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The King Country; or, Explorations in New Zealand. A Narrative of 600 Miles of Travel through Maoriland.

Chapter II. — The Korero

page 27

Chapter II.
The Korero.

The Kingites—Half-castes—An albino—The King's speech—Maori oratory—The feast.

On the morrow after my interview with the king the meeting between the Native Minister and Tawhiao, with a view to bring about more friendly relation between the two races, was arranged to take place.

At the time fixed for the korero the Kingites, headed by their chiefs, assembled on the flat within the settlement. They squatted about in attractive groups, and the entire assembly formed a compact semicircle composed of men, women, and children of all ages; while the bright and almost dazzling colours of their varied, and, in many instances, eccentric costumes formed an interesting picture, in which were blended the most singular and striking contrasts. Some of the men were habited entirely in European attire, others affected more becoming native costumes, and had their heads decked with feathers, while not a few were got up in a style which seemed to indicate that they were undergoing what might be considered, from a Darwinian point of view, the "transition period" page 28between savage and civilized life. The women, of whom there were many, had donned their holiday finery, and although their flowing skirts were evidently not designed after the most fashionable model, this defect was made up in no small degree by the glowing effects of the bright colours of the variegated material out of which they were made. Crimson, yellow, and
major te wheoro, M.H.R.

major te wheoro, M.H.R.

blue were the prevailing tints, and one by no means unattractive damsel had her lithe form swathed in a shawl on which were depicted all the various designs of a pack of cards.
There were many half-castes of both sexes among the throng, and the strain of European blood, which in most cases might be distinctly traced, had evidently, by one of those singular processes of nature which it page 29is difficult to understand, aided to produce in them here, as elsewhere, a robust and healthy race of people. Many of the girls of this class, with their swarthy complexions and well-rounded limbs, were very comely-looking, and one young lady, habited in a well-fitting
te tuhi.(A Chief of the Waikato Tribe.)

te tuhi.
(A Chief of the Waikato Tribe.)

purple silk dress, and with a very handsome native shawl of many colours thrown artistically across her gracefully formed shoulders, attracted the admiring glances of all present. She spoke English fluently, and with her fascinating air, dark eyes, and remarkable Spanish cast of countenance, she appeared more page 30suited to grace the Prado of Madrid than the primitive marae1 of Whatiwhatihoe. In singular contrast to this attractive daughter of the King Country was an albino woman, with light flaxen hair, pink eyes, and a complexion which, if it had been washed, might have
albino woman, king country.

albino woman, king country.

rivalled the snowy whiteness of alabaster. Her lips were marked in the ordinary Maori fashion, and, so far as her outward appearance went, she was stout and well-built, and appeared to be as fine a specimen of her kind as I had seen in any part of the world.

1 Marae, an open space in front of a native settlement.

page 31

When Tawhiao appeared in the midst of his people, he had cast aside his European costume, and had swathed himself after the native fashion in a white blanket, with broad pink stripes upon it. At the moment of the arrival of the Native Minister the king was seated by the side of his wife Pare Hauraki, and in the centre of the semicircle formed by the Waikato chiefs and other natives, and as Mr. Bryce drew near he raised himself from the ground and approached to welcome him. As soon as the friendly greetings were over, the Native Minister and the king seated themselves upon the ground face to face, and, having regarded each other for some time with an air of mutual satisfaction, Tawhiao arose, and, resuming his original position in the midst of the natives, arranged his blanket in toga fashion across his breast, and raising his bare right arm, began his speech in slow, but well-delivered tones, and with the calm, confident air of one who had been accustomed to sway the multitude and to speak, as he expressed it in the figurative language of his race, "straight from his breast." His short harangue, however, was carefully framed with all the customary art of Maori diplomacy, and with a view to show that the occasion was simply one for the mutual expression of goodwill on both sides. Not the faintest reference at this time was made to his future line of policy, nor was there a single hint to indicate that any new departure was about to be initiated calculated to alter the political relationship existing between the Maori and Pakeha. It was in every sense a carefully worded discourse, and proved beyond a doubt that the trite saying of Voltaire, that page 32language was invented to disguise our thoughts, was equally appreciated by savage as by civilized races.

