War to the Knife, or, Tangata Maori
It was decided to camp on the border of the lake between the village of Ohinemutu, where the old historic pah, with its grim carven giants of the Wharepuni, looks frowningly down upon the little Roman Catholic chapel. Clouds of steam arose in all directions above them, while the scattered pools exhibited the pervading warmth combined with sulphur fumes.
"We are now on historic ground," said Warwick; "for, without counting Hinemoa—there is her island—all manner of legends abound; some of them horrible enough in all conscience, ghastly to a degree," he continued, gazing across the lake. "Mokoia looks peaceful enough now, with scarcely a hundred people on it all told. Yet what tales those rocks could tell! The island was a grand resort for the tribe in the days before gunpowder. In war-time they could paddle over from this side, and defy any enemy that had arrived on foot. There was no waterway to Rotorua. However, Hongi-ika-kai-tangata taught them a lesson."
"What was that?"
"When the tribe retired there, as usual, they did page 169not reckon on an unexpected move of the fiercest and most crafty chief of his day, and that is saying a good deal if all tales be true."
"How did he get over without boats; for I take it they didn't leave any canoes on the hither side?"
"Of course not. But he had plenty of man-power; so, after sacking the Arawa stronghold (in 1823) on the east coast, he dragged his fleet of canoes across by a road which he made to Lake Rotoiti, and, entering Rotorua, appeared with his fleet before the astonished lake tribes. He made straight for Mokoia, fell upon them with his customary ferocity, and, carrying all before him, put to death all who escaped the first assault. Of the whole seven hundred of the Arawa, not one is said to have escaped."
"What a tragedy! But, of course, such stratagems belonged to the accepted method of warfare of the period?"
"Yes," assented Warwick. "Almost where we stand now a chief's widow killed in cold blood (with the tribe and the mission school children looking on) a woman taken in war, as an offering to the memory of her husband. The missionary in vain attempted to prevent the sacrifice, the poor victim appealing piteously to some relative to help her. But the good man only endangered his own life, and did not succeed in saving hers. At Matamata, Te Waharoa's great fortress, when he was besieged by the Ngapuhi under Tareha, he made an unexpected sortie, and, capturing several prisoners, crucified them on the tall posts of the pah—just like those you see there—in the very sight of their friends, who retired in confusion. But I see Erena coming this way, so I must page 170stop these blood-curdling stories; she has a strong dislike to them."
While their appointed camp was being made ready, they were taken by Warwick to the site of the Lost Village, the scene of the extinction of a hapu of the tribe as sudden and complete as the destruction of that of Te Heu Heu.
They stood on a point of land running into the lake. It was floored with masses of pumice-stone, which the waves had worn into strange and fantastic shapes. Here had been the encampment. The sites of the dwellings, by no means unsubstantial, were marked by walls, of which the lower stones only remained. The apertures showed where the entrances had been. On one fatal night the whole promontory sank downwards, drowning the sleepers, and submerging for ever the homes where generations had lived and died.
Arrived at the camp, all things wore a most cheerful aspect. The chief, according to Maori custom with distinguished visitors, had sent down cooked food, mats, and other gifts, intimating through a messenger that he would be pleased to receive a visit from the pakeha rangatira at his convenience on the morrow.
Erena arranged to abide with her friends or relations until the morrow. The humbler natives asked leave of Warwick to bestow themselves in the village, while the sullen Ngarara, who had of late remained among the rank and file, announced his intention of coming for his pay in the morning, and terminating his engagement there and then.
Warwick displayed no surprise at this announcement, but told him that he might have his pay at page 171once. This offer he accepted, and departed with ill-concealed satisfaction.
"I am not sorry to get clear of him," he said; "he is a dangerous brute, and for some reason has taken a dislike to both of us. I can see it in his face. I had a hint, too, from one of the women not to trust him."
"What earthly reason can he have? He has been treated fairly all the way."
"Its hard to say. Maoris are like other people, good and bad. I hope there will be no war-scare till we get to Auckland, at any rate. He might take the occasion to do you a bad turn; so it will be well to be on your guard."
