War to the Knife, or, Tangata Maori
The dawn light awoke Massinger, who, since his arrival in New Zealand, had cultivated the virtuous habit of early rising, considering it to be one of the necessary attributes of a hardy colonist. Like others who have been educated by circumstances to the practice, he found so many advantages accruing from it, that he resolved to continue it. Hence, though a sufficient sleeper in the early watches of the night, he began to be automatically awakened at daybreak.
A glance around revealed the unfamiliar circumstances of his environment. Of the various groups which had constituted the village community on the previous night, by far the greater number were silent, or slumbering in the whares. An occasional figure raising itself from the recumbent position showed that he was not the only wakeful one in the kainga. Half-forgotten tales of Indian warfare, recurred to his memory, where the hero, desiring to escape from captivity, looks upon much the same scene as that which lay before him. He could not but feel that he and Warwick were entirely at the mercy of the warriors who composed the greater part of the hapu there assembled. The turn of a straw, in the electrical page 119condition of the political atmosphere, might lead to bloodshed, involving a declaration of war. The first reverse would doubtless throw the Maori people into such a state of wrath and exasperation, that, even against the policy of their chiefs, irresponsible members of the tribe might be tempted to sacrifice isolated parties of the invading race.
The prospect of a journey by unknown paths through a trackless wilderness, with however fair a goal, did not look so alluring as when associated over-night with the witchery of Erena Mannering's eyes and wonderfully expressive countenance, which hardly needed the translation of her thoughts into words.
However, the die was cast. He had given his sanction to the affair; and Roland Massinger was not the man under such circumstances to go back an inch from his word. Before dressing for the day, he took advantage of the proximity of the river for a bath, a preliminary step which, when circumstances permitted, he never omitted. While descending the slope which led to the river bank, he was joined by Warwick, who came leaping along the steep descent like a mountain deer. Arrayed in a pyjama suit only, which indicated the symmetry of his magnificent figure, his employer could not avoid admiration at his grand and striking presence. Taller by several inches than himself, his muscular development was exceptionally fine, while his activity, as evidenced by the constancy of his pace, and the ease with which he mounted and descended the most precipitous hills, clearing the smaller running streams with hardly an apparent effort, was truly abnormal.
A sure and deadly shot, he made excellent practice page 120with the navy revolver which he carried in his belt. So that, in addition to his general knowledge of the people and the country, Massinger rightly judged that he might have searched far before finding so perfect a pathfinder; at the same time, a comrade of courage and resource, on whom he might rely in the hour of need.
By the time they had fully refreshed themselves in the rushing tide of the Huka, they discovered that a considerable body of spectators had gathered on the higher terrace which commanded the spot which they had chosen for their ablutions. As they passed through the crowd now collected between them and their whares, from time to time such words were heard as, "Kapai te Pakeha, kapai!" "Kapai te Rangatira!" but all was in the nature of compliment to the travellers, and more particularly the pakeha, or white stranger. Warwick they appeared to regard as akin to them, and therefore not possessing the charm of mystery. Food was then brought, more than sufficient in quantity, and by no means to be despised by men whose appetite had been sharpened by a toilsome day's journey and the eager air of this antarctic wilderness.
The traveller had bread, and even butter, in his packs. With these aids, and, of course, quart-pot tea, the repast, if wanting in delicacy, was yet ample and satisfactory. After its completion, and the lighting of the after-breakfast pipe, he felt fully equal to the inauguration of the expedition, and awaited somewhat impatiently the appearance of the tutelar divinity.
"How about the maiden fair? Do you think she has changed her mind, Warwick?"page 121
"Another woman might, but not Erena," said the guide, with an air of conviction. "Before long she will come round the corner of that hill. I dare say she'll have some of her people with her. She's an aristocrat in her way."
"I should think she was," said the other, with an air of entire conviction. "She should be a most interesting study. Are there many more of the intellectual daughter of the soil sort, in these woods and forests? She is like Rosalind in the forest of Arden, but there does not appear to be an Orlando so far. I shall be anxious to see the other damsels."
