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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 XXVIII.

A war expedition and A cannibal feast.

Last year a chief, and cousin of King George, named Pomare, was defeated and killed by the people of the Thames, and George was now resolved to revenge his death.  This determination having become known, we had a constant succession of visitors, and a considerable number of blows, scratches, and rubbing noses were the consequence.  Our beach presented a most interesting and busy scene.  A dozen superb war canoes were lying ready to convey the forces; and, considering their limited means, the solidity of their structure and the carved work on them are surprising.  None but men of rank are allowed to work upon them, and they labour like slaves.  Some canoes were to be lengthened; others patched; others were condemned to be broken up, and the fragments taken to complete the new ones.  Every morning we were awakened by the sound of the hammer and saw, and they were much gratified by our walking down to their dockyard to observe the progress they made, and by giving our opinions of their work.  They thankfully received any hint we gave them as to better methods of completing or proceeding with their operations.  Here were carvers, painters, caulkers, and sailmakers, all working in their different departments with great good humour and industry.  Some of their vessels were eighty feet long, and were entirely covered with beautiful carving.  Their form was light and delicate, and if their intentions were hostile towards us, they would be very formidable alongside any merchant man.  If our Government should determine to colonise any part of New Zealand, they would find the natives hardy and willing assistants, and very different from the natives of New South Wales.

[Illustration:  Maori War Expedition (With Mission boat accompanying it.)]

As their canoes were ready for launching, they ran them off the beach, jumped into them, and scudded across the bay with an almost incredible swiftness.  When it is considered that in each canoe were seated eighty stout young men, each with a large paddle in his hand propelling the vessel forward, the velocity with which she flew may be imagined!  It was in the midst of scenes like these that we were passing our time, and I had just become delighted with the appearance of innocence and industry so continually displayed by these people, when I was called upon to witness a sight which exhibited their character in its worst light, and confirmed all my horrible suspicions regarding their alleged cannibalism.

The New Zealanders have been long charged with cannibalism; but as no person of importance or celebrity had actually been a witness to the disgusting act, in pity to our nature such relations have been universally rejected, and much has been written to prove the non-existence of so hideous a propensity.  It was my lot to behold it in all its horrors!

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