger had indeed heard of it. Had read blue-books, correspondence, letters, articles, and reviews, in which the New Zealand Land Company was alternately represented as a providential agency for saving the finest country in the world for British occupation, for finding homes on smiling farms for the crowded population of Great Britain, for Christianizing the natives as well as instructing them in the arts of peace; or, as a syndicate of greedy monopolists, insidiously working for the accumulation of vast estates, and oppressing a noble and interesting race, whose lands they proposed to confiscate under a miserable pretence of sale and barter.

"I have heard and read a good deal of the proceedings of the New Zealand Land Company; but accounts differ, so that they are perplexing to a stranger."

"Naturally; all interested people—one myself," said his new acquaintance. "But, as we've got so far, page 69permit me?" and extracting a card from a neat portemonnaie, he handed it to Massinger, who, glancing at it, perceived the name of

Mr. Dudley Slyde,

Secretary to the New Zealand Land Company, Auckland and Christchurch.

"Happy to make your acquaintance," he said. "I am not sure that I have a card. My name is Massinger."

"What! Massinger of the Court, Herefordshire? Heard generally you had sold your place and gone in for colonizing. What the devil—er—excuse me. Reasons, no doubt; but if I had the luck to be the owner of Massinger Court—born to it, mind you—I'd have seen all the colonies swallowed up by an earthquake before I'd have left England. No! not for all New Zealand, from the 'Three Kings' to Cape Palliser."

"If all Englishmen felt alike in that respect, we shouldn't have had an empire, should we?" suggested the other. "Somebody must take the chances of war and adventure."

"Somebody else it would have been in my case," promptly replied Mr. Slyde. "However, matter of taste. Every man manage his own affairs. Great maxim. And as mine are mixed up in this blessed company, if you'll look me up in Auckland, I'll put you up to a wrinkle or two in the matter of land-purchase—of course you'll want to buy land; otherwise you might get sold—you see? Stock Exchange with a 'boom' on nothing to it."

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The transfer of Mr. Massinger's trunks in a four-wheeler to a comfortable-appearing hostelry was effected with no more than average delay. An appetizing breakfast, wherein a well-cooked mutton chop was preceded by a grilled flounder, and flanked by eggs and toast, convinced him that the Briton of the South had no occasion to fear degeneration as a consequence of unsuitable living. After which he felt his spirits distinctly improved in tone, and his desire to explore the surroundings of this distant outpost of the wandering Briton took shape and motion.

The town of Auckland, having a few reasonably good buildings and a large number of cottages, cabins, and other shelters in every gradation, from the incipient terrace to the Maori "whare," was about the average size of English country towns. No great difference in the number of houses. Not much in that of the inhabitants. But there was an unmistakable departure in the air and bearing of these last. The recognized orders and classes of British life, hardly distinguishable from their British types, were all there. Rich and poor, gentle and simple. The farmer, the country gentleman, the tradesman, the lounger, the doctor, the banker, the merchant, the peasant, and the navvy, all were there, with their pursuits and avocations written in large text on form and face, speech and bearing. But he marked, as before stated, a certain departure from the home manner. And it was grave and essential. Whether high or low, each man's features in that heterogeneous crowd were informed, even illumined, with the glow of hope, the light of sanguine expectation.

Once landed on the shores of this magnificent page 71appanage of Britain, so nearly lost to the empire, dull must he be of soul, narrow of vision, who did not feel his heart bound within him and each pulse throb at the thought of the gorgeous possibilities which lay before him. Before the labourer, who received a fourfold wage, and rejoiced in such plenteous provision for his family as he had never dreamed of in the mother-land. Before the farmer, who saw his way to opulence and landed estate, as he surveyed the transplanted food crops growing and burgeoning as in a glorified garden which "drank the rains of heaven at will." Before the professional man, whose high fees and abundant practice would soon absolve him from the necessity of professional toil. Before the capitalist, who saw in the steady rise of land-values, whether in town or country, an illimitable field for judicious investment, ending with an early retirement and at least one fortune.

