The Long White Cloud by William Pember Reeves

THE LONG WHITE CLOUD AO TEA ROA By William Pember Reeves Agent-General In London for New Zealand 1899 Preface I believe that there is amongst the people of the Mother Country a minority, now ceasing to be small, which takes a quickening interest in the Colonies. It no longer consists merely of would-be investors, or
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  • 1898
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By William Pember Reeves

Agent-General In London for New Zealand


[Illustration: Frontispiece.


Photo by W.F. CRAWFORD.]


I believe that there is amongst the people of the Mother Country a minority, now ceasing to be small, which takes a quickening interest in the Colonies. It no longer consists merely of would-be investors, or emigrants who want to inquire into the resources, industries, and finances of one or other of the self-governing parts of the Empire. Many of its members never expect to see a colony. But they have come to recognise that those new-comers into the circle of civilized communities, the daughter nations of Britain, are not unworthy of English study and English pride. They have begun to suspect that the story of their struggles into existence and prosperity may be stirring, romantic, and interesting, and that some of their political institutions and experiments may be instructive, though others may seem less safe than curious. Some of those who think thus complain that it is not always easy to find an account of a colony which shall be neither an official advertisement, the sketch of a globe-trotting impressionist, nor yet an article manufactured to order by some honest but untravelled maker of books. They ask–or at least some of them, to my knowledge, ask–for a history in which the picturesque side of the story shall not be ignored, written simply and concisely by a writer who has made a special study of his subject, or who has lived and moved amongst the places, persons, and incidents he describes.

I have lived in New Zealand, have seen it and studied it from end to end, and have had to do with its affairs: it is my country. But I should not have presumed to endeavour to supply in its case the want above indicated had any short descriptive history of the colony from its discovery to the present year been available. Among the many scores of books about the Islands–some of which are good, more of which are bad–I know of none which does what is aimed at in this volume. I have, therefore, taken in hand a short sketch-history of mine, published some six months ago, have cut out some of it and have revised the rest, and blended it with the material of the following chapters, of which it forms nearly one-third. The result is something not quite so meagre in quantity or staccato in style, though even now less full than I should have liked to make it, had it been other than the work of an unknown writer telling the story of a small archipelago which is at once the most distant and well-nigh the youngest of English states. I have done my best in the later chapters to describe certain men and experiments without letting personal likes and dislikes run away with my pen; have taken pains to avoid loading my pages with the names of places and persons of no particular interest to British readers; and at the same time have tried not to forget the value of local colour and atmosphere in a book of this kind.

If _The Long White Cloud_ should fail to please a discerning public, it will not prove that a good, well-written history of a colony like New Zealand is not wanted, and may not succeed, but merely that I have not done the work well enough. That may easily be, inasmuch as until this year my encounters with English prose have almost all taken the form of political articles or official correspondence. Doubtless these do not afford the best possible training. But of the quality of the material awaiting a capable writer there can be no question. There, ready to his hand, are the beauty of those islands of mid-ocean, the grandeur of their Alps and fiords, the strangeness of the volcanic districts, the lavishness, yet grace, of the forests; the mixture of quaintness, poetry, and ferocity in the Maori, and the gallant drama of their struggle against our overwhelming strength; the adventures of the gold-seekers and other pioneers; the high aims of the colony’s founders, and the venturesome democratic experiments of those who have succeeded them. If in these there is not the stuff for a fine book, then I am most strangely mistaken. And if I have failed in the following pages, then let me hope that some fellow-countryman, and better craftsman, will come to the rescue, and will do with a firmer hand and a lighter touch the work attempted here.


I have to thank Major-General Robley, not only for drawing the tail-piece to the second chapter, and thereby giving the book a minute but correct pattern of the Maori _moko_ or face-tattooing, but for kindly lending me photographs and drawings from which several other illustrations have been taken. Two or three of the tail-pieces are after designs in Mr. Hamilton’s _Maori Art_. I have also to thank Mr. A. Martin of Wanganui for his kind permission to use his fine photograph of Mount Egmont and a view on a “papa” river. Mr. W.F. Crawford was good enough to put at my disposal his photograph of the Te Reinga waterfall, a view which will be new even to most New Zealanders. The portrait of Major Kemp and that of a Muaopoko Maori standing by a carved canoe-prow were given to me by Sir Walter Buller. “A New Zealand Settler’s Home” was the gift of Mr. Winckleman of Auckland, well known amongst New Zealand amateur photographers. I have also gratefully to acknowledge the photographs which are the work of Mr. Josiah Martin of Auckland, Messrs. Beattie and Sanderson of Auckland, Mr. Iles of the Thames, and Mr. Morris of Dunedin, and to thank Messrs. Sampson, Low and Co. for the use of the blocks from which the portraits of Sir Harry Atkinson and the Hon. John McKenzie are taken.


Chapter I

Chapter II

Chapter III

Chapter IV

Chapter V

Chapter VI

Chapter VII

Chapter VIII

Chapter IX

Chapter X

Chapter XI

Chapter XII

Chapter XIII

Chapter XIV

Chapter XV

Chapter XVI

Chapter XVII

Chapter XVIII

Chapter XIX

Chapter XX

Chapter XXI

Chapter XXII

Chapter XXIII


List of Illustrations

Te Reinga Waterfall

A Western Alpine Valley

The White Terrace, Rotomahana

On a River–“Papa” Country

Maori and Carved Bow of Canoe

A Maori Maiden

Stern of Canoe

Maori Wahine

Carved Gateway of Maori Village

Mount Egmont, Taranaki

View of Nelson

Sir George Grey

The Curving Coast

War Map


Major Kemp

Kauri Pine Tree

The Hon. John Mackenzie

Sir Harry Atkinson

A New Zealand Settler’s Home

Picton–Queen Charlotte’s Sound

The Hon. John Balance

Te Waharoa. Henare Kaihau, M.H.R. Hon. James Carroll, M.H.R. Right Hon. R.J. Seddon (_Premier_). Mahuta (_The Maori “King”_)

Maoris Conveying Guests in a Canoe

A Rural State School

Map of New Zealand

Chapter I


[Footnote 1: Ao-Tea-Roa, the Maori name of New Zealand.]

“If to her share some female errors fall, Look on her face–and you’ll forget them all.”

Though one of the parts of the earth best fitted for man, New Zealand was probably about the last of such lands occupied by the human race. The first European to find it was a Dutch sea-captain who was looking for something else, and who thought it a part of South America, from which it is sundered by five thousand miles of ocean. It takes its name from a province of Holland to which it does not bear the remotest likeness, and is usually regarded as the antipodes of England, but is not. Taken possession of by an English navigator, whose action, at first adopted, was afterwards reversed by his country’s rulers, it was only annexed at length by the English Government which did not want it, to keep it from the French who did. The Colony’s capital bears the name of a famous British commander, whose sole connection with the country was a flat refusal to aid in adding it to the Empire. Those who settled it meant it to be a theatre for the Wakefield Land System. The spirit of the land laws, however, which its settlers have gradually developed is a complete negation of Wakefield’s principle. Some of the chief New Zealand settlements were founded by Church associations; but the Colony’s education system has long been purely secular. From the first those who governed the Islands laboured earnestly to preserve and benefit the native race, and on the whole the treatment extended to them has been just and often generous–yet the wars with them were long, obstinate, and mischievous beyond the common. The pioneer colonists looked upon New Zealand as an agricultural country, but its main industries have turned out to be grazing and mining. From the character of its original settlers it was expected to be the most conservative of the colonies; it is just now ranked as the most democratic. Not only by its founders, but for many years afterwards, Irish were avowedly or tacitly excluded from the immigrants sent to it. Now, however, at least one person in eight in the Colony is of that race.

It would be easy to expand this list into an essay on the vanity of human wishes. It would not be hard to add thereto a formidable catalogue of serious mistakes made both in England and New Zealand by those responsible for the Colony’s affairs–mistakes, some of which, at least, seem now to argue an almost inconceivable lack of knowledge and foresight. So constantly have the anticipations of its officials and settlers been reversed in the story of New Zealand that it becomes none too easy to trace any thread of guiding wisdom or consistent purpose therein. The broad result, however, has been a fine and vigorous colony. Some will see in its record of early struggles, difficulties and mistakes endured, paid for and surmounted, a signal instance of the overruling care of Providence. To the cynic the tale must be merely a minor portion of the “supreme ironic procession with laughter of gods in the background.” To the writer it seems, at least, to give a very notable proof of the collective ability of a colonizing race to overcome obstacles and repair blunders. The Colony of New Zealand is not a monument of the genius of any one man or group of men. It is the outcome of the vitality and industry of a people obstinate but resourceful, selfish but honest, often ill-informed and wrong, but with the saving virtue of an ability to learn from their own mistakes.

From one standpoint the story of New Zealand ought not to take long to tell. It stretches over less time than that of almost any land with any pretensions to size, beauty, or interest. New Zealand was only discovered by Europeans in the reign of our King Charles I., and even then the Dutch explorer who sighted its lofty coasts did not set foot upon them. The first European to step on to its shores did so only when the great American colonies were beginning to fret at the ties which bound them to England. The pioneers of New Zealand colonization, the missionaries, whalers, and flax and timber traders, did not come upon the scene until the years of Napoleon’s decline and fall. Queen Victoria had been on the throne for three years before the Colonial Office was reluctantly compelled to add the Islands to an Empire which the official mind regarded as already overgrown.

Yet so striking, varied, and attractive are the country’s features, so full of bustle, change and experiment have its few years been, that lack of material is about the last complaint that need be made by a writer on New Zealand. The list of books on the Colony is indeed so long that its bibliography is a larger volume than this; and the chief plea to be urged for this history must be its brevity–a quality none too common in Colonial literature.

A New Zealander writing in London may be forgiven if he begins by warning English readers not to expect in the aspect of New Zealand either a replica of the British Islands or anything resembling Australia. The long, narrow, mountainous islands upon which Abel Jansen Tasman stumbled in December, 1642, are so far from being the antipodes of Britain that they lie on an average twelve degrees nearer the equator. Take Liverpool as a central city of the United Kingdom; it lies nearly on the 53rd parallel of north latitude. Wellington, the most central city of New Zealand, is not far from the 41st parallel of southern latitude. True, New Zealand has no warm Gulf Stream to wash her shores. But neither is she chilled by east winds blowing upon her from the colder half of a continent. Neither her contour nor climate is in the least Australian. It is not merely that twelve hundred miles of ocean separate the flat, rounded, massive-looking continent from the high, slender, irregular islands. The ocean is deep and stormy. Until the nineteenth century there was absolutely no going to and fro across it. Many plants are found in both countries, but they are almost all small and not in any way conspicuous. Only one bird of passage migrates across the intervening sea. The dominating trees of Australia are myrtles (called eucalypts); those of New Zealand are beeches (called birches), and various species of pines. The strange marsupials, the snakes, the great running birds, the wild dogs of Australia, have no counterpart in New Zealand. The climate of Australia, south of Capricorn, is, except on the eastern and south-eastern coast, as hot and dry as the South African. And the Australian mountains, moderate in height and flattened, as a rule, at the summit, remind one not a little of the table-topped elevations so familiar to riders on the veldt and karroo. The western coast of New Zealand is one of the rainiest parts of the Empire. Even the drier east coast only now and then suffers from drought On the west coast the thermometer seldom rises above 75 deg. in the shade; on the other not often above 90 deg.. New Zealand, too, is a land of cliffs, ridges, peaks, and cones. Some of the loftier volcanoes are still active, and the vapour of their craters mounts skyward above white fields of eternal snow. The whole length of the South Island is ridged by Alpine ranges, which, though not quite equal in height to the giants of Switzerland, do not lose by comparison with the finest of the Pyrenees.

