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Mahoe Leaves; Being a Selection of Sketches of New Zealand and Its Inhabitants, and Other Matters Concerning Them


page 68


If the witness in Thurtell’s case be an authority, Jeremiah is now a gentleman to all intents and purposes. He keeps a gig! The Governor, according to Jeremiah’s own account, has presented him with the vehicle as a token of esteem for his loyalty and fidelity for the last twenty years. May the tutelary Deities that preside over the destinies of dumb animals protect the unfortunate beast that is fated to draw it!

Such an act of generosity on the part of his Excellency has had the effect of setting all the begging letter writers agog, and Parnapa has had a benefit of correspondence during the last few months. I do not know what Jeremiah’s people have not written for—ploughs, gigs, carts, and implements innumerable, and now they are racking their brains to discover something else, by way of novelty. As yet all they have got has been the gig to Jeremiah, which I am rather glad (being a friend of his) that he has got, because he is a melancholy horseman, and his legs are now dwindled away to mere spindles. Those who do not like him, likewise rejoice, because they feel satisfied that he will get his neck broken out of it. Therefore, we might lay it down, that all things considered, the gift of a gig is a good stroke of policy.

page 69

But there are one or two points in which the matter may be taken, that do not make it so pleasant to contemplate it in.

The system of “hoatu noatu” or “free gift,” has another name which sounds a trifle grating in the ears of the colonists; it is known as the “sugar and blanket” system, and the policy of it is not only rather questionable, but the effect somewhat pernicious.

Jeremiah thinks (like many more of his creed) that he is paid to keep the peace, and as he never gave anything in his life that he did not expect an equivalent for, unless it was a crack on the head, or an attack of influenza, he accepts the gig as a species of bribe, and on this account it is to be regretted that he has got it.

Malachi, who receives the munificent sum of £20 per annum as the salary of an assessor, informs me that a neighbor of his gets £40, (which by the way I don’t believe) and unless the Governor raises his stipend, he shall resign and join the rebels.

It is a great pity that he should think of depriving the country of his services for the paltry consideration of a couple of £10 notes, for he is a man of great acumen! He advises malefactors towards Europeans who do not wish to cool their heels in gaol, to join the rebels where they will be unmolested, (more’s the pity!) and at the same time recommends the evil doers in the ranks of king Matutaere to renounce the sovereignty and join the Governor.

I shall be very sorry if Malachi resigns.

As for Jeremiah and he, they are already at loggerheads respecting some point of law, and make a practice of reversing each others decisions in their respective courts. I see nothing for it but that page 70 Malachi must have a gig too. Perhaps the Colonial Secretary will kindly accept this suggestion!

It is not long ago since Jeremiah and all his people attended a great runanga and met the Governor, and a great weeping and wailing they kicked up on that occasion. It was then and there that Jeremiah dived his hand into his trowsers pocket and fished up half a crown, which he graciously presented to the Governor towards paying his expenses of a journey of some one hundred and fifty miles! Jeremiah was requested by his Excellency to keep his two and sixpence, and shortly afterwards got the promise of the gig.

His friends and relatives who came forward with similar donations, presented his Excellency with a letter a piece, of a stereotyped character, terming him their father, declaring their love for him, her Majesty, and the European community at large, continuing with a verse of scripture, having nothing at all to do with the case in point, and winding up with a request for some article or other, which we may sum up in the trite phrase—“sugar and blankets.”

One gentleman (occasionally given to liquor—but that’s a trifle!) wound up a very eloquent speech of a “two and two make four” kind of character, with the request that his Excellency would explain to him, and himself walk according to the text—“Heaven is my throne and earth is my footstool.”

Whether the Governor has usurped the functions of a clergyman and favored him with a sermon, or has made out what line of conduct he has been expected to pursue in terms of the passage in question, I have not yet learnt.

Jeremiah himself favored us with a specimen of his hoatu noatu on this occasion, of a very singular page 71 kind. He presented a Government official with a mat and a pig, as a token of respect for that functionary. The little fact, however, of the party having paid Jeremiah for his mat, and the pig having been previously sold to a butcher before the affair came off, appears not to have been reported in the journals of the day. Jeremiah there appears as a very generous old fellow, and forbid it! that I should say he was anything else, but I cannot forbear mentioning some trifling incidents connected with this gift of his that were not generally known.