The town sloped upwards from the sea, thus necessitating steep gradients for the streets. The main street, broad and well laid out, was more level at its inception, though Massinger saw by the hill immediately above it that he would not have to go far before his Alpine experiences would stand him in good stead. This was entirely to his mind; so, stepping out with determination, he reached the summit of Mount Eden. Here he paused, and indeed the pace at which he had breasted the ascent, after the inaction of the voyage, rendered it far from inexpedient to admire the view. What a prospect it was! He stood upon an isthmus with an ocean on either hand. Far as eye could range, the boundless South Pacific lay glowing and shimmering under page 72the midday sun; on the hither side, the harbour with flags of all nations and ships from every sea.

The roadstead by which the Arrawatta had entered, appeared like a land-locked inlet. The outlines of the Greater and Lesser Barrier were plainly visible, as also the lofty ridge of Cape Colville; other islands and headlands loomed faintly in the shadowy horizon. Westward lay the great harbour of Manukau and the Waitakerei Ranges.

Weary with scanning the gulfs of the Hauraki and Waitemata, as also the far-seen ranges of the Upper Thames, holding stores of precious minerals, he allowed his eye to rest upon the fields and farmhouses, villages and meadows, overspreading the levels and sheltered beneath the volcanic hills. Under his feet what marvellous revelations of fertility met his gaze! The volcanic formation was evidenced by the shape of the conical eminences by which he was surrounded. He counted more than a dozen. In all, the extinct craters were perfect in form, though covered on side and base with richest herbage. In these he detected most of the British fodder plants, growing in unusual luxuriance. Observing the flattened summits and remains of graded terraces, he found on inspection that the hand of man had adapted these works of nature to his needs.

Scarped, terraced, and perfect of circumvallation, the remains of mouldering palisades indicated the abodes of a warlike people, who had in long-past days converted these hilltops into fortresses, affording effective means of defence, as well as a wide outlook, in case of invasion.

Here for generations, perhaps centuries uncounted, page 73had this vigorous, agricultural, warlike people—for such by his course of reading he knew the Maori nation to be—lived and died, fought and feasted, garnered their simple harvest, and lived contentedly on the products of land and sea.

Proud and stubborn, brave to recklessness, they naturally became jealous of the gradually extending occupation of their land by the encroaching white race. But why should such a people not be sensitive, even to the madness of battle, against overwhelming odds? They had won their country from the deep, traversing wide wastes of waters in canoes but ill adapted for storm and tempest. They had discovered this fair region—cultivated, peopled it. Why should they not resist a foreign occupation to the death? And as he looked around on the magnificent prospect spread before, around, he could not help recalling the lines of the immortal bard—

"Where's the coward that would not dare
To fight for such a land?"

Returning to his hotel, he chanced to meet several groups of this much-exploited people, and was much impressed by the stalwart frames and bold, independent bearing of the men.

Many of the women, too, were handsome, and among the half-caste girls and young men were forms and faces which would have compared favourably with the finest models of ancient Greece. One young man of that colour attracted his attention. He had been reading on board ship that wonderful romance of Michael Scott's, wherein the spacious times of old, and the planter-life of the West Indian Islands, are page 74limned with such prodigality of colour, such wealth of humorous perception, such power of pathos. As this young man came swinging along with a companion down the street, cigar in mouth, he could not help saying to himself, "There's the young pirate captain out of 'Tom Cringle's Log.'" He was taller even than that fascinating Spanish desperado, but there was a strong family likeness.

"What a man he is!" thought Massinger. "Six feet three or four, if an inch, broad-shouldered, deep-chested—a wondrous combination of strength and activity; supple as a panther, with the muscle of a Farnese Hercules. As to his features, the eyes and teeth are splendid, the complexion a clear bronze, hardly darker than that of Southern Europe."

Altogether he doubted if he had ever seen such a remarkable masculine specimen of personal grace and beauty. "This is truly a remarkable country," he soliloquized. "If the climate and soil can raise men like this, what may not be hoped from the introduction of a purely British race, with all the modern advantages of civilization?"

