But he was too late. Directly that his angry head went down, with a preparatory sweep, Dandy Jack, whose assumed carelessness really covered a preternatural degree of alertness, sprang at him.
It was all done so quickly that we spectators could hardly distinguish what was happening. We saw Jack seize one of the bull's horns with both hands, we saw him place his foot upon the other. Then came a wrench and a wrestle, all in the space of one moment, and then Jack was whirling through the air, to fall lightly enough on the soft ground half a dozen yards off.
But the bull lay rolling on his back. That twist of his head had overbalanced him. And before he could recover himself and scramble to his feet, we had sprang over the fence and got him securely tied with our ready ropes.
A few minutes later, our eccentric chum was quietly sitting on the prostrate and helpless carcase of his late antagonist. With his usual dainty care he was ridding himself of the dust and dirt that had soiled him when he fell. The Wairoa man was regarding him in blank astonishment. Clearly, Dandy Jack was an entirely new species of the genus homo to him. Thus spake the bull-fighter, with elaborate affectation of languor and softness—
"Look here, old fellow! You don't understand what a bull is. I'll tell you. It's a thing that some people look at from the safe side of the fence, and that other people take by the horns."
This was hardly fair upon the giant, perhaps. But after his doughty deed, Dandy Jack was to be excused if he improved the occasion, and revenged himself for the sneer that had previously been cast upon him.
Oh! we are getting on fast and famously now, with our farm. The stumps on the first clearing are now completely rotten; so we have pulled them out, piled them in heaps, and burnt them. This clearing is ready for the plough. Besides, there is a piece of flat, marshy ground below our shanty on the left, and this was only covered originally with flax, swamp-grass, and small shrubs. In the dry season we have burnt this off as it stood. The soil is not deep, but it is good, and we shall plough this in with the other. There will be about fifty acres of plough land altogether, and twice as much more next year, or the year after.
We have borrowed a plough and harrows from a neighbour, and are going to work. Ploughing is quite a new industry up here. There are some of the settlers round who have got lands under plough before this; but not to any great extent. To us it seems to open up a boundless vista of opulence, and there is no end to our speculations, and to the general excitement in our shanty.
Wheat! We must grow it, of course; and a flour-mill at the township is an imperative necessity. Somebody must start one, and that quickly. Why should we go on eating Adelaide flour, when we are growing wheat ourselves? They have reaped sixty and eighty bushels to an acre, in the South Island, and their average is thirty! So Old Colonial tells us. Well, our land is richer than theirs, and our climate is better too, so much cannot be gainsaid. Ergo, we shall have better crops. South Island corn has been sold in London at a profit; and has been judged first-class in quality. Ergo, again, ours must infallibly top the markets of the world. That is, what we are going to grow, you understand.
Then there is the great sugar question. Government is always offering divers incentives to new industries. It has offered a bonus of L500 to whomsoever produces the first fifty tons of beet-root sugar in New Zealand. That is, over and above what the sugar may fetch in the market. We say, why should not we go in for it? So many acres of beet, a crushing mill, a few coppers and some tubs, and there you are! Wealth, my boy! Wealth!
But O'Gaygun has misgivings. "This is not a whate-growin' counthry," he declares. It is far too rough and hilly. There are too many difficulties in the way. You can grow wheat to a certain extent, of course. The North can produce enough for its own consumption, and more. It will pay as one among other operations and productions. But we must not think of it as our principal or staple industry.
And then as to sugar. You must have a couple of hundred acres of beet at least, to begin with. A mill and appliances that are to be of real use would cost L2000 or so. Your bonus would be but a small thing if you got it. If all the farmers in the district were to combine to grow beet-root on every acre they could plough, and nothing else, even then it would hardly pay the sugar-mills, or possibly the farmers either. Stick to cattle and sheep, to pigs and potatoes, "Ontil ye're able to give ye're attintion to fruit. Fruit! Whativver ye can do wid it, that's what this counthry's made for! Wine! an' ile! an' raisins! an'——"
"Oh, shut up, O'Gaygun! Get out, you miserable misanthrope!"
Nevertheless, I think our Irish chum was about right in what he said, after all, especially in the last part of his remarks.
Dandy Jack had been training horses, and Old Colonial had been gentling bullocks; so we had a choice of draggers for the plough. We ploughed in those fifty acres, fenced them round, and put in potatoes for a cleaning crop, to thoroughly break up the old turf. We hope to get two crops in the year. The second will be maize and pumpkins. Then, next year, wheat.
The new-ploughed land is surveyed with rapture by us; but it is something different from an English field, after all. The ground was so irregular and rough; our beasts were not too easy to manage; and then—but this is unimportant—it was our first essay at ploughing. The furrows are not exactly straight, and there is a queer, shaggy look about them. But the potatoes are in, and a crop we shall have, no doubt about it. What more can possibly be needed?
I have mentioned that we have several enclosures that may be termed gardens. So we have, and what they produce fully bears out O'Gaygun's opinion, as to this being essentially a fruit country. Of course our spade industry gives us all the vegetables we require, when we lay ourselves out for it. The worst of growing anything except roots is the immense amount of weeding required; the weeds spring in no time; and they are of such a savage sort in this fertile land.
We grow large quantities of melons—water-melons, musk-melons, rock-melons, Spanish melons, pie-melons, and so on. Also, we grow marrows and pumpkins in profusion, as the pigs are fed on them as well as ourselves. These plants do not want much weeding. They may be grown, too, among the maize. Kumera, or sweet potatoes, we grow a good deal of; also many other vegetables, when we think we have time to plant them.
But in fruit we excel. There is a neighbour of ours who goes in for tree-culture exclusively, and who has a nursery from which he supplies Auckland. To him we owe a greater variety than we should otherwise have, perhaps.
First, there are peaches. We have a great number of trees, as they will grow from the stone. We eat them in quantities; pickling, preserving, and drying them sometimes. But the principal use to which we put them is to fatten our pigs. We have several kinds of peaches, coming on at different seasons. The earliest kind are ripe about Christmas, and other sorts keep on ripening to March or April. Then we have some few apricots, nectarines, plums, cherries, loquats, etc., all yielding bounteously.
The last are a very delicious fruit, ripening about October or November. Figs we have till late into the winter, and they begin again early; we are very fond of them. Oranges, lemons, and shaddocks grow fairly well, and are fruiting all the year round. Apples do badly, being subject to blight, though the young trees grow rapidly, and, if freely pruned, will yield enormous crops. To obviate the blight we keep a constant succession of young trees to replace those that are killed. Pears are not subject to the blight, and do well. Grapes are very luxuriant; and, no doubt, this will be a wine-country in the future. Already, some people at Mangawai have made good wine, and have started a little trade in it. Of strawberries, guavas, Cape gooseberries, and other small fruit we have a little. The former fruit so plenteously here, that the leaves are entirely hidden by the clusters of berries and blossom. The second is a bush; and the last a plant like a nettle, which sows itself all over. The fruit is nice.
Both the gardens and the clearings are subject to a horrible plague of crickets. They are everywhere, and eat everything. But turkeys and ducks fatten splendidly on them, acquiring a capital gamey flavour. Cricket-fed turkey would shame any stubble-fed bird altogether, both as to fatness and meatiness and flavour. We have hundreds of turkeys wild about the place, which keep down the crickets a good deal. Although we eat them freely, they increase very rapidly, like everything else here. The worst of it is they will not leave the grapes alone, and if they would the crickets won't, which is a difficulty in the way of vine-growing. But notwithstanding that, some of us are convinced that wine-making is the coming industry of the Kaipara. Then there is the olive, and the mulberry for serici-culture. Both these things are to come. Experiment has been made in growing them, but that is all as yet. Tobacco, too, will have its place. It grows well; and the Maoris sometimes smoke their own growth. We prefer the Virginian article. A man at Papakura has done well with tobacco, we hear. Government has bonused him, so it is said; and his manufactured product is to be had in all the Auckland shops—strong, full-flavoured stuff; wants a little more care in manufacture, perhaps.
Tobacco, like some other things we have tried—hops, castor-oil, spices, drugs, and so on—needs cheap labour for picking. That is the sine qua non to success in these things. And for cheap labour we must wait, I suppose, till we are able to marry, and to rear those very extensive families of children, which are one of the special products of this fruitful country, and which are also such aids to the pioneer in getting on.
Take it altogether, we—the pioneers of Te Pahi—are of opinion that pioneer-farming here is a decided success. We are satisfied that it yields, and will yield, a fair return for the labour we have invested in it. We think that we are in better case, on the whole, than we should have been after eight years' work at other avocations in the old country. Putting aside the question of the magnificent health we enjoy—and that is no small thing—we are on the high road to a degree of competence we might never have attained to in England. Not that we wish to decry England; on the contrary, we would like to return there. But for a visit, merely. Here is our home, now. The young country that is growing out of its swaddling clothes, and that we hope, and we know, will one day be a Brighter Britain in deed and in truth.
We have a show-place, and one of which we are excessively proud. It is not a castle, a baronial hall, or ruined abbey, as one would expect a properly constituted show-place to be—at "home." In this new country, it is needless to say, we have no antiquities of that sort. Yet this place, of which we are so proud, and that it delights us to extol to strangers, has a history that renders its singular picturesqueness additionally striking.
Mere scenery is never so effective if it has no story to tell. There must be something, be it fact or fiction, to attach to a place before its beauties can be fully appreciated. The charm of poetry and romance is a very real one, and can add much to one's enjoyment of a particular view. I suppose that something is needed to interest and attract the intelligence, at the same moment that the sense of sight is captivated, so that a double result is produced.