No man with an eye for the beautiful or the novel would call Australia either unlovely or dull. It is not, however, a land of sharp and sudden contrasts: New Zealand is.

The Australian woods, too, are park-like: their trees, though interesting, and by no means without charm, have a strong family likeness. Their prevailing colours are yellow, brown, light green, and grey. Light and heat penetrate them everywhere.

The cool, noiseless forests of New Zealand are deep jungles, giant thickets, like those tropic labyrinths where traveller and hunter have to cut their path through tangled bushes and interlacing creepers. Their general hue is not light but dark green, relieved, it is true, by soft fern fronds, light-tinted shrubs, and crimson or snow-white flowers. Still the tone is somewhat sombre, and would be more noticeably so but for the prevalent sunshine and the great variety of species of trees and ferns growing side by side. The distinction of the forest scenery may be summed up best in the words dignity and luxuriance. The tall trees grow close together. For the most part their leaves are small, but their close neighbourhood hinders this from spoiling the effect. The eye wanders over swell after swell, and into cavern after cavern of unbroken foliage. To the botanist who enters them these silent, stately forests show such a wealth of intricate, tangled life, that the delighted examiner hardly knows which way to turn first.


Photo by MORRIS, Dunedin.]

As a rule the lower part of the trunks is branchless; stems rise up like tall pillars in long colonnades. But this does not mean that they are bare. Climbing ferns, lichens, pendant grasses, air-plants, and orchids drape the columns. Tough lianas swing in air: coiling roots overspread the ground. Bushes, shrubs, reeds and ferns of every size and height combine to make a woven thicket, filling up and even choking the spaces between trunk and trunk. Supple, snaky vines writhe amid the foliage, and bind the undergrowth together.

The forest trees are evergreens, and even in mid-winter are fresh-looking. The glowing autumnal tints of English woods are never theirs; yet they show every shade of green, from the light of the puriri to the dark of the totara, from the bronze-hued willow-like leaves of the tawa to the vivid green of the matai, or the soft golden-green of the drooping rimu. Then, though the ground-flowers cannot compare in number with those of England or Australia,[1] the Islands are the chosen land of the fern, and are fortunate in flowering creepers, shrubs, and trees. There are the koromiko bush with white and purple blossoms, and the white convolvulus which covers whole thickets with blooms, delicate as carved ivory, whiter than milk. There are the starry clematis, cream-coloured or white, and the manuka, with tiny but numberless flowers. The yellow kowhai, seen on the hillsides, shows the russet tint of autumn at the height of spring-time. Yet the king of the forest flowers is, perhaps, the crimson, feathery rata. Is it a creeper, or is it a tree? Both opinions are held; both are right. One species of the rata is an ordinary climber; another springs sometimes from the ground, sometimes from the fork of a tree into which the seed is blown or dropped. Thence it throws out long rootlets, some to earth, others which wrap round the trunk on which it is growing. Gradually this rata becomes a tree itself, kills its supporter, and growing round the dead stick, ends in almost hiding it from view.

[Footnote 1: The Alps, however, show much floral beauty, and the ground-flowers of the Auckland Islands, an outlying group of New Zealand islets, impressed the botanist Kirk as unsurpassed in the South Temperate Zone.]

In the month of February, when the rata flowers in the Alps, there are valleys which are ablaze for miles with

“Flowers that with one scarlet gleam Cover a hundred leagues, and seem
To set the hills on fire.”

But the most gorgeous of all flowering trees, as distinguished from creepers, is the sea-loving pohutu kawa. When the wind is tossing its branches the contrast is startling between its blood-red flowers and the dark upper side and white, downy under side of its leaves.

Like the Australians, New Zealand Colonists call their forest “bush.” What in England might be called bush or brushwood is called “scrub” in the Colonies.

The wood of many of the trees is not only useful timber, but when cut and polished is often beautiful in grain. Unhappily, their destruction goes on with rapid strides. The trees, as is usually the case with those the wood of which is hard, grow slowly. They feel exposure to wind, and seem to need the society and shelter of their fellows. It is almost impossible to restore a New Zealand forest when once destroyed. Then most of the finest trees are found on rich soil. The land is wanted for grazing and cultivation. The settler comes with axe and fire-stick, and in a few hours unsightly ashes and black funereal stumps have replaced the noble woods which Nature took centuries to grow. No attempt is made to use a great part of the timber. The process is inevitable, and in great part needful, frightfully wasteful as it seems. But the forest reserves of the Colony, large as they are, should be made even more ample. Twelve hundred thousand acres are not enough–as the New Zealanders will regretfully admit when a decade or so hence they begin to import timber instead of exporting it. As for interfering with reserves already made, any legislator who suggests it should propose his motion with a noose round his neck, after the laudable custom followed in a certain classic republic.

New Zealand is by no means a flat country, though there are in it some fair-sized plains, one of which–that of Canterbury–is about as flat a stretch of one hundred miles as is to be found in the world. On the whole, however, both North and South Islands are lands of the mountain and the flood, and not only in this, but in the contour of some of their peaks and coast-line, show more than a fanciful resemblance to the west of Scotland. But the New Zealand mountains are far loftier than anything in the British Islands. The rocky coasts as a rule rise up steeply from the ocean, standing out in many places in bold bluffs and high precipices. The seas round are not shallow, dull, or turbid, but deep, blue, wind-stirred, foam-flecked, and more often than not lit by brilliant sunshine. The climate and colouring, too, are not only essentially un-English, but differ very widely in different parts of the Islands. For New Zealand, though narrow, has length, stretching through 13 degrees of latitude, and for something like 1,100 miles from north to south. As might be looked for in a mountainous country, lying in the open ocean, the climate is windy, and except in two or three districts, moist. It is gloriously healthy and briskly cheerful. Summed up in one word, its prevailing characteristic is light!

Hot as are many summer days, they are seldom sultry enough to breed the heavy, overhanging heat-haze which shrouds the heaven nearer the tropics. Sharp as are the frosts of winter nights in the central and southern part of the South Island, the days even in mid-winter are often radiant, giving seven or eight hours of clear, pleasant sunshine. For the most part the rains are heavy but not prolonged; they come in a steady, business-like downpour, or in sharp, angry squalls; suddenly the rain ceases, the clouds break, and the sun is shining from a blue sky. Fogs and mists are not unknown, but are rare and passing visitors, do not come to stay, and are not brown and yellow in hue but more the colour of a clean fleece of wool. They do not taste of cold smoke, gas, sulphur, or mud. High lying and ocean-girt, the long, slender islands are lands of sunshine and the sea. It is not merely that their coast-line measures 4,300 miles, but that they are so shaped and so elevated that from innumerable hilltops and mountain summits distant glimpses may be caught of the blue salt water. From the peak of Aorangi, 12,350 feet in air, the Alpine climber Mannering saw not only the mantle of clouds which at that moment covered the western sea twenty miles away, but a streak of blue ocean seventy miles off near Hokitika to the north-west, and by the hills of Bank’s Peninsula to the north-east, a haze which indicated the Eastern Ocean. Thus, from her highest peak, he looked right across New Zealand. The Dutch, then, its discoverers, were not so wrong in naming it Zealand or Sea-land.

Next to light, perhaps the chief characteristic of the country and its climate is variety. Thanks to its great length the north differs much from the south. Southland is as cool as northern France, with an occasional southerly wind as keen as Kingsley’s wild north-easter. But in gardens to the north of Auckland I have stood under olive trees laden with berries. Hard by were orange trees, figs, and lemon trees in full bearing. Not far off a winding tidal creek was fringed with mangroves. Exotic palm trees and the cane-brake will grow there easily. All over the North Island, except at high altitudes, and in the more sheltered portions of the South Island, camellias and azaleas bloom in the open air. The grape vine bids fair to lead to wine-making in both islands–unless the total abstainers grow strong enough to put their foot on the manufacture of alcohol in any form in an already distinctly and increasingly sober Colony.

But in New Zealand not only is the north in marked contrast with the south, but the contrast between the east and west is even more sharply defined. As a rule the two coasts are divided by a broad belt of mountainous country. The words “chain” and “spine” are misnomers, at any rate in the South Island, inasmuch as they are not sufficiently expressive of breadth. The rain-bringing winds in New Zealand blow chiefly from the north-west and south-west. The moisture-laden clouds rolling up from the ocean gather and condense against the western flanks of the mountains, where an abundant rainfall has nourished through ages past an unbroken and evergreen forest. Nothing could well be more utterly different than these matted jungles of the wet west coast–with their prevailing tint of rich dark green, their narrow, rank, moist valleys and steep mountain sides–and the eastern scenery of the South Island. The sounds or fiords of the south-west are perhaps the loveliest series of gulfs in the world. Inlet succeeds inlet, deep, calm, and winding far in amongst the steep and towering mountains. The lower slopes of these are clothed with a thick tangle of forest, where foliage is kept eternally fresh and vivid by rain and mist. White torrents and waterfalls everywhere seam the verdure and break the stillness.

Cross to the east coast.

Scarcely is the watershed passed when the traveller begins to enter a new landscape and a distinct climate. The mountains, stripped of their robe of forest, seem piled in ruined, wasting heaps, or stand out bleak and bare-ribbed,

“The skeletons of Alps whose death began Far in the multitudinous centuries.”

Little is left them but a kind of dreary grandeur. The sunshine falls on patches of gleaming snow and trailing mist, and lights up the grey crags which start out like mushrooms on the barren slopes. On all sides streams tear down over beds of the loose shingle, of which they carry away thousands of tons winter after winter. Their brawling is perhaps the only sound you will hear through slow-footed afternoons, save, always, the whistle or sighing of the persistent wind. A stunted beech bush clothes the spurs here and there, growing short and thick as a fleece of dark wool. After a storm the snow will lie powdering the green beech trees, making the rocks gleam frostily and sharpening the savage ridges till they look like the jagged edges of stone axes. Only at nightfall in summer do the mountains take a softer aspect. Then in the evening stillness the great outlines show majesty; then in the silence after sunset rivers, winding among the ranges in many branches over broad, stony beds, fill the shadowy valleys with their hoarse murmur.