It appears to me that the parable of the prodigal son is ever before the eyes of the Governor, and he determines that although he perpetually fees the waverers to keep them in the paths of loyalty, still that Jeremiah who has always professed his loyalty and fidelity, shall never have occasion to say that “no fatted calf was given him.” “Loaves and fishes” are knocking about just now, and who shall blame our old friend for going in for a fair share?

It was not long ago since I asked Jeremiah respecting an old friend of his, who lives in the interior, and acts the part of a quiet highwayman, by cheating and robbing every unfortunate European traveller, who may pass his way, who has now joined the King movement.

Jeremiah regretted the tergiversation of his friend, but blamed the Governor for not having offered him sixty pounds a year, as an assessor. Jeremiah further informed me “that he thought he might be brought back into the fold of the Governor for forty!”

This same old rascal appears at present, to be about to follow the advice of Mr. Weller, sen., and “rewenge hisself on mankind by keeping a ’pike,” for he sends us in a cool letter stating that he has page 72 erected a toll-gate across the road passing his door. What we are to pay for passing, I really don’t know, and so long as I have anything in my pocket worth stealing, I am not likely to go and discover!

Jeremiah offered some time ago to take me that way en route for the interior, making use of an expression, similar to what a Brazilian gentleman is reported to have used, when he introduced an acquaintance—“this is my friend; if he steals anything, I am accountable!” But until this old sinner gets a gig too, I shall not go his way.

These are the sort of gentry, that Jeremiah inveighs against (to me) for not being more moderate in their demands and serving the Governor. But for fancy’s sake, let the “pike keeper” get his full demand, and where would Jeremiah be pray? Why! his resignation as an assessor would go in the next day, accompanied with a polite intimation, that he required an advance, a deputation would at once set off to the Court of King Matutaere, and my excellent old friend would hoist the King flag, and gorge himself with victuals at a great feast in its honor.

Of a truth M. de Lamalle, you need not ask us to go and hunt for that lusus naturœ, a long eared race of men, among the Copts of Egypt, if you are in existence this day, come over here my friend! and let us hear your opinion, respecting a portion of the inhabitants of these islands, who talk to us of Maori loyalty, who believe in the professions of my old friend and amusing old humbug Jeremiah. How is it to be expected that the sympathies of him and his people can run in any other channel, than the current of opinion of his own nation?

Governor! this Hoatu Noatu of yours must come to an end some day, unless your purse is longer than I take it to be.

page 73

So much has been done to keep the leading natives out of the ranks of the Maori King, that they have already began to believe that there is some virtue in joining, from the simple fact, that you are doing all you can to keep them out. They are suspicious of you, and because you protest against their political movements, they now believe the more in them. Are you going to pay any more, pray, to stave what is inevitably coming—their own utter destruction? You have cajoled, flattered, bullied, bribed, and threatened,———what are you going to do next?

A very excellent institution (unfortunately now empty) exists in the district of Taranaki, it is known as the “Grey Folly” in honor of you. This was your hoatu noatu to the tribes in that vicinity including that incomparable body of ragamuffins the Ngatiruanuis; a steamer lies stranded on their coasts, they have robbed it and refuse to give up the steamer, but do you think that you can favor us with a specimen of their Hoatu Noatu, and prevail on them to give up the stolen mail bag?

In every barbarous nation that we have attempted to civilize, we have invariably had more er less some generous impulse existing in their character on which to work. Here native character is utterly destitute of any virtue approaching thereto. Generous actions are not reckoned in their category, and of a truth with them, the generous man is a nickname for a fool. They do not say with Virgil and the late Colonel Sibthorn—

“Timeo Danaos, et dona ferentes—”

They do not “fear receiving gifts”—or the “Greek” who bring them (I regret to say), but when we look for any return, be it barely sincere good will, we page 74 have to bear for all our generosity, insult, chagrin, and disappointment.

It is no pleasure for me to write this Governor! you have your own trials to bear in saving this race from the ruin into which they will hurry themselves in spite of you; and as you term yourself, in all your letters to them their father, I will not add one more pang to that bitter reflection, that by this time you must have experienced.

“How sharper than a serpent’s tooth
It is to have a thankless child.