THE WAR IN THE SOUTH

“Luck!” said the stupid. “Foresight!” declared the wise. “George Grey
all over!” chuckled the knowing ones. But the fact remained that
Captain Grey had in less than two months partially disentangled the
economic knot, had done something towards smoothing the political
situation, and had brought about the end of a war which for a year and
a half had vexed the peace of New Zealand.

There were not wanting malcontents who prophesied all sorts of evil
because Captain Grey had accepted the submission of Kawiti and Heke,
pardoned them unconditionally, relieved the north of martial law, and
left only a nominal garrison at the Bay of Islands.

But the Governor already knew the Maori well enough to feel sure that a
generous confidence in their honour would strongly appeal to them. And,
besides, when George Grey had resolved upon a course, he held to his
resolution, unstimulated by the smiles of flatterers, unvexed by the
sneers of the envious, undeterred by the expressed opinion, good, bad,
or indifferent, of any living being.

Kawiti was seventy-two when he rushed the British with his favourite
flank attacks. A week after the destruction of his famous fortress,
Ruapekapeka, he wrote to the Governor, proposing peace in a letter very
characteristic of himself, and particularly impressing one fact upon
His Excellency. “Let us have peace between you and me,” he wrote, “_for
I am filled with your riches_” (he meant, “I have had enough of your
cannon-balls”). “Therefore, I say, let you and I make peace. Will you
not? Yes!”

Honi Heke professed not to wish to make peace, and so long as he
actually refused submission, so long was there danger that, if
opportunity served, he would break out again. Once he had submitted,
that possibility would cease to exist; for he had never been known to
break his pledged word.

Waka Nene paid him a visit one day and attempted to talk him over.
Heke admitted that he had every desire for peace, but that, as he
was a great chief (which he was not, save by marriage, as Waka knew
very well), and as he had only fought in defence of his land and his
liberty, which no one should convince him was wrong, he would only
submit if the _Kawana_ came and asked him to do so.

Perhaps no one was more surprised than Heke when the Governor came
and frankly offered him his hand. In the Maori code, the chief who
goes first to the other, or who first sends a “go-between,” is held to
be the one who sues for peace. So Heke shook hands with the Governor
and tried to be condescending. But he knew in his heart that he was
dealing with a shrewder man than himself, and one who would never
hesitate to make a small and not dishonourable concession for the sake
of a great public good. Heke knew that he had received the shadow, and
looked content; Governor Grey was fully aware that he had gained the
substance, and _was_ content.

The conclusion of the whole matter came in May, when old Kawiti boarded
H.M.S. _Diver_, then in the Bay of Islands, and formally tendered his
submission to the Governor, expressing his regret for the trouble he
had given, and his gratitude for the consideration with which he had
been treated. The scene was watched by Waka Nene and other chiefs who
had helped to lay the axe to the root of this venerable tree; but, true
to his course, Governor Grey’s reception of him was so cordial and
kind, that the old warrior soon forgot his humiliation, and remembered
only that he stood in the presence of a friend. _O si sic semper!_

“Jack” Maori did not allow the Governor much breathing time. The
south was seething with discontent. Some of the colonists had never
forgiven the Executive for treating the Massacre of the Wairau as a
political rather than as a personal incident and, since Te Rauparaha
and Rangihaeata were living in the neighbourhood of Wellington, people
there were apprehensive of similar happenings. The Maori, too–and
particularly the restless pair just mentioned–continually grumbled,
and the burden of their lament was, as ever, “Land! Land! Land!”
Moreover, men of their type were not likely to be heedless of the
doings farther north. Colonists knew this, and conceived their fears
well grounded.

They were indeed. Neither Te Rauparaha nor his friend, Rangihaeata,
were men to be trusted should power, linked with opportunity, come
their way. They had already scored heavily off the Pakeha, and their
attitude was closely watched and imitated by their countrymen. A few
miles outside Wellington settlers were treated with an insolence
which enraged them, but which they dared not resent as they would
have done had their numbers been greater and their dwellings less
scattered. Their indignation at the behaviour of the Maori was the
greater, because they now felt it to be justified; for the land most in
dispute–the valley of the Hutt–had been bought by Governor Fitzroy,
and the money paid over to Te Rauparaha. Whether he had or had not made
a fair division with Rangihaeata was not the settlers’ affair.