To the flock-owner, however, this severe region is what the beautiful West is not–it is useful. Sheep can find pasture there. And as the mountains decline into hills, and the hills into downs and flats, the covering of herbage becomes less and less scanty. When the colonists came to the east coast, they found plains and dales which were open, grassy, almost treeless. Easy of access, and for the most part fertile, they were an ideal country for that unaesthetic person, the practical settler. Flocks and herds might roam amongst the pale tussock grass of the slopes and bottoms without fear either of man, beast, climate, or poisonous plant.[1] A few wooden buildings and a certain extent of wire fencing represented most of the initial expenses of the pioneer. Pastoral settlement speedily overran such a land, followed more slowly and partially by agriculture. The settler came, not with axe and fire to ravage and deform, but as builder, planter and gardener. Being in nineteen cases out of twenty a Briton, or a child of one, he set to work to fill this void land with everything British which he could transport or transplant His gardens were filled with the flowers, the vegetables, the fruit trees of the old land. The oak, the elm, the willow, the poplar, the spruce, the ash grew in his plantations. His cattle were Shorthorns, Herefords, and Devons. His farm horses were of the best Clydesdale and Suffolk Punch blood. The grasses they fed upon were mixtures of cocks-foot, timothy, rye-grass, and white clover. When it was found that the red clover would not flourish for want of penetrating insects, the humble bee was imported, and with compete success, as many a field now ruddy with crimson blossom testifies. The common English bee is found wild in the forest, where it hives in hollow trees, and robs its competitors–the honey-eating native birds–of much of their food. The hedges round the fields aforesaid are also English, but with a difference. The stunted furze which beautifies English commons is at the other end of the earth a hedge plant, which makes a thick barrier from five to eight feet high, and, with its sweet-smelling blooms, has made the New Zealand fields “green pictures set in frames of gold.” The very birds which rise from the clover or wheat, and nest in the trees or hedgerows of furze or quickset, are for the most part English–the skylark, the blackbird, finches, green and gold, thrushes, starlings, and that eternal impudent vagabond the house-sparrow. Heavy is the toll taken by the sparrow from the oat-crops of his new home; his thievish nature grows blacker there, though his plumage often turns partly white. He learns to hawk for moths and other flying insects. Near Christchurch rooks caw in the windy skies. Trout give excellent sport in a hundred streams, though in the lakes they grow too gross to take the fly. Many attempts have so far failed to acclimatise the salmon. The ova may be hatched out successfully, but the fish when turned out into the rivers disappears. The golden carp, however, the perch, and the rainbow trout take readily to New Zealand. The hare increases in size and weight, and has three and four leverets at a birth. The pheasant has spread from end to end of the Colony. The house-fly drives back the loathsome flesh-fly or blue-bottle, to the salvation of blankets and fresh meat. The Briton of the south has indeed taken with him all that he could of the old country.

[Footnote 1: The _tutu_, a danger to inexperienced sheep and cattle, was not eaten by horses. The berries were poisonous enough to kill an imported elephant on one occasion. Would that they had done as much for the rabbit!]

He has also brought a few things which he wishes he had left behind. The Hessian fly, the wire-worm, the flea, and grubs and scale insects thrive mischievously. The black and grey rats have driven the native rat into the recesses of the forest. A score of weeds have come, mixed with badly-screened grass-seed, or in any of a hundred other ways. The Scotch thistle seemed likely at one stage to usurp the whole grass country. Acts of Parliament failed to keep it down. Nature, more effectual, causes it to die down after running riot for a few years. The watercress, too, threatened at one time to choke half the streams. The sweetbriar, taking kindly to both soil and climate, not only grows tall enough to arch over the head of a man on horseback, but covers whole hillsides, to the ruin of pasture. Introduced, innocently enough, by the missionaries, it goes by their name in some districts. Rust, mildew, and other blights, have been imported along with plant and seed. The rabbit, multiplying in millions, became a very terror to the sheep farmers, is even yet the subject of anxious care and inspection, and only slowly yields to fencing, poison, traps, dogs, guns, stoats, weasels, ferrets, cats, and a host of instruments of destruction. In poisoning the rabbit the stock-owners have well-nigh swept the native birds from wide stretches of country. The weka, or wood-hen, with rudimentary wings like tufts of brown feathers, whose odd, inquisitive ways introduce it so constantly to the shepherd and bushman, at first preyed upon the young rabbits and throve. Now ferrets and phosphorus are exterminating it in the rabbit-infested districts. Moreover, just as Vortigern had reason to regret that he had called in the Saxon to drive out the Picts and Scots, so the New Zealanders have already found the stoat and weasel but dubious blessings. They have been a veritable Hengist and Horsa to more than one poultry farmer and owner of lambs. In addition they do their full share of the evil work of bird extermination, wherein they have active allies in the rats and wild cats. On the whole, however, though acclimatization has given the Colony one or two plagues and some minor nuisances, it would be ridiculous to pretend that these for a moment weigh in the scale against its good works. Most of the vegetable pests, though they may flourish abnormally for a few years in the virgin soil, soon become less vigorous. With the growth of population even the rabbit ceases to be a serious evil, except to a few half-empty tracts. The truth is that outside her forests and swamps New Zealand showed the most completely unoccupied soil of any fertile and temperate land on the globe. It seems possible that until about five or six hundred years ago she had no human inhabitants whatever. Her lakes and rivers had but few fish, her birds were not specially numerous, her grasses were not to be compared in their nourishing qualities with the English. Of animals there were virtually none. Even the rat before mentioned, and the now extinct dog of the Maori villages, were Maori importations from Polynesia not many centuries ago.

Not only, therefore, have English forms of life been of necessity drawn upon to fill the void spaces, but other countries have furnished their quota. The dark eucalypt of Tasmania, with its heavy-hanging, languid leaves, is the commonest of exotic trees. The artificial stiffness and regularity of the Norfolk Island pine, and the sweet-smelling golden blooms of the Australian wattle, are sights almost as familiar in New Zealand as in their native lands. The sombre pines of California and the macro carpa cypress cover thousands of acres. The merino sheep brought from Spain, _via_ Saxony and Australia, is the basis of the flocks. The black swan and magpie represent the birds of New Holland. The Indian minah, after becoming common, is said to be retreating before the English starling. The first red deer came from Germany. And side by side with these strangers and with the trees and plants which colonists call specifically “English”–for the word “British” is almost unknown in the Colony–the native flora is beginning to be cultivated in gardens and grounds. Neglected by the first generation, it is better appreciated by their children–themselves natives of the soil.

In the north and warmer island the traveller also meets sharp contrasts. These, however, except in the provinces of Wellington and Napier, where the Tararua-Ruahine spine plays to some extent the part taken by the Alps in the South Island, are not so much between east and west as between the coasts and the central plateau. For the most part, all the coasts, except the south-east, are, or have been, forest-clad. Nearly everywhere they are green, hilly and abundantly watered; windy, but not plagued with extremes of cold and heat. Frost touches them but for a short time in mid-winter.


The extreme south and north of the North Island could hardly, by any stretch of imagination, be called rich and fertile. But the island demonstrates the “falsehood of extremes,” for between them is found some of the finest and pleasantest land in the southern hemisphere. Nearly all of this, however, lies within fifty miles of one or other coast. When you have left these tracts, and have risen a thousand feet or so, you come to a volcanic plateau, clad for the most part in dark green and rusty bracken or tussocks of faded yellow. Right in the centre rise the great volcanoes, Ruapehu, Tongariro and Tarawera, majestic in their outlines, fascinating because of the restless fires within and the outbreaks which have been and will again take place. Scattered about this plateau are lakes of every shape and size, from Taupo–called Te Moana (the sea) by the Maoris–to the tiniest lakelets and ponds. Here are found pools and springs of every degree of heat. Some are boiling cauldrons into which the unwary fall now and again to meet a death terrible, yet–if the dying words of some of them may be believed–not always agonizing, so completely does the shock of contact with the boiling water kill the nervous system. Many pools are the colour of black broth. Foul with mud and sulphur, they seethe and splutter in their dark pits, sending up clouds of steam and sulphurous fumes. Others are of the clearest green or deepest, purest blue, through which thousands of silver bubbles shoot up to the surface, flash, and vanish. But the main use of the hot springs is found in their combination of certain chemical properties,–sulphur-acid, sulphur-alkaline. Nowhere in the world, probably, are found healing waters at once so powerful and so various in their uses. Generations ago the Maori tribes knew something of their effects. Now invalids come from far and near in hundreds and thousands, and when the distractions and appliances of the sanitary stations equal those of the European spas they will come in tens of thousands, for the plateau is not only a health-resort but a wonderland. Its geysers rank with those of Iceland and the Yellowstone. Seen in the clear sunny air, these columns of water and white foam, mounting, swaying, blown by the wind into silver spray, and with attendant rainbows glittering in the light, are sights which silence even the chattering tourist for a while. Solfataras, mud volcanoes and fumaroles are counted in hundreds in the volcanic zone. If there were not such curiosities, still the beauty of the mountains, lakes, streams and patches of forest would, with the bright invigorating air, make the holiday-maker seek them in numbers. Through the middle of this curious region runs the Waikato, the longest and on the whole most tranquil and useful of that excitable race the rivers of New Zealand. Even the Waikato has its adventures. In one spot it is suddenly compressed to a sixth of its breadth, and, boiling between walls of rock, leaps in one mass of blue water and white foam into a deep, tree-fringed pool below. This is the Huka Waterfall. It is but one of the many striking falls to be met with in the Islands.

New Zealand is a land of streams of every size and kind, and almost all these streams and rivers have three qualities in common–they are cold, swift, and clear. Cold and swift they must be as they descend quickly to the sea from heights more or less great. Clear they all are, except immediately after rain, or when the larger rivers are in flood. In flood-time most of them become raging torrents. Many were the horses and riders swept away to hopeless death as they stumbled over the hidden stony beds of turbid mountain crossings in the pioneering days before bridges were. Many a foot-man–gold-seeker or labourer wandering in search of work–disappeared thus, unseen and unrecorded. Heavy were the losses in sheep and cattle, costly and infuriating the delays, caused by flooded rivers. Few are the old colonists who have not known what it is to wait through wet and weary hours, it might be days, gloomily smoking, grumbling and watching for some flood to abate and some ford to become passable. Even yet, despite millions spent on public works, such troubles are not unknown.

It is difficult, perhaps, for those living in the cool and abundantly watered British Islands to sympathise with dwellers in hotter climates, or to understand what a blessing and beauty these continual and never-failing watercourses of New Zealand seem to visitors from sultrier and drier lands. The sun is quite strong enough to make men thankful for this gift of abundant water, and to make the running ripple of some little forest rivulet, heard long before it is seen through the green thickets, as musical to the ears of the tired rider as the note of the bell-bird itself. Even pleasanter are the sound and glitter of water under the summer sunshine to the wayfarer in the open grassy plains or valleys of the east coast. As for the number of the streams–who shall count them? Between the mouths of the Mokau and Patea rivers–a distance which cannot be much more than one hundred miles of coast–no less than eighty-five streams empty themselves into the Tasman Sea, of which some sixty have their source on the slopes or in the chasms of Mount Egmont. Quite as many more flow down from Egmont on the inland side, and do not reach the sea separately, but are tributaries of two or three larger rivers.

It is true that travellers may come to the Islands and leave them with no notion of a New Zealand river, except a raging mountain torrent, hostile to man and beast. Or they may be jolted over this same torrent when, shrunk and dwindled in summer heat to a mere glittering thread, it meanders lost and bewildered about a glaring bed of hot stones. But then railways and ordinary lines of communication are chiefly along the coasts. The unadventurous or hurried traveller sticks pretty closely to these. It happens that the rivers, almost without exception, show plainer features as they near the sea.

He who wishes to see their best must go inland and find them as they are still to be found in the North Island, winding through untouched valleys, under softly-draped cliffs, or shadowed by forests not yet marred by man. Or, in the South Island, they should be watched in the Alps as, milky or green-tinted, their ice-cold currents race through the gorges.

[Illustration: ON A RIVER–“PAPA” COUNTRY

Photo by A. MARTIN, Wanganui.]

