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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 64

Special Ipistol

Special Ipistol.


I'm just about finishing my Northern tower, an' I start to-morrow back to the Kay at Willinton. Rolly has axed me to write a pome on the new township o' Rotorua that the Governmint are puttin' into the market. I've not had time to visit the spot, but wid the help av a lively imaginashun, I've been able to pin the following:—

Ye sweet an' iver tchuneful Nine,
Who on Parnassus Mount do shine,
Sind me some inspiration fine,
To sing o' Rotorua.

Discind wid all yer lovely wings,
And lind me aid, just while I sings
The praises o' the Tharmal-springs,
Beyant in Rotorua.

Sir William Fox, K.C.M.G.
Swairs that he niver yit did see
Sich pictchure-esk-u sceneree,
As lovely Rotorua.

'Tis there the purty wathers pure
Keep bubblin' up so hot; an' sure
We'll guarantee a perfect cure
At healthy Rotorua.

Tis there the Moa loves to roam;
Whiniver he is found at home,
Ye'll see him bathin' in the foam
At lovely Rotorua.

'Tis there that purty Hinymo
Be Cupid's arrow was laid low,
Her sable ringlets used to flow
An' float on Rotorua.

'Tis there that Docthor Ferdinand
Von Hockstetter put up a stand
An' sould his Hoch an' soda grand,
At charmin' Rotorua.

page 26 "Tis there they niver need a fire,
The wather to yer heart's desire
Will bile—that's why me tchuneful liar
Is praisin' Rotorua.

Tis there the people nivir ait
Sich vulgar stuff as bread an' mait;
Brimstone an' thraicle—sure as fate—
Is used at Rotorua.

Tis there the sable colleens dhress
In Nachure's garmints—nothin' less;
Aitch big black eye an' raven thress
Shines bright at Rotorua.

Och, had I Homer's anshint pin
I'd praise the charmin' spot agin';
A sweet rethrait from toil and din
Is lovely Rotorua.

Paddy Murphy.

They all smoke—men, women, and youngsters. When I first noticed this, I thought I saw a good opportunity of airing a few Maori sentences that I had carefully learned in a phrase book. Said I to a woman who was enjoying a short black cutty, as she squatted at the door of her whare: "Katahi taku mea whakama ko te wahine kia kai paipa." (I am ashamed to see a woman smoking). "Then don't look," was her prompt response, in English.

Nothing daunted, "Maka atu te palpa!" said I; which means, "Throw away your pipe." "No fear," she replied, taking it from her lips to look on it affectionately.

"Engari me hoko he hopi kaua he tupeka," said I, with one more effort. The translation of that is, "It is better to buy soap than tobacco." You should have heard that noble savage's derisive laugh. "Kahore! "she shouted; and her friends joined in, "Kapai te tupeka (good the tobacco); no good te hopi (the soap). What the devil I want with soap any time? G'long! "

I tried lecturing against rum, after my failure with the tobacco question, but was met with even greater contempt and ridicule; and so then I concluded that I was not cut out for missionary business, and I asked them if they would have some beer. They acquiesced cheerfully in this proposal, and one was despatched for page 27 half-a-gallon. I followed up this piece of profligacy with a request for a haka, but they declined. I said to one, arresting the foaming pannikin at her very lips, "Homai te haka, please; else, kahore te haka, kahore te waipiro" (Give me the dance, please; else, no dance, no beer).

"Don't want none o' yer beer," said she, scornfully flinging it at my feet, and marching off indignantly. I admired that woman, you know.

The practice of promiscuous bathing seems to have quite taken the fine edge off any modesty they may ever have possessed. I saw a dozen or so of big boys and girls doing a haka the other day, on the shore of the lake, as naked as they were born, but as unconscious of impropriety, apparently, as babes a week old. When they had danced awhile, into the lake they plunged, swimming like fishes, racing and wrestling, and enjoying themselves, as if water were their native element.