Thus pondering, he managed to discover his hotel, where he set himself resolutely to sketch out a plan of future operation, before completing which, he deemed it advisable to deliver some of the letters of introduction with which he had been plentifully supplied. One of the more immediate effects of this action was the outflow of an inordinate quantity of advice, from the recipients of which, as a newly arrived Englishman, he was deemed to be in urgent need.

These exhortations were compendious and exhaustive, but failed in effect upon him from their page 75very affluence, so much of the suggestive information being in direct contrast to that which immediately preceded it.

Having admitted that he intended to purchase a large block of land for farm and grazing purposes, it was astonishing how much interest he excited among the mercantile or pastoral magnates to whom he had been accredited.

"Have nothing to do with that infernal New Zealand Company," said one grizzled colonist, "or you'll never cease to regret it. They're all in the same boat with certain British members of Parliament and the local political gang, to rob these poor devils of natives of their tribal lands. Title? They haven't a rag. Some artful devil of a Maori—and they are not behindhand in that line—pretends to sell the lands of his tribe, for a few barrels of gunpowder or cases of Yankee axes—of course signs a bogus deed."

"But isn't he their accredited agent?" queried our hero. "They would be bound by his act."

"Agent be hanged!" quoth the pioneer impetuously. "This allotment belongs to me; have I a right therefore to sell the whole town? Though, between you and me, there are men in business here who would have a try at it, if they could delude one of you innocent new arrivals into taking his word and paying over the cash."

"I trust I'm not quite so innocent." replied Massinger, smiling, "as to make purchases without due inquiry."

"Depends upon whom you inquire from," said his experienced friend. "Advice is cheap, or rather dear enough, when the giver has an axe to grind."

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"Then how am I to find out, if no one is to be trusted in this Arcadia of yours?"

"Devilish few that I know of," rejoined the senior. "The Government officials and the Land Commissioners are, perhaps, the safest. They have some character to lose, and are fairly impartial."

"After what you have said, may I venture to ask counsel from you?"—instinctively trusting the open countenance and steady eye of the pioneer.

"Oh! certainly; you needn't take it, of course. Don't be in a hurry to invest; that's my first word. The next, buy from the Government; they have a title—that is, nearly always—and are bound to support you in it."

"But suppose their title is disputed? What will they do?"

"Take forcible possession, which means war. And Maori war—savages, as it's the fashion to call them—is no joke. And mark my word, if they're not more careful than they have been lately, 'the deil will gae ower Jock Wabster.'" Here the speaker lapsed into his native Doric, showing that though half a century had rolled by since he first anchored in the Bay of Islands, and the Southern tongue had encroached somewhat, he had not forgotten the hills of bonnie Scotland or the expressive vernacular of his youth.

"But surely the tribe, whichever it may happen to be, could not stand against British regulars?"

"So you may think. But I was in the thick of Honi Heke's affair in '45, and I could tell you stories that would surprise you. You must remember that, as a people, the New Zealanders are among the most page 77warlike races upon earth, inured for centuries past to every species of bloodshed and rapine, and bred up in the belief that a man is a warrior or nothing. Fear, they know not the name of. They are wily strategists, as you will observe, when you see their 'pahs,' and the nature of their primeval forests gives them an immense advantage for cover or concealment."

"Then you think there may be another war?" inquired Massinger, with some interest.

"Think! I'm sure of it. Things can't go on as they are. We're in for it sooner or later, and all because the Governor, who means well, lets himself be led by half a dozen politicians, in spite of the advice of the old hands and the friendly chiefs, our allies, who have as much sense and policy as all the ministry put together."

"But will not they always naturally lean to their own countrymen?"

"Far from it—that's the very reason. Most of these chiefs have tribal feuds and hereditary enemies, as bitter and remorseless as ever my Hieland ancestors enjoyed themselves with. Others, like Waka Nene, since they were Christianized by the early missionaries, have cast in their lot with the whites. They fought shoulder to shoulder with us, and will again, even if they disapprove of our policy."

"What an extraordinary people!" said Massinger. "And if war breaks out, as you think likely, what will become of the colonists?"

