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


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Oh! Wonderland of the Southern Seas. Oh! Beauty Spot of the World Oh! Land whose glacier-crowned mountains pierce the fairest of Heavens—whose rivers rush over beds of crystal and gold—whose lakes, embosomed amid the lonely hills, shimmering in the sunshine, as it were vast sapphires in a setting of emerald, ruby, and amethyst—whose forests deep, dark, dense, are the home of a myriad birds that flit like living gems from bough to bough. Oh! Land of flaming sunlight and gloomy shadow, of calm and storm, of summer heats and wintry snows.

Thou art so near and yet so far.

So near, for I can close my eyes, and, lo, I am once again in the mysterious recesses of thy olive and pale green woods, I wander again by thy rushing rivers, I look up with mental vision from where, as in a vast amphitheatre, thy hills on every side tower up, terrace above terrace, till their tops of steely blue, purple, and silver, reach the clouds. I sail again into thy solitary fiords, where the iron-bound coast, cleft asunder by some awful convulsion of nature, is penetrated, showing how vast and terrible is nature, how little man. I stand on the summit of thy mountains and look far abroad at the bewildering sea of ice peaks, and below at the clouds and mists that hide the lower earth. Yea, indeed, thou art so near.

And yet so far. I open my eyes. Houses, streets, shops, men and women, dress, fashion, civilization, wealth, poverty, dust, dirt, turmoil. All the petty struggles and contemptible shifts of this everyday life, and thou liest smiling in thy tranquil loveliness, or frowning in thy sublime tempest, and many and many a league of angry sea between.

Can it be?—is it possible that so many years have sped that I have almost lost count, since I traversed thy gloomy gorges, thy romantic valleys—since I wandered by thy lakes—since I was “borne like a bubble onward,” upon a frail raft of Korattis, down thy river rapids—since I scaled thy heights—since I ate of thy Mamuka fern, thy Nikau palm, and thy Kumera, or lay in a native Whare of Kohe-Kohe poles and Raupo, or under a tree by the camp fire, or beneath the shadow of a flax bush, listening to the legends of his race told by some lordly Maori—since I compassed thy length from the North Cape to the Bluff, thy breadth from Tauranga to Cape Egmont, from the Katuku river to Port Chalmers?

Even so. The years have sped. The time is past. But never forgotten. Ah, no! never forgotten.

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more jealously guard their rights of property, no nation who are more ready to take up arms to resist encroachment on their land; and, as the lines of demarcation were necessarily somewhat arbitrary as between the tribes, these disputes were constantly arising, and almost as constantly being settled by an appeal to arms.

It was this very question of disputed territory that led to the disastrous wars between the Maoris and the British that, a few years since, were the curse of New Zealand, and which were the fruitful cause of so much rapine and bloodshed.

Of the tribes named none were more frequently at feud than the allied Waimate and Te Nama tribes, and the powerful Patea tribe, the disputed territory being a tract of land on the north bank of the Waingongora river. The two parties were fairly evenly matched, and in their desultory wars, or rather raids (for they were more like the forays of the old border freebooters than aught else, with the difference that their object was to carry off prisoners instead of black cattle), success as often attended one side as the other.

The principal pahs, or palisaded enclosures, of the tribes were: of the Pateas, on the Patea river, 26 miles north-west of the Wanganui river; of the Waimates, near the Kaipokonui stream, about 38 miles further; and of Te Namas, one mile north-west of Opunake Bay. which is 17 miles from Waimate, and the scene where this story opens.

The chief, or Rangatira, of Te Nama tribe was a brave but ferocious warrior named Marutuahua, a descendant of the great chief of the same name, who was the progenitor of the powerful Kawhia tribes, of which, in fact, Te Namas were a branch. But he was no less wise in council than he was brave in war, and no voice was listened to in the Korero, or parliament of the tribe, with more attention than that of the sapient and eloquent Marutuahu, Te tangata kai whakaako, or the man who teaches.

The pah, or fortification, or rather village, was, like others of the same character, a roomy quadrangular enclosure, surrounded by strong palisading, sunk deeply into the earth and pointed on the tops of the posts, an abbatis in fact, strengthened by wooden flying buttresses and heavy beams. Immediately inside the fenced wall ran a trench, or covered way, sloping inwards and extending all round the quadrangle. It was entered by a narrow gateway of solid beams, elaborately carved in the usual style of Maori ornamentation. Hideous faces, with lolling tongues and elaborately tattooed cheeks, grinned, leered, and scowled, over and on the lintels of the doorway, the faces of the Atuas of the tribe, the intervening spaces being carved in regular curved and angular lines and cross hatchings, embellished with circles of the achromatically colored mutton fish (haliotis) shell, and rings formed out of the tusks of the wild boar. Inside the pah were the whares, or houses of the tribe, that of the Rangatira being larger than the rest, and profusely carved and ornamented, also the Wharekura, or place of meeting and residence of the chief Arikis and Tohungas or priests of the tribe.

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The pah stood on the summit of a not very lofty hill, which rose in successive terraces from the low lying land, and which was difficult of access except by means of a narrow pathway leading up to the gate.

The Waimate and Patea pahs were similar enclosures, tho former one especially being so strongly constructed as to be almost impregnable. It was certainly one of the most formidable strongholds in the whole of New Zealand, and was situated in an admirable position for defence, nearly insulated, and joined only to the mainland by two narrow shingle sp'its. On the outer or sen side was a perpendicular cliff one hundred feet high, and on the land side was a natural ditch filled with deep water. The summit was riat, and was covered with pits for the reception of provisions, as well as for shelter.

This fortification was the stronghold of the Waimates, who, under their chief, Tamaiti, occupied the neutral territory between the Namas and the Pateas, which two were at feud, if not at open war, the Namas taking part with the whites who had settled at and about Taranaki and Rawhia Bay, and the ferocious Pateas having declared for the Uriweras and other inland tribes under the banner of the fanatic Hau-Hau leaders, who were at war with the intruders, as they deemed them, and whose battle cry was “Extermination to the Pakehas.”