"Perhaps he will get as good as he brings," said Massinger, with the careless confidence of youth. "I shall keep my powder dry, at any rate."
It was late before the two men separated for the night. Warwick was led into legendary lore, of which he had a prodigious quantity. He told so many tales of battle, murder, and sudden death, that the Englishman dreamed of cannibal feasts, sieges, and pitched battles, with all manner of disquieting incidents, so that the sun had risen when he awakened after a broken night's rest.
His attendants were already in waiting, and before he had finished breakfast Erena arrived, looking fresh and animated. She had made some slight alteration in her dress, and had placed some of the beautiful feathers of the huia in her hair. Altogether, there was a change in her mien, a sparkle in her expressive eyes, a lightness in her step, an added tone of cheerfulness, which Massinger could hardly account for.page 172
He could not avoid remarking upon it. "You are surely not pleased at our parting, Erena?" he said. "Warwick and I must start for Auckland almost at once."
"So soon?" she said. "I hoped you might find something to interest you here for a few days. There's nothing so beautiful as Te Terata or Rotomahana; still, there are strange things here too."
"It must all depend upon our news of the war. It would be unwise to linger here after real fighting has commenced."
"I would not have you do it for the world," said she. "But I have a reason for not wishing you to return before Monday which I cannot tell you now. You wilt trust me, will you not?"
The girl's deep eyes seemed to glow with unusual lustre as she made this appeal, stretching forth her hands pleadingly, while her lip quivered as she looked at him with a wistful expression he had never noticed before.
"I dare say you know best," he said; "and after all your kindness I could not refuse you anything. But really this life is too pleasant—too much in the way of holiday-making. I must begin to do some of the work for which I came so far."
"You need not fret yourself over that part of it," she said. "You will have plenty of time to do all that is necessary. Many Englishmen come out to buy land, but they all wish they had waited before investing their money."
"You only tell me what my friends said in Auckland," he answered, "I am sure your advice is good. And now for our friend the Ariki of the lake tribes."page 173
Being joined by Warwick, they walked forward to the spot where the chief had located himself. He was surrounded by the elders of the tribe, as well as by a considerable body of natives, among whom Massinger noticed the ill-omened countenance of Ngarara.
"That fellow has been talking to the natives," said Warwick, "and whatever he has said, it is against us; I can see by the chief's face. I am glad that Erena is with us; she has great weight with the tribe."
The chief received them with a show of civility, but was evidently on his guard, as having had his suspicions aroused. He was anxious to know for what reason Massinger had travelled to Taupo and Rotorua after having come so far over the great sea.
"The pakeha is fond of strange sights. He has never seen anything like Te Terata before, and was most anxious to visit Rotorua, of which he had heard much; also to pay his respects to the chief Hika-iro, of whom he was told before he left Auckland."
"A word has been brought to me that the pakeha has come to see the nga iwi (the tribes), and to bring back to the man who rides at the head of the soldiers and to the Mata Kawana the names of the men that can be found for war in Rotorua."
"All untrue. This pakeha dislikes war, and only fights when men insult him. He desires to return to Auckland now that he has seen Te Terata, where he will buy land from the Maoris—perhaps set up a whare-koko."
"The pakeha's words are good, but who will say that they are straight? He may return to Waitemata, and tell the man who rides in front of the soldiers page 174with red clothes that the pah at Rotorua is old and has rotten timbers, so that it would be easy for the men with red coats and the men with blue ones to take it. Why is the daughter of Mannering among the women who are bearing burdens for the pakeha? Will she follow him, and plant kumeras in his fields?"
"She will speak for herself," said Erena, stepping forward with flashing eyes and scornful mien. "If my father were here he would teach that evil-minded man"—pointing to Ngarara—"to speak with respect of his daughter. What can he say? Have I not a right to walk in the same company as this pakeha, or any other? Is not the daughter of a war-chief free to choose her friends? Has not that always been the law and the custom of the Arawa?"
Here there was a murmur of assent among the spectators, particularly from the side where the women of the tribe were assembled, while contemptuous looks were directed at Ngarara, who stood with lowering countenance, unable to face the withering scorn with which the indignant maiden regarded him.