"They will have to fight for it. Murders and every kind of devilry will result. But we have fought before, and can again, I suppose. These islands are going to be another Britain; and even if there has been some page 78folly and injustice, England always means well, and we are not going to give them up. 'No, sir,' as my American friends say."

"I rather like the prospect," said Massinger. "A good straightforward war is a novelty in these too-peaceful days. If I had any notion of leaving New Zealand, which I have not, this would decide me. Good morning, and many thanks. I will see you again before I decide on anything fresh."

"There's grit in that young yellow," quoth the ex-skipper, as he walked out. "Bar accidents, he's the sort of man to make his mark in a new country."

The man so referred to walked down the street, deeply pondering.

"I have got into the land of romance," thought he, "without any manner of doubt. What a pull for a fellow in these degenerate days! It raises one's spirits awfully. In addition to such a country for grass and roots as I never dreamt of it, to think of there being every probability of a war! A real war! It reminds one of the 'Last of the Mohicans,' and all the joys of youth. We shall have 'Hawkeye,' 'Uncas,' and 'Chingachgook' turning up before we know where we are. Oh! fortunati nimium——Halloa! what have we here?"

What he saw at that moment was something which had hardly entered into his calculations as a peaceful colonist. But it was strangely in accord with the warning tone of Captain Macdonald's last deliverance. A section of the Ngatiawa tribe, which had visited Auckland on the matter of a petition to the Governor concerning the violation of a reserve, the same being tapu under ceremonies of a particularly awful and page 79sacred nature, were indulging themselves with a war-dance by way of dissipating the tedium necessitated by official delay. A crowd of the townspeople had collected at the corner of Shortland Street, while the tattooed braves were with the utmost gravity going through the evolutions of their horrific performance. Chiefly unclothed, they stamped and roared, grimaced and threatened, as in actual preparation for conflict. Musket in hand, they leaped and yelled like demoniacs; their countenances distorted, the eyes turned inward, their tongues protruded as with wolfish longing. Each man was possessed by a fiend, as it seemed to Massinger, who gazed upon the actors with intense interest. The performance, hardly new to the majority of the spectators, failed to impress one of them with due respect. He remarked upon the pattern tattooed on the thigh of a huge native in front of him to a comrade, ending with a rude jest in the Maori tongue. It was a mauvaise plaisanterie in good sooth. Turning like a wild bull upon the astonished offender, and furious at the insult offered to his moko—sacred as the totem of an Indian chief—the Ngatiawa dashed the butt-end of his musket against his breast, sending him on to his back with such violence that he had to be assisted to rise, stunned and bewildered. The Maoris wheeled like one man, and formed in line, while the leader shouted Kapai! as they marched through the crowd to their camp, chanting a refrain which no doubt might have been freely rendered, "Wha daur meddle wi' me?"

This incident impressed our Englishman more than weeks of description could have done, with the peculiar characteristics of the strange race among whom page 80he had elected to dwell. Pride and sensitiveness, to the point of frenzy, were evidently among the attributes which had to be considered at risk of personal damage.

He was, however, surprised at the cool way in which the crowd had taken their comrade's discomfiture, and said as much to a respectable-looking man who was walking down the street with him.

"We're not afraid of the beggars," returned the townsman, "as we'll show 'em by-and-by. But it's no good starting before you're ready. That fellow was half-drunk, and it served him right. There's a big tribe at the back of these chaps, and they're in a dangerous humour about that cursed Waitara block. That's why the crowd wouldn't back the white man up. He's only a wharf-loafer, when all's said and done."

This explained the affair in great part. Doubtless a mêlée would have ensued if any hot-blooded individuals in the street had commenced an attack upon the Maoris. An obstinate and by no means bloodless fight must have arisen. Doubtless, in the end, the whites would have conquered. Then the tribe would have murdered outlying settlers, or attacked the town. The military would have been engaged. The war-torch, once applied, might have lighted up a conflagration over the whole island, necessitating an expenditure of blood and treasure which years of peace would have been insufficient to repay. All, too, occasioned by the idiotic folly of a worthless member of society.

