Page images

Zealand, and exhaustive pre- fort, which was the headcautions are taken to guard quarters of our troops during against its importation. Every the greater part of the Maori dog before setting paw on the war; but it is now fast falling mainland has to pass six months to ruin. The enclosing trenches of isolated probation on Quar- are overgrown with grasses, antine Island. There was one the high earthen banks are prisoner there when we visited luxuriant with sweetbrier and it, a fine collie, who had evi- wreathed with convolvulus. dently been a woman's pet, for Near it, commanding a maghe followed us about all day, nificent view, is the Soldiers' and wailed disconsolately on Cemetery: its many graves the little wharf when the in- recall the reality of the war, exorable hour of parting had which even now seems a thing come. Looking back as we of ancient history. Beyond steamed homewards towards that is the beautiful old orthe sunset, flaring and glowing chard-encircled mission-station, behind Mount Eden, we saw that he had scrambled out to the farthest point of rock, and was gazing wistfully after us across the cruel waters that lay between him and freedom.

In direct contrast to the vital Auckland may be mentioned Tauranga, where we sojourned for a space. It seems inconsistent when writing of a country still in its first freshness to speak of one of its towns as obsolete, forgotten. Yet, of a truth, Tauranga impressed us as the embodiment of decay. Before the installation of railway communication between Auckland and Rotorua, Tauranga was the point from which tourists took coach to the Hot Lake district; but now that the traffic has been diverted elsewhere, Tauranga seems almost to have lost its reason for existence.

Situated in the Bay of Plenty, the harbour of Tauranga is enclosed by a flat peninsula ending abruptly in a high conical hill-the Mount. Overlooking the bay stands the deserted

at present used as a private residence.

That Tauranga was originally planned to fill an important part in the fortunes of the colony may be noted from the proportions of its broad, boulevard-like streets, shaded on either side with long rows of giant weeping - willows, trees whose drooping habit adds to the undefinable air of sadness overhanging the town. A handsome post office, surely designed in the days of Tauranga's glory, holds a prominent position, and close circling the curve of the water runs a short line of shops-"The Strand "— but further sign of business there is none.

Living there is cheap even for New Zealand, how cheap I can only judge by inference. The best hotel in the town boarded us adults for 30s. a-week, which included the exclusive use of a private sittingroom, three heavy meals a-day, afternoon tea, and frequent quite gratuitous services of apricots and peaches. Our

first experience of a colonial country hotel had at least the charm of novelty. There is no class distinction there: your next neighbour at table may be a steward from the ship that brought you, or the driver of the coach you propose leaving with on the morrow.

Strips of muslin were laid over the long tables between meals to frustrate the ravages of the flies; and the same reason supplied every sugar-basin with a lid. Tumblers were set by each cover; but as only tea was drunk at table, they were evidently placed there as a matter of tradition, and, probably with a view to the exclusion of dust, were invariably inverted. Every bedroom was thoughtfully provided with a comb and brush-a fact which gained our credence for the story of a way-back colonial girl who on her first visit to an Auckland hotel was insulted to find that her own was the only occupied room unprovided with brushes. "But I wasn't going to let that hotel-keeper think he could take advantage of me," she said when relating her experience. "I just walked into the next room where the folks were out, and used the hairbrushes he had given them, and jolly nice silver-backed ones they were too!" A threaded needle was stuck in the wall beside the mirror, while a knotted rope was suspended from the window-sill for use in case of fire. And-to the gratification, doubtless, of the majority of her father's guests-the one or other of the innkeeper's buxom daughters, who waited on us,

nightly performed at the drawing-room pianoforte, rendering "The Lost Chord" and like ditties with all the vigour of a fine pair of lungs.

Property was amazingly low in value in the Bay of Plenty. During our short residence a pretty house set in an acre and a quarter of fruitful ground, in a good position, sold for £350. When I add that the leader of Tauranga society kept up a carriage and a justly earned reputation for hospitality upon an income of less than £100 a-year, I need say nothing more to prove the economy of living there.