Scotland is one fair example of this. Fine as the scenery there may be, is it to be supposed that alone would attract such hordes of tourists every summer? Certainly not; it is the history associated with each spot that throws a glamour over it. Much magnificence of nature is passed by unheeded in Scotland, because history or tradition has conferred a higher title to regard upon some less picturesque place beyond. The fiction and poetry of Scott, and of Burns and others in less degree, have clothed the mountains and the glens with a splendid lustre, that causes people to view their natural beauties through a mental magnifying glass. Nature unadorned seldom gets the admiration bestowed on it that it does when added to by art.
But why pursue this topic? Every one knows and feels the power that associations have of rendering picturesque nature more picturesque still. Therefore, a show-place, to be regarded as such in the true sense of the word, must possess features of interest of another kind, underlying the external loveliness of form and outline that merely please and captivate the eye.
Here, in our Britain of the South Sea, we have abundance and variety of the most glorious and splendid scenery. So far as wild nature is concerned, there is nothing in Europe that we cannot match. Our Alps might make Switzerland envious; one or two of our rivers are more beautiful than the Rhine; the plains of Canterbury are finer than midland England; the rolling ranges and lakes of Otago may bear comparison with Scotland and with Wales; Mount Egmont or Tongariro would make Vesuvius blush; the hot-spring region of Rotomahana and Rotorua contains wonders that cannot be matched between Iceland and Baku; and here in the North our forest country is grander than the Tyrol, and more voluptuously lovely than the wooded shores of the Mediterranean. At least, that is what those who have seen all can say.
But, though nature has given us such sublime triumphs of her raw material, these have no history, no spirit. They tell to us no story of the past; and poetry has not crowned them with a diadem of romance. Hence their effect is partly lost, and when we New Zealanders go "home" for a trip, we find a charm in the time-hallowed landscapes of the Old World, above and beyond all our greater scenic glories here.
Still, here and there in this new land, we have contrived to invest some special spot with a kind of infant spirit or baby romance of its own. Here and there our short history has left a landmark, or Maori tradition a monument. Already we are beginning to value these things; already we are conscious of the added interest they give to our scenery. But to our children's children, and to their descendants, some of these places will speak with more vivid earnestness. They will appreciate the stories that as yet are so new, and will take a rare and lively pleasure in the scenery enriched by the tale of their pioneer ancestors, or by legends of the native race that then will be extinct.
New Zealand has even now what may be termed its "classic ground," as will be found in another chapter. But there exists a great deal of Maori tradition connected with various spots, and some of us do the best we can to preserve the tales that adorn certain localities. Some of the legends are mythological. Of such sort is that which gives such vivid interest to lonely Cape Reinga; the place where the spirits of dead Maori take their plunge into the sea, on their way from earth to the next world. Such, too, is the dragon legend, the tale of the Taniwha, which graces the volcanic country in the interior.
Besides these are the numerous stories of a more historical sort, incidents of love and war, which hang around the places where they happened. A country like this, so rich in natural beauties, so filled with the glories and magnificences of the Creator's hand, is surely—
"Meet nurse for a poetic child."
It is not surprising, then, that we find the Maori character actively alive to such impressions. The oldest men absolutely revel in the abundance of the tales, both prose and poetry, that they are able to relate about the scenes around them. But Young Maori is more civilized, and does not trouble his head so much with these old narratives. It is well, then, that some should be preserved while that is possible.
Old Colonial is a great hand at yarns. He loves to hear himself talk, and, in truth, he can tell a tale in first-class dramatic fashion. O'Gaygun and Dandy Jack are both given to the same thing a good deal. They run Old Colonial pretty close in all respects save one, and that is when he gets into a peculiarly Maori vein. There they cannot follow him, for neither has achieved his command over the intricacies of Maori rhetoric, nor has that intimate experience of the natives, which enables Old Colonial to enter so thoroughly into the spirit and character of their narrations.
As I know that Old Colonial's hands are more accustomed to the axe than to the pen, and that he will never take the trouble to give his wonderful collection of anecdotes to a larger audience than his voice can reach, I have made notes of his narratives, and some day, perhaps, shall put them in print. In the meantime, I may as well mention, that, it was from his lips that I heard the tale of our show-place.
One day, some lime was wanted on the farm for some purpose or other, and it became a question as to how we had better get it. The usual method employed in the neighbourhood was to utilize oysters for this purpose. A rude kiln would be constructed in the bank, where it sloped down to the river-beach. In this would be placed alternate layers of dead wood and of living oysters, with a proper vent. The burn usually resulted in a fair supply of good shell-lime, than which there can be no better.
But on this occasion we wanted a tolerably large quantity of lime, so that there were objections to the plan I have just detailed. For though oysters abounded on our beach, and covered the rocks that low-tide laid bare, yet, when a good many tons of them were wanted, all of which must be gathered with a handshovel and carried on men's backs to the kiln, it became evident that a considerable amount of labour must be undergone before our ultimate object could be attained.
Now, one of the first and chiefest considerations of the pioneer-farmer is always how he may most closely economize time and labour. It is particularly necessary for him, because of the scarcity of the latter commodity, and the consequent pressure upon the first. It is usually a strictly personal question.
On this occasion the subject was debated at one of our nightly parliaments in the shanty. Then the Saint broke out with one of those quaintly simple remarks that used to amuse us so much. He said—
"I don't think it can be right to burn oysters, you know. It must hurt them so awfully, poor things!"
Of course, we all laughed long and loudly. It seemed too ridiculous to consider the possibilities of an oyster feeling pain.
"Well done, Saint!" was the general exclamation; "that's a good excuse to get yourself off a job of humping over the rocks."
The Saint flushed up, and proceeded argumentatively, "Look here! Wouldn't it be better to burn dead shells?"
"F'what did shells is it, me dear?" asked O'Gaygun, in a wheedling tone.
"Well, there's plenty on Marahemo, for instance."
Marahemo, I may mention, is a hill about three miles back from the river. It is about one thousand feet high, I suppose, and lies behind our land.
"Did ye ivver hear the loike av that, now?" roared O'Gaygun, boisterously. "Here's the bhoy for ye! Here's the bhoy that's afraid to ate an eyester fur fear av hurtin' the baste, an' that's goin' to hump Marahemo down to the farrum, aal so bould an' gay! Shure now, thim's the shouldhers that can do that same!"
After a brief, friendly passage of arms between the two, the Saint continued hotly—
"Well, all I can say is, it seems to me more sensible to burn our lime on Marahemo and to hump it down here, than to hump oysters along the beach, and then have to hump the lime again up from there."
"By Jove!" broke in Old Colonial, "the boy's right, I believe. Shut up, you Milesian mudhead, and listen to me. Right from the old pa on the top of Marahemo down to the very foot, there's the Maori middens: a regular reef of nothing but shell, oysters and pipi and scollops and all the rest. There must be hundreds and hundreds of tons of pure shell. All we've got to do is to make a kiln near the bottom and shovel the shell into it; and there's any amount of firewood, dead stuff, round about."
"Well, but look at the long hump from there down to the farm."
"I know; but won't it be simpler to do that than to collect oysters on the beach? We should have to hump treble the weight of the lime we should get after burning them. And then we should have to hump the lime at least half a mile up from the beach. There is a track through the bush up to Marahemo, and we could easily open it a bit. Half a day's work for the lot of us would make it passable for a bullock-sled; or we might pack the lime down on some of Dandy Jack's horses. Then the stuff we should get there would be easier burnt and make better lime. And we could make enough to supply the neighbourhood. A few boat-loads sold at a fair price would pay us for our work, and we should have the lime we want for our own use as pure profit. If we didn't find a market on the rivers, I'm certain it would pay to charter a schooner, load her up, and send her round to the Manukau. Auckland has to get all her lime from Whangarei or Mahurangi as it is."
So the thing was settled, and we went to work on Marahemo as lime-burners.
One day when we were "nooning," Old Colonial and I chanced to be together on the top of Marahemo. We were looking at the splendid prospect, glorious under the mid-day sun. All around us was bush—a dense jungle of shrubs and trees. The conical hill on which we stood was thickly clothed, and all round, over the steep, rough ranges, the abrupt ravines and gullies, with their brawling streams, was spread the one variegated mantle of gorgeous foliage.
Since then I have seen certain of the far-famed forests of the tropics, but I must candidly say that the scenery they offer is, on the whole, far less striking and beautiful than that of the bush of Northern New Zealand. The colouring is not so good; in the mass, it is not so lustrous, nor so varied. The rich flowers are hidden away, so that the fewer and less gaudy blossoms of our bush are more conspicuous, because severally more plentiful. But a woodland scene in England, the old home across the seas, even surpasses all in the glory of its autumn dress.
From where we stood on Marahemo we could see for considerable distances, where the ranges did not intervene. Here and there, through some vista of wooded gullies, we could catch a glimpse of shining river reaches, and, in one or two directions, could make out the house of some neighbour, easily distinguishable in the pure atmosphere, though possibly ten or twelve miles distant.
Looking towards the west, we could see our own farm. The distance was just enough to mellow the view softly. The shanty looked neat and tidy; the grass in the paddocks bright and fresh; the fences appeared regular and orderly; the asperities and irregularities of the ground were not seen, even the stumps were almost hidden; and the cattle and sheep that dotted the clearings might have been browsing on English meadows, so fair and smooth was the picture. As we looked on our home thus, the growth of our labour, we realized our independence of the outer world. And I dare say that, for a moment, "our hearts were lifted up within us," to use the Scriptural phraseology.
I believe I was guilty, under the inspiration of the scene, of uttering some sentimental nonsense or other, in which occurred reference to "primeval forests," or something of the sort. Old Colonial took me up shortly—
"'Tain't primeval," he said. "There's the heavy bush, the real primeval stuff," pointing to a well-marked line that commenced about half a mile further back.
"No," he continued; "all this round us is only about fifty years old."