Of forest rivers, the Wanganui is the longest and most famous, perhaps the most beautiful. Near the sea it is simply a broad river, traversed by boats and small steamers, and with grassy banks dotted with weeping willows or clothed with flax and the palm-lily. But as you ascend it the hills close in. Their sides become tall cliffs, whose feet the water washes. From the tops of these precipices the forest, growing denser and richer at every turn, rises on the flanks of the hills. In places the cliffs are so steep and impracticable that the Maoris use ladders for descending on their villages above to their canoes in the rivers below. Lovely indeed are these cliffs; first, because of the profusion of fern frond, leaf, and moss, growing from everything that can climb to, lay hold of, or root itself in crack, crevice, or ledge, and droop, glistening with spray-drops, or wave whispering in the wind; next, because of the striking form and colour of the cliffs themselves. They are formed of what is called “Papa.” This is a blue, calcareous clay often found with limestone, which it somewhat resembles. The Maori word “papa” is applied to any broad, smooth, flattish surface, as a door, or to a slab of rock. The smooth, slab-like, papa cliffs are often curiously marked–tongued and grooved, as with a gouge, channelled and fluted. Sometimes horizontal lines seem to divide them into strata. Again, the lines may be winding and spiral, so that on looking at certain cliffs it might be thought possible that the Maoris had got from them some of their curious tattoo patterns. Though pale and delicate, the tints of the rock are not their least beauty. Grey, yellow, brown, fawn, terra-cotta, even pale orange are to be noted. No photograph can give the charm of the drapery that clothes these cliffs. Photographs give no light or colour, and New Zealand scenery without light and colour is Hamlet with Hamlet left out. How could a photograph even hint at the dark, glossy green of the glistening karaka leaves, the feathery, waving foliage of the lace bark, or the white and purple bloom of the koromiko? How could black-and-white suggest the play of shade and shine when, between flying clouds, the glint of sunlight falls upon the sword-bayonet blades of the flax, and the golden, tossing plumes of the toe-toe, the New Zealand cousin of the Pampas grass? Add to this, that more often than the passenger can count as he goes along the river, either some little rill comes dripping over the cliff, scattering the sparkling drops on moss and foliage, or the cliffs are cleft and, as from a rent in the earth, some tributary stream gushes out of a dark, leafy tunnel of branches. Sometimes, too, the cliffs are not cleft, but the stream rushes from their summit, a white waterfall veiling the mossy rocks. Then there are the birds. In mid-air is to be seen the little fan-tail, aptly named, zig-zagging to and fro. The dark blue tui, called parson bird, from certain throat-feathers like white bands, will sing with a note that out-rivals any blackbird. The kuku, or wild pigeon, will show his purple, copper-coloured, white and green plumage as he sails slowly by, with that easy, confiding flight that makes him the cheap victim of the tyro sportsman. The grey duck, less easy to approach, rises noisily before boat or canoe comes within gunshot. The olive and brown, hoarse-voiced ka-ka, a large, wild parrot, and green, crimson-headed parakeets, may swell the list. Such is a “papa” river! and there are many such.

Features for which the traveller in New Zealand should be prepared are the far-reaching prospects over which the eye can travel, the sight and sound of rapid water, and the glimpses of snow high overhead, or far off–glimpses to be caught in almost every landscape in the South Island and in many of the most beautiful of the North. Through the sunny, lucid atmosphere it is no uncommon thing to see mountain peaks sixty and eighty miles away diminished in size by distance, but with their outlines clearly cut. From great heights you may see much longer distances, especially on very early mornings of still midsummer days. Then, before the air is heated or troubled or tainted, but when night seems to have cooled and purged it from all impurity, far-off ridges and summits stand out clean, sharp and vivid. On such mornings, though standing low down by the sea-shore, I have seen the hills of Bank’s Peninsula between sixty and seventy miles off, albeit they are not great mountains. Often did they seem to rise purple-coloured from the sea, wearing “the likeness of a clump of peaked isles,” as Shelley says of the Euganean hills seen from Venice. On such a morning from a hill looking northward over league after league of rolling virgin forest I have seen the great volcano, Mount Ruapehu, rear up his 9,000 feet, seeming a solitary mass, the upper part distinctly seen, blue and snow-capped, the lower bathed and half-lost in a pearl-coloured haze. Most impressive of all is it to catch sight, through a cleft in the forest, of the peak of Mount Egmont, and of the flanks of the almost perfect cone curving upward from the sea-shore for 8,300 feet. The sentinel volcano stands alone. Sunrise is the moment to see him when his summit, sheeted with snow, is tinged with the crimson of morning and touched by clouds streaming past in the wind. Lucky is the eye that thus beholds Egmont, for he is a cloud-gatherer who does not show his face every day or to every gazer. Almost as fine a spectacle is the sight of the “Kaikouras,” or “Lookers-on.” When seen from the deck of a coasting steamer they seem almost to hang over the sea heaving more than 8,000 feet below their summits. Strangely beautiful are these mighty ridges when the moonlight bathes them and turns the sea beneath to silver. But more, beautiful are they still in the calm and glow of early morning, white down to the waist, brown to the feet with the sunshine full on their faces, the blue sky overhead, and the bluer sea below.

If the Southern Alps surpass the Kaikouras in beauty it is because of the contrast they show on their western flanks, between gaunt grandeur aloft, and the softest luxuriance below. The forest climbs to the snow line, while the snow line descends as if to meet it. So abrupt is the descent that the transition is like the change in a theatre-scene. Especially striking is the transformation in the passage over the fine pass which leads through the dividing range between pastoral Canterbury and Westland. At the top of Arthur’s Pass you are among the high Alps. The road winds over huge boulders covered with lichen, or half hidden by koromiko, ferns, green moss, and stunted beeches, grey-bearded and wind-beaten. Here and there among the stones are spread the large, smooth, oval leaves and white gold-bearing cups of the shepherd’s lily. The glaciers, snowfields, and cliffs of Mount Rolleston lie on the left. Everything drips with icy water. Suddenly the saddle is passed and the road plunges down into a deep gulf. It is the Otira Gorge. Nothing elsewhere is very like it. The coach zig-zags down at a gentle pace, like a great bird slowly wheeling downwards to settle on the earth. In a few minutes it passes from an Alpine desert to the richness of the tropics. At the bottom of the gorge is the river foaming among scarlet boulders–scarlet because of the lichen which coats them. On either side rise slopes which are sometimes almost, sometimes altogether precipices, covered, every inch of them, with thick vegetation. High above these tower the bare crags and peaks which, as the eye gazes upwards, seem to bend inwards, as though a single shock of earthquake would make them meet and entomb the gorge beneath. In autumn the steeps are gay with crimson cushion-like masses of rata flowers, or the white blooms of the ribbon-wood and koromiko. Again and again waterfalls break through their leafy coverts; one falls on the road itself and sprinkles passengers with its spray. In the throat of the gorge the coach rattles over two bridges thrown from cliff to cliff over the pale-green torrent.

In an hour comes the stage where lofty trees succeed giant mountains. As the first grow higher the second diminish. This is the land of ferns and mosses. The air feels soft, slightly damp, and smells of moist leaves. It is as different to the sharp dry air of the Canterbury ranges as velvet is to canvas; it soothes, and in hot weather relaxes. The black birch with dark trunk, spreading branches, and light leaves, is now mingled with the queenly rimu, and the stiff, small-leaved, formal white pine. Winding and hanging plants festoon everything, and everything is bearded with long streamers of moss, not grey but rich green and golden. Always some river rushes along in sight or fills the ear with its noise. Tree ferns begin to appear and grow taller and taller as the coach descends towards the sea, where in the evening the long journey ends.

On the western coast glaciers come down to within 700 feet of the sea-level. Even on the east side the snow is some 2,000 feet lower than in Switzerland. This means that the climber can easily reach the realm where life is not, where ice and snow, rock and water reign, and man feels his littleness.

Though Aorangi has been ascended to the topmost of its 12,349 feet, still in the Southern Alps the peaks are many which are yet unsealed, and the valleys many which are virtually untrodden. Exploring parties still go out and find new lakes, new passes, and new waterfalls. It is but a few years since the Sutherland Falls, 2,000 feet high, were first revealed to civilized man, nor was there ever a region better worth searching than the Southern Alps. Every freshly-found nook and corner adds beauties and interests. Falls, glaciers and lakes are on a grand scale. The Tasman glacier is eighteen miles long and more than two miles across at the widest point; the Murchison glacier is more than ten miles long; the Godley eight. The Hochstetter Fall is a curtain of broken, uneven, fantastic ice coming down 4,000 feet on to the Tasman glacier. It is a great spectacle, seen amid the stillness of the high Alps, broken only by the occasional boom and crash of a falling pinnacle of ice.

Of the many mountain lakes Te Anau is the largest, Manapouri the loveliest. Wakatipu is fifty-four miles long, and though its surface is 1,000 feet above the sea-level, its profound depth sinks below it. On the sea side of the mountains the fiords rival the lakes in depth. Milford Sound is 1,100 feet deep near its innermost end.

But enough of the scenery of the Colony. This is to be a story, not a sketch-book. Enough that the drama of New Zealand’s history, now in the second act, has been placed on one of the most remarkable and favourable stages in the globe. Much–too much–of its wild and singular beauty must be ruined in the process of settlement. But very much is indestructible. The colonists are also awakening to the truth that mere Vandalism is as stupid as it is brutal. Societies are being established for the preservation of scenery. The Government has undertaken to protect the more famous spots. Within recent years three islands lying off different parts of the coast have been reserved as asylums for native birds. Two years ago, too, the wild and virgin mountains of the Urewera tribe were by Act of Parliament made inalienable, so that, so long as the tribe lasts, their ferns, their birds and their trees shall not vanish from the earth.

Chapter II


“The moving finger writes; and, having writ, Moves on. Nor all your piety or wit
Can lure it back to cancel half a line, Nor all your tears wash out a word of it.”

The first colonists of New Zealand were brown men from the South Seas. It was from Eastern Polynesia that the Maoris unquestionably came. They are of the same race as the courteous, handsome people who inhabit the South Sea Islands from Hawaii to Rarotonga, and who, in Fiji, mingle their blood with the darker and inferior Melanesians of the west. All the Polynesians speak dialects of the same musical tongue. A glance at Tregear’s Comparative Maori-Polynesian Dictionary will satisfy any reader on that point. The Rarotongans call themselves “Maori,” and can understand the New Zealand speech; so, as a rule, can the other South Sea tribes, even the distant Hawaiians. Language alone is proverbially misleading as a guide to identity of race. But in the case of the Polynesians we may add colour and features, customs, legends, and disposition. All are well though rather heavily built, active when they choose, and passionately fond of war and sport. The New Zealanders are good riders and capital football players. The Samoans are so fond of cricket that they will spend weeks in playing gigantic matches, fifty a side. Bold as seamen and skilful as fishermen, the Polynesians are, however, primarily cultivators of the soil. They never rose high enough in the scale to be miners or merchants. In the absence of mammals, wild and tame, in their islands, they could be neither hunters nor herdsmen. Fierce and bloodthirsty in war, and superstitious, they were good-natured and hospitable in peace and affectionate in family life.

There is no reason to think that the New Zealanders are more akin to the modern Malays than they are to the Australian blacks; nor have attempts to connect them with the red men of America or the Toltecs of Mexico succeeded. They are much more like some of the Aryans of Northern India. But the truth is, their fortunes before their race settled in Polynesia are a pure matter of guess-work. Some centuries ago, driven out by feuds or shortness of food, they left their isles of reef and palm, and found their way to Ao-tea-roa, as they called New Zealand.