The tone of Tauranga is high. No shadow has ever overlain its reputation for decorum, though within a brief day's journey lies a district said to be mainly inhabited by remittance folks, within whose precincts the arrival of periodic mails is the signal for outbursts of feasting-the times between being marked by shortness of commons. Vague rumours brought by stray travellers, whose route has led through this land, whisper that its denizens reck not of times and seasons, and are fast losing all idea of the fitness of things. Ladies attired in décolletée evening dress, with unkempt hair and unshod feet, have been descried by the light of the noonday sun scattering grain to their fowls, their silken and broidered robes trailing in the dust: a use whereof was surely never dreamt by those wellintentioned relatives who despatched their discarded raiment to clothe their exiled friends.

In Auckland and Tauranga, both towns frequented by the natives, we had many opportunities of studying the Maori, both on holiday and in his workaday, or, to put it more exactly, laze-a-day life.

The Maori is not strictly beautiful; but he is valiant and, let us trust, good. As for his better half, in her native dress, with tattooed lips and chin, and long, single eardrop of greenstone, and with an appropriate background of treefern or ti-tree scrub, she is savage and not unpleasing. But in town, when her fancy has been permitted to riot among the violent aniline dyes of the drapers' cheap lots, and she is dressed to the bent of her barbaric taste, she is a hideosity.

Begin at the ground and picture a pair of large, flat, brown feet and thick ankles appearing beneath a badly cut skirt of some howling design in checks; above hangs a short and disproportionately full jacket of scarlet, purple, magenta, or green velveteen; a neckerchief of yellow, blue, or crimson encircles the neck, and topping all is a grotesque tattooed face half concealed by the flapping frills of a brilliant pink sun-bonnet. No sketch of a Maori lady of respectability is complete without a pipe-frequently a heavy silver-mounted one-worn in the mouth, the united effect of the pipes, the frilled bonnet, and the gorgeous gowns being to bestow upon the worthy dames the appearance of animated Aunt Sallies. One thing notable regarding

the Maori woman is that, though the child's sun-bonnet is her favourite wear, she takes kindly to a man's soft felt hat, but seldom condescends to don an ordinary trimmed "confection." Her reason for this exclusiveness would be interesting to learn.


The aspect of the men is decidedly less remarkable. Tattooing is becoming rare among them. As with other races, the women seem to cling to the old customs long after the male portion of their community has discarded them. Only the very old men tattooed, and now some married women may be met who, on account of the extremely painful nature of the operation, have refused to undergo an ordeal that was once imperative. Truth to tell, a tattooed face accords but ill with a tall hat, though one old chief whom we met contrived to maintain a dignified demeanour while presenting both these attributes to the public gaze.

Nose-rubbing, which is still in vogue among the Maoris, is an ugly and, when performed in the earnest native fashion, a disgusting and lengthy performance. Two women meeting after a lengthened period will hand their babies to their docile husbands to hold, and placing their faces together, will rub noses and weep floods of tears, until, when at the close of ten minutes or so the faces are withdrawn, they are streaming with moisture.

One day we saw a Maori boy meeting a number of his relatives in a street car. He

gently pressed his nose against those of his tattooed grandparents, lifting his hat the while; then completed his salutations by kissing or shaking hands with his younger relatives. The fact that he only rubbed noses with the older people seemed to point to the fact that, like tattooing, noserubbing may soon be a custom of the past.

The genuine Maori is a noble savage, generous, hospitable, heroic, and loyal, a notable warrior, a staunch comrade. An officer who commanded a regiment of friendly natives during the late Maori war assured us that so great was his respect for their martial capacity that he would feel no hesitation in leading fifty Maori braves against a hundred British soldiers. Fighting for fighting's sake, they scorn to take advantage of an antagonist's weakness. Once when a tribe, whose ammunition had become exhausted, declared themselves vanquished, their magnanimous conquerors insisted on their accepting half the stock of cartridges, and continuing the battle.