"Only fifty years!" I exclaimed wonderingly, for the woods looked to me as old as the New Forest, at least; judging by the size and luxuriance of the trees."
"Oh, here and there, there are older trees; but half a century ago all this land was under Maori cultivation."
Then he showed me the old ramparts that had defended the crest of the hill. A double bank of earth, now all overgrown with trees and shrubs, not unlike the outlines of ancient British and Roman encampments. On every point around us similar traces could be found, showing that the district had been thickly inhabited. As the Maoris had no grazing stock in those days, and no grass in these parts, their lands were solely spade-cultivations. Some thousands of acres between the Pahi and the Wairau had once grown their taro and kumera and hue, together with potatoes and other things introduced by Captain Cook.
Marahemo Pa was the capital of the district. Its position, occupying the crest of a sugar-loaf hill, defended by earthworks and stockades, must have made it seem impregnable to people unacquainted with artillery. The space enclosed was considerable; and the immense quantities of shells thrown down the sides of the hill attested the numbers of its population—for all the shell-fish would have to be brought up here on the backs of women and slaves from the beach, which is over three miles distant; and shell-fish was by no means the principal item of the Maori commissariat.
"That must have been the way they went," said Old Colonial, looking in a direction where a strip of the Arapaoa was visible through a gap made in the ranges by a narrow gully.
"Who went?" I asked, for I did not follow his thought.
"Hoosh!" cried he. "Do you mean to say you've never heard the story of the battle and capture of Marahemo, the tale of Te Puke Tapu?"
No, I had not heard it. At least, I remembered only some confused account of a conflict having taken place at the latter spot, which, being our show-place, I had often seen and knew well.
"Well," said Old Colonial, "there's no time now; but we've got to get some schnapper for supper to-night, so you and I will go and fish down the Arapaoa yonder; then I'll tell you."
In the evening we were sitting in the boat, anchored in the river nearly opposite our much venerated show-place. We were fishing with line and bait, diligently securing a supper and breakfast for ourselves and the rest of the company who make our shanty their home. Every now and then either of us would pull up a great pink slab-sided schnapper, a glistening silvery mullet, or a white-bellied whapuka; we were in a good pitch, and the fish were biting freely. Our minds were relieved from the anxiety of a possible shortness of provisions. The scenery around us is truly magnificent, if only it were possible to describe it. I must, however, try to convey an idea of its outlines.
We are lying in the Arapaoa Firth, at the point where it loses its distinctive name and divides into three heads. These three lesser firths, together with the main creek that flows into each above the point where the tide reaches, are respectively the Pahi, the Paparoa, and the Matakohe.
Our boat seems to be floating in a lake, rather than in a river, for here the Arapaoa is between three and four miles across. Looking down to the right we see it stretching away, between bold, high banks of irregular outline, flowing down to the harbour and the sea thirty miles off. To our left is our own river, the Pahi, narrower than the other. It is, perhaps, a mile across at the mouth. Its shores present a diminishing perspective of woods; and, as mangroves line the beach on either side, the leafage and the water seem to melt into one another. Five or six miles up, the ranges rise higher and run together, so that the beautiful Pahi appears to lose itself in the forest.
The opposite shore of the Pahi ends in a high bluff that, from our point of view, appears like an island in the expanse of gleaming water. Round the base of the bluff are gathered the white houses of Te Pahi township; and the masts of several small sailing-craft are seen off the beach. Behind and above is a bold sweep of dark woods, forming a background to the baby town.
The township bluff hides from us all view of the Paparoa, which lies just behind it. But we have a full prospect of the wide reach of the Matakohe, which has quite a lake-like look. Just within it, on the further shore, are some low mud-banks, partially covered with stunted mangrove. Here great flocks of grey snipe continually assemble, together with kingfishers, shags, wild duck, teal, and other waterfowl. The high bank conceals all behind it; but in one or two places we catch a glimpse of some settler's house, cresting the bold bluff, or half hiding in its orchards.
And now we face to the east, with the setting sun behind us sending its rays full upon the central interest of the view, and thus we gaze our fill upon Te Puke Tapu. A small but deep bay forms a bend in the shore of the river, guarded by steep heights on either hand. On the left a long promontory runs out into the Pahi, as though to meet the township bluff upon its further shore. On the right a towering scaur shows the abrupt termination of the range behind it. The tide in the Arapaoa flows swiftly by, but within the bay the water lies smooth as glass.
Between these two points may be a distance of about a mile straight across. The curving line of the shore, sweeping round from one to the other, forms a complete crescent. No rocks or mangroves, no mud-banks or oyster-beds spoil the effect of a narrow belt of white and glittering shingle, which lines the beach of the little bay. And right at the edge of this border-line begins the mingled green of fern and forest.
The land slopes upward gradually from the beach, rising by regular steps into a grand semicircle of heights. The general shape is that of an amphitheatre. And here so rich is the soil, so sheltered the situation, that all the wild vegetation of the country seems growing with magnified luxuriance.
The colouring is brighter and more brilliant than it often is in the bush; and there is a more extensive mingling of different trees and shrubs, a more picturesque grouping of forms and tints. There are emerald feathery fern-trees, copper-tinted "lancewoods," with their hair-like tufts, the tropic strangeness of nikau palms, crested cabbage-trees, red birch and white ti-tree, stately kauri, splendid totara, bulky rimu, dark glossy koraka, spreading rata, and half the arboreal catalogue of the country besides.
And, in their several seasons, the blossoms which all the evergreen trees and shrubs put forth bloom more brightly here than elsewhere; and, while creepers of strange and beautiful forms twine and suspend and stretch from tree to tree, the woodland greenery is set with a rich variety of scarlet cups and crimson tassels, of golden bells or flesh-pink clusters, or the darker depths are lit up by showering masses of star-like clematis.
Terrace above terrace, receding from the water's edge, the encircling lines of bush rise upwards and away, until at last the leafy mantle flows over the summit of the topmost range. Far back, and central, in the wide sweep of the amphitheatre is a sudden dip in the outline. It is the opening of a little gully, through which a hidden stream comes down below the trees and babbles out across the shingle; and that opening just reveals Mount Marahemo behind. His wooded crest has caught the tinted radiance of the sunset, and stands out in glorious relief against the purpling background of sky, framed in the glowing beauty of the nearer Puke Tapu.
Such is our show-place, the "Sacred Soil," where sleep the departed warriors of the Ngatewhatua. The bell-bird and the tui sing a requiem over them by day, while the morepork and the kiwi wail for them at night. And the wonderful loveliness of this spot, where they fought and died, might well inspire a Tennyson to pen another "Locksley Hall."
"Jee—roosalem!" sighed Dandy Jack. "Only put that on canvas, and hang it in Burlington House, and what an advertisement it would be for us!"
Old Colonial goes on to tell the tale of Te Puke Tapu, in the intervals of hauling up schnapper. He says—
"The boys call it 'The Burying Ground,' because of the bones and skulls that are lying about or stuck up in the trees. That's rather misleading, though, for it was never a wahi tapu, or native cemetery. This bay was evidently the landing-place or port for Marahemo, and the subordinate kaingas on the ranges yonder. You can see it was naturally that. As such there would be constant traffic through it, even if there were no whares in the place itself. Now a wahi tapu was so sacred that no one but a tohunga dared to approach its boundaries, even under pain of death and damnation; so that such a place was always in some very out-of-the-way locality, certainly never near a spot so much frequented as this would be.
"It's tapu enough now, though, and has been ever since the battle, which, I opine, must have been fought somewhere about 1825. The chiefs won't sell an inch of this piece to any one; and not a Maori dares go near it. Lots of people have tried to buy it, and have even offered as much as five pounds an acre for its magnificent soil; but the Maoris are not to be tempted, and, what's more, say they'll have utu from any Pakeha that goes into it.
"Once, some years ago, I was out pig-hunting, and killed a big one just on the top of that scaur. The carcase rolled down into the water, and the tide carried it away down river. It was washed up at Tama-te-Whiti's place, six miles below this. Now Tama, although he's an ordained parson, still retains most of the old superstitions, as all the older Maoris do. He was in a terrible stew when this pig, killed on tapu ground, and consequently tapu itself, stranded on his beach. His wife and he came out with long poles and pushed it into the water. Then they got into their boat, and managed to get the pig out into the channel and set it floating off again. Afterwards they carefully burnt the poles that had touched the dreadful thing. Finally, Tama came up to me and demanded utu, which I had to pay him. If we had not been such good friends, and if Tama had not been more sensible than the other Maoris, I believe the district would have been too hot to hold me.
"Tama told me the whole history of the place; and gave me a graphic account of the battle, in which he took part. He is one of the 'last of the cannibals,' one of the few survivors of the old fighting days, before the missionaries caused the abolition of cannibalism.
"You know who Hongi was, I suppose? The great chief of the Ngapuhi, who was so friendly with Marsden and the first missionaries, who went to Sydney and then to England, was presented to King George and made much of. When he got back to Sydney, this astute savage 'realized' on all the fine things that had been given him, and turned the proceeds into muskets, powder, and ball. Then he loaded up a trading-schooner, chartering her with a promise of a return cargo of pigs, timber, and flax, and joyfully sailed back to New Zealand.
"All his life, Hongi was very friendly to the missionaries, as well as to traders from Sydney. But the former never converted him. He remained a ferocious manslayer and cannibal to the last. Yet it was owing to this chief that missionaries gained a first footing in the country.
"Hongi's great idea was to make himself king of all New Zealand. In pursuance of this plan he armed his fighting men with fire-arms, and when they were drilled in the use of them, he started on a grand maraud all through the island. His notion of kingly power seems to have been to kill and eat, or enslave, every other tribe but his own. He certainly slew his thousands; and utterly depopulated the country wherever he went.