"There will be two, if not three, with her to-day. One of her male cousins is a fellow whose company I'd rather not have now, or at any time; said to be an admirer of hers, which makes him more objectionable still. Here they come, however, with Erena marching ahead like a queen! Three girls, and a young fellow who's been educated at sea, with this sulky brute Ngarara—confound him very particularly!—bringing up the rear."
As Warwick had foretold, the little party came round the corner of the mount and made straight for the centre of the village. By this time the grey mare had been brought up and saddled. Upon her the various packs were placed, to the great interest and excitement of the youth of the community, who gathered round and commented freely upon the personnel and otherwise of the expedition. Discovering by experience that, with some additions, the mare was sufficiently weighted, and that riding in such a country was more trouble than it was worth, her owner elected to travel on foot, like the rest of the page 122party. This would leave him more at liberty to examine the botanical and geological features of the strange region upon which they were entering. The position, too, would be more dignified than riding at a foot pace, pushing his way through entangling thickets. Besides all this, he would, in right of his position as head and paymaster of the expedition, be entitled to take his place alongside of the most interesting personage. Thus, in the daily march, he would enjoy the original converse of an unspoiled daughter of Eve, fresh from Nature's bosom, un-hackneyed by the artifices and conventional deceits of the children of the world.
He walked forward and greeted the forest maiden, who smiled frankly and held out her hand, which he took with becoming empressement. In one comprehensive glance at her, before he relinquished it, he noted the details of her dress and equipment. Her figure, statuesque in every curve and line as the Venus of Milo, was scarcely concealed by the robe which, thrown across the chest and upper arm, revealed in part the outline of her classic bust, while affording full play to every motion of the arms and hands. A species of kirtle, coming below the knee, left her lower limbs free and unconfined. Her feet were bare, the smallness of which, as well as the delicate moulding of the limbs, betrayed her British ancestry.
Perfectly attired for travel through the steep ascents, the treacherous morasses and dense woodland of her native land, as with sparkling eyes and gladsome expression she walked forth at the head of the little party, Massinger thought he had never page 123before seen a more perfect presentment of the nymph of the legends of Hellas.
"We must say good-bye to the chief," she said; "it is tika—due and proper respect. Besides, if we leave without the paper he promised me we may have trouble."
They accordingly marched up to the chiefs abode, upon which the venerable warrior walked forward to meet them. He spoke a few words to Warwick, who replied in his own tongue.
"Is the pakeha's heart strong to journey to the hot lakes and the burning earth, and does he not fear the warriors of Te Heu Heu who will be in his path?"
"The pakeha is a toa," replied the guide. "He fears no man. With his tuparra he can shoot men as far as he can see them, and he has a pocket-gun, which carries six men's lives, in his belt. So have I."
"No doubt the pakeha will fight," said the chief, "but bullets come from the bush sometimes. The hearts of my people are not sore, and I pray that peace may be kept. Here is the paper which I promised to the white rangatira. It will show Te Heu Heu and his people that he is not a man to be treated like a runaway sailor; and if they have doubts, Erena must speak to them. Her voice is like the flute of Tutekane, and they cannot but listen."
So the expedition departed on its way, Roland and Erena walking ahead. One of the younger Maoris, at a word from Warwick, took the bridle of the grey, and followed in the rear; while the others of the party, including the surly Ngarara, who regarded page 124Roland with a fixed and sinister gaze, took up the trail and plunged into the forest.
Their path led for some miles along the course of a narrow but swift and deep rivulet, until at length it became necessary to cross it at a gravelly ford. Then he saw the advantage which Erena possessed in being without shoes and stockings. She calmly waded in without damage to her attire, and tripped up the opposite bank. While Massinger was speculating as to whether he should unlace his boots, and so save the necessity of going in wet ones for the remainder of the day, Warwick made a sign to one of the men, who without further ado "made a back," as in schoolboy days, taking him up thereon and across the stream, as if he had been one in good earnest. This feat accomplished, the party proceeded as before, through the primeval forest. It began now to be apparent that the difficulties of the way were likely to increase rather than to diminish.
