Gateway to the Classics: Our Empire Story by H. E. Marshall
Our Empire Story by  H. E. Marshall

The Taming of the Wild Cabbage Leaf

While the north was at length settling down to peace, the tribes in the south were growing restless. Their leaders were, as before, Rauparaha the proud "Wild Cabbage Leaf," and Rangihaeata "The Heavenly Dawn." But while the Heavenly Dawn openly showed that he was an enemy, the Wild Cabbage Leaf pretended to be a friend to the British.

Land again was the beginning of the quarrel. About nine miles from Wellington was the fertile Hutt Valley. This Colonel Wakefield thought he had bought. The chiefs said it was still theirs, and they tried to prevent settlers taking possession of it, and soon the land was once more filled with fighting and murder.

So, having made peace in the north, Governor Grey sailed to Wellington, taking with him all the soldiers he could gather.

Soon he discovered that although Rauparaha made great show of friendship, he was really egging Rangihaeata on. In fact, while Rangihaeata was the fighter, Rauparaha was the thinker. So it was resolved to seize him and stop his mischief.

One night a company of a hundred and fifty men silently surrounded the chiefs house. All was quiet. Swiftly and stealthily the men stole into Rauparaha's room, and, while he was still sleeping, seized him. Not a blow was struck, not a shot was fired. The wily old chief was taken prisoner without a drop of blood being shed. But it was not done without a struggle, for Rauparaha bit and kicked fiercely, and his captors carried the marks of his teeth and nails for many a day.

Great was the grief of the Heavenly Dawn when he heard of the capture of his father-in-law. In his grief he made a lament, mourning for Rauparaha as for a dead man.

"Raha! my chief, my friend,

Thy lonely journey wend;

Stand with thy wrongs before the God of Battles' face:

Bid him thy woes requite.

Ah me! Te Raukawa's foul desertion and disgrace,

Ah me! the English ruler's might.

Raha! my chief of chiefs,

Ascend with all thy griefs

Up to the Lord of Peace; there stand before his face:

Let him thy fate requite.

Ah me! Te Tea's sad defection and disgrace,

Ah me! the English ruler's might."

But Rangihaeata did more than idly lament. Gathering his men, he prepared to avenge the capture of his chief. He wrote, too, to the northern tribes, stirring them to battle. "Friends and children, come and avenge the wrongs of Te Rauparaha, because Te Rauparaha is the eye of the faith of all men. Make ye haste hither in the days of December."

But the northern chiefs were slow to move. They told the Heavenly Dawn that it was folly to try to kill the British or drive them from the land. "How could you dry up the sea?" they asked.

But although few joined him, Rangihaeata fought. Although soldiers, sailors, settlers, all were against him, he would not give in. Defeated and hunted he took refuge, as he himself said, "in the fastnesses and hollows of the country, as a crab lies concealed in the depths and hollows of the rocks."

At length, left almost without a follower, Rangihaeata made peace. But his proud spirit never quite gave in. "I am not tired of war," he told Sir George Grey, "but the spirit of the times is for peace. Now, men, like women, use their tongues as weapons. Do not suppose, O Governor, that you have conquered me! No. It was my own relations and friends. It was by them I was overcome."

When Rauparaha had been seized he had been sent to Auckland. There, although he was a prisoner, he was allowed to go about freely. Now, when peace was come again, he was permitted to go home. But the fierce old chief did not live long to enjoy his liberty. Eighteen months later he died.

From first to last, in north and south, the war had lasted for five years. It had cost a million of money.

Sir George now had time to think of ruling the land. He tried to govern well and be just to the Maoris. He protected them as much as he could from land-grabbers, and kept the treaty of Waitangi. He rewarded those who had helped him, and in every way treated them fairly.

One good thing which Sir George did was to make good roads throughout the islands. Even while the war was going on, parties of soldiers and Maoris might be seen peacefully working side by side with pick and spade. The Maoris were good workmen, and the British soon grew friendly with them. They taught the Maoris English, and the Maoris taught them their language. And when the road was finished they parted like old friends.

Then Governor Grey built schools and had the Maori children taught to speak English, and did many other things for their happiness. So when in 1853 another governor was appointed, the Maoris were very sorrowful. They grieved for Sir George as for a lost father, and sang mournful songs of farewell.

"Oh then!

Pause for one moment there.

Cast back one glance on me,

Thus to receive one fond,

One last, fond look.

Thy love came first, not mine;

Thou didst first behold

With favour and regard

The meanest of our race!

Thence is it

The heart o'erflows;

the eye Bedewed with tears doth anxiously desire

To catch one fond, one parting glance,

Ere thou art lost to sight for ever,

Alas! for ever!"

When Sir George Grey came home, too, he was welcomed and thanked. And when at Oxford he received a degree in honour of his work in New Zealand, the students gave three cheers for the "King of the Cannibal Islands."

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