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Recollections of Travel in New Zealand and Australia

Excursion from Whanganui to the Waitotara District

page 187

Excursion from Whanganui to the Waitotara District.

In the afternoon of October 25th, 1862, I accompanied Dr. Featherston, with his interpreter, Mr. Charles Broughton, to the residence of Mr. Hewitt, who was afterwards murdered by the Maoris. The farm was situated in the Kai-Iwi district, near the edge of the bush. Here we dined and slept. In consequence of our proximity to the forest we were much annoyed by mosquitoes. The grass here was luxuriant, and the sheep looked well.

On the morning of October 29th we mounted, and soon afterwards crossed the Kai-Iwi. On the summit of the opposite cliff we found a party of Maoris, headed by a voluble and picturesque elderly lady called Wikitoria. She and her tribe tried to dissuade us from proceeding, assuring us that we should certainly be made prisoners either at Pakaraka or further on, a remonstrance to which Dr. Featherston replied "Nonsense." As we proceeded, we heard that one Rio, a friendly chief, had been murdered; but upon further inquiry it appeared that he had only been flagrantly insulted. Indeed, page 188after a time, we met the gentleman himself in a state of great anger. Poor fellow! he was murdered some years afterwards. It was sufficiently evident that the Maoris were in a very excited state; but Dr. Featherston was not the man to turn his back upon danger.

At noon we reached Pakaraka, and found that village divided into hostile camps of friendly and disaffected natives. The friendlies received us, and with them we had a long korero, Dr. Featherston sending a messenger in the meantime to inform the chief of the hostile camp, Aperahama, that he wished to have an interview with him. To this message a reply was brought that Aperahama must first consult his runanga. We were told that at Nukumaru the day before, Rio with a chief named Arthur had been stopped at the "king's gate" and insulted. The friendlies having cooked food for us, and a long time having elapsed without a reply from Aperahama, Dr. Featherston got impatient, and insisted in going to his whare. We mustered together, and proceeded through the enclosure. A Maori had been posted, with a big stick, as sentinel; he marched backwards and forwards with great gravity, and seemed inclined to dispute our passage; but apparently changing his mind, he fell in behind us. Entering a large whare we found it full of Maoris, seated in their fashion well covered up in their blankets, and looking excessively sulky. Another sentinel with a long spear stood as guard. Broughton, who knew the page 189natives well, looked round the room and said, "Aperahama is not here!" whereupon Aperahama uncovered his head and grunted out that he was present. Then a Maori got up and stated that the runanga had deliberated on the matter, and that they had decided that Aperahama was not to speak to Dr. Featherston. The latter, with his usual promptitude, then replied. He stated that he had come to see Aperahama, who, he supposed, was a great chief, but as he found he was only an inferior person, under other people's orders, he considered it was of no use talking to him. This "riled" Aperahama, who could keep silence no longer. He spoke in deep and angry tones, and told Dr. Featherston that we had better go, that we were not wanted, and so on, to the general effect that we had better clear out as soon as possible. Dr. Featherston reproached him for his want of hospitality; but as there was evidently nothing more to be done, we cleared out, mounted our horses and returned to Whanganui, taking the lower road from the coast, passing through the fine farms of Peat and Alexander, Taylor and Watt, and others.

Of the four whites who were present at the meeting at Pakaraka, two have since been murdered, viz., Messrs. Hewitt and Broughton; and Dr. Featherston is also dead. Rio was also murdered, and no doubt many of the inhabitants of the pa have come to grief, as the village was near the centre of operations of the last war.

At the Rangitikei, on my way to Wellington, Mr. page 190Scott showed me a cedar paddle that had been washed upon the beach. It was about five feet long, and probably had made a long voyage from some of the South Sea Islands. Cedar is not found in New Zealand, and the shape of the paddle is quite different from the Maori fashion.