But there is another class of Europeans here, who are both useless and dangerous, and these lower the character of the white people in the estimation of the natives. These men are called “Beach Rangers,” most of whom have deserted from, or have been turned out of whalers for crimes, for which, had they been taken Home and tried, they would have been hanged; some few among them, having been too lazy to finish the voyage they had begun, had deserted from their ships, and were then leading a mean and miserable life amongst the natives.
There is still a third class of our countrymen to be met with here, whose downcast and sneaking looks proclaim them to be runaway convicts from New South Wales. These unhappy men are treated with derision and contempt by all classes; and the New Zealanders, being perfectly aware of their state of degradation, refuse all intercourse with them. They are idle, unprincipled, and vicious in the extreme, and are much feared in the Bay of Islands; for when by any means they obtain liquor, they prove themselves most dangerous neighbours.
My friend Shand and myself were most comfortably situated. An intimate friend of mine (Captain Duke, of the whaler The Sisters) had, in consequence of ill-health, taken up his residence on shore while his vessel completed her cruise. In his hut we found comfort and safety; and from his information and advice we were enabled to avoid the advances of all whom his experience had taught him were to be shunned.
On terms of the closest intimacy, and with his hut adjoining that of my friend Captain Duke, lived Shulitea (or King George, as he styled himself), a chief of great power, who controlled the whole of the district where we were. We all felt grateful to him for his manifestations of friendship, and at the same time were conscious of enjoying a greater degree of security by his proximity. He was the first chief who offered protection to “the white people,” and he has never been known to have broken his engagement. An unexpected and remarkable instance of his adherence to their interests, in spite of temptation, took place a few years since, which I deem worthy of relation here.
The ship Brompton, in endeavouring to work out of the bay, by some accident got on shore, and finally became a complete wreck. This fine vessel, with a valuable cargo on board, lay helpless on the beach, and the crew and passengers expected nothing less than plunder and destruction. The natives from the interior, hearing of the circumstance, hastened down in vast numbers to participate in the general pillage. But King George summoned all his warriors to his aid, and with this party placed himself between the wreck and those who came to plunder it. I was informed by several who were present at the time, that, after declaring that “not an article should be taken till himself and all his party were destroyed,” he advanced, and thus explained his reasons for protecting the strangers and their property:—