The flax swamps appeared to become deeper and more treacherous, the hills to be higher, the path less easy to distinguish, the thickets more dense, and the thorn bushes more clinging and obstructive. Through all these obstacles and hindrances the Maori maiden seemed to glide like a disembodied spirit, keeping up a pace the while which taxed Massinger's powers more shrewdly than he would have believed possible. He was a good pedestrian, proud of his speed and stamina, but he had to confess to himself that this damsel and her attendants made the pace considerably better than he would have believed possible through such a country. Uphill or down page 125made no difference, apparently, to them. Warwick marched in the rear, and kept an eye on the man who was leading the packhorse, any accident to which, in flood or marsh, would have made a serious difference in the comfort of the party.
Massinger was not, therefore, displeased when, after scaling a higher hill than they had as yet encountered, Erena pointed to a wide expanse of champaign—more extensive, indeed, than he was beginning to think he was likely to see again—and said—
"Here we stop for an hour. I dare say you will like a rest."
He did not care to acknowledge that he had been nearly outpaced by this young woman and her wildwood friends, but looking at her before he answered, he noticed a mirthful twinkle in her dark eyes, which convinced him that she comprehended fully the humour of the situation.
"I am afraid you have been trying whether this pakeha can walk," he said, as she smiled archly. "Your country is not easy, and I am scarcely in training. But in a few days I will match myself against any of your people to run, jump, or walk for a wager."
"You must not do that with these natives," said she, gravely. "You would lose your mana, as we say, if you, a rangatira of the pakehas, engaged in contests of sport with the common people. However, some day you may have a chance of trying your speed against them. Warwick will tell you the same thing."
"Between your instructions and his, I shall soon know everything that is necessary for my good."
"Oh! he is very clever, and a toa as well—that is, a known athlete or warrior. There has been no page 126fighting since Heki's war in 1845, or he would have distinguished himself in that way, I feel sure."
"And now, tell me, do you think there is any danger of war breaking out, as some people think?"
"There will be war," replied the girl, fixing her eyes upon him with a sad and boding expression, "if the Governor takes the Waitara block by force. The chief thinks so too. He has remonstrated against it, though he will fight for your Queen to the death, and lead his tribe, the great tribe of the Ngapuhi, against her enemies."
"It is a pity it cannot be avoided; but, after all, there are worse things than war."
"If there are, I do not know them," said this Egeria of the South. "I have not seen a Maori war, but if you had heard the things I have heard you would never speak lightly of one of the most awful things in the world."
"Then I hope there will not be war," said Massinger, with a smile. "Personally, I suppose the sooner I get over to Rotorua and back to Auckland the better it will be. But whatever happens, I shall always thank the fates that sent me on this particular journey."
"Then you are pleased, even now," she said. "Oh, I am so glad!" and coming nearer to him, she took both his hands in hers, and, with a gesture of childish simplicity, pressed them warmly, gazing into his face with a look of frank delight, as might a sister thanking a brother for a birthday gift.
He had never met this type of womanhood before, and might have well been pardoned if he had misunderstood the feelings which appeared to actuate this woodland sylph. But possessing, as he did, a page 127sympathetic insight into the higher nature of women, he judged correctly that she was merely pleased with his approval of her presence and companionship.
As she withdrew her hands in a natural and instinctive fashion, while the blush which mantled under her clear brown skin showed that she felt herself to have overpassed the conventional line of courtesy, he half turned towards their attendants, who in Indian file were following up their footsteps. The Maori Ngarara was foremost on the trail, and must have noticed their attitude. For one brief moment his countenance wore the impress of all the darker passions, then relapsed into its usual expression of sullen dissatisfaction.
"We must descend now," said she, after their meal was ended. "I will promise not to go so fast for a while; you will find the evening walk quite a saunter after this morning."
"And why, may I ask, did you make the pace so good then?"
"I had a reason, a good one," she replied; "I did not hear about it till we were half way, or I should most certainly never have come this route at all. Did you observe a Maori woman come up for a few minutes, speak to Warwick, and go away?"
"Yes. I thought she might have some connection with the bearers. I hardly knew whether she stayed with them or disappeared. Did she bring a message?"
"Yes, and a most important one, too. That's why I pushed on at such a rate. If we had been nearer home, I should have returned; but the retreat would have been more dangerous than an advance."
