William Pember Reeves.

The Long White Cloud online

. (page 9 of 26)
Online LibraryWilliam Pember ReevesThe Long White Cloud → online text (page 9 of 26)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

astonished islanders saw his flotilla sweep across Rotorua bearing the
irresistible musketeers. On their exposed strand they were easily mown
down. Flying they were followed by the Ngapuhi, and few indeed were
the survivors of the day. Hongi's ravages reached far to the south and
east. Even the Ngatiporou, who dwelt between Cape Runaway and Poverty
Bay, felt his hand. Their _pas_ fell one after the other, and only
those were not slaughtered who fled to the mountains.

For a while it seemed as though Hongi's dream might come true, and all
New Zealand hail him as sole king. His race trembled at his name. But
his cruelty deprived him of allies, and the scanty numbers of his
army gave breathing time to his foes. He wisely made peace with the
Waikatos, who, under Te Whero Whero, had rallied and cut off more than
one Ngapuhi war-party. In the Hauraki country he could neither
crush nor entrap the chief Te Waharoa, as cunning a captain and as
bloodthirsty a savage as himself. His enemies, indeed, getting muskets
and gaining courage, came once far north of the Auckland isthmus to
meet him; and though he beat them there in a pitched battle, it cost
him the life of his eldest son. He became involved in feuds with
his northern neighbours, and finally marched to attack our old
acquaintances the Whangaroans of _Boyd_ notoriety. In a bush-fight
with them he neglected to wear the suit of chain armour, the gift of
George IV., which had saved his life more than once. A shot fired by
one of his own men struck him in the back and passed through a lung.
He did not die of the wound for fifteen months. It is said that he
used to entertain select friends by letting the wind whistle through
the bullet-hole in his body. Mr. Polack, who was the author of the
tale, was not always implicitly believed by those who knew him; but as
Surgeon-Major Thomson embodies the story in his book, perhaps a writer
who is not a surgeon ought not to doubt it.

Of Hongi's antagonists none were more stubborn or successful than Te
Waharoa, a fighting chief whose long life of warfare contains in it
many stirring episodes of his times. Born in 1773 in a village near
the upper Thames, he owed his life, when two years old, to a spasm
of pity in the heart of a victorious chief from the Hot Lakes. This
warrior and his tribe sacked the _pa_ of Te Waharoa's father, and
killed nearly all therein. The conqueror saw a pretty boy crying among
the ashes of his mother's hut, and struck with the child's face, took
him up and carried him on his back home to Lake Rotorua. "Oh! that
I had not saved him!" groaned the old chief, when, nearly two
generations later, Te Waharoa exacted ample vengeance from the Rotorua
people. After twenty years of a slave's life, Te Waharoa was allowed
to go back to his people. Though, in spite of the brand of slavery,
his craft and courage carried him on till he became their head, he was
even then but the leader of a poor three hundred fighting men.

To the north of him lay the Thames tribe, then the terror of half New
Zealand; to the south, his old enemies the Arawas of the Hot Lakes.
To the west the main body of the Waikatos were overwhelmingly his
superiors in numbers. Eastward the Tauranga tribe - destined in
aftertimes to defeat the Queen's troops at the Gate _Pa_ - could in
those days muster two thousand five hundred braves, and point to a
thousand canoes lying on their beaches. But Te Waharoa was something
more than an able guerilla chief. He was an acute diplomatist. Always
keeping on good terms with the Waikatos, he made firm allies of the
men of Tauranga. Protected, indeed helped, thus on both flanks, he
devoted his life to harassing the dwellers by the lower Thames and the
Hauraki Gulf. One great victory he won over them with the aid of his
Waikato allies. Their chief _pa_, Mata-mata, he seized by a piece of
callous bad faith and murder. After being admitted there by treaty to
dwell as friends and fellow-citizens, his warriors rose one night and
massacred their hosts without compunction. Harried from the north by
Hongi, the wretched people of the Thames were between the hammer
and the anvil. When at last their persecutors - the Ngapuhi and Te
Waharoa - met over their bodies, Te Waharoa's astuteness and nerve were
a match for the invaders from the north. In vain the Ngapuhi besiegers
tried to lure him out from behind the massive palisades of Mata-mata,
where, well-provisioned, he lay sheltered from their bullets. When he
did make a sally it was to catch half a dozen stragglers, whom,
in mortal defiance, he crucified in front of his gateway. Then he
challenged the Ngapuhi captain to single combat with long-handled
tomahawks. The Northerners broke up their camp, and went home; they
had found a man whom even muskets could not terrify.

