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Reminiscences of The War in New Zealand

Chapter XXVIII. — Return from Hokitika. — First and Second Visit to Te Ngutu O Te Manu. Murder of Cahill, Clark, and Squires

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Chapter XXVIII.
Return from Hokitika.
First and Second Visit to Te Ngutu O Te Manu. Murder of Cahill, Clark, and Squires.

Within three weeks of our landing, orders were received to return to Patea, where affairs again began to look serious; the surveyors had been stopped at Mokoia, and although McDonnell put things straight again, it was evidently only for a time, as the unsettled state of the Maories was plainly shown by their stealing everything they could lay hands on, particularly horses. Mr. Booth, R.M., went to Te Ngutu o te manu, to claim some of these horses, and met the chiefs, Toi and Hauwhenua, who treated him in a most insolent manner, admitted that they had the horses, but said they intended to retain them, and any others they could lay hands on. This language admitted of no doubt as to the intentions of the chiefs. Mr. Booth returned to Patea, and issued a warrant for their apprehension, which he handed to Colonel McDonnell to execute. The colonel was aware that the Hauhaus would not allow two leading chiefs to be taken without bloodshed, for a crime that in their eyes was a meritorious action, and he prepared accordingly by enrolling forty militia to supplement his constabulary. On the evening of the 11th of May, one hundred men of all ranks started for Te Ngutu o te manu, calling at the semi-friendly pah of Mawhitiwhiti, as they passed, to ascertain whether Toi was then living there; the chief had left for Te Ngutu, so McDonnell contented himself by taking two of the people of the place with him to use as messengers after he had surrounded the Hauhaus. All went well until within 700 yards of Te Ngutu, when one of the two men, taking advantage of the darkness, escaped and ran to give the page 166alarm to his friends. Katene started in pursuit but could not overtake him, and the mischief was done. Colonel McDonnell and his men followed quickly, but knowing that the Hauhaus would he likely to fire, if they went into the village in a body, the colonel halted the men, and went on himself. At the first whares he was met by the chief Tauke, who led him into the open space in the centre of the village, where he explained the reason of his visit, and said he had a hundred men outside. Titokowaru invited them to enter, and placed a very large whare at their disposal; at the same time intimating that he would be prepared to talk when it was daylight. About 8 a.m. the Maories assembled, and McDonnell pointed out to them, that Toi and Hauwhenua had brought this on the tribe, by their insolence to Mr. Booth. He concluded his speech by saying, "I could take you all, but the Government does not wish the innocent to suffer for the guilty; but if I can find either Toi or Hauwhenua, I shall take them." Kokiri got up to answer, and said: "The horses are not near at hand, and the chiefs have left." Then said McDonnell, "You and Tauke must go with me to Waihi, and discuss the matter with Mr. Booth." This did not altogether suit them, but Tauke finally consented to go; and the result was, that two out of the three horses stolen were brought in that evening by the chief Natanahira. So far matters were tolerably smooth, but some wretched Maori told Mr. Booth that there were other stolen horses at Te Ngutu. Tauke was questioned, but denied all knowledge of them; so nothing would satisfy our active magistrate, but that he must go himself. In vain it was to suggest that Tauke or Nataurhira would do better; he would not listen to it, but resolved to go himself and bring back both horses and thieves, provided McDonnell would, give him twelve men of the armed constabulary. The colonel objected to this arrangement, as risking the lives of his men for nothing; but finally agreed to send Major Hunter and seventeen men as his escort, while the colonel page 167himself, with the main body, would proceed to Pengarehu, in case they should be required.