Here Warwick took up the argument, not unreasonably considering that the just anger of the girl might carry her beyond the limits of prudence, as she stood, with burning eyes and heaving bosom, ready to invoke the wrath of the gods upon the head of the traitor who had dared to misinterpret her motives. He pointed out that she had joined the party with the express sanction of the great chief of the Ngapuhi, whose written authority and safe conduct she held; that the other natives, male and female, had been hired for the expedition on liberal terms; that they had been already paid in part (here he page 175pointed to certain articles of apparel and ornament which they had lost no time in purchasing in Ohinemutu); that Ngarara, also, who had proved ungrateful and mischievous—"slave-like" and "a liar" were the Maori terms—had benefited by the pakeha's liberality: he had been paid in full. Here he named the sum, and pointed to a new hat, which the disloyal one had incautiously bought for himself. Upon him the eyes of the whole assembly were at once turned, and his countenance changed as a murmur of disapproval arose. Finally, the pakeha had assured him that he would send his friends from beyond the sea to see the wonders of Te Terata and Rotorua; they would bring trade and spend money like water for the benefit of the Arawa and the Ngapuhi.
Having thus spoken, using no mean quality of the oratorical power which is a natural gift of the Maori race, he produced Waka Nene's passport. This the chief (fortunately one of those who, like that veteran, had been taught to read and write by the early missionaries) perused with attention, while the whole tribe gazed with awe and reverence at the mysterious paper—the written word; the magic scroll! How often the herald of fate!
In this case, however, a triumphant success followed the perusal of the few lines in the handwriting, and signed with the name, of the great chief of the Ngapuhi, who, with more than a thousand warriors at his back, had formerly raided the Waikato and the Ngatimaru, carrying war and devastation through the length of the land.
"It is enough," he said, handing back the paper to Warwick. "The pakeha is a great rangatira. He page 176is the friend of Waka Nene, who sent Erena to show him the great fountain and the hot breath of Ruapehu; he is now the friend of Hika-iro and all the lake tribes. As for you"—turning to Ngarara—"you are a bad man, a kuri, a tutœ. Go!"
The discomfited Ngarara slunk away, pursued by groans and hisses from the converted crowd, who, as is usual in such cases, were more vehement in their anger in proportion to the feeling of distrust which had marked their first impressions.
Peace having been restored, and the enemy routed with loss and dishonour, there remained no reason why Massinger should not devote the few days that remained to the exploration of this fascinating province of the wonderland. Rarely did the weather in that portion of the island remain steadfast to "set fair" for so many successive days as in this halcyon time.
Whether it was the excitement of the coming strife, which he could see by the manner of Warwick and Erena that they expected, the physical exhilaration produced by the medicated atmosphere, the association with the half-savage race, who now seemed ready to bow down before him almost with adoration,—one of these causes, or the whole combined, certainly found him in a condition of spiritual exaltation such as he had never before experienced, and in vain essayed to comprehend.
"After all," he told himself, "it will be my last holiday for months, possibly for years. I shall never, perhaps, have such another ideal wandering through a 'londe of faerye,' certainly never again have 'so fair a spirit to be my minister.' A region of marvels page 177and magic, a tribe of simple children of nature, ready to do my bidding! In this life of ours, so sad and mysterious at times, such conditions cannot last; why, then, should not one frankly accept a fragment of Arcadia?"
He lost no time in communicating his change of plan to Erena, whose features wore so radiant a smile at the announcement that he saw in it the fullest confirmation of the wisdom of his decision.
"I am so glad," she said, "that you are going to honour my country, my tribe, by your last visit among them. I was born here, have swum and paddled in the lake since I could walk; and though my father changed our abode to Hokianga, and dwelt there latterly, I have always loved Rotorua best in my heart."