"The Ngatewhatua, whose country lay all round these waters, were the ancient foemen of the Ngapuhi; consequently, they were among the first to experience Hongi's new mode of civilizing. A great battle was fought up on the Wairoa, where two or three thousand of our fellows were discomfited by Hongi's army. The fugitives came down the rivers and rallied again. Every man of the Ngatewhatua who was able to bear arms, took up his mere and patu and spear, and went forth to fight for his fatherland. They fought the invading Ngapuhi all the way down from the Wairoa, as they marched through the forests between this and Mangapai.
"But badly-armed bravery had little chance against the superior equipment of Hongi's bands. Do all they might, the Ngatewhatua could not stay the progress of their foes. When, at last, the invaders drove them as near as the Maungaturoto bush, our tribe gave way in despair, and came back to this place. They had still one hope, one refuge, the hitherto unconquered Marahemo Pa.
"Into that pa, then, where we stood this morning, crowded the whole population of the district—men, women, and children. Here they would make their last despairing stand. The attack would come from the north-east, consequently this bay would be in rear; and in it the canoes were drawn up for flight, if that were necessary.
"Then Hongi and his ruthless army swept out of the woods, and rushed upon Marahemo. They surrounded the hill, and, advancing to the fortifications, poured in a hot fire. Frightful were the losses among the besieged; and little could they do in return, spears and stones being their only missiles. Still, they held out for three days, their crowded ranks gradually thinning and thinning.
"At last, at daybreak on the third day, Hongi delivered a grand assault. The Ngapuhi came up in three columns on the eastern slope of the hill, where the principal gate of the pa was. The two outer flanks concentrated all their fire on the point, while the centre, headed by Hongi himself, wearing a helmet and breastplate that King George had given him, constituted the storming party.
"The struggle at the gate must have been terrific. At close quarters fire-arms were no longer of service, and the Ngatewhatua would be equal to their assailants. Both sides fought with all the fierce courage of their race. Tama says that the bodies of the slain lay in piles, and that their blood flowed in streams down the hill.
"Tuwhare was the name of the ariki or supreme chief of the Ngatewhatua; he was also a tohunga, or priest. A lion-like old man he seems to have been, from Tama's description. Seeing that all was lost, when the conquering Ngapuhi had forced their way into the pa, and were mercilessly slaughtering men, women, and children, he did the only thing left to be done. He took from its perch the palladium of the tribe, an heitiki ponamu, or greenstone image, and, summoning around him the remnant of his men, together with some of the women, they fled from the western side of the pa, hotly pursued by the victors.
"The fugitives came down through that little gully, here to the bay, intending to take to their boats, and escape down the river. Tama was among them, and he afterwards concealed himself in a tree, and, thus hidden, was a witness of the final scene; for a band of Hongi's men had come along the beach, and had captured the canoes beforehand, so that retreat was cut off.
"But a short time was there to consider what should now be done. The pursuing Ngapuhi were close at their heels. The sacred tiki was placed in the branches of a tree for safety. And as the yelling and elated victors came bounding down the gully, brave old Tuwhare and his remaining warriors, with mere in hand and war-cry ringing through the woods, hurled themselves against the foe. Overpowered by numbers, and by superiority of weapons, the grim fight was soon over, and the last of the Ngatewhatua were slain. But, beside their bodies, many a Ngapuhi corpse showed that the vanquished had died as warriors should.
"The Ngapuhi who had slain Tuwhare, cut off the dead chiefs head, and placing it in the nearest tree, rushed back towards Marahemo to summon Hongi. Now Hongi was brave as man could be, but, like all Maoris then, he was intensely superstitious, and held all the Maori gods and devils in the very highest respect.
"Hongi and his principal warriors were led across the field of battle by the lucky slayer of the Ngatewhatua chief, in order that they might insult and taunt Tuwhare's head, as was their custom. When they were all assembled round the tree, with the bodies of the dead lying about where they had fallen—'There! that's the place, to the left yonder, where the koraka trees are thickest!'—the branches were drawn aside to expose the grim trophy of the conquered chief. There it was, sure enough, just where the victor had put it, fresh and gory, with its white locks and richly tattooed features. But, oh, horror of horrors! right above the head, with all its hideous fluttering adornments of feathers and tassels, was the horrible, grotesque, and grinning idol!
"Chance had led the slayer of Tuwhare to put his head into the self-same tree where the dead ariki had, a short time previously, disposed the tiki. There it now appeared, stuck in a fork, just where he had put it for safety. None of the Ngapuhi knew how it had got there, and to their superstitious minds it seemed to have come by supernatural means. And this thing was tapu in the most deadly degree.
"The mighty and terrible Hongi trembled and shrieked when he saw the unlooked-for wonder. He and his men turned and ran out of the amphitheatre of the bay as fast as they could, shouting, 'Te tapu! te tapu! The gods have taken to themselves the bodies of the slain!'
"So they left this part of the battle-field, not daring to carry off the bodies as usual for a cannibal orgy. A long time afterwards, Tama, and certain priests of the almost exterminated Ngatewhatua tribe, ventured to return here. With much solemn karakia and propitiatory sacrifice, they tremblingly crept into the precincts of the bay. They placed the remains of their kindred in the forks of the trees, and hid the sacred tiki for ever from mortal eyes. Then they departed, and the aegis of a holy place invests for posterity Te Puke Tapu.
"It is a charnel-house if you like, under those trees there, but a very beautiful one as is evident. We ought to keep alive the memories that make the place romantic. It would be a pity if utilitarian axe and fire were to spoil the beauty of Te Puke Tapu. There is plenty of other good land to be had. No need for us to covet this, fertile as it is; no need to make a commonplace farm out of that picturesque old battle-ground. May it long remain just as it is now—a lovely natural monument to ancient Maori valour, a quiet undisturbed resting-place for the warrior dead, the patriot chivalry of the Ngatewhatua!"
Such is our show-place and its tale.
OUR NATIVE NEIGHBOURS.
A great friend of ours, and a near neighbour, is Tama-te-Whiti, the old Maori. He is not the chief of the Ngatewhatua, but as he comes of the royal stock he is a chief. He belongs to the caste styled tana, or chieftains, a degree above that of rangatira, or simple gentlemen-warriors. In the old feudal times—for the ancient Maori system may be so designated—Tama would have held a delegated authority over some portion of the tribe, just as a Norman baron did in the elder world.
Now the tribe is very small, having been almost exterminated by the Ngapuhi fifty years ago. Three or four families form the section over which Tama presides. But civilization and European colonization have abolished the old order of things, so that even a head chief's authority is now more nominal than real.
In his youth Tama was a warrior, having taken part in the battle which ended with the affair at Marahemo, as described in the previous chapter. A fugitive from his own district, his hopes of one day becoming a lordly ruler over some large kainga of his own being shattered by defeat, he fell in with Samuel Marsden, and by that Apostle of New Zealand was converted to Christianity.
So now, in his old age, Tama is a worthy exponent of the new dispensation. Born to warfare, he is now an ordained deacon of the Anglican Church; instead of cannibalism, he has taken to thrifty farming; instead of fighting, he preaches among his countrymen; instead of leading a ferocious taua, he finds himself the venerated pastor of a little community of earnest Christians.
Tama's place is some seven or eight miles away, down the Arapaoa. He has a very comfortable little kainga, a fenced-in enclosure, wherein are raupo whares built in the best styles of Maori architecture, with little verandahs in front of them, and curiously carved doors and fronts.
Here reside Tama and his wife, and one or two others; while just across the river is a larger kainga, where live the remainder of Tama's flock. Round about his whares is a plentiful clearing, whereon are to be seen pigs and poultry, a few cattle, and a horse or two. On a well-selected hill-side close by are his cultivations—some few acres of maize, potatoes, kumera, melons, taro, fruit-trees, and so on, surrounded by a strong stake-fence. A few yards below the kainga is the beach, where a capital boat shows that Tama prefers Pakeha workmanship to the native article—a canoe that also lies near. Nets and other matters prove that he reaps a harvest in the water as well as on land.
A very "comfortable" man is our Maori friend, for he has a claim over many hundred acres of good land around, some of which has already been sold to the Pakeha. Much of this is heavily timbered with valuable kauri and puriri. Bushmen cut on his land to a small extent, and pay him a royalty of a pound per tree. We often say, jokingly, that the old fellow must have a tolerably well-filled stocking somewhere.
Tama is amazingly industrious. He and his wife together get through an immense amount of work. The produce of the farm is amply sufficient to provide them with all necessaries. More than that, the surplus produce probably pays for all the groceries, tools, and clothes required by the family. His seventy years weigh lightly on him. He is as strong and active as most men of forty, and is never idle. He fully understands the duty that devolves on him of setting an example to his flock, as well as of preaching to them.
Tama's ordinary costume is much the same as ours, except that he prefers to go barefooted. On Sundays and occasions of state he dons the black cloth and white choker of an orthodox clergyman; but even then he avoids boots. Only on very special occasions, such as when there is a grand gathering at the township, or on the rare occurrence of an English clergyman's visit, only then does Tama put on boots; even then he brings them in his hand to the door of the place of meeting, puts them on before entering, and takes them off with evident relief directly he feels free to go.
Tama is about five feet ten inches in height. He is broad and square, very muscular, and without an inch of fat on him. His body is long and his legs short; the usual Maori characteristic. His face bears the elaborate moku that denotes his rank, and is without hair. The hair of his head is grizzly; but his features, the shape of his head, and the expression of his eyes, bespeak an intelligence superior to that of many Europeans who come in contact with him.