On arrival at Te Ngutu, two horses were seen and recognised as having been stolen; they were at once seized, and the small force entered the village. Here they found the Hauhaus armed and sulky, and three of them were arrested by order of Mr. Booth, who called on the others to assemble and hear what he had to say. This they decidedly refused to do, and walked off to the bush, whereupon the troopers were ordered to arrest the old chief Kokiri; they obeyed, but this was the last straw on the camel's back. The Hauhaus turned, and levelled their guns at the Pakehas, and there would undoubtedly have been bloodshed, had not Katene begged Mr. Booth to desist, and let Kokiri go. Meanwhile Major Hunter had sent for the colonel, who was coming up at the double, and arrived in time to meet Mr. Booth's party returning triumphant, with their three prisoners and two horses. On the road home, Mr. Booth proposed to let two of the prisoners go, saying they were innocent men; but Colonel McDonnell, fearing that the enemy would think it a sign of alarm, retained them until he arrived at Waihi, where he released them. The third man, Ikaka, was placed in the guard tent, as he was charged with breaking into a settler's house; and Katene particularly warned the colonel not to allow him to escape, as if he did, he would be certain to take revenge by killing someone.

Notwithstanding these warnings, Ikaka did escape; and did kill someone. At this period, there was little unanimity between Mr. Booth and Colonel McDonnell; the latter strongly disapproved of the whole proceedings at Te Ngutu, and expressed his opinion very strongly to the Government; warning them that bloodshed would be the result of undue interference with men like the Ngaruahine tribe. It must not, however, be supposed that these events produced the outbreak; they simply hastened it: had the Hauhaus intended to live peaceably, page 168there would have been no horse-stealing; and above all, no bounce when they were accused of it. A few days after these occurrences, a settler at Waihi was warned by his Maori friends not to go near his lands, as the Hauhaus intended to kill some Pakehas. When questioned, they admitted that they did not know when the deed was to be done, as that lay entirely with Titokowaru; but they did know, in an indefinite Maori sort of way, that it would be done within a week. Colonel McDonnell was absent, but the warning was conveyed to Major Hunter, and another official, whose knowledge of the Maori character should have warned him that it was dangerous to neglect, hints of this sort; nevertheless he only laughed, and said his informant was an alarmist. On the following day Mr. Booth, R.M., had occasion to visit the inland village of Araukuku, and on his return mentioned casually that the people had behaved very queerly, and would hardly look at him, much less speak to him; yet for all this, he did not see any reason to be alarmed, and gave no warning to the settlers in the vicinity, who were working on their farms unconscious of the danger that surrounded them. That afternoon two Maori guides, who had constituted themselves spies, were at Mawhitiwhiti watching the Hauhau movements, when suddenly nine men entered the village, all armed to the teeth, amongst them Hauwhenua and Ikaka, the escaped prisoner; after saluting our spies, they remarked that they were going to shoot cattle, and asked if there were any Pakehas about, saying they did not want to alarm them by the firing. "There are no Pakehas about," said Katene; "they are too frightened to work on their farms, as they believe you intend murder." At that moment the sound of an axe, used on the opposite side of the gully was heard by all; Hauwhenua rose and said, "If we are going to shoot cattle, the sooner we begin the better;" and moved off in the direction of the sound. Before they had gone ten yards, Katene whispered to Moko, "Directly they are under the crest of the hill, dash page 169clown the gully and warn the camp, while I will try to get in front of them and warn the sawyers. "The idea was well conceived but not to be carried out, for the same thought had evidently occurred to the Hauhaus; a brief consultation was held, and two of them sauntered back and sat down by Katene, remarking that they were too tired to run after cattle, and preferred to rest until their comrades returned. Each party appeared to be satisfied with the explanation, and began to talk as though no murderous deed was intended; all the while keeping a sharp look-out on Katene, whose desperate character they knew well. After what appeared to have been an hour of intense listening, a volley was fired on the opposite side of the river, and shortly after the party returned, no longer seeking to disguise their actions. "Go," said Hauwhenua, "and tell the camp to bury their dead." "Yes," replied Katene, "arid be accused of having done it myself: go you and tell them." This probability amused the Hauhaus, who walked off laughing, while Katene went to see what mischief was done; he found three men lying near the saw-pit horribly mutilated, their names were Cahill, Clark, and Squires.

The mischief done, measures were taken to warn the remaining settlers, and a messenger was sent to bring McDonnell from Wanganui.