A Narrative of a Nine Months' Residence in New Zealand in 1827 eBook

Augustus Earle
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 197 pages of information about A Narrative of a Nine Months' Residence in New Zealand in 1827.
as a favour, if it were not breaking through their established rules, that he would conduct me to the body of his father.  He accordingly led me to the outside of the village; and under a rude hut (constructed for the purpose) lay the body of the deceased chief, closely covered up with mats, leaving only part of the face and head exposed; in his hair was stuck a profusion of long white feathers, by way of ornament.  Two women (whom I understood were his wives) sat close to the corpse; they were painted all over with red ochre, and seemed to perform the parts of chief mourners.  These kept up a low moaning noise, and occasionally whisked off the flies from the face of the deceased.  The women, the corpse, the hut, and the ground for some space round them, were all strictly tapued.  Some bundles of fish, and some calabashes filled with oil, were left close by the body, intended for his consumption during his passage to the next world.

I imagine that one reason of no outrage having been committed during this solemn occasion was our brig being on the point of sailing, and previous to her departure a great deal of traffic was expected to be carried on with the natives, for there was still a considerable quantity of muskets undisposed of; and I think, in this instance, avarice overcame filial affection—­the minds of the chief’s family being so intent upon obtaining good bargains, that they had not time to sit and mourn over their departed parent, nor to work themselves up into a paroxysm of passion sufficiently violent to cause them to murder their slaves.  This afforded me a convincing proof that as soon as they are occupied by commerce, or the useful arts, their barbarous rites will gradually be discontinued, and will speedily cease altogether.

Our brig having sailed, we were again alone with these wild yet interesting people.  We expected our stay might be about six months, and had provided a stock-in-trade, consisting of a barrel of powder, half a dozen muskets, some fish-hooks, and a quantity of tobacco.  Everything we possessed we delivered into the hands of the natives, who accounted to us for the stock thus entrusted to their management with the most scrupulous exactness.  Nothing can be fairer than their mode of bartering with the Europeans; the prices are fixed; ten large hogs, or 120 baskets of potatoes (about a ton and a-half), are given for a musket; for small articles, such as fish, Indian corn, or fruits, the ready money are fish-hooks and tobacco.  As we were now about to become inhabitants of New Zealand, it became necessary that we should be well acquainted with the particulars of their methods of “doing business,” and that we should apply ourselves diligently to the study of the language, which we acquired much more readily than I had anticipated.



Project Gutenberg
A Narrative of a Nine Months' Residence in New Zealand in 1827 from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
Follow Us on Facebook