Te Waharoa's final lesson to the Ngapuhi was administered in 1831,
and effectually stopped them from making raids on their southern
neighbours. A war-party from the Bay of Islands, in which were two of
Hongi's sons, ventured, though only 140 strong, to sail down the Bay
of Plenty, slaying and plundering as they went. Twice they landed,
and when they had slain and eaten more than their own number the more
prudent would have turned back. But a blind wizard, a prophet of
prodigious repute, who was with them, predicted victory and speedy
reinforcement, and urged them to hold on their way. Disembarking on
an islet in the bay, the inhabitants of which had fled, they encamped
among the deserted gardens. Looking out next morning, they saw the
sea blackened with war-canoes. Believing these to be the prophesied
reinforcement, they rushed down to welcome their friends. Cruelly were
they undeceived as the canoes of Te Waharoa and his Tauranga allies
shot on to the beach. Short was the struggle. Only two of the Ngapuhi
were spared, and as the blind soothsayer's blood was too sacred to be
shed, the victors pounded him to death with their fists. Never again
did the Ngapuhi come southwards. So for the remaining years of his
life Waharoa was free to turn upon the Arawas, the men who had slain
his father and mother. From one raid on Rotorua his men came back
with the bodies of sixty enemies - cut off in an ambush. Not once did
Waharoa meet defeat; and when, in 1839, he died, he was as full of
fame as of years. Long afterwards his _mana_ was still a halo round
the head of his son Wiremu Tamihana, whom we shall meet in due time as
William Thompson the king-maker, best of his race.

Hongi once dead and the Ngapuhi beaten off, the always formidable
Waikato tribes began in turn to play the part of raiders. At their
head was Te Whero Whero, whom in the rout at Mataki-taki a friendly
hand had dragged out of the suffocating ditch of death. Without the
skill of Hongi, or the craft of Te Waharoa, he was a keen and active
fighter. More than once before Hongi's day he had invaded the Taranaki
country, and had only been forced back by the superior generalship of
the famous Rauparaha, of whom more anon. In 1831 Rauparaha could no
longer protect Taranaki. He had migrated to Cook's Strait, and was
warring far away in the South Island. Therefore it was without much
doubt that, followed by some three thousand men, Te Whero Whero set
his face towards Mount Egmont, and swept all before him. Only at a
strong hill-_pa_ looking down upon the Waitara river, did his enemies
venture to make a stand. They easily repulsed his first assaults, but
hundreds of women and children were among the refugees, and as was the
wont of the Maoris, no proper stock of provisions had been laid in.
On the thirteenth day, therefore, the defenders, weakened and half
starved, had to make a frantic attempt to break through the Waikatos.
Part managed to get away; most were either killed at once, or hunted
down and taken. Many women threw themselves with their children over
the cliff into the Waitara. Next day the captives were brought before
Te Whero Whero. Those with the best tattooed faces were carefully
beheaded that their heads might be sold unmarred to the White traders.
The skulls of the less valuable were cleft with tomahawk or _mere_.
Te Whero Whero himself slew many scores with a favourite greenstone
weapon. A miserable train of slaves were spared to labour in the
villages of the Waikato.


Photo by I.A. MARTIN, Wanganui]

Ahead of the victorious chieftain lay yet another _pa_. It was near
those quaint conical hills - the Sugar-Loaves - which, rising in and
near the sea, are as striking a feature as anything can be in the
landscape where Egmont's white peak dwarfs all else. Compared to
the force in the Waitara _pa_ the garrison of this last refuge was
small - only three hundred and fifty, including women and children. But
among them were eleven Whites. Some of these may have been what Mr.
Rusden acidly styles them all - "dissipated Pakeha-Maoris living with
Maori Delilahs." But they were Englishmen, and had four old ship's
guns. They decided to make a fight of it for their women and children
and their trade. They got their carronades ready, and laboured to
infuse a little order and system into the excitable mob around them.
So when the alarm-cry, _E! Taua! Taua!_ rang out from the watchmen of
the _pa_, the inmates were found resolute and even prepared. In vain
the invaders tried all their wiles. Their rushes were repulsed, the
firebrands they showered over the palisades were met by wet clay
banking, and their treacherous offers of peace and good-will declined.
Though one of the carronades burst, the others did good execution, and
when shot and scrap-iron failed, the artillerymen used pebbles. Dicky
Barrett, already mentioned, was the life and soul of the defence. The
master of a schooner which came upon the coast in the midst of the
siege tried to mediate, and stipulated for a free exit for the Whites.
Te Whero Whero haughtily refused; he would spare their lives, but
would certainly make slaves of them. He had better have made a bridge
for their escape. The siege dragged on. The childish chivalry of the
Maoris amazed the English. Waikato messengers were allowed to enter
the _pa_ and examine the guns and defences. On the other hand, when
the besiegers resolved on a last and grand assault they sent notice
thereof the day before to the garrison. Yet, after that, the latter
lay down like tired animals to sleep the night through, while Barrett
and his comrades watched and waited anxiously. The stormers came with
the dawn, and were over the stockade before the Whites could rouse the
sleepers. Then, however, after a desperate tussle - one of those sturdy
hand-to-hand combats in which the Maori fighter shone - the assailants
were cut down or driven headlong out. With heavy loss the astonished
Waikatos recoiled in disgust, and their retreat did not cease till
they reached their own country.

