A Sketch of the New Zealand War
My Early Days I
I Was the delicate son of a highly intellectual mother: physically the poorest specimen of a large family. I adored my mother with the reverence which a feeble child feels for a protector. She never showed a particle of partiality for me. Indeed, mothers rarely set their hearts on any but their eldest or youngest children, and her eldest son was stormily successful from the cradle up. He conquered all difficulties with the air of an emperor, and kicked or cuffed or bluffed his way up to the top of any circle in which he moved. He was a fine fellow: I was not.
I had, however, enough of a child's subtlety to enable me on most occasions to find ingenious excuses for the difficult positions into which I drifted.
In course of time my health became so weak it was thought desirable to send me to a farm in the country, called Sheadogue, which was page 10owned by my father, and managed by what in Scotland is called a bailiff. Here I acquired that attachment to the people which has since given me the freedom of their hearts. I went to school with a lot of bare-footed, ragged-breeched urchins, who first instilled heroism into my soul. Their theory was "blood is blood." They showed me ruined abbeys, broken-down bridges, tumbling walls, Gothic tombs and chapels; all of which, I was assured, belonged to my ancestors. This was a revelation. My mother's mind was ascetic: my maternal grandmother was a Scotch Calvinist. All this field had been hidden from me, and now, with the acute perception of a child's mind, I saw trouble in store.
I could not feel that I had "any blood" in me, and yet I knew that argument was out of the question. As I foresaw, when any difficulty arose to bar our boyish objects, every one exclaimed, "Blood is blood," and I was called to the front.
Nobody could have been more unfit for the position. It was useless to reason, so I did my best. Sometimes I had to engage in personal conflict a champion from some other barony. The result was invariably disastrous. On these occasions my backers used to lift me page 11off the ground, and wipe the blood off my face with my cap, saying, "You are powerful weak entirely. Never mind, 'blood is blood.'Go in again." And I did, with the same result, until a general scrimmage resulted, at which I was better, as, though very slight and small, I was as active as a squirrel, and knew how to hearten others.
These experiences accustomed my mind to tribal disputes and irregular warfare, and I make these disclosures to warn the reader that my sympathies are with the Maori, though my affections are all with the British soldier, who in adversity or success is a child of nature.page 12