We now called a council of war of all the Europeans settled here; and it was unanimously resolved that we should protect and defend our houses and property, and fortify our position in the best way we could. Captain Duke had in his possession four twelve-pounders, and these we brought in front of the enclosure in which our huts were situated, and were all entirely employed in loading them with round and grape shot, and had made them all ready for action, when, to our consternation and dismay, we found we had a new and totally unexpected enemy to contend with. By some accident one of our houses was in flames. Our situation was now perilous in the extreme. The buildings, the work of English carpenters, were constructed of dry rushes and well-seasoned wood, and this was one of a very respectable size, and we had hoped, in a very few days, would be finished fit for our removing into.
For some seconds we stood in mute amazement, not knowing to which point to direct our energies. As the cry of “fire” was raised, groups of natives came rushing from all directions upon our devoted settlement, stripping off their clothes, and yelling in the most discordant pitch of voice. I entered the house, and brought out one of my trunks, but on attempting to return a second time I found it filled with naked savages, tearing everything to pieces, and carrying away whatever they could lay their hands upon. The fierce raging of the flames, the heat from the fire, the yells of the men, and the shrill cries of the women, formed, altogether, a horrible combination; added to all this was the mortification of seeing all our property carried off in different directions, without the least possibility of our preventing it. The tribe of the Ngapuhis (who, when the fire began, were at the other end of the beach) left their operations in that quarter and poured down upon us to share in the general plunder. Never shall I forget the countenance of the chief, as he rushed forward at the head of his destroying crew! He was called “The Giant,” and he was well worthy of the name, being the tallest and largest man I had ever seen; he had an immense bushy black beard, and grinned exultingly when he saw the work of destruction proceeding with such rapidity, and kept shouting loudly to his party to excite them to carry off all they could.
A cask containing seventy gallons of rum now caught fire and blew up with a terrible explosion; and, the wind freshening considerably, huge volumes of smoke and flame burst out in every direction. Two of our houses were so completely enveloped that we had given up all hopes of saving them. The third, which was a beautifully carved tapued one, some little distance from the others, and which we had converted into a store and magazine, was now the only object of our solicitude and terror. For, besides the valuable property of various kinds which were deposited within it, it contained several barrels of gunpowder! It was in vain we attempted to warn the frantic natives