For the next few days they roamed over the lakes and woods, the hills and dales, of this enchanted ground in unfettered companionship and joyous converse. They went in a canoe to Hinemoa's Isle, rowed by two Maori girls, and beheld the bath which bears her name to this day. They saw the beach on which stood the doomed Arawas, confident in the power of their hitherto inviolate wave. Here had they fallen; here had the cannibal feast, with all its horrid accompaniments, been held; here, where the grass grew thick and wild flowers waved to the very margin of the peaceful lake, had assailants and defenders waded in blood amid the dead and the dying.
And yet now how calm, how peaceful, was the historic water, how tranquil were all things, how happily flowed on the village life! Who could have believed that such horrors were transacted in this fairy page 178isle, where now the voices of children at play, the crooning, low-voiced song of the girls, as they plaited the flax mats or made with deft fingers the neat provision-baskets, were the only sounds that met the ear?
Together they climbed the rocky summit of the island, and viewed the strangely compounded landscape, heard the dire sounds as of groans and murmurings of imprisoned fire-spirits, while from time to time an impatient geyser in the haunted valley of Whaka-rewarewa would fling itself in cloud and steam heavenwards with wildest fury.
Together they stood before the curious stone image, sacred under penalty of awful doom in the minds of the simple people, as having been brought in an ancestral canoe from the half-mythical Hawaiki in the dim traditionary exodus of the race. Together they forced their canoes up the glittering channel of Hamurama, and held their hands in the ice-cold fountain at its source, where it flows bubbling out of the breast of the fern-clad hill.
The moon was slowly rising over the dark range of Matawhaura as they left the further shore to return to Ohinemutu. The air was delicious, the lake a mirrored water-plain, across which the moonbeams showed silver-gleaming pathways, as if leading to other happy isles. The paddles of the Maori girls dipped softly into the placid water as the canoe stole silently across the lake's broad bosom.
"On such a night as this," said Massinger, "it would be most appropriate for you to tell, and for me to listen to, the legend of Hinemoa."
"It is a silly tale at best," answered Erena, with page 179a tone half of sadness, half of playfulness, in her voice—"a tale of woman's love and man's fidelity. They had better fortune in those old days."
"And, of course, nowadays," said Massinger, "there can be almost no love and less fidelity."
"The pakeha is wrong," said one of the girls, as they rested on their paddles, evidently anxious not to miss Erena's version of the legend (like that of Antar among the Arabs), ever new and deepening in interest with every generation—"the pakeha is wrong; girls' love is just the same as ever it was. It is always fresh, like the foliage of the pohutu kawa, with its beautiful red flowers. It does not fade and fall off, like the leaves of the trees the pakeha brought to the land."
"Hush, Torea!" said Erena; "you must not talk so to this pakeha. He is a great rangatira. And besides, you cannot know."
"Do I not?" answered the forest maiden. "If he is a rangatira, he will know too. But are you going to tell us the Taihia?"
"To stop your mouth, perhaps I had better; so I will begin. You must know that there was a young chief called Tutanekai, who resided with his family on this island of Mokoia. He was handsome and brave, but because of certain circumstances, and being a younger son, he was neither of high rank nor consideration in his tribe. He was, however, gifted in various ways, which made the young women of the tribe look favourably upon him. He was fond of music. On account of this, he and his friend Tiki constructed a stage or balcony on the slope of the hill there, which he called Kaiweka. There they used page 180to sit in the evenings, while Tutanekai played on a trumpet and his friend upon a flute, the soft notes of which were wafted across the lake to the village of O-whata, where dwelt Hinemoa.
"Now, Hinemoa was the most beautiful maiden in the tribe, and her reputation had travelled far. All the young men had paid court to her, but could get no mark or sign of favour. Among her admirers was Tutanekai, but he was not certain of his feelings being returned, and had not dared to pay her attention openly. So he used, lover-like, to breathe his woes into his melodious instrument; and night after night, as he and his friend sat on their balcony, the tender melancholy notes of the lover's trumpet floated over the lake, and were audible amid the sighs of the evening breeze and the plashing of the waves on the shore.