Tama visits us very frequently, and often brings his wife with him. She is a pleasant, buxom body, with a contented smile always on her face. Though not young, being probably between thirty and forty, she has not yet grown at all hag-like, as Maori women generally do. She dresses cleanly and nicely—cotton or chintz gowns being her usual wear—but she leans to an efflorescence of colour in her bonnet, and has a perfect passion for brilliant tartan shawls. I think I once saw her at the Otamatea races in a blue silk dress. But, both she and her husband have discarded all the feathers and shells and pebbles that are purely native adornments.
Astute and intelligent as Tama really is, it is, of course, to be expected that he cannot comprehend all the novelties of civilization. His deportment is always admirable, and he would carry himself through a drawing-room without any sensible gaucherie. He would be calm, composed, and dignified among any surroundings, however strange to him; only his keen and roving eyes would betray his internal wonder. Like Maoris in general, he is critically observant of every little thing among his Pakeha friends, but, with true native courtesy, endeavours to hide from you that he is so. But the extraordinary mixture of grave intelligence and childish simplicity in him is perpetually leading to very quaint little incidents.
One day, when routing among the "personals" I had brought with me from England, I discovered at the bottom of my chest an umbrella. Now, in England, I suppose most people consider an umbrella as quite an indispensable article of attire, and even in colonial cities its use is by no means uncommon; but I need hardly say that in the bush such a thing is never seen.
I brought out my relic of other days, and displayed it to the boys in the shanty. It was received with great applause, and I was unmercifully chaffed. It pleases our community to regard all the comforts and luxuries of a more complete civilization as effeminacies; and it is the received theory among us that we live the purest and highest life, having turned our backs upon all the corrupting influences of an effete, old world.
There is among us a party, headed by O'Gaygun, who take the position of ultra-conservatives; the object of their conservatism being the keeping alive of all the most primitive usages of the bush. To them anything new is an insult; the introduction of imported comforts and appliances a horrible iniquity. It will be remembered how fierce was O'Gaygun's wrath on the occasion when forks and spoons were brought into the shanty. Now, his sublime indignation was roused to the utmost at the spectacle of such an outrageous incongruity as an umbrella, in the pure and holy atmosphere of our shanty. An umbrella! Did it not convey an instant recollection of all the worst emasculating tendencies from which we had come out? Why, it was almost as bad as that acme of horrors, a chimney-pot hat!
"Smash it! Burn it!" he shouted. "Mother av Moses! f'what nixt?"
However, it was eventually decided that I should give the umbrella to old Tama, it being a handsome one, with carved ivory handle, silver mounting and crest, etc. This would ensure the removal of the obnoxious invention from the shanty; and, moreover, so O'Gaygun declared, the vile thing would be an acceptable addition to a museum of Pakeha curiosities, which, he said, Tama was collecting.
The next time that Tama visited us I formally presented him with the umbrella, giving him the minutest instructions concerning the spreading and furling of it. He had taken a strong fancy to me; and was much pleased with the gift. His first inquiry was, naturally, what I expected to get out of him by such a splendid gift. Knowing that it would be futile to attempt to persuade him that I gave the thing freely, and without expecting any return, I said that, although the umbrella was worth a mere ponamu, at least, yet that I should be satisfied if he would give me a kitful of taro in exchange.
This thoroughly jumped with the old man's humour. Not only did he shake hands with me, but he also accorded me the nose salutation. The rubbing of noses is now disused; and when a Maori confers it on a Pakeha it means an extra display of feeling, almost a making brotherhood. It was the highest honour old Tama could pay me.
I thought I had fully explained to the reverend gentleman the uses of an umbrella. I had over and over again hammered into him that it was meant to protect one from rain. But it appears that the idea failed to reach his mind.
When Tama left the shanty it looked threatening to rain, so I unfurled the umbrella, and placed it open in his hand. He stumped off proudly with it held above him. We watched him go down the clearing towards the river, where his boat was moored. Presently it came on to rain in earnest. Then Tama seemed to hesitate, it evidently occurring to him that something was wrong. In an undecided sort of way he inverted the umbrella, and held it handle upwards in front of him; but as the rain came thicker and faster, even this seemed unsatisfactory.
At last he stopped altogether, having apparently come to the conclusion that the wet would injure the umbrella. After a prolonged struggle, for the catch was a mystery to his unaccustomed fingers, he managed to close it. Then he took off his coat, laid it flat upon the ground, and placing the umbrella upon it, wrapped that up in the coat. Lastly, he cut some strips from a flax-bush close by, and carefully tied up the parcel. Then he put it under his arm, and marched off in his shirt-sleeves contentedly, evidently feeling that he had got the better of the pouring rain.
Tama keeps the umbrella stowed away in the recesses of his whare. He often tells me, with a quiet, good-humoured sneer, as of one talking to a child, that it does not keep off the rain. His view is that I, in my incomprehensible Pakeha way, imagine the thing to be an anti-rain fetish; a notion which superior Maori wisdom has found to be erroneous.
I saw that umbrella once again. It was a fine moonlit night, and two or three of us were rowing up the river on a return from some excursion. On the way we passed a boat-load of Maoris coming down. In the stern of their boat sat Tama, and above him he held the umbrella open. As the boats crossed, he called to me:—
"It is not raining to-night. But it is not this thing that keeps it off; it is God only who does that!"
And so the good man went on his way, doubtlessly glowing at the thought that he had fitly rebuked my folly; for, like some other Christians, though he might retain some superstitions of his own, yet those are real, and all other people's false.
On another occasion Old Colonial had been away in Australia. On his return, Tama and his wife came up to welcome him home again. Old Colonial had brought back presents for all our Maori friends; and he had selected for Tama a silver watch, with a gorgeous guard and seals. This pleased the old fellow mightily; and for three mortal hours did Old Colonial strive to instruct him in how to tell the time, and how to wind it up. He thought at last that he had thoroughly succeeded in enlightening the Maori about his new acquisition. Tama departed with ill-concealed glee, stopping every now and then, as he went, to listen to the watch ticking.
However, the next morning, as we sat at breakfast, Tama appeared, with a serious and sad expression on his face. He would eat nothing; but, drawing Old Colonial aside, communicated to him the distressing intelligence that the watch had died during the night. Without betraying any amusement, Old Colonial wound up the watch again, and proceeded to give another lecture on its action to the ancient child.
He went away apparently satisfied, and much lightened in his mind; but we began to have a fear that the watch would prove an injudicious present. The next morning Tama appeared again, with the same sad and serious aspect, this time complicated with a look of intense puzzlement. He contemplated Old Colonial's hands as he wound up the watch again and set it going. This was a total mystery to the old fellow. He said he had been "doing that" to the watch all night long, talking to it, and telling it not to die. We opined that he had not succeeded in opening the case of the watch, but had sat twiddling the key about the outside of it.
The same thing went on day after day. Tama began to grow weak and ill. He was haggard with anxiety, spending his days in listening to the regular tick-tick of the watch, and his nights in trying to keep it alive. In vain he sat up with it night after night, holding it in his hands, caressing it, wrapping it in warm clothes, and laying it beside the fire, even, so he told us, reading the Bible and praying for it. In spite of this generous treatment the watch invariably died about five o'clock in the morning. Then the miserable proprietor had to take his boat and row up the eight miles of river that lay between his place and ours.
At last the old fellow began to get a better idea of the hang of the thing. He essayed to wind the watch at night, but failed, and in some indescribable way managed to break the key. Then the charm was dissolved. Feeling that his health was becoming impaired by his devotion to this Pakeha fetish, and that consideration finally overcoming his pride in its possession, he returned the watch to Old Colonial. He said it was "Kahore pai;" or, as a Scotsman would put it, "no canny."
Tama keeps the guard and seals to wear on festive occasions. But the watch, no. He has had enough of such silly things. Henceforth, as formerly, the sun will suffice him for a timekeeper. That is not given to dying, nor does it require sitting up with at night and such like attentions, and it manages its own winding up.
We have other Maori neighbours besides Tama and his immediate following. There are several families living on the different rivers and creeks round about, and with them all we are on friendly terms; with some we are passably intimate, though with none quite so affectionately at one as with Tama. Perhaps our next best friends would be found at Tanoa.
Tanoa is a large kainga on the Otamatea river, and lies about sixteen miles across the bush from our farm, or somewhat more by the water-road. It contains a population of two or three hundred; men, women, and children. This Maori town may be considered the metropolis of the Ngatewhatua tribe.
Tanoa is prettily situated, for the Otamatea, though a larger river than the Pahi, is very picturesque in parts. The kainga lies embosomed in orchards of peach and pear, cherry and almond, and extensive cultivations and grass-paddocks surround it. Most of the houses are, of course, the usual raupo whares, but there are carpentered frame-houses in the kainga as well.
A Wesleyan mission has been established in this place for about a score of years; and an English minister and schoolmaster reside permanently at it. The former has great influence with his flock, who are fervent Christians to a man. The latter is bringing up the rising generation to a standard of education that would put to shame many a rural village of the old country.
The ariki of the Ngatewhatua lives at Tanoa. He is between forty and fifty, if as much, a very tall and very portly personage. He is a great man, corporeally certainly, and, perhaps, in other ways as well. Arama Karaka, or Adam Clark in Pakeha pronunciation, has had more English education than Tama, and is altogether of larger mind. Nevertheless, we do not feel that we can like him quite so well as our dear old barbarian.
Arama rules his little community in paternal and patriarchal spirit. He understands the Pakeha better than many Maoris; and in most things accepts the guidance of his friend, the missionary. He carries on affairs of state in a manner blended of Maori and Pakeha usages. He is, of course, a politician, and takes a leading part in the local elections. But he adheres to Maori customs in their modified and civilized form, and may be called a Conservative in such things.
