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Hine-Ra, or The Maori Scout: A Romance of the New Zealand War.

Chapter VI. — The Pai-Marire

page 30

Chapter VI.
The Pai-Marire.

It was indeed no light matter which had thus summarily put a stop to the proceedings in the Wharekura in relation to Matariki. The scout who had entered so abruptly had brought intelligence which affected far higher interests than the mere torture of a prisoner. That could be postponed, this demanded instant and close attention.

A few words of explanation here become necessary in order that the situation may be clearly understood, and so that the incidents in this story may go on uninterruptedly.

The tract of country lying inland from the coast, and between Opunake and Taranaki was the cradle of that singular institution arising out of a mingling of Maori superstition and imperfectly understood Christianity, known as the Hau-Hau religion, a creed so fanatical in its character, and so disastrous in its effects, as to have caused more bloodshed and general devastation than even the tribal wars which had, from time to time, been such a curse to the country.

Hau-Hauism as it originated, and Hau-Hauism as it rapidly developed into, were two totally different things. Its founder was a probably well meaning, but altogether fanatical, if not absolutely insane, man named Te Ua, who lived in the district, and who was regarded by the natives as a kind of saint, or prophet, or miracle-monger, or wizard, for to the Maori mind these terms are nearly synonymous. He was deeply imbued with the wild and fantastic superstitions of his race, and on these, impelled thereto by the teachings of the missionaries, he had built up a superstructure of what to his mind were the principal tenets of Christianity, or rather perhaps the doctrines and precepts inculcated by a study of the earlier history related in the Old Testament.

Be it as it may, Te Uá was a dreamer of dreams, and a beholder of visions. He had, so he preached, personal communication with the Angel Gabriel, and professed to have been authorised by that being to promulgate the new religion of “Pai-Marire,” a term meaning “good and gentle.” It is somewhat difficult to understand now what the exact doctrines he proclaimed really were, but it is not too much to suppose that the religion he taught was of a mild and peaceful character.

But his successors, Hepanaia and Kereopa, the leaders of the new movement, were men of a widely different stamp to Te Ua, and under them the “Pai-Marire” soon merged into a murderous and bloodthirsty fanaticism. The religion, so suited in its new aspect to the turbulent and warlike Maoris, rapidly spread throughout the middle portion of the North island. Tribe after tribe joined the standard of the new prophets, and it only needed a spark to set the whole land in a blaze.

That spark was too soon applied; whether wisely or unwisely, page 31 whether rightly or wrongly, it boots not here to tell. The Maoris, or very many of them, had long been disaffected, and altogether impatient of what they considered to be the encroachment by the whites upon their lands, and one of the principal features of the new religion was absolute antagonism to British rule.

Hostilities were imminent, unavoidable perhaps. The first skirmish took place at Ahu Ahu, a small settlement a few miles south of Oakura, near New Plymouth. It was brought about by a detachment of the —th, and about 100 settlers under the command of Captain Loyal, destroying the crops on the Kaitaki ranges as a punishment for some act of insubordination. The infuriated Maoris rushed upon them, barking like dogs (whence their name of Hau-Haus), and the whites fled. Captain Loyal stood his ground, however, and was slain, his head being cut off and carried round through the tribes by propagandists, under the belief that out of the mouth their Divinity spoke his oracles, a belief inculcated and fostered by the wily leaders of the rebellion.

Encouraged by their first success, the Hau-Haus proceeded to still further acts of violence and bloodshed. Near Waitara, a mission station in the same district, the missionary and the lieutenant in charge, with his wife and three children, were treacherously murdered by the Mokau Maoris. At Sentry Hill, where the chief Tito Kawarau lost an eye, a sanguinary encounter took place, resulting in much loss to the whites. At Turu Turu Mokau, between Normanby and Hawera, the redoubt with a force of 25 men was attacked, and a captain and nine men were killed, and most of the others wounded. At Te Ngutu o te Manu, the gallant Van Timson and others of his rangers were killed by a deadly fusillade from the Rotos. Other disasters followed fast, the wave of war spreading rapidly to the eastward, until they culminated in the terrible slaughter by thy Maoris, under Rawiri, entrenched in the celebrated Pah Pukehinahina, or “Gate Pah,” near Tauranga.

Meanwhile the seeds of disaffection, ending in many cases in open revolt, were spreading throughout the length and breadth of the land. From the Parihaka pah, about twelve miles from Opunake, which the British troops had captured after a fierce struggle, and where they had mounted a six-pounder gun to overawe the natives of the district, to the Bay of Plenty on the north-east, the entire country was in a ferment, and the savage Hau-Hau prophets, Hepanaia and Kereopa, had spread their murderous doctrines of bloodthirsty fanaticism.

Ill fared it with the few tribes that preserved their allegiance to the whites, or even those neutrals who were suspected of pakeha proclivaities, for, incited by the lust of bloodshed, and encouraged by the vacillating policy of the British, tribe after tribe joined the new religion, the “Pai-Marire,” or “good and gentle,” as it was called in grim irony, with all its concomitants of rapine and slaughter.

Of the few tribes who had remained faithful or partially faithful page 32 to its pledges, was the Ngamaunganui, a powerful and warlike sept occupying the peninsula that forms the eastward coast of Tauranga harbor, and whose pah stood on the flat-topped, conical hill called Maunganui at the eastern head of the bay.

On this tribe the Hau-Hau leaders had vowed dire vengeance, but, protected as the pah was by the sea on every side but one, where the mountain rose abruptly from the sandy shore to a height of 865 feet, the chief, secure in his fancied inaccessibility, laughed his savage foes to scorn.

But the Hau-Haus were not less cunning than ferocious, and while withdrawing, or apparently withdrawing, from the neighborhood, were in fact only waiting a fitting opportunity to wreak their vengeance on the tribe that had defied them.

It was a wild night. The gale, which had been blowing all day, had risen to a hurricane. The rain fell in torrents, and amid the pitchy darkness the lightning blazed, and the thunder bellowed, while the mighty billows, rolling in unchecked from thousands of miles of the vast Pacific, seemed to shake the very foundations of the rocky mountain, adding new terror to the scene. Even the bravest heart within the pah was appalled at the terrific conflict of nature, and every one sought such shelter as the whares afforded from the pitiless storm.

Rain-drenched, her wild elf-locks streaming in the wind, and her eyes glittering with the fire of madness, stood Totana, the priestess or sorceress of the doomed tribe, on the very edge of the cliff, amid storm and dark, her arms pointing to the murky sky, crying, as if moved by the spirit of prophetic fury, “Heaven and earth are rent! —man next!”

Surely it was prophecy, for even then the invading Hau-Haus had already scuttled the canoes, and were stealthily scaling the mount. The inmates of the pah, taken by surprise, were slaughtered, almost without resistance, and the few who managed to elude the murderous meré were driven into the water, and drowned. None escaped; not one. The Hau-Haus had scored another sanguinary victory, and the Ngamaunganui tribe was extinct.

This, then—the outbreak of this terrible war, and the intelligene that the northern tribes had declared war against the British, and had, in fact, entered into open hostilities—was the important news brought to the Patea chief by the scout, and this it was which had saved Matariki, for the time, from the torture.