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Augustus Earle
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 169 pages of information about A Narrative of a Nine Months' Residence in New Zealand in 1827.

CHAPTER XXIV.

Visit of A war party.

I was roused one morning at daybreak by my servant running in with the intelligence that a great number of war canoes were crossing the bay.  As King George had told us but the evening before that he expected a visit from Ta-ri-ah, a chief of the tribe called Ngapuhis, whose territory lay on the opposite side of the bay, and given us to understand that Ta-ri-ah was a man not to be trusted, and therefore feared some mischief might happen if he really came, the sight of these war canoes naturally caused us considerable alarm, and we sincerely wished that the visit was over.

We dressed ourselves with the utmost expedition, and walked down to the beach.  The landing of these warriors was conducted with a considerable degree of order, and could I have divested myself of all ideas of danger I should have admired the sight excessively.  All our New Zealand friends—­the tribe of Shulitea—­were stripped naked, their bodies were oiled, and all were completely armed; their muskets were loaded, their cartouch boxes were fastened round their waists, and their patoo-patoos were fixed to their wrists.  Their hair was tied up in a tight knot at the top of their heads, beautifully ornamented with feathers of the albatross.  As the opposite party landed, ours all crouched on the ground, their eyes fixed on their visitors, and perfectly silent.  When the debarkation was completed I observed the chief, Ta-ri-ah, put himself at their head, and march towards us with his party formed closely and compactly, and armed with muskets and paddles.  When they came very near they suddenly stopped.  Our party continued still mute, with their firelocks poised ready for use.  For the space of a few minutes all was still, each party glaring fiercely on the other; and they certainly formed one of the most beautiful and extraordinary pictures I had ever beheld.  The foreground was formed by a line of naked savages, each resting on one knee, with musket advanced, their gaze fixed on the opposite party, their fine, broad, muscular backs contrasting with the dark foliage in front, and catching the gleam of the rising sun.  The strangers were clothed in the most grotesque manner imaginable—­some armed, some naked, some with long beards, others were painted all over with red ochre; every part of each figure was quite still, except the rolling and glaring of their eyes on their opponents.  The background was formed by the beach, and a number of their beautiful war canoes dancing on the waves; while, in the distance, the mountains on the opposite side of the bay were just tinged with the varied and beautiful colours of the sun, then rising in splendour from behind them.

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