Revolving such reflections, which, with other ideas and considerations, effectually excluded the image of Hypatia, Roland Massinger betook himself to his page 81hotel, having discovered, as many a gentleman unfortunate in his love affairs has done before him, that this life of ours holds sensational interests, which, if not sufficing to assuage the pangs of unrequited love, yet act as a potent anodyne.

To such an extent did the subject of the diplomacy urgently required at such a juncture excite his interest, that he cast about for some means of visiting the camp of these strange people, and learning more about their embassy, which had so suddenly acquired importance in his eyes. Having fully decided upon making New Zealand his home, and becoming fired with ambition to aid in the development of this wonderland of the South, he had addressed himself on the voyage with commendable diligence to the study of the Maori language and traditions. Thus, though properly diffident as to his colloquial powers, he was in a position to more easily acquire a practical proficiency than if he had been without a preparatory course of study.

He had finished his lunch, and was enjoying his smoke on the balcony, gazing over the harbour, of which the elevated position of the Grand Hotel offered a view which he never ceased to admire, when he recognized the sonorous voice of his marine friend of the morning, Captain Macdonald.

"Yes, indeed! Ticklish situation—you may well say so. Jack Maori sitting on a powder barrel, filling cartridges and smoking his pipe. I've often seen 'em—nothing to it."

"I agree with you, Macdonald; you and I have been long enough here to know how to deal with Maoris. The Government ought to see that the touchy page 82beggars are not needlessly set up. I lost a dozen valuable blocks here in 1840 because a young fool of a pakeha didn't know the difference between taihai-ing (stealing) and mere taking away—tiaki-ing."

"Why, how was that?"

"Well, he said that Te Hira, the young chief of all the coast about there, was 'taihai-ing the goahore'—instead of tiaki-ing. He felt affronted—sulked, of course, and just as I fully expected to get all Shortland Crescent for—well, decidedly cheap—he shut up his mouth like a vice, and wouldn't sell a yard of his land. It shows what a queer people they are, when a grammatical error has such far-reaching consequences."

"Consequences!" echoed his companion; "I should think so. But I never heard of that adventure of yours."

"Well, it made a difference of about five thousand a year to me, according to the present price of the land. The Government got it afterwards, and cut it up into town lots. What noble buildings are on them now!"

"Look here, Lochiel," said the sea-captain; "suppose we walk over to the camp and have a Korěro. I know this chief, and we can both patter Maori. It might do good to explain matters, and none of us want to see Auckland under martial law."

"It's just a grand idea!" said the other colonist, a tall distinguished-looking elderly man, whose spare upright figure suggested military training; once careless enough of danger, but now for some years declined to the more peaceful vocation of a merchant—one of the sea-roving, fearless breed of adventurers peculiar to page 83Britain, whose wide-reaching mercantile transactions have included the mobilizing of armies and the levying of taxes; "in whose lumber-rooms," as in those of the Great Company now merged in Imperial rule, "are the thrones of ancient kings."

Here Massinger advanced, and bringing himself within the ken of the speakers, was at once introduced to "my old friend, Mr. Lochiel," as "Mr. Massinger, a gentleman who had come to settle among them."

"Very pleased to make his acquaintance," said the tall man, whose shrewd, intellectual, kindly face impressed him most favourably. "If he is of my mind, he will have reason to congratulate himself on his choice of a colony. I have never regretted my decision, and the greater part of my life has been spent here."

"You seem to have a diplomatic difficulty on hand," remarked Massinger, "if I may judge from an experience this morning."

"Oh! you witnessed that affair in Shortland Street, did you? My friend and I were just about to walk over to the Maori camp and get their notion of it. We're both 'Pakeha Maoris' of long standing, and the chief, Te Rangitake, has heard our names before. Would you care to accompany us?"

"There is nothing I should like better. I begin to wish for a more intimate acquaintance with our native friends, and trust to be an authority on their manners and customs by-and-by."

"It's odds but that we may know a lot more about their ways before long," said Captain Macdonald; "more than we shall like, if I don't mistake. In the mean time we had better look them up at the Kiki."

