Other formats

    TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

Nation Making, a story of New Zealand

Chapter X. — Early Perils

page 81

Chapter X.
Early Perils.

A New Zealand Colonist:—Early times.Maori Dogs versus Sheep.A dog captured.—Rescued.A bold move.A good Shot.—A dead Dog.—the Aukati:Stocking runs.—A Native difficulty.The Aukati (a barrier line).Times of Peril.Breaking the Aukati.—The Chief Hori Ngawhare.Kereopa the 'Eye eater.'—Hori powerless.The murderer in the Forest.A Night under guard.An early Retreat.A gang of Desperadoes.A Volley.Kereopa hanged:Further attempts to break the Aukati.—Interview with Hohepa Chief of Oruanui.—'We will die together.'—Hohepa's Dream.A Girl for a Guide.Visit to the village of the Keepers of the Aukati.—A model Maori.Mat Making.Topi, a civilized Maori.The Last Lunch possibly.A Gallop into the hostile Village.A Witch-looking woman.A Fury.A Maori Curse.—'Let the warriors sleep.'—A touch of Womanly Sympathy.Maori Maidens.Silver ornaments.—The Chiefs in the Forest.A Volley.Shooting pigeons.—A Second Volley.The Girl-guide's Warning.—'Your blood will be licked by the Dogs,'—A Third Volley. 'To horse and away.'—Aukati Unbroken.

In the early times of English settlement in New Zealand and indeed, for ten years after England abandoned the Colony, the Colonists held their lives in their hands, facing innumerable perils, and doing heroic work in many directions.

page 82

The late Mr. William Buckland was in every respect a typical Colonist. In agriculture, pastoral pursuits, and politics he played a prominent part. Of a bright intellect, keen perceptions, strong physique and undaunted courage, he held no mean rank amongst the Nation Makers in New Zealand. Like many of the early Colonists he had a strong liking for the Maories, and from his upright character, was held in high respect by them, greatly enhanced by the following incident.

In the very early days Mr. Buckland purchased land some miles south of the present City of Auckland, and beyond the then settled districts. Hundreds of Maories lived in the Kaingas (native villages) around his farm. At that time and for long after, the Maories were very friendly to the few white Colonists. On his farm, Mr. Buckland kept a flock of sheep, which were frequently troubled by Maori dogs. He warned the Maories that he would shoot the first dogd he caught killing the sheep. One of the worst dogs was at last captured, and shut in an outhouse, till Mr. Buckland's return from the distant town. Next morning, whilst he was seated at breakfast, one of the workmen rushed in with the information, that the Maories had untied their dog, and were taking him away. At that moment a dozen Maories passed in front of the house, one of them dragging the dog along by its ears. To take down a loaded rifle, and step to the open door was the work of a moment. Telling the Maories to set free the dog, as he meant to shoot him, only raised a laugh of derision amongst the re-page 83treatingband. That instant, Buckland fired, and the dog dropped dead in the very midst of the Natives. From that hour, Te Pukeran (The Buckland) was regarded as a Toa (warrior) by the Maories, and the prestige he then won, never left him.

The Aukati.

Many years after this incident, Mr. Buckland and I purchased a large herd of cattle in Hawke's Bay, some two hundred miles distant from our estates. We sent a party of stockmen to drive them across country. On their arrival on the northern shore of Lake Taupo, a Native difficulty occurred. Two or three settlements of hostile Maories had drawn what was then known as an Aukati (or barrier line) across the country, which effectually stopped the travelling of the cattle on the direct road to our estates, about sixty miles distant.

The Aukati for many years after the war, rendered travelling in some districts extremely dangerous, besides causing a great loss of cattle. It was an imaginary line drawn across country by hostile Maories, with the avowed object of isolating the Colonists. The penalty for crossing this line by white men, or their horses, or cattle, often resulted in the capture and robbery of the stockmen, and in the loss of the cattle. Mr. Buckland and I, together or alone, made many journeys to various Chiefs to obtain the removal of the barriers, often at some personal risk.

On one occasion, I rode a long distance to a large page 84Maori village to ask Hori Ngawhare, the principal Chief of the district, and an old friend of mine, to break the Aukati, so that the cattle could pass safely. Accompanied by two Maori Chiefs of rank, and two stockmen I suddenly came upon an armed party of natives encamped at a little village, about a mile from Hori's principal Kainga in the neighbouring forest. Happily, Hori was of the party, and we were safe. I at once explained my errand, informing him, that I intended to ride across country to bring my cattle over the Aukati line, if he would break it, and give me a safe conduct. He promptly said that he could not break the Aukati; that if I pursued my journey, I and my companions would certainly be killed; that I had already risked my life in coming so far, significantly adding that Kereopa (a noted outlaw who had previously barbarously murdered Mr. Volckner the Missionary), was at that moment encamped in the forest not a mile away.