On another occasion, I saw a full-grown Maori, whose entire wardrobe consisted seemingly of one shirt—and that he had washed and hung upon a fence, and he was waiting calmly beside it while it dried. Yet his "undress" did not strike one as a similar condition in a white man would. Somehow bare brown skins don't look so vividly naked as bare white ones.

The temple at Ohinemutu is well worth a visit It is quite the finest that I have seen. It is of weatherboard, with corrugated iron roof; but it is adorned, both within and without, with all sorts of quaint and grotesque carvings. The walls inside are panelled, and on each alternate panel is a carved effigy of some immortal ancestor. The general outline of these figures is the same, it is only on looking closely that one distinguishes the variety displayed in the features—especially in the noses and tongues. Maori imagination runs riot in these. For the eyes, mutton-fish shell serves, and with a somewhat startling effect. A good deal of artistic painting in ochre and hematite is displayed on the beams of the ceiling and upon the carved pillar in the centre of the temple. This pillar is further embellished by two nightmare monstrosities in the shape of carved heads. The exterior of the page 28 building is wonderfully wrought with carved woods, and rendered almost brilliant with the shell of the mutton-fish. The prevailing colour of the painting is red, hematite being plentiful and much favoured by the Maoris.

The temple is used for a great variety of purposes. It serves as a general sleeping apartment sometimes. All koreros (confabulations) are held in it, and in the open space of ground in front of it Religious services are frequently solemnised in it. And it used to serve for the monthly Magistrate's Court When anyone dies, the body is laid out there for the tangi.

There were two deaths at the settlement while we were there; one of a baby, the other of a consumptive woman. The tangi of the latter was a great affair. Early on the morning after the death, Rotorua was alive with canoes, bringing mourners from Mokoia and the different settlements around the lake. The tangi lasted three days, and the consumption of koura, riwai, pipi, and poaka was enormous.

[Koura, riwai, pipi, and poaka, translated, are crayfish, potatoes, cockles—or mussels,—and pig. It would be quite as easy for me to use plain English at first—easier, in fact,—and, of course, pleasanter for you; but it is the tika (correct) thing, I notice, in all books of travel or foreign experience, to heap in just as many foreign phrases as will make the book fairly unintelligible, and the reader properly mad. And as it is the aim of my ambition to be strictly tika, I follow suit. Only I practise a little more consideration than most people, in that I translate as I go.]

We saw the poor dead wahine (woman). She did not look so very dead either. The ghastly pallor associated in our minds with death was absent from her. She only looked very quiet and peaceful, lying there with folded hands and meek face; her form neatly robed and extended on a stretcher. During the big tangi she was put outside, and the mourners, wreathed with fern and lycopodium, wailed and wept (real tears), and ate and laughed all about her all the livelong day. [Memo.—Apropos of the weeping, if ever I do anything in the missionary business, my first object will be to supply the heathen with pocket-handkerchiefs, and to page 29 teach them the use of them. In my opinion godliness is next to cleanliness sometimes, rather than the other way on]. Early next day the body was buried, and the visitors went to their homes. And I hold there could be no prettier sight than the lake that day, crowded with canoes, and the canoes filled with all the brilliant hues so dear to the Maori eye.

Some of the Ohinemutu, Wairoa, and Whakarewarewa natives are very fine looking. Whereheke, at Ohinemutu, is one of the handsomest men I ever saw, and his wife is very comely. The men are much finer specimens of the race than the women, as a rule. They have better features, more shapely limbs, and a better carriage. The gait of the feminine Maori is worse than the rolling of a ship at sea; and when they force their feet into that European instrument of torture, a narrow, high-heeled shoe, the sight is hideous and painful. We never knew before how thoroughly ugly and deforming a high-heeled shoe could be.

I tried very hard to obtain some authentic account of the original religion of the Maoris, and I succeeded at last, after much difficulty. An old tohunga (priest) from Whakarewarewa yielded to rum and persuasion one day, and told me some things that were interesting. I am indebted to Mr. Edwards for the interpretation.