"How can that be?"page 128
"That woman ran twenty miles to warn me that Taratoa was out with a taua—a war expedition. She said the natives believed that the war was all but declared. Now, as Warwick will tell you, this Taratoa is one of the most turbulent and bloodthirsty chiefs of his ruthless tribe; and that is saying a good deal. He might—I don't say that he would, but it is quite possible—think it a fine chance of increasing his mana by killing the first pakeha, which would mean the mataika in the war—a most coveted distinction."
"What a ruffian! But 'dans la guerre c'est la guerre.' Pardon me for quoting the French proverb."
"Mais, monsieur, je le comprend parfaitement," she returned for answer, with a mock obeisance. "You must remember that there are here French as well as English colonists. And besides, I spent a year at Akaroa long ago, which, as all the world knows—the New Zealand world, I mean—was at one time a French settlement."
Massinger bowed with all the grace he could muster, and apologized for thinking it impossible that a New Zealand girl was conversant with French. "You remind me," he said, "of the Admiral in 'Singleton Fontenoy,' a naval novel of a later day than good old Captain Marryat. He asks one of the middies, when before Acre, if he spoke Turkish.
"'No, sir. Oh no! what made you think so?'
"'Well, you youngsters seem to have learned everything nowadays. I thought you might know that among other languages.'"
She laughed at this with the unreserved merriment which characterized her when not serious or mournful, page 129which, indeed, was the ordinary expression of her features when in repose.
"You had better ask Warwick if he understands Turkish. He knows most things. We must consult with him as to what is best to be done, when we camp. But I think we had better push on to the Lakes, where we shall be in the territory of Te Heu Heu. He will protect us."
So they fared on. Through flax swamps, where the sodden soil was often midleg deep; anon through rushing ice-cold streams, where there was difficulty in keeping footing, even when in no great depth of water; up the rugged sides of mountains, where the narrow path lay between the century-old pines, knee-high in bracken, and was occasionally obstructed by the fallen mass of some patriarch of the forest, which forbade direct progress.
Meanwhile, this wood-nymph and her attendants, the latter of whom carried burdens of no mean weight, tripped onward swiftly, as if the ordinary difficulties of such a journey were hardly worthy of notice. Erena sped along like a votary of the huntress Diana. Few obstacles made any noticeable difference to her pace, as she glided, at the head of the party, with serene self-confidence—a marvel of grace, swiftness, and endurance. Scarcely less was he stricken with admiration at the courage and activity of the humbler members of the party, particularly the women. They carried their burdens over the difficulties of the road with unflinching perseverance, following in Indian file the footsteps of Warwick, who occasionally made a detour, when he thought it advantageous.
"What astonishing infantry a race like this would page 130furnish!" thought Massinger. "Amid these forests, reasonably drilled and armed, in a guerilla war they could stand against the best troops in the world! Sheltered by these ancient woods, the breast-high bracken, these thickets impervious to all men but themselves, what chance would disciplined troops have against them? I hope to Heaven that we may never have to war with them à l'outrance. A succession of skirmishes would not matter so much, but a prolonged war would be one of the most expensive, and in some respects disastrous, on record."
He was recalled from these reflections by the voice of the guide, who had fallen back, and stood at some short distance, awaiting an opportunity to speak.
"I have halted the party," he said, "for we have no great distance to go, and may travel in a leisurely manner. We shall soon have our first sight of Taupo and commence to open out the hot lake country, with all the wonders of which you have heard."
"I am not sorry," said Massinger; "for though nothing could be more to my taste than our present form of journeying, yet I must confess to feeling impatient to behold these marvels that are in every one's mouth. I hope I shall not be disappointed."
"If so, you will be the first to confess it," said Warwick. "I have seen them many times, but they always fill me with fresh wonder and admiration. Nothing, in some respects, is equal to them in the world, I believe. 'See Rotomahana and die,' may well be said."
"When I do see it, it will be well described.page 131
Between Erena and yourself, I shall lose no part of legend or tradition."
"She is far better at the legendary business than I am," said Warwick. "She has such a wonderful memory, and knows all the old tales and waiatas by heart. I tell her she should write a booka-booka about the place and the people. One is just as strange as the other."
