| Our Empire Story|
|by H. E. Marshall|
|Vivid and picturesque account of the principal events in the building of the British Empire. Traces the development of the British colonies from days of discovery and exploration through settlement and establishment of government. Includes stories of the five chief portions of the Empire: Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and India. Ages 10-16 |
"When will your valour begin to rage?
When will your valour be strong?
Ah! when the tide murmurs,
Ah! when the tide roars.
Bid farewell to your children,
For what more can you do?
You see how the braves are coming amain,
Like the lofty exulting peaks of the hills,
They yield, they yield! O Fame!"
 HEKE'S fame spread far and wide. He boasted of the defeat of
the white men, and threatened that when the moon was
full he would attack Auckland and sweep it from the
earth, as he had swept Kororarika. All the colony was
shaken with fear. Everywhere towns were fortified.
Everywhere settlers drilled, and practised, and made
ready for war.
The governor saw that he must now fight in good
earnest. For only after Heke was subdued could there be
peace. So again he sent to Australia for soldiers.
Meanwhile Waka Nene and the friendly Maoris helped the
British, and took up arms against their lawless countrymen.
After the sack of Kororarika, Heke and his warriors
marched away to a strong, native fortress or "pah"
called Okaihau. There Waka Nene followed him, and there
he was joined later by a British force under Colonel
 When the British soldiers arrived they were very much
astonished at sight of their allies. Was it possible,
they asked, that they were expected to fight side by
side with a rabble of half-naked savages? Their
astonishment became still greater when the Maoris, in
their honour, danced a war-dance, which Waka Nene's
wife led, and in which Waka Nene himself joined,
dressed in the uniform of a British officer.
It was May when the troops landed. But May in New
Zealand is like November at home. The weather was cold
and wet. For four days the men marched through almost
pathless forest, under torrents of rain. The way was so
bad that no baggage-wagons could pass along it. So the
men had neither tents nor proper food. Each man carried
his own biscuits and slept upon the damp ground. Thus
wearied and hungry, they arrived before Heke's pah.
Between a large lake and a wooded hill lay the
fortress. It was built of two rows of tree-trunks
twelve feet high, and so closely set together that only
the barrel of a gun could pass between. The outer fence
was covered with flax, and between the two was a deep
ditch. Without cannon it was impossible to take such a
fort, and the British had only a rocket-tube.
The British began their attack by firing their rockets.
The first struck away a strong post, burst inside the
pah, and frightened the defenders so much that some of
them were ready to flee. But no one being hurt they
took courage again. Then as rocket after rocket fell
wide of the mark, they watched them with surprise and
scorn. "What prize can be won by such a gun?" they
sneered, and they were no longer afraid.
Presently they gained so much courage that they came
out of their pah to fight. But the British soldiers
 charged them with fixed bayonets and drove them back
So for many hours the fight lasted, the Maoris firing
in safety from behind their strong palisade, against
which the British vainly wasted their shot. Lead
whistled through the air in all directions, the whole
country seemed on fire, "and brave men worked their
At length the fighting ceased and both sides retired to
rest. As the British soldiers sat round their
camp-fires they heard a strange sound coming from the
Maori pah. the sound of singing.
Plaintive and wailing it rose and fell in the still
air. It was the Maoris singing their evening hymn.
"Fight and pray," had said their priests. "Touch not
the spoils of the slain, eat not of human flesh lest
the God of the missionaries should be angry. And be
careful not to offend the Maori gods. It is good to
have more than one God to trust to. Be brave, be
strong, be patient." So ignorant and simple, trusting
in they knew not what, the Maoris now sang a hymn to
the God of the missionaries.
Next day, seeing how hopeless it was to try to take the
fort without cannon, Hume marched his soldiers away.
The people in Auckland had been eagerly awaiting the
news that Heke was captured. And when instead of that
news the worn-out, haggard troops reached the town,
they were struck with dismay. Was it possible that two
hundred and fifty savages had been more than a match
for four hundred well-trained British soldiers? It was
the second time that the Maoris had beaten "the wearers
of red garments," and now the British began to tremble
for their hold on the land.
Meanwhile Heke swaggered about in the glory of victory.
He wrote letters to the governor which were
 about peace
indeed, but which breathed war in every line.
More soldiers, however, now arrived from Australia
under Colonel Despard. They brought with them four
cannon, and the colonists began to feel more cheerful.
The last fight had taught Heke that in the open his
soldiers could not stand against British soldiers. He
had learned that his safety was in the strength of his
fortresses. So now he retired to a pah called Oheawai,
which was far stronger than Okaihau.
Here the British resolved to attack him. But it was
with great difficulty that the cannon were brought
along the rugged path through the forest to Heke's
camp, for they were ship's guns, and the wheels were
only fifteen inches high. Many a time they stuck fast
in the marshy forest, but the friendly Maoris harnessed
themselves to the carriages, and at length all
difficulties were passed, and in the dusk of a winter's
evening the whole army encamped before Heke's fort.
That night there was little sleep in either camp.
Through the night as they lay awake on the ground, the
British soldiers heard the Maoris in their pah praying,
singing, and talking.
In the morning the fight began. The great cannon-balls
crashed and crashed against the huge, wooden walls
without doing much damage. And when all the heavy
ammunition was done only a small breach had been made.
But small though it was, Colonel Despard, against the
advice of his officers and of the friendly Maoris,
ordered a party to storm it.
"SHOUTING THEIR WAR-CRY, THE BRITISH CHARGED THE BREACH."
Bravely the soldiers obeyed his orders. Shouting their
war-cry, they charged the breach. Bravely they fought
and fell. The breach was narrow. It was defended by
hundreds of well-armed Maoris. Fighting
 valiantly, the
British passed the outer fence; but the inner fence was
still unbroken. From it a hail of bullets blazed upon
the gallant stormers, and man after man went down.
After ten minutes of awful slaughter and confusion the
British fell back, leaving half their number dead upon
Then followed a night of horror. The dead and dying lay
untended round the pah. Through the still night air the
groans of the wounded were heard, mingled with the
songs of triumph sung by the exulting savages.
"O Youth of sinewy force,
O man of martial strength,
Behold the sign of power!
In my hand I hold the scalp
Of the Kawau Tatakaha."
Often too, through the night the watch-cry of the pah
was heard. "Come on! Come on! soldiers for revenge.
Come on! Stiff lie your dead by the fence of my pah.
Come on, come on!"
Round their camp-fires the British sat wakeful,
watchful, downcast, eating their hearts out in anger
For two days there was little fighting. The Maoris hung
out a flag of truce and told the British they might
bury their dead. Then more ammunition having arrived
for the great guns, the bombardment again began. Soon
the breach already made became much larger, and a
second assault was planned.
When morning dawned the pah was to be taken. But during
the night the Maoris, seeing they could hold their
fortress no longer, slipped quietly away to the forest,
leaving their empty pah to the British. So quietly did
they go that the British knew nothing about it until
 were told by a friend that the Maoris were already
ten miles away.
It was hard to fight such a slippery foe. It was
useless to try to follow them into the forest wilds, so
Colonel Despard marched his men away to Kororarika to
rest. And the governor, hoping that now Heke might be
persuaded to make peace, told him not to fight any more
for the present.
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