The old man required considerable priming, and before he would tell us anything important, insisted upon doing an incantation, part of which ran as follows:—"Parakeet! Parakeet! cut a tree, and leave it there. Beware, beware of the tuhi's cooking oven. Let us climb, let us climb to the great, great Tangaroa, for he rules over the destinies." There was a great deal more of this, but a little goes a long way with us. At the conclusion there was more priming, and then the tohunga said he'd be obliged if we would give him one of our incantations. This was embarrassing; but he declined to go on till we had "incanted," so, as we had not a hymn-book handy, we decided to give him an æsthetic poem. We intoned it after his own fashion, and whenever he could pick up a word he joined in.

Down where the ghoul-haunted river twists
(Soak my head in some ice-cold tea),

page 30

Where the low-browed ogre unjoints his wrists,
Plant stuffed kittens over me:
For kittens are touched with the light divine
Of a mystical chrism and soul-kissed wine.

Out on the margin of marshy lands
(Tickle me, love, these lonesome ribs),
Where a ring-nosed, mournful wangoon stands
(Tickle me, love in these lonesome ribs).
And writes his name with his tail in the sands,
And swipes it out with his ogrish hands.

Out on the edge of a dolorous sea
(The passionate tree toad grinds his teeth),
Weirdly the jabberwock waits for thee,
Glibbering over the beetle's sheath.
Stones and onions make worthy bread;
Plant a snake's fang over my head.

I thought there was just as much sense in this rubbish as in the tohunga's, and he thought so, too; for the waxed quite enthusiastic, and begged for more. So, then, we fixed him up with the following, over which he wept tears of delight:—

Go, feel what I have felt,
When Christmas morning broke:
Go, smell what I have smelt,
When Christmas sock I soke,
And found there nothing but a fat
Cadaver of a noisome rat.

Go! weep, as I have wept,
When, with high-beating hope,
I to my stocking crept,
With wild expectant crope,
To find, instead of friendship's seal,
The same old hatchway in the heel!

Go! kneel, as I have knelt,
Beside the empty socks;
And feel, as I have felt,
To find them full of rocks!
Then tell me not, in mournful hum,
'Tis death to ram around for rum.

Go, stand where I have stood
Upon my chuckle head;

page 31

Then flee, as I have fled,
Back to my single bed,
When sacking sickly socks I sapped
The pap that disappointment pupped.

Go! feel, and weep, and kneel,
As I've fole, wope, and knole;
Then kick against the deal
That passed you in the dole,
When o'er the stocking's rim you ram
And find naught worth a dim dumb damn!

That last line, and the one about ramming around for rum, suited our tohunga to ecstacies. When he had calmed clown a little, we commenced our process of pumping.

The Maoris, it seems, have, or had, a multiplicity of gods, and the number of heroes honoured with apotheosis is beyond count. Many incidents of their mythology resemble some in pakeha Bible history. The creation of man, for instance. Tiki, a kind of experimenting deity, who visited earth in the first days of its existence, formed, in his own image, a man of red clay, mingled with his own blood. And, as a devoted negro exponent of our theory about creation says, "And when he had mixed this man he stuck him up agin a fence to dry." The drying process brought life into the man, and Tiki was well pleased with his handiwork. The first woman was created in the same way, and heated into existence by the rays of the sun. After that, there was, of course, no difficulty about population. But the population grew up so wicked that it was found necessary to send a deluge to drown all evil out of the world. Just as now and then the owners of a ship find it necessary to have it submerged for a few hours to rid it of vermin. Well, when the world was all under water, there came another god—Maui—on a fishing expedition, with his three brothers. And one of the brothers, who had a mighty strong hook, made of the jaw bone of an ancestor, fished up something that it took all the fishers' united efforts to haul above water. This was Aotearoa, or New Zealand. They secured it to the top of a long pole, and thus gave the world another start.

The Maoris believe in immortality. The road to their heaven page 32 is through Reinga, a cave in a clift at the North Cape of this island. Through this, departed spirits pass to the realms beyond, using the roots of a pohutukawa tree that grows there as a ladder. It is said that in old times after a battle, one might hear the rustle of the spirits as they hurried in numbers through this portal. But all great chiefs had to fly up to the sky, and leave one eye there as an addition to the stars, before they could pass Reinga. Po, another realm of immortality, corresponds with our own dear Hades. All evil spirits go there.