Arama has a pet theory, on which he often enlarges in picturesque style to such Pakehas as he considers as of more than common note. Pre-eminent among these is Old Colonial. Indeed, our chum is generally looked upon by the Maoris as a sort of chief among the Pakehas of the district. His experience and acumen have made him a general referee among the Kaipara settlers; and, in all important matters, he is usually the interpreter and spokesman between them and the natives. Moreover, he is now the oldest settler in the district; that is, he is not the oldest man, but has been in the Kaipara longer than any other Pakeha, having come here before any settlement had been made in this part. And so he is an old and intimate friend of the Maoris.
To him, then, I have heard Arama discoursing on his project for the regeneration of the Maori race, talking as one chief among men may talk to another. For the ariki is thoroughly aware of the gradual extinction which is coming for his race. He sees and knows that the Maori is dying out before the Pakeha, and his great idea is how the former may be perpetuated.
Says he to Old Colonial, for example, somewhat as follows:—
"Oh, friend! What shall be for the Maori? Where are they now since the coming of the Pakeha? The forest falls before the axe of the Pakeha; the Maori birds have flown away, and strange Pakeha birds fly above the new cornfields; the Pakeha rat has chased away the kiore; there are Pakeha boats on our waters, Pakeha fish in our rivers. All that was is gone; and the land of the Maori is no longer theirs. God has called to the Maori people, and they go. The souls of our dead crowd the path that leads to the Reinga.
"Lo! the Pakeha men are very many. It is good that they should see our maidens, and it is good that they should marry them. Then there will be children that shall live, and a new race of Maori blood. So there shall be some to say in the time to come, 'This is the land of our mothers. This was the land of the Maori before the Pakeha came out of the sea.'
"Oh, friend! send your young men to Tanoa, that they may see our maidens, and may know that they are good for wives. The mihonere and the kuremata have taught them the things of the Pakeha. It is good that we should cause them so to marry."
Thus does Arama propound his plan for a fusion between the races. Still more to further it, he proposes to endow certain young ladies of his tribe with considerable areas of land, in the event of any Pakeha—rangatira Pakeha—who may be acceptable to the tribe, offering to marry any of them. We have tried to urge the Little'un, or the Saint, or even O'Gaygun into some such match; but they are shy, I suppose, and do not seem to fancy taking "a savage woman to rear their dusky race." Yet it would be unfair to call the brunette beauties of Tanoa savages.
Place aux dames! Let us get on to consider the ladies.
Ema, and Piha, and Ana, and Hirene, and Mehere; there they are, the pick and particular flower of all that is beautiful, fashionable, young, and marriageable in Tanoa. Bright and cheerful, neat and comely, pleasant partners at a bush-ball are these half-Anglicized daughters of the Ngatewhatua. They can prattle prettily in their soft Maori-English, while their glancing eyes and saucy lips are provoking the by no means too hard hearts of Pakeha bushmen.
Ah! live in the bush, reader! Live and work from month's end to month's end without even a sight of a petticoat, and then go slap into the middle of a "spree" at some such place as Tanoa or Te Pahi. Then you would appreciate the charms of our Maori belles. Under the influence of music and the dance, supple forms and graceful motions, scented hair and flower-wreaths, smiles and sparkling eyes, the graces of nature not wholly lost under the polish of civilization, you would say our Maori girls were very nice indeed. And so say all of us, although the Saint and the Little'un and O'Gaygun hold aloof from matrimony—as yet.
These Maori maidens are not to be thought of as savages. Far from it. They can read and they can write, in English as well as Maori. They can read the newspaper or the Bible to their less accomplished papas and mammas. They can cipher and sew; have an idea of the rotundity of the earth, with some knowledge of the other countries beyond the sea. They are fully up in all the subjects that are usually taught in Sunday schools. They can play croquet—with flirtation accompaniment—and wear chignons. Oh no! they are not savages. At least, I should say not.
But far pre-eminent among the young ladies of Tanoa is Rakope. She is the daughter of Mihake, the nephew and heir of Arama, and who is himself a great favourite and good friend of ours. Mihake is a jolly, good-tempered kind of man, very knowing in stock and farming matters, and a frequent guest of ours. His daughter, as Arama is childless, ranks as the principal unmarried lady of the tribe, and most worthy is she to bear such a dignity.
O Rakope! princess of the Ngatewhatua and queen of Maori beauty! how am I to describe the opulence of your charms, your virtues, and your accomplishments? How am I to convey an idea of what you really are to the dull and prejudiced intellects of people in far-off foggy Britain? Yet have I sworn, as your true knight, O beautiful Rakope! to noise your fame abroad to the four corners of the earth, with the sound of shouting and of trumpets!
Prepare, O reader! with due reverence, with proper admiration, to hear of our Maori paragon.
For she is a beauty, our Rakope; and more, her intelligence amounts almost to what is genius, by comparison with her companions. You can see it in her broad, low brow, in her large, clear, liquid eyes, shaded with their black velvety fringe of lashes. Her features may not be good, judged by Greek art standards; but what do we care about art and its standards here in the bush? We can see that Rakope is beautiful, and we know that she is as good as she is beautiful.
Her colour is a soft dusky brown, under which you can see the blood warming her dimpling cheeks. Her figure is perfection's self, ripe and round and full, while every movement shows some new grace and more seductive curve. Her rich brown hair reaches far below her slender waist, and when it is dressed with crimson pohutakawa blossoms, the orange flowers of the kowhaingutu kaka, or the soft downy white feathers that the Maoris prize, then it would compel the admiration of any London drawing-room. And what is it in Rakope's cheeks and chin, and rare red lips and pearly teeth, that makes one think of peaches and of rosebuds and of honey, and of many other things that are nicest of the nice?
Away, away with your washed-out, watery Venuses, your glassy-eyed Junos, your disdainful, half-masculine Dianas! Away with all your pretended and pretentious beauties of the older Northern world! We will have none of them. Give us our Rakope, our Rakope as she is, glowing with the rich warm colour, the subtle delicacies of form, and all the luxuriant beauty that is born between the South Sea and the sun!
And is she not clever? Words fail the schoolmaster when he attempts to sound her praises; for she has learnt nearly all that he can teach her. She is the apple of his eye and the crown of his labours. To hear Rakope sing is to believe in the Syrens; to chat with her and receive her looks and smiles, to dance with her—ah!
She is the pet of the tribe. Men and women, girls and boys are never weary of admiring or caressing or spoiling her. She can coax and wheedle her father and Arama, mihonere and kuremata alike, to do almost anything she desires, and through them she may be said to reign over the Ngatewhatua. She is the delight and darling of all the settlers round. She is the idyll of our shanty, and our regard for her approaches to idolatry. O Rakope, Rakope! I hope you will some day marry a Pakeha rangatira, and endow him with your ten thousand acres; for if you mate with even an ariki from among your own people, your lot will be but a hard one when age has dimmed the brighter glories of your beauty!
There was a spree at the township; an event that had been looked forward to by everybody for months past. English people are given to associating the idea of a "spree" with that of a bacchanal orgy. Not so we. With us the word is simply colonial for a festivity of any kind, private or public. And whatever may be the primary object of the spree, it is pretty certain to conclude with a dance.
On this occasion "The Pahi Minstrels," who had advertised themselves for long beforehand, were to give a musical entertainment, disguised as niggers. It is, perhaps, unnecessary to explain who these personages were, since it will be remembered that our shanty was given to sending out serenading expeditions. We were the Pahi Minstrels; having laboriously trained ourselves in a certain repertoire, and having been reinforced by one or two other amateur instrumentalists.
In the bush a very little is accepted as an excuse for amusement. The public festivities of our district are confined to two events in the year—the Otamatea races and the Pahi regatta; so that any addition to these is received with unanimous pleasure and applause. Our present intention had met with a hearty reception.
On the appointed evening, just about sundown and after, there was a grand gathering at the township. All along the beach boats lay drawn up, and the number of people walking about made the place seem quite populous. Of course, everybody was there from our own river, and from Paparoa and Matakohe besides. There were people, too, from the Wairoa settlements, from the Oruawharo, even from Maungaturoto and distant Mangawai. Our hearts sunk into our boots when we saw the prodigious audience that was assembling to hear our crude attempts at minstrelsy.
Our Maori friends were there in full force. Rakope, Piha, Mehere, and the rest of the girls, a blooming band of native beauty, escorted by a large contingent of their male relatives. All the married settlers round had brought their wives, and—theme of all tongues!—there were actually as many as four young single ladies! This was evidently going to be a spree on a most superb scale. Dandy Jack fairly beamed with rapture, and the gallant O'Gaygun almost burst with the overflow of his exuberant feelings.
The scene of the spree was, of course, to be our Assembly Hall, although every citizen of Te Pahi township kept open house that night. The Assembly Hall has been already mentioned, but must now be more particularly described.
Although the township is all parcelled out into town and suburban allotments, yet, for the most part, it remains in its original bush-covered condition. There is a piece of flat land round the base of the bluff, and this is all under grass; the half-dozen houses of the citizens, with their gardens and paddocks, being here. But all beyond is bush, with a single road cut through it, that leads up and along the range to Paparoa and Maungaturoto.
When it occurred to us as advisable to build a hall, and when we had subscribed a sum for the purpose, a site was selected further along the beach up the Pahi. Here there is a little cove or bend in the shore, and, just above it, a quarter-acre lot was bought. This was cleared, and the hall built upon it. All around the little patch of clearing the bush remains untouched. A track connects it with the houses on the flat, about a quarter of a mile off; and the beach just below is an admirable landing-place for boats.
The hall is simply a plain, wooden structure, capable of containing two or three hundred people. The Saint, when describing it in a letter home, said it was "a big, wooden barn with a floor to it." However, we voted this statement to be libellous, and cautioned the Saint on the misuse of terms. The Pahi Town Hall is not to be rashly designated with opprobrious epithets. Such as it is, it serves us well, by turns as chapel, court-house, music-hall, and ball-room.
