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Legends of the Maori

The Blending of the Races — The Wahine Maori and Her Pakeha

page 185

The Blending of the Races
The Wahine Maori and Her Pakeha

IF the younger occupants of many an English home—the heirs and heiresses of the estates of many of the landed gentry—knew of relatives who are not registered by Burke but who live the life of the Maori of New Zealand, there would be consternation and misgiving. Many of the male members of this class visited Maoriland in days gone by and dwelt in touch with the Maori people. Some took up land and had, without any title, the chiefs as landlords. They traded with the natives, grazed sheep or produced pigs, which were sold to whalers, or shipped to Sydney, whither went also the flax and potatoes obtained in trade. It was seldom a European lived with or near the natives without becoming attached to a Maori girl. The unions which followed were, many of them, but sanctioned by the consent of the chiefs and parents, binding, however, according to Maori usage. But there were chiefs of high standing who knew something of British customs and who demanded for their daughters the same ceremony as the suitor would bestow on an English fiancée. And there were many well-born British youths sufficiently enamoured to grant all that was asked. And so the blessing of the Church sealed these unions.

Among the officers of the regiments which formed the ten thousand strong British army which guarded pakeha from the Maori in the ’60’s, many made an alliance of one kind or another. These unions were generally prolific. Numerous half-castes in many tribes bear names which are found among the best Britain can produce. The fact is not noticed by tourists and visitors because these names are Maori-ised, are transformed in spelling and pronunciation to suit the Maori tongue, and as such are hardly recognisable. No wandering Englishman would suspect that Pihama represented the Maori form of Beauchamp, and there are many more equally hard to be distinguished.

It was a minority of the British aristocracy or county gentry who continued to make a home in New Zealand; the majority returned to the Old Country, leaving wife and family behind them. Some made provision for the family they had forgotten and the wives they had espoused; the majority sailed away, loving and leaving those they should foster. The children of those who forgot not their duty in many cases did no discredit to the blood of the best which coursed through their veins. I know of some page 186 of the fathers who sent money sufficient to keep their children in something more than the ordinary comforts of colonial life. But they could not ensure that proper care would be exercised in the training of these, nor could they know the dispositions of the recipients. One case I knew especially.

* * * *

The father held as good a name as England can produce. The children, a boy and a girl, inherited the name undisguised by Maori nomenclature. The girl was a beauty, the boy handsome and an athlete. Both were well educated, and the girl, with the carriage, appearance and the fitting apparel of an English lady, would not have suffered in manners by comparison with the beauties of an English aristocratic drawing-room. She married well; her husband was a colonial professional man. With the receipt of remittances from Home the son got into wild ways, hung round racecourses, and when money failed sought shelter in the Maori home of his mother. After a disreputable career he died in a Maori kainga.

* * * *

Let me give two instances of a different complexion. K— was a member of an English baronetcy. He married a Maori lass of one of the great conquering chiefs whose name was law with his people. He had three children, two girls and a boy. They were all three children of whom in appearance no father need be ashamed. But he ruthlessly left them, and all the education they received they owe to a splendid missionary school which exists in the village they inhabited. The girls kept themselves from the snares which awaited them. One married a half-caste who rose to the dignity of keeping a roadside publichouse. I don’t know whom the younger married. The son, a fine stalwart man, lived with the tribe and prospered as a Maori living on the lands their mother left them. He more than once sought election to the House of Representatives. Whatever their destiny they owe nothing to their father, a titled nobleman of England.

* * * *

N— was a salwart son of one of England’s landed gentry. He rented many Maori acres and raised pigs. He was married in the same Church by the same clergyman to a relative of the Maori wife of K—. The register of that church is lost. N— had two children, a boy and a girl. After he had lived happily and prosperously many years his brother came out and lived with him. They changed their lease from a pig run to a sheep run. After a time it occurred to the elder brother that his health required a visit home. He went, was reconciled to his father, went to Cambridge, finished his studies and entered the Church. He became a popular preacher in London, captured the heart of an aristocratic lady of page 187 his congregation and married her. His father, who knew of his marriage in New Zealand, was exceeding wroth and insisted that his son should leave England. He went to America, and that is all I know of him.

Meanwhile the younger brother fell in love with his brother’s wife and lived with her. They had three children, a girl and two boys—children no father, white or brown, might be ashamed of. After a series of years he went home after mortgaging the run and sheep to a Wellington merchant. The merchant advanced money to carry on the run, charging 10 per cent, interest and 10 per cent, guarantee. He took the wool and eventually sold the sheep and the run had to be given up.

Meanwhile the younger brother on his voyage home in a sailing ship (these were early days) fell in love with a charming widow, relict of a naval officer. They were married, and New Zealand, wife and children, knew him no more. Some time after he reached home the family estate was sold for £200,000, but neither the legitimate children of the oldest son nor the love-begotten children of the younger ever saw a penny of it.

* * * *

T— was the son of a gentleman who owned vast estates. The father, thinking it would be to his advantage to have his son installed as manager of a certain estate of his situated in the backblocks, immediately sent him there. T., as a dutiful son, highly respected and considered by the mothers and mercenary spinster aunts of the district a great catch, packed up his trucks and left for the wilds. There was quite a flutter as the little boat left the wharf, and a great many habitues of the matrimonial market who were evidently chagrined at the loss of so great a catch, came down to bid him farewell, extorting many promises of his return for the season. T. landed at his destination a raw unsophisticated youth, with a determination to make things hum on his father’s run. He enjoyed the solitude of the wilds and the free and easy life it brought him. He often visited the town, much to the delight of the spinsters and scheming mothers, but each time he returned to his wild dominion free.

Now T. had a shepherd and this shepherd’s wife possessed a little girl, and as pakeha servants were scarce in those days, a Maori girl, the very beautiful daughter of the local chief, was hired as nurse. One day T. happened to pass that way and the child at once became very interesting, so much so that T. was frequently seen in the neighbourhood of his head shepherd’s whare. Wairua, the nurse, at each of T.’s visits, become more and more fascinating in his eyes till one day, as the custom was, she went to live with him, and in the process of time beautiful half-caste children were born unto them.

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Now it was the custom of T.’s mother to give him surprise visits, but having in the agent of the steamer a staunch friend and uncle, T. was always notified of his mother’s intended visit by telegram, and thus opportunity was given him to remove his little household to a small whare in the bush. The unsuspicious mother would arrive, bringing with her all sorts of invitations from the many flattering catches of the town, but T. ever avoided the question, and the mother oftentimes wondered at it all.

Years rolled on, and T.’s father made over the run to him. One day T.’s friend, the agent of the steamer, through some mischance forgot to notify him of his mother’s intended visit. The grand dame appeared on the threshhold of T.’s happiness to find him with two little half-caste children clinging to his neck and calling him “Daddy.” The lady of high culture, exquisite breeding and delicate feelings, raved and stormed. She demanded the meaning of his behaviour and the immediate dismissal of the Maori woman with her illegitimate brood. However, no amount of persuasion, coaxing, fury or storming could move T., and like a man he took the first boat to the nearest magistrate and there married his Maori wife.

To his death he was estranged from his people because—well, this is a funny world!