The Maoris were not without their miracle-workers—people who could heal the sick, make the lame to walk, and the blind to see. And miraculous translations, like that of our Elijah, were not uncommon. And they had a good man also, named Tawaki, who walked the earth for many years, doing good whithersoever he went, and knowing no guile. He was taken up into heaven without dying, and still watches over erring mortals, saving them from all the sin and sorrow he has power over.

By the time we had heard this much, our tohunga was become fuddled, and our interpreter could not get anything more from him of a reliable description, so we stopped taking notes. But the old man entertained us for an hour more with yarns of one kind and another. He bemoaned the loss of his old religion pathetically, but owned that Christianity, as an introduction of rum, rifles, and tobacco, had its merits.

One fine day we went to Tikitere, calling by the way at the native settlement, near Te Ngae, to witness a korero. About three hundred Maoris, men and women, were assembled in different hapus (sections of tribes) under the canvas awnings temporarily rigged for the meeting. The dispute was about survey, the manner of argument most creditable and orderly. Each speaker was listened to attentively and without interruption, and every man had his turn. At the conclusion of proceedings, kai was spread for the multitude. The chief of the settlement was most courteous and hospitable to us. The best whare was placed at our disposal, the first dish of kai was brought to us, and a great Maori delicacy was produced for our special delectation. This was flesh of the page 33 wild pigeon, dried and preserved in fat. But I had to pass it, as I passed the pork, though I made a pretence of tasting it, for politeness' sake. Dark, hard little lumps of meat it was, coated an inch thick in unpleasant-looking fat. Kouras and potatoes, cooked Maori fashion, one could eat at every meal and scarce ever grow tired of. The inanga, too, a kind of whitebait, caught plentifully in the lakes, is very palatable; but pork and dried pigeon are luxuries one likes to be deprived of.

After an hour or so at the korero, we rode on to Te Ngae the old mission station. It is a wilderness of trees and flowers, approached through an avenue of sweetbriar.

What a nuisance the sweetbriar has become throughout these districts! It has overgrown everything, and is harder to eradicate than that other nuisance—the Scotch thistle. It has the thistle characteristic, too, of making you keep your distance, or suffer for any attempt at familiarity. There are thickets of it near every mission settlement here, and it is spreading beyond all limits. I blessed the missionaries every time I saw the sweet face of the fragrant English primrose amongst grass and fern, but the promiscuous planting of sweetbriar calls forth anything but blessings. Te Ngae ceased to be a mission home many years ago. A Mr. Kirk and his family occupy it now, and supply Ohinemutu with fruit and delicious butter.

A little beyond Te Ngae the road branches off to the right, and leads over a hill. Following it for about a mile, we crossed a hot creek, and were presently in the very midst of the horrors of Tikitere. I say horrors distinctly, for Tikitere is a region of horrors. All the hot phenomena that I saw beside were wonderful, curious, weird, or beautiful; Tikitere is simply awful. It appals, while it fascinates. One hideous, boiling mudhole haunts one's memory unpleasantly, even yet.

In the centre of the group of springs is the big cauldron Huritini, called so after an unfortunate wahine who fell in once, and was boiled till nothing remained of her but her bones. It is a basin fully forty yards across, and full to the brim of furiously boiling water. Only an occasional glimpse is obtained of the page 34 surface, because of the dense steam clouds always hovering over it After Huritini we came to the mud springs, black and cavernous, throbbing, hissing, and spluttering in hideous fury. The largest one is horrible. The basin is ten or twelve feet in diameter, and the thick, muddy contents look like boiling lead, only so thick in consistence that the very boiling seems to be the result of fierce effort. Some of the holes contain what looks like boiling oil, and we were told that a naphthous kind of oil forms its principal ingredient.