Even this victory could not save Taranaki. With the fear of fresh
raids in their mind the survivors of its people, together with their
White allies, elected to follow where so many of their tribes had
already gone - to Cook's Straits, in the footsteps of Rauparaha.
So they, too, chanted their farewells to their home, and turning
southward, marched away. When the Waikatos had once more swept down
the coast, and had finally withdrawn, it was left empty and desolate.
A remnant, a little handful, built themselves a _pa_ on one of the
Sugar-Loaves. A few more lurked in the recesses of Mount Egmont.
Otherwise the fertile land was a desert. A man might toil along the
harbourless beaches for days with naught for company but the sea-gulls
and the thunder of the surf; while inland, - save for a few birds, - the
rush of streams and pattering of mountain-showers on the leaves were
all that broke the silence of lifeless forests.

To the three warrior chiefs, whose feuds and fights have now been
outlined, must be added a fourth and even more interesting figure.
Rauparaha, fierce among the fierce, cunning among the cunning, was
not only perhaps the most skilful captain of his time, not only a
devastator second only to Hongi, but was fated to live on into
another era and to come into sharp and fatal collision with the early
colonists. One result among others is that we have several portraits
of him with both pen and pencil. Like Waharoa and Hongi he was small,
spare and sinewy; an active man even after three-score years and ten.
In repose his aquiline features were placid and his manners dignified.
But in excitement, his small, keen, deep-sunken eyes glared like a
wild beast's, and an overhanging upper lip curled back over long teeth
which suggested to colonists - his enemies - the fangs of a wolf. Born
near the picturesque inlet of Kawhia, he first won fame as a youth
by laying a clever ambuscade for a Waikato war-party. When later the
chief of his tribe was dying and asked doubt-fully of his councillors
who there was to take his place, Rauparaha calmly stepped forward and
announced himself as the man for the office. His daring seemed an
omen, and he was chosen. In 1819 he did a remarkable thing. He had
been on a raid to Cook's Straits, and when there had been struck with
the strategic value of the island of Kapiti - steep, secure from land
attacks, not infertile, and handy to the shore. It was the resort,
moreover, of the _Pakehas_ trading-ships. Like Hongi, Rauparaha saw
that the man with the most muskets must carry all before him in New
Zealand. Out of the way and overshadowed by the Waikato his small
tribe were badly placed at Kawhia. But if he could bring them and
allies along with them to Kapiti and seize it, he could dominate
central New Zealand.

He persuaded his people to migrate. Their farewell to their old
dwellings is still a well-known Maori poem. Joined by a strong
contingent of Waitara men under Wi Kingi - to be heard of again as late
as 1860 - they won their way after many fights, adventures and escapes
to their goal at Kapiti. There Rauparaha obtained the coveted muskets.
Not only did he trade with the visiting ships but he protected a
settlement of whalers on his island who did business with him, and
whose respect for the craft and subtlety of "Rowbulla" was always
great. Rauparaha set out for Kapiti a year before Hongi sailed for
England on his fatal quest. From his sea-fortress he kept both coasts
in fear and turmoil for twenty years. More than once he was defeated,
and once his much-provoked foes attacked Kapiti with a united
flotilla. But though they "covered the sea with their canoes," they
parleyed after landing when they should have fought. By a union of
astuteness and hard fighting Rauparaha's people won, and signal was
the revenge taken on his assailants. Previous to this he had almost
exterminated one neighbour-tribe whose villages were built on small
half-artificial islets in a forest-girt lake. In canoes and by
swimming his warriors reached the islets, and not many of the lake
people were left alive.