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The newly made friends—for such they were fated to be in the after-time—walked on a path parallel to the sea, over several deep ravines crossed by temporary bridges, until they came to a clear space, in front of which a bold bluff looked out upon the harbour. Here a collection of huts, made of the raupo, or reed-rush, and the smoke of fires, denoted the presence of the ambassadors of the former lords of the soil.

"Haere Mai! Haere Mai." was the cry with which they were greeted, which Massinger rightly interpreted as a note of welcome. His companions replied with a phrase which appeared to be the correct antiphonal rejoinder. As they reached the camp, in which they noted a number of women and children, it was evident that they were favourably known to the hapu, or family section, of the by no means inconsiderable Ngatiawa tribe.

The chief himself, an intelligent and determined-looking man, thus addressed them—

"Welcome! My welcome is to you, captain! You have been a friend to the Ngatiawa as long ago as when Honii Heke cut down the flagstaff; and my welcome is to you—Herekino. When your ship was in Kororarika, your heart was to our tribe."

"My salutation," said Macdonald, "is to you, O Te Rangitake! My friend and I, also this Pakeha Rangatira, have come to you for words in this quarrel of Otakou in Auckland to-day. It is folly—let it not breed quarrels between us. It was the act of a nobody, a tutua.

"The heart of Otakou is sore," replied the chief, gravely. "He was mocked by the pakeha. His page 85mana was injured. He wished for utu, but I told him there were matters to be considered; that the tribe was in runanga concerning the Waitara land—our land, the land of my people. After that he can take his musket in his hand. It is his own affair."

"It was a folly, a child's trick. The pakeha was beaten by him. He fell on the ground. His countrymen would not defend him. He had done wrong. Were they afraid of forty or fifty Maoris? No! They knew that the pakeha had done wrong. They would not lift a finger for him."

"It is well," said the chief; and advancing a few steps, he spoke rapidly to the insulted warrior, who sat moodily alone. "The Rangatira with the white man says the pakeha has done wrong. His people disown him. The matter is ended." Here he broke a wand which he carried in his hand in two pieces, in token that the decision was complete. Upon which the countenance of the insulted Maori cleared visibly; he arose, and walked to the other side of the camp.

And now Mr. Lochiel commenced a conversation in Maori with the chief, which evidently was more important, and, as it proceeded, became deeply interesting. The flashing eye of the chief, his impetuous words, his frowning brow, and ever and anon the deep, resonant tones of his voice, intimated so much.

Captain Macdonald translated from time to time, for the information of Massinger, who became anxious to learn more of the subject of the important conference, for such it evidently was. The colonist spoke page 86calmly, but with weight and effect, as was shown by the quick rejoinders and deeply moved expression of countenance of his interlocutor.

"It is about this Waitara block which the Government has bought lately," said Captain Macdonald. "He disputes the right of Teira to sell it; says that he will not acknowledge any sale or transfer. That the land belongs, in named and measured portions, to individuals and families in the tribe. That no single person has the right to dispose of it. That the whole tribe must unite, and through him, their chief and Ariki, give formal assent to the sale. That he is anxious to be at peace with the Governor and our people, but that he will shed his blood rather than part with this land."

"But surely there must have been official correspondence about the sale of this important block?" said Massinger. "Land is not handed over anywhere like a ton of potatoes."

"To do the Government justice, there has been correspondence enough and to spare," replied Mr. Lochiel. "The chief says he had a letter from the Colonial Secretary that Teira's land (as alleged) would be bought by the Governor. That his rule was that each man was to have the 'word' about his own land—that the word of a man with no claim would not be listened to."

"But that is the whole businesses I understand the matter. The chief says it is not the seller's land, though he may have a separate portion."

"That is what Te Rangitake wrote. 'Friend! Salutation to you! I will not agree to our bedroom being sold (I mean Waitara here), for this bed belongs page 87to the whole of us! And do not you be in haste to give the money. If you give the money in secret, you will get no land. Do not suppose that this is folly on my part. All I have to say to you, O Governor! is that none of this land will be given to you—akore, akore, akore (never, never, never)—while I live.'"