"I think I must," said the subject of their conversation, who had now approached, after concluding a colloquy with the women of the expedition. "It seems hard that so many of these legends should be lost. When I was a child, they used to be sung and repeated at every camp fire. Now they are on the way to be forgotten. My father was always promising to make a collection of them, but they strayed into 'By-and-by Street, which leads to the House of Never.'"
Massinger smiled. "I know that street myself, I must confess; but while I live in your country it shall be tapu. The land of Maui is the place, and this year of grace the appointed time, for my work and adventure."
"And if there should be war?" said she, regarding him with a searching look, not wholly, as he thought, without a shade of doubt.
"All the more reason," he replied. "There is such a scarcity of honest fighting nowadays, that it will be a treat to face the real thing in one's own person."
For one instant an answering smile lit up her face as she gazed at Massinger, who unconsciously drew himself up and raised his head, as though fronting an advancing column. She sighed, as she came page 132forward, and lightly touching his shoulder, looked wistfully into his face. "You love war; it is in your blood. So do my people; it is the breath of their nostrils. My father, too, is a war-chief of the Ngapuhi, and fought with them in the old wars. But if you had ever seen Maoris in or after a battle, you would think you were in a land of demons, not men."
"A man can only die once. Your tribe, too, is on our side, is it not? I can't think the hostile natives will stand long before regular troops."
"Look at that bush," she said, pointing to a dense thicket of Koreao, where all sorts of horizontal climbers and clingers seemed struggling for the mastery, and into which the van of the little cortége had cast themselves, and gliding through, apparently without effort, had in part disappeared. "How do you think that a company of a regiment would advance or retreat, with Ngarara" (that amiable savage had just passed from view) "and a few hundreds of his tribe firing at you from behind it?"
"To tell truth, I think Ngarara would rather like it now, if he could get the chance; but I am a fair snapshot, and would try for first pull. However, we won't anticipate disagreeables. How far is Rotomahana? I am dying to see the terraces."
"You pakehas are always gay," she said. "Perhaps it is better to enjoy while we may. I wish I could do so. But our Tohunga has been prophesying, and his words have cast a shadow over my mind, which I vainly try to resist."
"But surely your education has taught you to despise superstitious fears?"page 133
"My reason does so; but the senses revolt, strange as it may seem. I cannot get away from a dread of impending evil. My father, who has Highland blood in his veins, calls it the 'second sight.'"
"I have heard of it; and what did the seer foretell? Is he known to be a true prophet?" queried her companion.
"Wonderful as it may appear, he has been seldom wrong. This time he predicts war—bloody and doubtful. Our tribe, though sometimes defeated, is to be victorious. He counsels them to keep a straight path."
The next day's journey was over a different route. The forest, with its over-arching tree-tops and deep cool glades, lay behind them. They had entered upon a region of barren and desolate sand wastes, of which the neutral-tinted surface was varied by scarped over-hanging bluffs. In these, a red-ochreous conglomerate gave a weird and fantastic appearance to the landscape.
Halting towards evening, where the winding road by which they had been ascending appeared to decline towards a wide valley, Erena silently directed Massinger's attention to the far-stretching and varied view, adding, "You are about to descend into the land of wonders, and the kingdom of mysterious sights and sounds, with heaven above. As to below, what shall I say?"
He smiled as he answered, "It is only to look around, to convince one's self that we are on the border of a dread and unreal region. Look at that volcanic cone, splashed with shades of red, emitting steam from every point of its scarred sides and summit.page 134
And those snow-capped mountains, grand and awful in their loneliness, gazing, as one would dream over a ruined world, themselves awaiting only the final conflagration."
"Very awful, terrible—infernal even, it seems to me sometimes," said Erena. "I cannot help wondering how long it will be before these imprisoned fires burst through, and, in rending their way to upper air, destroy the heedless people who live so cheerfully on a mere crust. But we must get down into this valley of Waiotapu, where we camp for the night. There will be such a sight-seeing to-morrow in store for us, that we shall hardly be able to move in the evening. Blue lakes and green lakes will be the least of the marvels. When I was a child, I used to think there would be talking fish in them, like those of the 'Arabian Nights,' which stood on their tails in the frying-pan."