He strongly urged our immediate return, but as it was now sunset, and we had ridden long and hard, I was in no mood to retrace our steps. Finally he consented to our remaining with him for the night, and at once posted sentries at the two paths which led through the forest to Kereopa's encampment. We tethered our horses, partook of food and settled down for a long talk about the disturbed state of the country, and upon matters generally. Far into the night, according to Maori custom, we continued our conversation. Stories of battles, ambuscades, surprises and escapes during the war, with sallies of grim page 85humour, and the propounding of all sorts of knotty questions, made the hours pass lightly.

Early next morning, we saddled up and rode homewards, Hori and his companions remaining behind for a few hours, to cover our retreat I afterwards learnt, that an hour after our departure, Kereopa and his gang of desperadoes burst through the forest opening, and learning of our escape, was furious with rage, and determined on pursuit. Hori firmly resisted the attempt. Several volleys were fired by both parties, by way of demonstration probably, for Hori Ngawhare was the great Chief of the district, and Kereopa, though a desperate villain, was a man of no rank and a stranger, otherwise we should have had only our good horses to carry us out of danger. As it was, we arrived at Matamata in safety, and a few months later Kereopa was caught and hanged.

Two months afterwards I made a second attempt to get the cattle across the Aukati This time I made a circuit of 150 miles to Oruanui a Pah (fortified place) about 20 miles from the Maori village where the Natives resided, who had established the barrier. The chief Hohepa, of Oruanui was an old acquaintance of mine, and very friendly to the Colonists. I and my two companions were provided with quarters within the Pah. When I informed Hohepa of my intention to visit the hostile Natives, with the object of inducing them to break the Aukati and let the cattle cross in peace, he strongly protested against the attempt. He said the Maories, residing on the Aukati line were especially sullen because they had lost so page 86many of their kindred at the storming of the Orakau Pah by the soldiers some years before. He said they would not consent, and that if I went to their Pah, he would see me no more, as I should never return. I replied, that my cattle were starving, and that I intended to make an effort to get them over the Aukati, and that I should ride over next day.

Seeing I was determined he finally said,

'Well, if you are determined to be killed, we will die together.'

Early in the morning Hohepa said he had dreamt in the night, that we had arrived at the hostile Pah, that the Maories gave us neither welcome nor food, that they surrounded us, and killed the whole party. I saw at once that Hohepa was really afraid, not perhaps for himself, but for me, and I promptly told him that I would go without him.

I needed a guide however, but not a man in the Pah would volunteer. I said they were nothing but women, and ought to wear petticoats. At these words, a fine handsome Maori girl of high rank, and a relative of the people living at the Pah I proposed to visit, said,

'I will go, if you will lend me a horse.'

We saddled up at once. Accompanied by my interpreter Mr. J. W. Preece, as cool and gallant a man as I ever knew, and by Nahirica my lady guide, we mounted our horses. At the moment of departure, we were surrounded by all the Maories in the fort, and greeted with such a chorus of 'laments' and doleful cries, that to avoid being demoralised by our fear-page 87stricken friends, we moved off at once, rode down the hill, on which the fort was built, and putting spurs to our horses galloped across the plain.

After an hour's ride, we came to the foot of a hill, on the top of which lived the chief Ihaka, whom Nahirica wished to see before we continued our journey. Ihaka was a model Maori. His house and cultivations pleased me greatly. His wife was busy making a mat from dressed flax. The whole establishment was a striking evidence of the possibilities of progress by the Maori race under favourable conditions. He reminded me of an old-fashioned English yeoman, with his wife at the spinning wheel. Ihaka warned me not to proceed, but seeing I was determined, he finally bid me good-bye, saying, our only chance of safety lay in Nahirica, our girl guide.

We resumed our journey. After riding some miles, we noticed a single horseman coming towards us. This proved to be Topi a civilized Maori of my acquaintance. On learning our destination and object, he strongly urged our return, but finding I was determined to go on, said he would return and die with us. After a spin of some miles, we pulled up at the foot of a hill which Nahirica said was within half a mile of the Kainga (village), where the Aukati had been fixed. She advised our taking some food, as it might be the last we should ever have. A sardine and a biscuit satisfied us, and lighting our pipes, we rode slowly up the hill.

