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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 79

The Good Old Days

The Good Old Days.

I will relate the following story, and will tell it as it was told to me. It was in the good old times. We had kiwi and weka hunting, pigeons and kaka (parrot) shooting, spearing eels and fish by torch-light on the sandy and muddy flats of our rivers. At the fall of the leaf of the tree, and in the winter, we lived on the harvest we had gathered in the summer and autumn. We had our games, too. The kaihotaka (humming tops) were a great amusement to all, and the different tones sounded by these tops as they flew off the ground and bounded in the air from the lash of the muka (dressed flax) whips, sounded like the string of a harp when one of them is struck singly. We had the haka, too, and the dance. We loved music, not the discordant scraping sound of the fiddle I have heard played in a public-house, and danced to by intoxicated pakehas. Our music was what even our oldest warriors and priests used to listen to with pleasure. The flocks of little birds who welcomed the rising and sang the setting of the sun to rest, ming[unclear: bi]ng their liquid, notes with the distant hum of the waterfall and the rippling of the water of our mountain stream, as it raced rapidly on to the sea over the pebbles. Such was our music, but our bird bands have now gone for ever. Nothing softens the washing sound made by the water as it is hurled over the prepice, and the murmuring of the brooks creates a desolate feeling in our hearts. When I think and muse over these shadows of the past my soul grows dark; then my heart begins to throb, and my right arm to tingle, and I exclaim, "Oh! had not my sinews been cut by the pakeha; oh! why did he ever come to disturb us in our happy country? Why did not our ancestors foresee our ruin, and slay all who first touched our shores; why did not our sacred Gods warn us? Too late, alas; too late! We cannot kill them now although, when we found them out, we had a try for it, as the course of our history will tell." Now let us return to our missionaries. When those people came here first we were very much surprised at their appearance and bearing. Our forefathers had seen Captain Cook and his sailors—they were a cheerful and merry tribe, good natured, very affectionate, especially to our women, and gave us a quantity of useful things without asking for payment, such as hooks, axes, iron hoops, etc. We liked this tribe very much, but this new tribe, the missionaries, puzzled and vexed us. The majority of them were very solemn, and had a gloominess about there. We asked our prists, arc they spirits? Some replied they were good page 18 spirits; others again that they were a mixture of good and bad. Then said our chiefs, well, then, let them be killed; we are quite good enough, and want no more evil. My great grandfather, as fine an old warrior as ever led men to ba le, told me that one day, as he was returning from a fishing excursion, he was met by a missionary on the sea beach, and as the men of the tribe were dragging the large red canoe, fish and all, ashore this person thus addressed my great grandfather: "You are a wicked, bad man; you have not listened to my teaching; you have broken the Sabbath commandment by going fishing. My God is angry; you and your people will all go to hell, and be burnt with fire for ever and ever, just like your wicked forefathers, who knew not Jehovah; repent, or be lost." All eyes were turned upon this man's face, and became fixed on my great grandfather, who had been threatened by this missionary that he would be burnt with the fire that was now burning up his ancestors, male and female; that he was to be cooked with fire and never to be done. Not a doubt existed—could have existed—in the hearts of the tribe as to what the result would be. No action was taken, however, and the missionary was allowed to depart in peace.