I wonder no one has given this region a diabolic title. "Devil's Acre" would suit it admirably, though there is considerably more than one acre of it. There is an abundance of lime here; and a perfect terrace of it on one of the hills that form the valley of the springs. Sulphur, and pumice, and lime compose the soil, and the whole locality is desolate, and weird, and awesome. A little higher than the valley is a slight improvement in the shape of a hot waterfall, Te Mimiakakahia, above which is the bath, Te Rata, said to have magical effect in rheumatic disorders. Numbers of sufferers can testify to the curative properties of Tikitere waters. Mr. M'Crory, who has comfortable whare accommodation for invalids, told us of some remarkable instances of cure.

Last November, the ti-tree about Tikitere was, by some accident, ignited, and the flames spread to the sulphur beds. The conflagration was terrible, and raged for days. All Mr. McCrory's property was destroyed, and some invalids residing there barely escaped with their lives.

From Tikitere we visited Rotokawau, the loveliest little gem of a lake, set deep in cliff-like ranges that are clothed with verdure from base to summit. The track to this lake lies through a mile and a-half of bush that is positively bewildering in its beauty. In passing through it, we recalled every beautiful bit of forest description we had ever read, and we imagined that this transcended all. Coming from dismal Tikitere into all this loveliness was like getting into Paradise. We halted in a lovely forest glade for lunch; we halted again on the high shore of the page 35 lake; we felt that we would be happy to camp about here for the rest of our natural lives. Probably if we had waited till night and mosquitoes set in, we should have found reason to change our minds; as it was, we left Rotokawau with no other impression than that of its great loveliness on our minds. A merry gallop back to Ohinemutu closed another very pleasant day of our very pleasant month amidst hot water.

Our next trip was to Mokoia, the island in Rotorua. A very genial party of tourists joined us in this trip, and helped to make it a most enjoyable one. Mr. Graham went with us, so, of course, we started early. Whenever Mr. Graham undertakes to go anywhere, you may wager on an early start. My superfluous energy does not let itself off in early rising; in fact, I look upon that getting up at unearthly hours as little short of a vice. But if ever such vice can be made pleasant, it is by an hour's sail on Rotorua before breakfast. We had our breakfast at Mokoia—a rough meal in the open air, but oh, how good! The Maoris made tea for us, and gave us some fresh baked cakes or scones of their own manufacture. They are a pleasant set, these Mokoia people, and very hospitable. After breakfast, we proceeded to explore the island. Hinemoa's bath was, of course, the first interest. Everybody knows the story of Hinemoa—or everybody should, at least, since every writer, from Domett downwards, who mentions Mokoia, tells that story of the strong young beauty, who, charmed by the music of her lover's flute, swam right across the lake to him from Ouhata, on the south-east shore. The bath is where she got into warm water after her cold dip, and awaited a favourable opportunity to present herself before Tutanekai, her lover. It was in this he discovered her, and thence he bore her to his home, where they lived happily ever afterwards. Mr. Chapman relates the story at length in his book upon the wonders of New Zealand—even to the soliloquies of the maiden, and the way in which Tutanekai's family discovered the marriage. Reading this, and hearing the native version of the story, and seeing the locality, suggested to us that a splendid burlesque might be made out of this material—something after page 36 this fashion, for example, and we cheerfully make a present of the idea to any enterprising dramatic author who cares to take it up:—

Love's Magic; or, The Merry, Merry Maiden and The Flute.

Act I.—Scene I.


Tutanekai playing the flute; enraptured slave standing by with pannikin of rum, with which to "wet his master's whistle," when "so dispoged."

Scene II.

The Peninsula.

Hinemoa, with throbbing heart and flashing eye, listening alternately to the melody borne across the lake by lisping zephyrs, and to the blandishments of a pakeha peddler who wants to sell her a Boyton's swimming suit and a necklace of big glass beads. She cannot have both, because she has only five thousand acres of land at her own disposal, and the poor peddler says that to part with either the Boyton or the beads for so small a consideration would be to ruin himself pecuniarily for ever, "s'help him, Moshesh." Yet he will strain a point, if the lovely Hinemoa desires it—but not both. 0 no! he cannot part with both for a poor five thousand acres! At last the damsel fixes on the beads. Better to take her chance of drowning than to miss this of making herself more beautiful than ever in the eyes of Tutanekai. Pakelia peddler writes out deed of exchange, Hinemoa signs it with her mark, and gets the beads. Exit peddler to claim the five thousand acres. In his delight over the bargain he forgets that he has not returned the Boyton to his pack. Hinemoa "takes a lunar" with both hands—tandem—at his retreating figure, and dons the Boyton. Admires herself immensely in it and the necklace, and performs a haka, pas seul, on the shore of the lake, preparatory to jumping in.

page 37

Act II.—Scene I.