But the “Tiger of the Wairau,” as Rangihaeata had come to be styled,
chose to think otherwise and, having secured a partner to his liking in
his friend Mamaku, demonstrated his views in his own objectionable way.
Te Rauparaha, the diplomatist, kept himself in the background, though
it is certain that his advice counted for much; and even Rangihaeata
did not at first make himself conspicuous, allowing his brigadier,
Mamaku, to harass the settlers in the valley of the Hutt and its
neighbourhood.

Perhaps too close a watch was kept upon Rangihaeata, and Mamaku
reckoned at less than his proper value. At all events, after a few
months of desultory fighting, it was Mamaku with a hundred men who
attacked a force of British regulars with a dash and spirit seldom seen
in the wars between Maori and Pakeha.

Boulcott’s Farm was the advanced post of the British stockade of
Fort Richmond, on the Hutt, and was held in May, 1846, by Lieutenant
Page of the 58th Regiment and fifty men. The post consisted of a
wooden cottage, several huts and a barn adjoining, which last had
been rendered bullet-proof, and was the only fortified portion of the
cluster of buildings. The ground had been cleared for some little
distance all around, and beyond, on every side, spread the noble forest
for which this region was then famous. The River Hutt was not far away,
and somewhere in the thick scrub beyond the opposite bank lurked the
enemy. So Boulcott’s Farm kept wide awake.

The night of the 15th of May passed quietly. The careful officer made
his rounds, and to every challenge had for answer, “All’s well!” For
none could know that from the fringing scrub on the other side of the
river dark faces peered, and fierce eyes watched the glimmering lantern
as the rounds swung back to quarters, thankful for the prospect of a
quiet night’s rest.

But so it was. Mamaku and his stalwarts were there, watching and
waiting their opportunity to cross the stream and spring upon an easy
prey.

The night wore on; a new day was born, but still the darkness lingered.
The song of a bird, the ring of a settler’s axe, the crash of some
giant tree falling from the ranks of its comrades, these were the few
and infrequent sounds which broke the silence of the Hutt at that
date; but, as the stars began to pale before the dawn of the 16th, the
stillness seemed intensified. The men of the inlying picket felt the
influence of the deep silence of the bush as they had never felt it
before.

The sentry, suspicious of he knew not what, peered at the forms of his
comrades, indistinct in the gloom, and his nerves thrilled as he caught
sight of a standing figure in their rear. The challenge was on his lips
when the figure slowly, but not stealthily, advanced a pace or two, and
the sentry recognised Allen, the bugler, a boy of fifteen. With a sigh
of relief the sentry turned and peered again into the darkness of the
clearing to his front.

Paler grew the stars, some flickered out low down upon the horizon; but
still the darkness and the silence held and—- What was that?

That deep silence was broken at last, but by a sound so faint that only
tensely strained nerves could have caught it. A rustle, nothing more,
as if the first light breath of the morning wind stirred the tiniest
fronds of the fern. Yet the sentry heard it and, with his musket at the
ready, stared into the gloom and prayed for light.

Again! This time he was sure it was no wind, and his eyeballs ached
with the effort to discover the cause of that gentle and, it might be,
ominous rustling. But absolute silence had fallen again.

He glanced at Allen. The lad’s figure was more distinct, and the
sentry saw that he was leaning slightly forward, his hand to his ear.
So he, too, had heard that soft stir, and was still unsatisfied.

Then, as the sentry watched his young comrade, the thick darkness
yielded to the touch of the invisible day, and the black curtain was
changed to sullen grey.

Again a sigh of relief passed the sentry’s lips as he swung round to
his front. Light was coming at last and—- Ah! Look!

No sound this time. Something crept stealthily, slowly–how
slowly!–towards him. Something crouched close to the cleared ground
and moved with infinite patience through the fern.

“My God! They’re on us!”

With the exclamation–perhaps it was also a prayer–the sentry threw
forward his musket and fired–hurriedly, blindly, hitting no one;
and the report was almost drowned in the wild uproar which instantly
followed.

The sentry shrieked a warning; the men of the picket discharged their
muskets and swung them up by the barrel, as half a hundred naked Maori,
upspringing from the fern, yelled and howled with fury, realising that
they had been seen just a moment too soon.

But one sound topped all others. Clear and shrill on the air of that
pallid morning rang the notes of the “alarm,” as young Allen blew with
all the power of his lungs–not so much to summon, as to save, his
sleeping comrades.