On the map their new home seems at first sight so isolated and remote from the other groups of Oceania as to make it incredible that even the most daring canoe-men could have deliberately made their way thither. But this difficulty disappears upon a study of the ascertained voyages of the Polynesians. Among the bravest and most venturesome navigators of the ocean, the brown mariners studied and named the stars, winds and currents. As allies they had those friends of the sailor, the trade-winds. In cloudy weather, when the signs in the sky were hidden, the regular roll of the waves before the steady trade-wind was in itself a guide.[1] Their large double-canoes joined by platforms on which deck-houses were built were no despicable sea-boats, probably just as good as the vessels in which the Phoenicians circumnavigated Africa. Even their single canoes were sometimes between 100 and 150 feet long, and the crews of these, wielding their elastic paddles, kept time in a fashion that has won respect from the coxswain of a University eight. For their long voyages they stored water in calabashes, carried roots and dried fish, and had in the cocoa-nut both food and drink stored safely by nature in the most convenient compass. In certain seasons they could be virtually sure of replenishing their stock of water from the copious tropical or semi-tropical rains. Expert fishermen, they would miss no opportunity of catching fish by the way. They made halting-places of the tiny islets which, often uninhabited and far removed from the well-known groups, dot the immense waste of the Pacific at great intervals. The finding of their stone axes or implements in such desolate spots enables their courses to be traced. Canoe-men who could voyage to solitary little Easter Island in the wide void towards America, or to Cape York in the distant west, were not likely to find insuperable difficulties in running before the north-east winds to New Zealand from Rarotonga, Savaii or Tahiti. The discovery in the new land of the jade or greenstone–far above rubies in the eyes of men of the Stone Age–would at once give the country all the attractiveness that a gold-field has for civilized man.

[Footnote 1: S. Percy Smith on _The Geographical Knowledge of the Polynesians_.]

The Maori stories of their migration to New Zealand are a mixture of myth and legend. Among them are minute details that may be accurate, mingled with monstrous tales of the utterly impossible. For example, we are told that one chief, on his canoe first nearing the coast, saw the feathery, blood-red rata-flowers gleaming in the forest, and promptly threw overboard his Polynesian coronet of red feathers, exclaiming that he would get a new crown in the new land. Such an incident might be true, as might also the tale of another canoe which approached the shore at night. Its crew were warned of the neighbourhood of land by the barking of a dog which they had with them and which scented a whale’s carcass stranded on the beach. On the other hand we are gravely told that the hero Gliding-Tide having dropped an axe overboard off the shore, muttered an incantation so powerful that the bottom of the sea rose up, the waters divided, and the axe returned to his hand. The shoal at any rate is there, and is pointed out to this day. And what are we to say to the tale of another leader, whose canoe was upset in the South Seas, and who swam all the way to New Zealand?

The traditions say that the Maori Pilgrim Fathers left the island of Hawaiki for New Zealand about the beginning of the 15th century. Hawaiki is probably one of the “shores of old romance.” Other Polynesian races also claim to have come thence. Mr. Percy Smith gives good reasons for the suggestion that the ancestors of the Maoris migrated from the Society Islands and from Rarotonga, and that their principal migration took place about five hundred years ago. It seems likely enough, however, that previous immigrants had gone before them. One remnant of these, the now almost extinct Moriori, colonised the Chatham Islands, whither they were not followed by the conquering Maori until the present century. The two most famous of the great double canoes of the Maori settlers were the Arawa (shark), and the Tainui (flood-tide). On board thereof, with the men, women, and children, were brought dogs, rats, the gourd and taro root, and the invaluable kumara or sweet potato. The karaka tree, whose glossy, almost oily-looking leaves were in after days to be seen in every village, was another importation. With these tradition ranks the green parakeet and blue pukeko or swamp-hen, two birds whose rich plumage has indeed something in it of tropical gaudiness, at any rate in contrast with the sober hues of most New Zealand feathers. The Tainui canoe was said to have found its last resting-place near the mouth of the Mokau river. A stone still lies there which is treasured by the natives as the ancient anchor of their sacred craft. Some years ago, when a European carried this off, they brought an action against him and obtained an order of the Court compelling him to restore it. Not far away stands a grove of trees alleged to have sprung from the Tainui’s skids. Certainly Sir James Hector, the first scientific authority in the Colony, finding that these trees grow spontaneously nowhere else in New Zealand, named them _Pomaderris Tainui_. But though, for once, at any rate, science was not indisposed to smile on tradition and Maori faith triumphed, and the unbeliever was for a while confounded, it unhappily seems now quite certain that the congener of _Pomaderris Tainui_ is found only in Australia, one of the few lands nigh the Pacific which cannot have been Hawaiki.

It will be safe to say that the Maori colonists landed at different points and at widely different dates, and that later immigrants sometimes drove earlier comers inland or southward. More often, probably, each small band sought out an empty territory for itself. On this tribes and sub-tribes grew up, dwelling apart from each other. Each district became the land of a clan, to be held by tomahawk and spear. Not even temporary defeat and slavery deprived a tribe of its land: nothing did that but permanent expulsion followed by actual seizure and occupation by the conquerors. Failing this, the right of the beaten side lived on, and could be reasserted after years of exile. The land was not the property of the _arikis_ or chiefs, or even of the _rangatiras_ or gentry. Every free man, woman and child in each clan had a vested interest therein which was acknowledged and respected. The common folk were not supposed to have immortal souls. That was the distinction of the well born. But they had a right to their undivided share of the soil. Even when a woman married into another tribe, or–in latter days–became the wife of a white, she did not forfeit her title, though sometimes such rights would be surrendered by arrangement, to save inconvenience. Trade never entered into Maori life. Buying and selling were unknown. On and by the land the Maori lived, and he clung to it closely as any Irish peasant. “The best death a man can die is for the land,” ran a proverb. “Let us die for the land!” shouted a chieftain, haranguing his fighting men before one of their first battles with the English. No appeal would be more certain to strike home.

Though the tribal estate was communal property in so far that any member could go out into the wilderness and fell trees and reclaim the waste, the fruits of such work, the timber and plantations, at once became personal property. The fields, houses, weapons, tools, clothes, and food of a family could not be meddled with by outsiders. The territory, in a word, was common, but not only products but usufructs were property attaching to individuals, who could transfer them by gift.

Though in time they forgot the way to “Hawaiki,” and even at last the art of building double-canoes, yet they never wanted for pluck or seamanship in fishing and voyaging along the stormy New Zealand coasts. Their skill and coolness in paddling across flooded rivers may still sometimes be witnessed.

Always needing fish, they placed their villages near the sea beaches or the rivers and lakes. In their canoes they would paddle as far as twelve miles from land. Amongst other fish they caught sharks, killing them before they hauled them into the crank canoes; or, joining forces, they would sweep some estuary with drag nets, and, with much yelling and splashing, drive the fish into a shallow corner. There with club and spear dog-fish and smooth-hound would be done to death amid shouts and excitement. Then would come a gorge on a grand scale, followed by business–the cutting into strips and drying of the shark-meat for winter food. In the forests they found birds, and, not having the bow-and-arrow, made shift to snare and spear them ingeniously. To add to the vegetable staples which they had brought with them from their Polynesian home, they used the root of the fern or bracken, and certain wild fruits and berries–none of them specially attractive. What between fish, birds and vegetables, with occasional delicacies in the shape of dogs and rats, they were by no means badly provisioned, and they cooked their food carefully and well, chiefly by steaming in ovens lined with heated stones. Without tea, coffee, sugar, alcohol or tobacco, they had also but seldom the stimulant given by flesh meat. Their notorious cannibalism was almost confined to triumphal banquets on the bodies of enemies slain in battle. Without the aid of metals or pottery, without wool, cotton, silk or linen, without one beast of burden, almost without leather, they yet contrived to clothe, feed and house themselves, and to make some advance in the arts of building, carving, weaving and dyeing.


The labour and patience needed to maintain some degree of rude comfort and keep up any kind of organised society with the scanty means at their disposal were very great indeed. The popular notion of the lazy savage basking in the sunshine, or squatting round the fire and loafing on the labour of his women, did not fairly apply to the Maori–at any rate to the unspoiled Maori. As seen by the early navigators, his life was one of regular, though varied and not excessive toil. Every tribe, in most ways every village, was self-contained and self-supporting. What that meant to a people intelligent, but ignorant of almost every scientific appliance, and as utterly isolated as though they inhabited a planet of their own, a little reflection will suggest. The villagers had to be their own gardeners, fowlers, fishermen and carpenters. They built their own houses and canoes, and made every tool and weapon. All that they wore as well as what they used had to be made on the spot. They did not trade, though an exchange of gifts regulated by strict etiquette amounted to a rude and limited kind of barter, under which inland tribes could supply themselves with dried sea-fish and sea-birds preserved in their melted fat, or northern tribes could acquire the precious greenstone found in the west of the South Island.

Without flocks and herds or domestic fowls, theirs was the constant toil of the cultivator. Their taro and their kumara fields had to be dug, and dug thoroughly with wooden spades. Long-handled and pointed at the end, these implements resembled stilts with a cross-bar about eighteen inches from the ground on which the digger’s foot rested. Two men worked them together. The women did not dig the fields, but theirs was the labour almost as severe of carrying on their backs the heavy baskets of gravel to scatter over the soil of the plantations.

Almost the only staple article of Maori vegetable food which grew wild and profusely was the fern or bracken _(pteris aquilina_ var. _esculenta_), which indeed was found on every hill and moor and in every glade, at any rate in the North Island. But the preparation of the fibrous root was tedious, calling as it did for various processes of drying and pounding.

Fishing involved not only the catching of fish, but the manufacture of seine nets, sometimes half a mile long, of eel-weirs, lines made of the fibre of the native flax, and of fish-hooks of bone or tough crooked wood barbed with human bone. The human skeleton was also laid under contribution for the material of skewers, needles and flutes.

The infinite patience and delicacy requisite in their bird-snaring and spearing are almost beyond the conception of the civilized townsmen untrained in wood-craft. To begin with, they had to make the slender bird spears, thirty feet long, out of the light wood of the _tawa_ tree. A single tree could provide no more than two spears, and the making of them–with stone tools of course–took many months. Think of the dexterity, coolness and stealth required to manage such a weapon in a jungle so dense and tangled that white sportsmen often find a difficulty in handling their guns there! The silent adroitness needed to approach and spear the wild parrot or wood-pigeon without stirring the branch of a tree would alone require a long apprenticeship to wood-craft.

Maori house-building showed a knowledge of architecture decidedly above that of the builders of Kaffir kraals, to say nothing of the lairs of the Australian blacks. The poorest huts were definitely planned and securely built. The shape was oblong, the walls low, the roof high pitched and disproportionately large, though not so much so as in some of the South Sea Islands. The framework was of the durable totara-wood, the lining of reeds, the outside of dried rushes. At the end turned to the sunshine was a kind of verandah, on to which opened the solitary door and window, both low and small. The floor was usually sunk below ground, and Maori builders knew of no such thing as a chimney. Though neither cooking nor eating was done in their dwelling-houses, and offal of all kinds was carefully kept at a decent distance, the atmosphere in their dim, stifling interiors was as a rule unendurable by White noses and lungs. Even their largest tribal or meeting halls had but the one door and window; the Maori mind seemed as incapable of adding thereto, as of constructing more than one room under a single roof. On the other hand, the dyed patterns on the reed wainscoting, and the carvings on the posts, lintel and boards, showed real beauty and a true sense of line and curve.