On the night in question the hall was brilliantly illuminated with candles and kerosene lamps. The benches were filled with an eagerly expectant audience, brown and white, who applauded loudly when the Pahi Minstrels emerged from a little boarded room in one corner, and took up their positions on the platform at the end of the hall. Then, for two mortal hours, there was a dismal and lugubrious travesty of the performances of that world-famous troupe which never performs out of London.
But our audience were not captiously critical, and received our well-meant but weak attempts to please them with hearty pleasure and vigorous applause; and when we finally took ourselves off down to the river to wash our faces, every one declared we were a great success, as they busied themselves in clearing the hall for the dancing that was to follow.
It is not my purpose to describe the entire spree. I have merely alluded to it in order to record one of its incidents, which may fittingly conclude this brief account of our Maori neighbours; moreover, it is an illustration of something I said once before about caste and class prejudices.
Of the four young English ladies who were present at the spree, three were known to us as the daughters or sisters of settlers in the district. The fourth was a visitor from Auckland, who was staying with some friends in the district, and had come with them to the township. Miss "Cityswell" I will call her, the name will do as well as another.
Now, it is the praiseworthy custom of settlers' wives in the bush, to ask their unmarried lady friends from the city to visit them as much as possible. There is a dearth of feminine society in the newer districts; and the most insignificant miss, on her travels from house to house up country, receives pretty nearly as much homage and attention as did the Queen of Sheba on her visit to King Solomon. If she be matrimonially inclined—and, to do them justice, our colonial ladies are not backward in that respect—she has an infinite variety of choice among suitors eligible and ineligible. But on that head more anon.
Every woman is a lady in the bush, and Miss Cityswell was, of course, no exception to the general rule. We were aware, however, that her father and mother were of the English peasant class, though he had prospered and was now an Auckland magnate. She was a fairly educated young woman, passably good-looking; but her head was evidently turned by the attentions of which she was the recipient. Certainly, if mannerisms, affectation, vanity, and dress have anything to do with it, her claim to be called a lady was a most emphatic one.
Auckland city people know little or nothing of Maoridom. In fact, the generations born and bred in Auckland seem to be as ignorant about the natives as people at home. They never come into contact with them. They see an occasional Maori in the streets, or perhaps witness a native canoe-race at the regatta. But as for knowing anything of Maori life and character, past or present, that they do not. And they are generally absolutely ignorant of the history of the colony. They are given to looking on the Maoris much as people at home regard gypsies—as quite an inferior order of beings, in fact.
Miss Cityswell was naturally imbued with these notions. She regarded the Maoris who were present at the spree with sublime contempt and gathered skirts. During the early part of the evening, she confined herself to saying that she thought we took too much notice of our native neighbours. But when it came to the dancing, and when she saw the Maori girls making ready to take part in it, then the storm burst.
"Pray, are you gentlemen actually going to dance with those creatures?"
We intimated, mildly, that such was our explicit intention.
The lady's indignation was almost too great for words. She regarded us with mingled horror and disgust, replying—
"Well, all I can say is, that I shall certainly decline to dance with any gentleman who demeans himself by taking one of those brown wretches for a partner."
Here was a terrible to-do. Expostulations, explanations, entreaties, all alike failed to move Miss Cityswell's determination. The matter began to assume a darker complexion as we thought it over. Under ordinary circumstances, every gentleman present would consider it his privilege to lead out the fair stranger for at least one dance, an honour he would not concede on any account, and would fight and bleed for if necessary. But now we began to perceive that we were between the horns of a dilemma.
An eager and excited group of us withdrew to consider the matter. Something like lese majeste must be committed either way, that was apparent. To give up the chance of a dance with Miss Cityswell was to forego a rare and exquisite moment of ecstasy; and yet, to qualify ourselves for it, we were required to put an insult upon, and to neglect, our beautiful Rakope and her sisters. Whatever was to be done?
Dandy Jack, O'Gaygun, the Fiend, and another, in spite of their exuberant gallantry, declared themselves firmly for the belle of the Kaipara, versus her white and more sophisticated rival. Probably, these gentlemen were actuated by a sneaking expectation that Miss Cityswell would not be able to hold out against the advances of such magnificoes as themselves, all night. But the Saint, Yankee Bill, and Whangarei Jim headed a party who were all for the Auckland lady. Her slightest wish was to them an absolute law, for that evening, at least. They would dance with no one else, look at no one else, speak to no one else, if this heaven-descended apparition so desired it.
Then there was a party of moderates, represented by Little'un, the Pirate, Wolf, Dark Charlie, and the Member. These were all for a compromise of some sort. And at last they were inspired with a plan that seemed the best that could be done under the circumstances, and that was finally, after much dispute, accepted as our line of action by all parties. It was this. Each one of us was to go in rotation and to lead out Miss Cityswell for a single dance; after that he would be free to devote himself to all and sundry. No one was to dance with any other until he had had his turn with the haughty Aucklander. We hoped that such homage to her would appease her pride; while we relied on the good sense of all the other ladies, to put our singular conduct down to a whimsical desire on our part to pay a fanciful attention to a fair visitor and stranger.
But there was one factor we had entirely forgotten to reckon. As we were proceeding in a body back to the hall, we met all the Maori girls coming out, and a high state of indignation they seemed to be in. Some officious person had carried Miss Cityswell's dictum to their ears, and up went all the brown noses in the air as a consequence. They were not going to stop in the hall to be grossly and gratuitously insulted! No, thank you! If they were not good enough for Pakeha men to dance with, they had no further business there! It was time for them to be going home!
Here was another nice little mess. All the Maori girls, from Rakope downwards, were as wrathful as such brown darlings could be. They would go straight home at once, they said, and never, never again come to a Pakeha spree! And their masculine friends were siding with them, and already making for the boats, though, for the most part, indignantly silent, waiting to see what we would do.
Several of the Pakeha ladies present tried to pacify the outraged Maori feeling, but without avail. On the other hand, it appeared that Miss Cityswell was inwardly somewhat frightened at the turn things had taken, and at the excitement every one was in. She would not move from her silly standpoint, however; but when Dandy Jack blandly, and with many elaborate compliments, proceeded to lay our proposal for compromise before her, she eagerly grasped at it as an escape from the awkwardness of the situation.
So far that was settled, then; but how the Maori beauties were to be pacified it passed our understanding to conceive. Old Colonial was at last discovered behind a flax-bush, deep in a discussion on beet-root sugar-making with a stranger, and wholly oblivious of the row. He was instantly dragged forward into the light, and every one turned to him as the one person who could save our honour and our partners.
When the case had been fully explained to him, Old Colonial's eyes twinkled with fun. "I see my way to square matters," he said, "but you must leave me to do it by myself."
He then went down to the beach, where the Tanoa ladies were sitting in a group in the moonshine, waiting for the tide to turn before they embarked to return home. He sat down amidst them, and after some desultory chat, and flirtation perhaps, he brought the talk round to Miss Cityswell and her proceedings.
"Yes, she's a niceish girl," he drawled meditatively, "rather foolish and ignorant, though, I think. You see, she is a visitor up here, this Auckland person; and we are bound to be hospitable and attentive, and to put up with her whims."
His auditors assented to this, but intimated that they were not bound to put up with Miss Cityswell's arrogance, and did not intend to.
"Of course not," returned Old Colonial, with a wave of his pipe-hand, as he reclined at Rakope's feet; "of course not. But then, you see," and here he glanced cautiously round to make sure that no Pakehas were within hearing, "she's not worth thinking about, not being rangatira."
"Oh!" cried Rakope, with round open eyes; and "Oh!" cried Piha and Mehere, and all the chorus.
"No," continued he, lazily contemplating a smoke-ring in the moonlight; "her father and mother were only kukis, or something not far off it, and she, of course, is not rangatira, not a lady."
"Oh!" cried Rakope and the others briskly, and joyously jumping to their feet, "that alters the case. We thought she was a lady, and were offended at what she said; but as she is not, it does not matter—she knows no better, and what she says is nothing. We are ladies, and don't mind what common persons say or do."
So, back to the hall came the whole body, romping and laughing round Old Colonial, the acute and wise diplomatist, who had made matters straight and pleasant once more. And we, standing in a body near the hall, heard the rippling laughter of the merry band, and saw their white muslin dresses and bright ribbons glancing among the trees. From within the lighted hall came the sound of fiddles and of stamping feet. We forgot all about Miss Cityswell; we left her to the care of Saint and Whangarei Jim; we forgot the terms of our compromise. We rushed into the bush to meet our partners, as they came up from the beach, with streaming hair and eager eyes. And presently twenty couples took the floor—we Pakeha men and the dusky daughters of the land; and Old Colonial and Rakope waltzed fast and furiously at the head.
[Footnote 6: A battle-axe of polished green jade. One of the most valued of Maori possessions.]
[Footnote 7: Missionary and schoolmaster.]
OUR SETTLER FRIENDS.
I think I need hardly say that we are not aesthetic here in the bush. In point of fact, we have no sympathy whatever with aestheticism or high art culture. We are, to put it shortly, Goths, barbarians, antithetics, what you will. The country is not aesthetic either; it is too young yet to use or abuse intellectual stimulants. There exists among us a profound contempt for all the fripperies and follies of fashion and civilization. We hold these things to be wrong—to be a sort of crime against manhood.
In a measure we are Puritan; not altogether in a religious sense, but in a moral and social one, certainly. We regard our horny hands with pride, and talk about "honest labour" with something more than a virtuous glow. We are apt to be rather down on city foplings and soft-handed respectabilities. All such people we despise with positively brutal heartiness. When we read of what is doing in London and Paris we swell with indignation and contempt. We look upon the civilization we have come out of as no fine thing. Life is a serious matter-of-fact business to us, and we hold in stern derision the amenities of more sophisticated communities.
