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Reminiscences of The War in New Zealand

Chapter VI. — Peogeess of the Hauhau Religion—continued. — Mr. Booth's Adventure

Chapter VI.
Peogeess of the Hauhau Religioncontinued.
Mr. Booth's Adventure.

Shortly before the events just related, the second prophet, Matene Rangitauira, had been sent to propagate the Pai Marire among the Wanganui, of which tribe he was a member. The party took the inland track up the Waitotaia, and reached Pipiriki, where the people were bitterly hostile to Europeans, in consequence of the death of their chief Hori Te Kaioroto, who with thirty-six of his men was killed at the storming of Katikara. This tribe readily accepted the Pai Marire. Captain Lloyd's head was hung on the Niu, while men and women half mad with fanaticism danced wildly round it. Mr. Booth, the resident magistrate, was absent in Wanganui when these men arrived, but his brother and family were at Pipiriki. His return had been prevented by want of water on the upper rapids of the river; page break
Vincent Brooks, Day & Son Lith.TikokowaruSampson Low & Co. London.

Vincent Brooks, Day & Son Lith.
Sampson Low & Co. London.

page 32had he been at his station, it is probable that he might have prevented the Hauhaus preaching their Pai Marire, for he was greatly respected by the Maories. The state of the river prevented Mr. Booth's return before the end of April; at each pah on the river he was told that the new religion had been established at Pipiriki, and at Hiruharama he was solemnly warned not to go on, as the Hauhaus were all pourewarewa (half mad), swearing vengeance to the Pakeha. This of course only proved a stronger reason for going on, as he felt it was his duty to rescue his brother and family. On reaching the landing-place he observed a change in the behaviour of his people; usually they would come to meet, and welcome him, and drag up the canoe high and dry before he was allowed to land, but on this occasion they lined the high bank above the river, making horrible grimaces and yelling like demons. Now thoroughly alive to his danger, Mr. Booth sat quietly in the canoe until the young chief Hori Patene came down and cried over him, rubbing noses to assure him of his friendship. Hori advised Mr. Booth to go at once to his house, but he refused, saying he saw murder in the eyes of Matene and his followers. Hori promised to protect him, and they went together. On the top of the bank Mr. Booth saw a young half-caste boy who was under his protection; he tried to take him with him, but the Hauhaus seized the boy, and in the struggle he was hurt and cried out; this so exasperated them, that Booth would have been killed at once had not Hori interfered and persuaded him to let the boy go. They found Mrs. Booth and the children in great alarm, expecting death every moment. Hori's good deeds did not cease here, for he crossed the river and brought Mr. Booth's brother and family, so that they might all meet their fate together.

It was now dark, and the Hauhaus began their devotions, howling round the pole on which was hung Captain Lloyd's head, the women in a frenzy of fanaticism gnawing the hair and flesh. These scenes were repeated page 33again and again during the night, and when not engaged in these horrible devotions the Taranaki men made speeches which Mr. Booth could hear, urging the murder of himself and family. Hori Patene and one other man opposed them, and proposed that the Pakehas should be allowed to depart. On the following day the same scenes were repeated; in the afternoon, Epiha Patapu, a near relation of the great Pehi Turoa, arrived and visited Mr. Booth. He was requested to return and bring Pehi to intercede with the Hauhaus; Epiha promised to do so, but late in the evening he sent word that Pehi had gone down the river to Hiruharama, and had not called at Pipiriki. There seemed to be no hope of release now, and Mr. Booth and his family resigned themselves to their fate, expecting to be massacred during the night.

On the following morning Mr. Booth sent for Matene, and at 11 a.m. the prophet walked into the house and shook hands all round, saying "Enoho i ta koutou whare"—a Maori salutation. "Have you nothing more to say to me?" said Mr. Booth. "No, nothing," said the prophet and left them. Hori Patene came in soon after, and told them to be ready, as he intended to aid their escape that night. He then left them to learn what the meeting were saying, lest they should decide upon death in his absence. After the meeting was over, a messenger came from Matene, and said "This is our decision: We will not let you go; you shall stay with us for ever. If you attempt to escape we will kill you." About sunset Hori Patene came post-haste, and said "At last they have consented to let you go. Come at once; leave all your property to me; for they may change their minds at any moment." As may be supposed, they were only too glad to leave everything, and the whole family followed their friend and protector. The river-bank was crowded with the Hauhaus, and as they passed Mr. Booth heard the Taranaki men say "Wait until they get into the canoe, and then shoot them down." Hori heard it also, and said page 34"Take no notice of them. Go slowly until you are out of sight; I and my friends will keep in the line of fire between you and the Hauhaus." Once fairly off and past the rapids they increased their speed. For some time they were under the impression that they were followed, and used every exertion to escape; but finally the voices heard were found to be those of the children in the bow of the canoe; they were talking together in a low tone, and the rushing of the water kept the paddlers from ascertaining where the sounds came from. That night they reached Hiruharama, where they found Pehi Turoa, who had been afraid to trust himself with the Hauhaus, and so had passed on and left them to their fate. On the following day the whole party reached Wanganui, having only a few hours before despaired of ever seeing home again.