"After many moons, and when the summer was advanced, he found means to send a message to her by a woman of her hapu, to whom Hinemoa answered, 'Have we both, then, had such thoughts of each other?' And from that time she began to think daily of the love which had sprung up in her heart for Tutanekai, and to wander about by herself, and refuse food and company, after the manner of lovesick maidens. All her friends and relations began to say, 'What has happened to Hinemoa—she who was formerly so gay?' They also noticed that Tutanekai shunned the company of the young men, save only of his heart's brother, Tiki. Her feelings at length became so uncontrollable, that if there had been a canoe she would have paddled over to the point where her lover's trumpet, like the voice of the sea Atua page 181which none may disobey and live, seemed to draw her very heartstrings towards his abode on Mokoia. But her friends, thinking of this, had secured all the canoes.
"So it happened that on one warm night, when the moon was nearly full, she resolved in her heart what to do. She tied together six empty gourds to float around her, lest she might become faint before she reached the island, and softly slid into the lake near this very point, Wai-rerekai, which we are now approaching, and as often as she felt tired she floated with the help of the gourds. At last, when nearly exhausted, she reached the rock near the warm spring, which is still known by her name. Here she bathed and rested, also warmed herself, as she was trembling all over, partly from cold, and partly at the thought of meeting Tutanekai.
"While the maiden was thus warming herself in the hot spring, Tutanekai felt thirsty, and sent a slave to bring him water. So this slave went to the lake close to where Hinemoa was, and dipped in a calabash. The maiden, being frightened, called out to him in a gruff voice like a man's, 'Who is that water for?' He replied, 'It is for Tutanekai.' 'Give it to me, then,' said Hinemoa. Having finished drinking, she purposely threw down the calabash and broke it. The slave went back, and told Tutanekai that a man in the bath had broken it. This occurred more than once. Then Tutanekai in a rage went down to the bath, and searching about, caught hold of a hand. 'Who is this?' said he. 'It is I, Hinemoa.' So they were married, and lived happily," said Erena, concluding rather abruptly. "Oh, the next trouble page 182which occurred was that Tiki, the friend of Tutanekai's heart, grew ill and like to die because he had no wife, after being deprived of his friend and heart's brother. However, he was consoled with the hand of Tupe, the young sister of Tutanekai, and all was joy and peace."
At this happy ending the two Maori girls clapped their hands and shouted, "Kapai, Kapai!" till the lake-shore echoed again. Then dashing in their paddles, they rowed with such power and pace that they were soon landed at the legendary point of rock whence Hinemoa, love-guided, tempted the night, the darkness, and the unknown deeps.
The allotted days passed all too quickly. They had wandered through the forest aisles and silent over-arching glades of Tikitapu; had stood on the saffron-hued flooring of Sulphur Point; had revelled in the life-renewing waters of the "Rachel" and the "Priest's" hot springs, whence all who bathe in faith issue cured of earthly ailments. The Oil Bath, the Blue Bath, the Spout Bath were successively tested, until, as it seemed to Massinger, he had acquired a new skin, almost a new soul and body, so exalted seemed every motion of sense and spirit.
At Whaka-rewa-rewa the great Pohutu Geyser, with its eruptive column of steam and water, nearly eighty feet in height, had been visited; also the grim and terrible Brain Pot, unknowing of the tragedy of which it was to be the scene, concluding with the dread and noisome Dantean valley redolent of the sights and sounds of the Inferno, even Tikitere.
But one more day remained, and the trio were page 183engaged in debate as to the manner in which it should be spent, so as to compress the greatest possible enjoyment into the "grudging hours," when a party of natives was observed to come through the fern-covered flat between Whaka-rewa-rewa and the lake, and at once proceed to the carved house. Here a number of the tribe, including the chief and certain elders, at once assembled.
"News of importance," said Warwick. "Something is in the wind; I must go over and see."
There was no doubting the fact that highly important intelligence had been received. The whole tribe was astir, and buzzing like a swarm of angry bees. When Warwick returned his face was grave and anxious.
"As I feared," he said. "The Governor has been obstinate in the wrong place; he would not give way in the case of the Waitara block. Blood has been shed. The Waikato tribes are massing their men, and threaten to attack Taranaki. War is declared. Outlying settlers have been killed. There is no going back now."