As these words rang out until they reached a shout of defiance, the greater part of the assembled warriors started to their feet, and standing round their chief and the three white men, looked as if but a very little additional excitement would suffice to lead them to death or glory, commencing with the slaughtering of any chance pakehas whom they might meet.

"This was not by any means intended for a declaration of war," Mr. Lochiel averred. "The Maoris are very demonstrative in oratory, and have always been in the habit of using much parliamentary discussion; even of giving full and official notice before war is actually declared."

But as the three Europeans wended their way back to the city, the countenances of the older men expressed grave doubt—even expectation of evil.

"As sure as we stand here," said Mr. Lochiel, coming to a halt, and looking over the waters of the harbour, lying calm and peaceful in the rich tints of the setting sun, "and as certainly as that sun will rise to-morrow, there will be trouble—war to the knife, I believe—if the Government persists in paying that fellow Teira the cash and claiming the whole block."

"I agree with you," said his friend. "How the Governor, who has stood firm in so many similar cases, should have allowed himself to be hoodwinked in this, passes my knowledge. These Ngatiawas will page 88refuse to quit their land; and the moment the surveyors go on it, there will be the devil to pay."

"But what can they do?" queried Massinger. "Will they kill the survey party?"

"No! certainly not. They rarely act in a hurry. They will probably use merely passive resistance at first. But resist they will. You may take their oath of that."

"And if that has no effect?"

"Then they will fight in earnest. They are devils incarnate when their blood is up. I have seen many an inter-tribal raid and battle; I don't wish to see another. But there will be murder in cold blood—killing in hot blood, with all the devilry of savage warfare. The blood of the men, women, and children certain to be sacrificed before the campaign is over, will be on the heads of those whose folly and greed provoke the outbreak."

"And is there no means of arresting this mad action?" said the younger man. "Will not leading colonists take the initiative in preventing a flagrant injustice—this removal of landmarks which must be paid for in blood?"

"All depends upon whether the peace party in the House is strong enough to defeat the machinery of the land-jobbers. If not, one thing is certain. We shall see the beginning of a war of which it will be hard to predict the end—much more what may happen in the meantime. And now, if you and my old friend here will dine with me this evening, I will promise not to sell you any land, or otherwise take advantage of your presumed inexperience as a newly arrived lamb among us wolves of colonists."

page 89

Nothing could possibly have been suggested more in accordance with our hero's tastes and inclinations, and he congratulated himself on his prospects of gaining real reliable acquaintance with New Zealand politics. This arrangement was duly carried out, and the three friends walked together to Mr. Lochiel's house. He had begged them to dispense with any change of attire, as the dusk was closing in and Mrs. Lochiel was absent on a visit. When they reached the mansion, beautifully situated on a headland over-looking the harbour, its size and appointments were a surprise to Massinger, doubtful of the class of habitation which they were approaching.

"Yes," said the venerable pioneer, as they stood in the handsomely furnished drawing-room, replete with pictures, casts, curios—a most generous assortment of objets d' art, evidently the fruits of a lengthened continental ramble; "things are much changed since Thornton and I bought that island you see out under the line of moon-rays, from the reigning chief, more than thirty years ago. He and I lived there for many a day, chiefly upon pork, fish, potatoes, and oysters. How well I remember the good old chief, to whom we 'belonged' as Pakeha Maoris, and the first night we spent there!"

"And at that time had none of the land here been sold to the Government?" asked Massinger.

"Not one solitary acre, where Auckland now stands—'nor roof, nor latched door,' to quote the old song. And now, look at it."

Mr. Massinger did look across the suburb which divided the grounds of their host's residence from the city of Auckland, with its thirty thousand inhabitants, page 90its churches, gardens, court-houses, public libraries, vice-regal mansion, and warehouses. The lights of the city showed an area even larger than he had at first supposed it to be. The ships in the well-filled harbour, the steamers with their variously coloured illuminants, completed the picture of a thriving settlement, destined to perform its function notably as a component part of the British Empire.

"This is hardly progress," he exclaimed. "It is transformation!"