More than one story is preserved of Rauparaha's resource and
ruthlessness. One night, when retreating with a weak force, he had the
Waikatos at his heels. He held them back by lighting enough
watchfires for a large host, and by arming and dressing his women as
fighting-men. Again, when he was duck-hunting near the coast of the
South Island, his enemies, led by the much-libelled "Bloody Jack,"
made a bold attempt to surround his party. Most of his men were cut
off. Rauparaha, lowered down a sea-cliff, hid among the kelp by the
rocks beneath. A canoe was found and brought, and he put to sea. It
was over-loaded with fugitives, and their chief therefore ordered half
to jump overboard that the rest might be saved. The lightened canoe
then carried him to a place of safety. Yet, after the capture of
Kaiapoi he showed generosity. Amongst the prisoners, who were lying
bound hand and foot waiting for the oven, was a young brave who had
killed one of Rauparaha's chiefs in a daring sortie. Him now the
conqueror sought out, spared his life, cut his bonds, and took him
into service and favour.

The most famous and far-reaching of Rauparaha's raids were among the
Ngaitahu, whose scattered bands were masters of nearly all the wide
half-empty spaces of the South Island. In one of their districts was
found the famous greenstone. On no better provocation than a report
which came to his ears of an insulting speech by a braggart southern
chief, Rauparaha, early in 1829, manned his canoes, and sailed down
the east coast to attack the boastful one's _pa_. The unsuspecting
natives thronged down to the beach to meet the raiders with shouts of
welcome, and on hospitable thoughts intent. Springing on to land, the
invaders ran amongst the bewildered crowd, and slew or captured all
they could lay hands on. Then they burned the village. Further south
lay a larger _pa_, that of Kaiapoi. Here the inhabitants, warned
by fugitives from the north, were on their guard. Surprise being
impossible, Rauparaha tried guile, and by assurances of friendship
worked upon the Kaiapois to allow his chiefs to go in and out of their
_pa_, buying greenstone and exchanging hospitalities. But for once he
met his match. The Kaiapois waited until they had eight of the chiefs
inside their stockades, and then killed them all. Amongst the dead was
Te Pehi, Rauparaha's uncle and adviser, who three years before had
visited England. Powerless for the moment, Rauparaha could but go
home, vow vengeance, and wait his opportunity. After two years it

Pre-eminent in infamy amongst the ruffianly traders of the time was
a certain Stewart. At the end of 1830, he was hanging about Cook's
Straits in the brig _Elizabeth_. There he agreed to become Rauparaha's
instrument to carry out one of the most diabolical acts of vengeance
in even Maori annals. The appearance of Stewart, ripe for any
villainy, gave the Kapiti chief the chance he was waiting for. For
thirty tons of flax the _Elizabeth_ was hired to take Rauparaha and a
war-party, not to Kaiapoi, but to Akaroa, a beautiful harbour amongst
the hills of the peninsula called after Sir Joseph Banks. It lay many
miles away from Kaiapoi, but was inhabited by natives of the same
tribe. There, moreover, was living Tamai-hara-nui (Son-of-much-evil),
best-born and most revered chief in all the South Island. Him
Rauparaha determined to catch, for no one less august could be payment
for Te Pehi. Arrived at Akaroa, Rauparaha and his men hid below, and
waited patiently for three days until their victim came. Stewart, by
swearing that he had no Maoris in the brig, but merely came to
trade, tempted the chief and his friends on board. The unhappy
Son-of-much-evil was invited into the cabin below. There he stepped
into the presence of Rauparaha and Te Pehi's son. The three stared at
each other in silence. Then Te Pehi's son with his fingers pushed open
the lips of the Akaroa chief, saying, "These are the teeth which ate
my father." Forthwith the common people were killed, and the chief and
his wife and daughter bound. Rauparaha landed, fired the village, and
killed all he could catch. Coming on board again, the victors feasted
on the slain, Stewart looking on. Human flesh was cooked in the brig's
coppers. The entrapped chief was put in irons - lent by Stewart. Though
manacled, he signed to his wife, whose hands were free, to kill their
young daughter, a girl whose ominous name was Roimata (Tear-drops).
The woman did so, thus saving the child from a worse fate. Returning
to Cook's Straits, Rauparaha and comrades went on shore. A Sydney
merchant, Mr. Montefiore, came on board the _Elizabeth_ at Kapiti and
saw the chief lying in irons. As these had caused mortification to
set in, Montefiore persuaded Stewart to have them taken off, but the
unhappy captive was still held as a pledge until the flax was paid
over. It was paid over. Then this British sea-captain gave up his
security, who with his wife was tortured and killed, enduring his
torments with the stoicism of a North American Indian. The instrument
of his death was a red-hot ramrod.