Directly we reached the summit, a pretty scene lay before us. Through the quiet valley a shallow stream page 88wound its way, beyond which lay the village with its Whares (houses) scattered here and there amongst the cultivations, bounded by the dense forest usual in New Zealand. Nahirica advised our entering the village at full gallop. Putting spurs to our horses, we dashed down the hill, through the river, up the opposite slope, and drew up in front of the principal house. As we entered the village, we noticed only women and children who, instead of giving us the usual 'Haeremai' (welcome) hid themselves in the houses.

We drew up in front of the house and remained motionless. After a few minutes of suspense, an old witch-looking woman came out of the house, her face full of bitterness and anger.

'Why have you hateful Pakehas (white men) come here?' said she in a voice of fury. For some minutes she cursed us in the most approved Maori fashion, until she foamed at the mouth, and then squatted down exhausted.

I quietly told her that my cattle were dying for want of food, and that I wished her to remove the Aukati so that they could go on to my own land.

'Never, never, never,' she replied. 'You killed my husband and sons at Orakau,' and breaking into a terrible fury, she cursed us and all Pakehas; with a vigour and venom that were almost appalling.

Curiously enough, the place where the battle of Orakau had been fought, and her dead heroes lay buried, was my property, and I at once told her that I would fence in the graves where they lay, so that my cattle could not walk over her dead kinsmen.

page 89

Scarcely were the words spoken, before she hissed out,

'You killed them. Can you bring them to life again? You have made my Kainga desolate. Then why do you talk about their bones? If your cattle trample over their sleeping place, will they awake? If your dogs eat them will they cry out? No. They fell like warriors fighting for their country. Let them sleep quietly.'

Then, exhausted by her vehemence, or touched by some old memory, she burst into tears, and covered her head with the mat she wore.

I was deeply moved, and remained silent. Recovering herself presently, she said in a changed voice,

'You are not safe here. The men will return to the village shortly, and if they find you here, your place will know you no more.'

Then with a touch of womanly sympathy, or of Maori hospitality, she said,

'Have a little food, and return quickly by the road you came, for the Aukati will not be broken.'

Instructing her maidens, who by this time, had crept from their hiding places, to spread their simple fare of pork and potatoes before us, we accepted her invitation, knowing by this act that, so far as she was concerned, we were safe. Whilst we were eating, I placed some silver trinkets I had with me, on the necks of the maidens. They received them with the delight natural to children of the forest, none the less possibly, because they were young women. Having satisfied our hunger, we lit our pipes, chatting the page 90while with the maidens who were friendly enough, their gay laughter and soft musical voices being in strong contrast to the harsh, strident tones of the old Chieftainess, who now sat silent and uneasy on the end of a fallen tree.

Suddenly three guns were fired in the adjoining forest. In a moment, the old woman sprang to her feet, and snatching the trinkets from the necks of the reluctant girls, passed them to me, saying,

'Go, did I not warn you? There are the men.'

Without moving, I quietly said 'They are shooting pigeons.'

Topi, his face full of terror, had rushed to his horse, and was moving off. Again the guns were discharged.

'Shooting pigeons,' said the old woman, 'the next volley may be for you.'

Nahirica now rose, and strongly urged our instant departure. I had intended to wait for the men, but after Nahirica's warning, Preece said the wisest course would be to depart at once, as the faces of the women were full of terror, and indicated mischief.

By this time, Nahirica had brought my horse, and as I was in a minority of one, I gave the word to mount. Again a volley, this time at the edge of the forest. The old woman in a cracked, excited voice, said,

'Depart now, now, NOW,' in higher and higher tones, 'or your blood will be licked by the dogs.'

Bidding the anxious women good-bye, we galloped down the hill, crossed the river, and ascending the opposite slope were quickly out of range. Topi said we had had a narrow escape, and that I was a fool to page 91have risked it. Nahirica said she was glad we were out of range, and though neither Preece nor I thought we had really been in much danger, we agreed that 'all's well that ends well.'

The Aukati remained unbroken. The cattle, being on bad feed had to be removed, and I arranged for them to be driven by the only route available, a long circuit of 150 miles or more, to the eastern foot of the Pateterre ranges, Mr. Buckland taking charge at that point.