Tawhiao's speech, however, when finally declining the proposals of the Native Minister, when, in face of
whitiora wirouiru te komete. (A Chief of the Waikato Tribe.)

whitiora wirouiru te komete.
(A Chief of the Waikato Tribe.)

all the inducements held out to him, he stoutly refused to resign his mana, or sovereign authority, is worthy a place here, not only as an interesting example of the Maori style of oratory, but likewise as a touching proof of the deep-rooted desire of the old king to remain at the head of his decaying race. page 33
Tawhiao, who spoke with evident emotion on this occasion, said: "My word is, do not speak at all; only listen" (addressed to his people). "The best way of speaking is to listen. If this European" (the Native Minister) "rises, the best thing to do is to listen. This is my word, hearken you" (to Mr. Bryce). "I approve of you administering affairs on that side—the European side. But my word is, I will jump on that side, and stand. I have nothing to say. My only reason for going on that side is to hear—to listen, so that I may know. I say I will remain in the positions of my ancestors and my parents in this island of Aotearoa.1 I will remain here; and as for my proceedings, let me proceed along my own line. I have nothing to say; I have only to listen, so that I may know. After I have listened I will come back to this side of our line.2 Say what you have to say. That is my thought, that I will remain here, in the place where my ancestors and fathers trod; but if I had trodden anywhere else, then I could be spoken to about it. I still adhere to the word that existed from the commencement. The queen was not divided; her rule has been obeyed. Now, say what you have to say. With me there is no trouble or darkness. What I have said to you is good; it has been said in the daylight, while the sun is shining. I do not mind falling, if only I do not fall as my cloak would fall. I can traverse all the words. This is another word of mine. I am teaching; I will

1 Aotearoa is the ancient native name for the North Island; it is equivalent to "land of bright sunlight."

2 Meaning the Aukati or boundary-line separating the King Country from the European portion of the colony.

page 34remain here. You can remain on your side and administer affairs, and I will remain on my side. Let me be here, on this side of our own line. Speak while the sun is shining. It has been said for a long time that the Europeans are against me. My reply to that is, that the pakeha is with me. But let me remain
paora tu haere.(Head Chief of the Ngati Whatua Tribe.)

paora tu haere.
(Head Chief of the Ngati Whatua Tribe.)

here at Aotearoa. I will direct my people this very day as we sit here. I will not go off in any new direction, but will be as my ancestors were."

After the Native Minister had replied to the king's speech, the present of provisions given by the government, consisting of beef, flour, sugar, and biscuits, was page 35hauled to the front in bullock drays, and, after being piled into a heap, Major Te Wheoro stepped forward and acknowledged the donation on the part of the natives. When this ceremony was concluded, loud shouts of joyful voices were heard in the distance, and from each side of the marae two separate bands of about 200 women and girls came dancing along in variegated costumes, with small baskets in their hands made of plaited flax, and filled with cooked potatoes, roasted pork, and fish. They rounded up in front of the meeting with a measured step, between a skip and a hop, and when they had deposited their burdens in a heap, and grinned immensely, as if to show their white teeth, half a dozen stalwart men came forward with roasted pigs cut in twain, or rather amputated down the centre of the spine. When these sweet luxuries had swelled the dimensions of the kai,1 Te Ngakau stepped forward, and, taking up a pronged stick, or roasting-fork, formally presented this token of hospitality to the government, which in its turn, according to custom, and to avoid the incubus of a "white elephant," returned it with thanks to the natives.

Feasting then became the order of the day, and joining the king's circle, we partook of the kindly fruits of the earth with unalloyed satisfaction; and as table requisites were not plentiful, we dispensed with those baubles of modern progress, and ate after the primitive mode of our forefathers.

1 Kai, Maori word for food.