The _Elizabeth_, with thirty tons of flax in her hold, sailed to
Sydney. But Stewart's exploit had been a little too outrageous, even
for the South Pacific of those days. He was arrested and tried by
order of Governor Darling, who, it is only fair to say, did his best
to have him hanged. But, incredible as it seems, public sympathy
was on the side of this pander to savages, this pimp to cannibals.
Witnesses were spirited away, and at length the prosecution was
abandoned. Soon after Stewart died at sea off Cape Horn. One authority
says that he dropped dead on the deck of the _Elizabeth_, and that his
carcass, reeking with rum, was pitched overboard without ceremony.
Another writes that he was washed overboard by a breaking sea. Either
way the Akaroa chief had not so easy a death.

Next year, Rauparaha, whose revenge was nothing if not deliberate,
organized a strong attack on Kaiapoi. With complete secrecy he brought
down his men from Cook's Straits, and surprised his enemies peacefully
digging in the potato grounds outside their stockade. A wild rush took
place. Most of the Kaiapois escaped into the _pa_, shut the gate and
repulsed a hasty assault. Others fled southward, and skulking amid
swamps and sand-hills got clear away, and roused their distant
fellow-tribesmen. A strong relieving force was got together, and
marching to the beleaguered _pa_, slipped past Rauparaha and entered
it at night, bending and creeping cautiously through flax and rushes
as they waved in a violent wind. But sorties were repulsed, and the
garrison had to stand on the defensive. Unlike most _pas_, theirs was
well supplied with food and water, and was covered on three sides by
swamps and a lagoon. A gallant attempt made on a dark night to burn
the besiegers' canoes on the sea-beach was foiled by heavy rain. At
last Rauparaha, reaching the stockade by skilful sapping, piled up
brushwood against it, albeit many of his men were shot in the process.
For weeks the wind blew the wrong way for the besiegers and they
could only watch their piles - could not fire them. All the while the
soothsayers in the beleaguered fort perseveringly chanted incantations
and prayed to the wind-god that the breeze might not change. At length
one morning the north-west wind blew so furiously away from the walls
that the besieged boldly set alight to the brushwood from their side.
But the wilder the north-west wind of New Zealand, the more sudden and
complete may be the change to the south-west. Such a shifting came
about, and in a moment the flames enveloped the walls. Shouting in
triumph, Rauparaha's men mustered in array and danced their frenzied
war-dance, leaping high in air, and tossing and catching their muskets
with fierce yells. "The earth," says an eye-witness, "shook beneath
their stamping." Then they charged through the burning breach, and the
defenders fell in heaps or fled before them. The lagoon was black with
the heads of men swimming for life. Through the dense drifting smoke
many reached the swamps and escaped. Hundreds were killed or taken,
and piles of human bones were witnesses many years after to the
massacre and feast which followed the fall of Kaiapoi.

Nearly seventy years have passed since these deeds were done. The
name Kaiapoi belongs to a pretty little country town, noted for its
woollen-mill, about the most flourishing of the colony. Kapiti,
Rauparaha's stronghold, is just being reserved by the Government as an
asylum for certain native birds, which stoats and weasels threaten
to extirpate in the North Island. Over the English grasses which now
cover the hills round Akaroa sheep and cattle roam in peace, and
standing by the green bays of the harbour you will probably hear
nothing louder than a cow-bell, the crack of a whip, or the creaking
wheels of some passing dray. Then it is pleasant to remember that
Rauparaha's son became a missionary amongst the tribes which his
father had harried, and that it is now nearly a generation since Maori
blood was shed in conflict on New Zealand soil.

Chapter VIII


"Under his office treason was no crime;
The sons of Belial had a glorious time."

Between 1830 and 1840, then, New Zealand had drifted into a new phase
of existence. Instead of being an unknown land, peopled by ferocious
cannibals, to whose shores ship-captains gave as wide a berth as
possible, she was now a country with a white element and a constant
trade. Missionaries were labouring, not only along the coasts, but in
many districts of the interior, and, as the decade neared its end, a

Online LibraryWilliam Pember ReevesThe Long White Cloud → online text (page 9 of 26)