They had also brought with them several heads, which they have the art of preparing in their native ovens, so as not to disfigure the countenance nor injure the figure tatoo’d upon them. One of these, the skull of a distinguished chief, seemed to afford them amazing delight. Most of our people had known him well, and several of his near relations were present: but cruel war seemed to have eradicated every feeling of humanity; for all appeared to contemplate this ghastly object with great satisfaction. These heads were decorated profusely with yellow and red ribbons, and with white feathers: they were then stuck upon short poles, and placed, with great ceremony, in front of the old Queen Turero’s house; who, sitting at the door, received this token of respect with approval and condescension.
The group altogether formed an interesting picture of savage manners, in which ferocity was strongly blended with humanity, for their respect and devotion to the old sybil was manifested as feelingly as their hatred towards those whom they call their enemies: in fact, the young warrior chiefs presenting to her (as was the case with several) their first spoils of conquest, reminded me of young lions bringing part of the spoils of the chase to their aged dam.
In this affray only a few of Atoi’s party had been wounded, and twenty-five of the enemy had been killed. It was a fortunate circumstance for the wretched prisoners that none of the conquering party had been killed; for, if that had been the case, there would have been a dreadful slaughter of the captives on their arrival at the village, an act of cruelty never dispensed with. This sight I dreaded I should encounter when I went to witness the disembarkation; but, hoping that my presence might be some restraint upon their barbarities, I awaited the result with as much firmness as I was master of.
[Illustration: Old Pa and Whalers at Bay of Islands.]
VISITS OF WHALERS.
Two South Sea whalers were at this time lying in the bay: the Anne, from London, a full ship; and the Lynx, from Sydney. Since I have been living here, five vessels of this description have visited us; and many others would have touched here but for the want of proper regulations, and a dread of the dispositions of the natives. There being here no representatives of the British Government, the crews of whalers are often involved in disputes with the natives. This want of Government support has also frightened other vessels away; their commanders preferring going on to Port Jackson, where they half ruin themselves by the unavoidable expenses they incur. Even when their vessels have anchored here, the thoughtlessness and eccentricity of this class of men, when they are under no restraint or control, has sometimes not only led to disputes with the natives, but with each other, which eventually have proved equally detrimental. In short, New Zealand is a place of such vast importance to so many lucrative branches of British trade, that it must be well worthy the speedy attention of our Government at home.