"This looks serious indeed," said Massinger, not, however, without a certain alertness of manner which showed that the romance of war was uppermost in his mind. "What is to be done? or where must we go?"
"It has come at last; I was certain that it would," said Erena. "What a terrible thing it is that men should be so foolish, so selfish! But we must do something, and not talk about it. I am for making across to Hokianga, and must go and prepare at once."page 184
"Her idea is a good one," said Warwick, as the girl ran down to her end of the camp and called up her women. "We can get over to Horaki and go down the river by boat. The neighbourhood will be quiet as yet. We can trust the Ngapuhi, with Waka Nene to keep them steady, to be loyal to England. He never wavered in Heke's war, and is not likely to do so now. We must take leave of this chief, and get away without loss of time. But who comes now—with a following, too? This looks like a taua."
Here a fresh excitement arose, while shouts of "Haere mai!" and other words of welcome, more strongly emphasized than usual, denoted the arrival of a personage of importance. A comparatively large body of men, well armed, and superior to the ordinary natives of the district in height and warlike appearance, had come in sight. They marched regularly, and as they came up, all carrying muskets and cartridge-pouches, they presented a highly effective and martial appearance. Their leader was a white man.
At this moment Erena, who had been busied with her female attendants, reappeared. The moment she caught sight of the contingent she uttered a cry of joy, and. turning to Massinger, said—
"This is indeed most fortunate. We shall have no more trouble about routes. Yonder is my father. Let us go to meet him."
As she spoke Massinger noticed that the leader of the party, after a few words of greeting to the chief, had turned in their direction, and commenced to walk slowly towards them. As they approached page 185one another, Erena seemed anxious to explain to him the fact of her father's appearance at Rotorua at this particular time.
"He has, no doubt, had news of the likelihood of war, and has been to some portion of the tribe at a distance on some message for Waka Nene. He ranks as a war chief in the tribe since the old war, and has much influence."
By the time the explanation was concluded they were almost face to face, and Massinger was enabled to note the appearance and bearing of Allister Mannering, perhaps the most remarkable man among the by no means inconsiderable number of distinguished persons who from time to time had elected to cast in their lot with the children of Maui.
Massinger, in later years, always asserted that never in his whole life had he been so much impressed by the personality of any living man as by the remarkable individual who now stood before him. Tall beyond the ordinary stature of manhood, but of matchless symmetry, and moulded not less for activity than strength, there was a compelling air of command in his eye which every motion confirmed. His expression was grave and stern, but as he approached Erena, who ran to meet him, a wave of tenderness crossed his features like the ripple on a slumbering sea. Then he folded his daughter in his arms with every token of paternal fondness.
Whatever somewhat belated explanation of the position Massinger was arranging in his mind, was arrested by the meeting between father and child. After a short colloquy Mr. Mannering advanced, and page 186with perfect courtesy expressed his pleasure in welcoming him to Rotorua.
"I see that Erena has, with the help of Warwick here, done her part in showing you some of our wonders. Like her historic ancestress, she has a strong will of her own, but had I not the most thorough confidence in her prudence, as well as in the honour of an English gentleman, you will acknowledge that I might have cause for disapproval."
Here his steady, searching gaze was fixed full upon Massinger, who felt how poor a chance an unworthy adventurer would have, standing thus before him. But he met his accost frankly.
"I am indeed gratified to have met you, Mr. Mannering," he made answer. "I owe much of the charm of this month's travel and adventure to your daughter's companionship. It will be a lifelong memory, I assure you."
"You are neither of you to say any more about it," interposed Erena, with a playful air of command, hanging on her father's arm and menacing Massinger. "I am sure I enjoyed myself very much; so we are all pleased,—which ends that part of the story. But oh! father, is it true that the war has commenced? If so, what are we to do, and how is Mr. Massinger to get back to Auckland? I thought of going straight to Hokianga."
"Exactly what we are to do, not later than to-morrow morning. That is, I am going, you are going, also my taua, whose only prayer is to fall in with some of the Waikatos, not more than double their number, and have a good old-fashioned bloodthirsty battle. They are all men who have grown up since page 187Heke's war, and are spoiling for a fight. As for this gentleman's and Warwick's movements, they can settle them independently. I suggest that they avail themselves of my escort to Hokianga, whence they can easily find a passage to Auckland."
