CONSTRUCTION OF A PA.
We found eight hundred warriors, who (to use a sea phrase) were “all at quarters.” The magic pen of Scott might here have been well employed to describe “The Gathering.” The chiefs sat apart from their followers in deep consultation: we did not approach near enough to hear their discussion; but it ended by their paying us a high compliment for coming amongst them. The young and active were busily employed in constructing a strong stockade fort to annoy the enemy as he approached; others were preparing their weapons, or practising the use of arms.
The village itself was an object of extreme interest; and, after contemplating the war-like preparations of the chiefs, we turned with pleasure to gaze on the beauty of the surrounding country. In a plain, surrounded by high hills, with a beautiful stream of water meandering through it, was situated a group of huts; and many acres of cultivated ground, neatly fenced and cleared, encircled them. Their harvest, consisting of Indian corn, potatoes, and kumara, was now ready for gathering, and all the women were busily occupied. As I from an eminence looked down upon their labours, I could almost fancy I was in Italy, and beheld the peasantry at work in their vineyards: but the adjacent camp and naked warriors soon dissipated the illusion!
On approaching the village we occasioned quite a commotion: the girls brought forth baskets filled with cooked kumaras and peaches, while the men erected a tent to screen us from the rays of the sun: indeed, all seemed anxious to do something that should prove acceptable to us. We had brought with us sufficient provision for a good dinner which was soon cooked, and we invited them to partake of our fare, and a very merry and noisy group we formed. After our repast, the chief warriors took us round their camp, and exhibited to us all their means of defence, and the different works they had thrown up. Where the use of artillery is unknown, the principles of fortification are simple, and the New Zealanders seem to possess a clear notion of the art: necessity being with them the mother of invention.
In the direction where the approach of the enemy was expected, they had erected a strong square stockade, to molest the army; while the women and children retired to the principal fort, which was very strong, and situated at the summit of the highest hill: it had a breast-work all round it about five feet high, and a broad ditch beyond that. The fortress was large enough to contain several hundred men: it had a spacious glacis in front, and every approach to it was so completely exposed, that we thought even a body of regular troops, without artillery, would have found it very difficult to storm; and to the New Zealand warrior it seemed a wonderful and impregnable work.