"What a dear old book that is!" exclaimed he; "how I used to delight in it as a boy! Now I think of it, this region has a good deal of the Sindbad the Sailor business about it. I shouldn't wonder if we came to a loadstone mountain, which would draw all our steel and iron articles into it, like the nails in Sindbad's ship! It would be lovely to see everything take flight through the air, from the axes and revolvers to the old mare's shoes."
The girl smiled at this extravagance, but relapsed into her expression of habitual seriousness as she answered, "Who knows but that we may want the revolvers? At any moment war may break out. We are like the Rotorua natives, I am afraid, walking on thin crust."
"I have skated on thin ice before now," he said, page 135"but water and fire are different things. It seems uncanny to be on land where your walking-stick smokes if you poke it more than an inch into the soil. So this is the famous and sacred valley!"
"Here we are," said Warwick, who now joined them, "and I am not sorry. This sandy road takes it out of one ever so much more than the forest country. Our autumn sun, too, is fairly hot at midday. The Wahines felt it, carrying their loads up some of the hills."
"They seem to me to be given the heaviest packs," said Massinger, rather indignantly. "Why doesn't that hulking fellow Ngarara carry part of one at any rate?"
"Well, you see, he is a chief and has 'no back'—that is to say, he is absolved from bearing burdens. His person is sacred to that extent. I don't like him personally, but he is within his rights."
"I should like to kick him," said the Englishman; "he wants some of the nonsense taken out of him."
"I shouldn't advise any hasty act," said Warwick, looking grave. "He is a person of some consequence, and you would bring the whole tribe down upon us, as they would consider themselves insulted in his person; particularly now, as no one knows what may happen within a week or two. As for the women, poor things, they are used to it. They do much of the work of the tribe, and don't object to fighting on occasion."
"It is too true," said Erena. "I am always ashamed to see the tremendous loads they carry in the kumera season; and in the planting, digging, and weeding of those plantations that look so neat near page 136the kaingas, they do far more than their share. I suppose women in Europe don't work in the fields?"
"Well," returned Massinger, rather taken aback, "I am afraid I must own that they do, now I come to think of it. They hoe turnip and potato fields, reap and bind in harvest time; and, yes, the fishermen's wives and the colliers' daughters work—pretty hard, too. In France and Germany I have often thought they worked harder than the men."
"Ah! I see," said Erena, with a flash of her large dark eyes, illumined with a sudden fire, which completely altered the expression of her countenance. "Men are alike in all countries. They take the easy work, under pretence of responsibility, and leave the drudgery to the poor women. In one respect, however, we have the advantage. We can speak and vote in the councils of the tribe."
"You don't say so! I should like to hear you speak in public, above all things. Have you ever done so?"
"Sometimes," said she, relapsing into seriousness; "and if certain events come to pass, you may hear me make more than one speech in the runanga before the year is out."
"How interesting!" he said, gazing at her with admiration, as she stood in classic pose, with fixed gaze, and every graceful outline denoting arrested motion.
"I thought it better to strike across to this valley of Waiotapu first," said Warwick, "though Erena was in favour of going straight to Rotorua. However, she now agrees with me, that you can have a foretaste of page 137volcanic action here, and take the main Taupo road to the terraces, returning by Rotorua, which is the home of the hapu, or section of her tribe."
"It is, after all, the best route, perhaps," said she, smiling frankly. "You can reach the terraces easily now, and afterwards rest at Rotorua before returning to Auckland. There is also another reason."
"What is that?" inquired Massinger, as he saw the girl's face change, and her eyes once more become clouded over with the mysterious sadness which from time to time dimmed her brightest expression.
"I am nearly certain that there will be an outbreak—perhaps even war declared—before we return. In that case——"
"In that case I should join the first body of volunteers I could come at, or your own loyal tribe, if it remains so."
"I have every belief that Waka Nene will remain as true to your people as he was in the old war, when he fought against Heke, and did such good work in beating back Kawiti. My mother's brother, a noted chief, died fighting for your people. But this will bring the tribes nearer together; they may make common cause against the pakeha. It will be a fight to the death. Some of the friendly tribes may waver. I would advise your going to your own people without delay from Rotorua."
"And how about a guide? Warwick may not care to undertake the task in the face of—what may happen."
