While listening to this frightful detail, we felt sick almost to fainting. We left Atoi, and again strolled towards the spot where this disgusting mess was cooking. Not a native was now near it: a hot, fetid steam kept occasionally bursting from the smothered mass; and the same dog we had seen with the head now crept from beneath the bushes, and sneaked towards the village. To add to the gloominess of the whole, a large hawk rose heavily from the very spot where the poor victim had been cut in pieces. My friend and I sat gazing on this melancholy place; it was a lowering, gusty day, and the moaning of the wind through the bushes, as it swept round the hill on which we were, seemed in unison with our feelings.
After some time spent in contemplating the miserable scene before us, during which we gave full vent to the most passionate exclamations of disgust, we determined to spoil this intended feast. This resolution formed, we rose to execute it. I ran off to our beach, leaving Duke on guard, and, collecting all the white men I could, I informed them of what had happened, and asked them if they would assist in destroying the oven and burying the remains of the girl. They consented, and each having provided himself with a shovel or a pickaxe, we repaired in a body to the spot. Atoi and his friends had by some means been informed of our intention, and they came out to prevent it. He used various threats to deter us, and seemed highly indignant; but as none of his followers appeared willing to come to blows, and seemed ashamed that such a transaction should have been discovered by us, we were permitted by them to do as we chose. We accordingly dug a tolerably deep grave; then we resolutely attacked the oven. On removing the earth and leaves, the shocking spectacle was presented to our view—the four quarters of a human body half roasted. During our work clouds of steam enveloped us, and the disgust created by our task was almost overpowering. We collected all the parts we could recognise; the heart was placed separately, we supposed, as a savoury morsel for the chief himself. We placed the whole in the grave, which we filled up as well as we could, and then broke and scattered the oven.
By this time the natives from both villages had assembled, and a scene similar to this was never before witnessed in New Zealand. Six unarmed men, quite unprotected (for there was not a single vessel in the harbour, nor had there been for a month), had attacked and destroyed all the preparations of the natives for what they consider a national feast; and this was done in the presence of a great body of armed chiefs, who had assembled to partake of it. After having finished this exploit, and our passion and disgust had somewhat subsided, I could not help feeling that we had acted very imprudently in thus tempting the fury of these savages, and interfering in an affair that certainly was no concern of ours; but as no harm accrued to any of our party, it plainly shows the influence “the white men” have already obtained over them; had the offence we committed been done by any hostile tribe, hundreds of lives would have been sacrificed.