Excursions in the interior.
I made several excursions into the interior, and each confirmed me in the good opinion I had formed of the natives. I felt myself quite safe amongst them. There is a great peculiarity in rambling through this country; namely, the total absence of quadrupeds. There are abundance of birds, which are so numerous at times as almost to darken the air—many of them possessing very sweet notes; and wild ducks, teal, etc., cover the various streams. Wherever I went I did not discover any grass, almost every part being covered either with fern or flax; the former yielding the natives their principal article of food, and the latter their clothing. To this dearth of animals may be attributed the chief cause of their ferocity and propensity to cannibalism.
In most uncivilised countries the natives use their arms against the wild animals of the forest. The dangers and difficulties they encounter in overcoming them form a kind of prelude to war, and perfect them in the use of their weapons. The rifle of the North American Indian would never be so much dreaded did he not depend upon its produce for his subsistence. I have myself (during my travels through North America) had many opportunities of witnessing the certain aim they take both with the arrow and the bullet; while those in the southern parts of that vast continent, who depend on taking the wild cattle, acquire, by constant practice, an equal dexterity with the lassoo, which those who have not witnessed it could scarcely imagine possible. The New Zealander, while handling a musket, is quite in a state of trepidation; and though it is his darling weapon he seems always afraid of it, and is never sure of his aim till he is quite close to his object. I have mentioned this fact to several Europeans who had accompanied various tribes to battle, and they all informed me they made a sad bungling use of the musket; their aim would be surer if they had large and ferocious animals to hunt or contend with. There is another circumstance that operates against their acquiring skill in the use of the gun: they are so fond of cleaning, scrubbing, and taking them to pieces, that in a short time the locks become loose, the screws are injured, and they are soon rendered entirely useless, to the great surprise and dismay of their owners, who are constantly pestering the Europeans by bringing them sick muskets (as they call them) to look at, and put to rights, and are quite surprised that we “cannot make them well again.” They cannot be made to comprehend that every white man does not know how to make a musket, or, at least, to repair it.
Entertained by Maori women.