Still less reason is there to find fault with their canoes, the larger of which were not only strangely picturesque, but, urged by as many as a hundred paddles, flew through the water at a fine speed, or under sail made long coasting voyages in seas that are pacific only in name. To the carving on these crafts the savage artists added decoration by red ochre, strips of dyed flax, gay feathers and mother-o’-pearl. Both the building of the canoes and their adornment entailed long months of labour. So did the dressing of the fibre of the flax and palm-lily, and the weaving therefrom of “mats” or mantles, and of kirtles. Yet the making of such ordinary clothing was simple indeed compared to the manufacture of a chief’s full dress mat of _kiwi_ feathers. The soft, hairy-looking plumage of the _kiwi_ (apteryx) is so fine, each feather so minute, that one mantle would occupy a first-rate artist for two years. Many of these mantles, whether of flax, feathers or dog-skin, were quaintly beautiful as well as warm and waterproof.

Nor did Maori skill confine itself to ornamenting the clothing of man. The human skin supplied a fresh and peculiar field for durable decoration. This branch of art, that of Moko or tattooing, they carried to a grotesque perfection. Among the many legends concerning their demi-god Maui, a certain story tells how he showed them the way to tattoo by puncturing the muzzle of a dog, whence dogs went with black muzzles as men see them now. For many generations the patterns cut and pricked on the human face and body were faithful imitations of what were believed to be Maui’s designs. They were composed of straight lines, angles, and cross-cuts. Later the hero Mataora taught a more graceful style which dealt in curves, spirals, volutes and scroll-work. Apart from legend it is a matter of reasonable certitude that the Maoris brought tattooing with them from Polynesia. Their marking instruments were virtually the same as those of their tropical cousins; both, for instance, before the iron age of the nineteenth century, often used the wing-bones of sea-birds to make their tiny chisels. Both observed the law of _tapu_ under which the male patients, while undergoing the process of puncturing, were sacred, immensely to their own inconvenience, for they had to dwell apart, and might not even touch food with their hands. As to the source of the peculiar patterns used by the New Zealanders, they probably have some relation with the admirable wood-carving before mentioned. Either the Moko artists copied the style of the skilful carvers of panels, door-posts, clubs, and the figure-heads on the prows of canoes, or the wood-carvers borrowed and reproduced the lines and curves of the Moko. The inspiration of the patterns, whether on wood or skin, may be found in the spirals of sea-shells, the tracery on the skin of lizards and the bark of trees, and even, it may be, in the curious fluting and natural scroll-work on the tall cliffs of the calcareous clay called _papa_.

But, however the Moko artist learned his designs, he was a painstaking and conscientious craftsman in imprinting them on his subject. No black-and-white draughtsman of our time, no wood-cutter, etcher, or line-engraver, worked with slower deliberation. The outlines were first drawn with charcoal or red ochre. Thus was the accuracy of curve and scroll-work ensured. Then, inch by inch, the lines were cut or pricked out on the quivering, but unflinching, human copper-plate. The blood was wiped away and the _narahu_ (blue dye) infused. In the course of weeks, months, or years, as leisure, wealth, or endurance permitted, the work was completed. In no other society did the artist have his patron so completely at his mercy. Not only was a Moko expert of true ability a rarity for whose services there was always an “effective demand,” but, if not well paid for his labours, the tattooer could make his sitter suffer in more ways than one. He could adroitly increase the acute anguish which had, as a point of honour, to be endured without cry or complaint; or he could coolly bungle the execution of the design, or leave it unfinished, and betake himself to a more generous customer. A well-known tattooing chant deals with the subject entirely from the artist’s standpoint, and emphasises the business principles upon which he went to work. It was this song that Alfred Domett (Robert Browning’s Waring) must have had in his mind when, in his New Zealand poem, he thus described the Moko on the face of the chief Tangi-Moana:–

“And finer, closer spirals of dark blue Were never seen than in his cheek’s tattoo; Fine as if engine turned those cheeks declared No cost to fee the artist had been spared; That many a basket of good maize had made That craftsman careful how he tapped his blade, And many a greenstone trinket had been given To get his chisel-flint so deftly driven.”

When, however, the slow and costly agony was over, the owner of an unusually well-executed face became a superior person. He united in himself the virtues and vices of a chieftain of high degree (shown by the elaborateness of his face pattern), of a tribal dandy, of a brave man able to endure pain, of the owner of a unique picture, and of an acknowledged art critic. In the rigid-looking mask, moreover, which had now taken the place of his natural face were certain lines by which any one of his fellow-tribesmen could identify him living or dead. In this way the heads of Maori chiefs have been recognised even in the glass cases of museums. On some of the earlier deeds and agreements between White and Maori, a chief would sign or make his mark by means of a rough reproduction of his special Moko.

The Maori _pas_ or stockaded and intrenched villages, usually perched on cliffs and jutting points overhanging river or sea, were defended by a double palisade, the outer fence of stout stakes, the inner of high solid trunks. Between them was a shallow ditch. Platforms as much as forty feet high supplied coigns of vantage for the look-out. Thence, too, darts and stones could be hurled at the besiegers. With the help of a throwing-stick, or rather whip, wooden spears could be thrown in the sieges more than a hundred yards. Ignorant of the bow-and-arrow and the boomerang, the Maoris knew and used the sling. With it red-hot stones would be hurled over the palisades, among the rush-thatched huts of an assaulted village, a stratagem all the more difficult to cope with as Maori _pas_ seldom contained wells or springs of water. The courage and cunning developed in the almost incessant tribal feuds were extraordinary. Competent observers thought the Maoris of two generations ago the most warlike and ferocious race on earth. Though not seldom guilty of wild cruelty to enemies, they did not make a business of cold-blooded torture after the devilish fashion of the North American Indians. Chivalrous on occasion, they would sometimes send warning to the foe, naming the day of an intended attack, and abide thereby. They would supply a starving garrison with provisions in order that an impending conflict might be a fair trial of strength. War was to them something more dignified than a mere lawless struggle. It was a solemn game to be played according to rules as rigidly laid down and often as honourably adhered to as in the international cricket and football matches of Englishmen and Australians.

As is so often the case with fighting races capable of cruelty, they were strictly courteous in their intercourse with strangers. Indeed, their code of manners to visitors was so exact and elaborate as to leave an impression of artificiality. No party of wayfarers would approach a _pa_ without giving formal notice. When the strangers were received, they had the best of everything, and the hosts, who saw that they were abundantly supplied, had too much delicacy to watch them eat. Maori breeding went so far as to avoid in converse words or topics likely to be disagreeable to their hearers.

Their feeling for beauty was shown not merely in their art, but in selecting the sites of dwelling-places, and in a fondness for shady shrubs and trees about their huts and for the forest-flowers. The natural images and similes so common in their wild, abrupt, unrhymed chants and songs showed how closely they watched and sympathised with nature. The hoar-frost, which vanishes with the sunrise, stood with them for ephemeral fame. Rank without power was “a fountain without water.” The rushing stream reminded the Maori singer, as it did the Mantuan, of the remorseless current of life and human fate.

“But who can check life’s stream?
Or turn its waters back?
‘Tis past,”

cried a father mourning for his dead son. In another lament a grieving mother is compared to the drooping fronds of the tree-fern. The maiden keeping tryst bids the light fleecy cloudlets, which in New Zealand so often scud across the sky before the sea-wind, to be messengers to her laggard gallant.

“The sun grows dim and hastes away
As a woman from the scene of battle,”

says the lament for a dead chief.[1] The very names given to hills, lakes, and rivers will be witnesses in future days of the poetic instinct of the Maori–perhaps the last destined to remain in his land. Such names are the expressive Wai-orongo-mai (Hear me, ye waters!); Puke-aruhe (ferny hill); Wai-rarapa (glittering water); Maunga-tapu (sacred mount); Ao-rere (flying cloud). Last, but not least, there is the lordly Ao-rangi (Cloud in the heavens), over which we have plastered the plain and practical “Mount Cook.”

[Footnote 1: The Maori is deeply imbued with the poetry of the woods. His commonest phraseology shows it. ‘The month when the pohutu-kawa flowers’; ‘the season when the kowhai is in bloom’; so he punctuates time. And the years that are gone he softly names’ dead leaves!’–HAY, _Brighter Britain_.]

Many of the Maori chiefs were, and some even now are, masterly rhetoricians. The bent of the race was always strongly to controversy and discussion. Their ignorance of any description of writing made them cultivate debate. Their complacent indifference to time made deliberative assembly a prolonged, never-wearying joy. The chiefs met in council like Homer’s heroes–the commons sitting round and muttering guttural applause or dissent. The speeches abounded in short sententious utterances, in proverbs, poetic allusions and metaphors borrowed from legends. The Maori orator dealt in quotations as freely as the author of the _Anatomy of Melancholy_, and his hearers caught them with as much relish as that of a House of Commons of Georgian days enjoying an apt passage from the classics. Draped in kilt and mantle, with spear or carved staff of office in the right hand, the speakers were manly and dignified figures. The fire and force of their rhetoric were not only aided by graceful gesture but were set out in a language worthy of the eloquent. If we cannot say of the Maori tongue as Gibbon said of Greek, that it “can give a soul to the objects of sense and a body to the abstractions of philosophy,” we can at any rate claim for it that it is a musical and vigorous speech. Full of vowel-sounds, entirely without sibilants, but rich in guttural and chest notes, it may be made at will to sound liquid or virile, soft or ringing.

The seamy side of Maori life, as of all savage life, was patent to the most unimaginative observer. The traveller found it not easy to dwell on the dignity, poetry and bravery of a race which contemned washing, and lived, for the most part, in noisome hovels. A chief might be an orator and skilled captain, but, squatting on the ground, smeared with oil, daubed with red ochre and grimly tattooed, he probably impressed the white visitor chiefly as an example of dirt and covetousness. The traveller might be hospitably entertained in a _pa_ the gate of which was decorated with the smoke-dried heads of slain enemies by a host whose dress might include a necklace of human teeth,[1] the owner of which he had helped to eat. Though a cannibal feast was a rare orgie, putrid food was a common dainty. Without the cringing manner of the Oriental, the Maori had his full share of deceitfulness. Elaborate treachery is constantly met with in the accounts of their wars. If adultery was rare, chastity among the single women was rarer still. The affection of parents for young children was requited by no kindness on the part of youth for old age. Carving never rose higher than grotesque decoration. The attempts at portraying the human face or form resulted only in the monstrous and the obscene.

[Footnote 1: At any rate among the Ngatiporou tribe.]

[Illustration: A MAORI MAIDEN

Photo by ILES, Thames]

The Maori men are as a rule tall and bulky, long-bodied and short-legged, and with fairly large pyramidal skulls, showing well-developed perceptive faculties. Their colour varies from maize to dusky olive, and their features from classic to negroid; but usually the nose, though not flat, is wide, and the mouth, though not blubber-lipped, is heavy and sensual. Shorter and more coarsely built than the males, the women, even when young, are less attractive to the European eye, despite their bright glances and black, abundant hair. It might well be thought that this muscular, bulky race, with ample room to spread about a fertile and exceptionally healthy country, would have increased and multiplied till it had filled both islands. It did not, however. It is doubtful whether it ever numbered more than a hundred and fifty thousand. Except on the shores of Cook’s Straits, it only planted a few scattered outposts in the South Island. Yet that is the larger island of the two. It is also the colder, and therein lies at least one secret of the check to the Maori increase. They were a tropical race transplanted into a temperate climate. They showed much the same tendency to cling to the North Island as the negroes in North America to herd in the Gulf States. Their dress, their food and their ways were those of dwellers on shores out of reach of frost and snow. Though of stout and robust figure, they are almost always weak in the chest and throat. Should the Maoris die out, the medical verdict might be summed up in the one word tuberculosis.