I think that we must look upon things at home much in the same light as the Norsemen of old did upon the frivolities of Rome or Byzantium. The spirit of O'Gaygun's philosophy pervades the colonial mind a good deal, and, possibly, we may be prone to cultivate it as a means of stifling any regrets we may have after the old life. We are very natural men, you see, very simple and childlike, unused to the artificialities of larger and organized society. Our characters have been reformed back to primary essentials; and the raree-show of civilization dazzles and frightens our primitive nervous systems. We may have our little failings, but we ask no pity for them from people whom we so utterly scorn, as we do the denizens of the elder world. Art! Culture! AEstheticism! Bah! Pouf! Away with all such degrading, debasing, dehumanizing trumpery! We are men of a harder, sterner, simpler mould than the emasculate degeneracies of modern England! We are the pioneers and founders of a new Britain, of a stronger and purer life!
When describing our farm I gave some hint as to the causes which have kept us from building a better house hitherto. Some day we shall have one, of course; or, possibly, we shall have more than one, for some of our chums have been showing a tendency towards matrimony of late; and if any of us marry they must have houses of their own, I suppose. We should need a barrack else, you understand, for families do run large out here.
Some of our neighbours live in very comfortable houses; and by visiting them we are kept from becoming reformed into the uttermost savagery altogether. Other people had more capital than we, or spent what they possessed in a different manner. There are those who have laid themselves out to render their homes more in accordance with the taste that prevails among—I had nearly written decent people, but will say worldly instead. They have got nicer domiciles than our shanty; but, then, it takes a woman to look after things. There must be a mistress in a house that is to be a house, and not a—well, shanty, let us say. Even Old Colonial is sensible of that.
A frame-house here is built upon exactly the same plan as ours, so far as regard the piles, framework, outside wall and roof; but the plan of it varies much. Every man is his own architect, or at least that business lies between him and the carpenter who builds for him. One sees some very singular examples sometimes. Rows of isolated rooms connected by a verandah; houses all gable-ends and wings; all sorts in fact.
A good house will have the outside walls boarded up and down, with battens covering the chinks, instead of weather-boarding like our shanty. The inside walls and ceilings will be lined with grooved and jointed planking, so as to make the house what is styled bug-proof. There is a broad verandah round the whole or part of the house. There are brick chimneys inside the house, though, as they are usually an item of considerable expense, this is not invariable, and chimney out-puts like ours will be seen not infrequently. There are various rooms, and possibly an upper storey, which may or may not have a balcony above the verandah. It is a common practice to have French windows, opening upon the verandah, instead of doors.
Such houses can be made very elegant as well as comfortable. They are painted and decorated with carvings outside, and the inside walls may be painted, papered, or varnished. Furniture and upholstery of all kinds is, of course, procurable in Auckland; so that one can have all the comfort of an English home, if one is able to pay for it.
Necessarily, the cost of house-building will vary considerably, according to the style and size of residence. A cottage with two to four rooms will cost L100, or less. The average price paid for houses in our district—large roomy houses for prosperous family-men, contracted for with a carpenter, to build, paint, and thoroughly finish off—runs from L250 to L500, or something like it. Kauri timber is used almost exclusively in the North, so that we may say we live under the shadow of the Kauri pine.
We keep up the usages of society so far as to pay visits occasionally, especially to houses where there are ladies. You have got to live in a country where petticoats are few and far between, where there is not one woman to twenty or thirty men, as is the case here, in order to thoroughly appreciate the delights of feminine society. People at home don't know how to treat a lady; they are too much used to them. Why, there are actually more women than men in England!
We treasure our ladies, because they are so rare among us in the bush. Good creatures they are, these settler's wives. How kind and benevolent they are to us, to be sure! And how they do delight to "boss" us about! But we like it, we enjoy it, we revel in it. We would lay ourselves down for them to trample on us, and be truly grateful for the attention. That is our loyal feeling towards the married ladies resident in the district. Conceive, if you can, how much more extravagant is our gallantry when certain other persons are in question—young ladies whom the irreverent covertly term "husband-hunters!"
Those good lady dwellers in the bush—how it does delight them to promote the matrimonial felicity of others! How they do enjoy matchmaking!
Every settler's wife, so soon as she has got over the exclusiveness of honeymoon happiness, does her best to induce her girl friends from the city to come and visit her. She is so lonely, she says—poor thing! No one but her husband, and his neighbours and workmen; her devoted slaves every one of them, but still, all rough men, you know. She pines for a companion of her own sex. Oh yes; very much so! It would be a charity, indeed, if dear Ada or Fanny would come and stay with her a bit.
Dear Ada or Fanny is only too glad of the opportunity. She did want to see what the bush was like, for she has never been out of Auckland yet, except a trip to the hot lakes, or so. In fact, her school-days are scarcely over yet. And then she is so sorry for her friend's loneliness. It must be dreadful to be isolated in the bush like that. She will certainly come and see her.
So Miss Ada or Fanny packs up her box. Sweet, amiable creature! She flies to alleviate her friend's hard lot. She constrains her inclinations, and sets out bravely for the bush, solely at friendship's call; for, of course, there is no arriere pensee in her mind. Oh no; how could there be?
The young lady was not considered exactly a belle in the city, perhaps; but the bush receives her as an incarnation of Venus herself. Directly she gets beyond the confines of the city, into the rough, primitive, and inchoate wilderness, she finds herself elevated to a rank she never knew before. Coach-drivers, steamboat-captains, hotel-keepers treat her with a deference and attention that is quite captivating, rude examples of male humanity though they may be.
Some settler is introduced, or introduces himself, who is travelling too. He will be delighted, honoured, to be permitted to act as her escort. Perhaps he has been deputed by her parents, or by her friend, to look after her. Whether or no, he almost suffocates with importance if she graciously accords him permission to act as her courier and footman.
Other men who are journeying on the roads or rivers somehow become attached to Miss Ada's luggage. It appears that they are going in the same direction. They say so, at any rate. They form themselves into a sort of bodyguard to look after this wonderful visitant. Mysterious dangers, not to be explained, are darkly hinted at, in order that cause may be shown for their attendance. They are necessary as porters to look after her traps, as purveyors to fetch her milk and fruit, and so on.
Miss Ada may not unnaturally be a little timid at first, but she soon gets over that, finding that these big, bearded men are a good deal more timid of her. Some of them actually colour up when she looks at them. She discovers that she is a wit; her little jokes being applauded uproariously, and repeated by one of her bodyguard to another. Every eye is upon her, gazing at her with undisguised admiration; and every ear is humbly bent to catch the slightest whisper that falls from her lips. Really, these bushmen are very nice fellows, after all, in spite of their rough looks. Quite different from the affected young fops of the city.
As the young lady journeys onward her train swells, like a snowball gathering snow. Somehow or other, it seems that the whole district is meditating a visit to the place that is her destination. And everybody is so polite to her, so embarrassingly attentive, and so determined she shall enjoy her trip, that she begins to think the bush is the most delightful part of the habitable globe; while the scenery grows more and more enchanting every minute.
By-and-by the end of the journey is reached. The settler's wife comes out to meet her guest, while a long procession files up from the river, actually quarrelling for the privilege of carrying Miss Ada's various impedimenta. The ladies are embracing and kissing with effusion, to the manifest discomfiture and perturbation of the crowd, who try to look indifferently in opposite directions.
"So good of you to come, dear, to these far away solitudes; so kind of you, and so disinterested, for I'm sure there's nothing here to attract you in the least!"
"Oh, I think you've got a charming place! And the gentlemen have been so kind. I didn't mind the journey at all, I assure you. And, of course, I would come to keep you company, you poor, banished thing!"
Thus do these innocent creatures chatter to each other in their hypocritical fashion. But the wife just glances slyly at her husband, and he looks guiltily away at the far horizon; for the dear schemer has been making a confidant of him, for want of a better.
And Miss Ada's tail makes itself at home, after the free hospitable manner of the bush. And the men are received with greater unction than ever on the part of their hostess; albeit they profess to have called casually, on some mysterious business or other with her husband. And they are housed for the night, at least, and to each of them separately the good little woman finds an opportunity of saying—
"Isn't she a sweet, pretty girl? And such a capital manager, I do assure you. Be sure you come up on Sundays, and every other day you can spare, while she is with us. It will be so dull for her, you know, coming from all the gaieties of the city!"
Rumour flies about the country, apprising it of the fact that a young lady visitor is stopping at So-and-so's. The district incontinently throws itself at her feet, and worships Beauty in her person. Each of the few married ladies round invites the stranger to come and stop with her, after a bit, and to lighten her heavy load of solitude, and her craving for a companion of her own sex. And Miss Ada finds it impossible to refuse these invitations; and so the district entraps her, and keeps her in it.
What wonder that when she does return to the city, it is only to make ready for an impending event; for she was really obliged to take pity on one of those poor bachelors, you understand. And the bush is so charming! And she will be near her dear friend! And so—it comes about that there will be one "husband-hunter" the less.
One season there had been an entire dearth of lady visitors. In our shanty people were going melancholy mad. The district was losing its charm for us. We had not set eyes upon any young lady of flirtable estate for months and months. Old Colonial and the Saint had taken to making their cattle-hunting expeditions invariably lead them to Tanoa; where they said they went to talk to Mihake about stock, but where, it was remembered, too, pretty Rakope and her sisters dwelt. O'Gaygun's conversation was burdened with constant reference to "purty gurls," whom he had seen in former days; and he became so violently attentive to the wife of one of our neighbours, that, we began to think he would have to be seriously expostulated with. Dandy Jack was restless, betraying less interest than usual in his personal appearance, and talking of going to Auckland for a spell. All of us were getting gloomy and dispirited. Our life didn't seem to be so glorious a one as usual. But relief came at last.