This book is not a work of fiction. It is a plain narrative of real life in the New Zealand bush, a true story of adventure in a day not yet remote, when adventure in abundance was still to be had in the land of the Maori. Every name used is a real one, every character who appears in these pages had existence in those war days of forty years ago. Every incident described here is a faithful record of actual happenings; some of them may convince the reader that truth can be stranger than fiction.
Numerous instances are recorded of white deserters from civilisation who have allied themselves with savages, adopting barbarous practices, and forgetting even their mother-tongue. In the old convict days of New South Wales escapees from the fetters of a more than rigorous "system" now and again cast in their lot with the blacks. Renegades of every European nationality have been found living with and fighting for native tribes in Africa and America and the Islands of Polynesia. But none of them had a wilder story to tell than has the man whose narrative is here presented—Kimble Bent, the pakeha-Maori. Ever since 1865—when he first "took to the blanket"—he has lived with the New Zealand Maoris. For thirteen years he was completely estranged from his fellow-whites; he had deserted from a British regiment and a price was on his head. British troops and Colonial irregulars alike hunted him and his fanatical Hauhau companions. His hairbreadth escapes were many; he had to risk death not only from British bullet and bayonet, but from the savage brown men of the forest with whom he lived. When at last he came out of hiding, and dared once more to face those of his own colour, he had almost forgotten the English language, and could speak it but with difficulty and hesitation. He has been out of his bush exile many years, but is still living with his Maori friends, and is still known by the Maori name, "Tu-nui-a-moa," which his chief Titokowaru gave him in 1868. When he writes to me, he usually writes in Maori, and he is practically a Maori himself, for he has lived the greater part of his life as a Maori, and he has assimilated the peculiar modes of thought and some of the ancient beliefs of the natives, as well as their tongue and customs.