The first European observers noted that they suffered from “galloping” consumption. Skin disorders, rheumatism and a severe kind of influenza were other ailments.

In the absence equally of morality and medical knowledge among their unmarried women, it did not take many years after the appearance of the Whites to taint the race throughout with certain diseases. A cold-blooded passage in Crozet’s journal tells of the beginning of this curse. Though not altogether unskilful surgeons, the Maoris knew virtually nothing of medicine. Nor do they show much nervous power when attacked by disease. Cheerful and sociable when in health, they droop quickly when ill, and seem sometimes to die from sheer lack of the will to live. Bright and imaginative almost as the Kelts of Europe, their spirits are easily affected by superstitious dread. Authentic cases are known of a healthy Maori giving up the ghost through believing himself to be doomed by a wizard.

There are, however, other evil influences under which this attractive and interesting people are fading away. Though no longer savages, they have never become thoroughly civilized. Partial civilization has been a blight to their national life. It has ruined the efficacy of their tribal system without replacing it with any equal moral force and industrial stimulus. It has deprived them of the main excitement of their lives–their tribal wars–and given them no spur to exertion by way of a substitute. It has fatally wounded their pride and self-respect, and has not given them objects of ambition or preserved their ancient habits of labour and self-restraint. A hundred years ago the tribes were organized and disciplined communities. No family or able-bodied unit need starve or lack shelter; the humblest could count on the most open-handed hospitality from his fellows. The tribal territory was the property of all. The tilling, the fishing, the fowling were work which could not be neglected. The chief was not a despot, but the president of a council, and in war would not be given the command unless he was the most capable captain. Every man was a soldier, and, under the perpetual stress of possible war, had to be a trained, self-denying athlete. The _pas_ were, for defensive reasons, built on the highest and therefore the healthiest positions. The ditches, the palisades, the terraces of these forts were constructed with great labour as well as no small skill. The fighting was hand to hand. The wielding of their weapons–the wooden spear, the club, the quaint _mere_[1] and the stone tomahawk–required strength and endurance as well as a skill only to be obtained by hard practice. The very sports and dances of the Maori were such as only the active and vigorous could excel in. Slaves were there, but not enough to relieve the freemen from the necessity for hard work. Strange sacred customs, such as _tapu_ (vulgarly Anglicized as taboo) and _muru_, laughable as they seem to us, tended to preserve public health, to ensure respect for authority, and to prevent any undue accumulation of goods and chattels in the hands of one man. Under the law of _muru_ a man smitten by sudden calamity was politely plundered of all his possessions. It was the principle under which the wounded shark is torn to pieces by its fellows, and under which the merchant wrecked on the Cornish coast in bye-gone days was stripped of anything the waves had spared. Among the Maoris, however, it was at once a social duty and a personal compliment. If a man’s hut caught fire his dearest friends clustered round like bees, rescued all they could from the flames, and–kept it. It is on record that a party about to pay a friendly visit to a neighbour village were upset in their canoe as they were paddling in through the surf. The canoe was at once claimed by the village chief–their host. Moreover they would have been insulted if he had not claimed it. Of course, he who lost by _muru_ one week might be able to repay himself the next.

[Footnote 1: Tasman thought the mere resembled the _parang_, or heavy, broad-bladed knife, of the Malays. Others liken it to a paddle, and matter-of-fact colonists to a tennis-racket or a soda-water bottle flattened.]

Certain colonial writers have exhausted their powers ridicule–no very difficult task–upon what they inaccurately call Maori communism. But the system, in full working order, at least developed the finest race of savages the world has seen, and taught them barbaric virtues which have won from their white supplanters not only respect but liking. The average colonist regards a Mongolian with repulsion, a Negro with contempt, and looks on an Australian black as very near to a wild beast; but he likes the Maoris, and is sorry that they are dying out.

No doubt the remnants of the Maori tribal system are useless, and perhaps worse than useless. The tribes still own land in common, and much of it. They might be very wealthy landlords if they cared to lease their estates on the best terms they could bargain for. As it is, they receive yearly very large sums in rent. They could be rich farmers if they cared to master the science of farming. They have brains to learn more difficult things. They might be healthy men and women if they would accept the teachings of sanitary science as sincerely as they took in the religious teachings of the early missionaries. If they could be made to realize that foul air, insufficient dress, putrid food, alternations of feast and famine, and long bouts of sedulous idleness are destroying them as a people and need not do so, then their decay might be arrested and the fair hopes of the missionary pioneers yet be justified. So long as they soak maize in the streams until it is rotten and eat it together with dried shark–food the merest whiff of which will make a white man sick; so long as they will wear a suit of clothes one day and a tattered blanket the next, and sit smoking crowded in huts, the reek of which strikes you like a blow in the face; so long as they will cluster round dead bodies during their _tangis_ or wakes; so long as they will ignore drainage–just so long will they remain a blighted and dwindling race, and observers without eyes will talk as though there was something fateful and mysterious in their decline. One ray of hope for them has quite lately been noted. They are caring more for the education of their children. Some three thousand of these now go to school, not always irregularly. Very quaint scholars are the dark-eyed, quick-glancing, brown-skinned little people sitting tied “to that dry drudgery at the desk’s dull wood,” which, if heredity counts for anything, must be so much harder to them than to the children of the _Pakeha_.[1] Three years ago the Government re-organized the native schools, had the children taught sanitary lessons with the help of magic lanterns, and gave power to committees of native villagers to prosecute the parents of truants. The result has been a prompt, marked and growing improvement in the attendance and the general interest. Better still, the educated Maori youths are awakening to the sad plight of their people. Pathetic as their regrets are, the healthy discontent they show may lead to better things.

[Footnote 1: Foreigner.]


Chapter III


“Dreaming caves
Full of the groping of bewildered waves.”

The Maori mind conceived of the Universe as divided into three regions–the Heavens above, the Earth beneath, and the Darkness under the Earth. To Rangi, the Heaven, the privileged souls of chiefs and priests returned after death, for from Rangi had come down their ancestors the gods, the fathers of the heroes. For the souls of the common people there was in prospect no such lofty and serene abode. They could not hope to climb after death to the tenth heaven, where dwelt Rehua, the Lord of Loving-kindness, attended by an innumerable host. Ancient of days was Rehua, with streaming hair. The lightning flashed from his arm-pits, great was his power, and to him the sick, the blind, and the sorrowful might pray.

It was not the upper world of Ao or Light, but an under world of Po or Darkness, to which the spirit of the unprivileged Maori must take its way. Nor was the descent to Te Reinga or Hades a _facilis descensus Averni_. After the death-chant had ceased, and the soul had left the body–left it lying surrounded by weeping blood-relations marshalled in due order–it started on a long journey. Among the Maoris the dead were laid with feet pointing to the north, as it was thither that the soul’s road lay. At the extreme north end of New Zealand was a spot _Muri Whenua_–Land’s End. Here was the Spirits’ Leap. To that the soul travelled, halting once and again on the hill-tops to strip off the green leaves in which the mourners had clad it. Here and there by the wayside some lingering ghost would tie a knot in the ribbon-like leaves of the flax plant–such knots as foreigners hold to be made by the whipping of the wind. As the souls gathered at their goal, nature’s sounds were hushed. The roar of the waterfall, the sea’s dashing, the sigh of the wind in the trees, all were silenced. At the Spirits’ Leap on the verge of a tall cliff grew a lonely tree, with brown, spreading branches, dark leaves and red flowers. The name of the tree was Spray-Sprinkled.[1] One of its roots hung down over the cliff’s face to the mouth of a cavern fringed by much sea-weed, floating or dripping on the heaving sea. Pausing for a moment the reluctant shades chanted a farewell to their fellow-men and danced a last war-dance. Amid the wild yells of the invisible dancers could be heard the barking of their dogs. Then, sliding down the roots, the spirits disappeared in the cave. Within its recesses was a river flowing between sandy shores. All were impelled to cross it. The Charon of this Styx was no man, but a ferrywoman called Rohe. Any soul whom she carried over and who ate the food offered to it on the further bank was doomed to abide in Hades. Any spirit who refused returned to its body on earth and awoke. This is the meaning of what White men call a trance.

[Footnote 1: _Pohutu-kawa_.]

As there were successive planes and heights in Heaven, so there were depths below depths in the Underworld. In the lowest and darkest the soul lost consciousness, became a worm, and returning to earth, died there. Eternal life was the lot of only the select few who ascended to Rangi.

Yet once upon a time there was going and coming between earth and the place of darkness, as the legend of the origin of the later style of tattooing shows. Thus the story runs. The hero Mata-ora had to wife the beautiful Niwa Reka. One day for some slight cause he struck her, and, leaving him in anger, she fled to her father, who dwelt in the Underworld. Thither followed the repentant Mata-ora. On his way he asked the fan-tail bird whether it had seen a human being pass. Yes, a woman had gone by downcast and sobbing. Holding on his way, Mata-ora met his father-in-law, who, looking in his face, complained that he was badly tattooed. Passing his hand over Mata-ora’s face he wiped out with his divine power the blue lines there, and then had him thrown down on the ground and tattooed in a novel, more artistic and exquisitely agonizing fashion. Mata-ora in his pain chanted a song calling upon his wife’s name. Report of this was carried to Niwa Reka, and her heart was touched. She forgave her husband, and nursed him through the fever caused by the tattooing. Happier than Orpheus and Eurydice, the pair returned to earth and taught men to copy the patterns punctured on Mata-ora’s face. But, alas! in their joy they forgot to pay to Ku Whata Whata, the mysterious janitor of Hades, Niwa Reka’s cloak as fee. So a message was sent up to them that henceforth no man should be permitted to return to earth from the place of darkness. In the age of the heroes not only the realms below but the realms above could be reached by the daring. Hear the tale of Tawhaki, the Maori Endymion! When young he became famous by many feats, among others, by destroying the submarine stronghold of a race of sea-folk who had carried off his mother. Into their abode he let a flood of sunshine, and they, being children of the darkness, withered and died in the light. The fame of Tawhaki rose to the skies, and one of the daughters of heaven stole down to behold him at night, vanishing away at dawn. At last the celestial one became his wife. But he was not pleased with the daughter she bore him and, wounded by his words, she withdrew with her child to the skies. Tawhaki in his grief remembered that she had told him the road thither. He must find a certain tendril of a wild vine which, hanging down from the sky to earth, had become rooted in the ground. Therefore with his brother the hero set out on the quest, and duly found the creeper. But there were two tendrils. The brother seized the wrong one; it was loose, and he was swung away, whirled by the wind backwards and forwards from one horizon to the other. Tawhaki took the right ladder, and climbed successfully.[1] At the top he met with adventures, and had even to become a slave, and carry axes and firewood disguised as a little, ugly, old man. At last, however, he regained his wife, became a god, and still reigns above. It is he who causes lightning to flash from heaven.

[Footnote 1: Another version describes his ladder as a thread from a spider’s web; a third as the string of his kite, which he flew so skilfully that it mounted to the sky; then Tawhaki, climbing up the cord, disappeared in the blue vault.]