The decadents of the Hot Lake district exhibit few of these fine characteristics. Instead of being stalwart, muscular men, full of daring and actuated by that wealth of adventurous spirit which drove their forefathers to discover and colonise New Zealand, they are inert, sensuous, and exceedingly adipose.

This complete degeneration need not surprise. The entire conditions of life in that region

of geysers, mud volcanoes, and fumeroles are unnatural. The dues paid by visitors to the tribes owning the "wonderland" serve serve to supply them with necessities, permitting those of the men-and they are many-who are disinclined to accept Government work, such as road-making, to pass their days in sheer idleness, loafing, smoking, and gambling, and dandling their babes.

At sunset one evening we sauntered into a Maori village, and found ourselves in the grassy enclosure wherein sat the tribe eating its evening meal. Some natives might have resented our invasion. Not so the Maoris. With unaffected pleasure they made us welcome. Swarthy faces beamed upon us; many brown hands were outstretched to grasp ours; and tattooed lips, in hospitable if quite unintelligible language, invited us to partake. Round two large dishes the entire party of men, women, girls, youths, and babes were squatted; and it was interesting to see that in this tribal commune the smallest child had evidently as much right to put his paw in the dish and help himself as had his elders. In a pool of gravy in a tin pan lay a large ham-bone at which an infant was picking; but the chief provision lay in a great pie-dish full of kumaras (sweet-potatoes) and some green vegetable. In addition, there was a splendid loaf of bread, round, flat, nicely browned, and closely resembling a huge wheaten scone. The method of cooking was primitive but apparently efficient. Catch

ing the glimmering of firelight in one of the larger huts, we entered and found that it proceeded from some glowing woodashes on the floor. Over the embers were set iron bars which formed a rude grill, whereon was placed a large tin pan containing another loaf, while a third still in the dough stage stood on the floor ready for baking.

As usual, there was little sign of occupation. The ground being fertile, the husbandry required to support a tribe is small in comparison to the number of its able-bodied members, and is consequently easily overtaken. Pigs, thanks to Captain Cook, run wild in the bush, wood-pigeons abound, and the rearing of sheep and fowls necessitates but little care.

In one thing is the Maori individual: in all else he is content to share the common stock, but each man grows the tobacco required for his own and his wahine's consumption - which shows that there is one appetite that refuses to be governed by communism.

Declining many invitations to share the feast, we cordially shook the extended hands and departed.

We knew that, following the wont of most heathen nations, the Maoris have the habit of frankly accepting the tenets of a religion that is new to them, and of as frankly discarding them when the novelty has worn off; but we did not expect to find them bent on evangelising. As we left the camp we met a little monkey - like old man, whose face was tattooed

all over. He wore a Salvation Army cap, and the chief who escorted us, indicating the army badge fastened on his coat, said


"He good Maori. He teach heathen."

"Kapai!" (Good!) said the Artist, approvingly patting the badge, at which the wizened face of the aforetime cannibal wrinkled up into a beatific grin.

Like all people living at close quarters with nature, the Maori is hedged about by a strong faith in the visionary. To this day he is afraid to visit many parts of the Tongariro group, which so long lay under a strict tapu. And no native, however brave, is so daring as to attempt to catch one of the wild horses abounding in that region, full credence being accorded the belief that many malignant spirits inhabit this volcanic quarter, and that the horses have no actual existence, but are merely decoys in the service of these spectral fiends.

For superstitious reasons that are resolutely kept secret, a tribe may suddenly vacate its settlement. From Tauranga we rowed across the bay to a native village, which some years earlier had been thus abruptly deserted. The real reason of the exodus had never transpired. Hidden from the lonely beach by a matted fence and a line of tall fir and eucalyptus trees was the grassy lawn round which the deserted homes were grouped. One lengthy whare, evidently erected for the temporary accommodation of a large influx of guests during some tangi or special ceremony, had suc

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »