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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 62

Further Visits

Further Visits.

He visited New Zealand again in 1773, 4, and 7, and proved himself the pioneer of our civilisation. He found the natives a splendid race of savages, brave and fearless yet superstitious, rude yet ceremonious, the extensive tattooing of their faces exhibiting their contempt for pain, and their love of artistic effect, daring seamen, dashing warriors, greedy cannibals. The great circumnavigator was at first received with marked distrust, which, however, speedily gave place to peace and good fellowship. He found the land strangely destitute of all four-footed creatures, save a native cur and a small rat, since extinct. No wild beasts roamed the virgin forests, and no venomous reptiles coiled their slimy forms through the undergrowth, this latter was, and is, a blessing. What a scene that first reception of the strange white man must have been. In imagination we see the semicircle of mighty chiefs page 10 gathered near the beach to receive the representative of the old world. Dressed in robes of finely-woven flax with elaborate fringes, the heads decked with the feathers of the huia, the ears weighted with greenstone eardrops or sharks' teeth highly polished, the tattoed faces flaming with ochre, while the formidable mere-mere, also of greenstone, are held in the hands. Into this august assembly-strode the gallant sailor in his lace-trimmed cocked hat and swallow-tailed coat. The whole proceedings are conducted with the utmost solemnity, the tohunga (high priest) welcoming the stranger by removing the sacred tapu, and presenting bundles of wild celery and scurvy grass, and after a long mimic palaver, during which the various chiefs one by one solemnly arise and deliver an oration, concluding possibly by a wierd song, the formal proceedings terminate.

Then it is the captain's turn to make a present; the ship's boat at a signal lands and forthwith the presents are displayed. First come glass beads of many brilliant hues, so wondrous and charming to the eyes of the natives, then a bag of nails, next a piece of red flimsy cloth, manufactured expressly for purposes of interchange, then a hatchet or tomahawk of the toy variety, bright and beautiful in appearance, but guaranteed perfectly harmless. The most valuable presents, however, are yet to come. These are conveyed ashore in two sacks, and as they approach, the excitement of the chiefs and their wahinas, and, indeed, the general population of the locality, who have individually turned out, becomes intense. From the first sack proceeds strange sounds, jerky shrieks and intermittent duckings. What remarkable creature can be imprisoned there? Speculation is rampant among the lords of the soil. As, however, the sack is suddenly opened, out rush three indignant hens and one triumphant barndoor cock. The latter, of course, at once flaps his wings, and proclaims his sovereignty with a loud cock-a-doodle-do, which is the signal for undignified side-splitters from the wonder-stricken savages. Before their amazement has subsided the second sack claims attention, and all eyes are riveted, seeing each ear is well nigh deafened by the hideous yells and vociferous squeelings which alternate with dissatisfied grunts. The mouth of the sack is forthwith made clear, and forth issues the belicose mother of pigs with her frisky offspring. The sight of the old sow with her rising bristles and wicked page 11 eyes strikes terror into the hearts of the stout warriors, heroes of many a bloody fray, who disperse in all directions for safety, shrieking "Taipo, te taipo " (the devil, the devil). Thus it was that pigs and poultry were first introduced into New Zealand. Old Taniwha (or Hooknose), who died only a few years ago, remembered the scene, he being a lad of twelve at the time.