Tutanekai, tired of blowing on the flute, changes the programme by blowing his nose on his korowai, he having caught a bad influenza, through wearing boots and a flannel shirt. He holds a korero with his slave as to the best method of cooking the last war-prisoner in the family larder, and also discusses the possibility of another row soon, to keep up the supply of fresh meat. Then flutes up again, in a melody that seems to strike a happy medium between the Hundredth Psalm—learned long since from a missionary now digested—and "Pop goes the Weazel"—acquired from a stray sailor who had spoilt himself for culinary purposes by living entirely on salt junk. The music—and the thought of his love—and the influenza—and the rum administered regularly by the slave—combine to put Tutanekai in a melancholy mood. He weeps, and the flute gurgles.

Scene II.

The Peninsula.

Hinemoa plunges into the lake to swim over, but, owing to some defect in the Boyton, finds herself standing on her head in the water. And reflecting that progress to the island in that position would be both uncomfortable and unbecoming, she struggles out again and tears off the apparatus in a rage. With flashing eyes and vengeful heart she speeds after the peddler, "gives him one" on the top of his head with the thigh-bone of her defunct great-uncle, takes back her five thousand acres, stows the body where the chief cook will find it easily, ties a string of gourds around her neck, and sets off once more on the swim.

Act III.—Scene I.


Tutanekai calls for hot water to mix his nightcap. The slave, going to the boiling spring for it, is alarmed by someone in the page 38 bath, and rushes off in affright to call his master. Tutanekai, hasting to the bath, finds his love there, takes her up tenderly and dries her with his korawai, and carries her home to his whare.

Scene II.

Tableaux.—Vide "Chapman's Wonders of New Zealand."


Mokoia was the scene of a great battle once. The Ngapuhi natives, under command of the great chief Hongi, dragged their whole fleet of war-canoes overland for thirty miles, and then swarmed over in them to the island, hitherto considered a safe refuge, where they slew and plundered the Ngatiwhakaue no end. We were shown where the battle and subsequent feast took place. We were shown, also, a place where lie buried some stone images, sacred, and said to have been brought from Hawaiki by the first Maoris. None but Sir George Grey and Mr. Robert Graham have ever been permitted to look on these images. The natives say that Mr. Graham can have them for his own whenever he pleases to claim them.

Another curiosity of Mokoia is a tree, in the branches of which the bones of a chief were once buried. Now the bones have grown into the wood, or the wood around the bones, in a most singular fashion.

A variety of fruits grow on Mokoia—figs, peaches, apples, and cherries. The figs were at their best when we went there, and were delicious. The island is luxuriantly wooded with karaka, pukapuka, pohutukawa, &c., &c.; and one grand totara, more than a century old, flourishes there in royal solitude. This pretty water-girt Mokoia must be a pleasant place to dwell in, and that probably accounts for the clean, wholesome, contented appearance of the natives there.

Mr. Graham made us hospitably welcome at his private residence, Te Koutu, during several days of our stay at Rotorua. Te Koutu is the piece of land that the natives presented to page 39 him in 1879, in gratitude for his successful peace-making efforts at Maketu, in 1878; their only stipulation being that he should take up his dwelling there, and continue to live among them and be their friend. Several Maoris spoke of him to me as "father," and said that but for his intervention there must have been serious bloodshed at Maketu.

At the time of the presentation, Te Koutu was a mere wild; now it presents an aspect of cultivation and comfort, and, thanks to our genial host and hostess, we had a very good time there.