The man in the moon becomes, in Maori legend, a woman, one Rona by name. This lady, it seems, once had occasion to go by night for water to a stream. In her hand she carried an empty calabash. Stumbling in the dark over stones and the roots of trees she hurt her shoeless feet and began to abuse the moon, then hidden behind clouds, hurling at it some such epithet as “You old tattooed face, there!” But the moon-goddess heard, and reaching down caught up the insulting Rona, calabash and all, into the sky. In vain the frightened woman clutched, as she rose, the tops of a ngaio-tree. The roots gave way, and Rona with her calabash and her tree are placed in the front of the moon for ever, an awful warning to all who are tempted to mock at divinities in their haste.

All beings, gods, heroes and men, are sprung from the ancient union of Heaven and Earth, Rangi and Papa. Rangi was the father and Earth the great mother of all. Even now, in these days, the rain, the snow, the dew and the clouds are the creative powers which come down from Rangi to mother Earth and cause the trees, the shrubs and the plants to grow in spring and flourish in summer. It is the self-same process that is pictured in the sonorous hexameters:–

“Tum pater omnipotens fecundis imbribus Aether Coniugis in gremium laetae descendit, et omnes Magnus alit, magno commixtus corpore, fetus.”

But in the beginning Heaven lay close to the Earth and all was dim and dark. There was life but not light. So their children, tired of groping about within narrow and gloomy limits, conspired together to force them asunder and let in the day. These were Tu, the scarlet-belted god of men and war, Tane, the forest god, and their brother, the sea-god. With them joined the god of cultivated food, such as the kumara, and the god of food that grows wild–such as the fern-root. The conspirators cut great poles with which to prop up Heaven. But the father and mother were not to be easily separated. They clung to each other despite the efforts of their unnatural sons. Then Tane, the tree-god, standing on head and hands, placed his feet against Heaven and, pushing hard, forced Rangi upwards. In that attitude the trees, the children of Tane, remain to this day. Thus was the separation accomplished, and Rangi and Papa must for ever remain asunder. Yet the tears of Heaven still trickle down and fall as dew-drops upon the face of his spouse, and the mists that rise in the evening from her bosom are the sighs of regret which she sends up to her husband on high.[1]

[Footnote 1: Sir George Grey, _Polynesian Mythology_.]

Vengeance, however, fell upon the conspirators. A sixth brother had had nothing to do with their plot. This was Tawhiri-Matea, the god of winds and storms. He loyally accompanied his father to the realms above, whence he descended on his rebel brothers in furious tempests. The sea-god fled to the ocean, where he and his children dwell as fishes. The two gods of plant-food hid in the Earth, and she, forgiving mother that she was, sheltered them in her breast. Only Tu, the god of mankind, stayed erect and undaunted. So it is that the winds and storms make war to this day upon men, wrecking their canoes, tearing down their houses and fences and ruining all their handiwork. Not only does man hold out against these attacks, but, in revenge for the cowardly desertion of Tu by his weaker brethren, men, his people, prey upon the fish and upon the plants that give food whether wild or cultivated.

Space will scarcely permit even a reference to other Maori myths–to the tale, for instance, of the great flood which came in answer to the prayers of two faithful priests as punishment for the unbelief, the discords and the wickedness of mankind; then all were drowned save a little handful of men and women who floated about on a raft for eight moons and so reached Hawaiki. Of the creation of man suffice it to say that he was made by Tiki, who formed him out of red clay, or, as some say, out of clay reddened by his own blood. Woman’s origin was more ethereal and poetic; her sire was a noonday sunbeam, her mother a sylvan echo. Many are the legends of the hero, Maui. He lassooed the sun with ropes and beat him till he had to go slower, and so the day grew longer. The first ropes thus used were of flax, which burned and snapped in the sun’s heat. Then Maui twisted a cord of the tresses of his sister, Ina, and this stayed unconsumed. It was Maui who went to fetch for man’s use the fire which streamed from the finger-nails of the fire goddess, and who fished up the North Island of New Zealand, still called by the Maoris _Te Ika a Maui_, the fish of Maui. He first taught tattooing and the art of catching fish with bait, and died in the endeavour to gain immortality for men. Death would have been done away with had Maui successfully accomplished the feat of creeping through the body of a certain gigantic goddess. But that flippant and restless little bird, the fan-tail, was so tickled at the sight of the hero crawling down the monster’s throat that it tittered and burst into laughter. So the goblin awoke, and Maui died for man in vain.

Such are some of the sacred myths of the Maori. They vary very greatly in different tribes and are loaded with masses of detail largely genealogical. The religious myths form but one portion of an immense body of traditional lore, made up of songs and chants, genealogies, tribal histories, fables, fairy-tales and romantic stories. Utterly ignorant as the Maoris were of any kind of writing or picture-drawing, the volume of their lore is amazing, and is an example of the power of the human memory when assiduously cultivated. Very great care was, of course, taken to hand it down from father to son in the priestly families. In certain places in New Zealand, notably at Wanganui, sacred colleges stood called Whare-kura (Red-house). These halls had to be built by priestly hands, stood turned to the east, and could only be approached by the purified. They were dedicated by sacrifice, sometimes of a dog, sometimes of a human being. The pupils, who were boys of high rank, went, at the time of admission, through a form of baptism. The term of instruction lasted through the autumns and winters of five years. The hours were from sunset to midnight. Only one woman, an aged priestess, was admitted into the hall, and she only to perform certain incantations. No one might eat or sleep there, and any pupil who fell asleep during instruction was at once thrust forth, was expected to go home and die, and doubtless usually did so. Infinite pains were taken to impress on the pupils’ memories the exact wording of traditions. As much as a month would be devoted to constant repetitions of a single myth. They were taught the tricks of the priestly wizard’s trade, and became expert physiognomists, ventriloquists, and possibly, in some cases, hypnotists. Public exhibitions afterwards tested the accuracy of their memories and their skill in witchcraft. On this their fate depended. A successful _Tohunga_, or wizard, lived on the fat of the land; a few failures, and he was treated with discredit and contempt.

Though so undoubted an authority as Mr. William Colenso sums up the old-time Maori as a secularist, it is not easy entirely to agree with him. Not only had the Maori, as already indicated, an elaborate–too elaborate–mythology, but he had a code of equally wide and minute observances which he actually did observe. Not only had he many gods both of light and evil, but the Rev. James Stack, a most experienced student, says that he conceived of his gods as something more than embodiments of power–as beings “interested in human affairs and able to see and hear from the highest of the heavens what took place on earth.” Mr. Colenso himself dwells upon the Maori faith in dreams, omens, and charms, and on the universal dread felt for _kehuas_ or ghosts, and _atuas_ or demon spirits. Moreover, the code of observances aforesaid was no mere secular law. It was the celebrated system of _tapu_ (taboo), and was not only one of the most extraordinary and vigorous sets of ordinances ever devised by barbarous man, but depended for its influence and prestige not mainly upon the secular arm or even public opinion, but upon the injunction and support of unseen and spiritual powers. If a man broke the _tapu_ law, his punishment was not merely to be shunned by his fellows or–in some cases–plundered of his goods. Divine vengeance in one or other form would swiftly fall upon him–probably in the practical shape of the entry into his body of an evil spirit to gnaw him to death with cruel teeth. Men whose terror of such punishment as this, and whose vivid faith in the imminence thereof, were strong enough to kill them were much more, or less, than secularists.

The well-known principle that there is no potent, respected, and lasting institution, however strange, but has its roots in practical usefulness, is amply verified in the case of _tapu_. By it authority was ensured, dignity hedged about with respect, and property and public health protected. Any person, place or thing laid under _tapu_ might not be touched, and sometimes not even approached. A betrothed maiden defended by _tapu_ was as sacred as a vestal virgin of Rome; a shrine became a Holy Place; the head of a chief something which it was sacrilege to lay hands on. The back of a man of noble birth could not be degraded by bearing burdens–an awkward prohibition in moments when no slave or woman happened to be in attendance on these lordly beings. Anything cooked for a chief was forbidden food to an inferior. The author of _Old New Zealand_ tells of an unlucky slave who unwittingly ate the remains of a chiefs dinner. When the knowledge of this frightful crime was flashed upon him, he was seized with internal cramps and pains and, though a strong man, died in a few hours. The weapons and personal effects of a chief were, of course, sacred even in the opinion of a thief, but _tapu_ went further. Even the fire a chief had lit might not be used by commoners. As for priests, after the performance of certain ceremonies they for a time had perforce to become too sacred to feed themselves with their hands. Food would be laid down before them and kneeling, or on all-fours like dogs, they had to pick it up with their teeth. Perhaps their lot might be so far mitigated that a maiden would be permitted to convey food to their mouths on the end of a fern-stalk–a much less disagreeable process for the eater. Growing fields of the sweet potato were sacred for obvious reasons, as were those who were working therein. So were burial-places and the bones of the dead. The author above-mentioned chancing one day on a journey to pick up a human skull which had been left exposed by a land-slide, immediately became an outcast shunned by acquaintances, friends and his own household, as though he were a very leper. Before he could be officially cleansed and readmitted into decent Maori society, his clothing and furniture had to be destroyed, and his kitchen abandoned. By such means did this–to us–ridiculous superstition secure reverence for the dead and some avoidance of infection. To this end the professional grave-digger and corpse-bearer of a Maori village was _tapu_, and lived loathed and utterly apart. Sick persons were often treated in the same way, and inasmuch as the unlucky might be supposed to have offended the gods, the victims of sudden and striking misfortune were treated as law-breakers and subjected to the punishment of _Muru_ described in the last chapter.

Death in Maori eyes was not the Great Leveller, as with us. Just as the destiny of the chief’s soul was different from that of the commoner or slave, so was the treatment of his body.

A slave’s death was proverbially that of a dog, no man regarded it. Even the ordinary free man was simply buried in the ground in a sitting posture and forgotten. But the departure of a chief of rank and fame, of great _mana_ or prestige, was the signal for national mourning. With wreaths of green leaves on their heads, friends sat round the body wailing the long-drawn cry, _Aue! Aue!_ or listening to some funeral chant recited in his praise. Women cut themselves with sharp sea-shells or flakes of volcanic glass till the blood ran down. The corpse sat in state adorned with flowers and red ochre and clad in the finest of mantles. Albatross feathers were in the warrior’s hair, his weapons were laid beside him. The onlookers joined in the lamenting, and shed actual tears–a feat any well-bred Maori could perform at will. Probably a huge banquet took place; then it was held to be a truly great _tangi_. Often the wives of the departed killed themselves in their grief, or a slave was sacrificed in his honour. His soul was believed to mount aloft, and perhaps some star was henceforth pointed out as his eye shining down and watching over his tribe. The tattooed head of the dead man was usually reverently preserved–stored away in some secret recess and brought out by the priest to be gazed upon on high occasions. The body, placed in a canoe-shaped coffin, was left for a time to dry on a stage or moulder in a hollow tree. After an appointed period the bones were scraped clean and laid away in a cavern or cleft known only to a sacred few. They might be thrown down some dark mountain abyss or _torere_. Such inaccessible resting-places of famous chiefs–deep well-like pits or tree-fringed chasms–are still pointed out to the traveller who climbs certain New Zealand summits. But, wherever the warrior’s bones were laid, they were guarded by secrecy, by the dreaded _tapu_, and by the jealous zeal of his people. Even now no Maori tribe will sell such spots, and the greedy or inquisitive _Pakeha_ who profanely explores or meddles with them does so at no small risk.

Far different was the fate of those unlucky leaders who fell in battle, or were captured and slaughtered and devoured thereafter. Their heads stuck upon the posts of the victor’s _pa_ were targets for