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CHAPTER XXXV: Fifty Miles in Four Hours - Comfortable Cars - Town of Wauganui - Plenty of Maoris - On the Increase - Compliments to the Maoris - The Missionary Ways all Wrong - The Tabu among the Maoris - A Mysterious Sign - Curious Warmonuments - Wellington .
The Autocrat of Russia possesses more power than any other man in the earth; but he cannot stop a sneeze.
- Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar.
WAUGANIUI, December 3. A pleasant trip, yesterday, per Ballarat Fly. Four hours. I do not know the distance, but it must have been well along toward fifty miles. The Fly could have spun it out to eight hours and not discommoded me; for where there is comfort, and no need for hurry, speed is of no value - at least to me; and nothing that goes on wheels can be more comfortable, more satisfactory, than the New Zealand trains. Outside of America there are no cars that are so rationally devised. When you add the constant presence of charming scenery and the nearly constant absence of dust - well, if one is not content then, he ought to get out and walk. That would change his spirit, perhaps? I think so. At the end of an hour you would find him waiting humbly beside the track, and glad to be taken aboard again.
Much horseback riding, in and around this town; many comely girls in cool and pretty summer gowns; much Salvation Army; lots of Maoris; the faces and bodies of some of the old ones very tastefully frescoed. Maori Council House over the river-large, strong, carpeted from end to end with matting, and decorated with elaborate wood carvings, artistically executed. The Maoris were very polite.
I was assured by a member of the House of Representatives that the native race is not decreasing, but actually increasing slightly. It is another evidence that they are a superior breed of savages. I do not call to mind any savage race that built such good houses, or such strong and ingenious and scientific fortresses, or gave so much attention to agriculture, or had military arts and devices which so nearly approached the white man's. These, taken together with their high abilities in boat-building, and their tastes and capacities in the ornamental arts modify their savagery to a semi-civilization - or at least to, a quartercivilization.
It is a compliment to them that the British did not exterminate them, as they did the Australians and the Tasmanians, but were content with subduing them, and showed no desire to go further. And it is another compliment to them that the British did not take the whole of their choicest lands, but left them a considerable part, and then went further and protected them from the rapacities of landsharks - a protection which the New Zealand Government still extends to them. And it is still another compliment to the Maoris that the Government allows native representation - in both the legislature and the cabinet, and gives both sexes the vote. And in doing these things the Government also compliments itself; it has not been the custom of the world for conquerors to act in this large spirit toward the conquered.
The highest class white men Who lived among the Maoris in the earliest time had a high opinion of them and a strong affection for them. Among the whites of this sort was the author of "Old New Zealand;" and Dr. Campbell of Auckland was another. Dr. Campbell was a close friend of several chiefs, and has many pleasant things to say of their fidelity, their magnanimity, and their generosity. Also of their quaint notions about the white man's queer civilization, and their equally quaint comments upon it. One of them thought the missionary had got everything wrong end first and upside down. "Why, he wants us to stop worshiping and supplicating the evil gods, and go to worshiping and supplicating the Good One! There is no sense in that. A good god is not going to do us any harm."
The Maoris had the tabu; and had it on a Polynesian scale of comprehensiveness and elaboration. Some of its features could have been importations from India and Judea. Neither the Maori nor the Hindoo of common degree could cook by a fire that a person of higher caste had used, nor could the high Maori or high Hindoo employ fire that had served a man of low grade; if a low-grade Maori or Hindoo drank from a vessel belonging to a high-grade man, the vessel was defiled, and had to be destroyed. There were other resemblances between Maori tabu and Hindoo caste-custom.
Yesterday a lunatic burst into my quarters and warned me that the Jesuits were going to "cook" (poison) me in my food, or kill me on the stage at night. He said a mysterious sign was visible upon my posters and meant my death. He said he saved Rev. Mr. Haweis's life by warning him that there were three men on his platform who would kill him if he took his eyes off them for a moment during his lecture. The same men were in my audience last night, but they saw that he was there. "Will they be there again to-night?" He hesitated; then said no, he thought they would rather take a rest and chance the poison. This lunatic has no delicacy. But he was not uninteresting. He told me a lot of things. He said he had "saved so many lecturers in twenty years, that they put him in the asylum." I think he has less refinement than any lunatic I have met.