"In that case"—and as she spoke, her inmost soul seemed to look forth in high resolve through the lustrous eyes, now informed with the mystic fire of the sybil—"I will ensure you a guide who knows the secret paths even better than Warwick."page 138
Massinger said no more. The countenance of Warwick wore a look of mingled doubt and admiration, after which he ordered the attendant natives to make the usual arrangements for a camp.
"We shall need no fire, that is one thing," he said, turning to the Englishman.
"How is that?" he inquired.
"Nature is good enough to contract for the cooking here, which is the least she can do before she blows them all up some fine day. Just watch these people directly."
As indeed he did, much marvelling.
First of all, two of the women cleared a space, about three feet long and two wide, in the warm earth; into this they placed a layer of stones, which they covered with leaves. Upon this were placed the pork, the kumeras, and some pigeons shot on the way, all of which were rapidly and satisfactorily cooked. The evening meal, so miraculously prepared, as it seemed, having been concluded, Erena retired with her female attendants, pleading the necessity for a night's rest to prepare them for the opening day of the Great Exhibition. The two men walked up and down, smoking the meditative pipe. But long after his companion had retired to rest, Massinger lay awake, unable to sleep amid the strange, almost preternatural, features of the locality, while the anticipation of a war between his countrymen and this stubborn and revengeful people taxed his brain with incessantly recurring thoughts.
What would be the first act in the drama? He thought of isolated families of the settlers, now living in apparent peace and security, abandoned to the cruelty of a remorseless enemy. Would the horrors of Indian warfare be repeated? Would a partial page 139success, which, from their advantageous position, and the absence of any large body of regular troops, the natives were likely to gain, be avenged by merciless slaughter? In either case, what bloodshed, agony, wrongs irrevocable and unspeakable, were certain to ensue! What would be the outcome? He thought of the farmsteadings he had seen, with neat homesteads, garnered grain, contented hardy workers, their rosy-cheeked children playing amidst the orchards. Were these to be left desolate, burned, ravaged, as would be inevitable with all outside the line of defence? Then, again, the populous kaingas, with grave rangatiras and stalwart warriors; the merry chattering wahines, sitting amid their children when the day was over, much like other people's wives and children, enjoying far more natural comfort than the British labourers' families—were they also to be driven from their pleasant homes, starved, harried, pursued night and day by the avenger of blood? Like the heathen of old, dislodged by the chosen people with so little mercy? The carefully kept kumera plantations, so promising for another season, were they to be plundered or destroyed? The lines from Keble returned to his memory—
"It was a piteous sight, I ween, to mark the heathen's toil—
The limpid wells, the orchards green, left ready for the spoil."
Was all this murder and misery to take place because the representatives of a great nation differed with a quasi-barbarous, but distinctly dignified, lord of the manor about the title to an area of comparatively small value when compared with the millions of acres of arable and pasture still for sale, undisputed?
A contention as to title by English law ousted page 140the jurisdiction of magistrates in an assault case. Why should not this paltry squabble about an insignificant portion await an authoritative legal decision? No people apparently understood the deliberate verdict of a Court better than these Maoris. Delay, even protracted delay, would have been truly wise and merciful in view of the grisly alternative of war. Such a war, too, as it was likely to be!
However, though Erena and Warwick were confident of a fight, no official notice had yet reached them. It might yet be avoided, and so hoping, after hearing with increasing distinctness all manner of strange and fearful sounds, above, around, beneath, our traveller fell asleep.
The morning proved fine. As Massinger left his couch, the half-arisen sun was reluming a landscape neither picturesque nor alluring. Wild and wondrous it certainly was; upon such the eyes of the pakeha had never before rested. The elements had apparently been at play above and below the earth's surface, which showed signs of no common derangement. Rugged defiles, strangely assorted hillocks of differing size, colour, and elevation. A scarred volcanic cone poured out steam from its base upward, while, between the whirling mists, igneous rocks glinted, like red-hot boulders, in the morning sun. Near this strange mountain was a lake, the glittering green of which contrasted with the darkly red incrustations heaped upon its margin. Looking southward, a sense of Titanic grandeur was added to the landscape by a vast snow-covered range, on the hither side of which, he had been told, lay the waters of the historic Taupo—Taupo Moana, "The Moaning Sea."