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Legends of the Maori

A Little Deal in Land

page 163

A Little Deal in Land

MARTIN had been a Native Land Purchase Commissioner. He bought for the Government at a fixed salary. His tastes were expensive and he was given to intrigue and finesse. So he bought the best of the land for speculators and the worst for the Government which paid him. This was discovered and so he was cast forth. He failed to hand over titles for which he had received the purchase money, and was supposed to have bought from the Native owners, and there was an enquiry. But the piece was a choice lot of 500 acres Crown-granted to two old people, Méré and Eruera. Martin said he had paid them £500 and the two old people were to be examined. Martin’s assistant in land purchase was a Native Assessor named Paora, who was a nephew of the two old people who were selling. Martin told the old parties that if they said they had not been paid their nephew would be put in the stone house, but if they swore they had been paid then their nephew would escape prison, and he himself would pay them the whole purchase money when they came out of court.

Oro raiti, Matene,” said the Maoris. “E pai ana” (“It is well”).

* * * *

At the Courthouse a Special Commissioner sat, and there were clerks and interpreters galore. Another Land Purchase officer was there, a man who knew Martin had worked a swindle and meant to prove it. He felt sure of doing so when Méré and Eruera were examined.

Méré was called and asked if she had sold to Martin.


“Got paid?”

“Yes.” (Official embarrassed).

“The whole amount?”

“Yes,” and she proceeded to give, not day and date, but a local habitation for every instalment of payment made. (Official bewildered). “Stand down here, Méré.”

Eruera was called. Yes, he was one of the owners, and had sold to Martin.

“Got paid?”

“Yes.” He had been paid at the same time and the same places as Méré. (Official dumbfounded). Méré and Eruera could go, their trustworthy evidence was not further required.

page 164

Oro raiti! Kuru mana Matene,” said they in the same tone they used when saying “Good man the Queen.”

The Commissioner and the Land Purchase officer talked it over. Certain they had been done. They could not imagine how it was managed. Thought perhaps Martin had paid them to ante-date the payments.

They were still commenting on this defeat when the fearful babel which Maoris make when wordy warfare prevails was heard outside, and the Land Purchase man, a linguist, mingled in the throng which surrounded Méré and Eruera on the one side, Martin on the other. The two old people had asked him to hand over the money as promised. “Why,” said Martin, “you infernal scoundrels! You know I have paid you, and in proof you yourselves have sworn it in Court”…… And there it rested. What could the Government do?