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Our Empire Story by  H. E. Marshall
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HONGI THE WARRIOR

[195] MR. MARSDEN could not stay long in New Zealand, for his work was in Australia. But there came with him two missionaries, and they stayed when he left. One of these missionaries taught the Maoris how to build houses and boats; the other taught how to make fishing-lines and other useful things. For Marsden did believe in teaching the savages only to be Christian. He thought it best to teach them first how to live decent and comfortable lives, and how to trade. "You cannot form a nation without trade and the civil arts," he said.

Before he left New Zealand Marsden bought about two hundred acres of land, paying twelve axes for it to the chief to whom it belonged. Upon this the missionaries built their houses and schools, and this was the first piece of land really possessed by the British in New Zealand, and their title to it was duly set down in writing. "Know all men to whom these shall come, that I, Anodee O Gunna, King of Ranghechoo, in the Island of New Zealand, have, for twelve axes to me in hand now paid and delivered by the Reverend Samuel Marsden, given, granted, bargained, and sold, all that parcel of land in the district of Hoshee, in the Island of New Zealand, for ever."

This writing was signed by two Englishmen, and as Gunna could not write, Hongi drew a copy of [196] the tattooing on his face upon the parchment, and Gunna set his mark to it. Thus the white man first set his hand upon the land.

This bargain being settled, Marsden returned to Australia. He was gladly received by his friends there, for they had hardly hoped to see him return alive from the dreaded cannibal islands.

Although Samuel Marsden was a clergyman and wanted to make the Maoris Christian, he thought the best way of doing that was to teach them how to live better lives, how to plant wheat, build houses, and live in peace with their neighbours. "Hoes, spades and axes," he said, "are silent but sure missionaries."

So he encouraged them to trade. But one thing he would not sell to the Maoris. That thing was firearms. He sent a blacksmith to live among the heathen and teach them his trade. But he was forbidden to make or mend any weapon. No missionary was allowed to sell guns, and when Marsden discovered that one had disobeyed his orders he was sent away in disgrace.

But Hongi, although he had made peace at Marsden's bidding, was a fierce, proud warrior. He lived for revenge, and loved power. "There is but one king in Britain," he said, "and there shall be but one in New Zealand." He resolved that he should be that king. But before he began his conquests he paid a visit to England.

In England Hongi was feted and made much of. For it was almost as good as going to a wild beast show to dine with a cannibal chief. He became a "lion" and went from one fine house to another, being everywhere loaded with presents. Hongi saw many wonderful things, but he liked best to watch the soldiers and to wander among the arms and armour in the Tower.

Hongi went one day to see the king, and he, knowing [197] his love for soldiers, gave him a suit of old armour. Of all the presents he received, Hongi prized his suit of armour most.

At last, his mind filled with all the splendours he had seen, Hongi sailed homeward. On his way he stopped ay Sydney, and there he sold all his fine presents, except only his armour. With the money he bought guns and ammunition, and once more set out for New Zealand.

Then Hongi began his career of conquest. None now could stand against him. Battle after battle was fought. Wooden spears went down before his thunder of guns, and after the battles the victors rejoiced in horrid revelry upon the bodies of their foes.

Thousands were slain, hundreds more men, women, and children were led captives as slaves. From end to end, North Island was filled with wrath and tears. Hongi stalked in conquering pride, glorying in the numbers he had killed and eaten.

The missionaries were in despair. All the good they had done, all Marsden's peacemaking, seemed to have been in vain. For six years the country was filled with slaughter and woe, and the beautiful fernland was turned into a desert, where men wandered seeking revenge and blood.

But at last Hongi's career of war and triumph came to an end. Other tribes saw that their only safety lay in getting guns to fight guns. And guns they got. And so the slaughter was made worse, until at length Hongi was wounded and died. He died a warrior, "Kia toa, kia toa," he said, "be brave, be brave."

Hongi lived and died in the shedding of blood, yet he never harmed the missionaries. They were doers of good, he said. He was Marsden's friend, and he sent his children to the missionary schools, but he himself never became a Christian.

[198] After Hongi's death the missionaries once more became peacemakers, and they persuaded the lawless tribes to lay down their weapons. But it was uphill work, for bad, white men were constantly undoing the good which the missionaries did. So battles, and murders, and horrid cannibal feasts went on.

Sometimes, too, without meaning it, white men made the Maoris angry. It was, for instance, a great crime to touch anything which, for some reason or another, had been declared to be "tapu," that is sacred. White people did not understand the rules of tapu, and often in sheer ignorance they broke them. According to Maori law this was a sin which could only be wiped out by blood, so, often for seemingly harmless deeds, white men were horribly murdered.

Yet in spite of all dangers, in spite of the dark tales of horror, some settlers were at length lured to the shores. For the land was wonderfully fertile, and people hoped to make great fortunes. So a shipload of colonists arrived, determined to make their homes in New Zealand.

But just at this time the islanders were at war with each other, and soon after they landed the colonists saw a war dance. It was night time. Fires and flaring torches lit up the dusky forms of five or six hundred warriors, who stood in four long rows, swaying and stamping in time to the chant of their leader. With waving arms and rolling eyes they joined in chorus. Thrusting out their tongues, grinning horribly, in the flickering light they seemed like dancing demons. Now uttering loud yells, now hissing like a thousand serpents, now crashing their weapons together, they danced on. Bending, swaying, hissing, yelling, they went through all the actions of war, in fancy killing and eating their enemies. The sight was too much for the new-come colonists. Filled with [199] horror and dread, they fled from the land as quickly as possible.

Yet in spite of all their wild savagery Marsden loved the Maoris. He returned again and again to visit them. Him they always greeted with joy; him they were always ready to obey. When for the last time he came among them he was an old white-haired man, unable to ride or walk far. But, glad to serve him, the Maoris carried him about in a litter, and when he spoke of trying to ride they were quite hurt. Soon after his last visit to New Zealand Marsden died, regretted and mourned by all who knew him, but by none so much as by the Maoris, who had lost in him a good friend.


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