December 8. A couple of curious war-monuments here at Wanganui. One is in honor of white men "who fell in defence of law and order against fanaticism and barbarism." Fanaticism. We Americans are English in blood, English in speech, English in religion, English in the essentials of our governmental system, English in the essentials of our civilization; and so, let us hope, for the honor of the blend, for the honor of the blood, for the honor of the race, that that word got there through lack of heedfulness, and will not be suffered to remain. If you carve it at Thermopylae, or where Winkelried died, or upon Bunker Hill monument, and read it again "who fell in defence of law and order against fanaticism" you will perceive what the word means, and how mischosen it is. Patriotism is Patriotism. Calling it Fanaticism cannot degrade it; nothing can degrade it. Even though it be a political mistake, and a thousand times a political mistake, that does not affect it; it is honorable always honorable, always noble - and privileged to hold its head up and look the nations in the face. It is right to praise these brave white men who fell in the Maori war - they deserve it; but the presence of that word detracts from the dignity of their cause and their deeds, and makes them appear to have spilt their blood in a conflict with ignoble men, men not worthy of that costly sacrifice. But the men were worthy. It was no shame to fight them. They fought for their homes, they fought for their country; they bravely fought and bravely fell; and it would take nothing from the honor of the brave Englishmen who lie under the monument, but add to it, to say that they died in defense of English laws and English homes against men worthy of the sacrifice - the Maori patriots.
The other monument cannot be rectified. Except with dynamite. It is a mistake all through, and a strangely thoughtless one. It is a monument erected by white men to Maoris who fell fighting with the whites and against their own people, in the Maori war. "Sacred to the memory of the brave men who fell on the 14th of May, 1864," etc. On one side are the names of about twenty Maoris. It is not a fancy of mine; the monument exists. I saw it. It is an object-lesson to the rising generation. It invites to treachery, disloyalty, unpatriotism. Its lesson, in frank terms is, "Desert your flag, slay your people, burn their homes, shame your nationality - we honor such."
December 9. Wellington. Ten hours from Wanganui by the Fly. December 12. It is a fine city and nobly situated. A busy place, and full of life and movement. Have spent the three days partly in walking about, partly in enjoying social privileges, and largely in idling around the magnificent garden at Hutt, a little distance away, around the shore. I suppose we shall not see such another one soon.
We are packing to-night for the return-voyage to Australia. Our stay in New Zealand has been too brief; still, we are not unthankful for the glimpse which we have had of it.
The sturdy Maoris made the settlement of the country by the whites rather difficult. Not at first - but later. At first they welcomed the whites, and were eager to trade with them - particularly for muskets; for their pastime was internecine war, and they greatly preferred the white man's weapons to their own. War was their pastime - I use the word advisedly. They often met and slaughtered each other just for a lark, and when there was no quarrel. The author of "Old New Zealand" mentions a case where a victorious army could have followed up its advantage and exterminated the opposing army, but declined to do it; explaining naively that "if we did that, there couldn't be any more fighting." In another battle one army sent word that it was out of ammunition, and would be obliged to stop unless the opposing army would send some. It was sent, and the fight went on.
In the early days things went well enough. The natives sold land without clearly understanding the terms of exchange, and the whites bought it without being much disturbed about the native's confusion of mind. But by and by the Maori began to comprehend that he was being wronged; then there was trouble, for he was not the man to swallow a wrong and go aside and cry about it. He had the Tasmanian's spirit and endurance, and a notable share of military science besides; and so he rose against the oppressor, did this gallant "fanatic," and started a war that was not brought to a definite end until more than a generation had sped.
Turn to the next chapter: CHAPTER XXXVI: The Poems of Mrs. Moore - The Sad Fate of William Upson - A Fellow Traveler Imitating the Prince of Wales - A Would-be Dude - Arrival at Sydney-Curious Town Names with Poem