Down went the sentry with a bullet in his brain. The men of the picket
reeled to the ground shot, or stabbed, or tomahawked, and still young
Allen blew–“Awake! Awake!”

A huge Maori rushed at him and snatched at the bugle. Still holding the
mouthpiece to his lips, Allen dodged him and–ran? No; stood still and
blew, clear and sharp, “Awake! Awake!”

With a grunt of wrath the savage raised his tomahawk and smote strongly
downwards. The keen steel almost shore the lad’s arm from his shoulder,
and the bugle dropped from his nerveless fingers. But, ere it fell, the
brave boy caught it in his left hand, set it again to his lips, and for
the last time blew the quavering notes–“Awake! Awake!”

Then the Maori struck once more, and Allen died.

Many a brave man wears the proud cross “For Valour.” Was it ever better
deserved than by the boy who sleeps forgotten in a far-off land, and
who simply did his duty?

While this tragedy was being enacted, a fierce attack was made upon
the defenceless quarter of the farm, whence Lieutenant Page, aroused
by poor Allen’s last bugle call, rushed with two of his startled men.
They were immediately driven back; but presently, while the sergeant
with a handful kept the Maori at bay, Page and six men, carrying three
wounded under a hot fire, managed to reach the stockaded barn and join
forces with the bulk of the command. The end of the affair soon came
after that. The British poured out of the barn, led by their officer,
and Mamaku and his Maori, having no liking for cold steel, scampered
across the river, having killed six and wounded four of the small
company of soldiers. Lieutenant Page was subsequently promoted for his
gallantry in beating off a force twice as great as his own.

[Illustration: A boy’s heroism. “Awake! Awake!”]

Whether “Ould Rapparee,” as the soldiers called Te Rauparaha, was
really Rangihaeata’s chief adviser in all this mischief, the “Fighting
Governor”[64] suspected him of being so, and determined to put him
where he could do no more harm for a time. “Ould Rap” was living not
far from Porirua, near Wellington on the west, without the faintest
suspicion that the _Kawana’s_ keen eye was upon him, and a most
indignant man was he when he awoke in the grey of a winter dawn to find
himself in the grasp of a number of sturdy tars. The little old fellow
wriggled like an eel, fought, kicked, and bit, shouting lustily the
while, “Ngati-Toa! Ngati-Toa to the rescue!” But the Ngati-Toa, seeing
what was toward, judged it wiser to remain a little longer on their
sleeping mats, and the warrior was carried off into what he chose to
consider durance vile. Since he was treated as a State prisoner, and
merely detained on board a ship of war for a year, he had only the fact
of his captivity to complain of; and for this he had himself to thank.

Governor Grey now turned his attention to Rangihaeata, who had
withdrawn to the Horokiwi valley, a most impracticable region, densely
wooded, midway between Porirua and Pahatanui. Here he had retired
behind a stockade of immense strength, upon which, by Captain Grey’s
advice, no assault was made. New tactics of blockade were tried, a
method of warfare which the Tiger of the Wairau relished as little as
he had expected it: for there had been no time to lay in supplies.
Consequently, he and his men were soon starved out and dispersed; nor
did Rangihaeata ever again appear in arms against the Government.

Trouble arose early in 1847 at Whanganui. Disputes regarding land
tenure had been frequent and acute; but it would not be fair to ascribe
to that ever-burning question the shocking massacre and the outbreak
which followed it. It was a boyish prank which this time fired the
train of events and once more set Maori and Pakeha face to face in
armed opposition.

On the 18th of April a youthful midshipman of the _Calliope_ was
“fooling” with a pistol, which exploded and wounded a Putiki chief
in the face. The wound was attended to by the English surgeon, and
the chief made light of the matter; but certain “irreconcilables”
proclaimed the middy’s act an attempt at deliberate murder, and swore
to take _utu_. That these men were actuated by sheer hate of the Pakeha
is clear from the fact that, not being related to the Putiki chief,
they had no right to exact vengeance on his behalf. Yet revenge him
they did, and in atrocious fashion.

A settler named Gilfinnan, his wife and eight children, lived at
Matarana, a lonely spot five miles from Whanganui. Six natives
descended upon this solitary homestead two days after the midshipman’s
unlucky prank, and barbarously murdered Mrs. Gilfinnan, two young boys
and a girl of fourteen. The eldest daughter was severely injured and
Gilfinnan, bleeding from a tomahawk gash in the neck, staggered into
the town with the dismal information.




