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The Autobiography of a Maori

Showing off

Showing off

I realised that the Maoris regarded anything connected with the dead—such as a burial-ground—as tapu, or sacred. But, fresh from college as I was, I thought I would show my superiority by doing something that would shock the children, their parents and even the whole community. The Orangai Cemetery was within the pa and was therefore within an area where my intended impudent deed would be well advertised. page 133With the other children, I stood outside the fence enclosing the cemetery. Just inside the fence was a grave on which dahlias were in full bloom. Without warning, I put my hand through the fence and plucked a bloom. That was enough to shock my young friends and they protested against my profanity. This encouraged me to go further and I put the flower into my mouth and chewed it. The children were disgusted at my bravado and scattered to spread the news that I had committed an unheard of thing for which, according to superstition, I must pay with my life. But today, though well on in years, I am still very much alive. I don't know whether or not my mother said anything about my reckless deed; at any rate, I must have been conceived a heretic.