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The Adventures of Kimble Bent

Chapter XXI — The Fall of Tauranga-Ika

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Chapter XXI
The Fall of Tauranga-Ika

Shot and shell—The fort abandoned—Flight of the Hauhaus—The chase—The fight at Karaka Flat—Mutilation of the dead —The ambuscade at the peach-grove—The sergeant's leg— Rewards for Hauhau heads.

Skirmishing up over the fern slopes of Taurangaika came Whitmore's Armed Constabulary and Kepa's kilted guerillas from the Wanganui. Some of the A.C.'s advanced to within about two hundred yards of the stockade, and took cover in a ditch which ran parallel with the front palisading; here they opened fire. The main body had pitched camp about half a mile from the pa front. At the same time Armstrong guns were brought up and posted on the left front of the stockade, and shellfire was opened on the rebel position at a range of five hundred yards.

But most of the Hauhaus were safe in their trenches and their covered ways, and the shells and bullets passed harmlessly over them. A few of the young bloodsdanced and yelled defiance from above-ground. On the stockade was the Hauhau tekoteko, the dummy figure which they worked in marionette- page 256 fashion by means of ropes that led into the trench below. This dummy was intended to draw the pakeha fire, but it had hardly deceived the veteran A.C.'s and Kepa's Kupapas, versed in all Hauhau ways that were dark and tricks that were vain. Bent was underground, listening to the bang of the Armstrongs and the whistle of the shells, and now and again squinting through the palisades at his adversaries.

One Maori, who was standing in an angle of the pa, was wounded in the head by a splinter knocked off one of the palisade-posts by a shot from an Armstrong gun. The same shell, whizzing through the pa, ripped a hole in Titokowaru's tent.

When night fell, no appreciable breach had been made by the shell-fire. It was now decided to storm the pa at daybreak. Some of the A.C.'s crept up with their entrenching tools to within fifty yards of the stockade, and dug out sheltertrenches.

The fort was remarkably quiet during the night. It was reconnoitred when daybreak came, and found—empty. The Hauhaus had for some mysterious reason deserted it under cover of darkness, and taken to the bush. So fell to the pakeha the very strong Tauranga-ika pa.

Bent explains this unexpected abandonment of Titokowaru's most formidable entrenchment.

The eternal feminine was at the bottom of it all.

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The chief of blood and fire, with all his manatapu, was vulnerable to the artillery of a dark wahiné's eyes and soft wahiné blandishments. He was detected in a liaison with another man's wife. This misdemeanour was, in Maori eyes, fatal to his prestige as an ariki and a war-leader. He had trampled on his tapu, and his Hauhau angel, who had so long successfully guided his fortunes, now deserted him. His run of luck had turned.

A council of the people was held to discuss the cause célèbre, and many an angry speech was made. Some of the chiefs went so far as to threaten Titokowaru with death. At length a chieftainess of considerable influence rose and quelled the storm of violent words. She appealed to the aggrieved husband's people not to attempt Titoko's life; but urged that the garrison should leave the pa—it would be disastrous to make a stand there after their tohunga, their spiritual head and their war-leader, had lost his mana-tapu. This met with general approval, and on the night of the attack the people packed their few belongings on their backs and struck quietly into the forest for the Waitotara. Titokowaru, with forty warriors, covered the retreat. “Afterwards,” says Bent, “when we had taken safe shelter in the Upper Waitara, Titokowaru regained his tapu by means of incantations and ceremonies performed by another tohunga. But by that time the war was over.”

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So to the forest fled Titokowaru and all his people, and hard on their trail, when the pa was found deserted, came the A.C. scouts and Kepa's Maoris, in lightest marching order for the chase.

The Government troops overtook the Hauhau rear-guard at Te Karaka flat, on the descent to the Waitotara River. At Te Karaka Major Kepa, the fighting chief of the Whanganuis, was leading the advance-guard of the pursuing force, when he was hotly attacked by the Hauhaus who had planted an ambush in the bush. Kepa was closely pressed. Captain T. Porter, who commanded No. 8 Division of Armed Constabulary—consisting of Arawa and Ngapuhi Maoris, with a few good European bushmen—was close up when Kepa was fired on, and he promptly extended the supports across the flat. Kepa, after a sharp hand-to-hand fight with the enemy, burst through them and fell back on Captain Porter. The Kupapas and their white comrades fought the Hauhaus till dark, and had to leave them dead and wounded on the field. Next morning they found the mutilated bodies minus hearts and livers, which the cannibal enemy had cut cut and taken away. The Hauhaus had also beheaded one of the slain, a Whanganui soldier named Hori Raukawa.

The grief of the friendly Maoris at this mutilation of their dead was intense, and was given vent to in weeping and furious threats. Kepa was page 259 in a terrible rage, and determined on retaliation in kind.

This feeling was intensified a few days later, when a strong force of Hauhaus ambuscaded and slaughtered seven out of a party of ten white Constabulary men at the Papatupu peach-grove on the banks of the Waitotara River. The Constabulary detachment was in charge of Sergeant Menzies of No. 2 Division. The men, who belonged to Colonel McDonnell's force at Te Karaka, had obtained leave to forage for peaches in a grove at Papatupu, on the opposite (north) bank of the Waitotara, and crossed the river in a canoe. They were gathering the fruit when a volley was suddenly poured into them by a large body of Hauhaus, who were lying close by waiting for pakeha game. They at once seized their arms and rushed for their canoe, pursued by two or three score of Maoris, led by Big Kereopa. The rest of the story was told the author lately by Tutangé Waionui, of Patea, he who had distinguished himself in the repulse of the white troops at Te Ngutu-o-te-Manu the previous year. This is Tutangé's account:

“I was one of the Hauhaus who ambushed the Constabulary men, under Sergeant Menzies, at the peach-grove at Papatupu. Some of them had got into their canoe, and would have escaped, but the others held on to it in an attempt to board it, and so we caught and killed seven of them. The page 260 sergeant was a big, tall man, and stout. I killed him. He was stooping down at the time. I slew him with no other weapon than a canoe paddle of manuka wood. I snatched up a paddle from the canoe and struck him a slanting blow on the side of the temple with it, the fatal blow called tipi, as delivered in sideways fashion with the edge of a stone mere. The white sergeant fell, and a Maori named Toawairere slashed off one of his legs with a tomahawk. This was done for the sake of getting the boot on the pakeha's foot for one of our men, a one-legged fellow named Paramena, who wanted the boot. The leg was taken away into the bush.”

Next day Colonel Whitmore sent the Kupapas— the Maoris of No. 8 Division under Captain Porter and the Whanganui under Kepa—across the river in pursuit of the enemy, and Colonel McDonnell's division of Constabulary followed them in support. Porter and his men, during the skirmish which followed, came across the fire in which Sergeant Menzies' leg had been roasted. The remains of the bone of the leg were there, and it was evident that Big Kereopa * and his fellow-savages had once more feasted on the flesh of the pakeha.

It was now that Colonel Whitmore agreed to a request made by Kepa and offered rewards for page 261 Hauhau heads. He said he would give £5 a head for ordinary men and £10 for chiefs killed. This gave a fillip to the bush-whacking chase, into which the Government Maoris entered with ferocious zest.

* Kereopa, in the days before the war, had been a pupil at the Kai-iwi mission school.