Then Honi Wiremu (John Williams), a Christian chief, called upon six
other young men to follow him, and without an hour’s delay sped up
the river in pursuit of those who had dishonoured the Maori name. The
murderers had made fifty miles when the canoe of the avengers dashed
into sight and swiftly came abreast of their own. Before the assassins
could lift a hand, Patapo, a young chief, gripping his tomahawk between
his teeth, sprang into their canoe, instantly upsetting it, and in a
few minutes the ruffians were dragged from the water, handcuffed and
carried prisoners to Whanganui.

The district being at that time under martial law, Captain Laye of the
58th Regiment made short work of the murderers, four of whom he hanged
out of hand, after general court-martial, while the fifth, a mere boy,
was transported for life.

The torch was alight now: but it was three weeks later before the
settlers saw the surrounding hills dark with hostile Maori, who opened
fire on the town, the stockade and, impudently enough, on the gunboat
in the river. The defence was too weak to allow of operations by
daylight; but, after nightfall, when the natives thought that they
might safely loot outlying houses, the soldiers, undismayed by superior
numbers, chased them from the town, routing them utterly and slaying,
with many more, their old chief, Maketu, a man of note.

Early in June reinforcements were dispatched to the Whanganui post, and
the “Fighting Governor” himself arrived. How useful Captain Grey could
be in a crisis such as this, and how intimate was his knowledge of
human nature, is evidenced by what occurred shortly after his arrival,
when a deputation waited on him with the request that he would remove
the inhabitants from Whanganui and transfer them to Wellington.

Captain Grey studied the faces of the men for a few moments, and then
replied, “How many of you really wish to effect this change? Let all
who desire _to run away from the natives_ cross to the other side of
the room.”

Not a man stirred from his place and, though some did eventually leave
Whanganui, the settlement was not deserted. To-day Whanganui is the
centre of one of the finest pastoral districts in New Zealand.

Throughout June, Colonel McCleverty tried without success to lure the
Maori from their strong entrenchments; but towards the end of the month
he made a demonstration in their front and, after some skirmishing,
played the old trick of seeming to retreat in disorder. The enemy
were outside their works in a twinkling, yelling triumphantly; but
the soldiers turned at bay and drove them back over their breastworks
at the point of the bayonet. This was the last of it. Winter had
set in and the Maori, having had enough of fighting combined with
semi-starvation, came in under a flag of truce and proposed peace on
the ground that they considered they had killed sufficient soldiers!

Knowing the Maori mind, the Governor appeared to resent this remark and
replied that, though he would discontinue fighting, he would blockade
the river until peace was sued for in more seemly phrase. Spring was
well advanced before the haughty chiefs crushed down their pride, and
not a craft of any sort had been allowed up stream since the _Kawana’s_
fiat went forth. So, being unable to obtain tobacco, tea, sugar, and
other luxuries, they swallowed humble pie, and wrote begging His
Excellency to proclaim peace.

Numbers of Maori could by this time read and write their own language,
and many had become proficient in English. A news-sheet in their own
language gave them information regarding current events; the Bible and
some other books had been rendered into Maori, and in spite of wars and
rumours of wars, civilisation advanced apace.

With the conflicts round Whanganui terminated the first period of the
long struggle between Maori and Pakeha. It had lasted over two years,
it had made its influence felt from Auckland in the north to Wellington
in the south, and it had demonstrated to the Pakeha that there were
more ways of fighting than were to be found between the covers of the
Red Book. Would the Pakeha remember that lesson when they next met the
Maori in the field?

The meeting was to come; but not until eleven years of fruitful peace
had passed, bringing with them all the beneficial changes which make
for the future greatness of a young country. And for those quiet
years with all their opportunities, he would be ungenerous indeed
who would not give the credit and the thanks in large–perhaps in
largest–measure to the Governor, Captain George Grey.

He had not yet been two years in the colony which he had found in
such a parlous state; yet, as once before, in South Australia, he had
brought order out of disorder, and by his firmness and consummate tact
effected a by no means sham reconciliation between his own proud race
and the equally proud, and far more turbulent, Maori folk. So far
his greatest honours had been won in time of war. Let us see how he
comported himself during the next six years which remained to him of
that peace which he had done so much to bring about.