"Nothing could suit my purpose better," said Massinger. "I shall feel honoured by your company. Warwick will probably return with me."
Here the guide nodded assent.
"That is settled. You will find a hearty welcome from our chief, who has returned. I am proud to call him my earliest and best friend. So, as you are interested in Maori life and customs, you will never have a better opportunity of studying them under their natural conditions—I mean in time of war."
"In the land and the people I take an interest so deep that it will fade only with my life. Deeds, however, are more in my line, and by them I trust to be judged."
"There is a time coming for all of us," said Mr. Mannering, gravely, "when the valour and wisdom of both races will be put to the test. I have no doubt of the first. I only hope that the second may not be found wanting in the day of trial. And now, if you will excuse me, I must go back and hold diplomatic palaver with Hiki-aro, the chief here, and his most potent, grave, and reverend seigneurs. My men will be off duty, and will amuse themselves with games—most probably a war-dance, which you may like to see."
"I have seen one already in Auckland, but I will look on."
"And 1 will not," said Erena. "It is an abominable page 188heathen custom, making these ignorant natives worse than they are, and recalling the bad old times which every one should be ashamed to speak about. I shall pack up and get ready for an early start."
"You won't change 'Tangata Maori' just yet, my dear Erena," said Mannering. "This war will throw him back a few years. But I agree with you that these old customs should be suffered to die out, and as we shall have ample time to discuss the war on the road home, I will reserve mention of it till to-morrow."
So saying, he departed to his taua, who, not until he dismissed them, piled their muskets, over which, in despite of their friendly relations with Rotorua, they set an adequate guard. They were soon observed to join their compatriots in a copious and hospitable meal provided by the women of the tribe.
"How relieved I am!" said Warwick, when father and daughter had departed on their respective errands. "Nothing could have been more fortunate than meeting Mr. Mannering here. Even in travelling to Hokianga, a friendly route, we might have met a skirmishing taua like his own, and, in spite of Waka Nene's passport, would have stood but little show of escaping. Maori blood has been shed, as well as white, and any murder of stray Europeans or hostile natives would be justifiable, according to inter-tribal law."
"Then we are safe as far as Hokianga?"
"I should say perfectly so. Mr. Mannering is a tower of strength; no single taua dares tackle his. His bodyguard are picked men, known to be equal page 189to almost double their number. Then, of course, he has the whole Ngapuhi tribe, five thousand strong, at his back."
"And when we get to this Hokianga, as it is called? Is it a township?"
"It's a noble river, miles wide near the sea, with towns and villages on it. In the grand forests of Kauri Totara and other pine woods within reach, a great timber trade has flourished for many years past. Sailing-vessels ply between Horaki, Rawini, and Auckland, so there will be no difficulty in getting back."
The ceremonies proper to leave-taking having been transacted, the reinforced party set out for the Hokianga, through what are mostly described as pathless woods interspersed with morasses.
When the march was less difficult, and there was leisure for conversation, Mannering beguiled the way with tales and reminiscences which caused Massinger to wonder unceasingly that a man so variously gifted, possessed of such social charm, so wide an experience of men and books, should have elected to wear out his life amid a barbaric race. "Doubtless," thought he, "this man belongs to the true Viking breed, a born leader of men, impatient of the restraints of civilization, not to be contented without the quickening presence of danger, 'the dust of desperate battle,' the savour of blood, even. Such men have always been thrown off, from time to time, by our sea-roving race; have nobly done their parts in subduing for the empire the waste places of the earth. His hair is tinged with grey, but how springy his long elastic strides, how youthful are all his movements, how joyous his laugh, page 190how keen his sense of humour! An Anax andrōn—a king of men, without doubt. No wonder that his daughter should have inherited, along with her glorious physical perfection, which she owes in part to her mother's race, the higher intelligence and lofty ideals which ennoble 'the heirs of all the ages, and the foremost files of Time!'"