Other formats

    TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

The Adventures of Kimble Bent

Chapter XXVIII — Out of Exile

page 321

Chapter XXVIII
Out of Exile

Canoeing on the Patea—The voyage to Hukatéré—The white man's world again—Bent the medicine-man—Makutu, or the Black Art—Bent's later days—The end.

All was ready for the voyage, and the pakeha-Maori and his companions loaded their canoe and embarked for Hukatéré—thirty miles down-stream, not far from the sea-coast. The Patea was a very winding stream, flowing between high forestcovered banks; its course was impeded by frequent rocky shoals and accumulations of sunken logs, which formed rapids. Aboard the canoe, besides Bent, were Rupé, Hakopa and his niece, and a man named Te Rii, who was an urukehu, or “fair hair.”

The white man and his Maori companions paddled along merrily for seven or eight miles, lightening their labours with canoe-songs. Then, in shooting a rapid, the canoe struck a rock, swung broadside on to the swift current, and immediately capsized.

The crew reached the shore safely, and hauled the canoe up on to a shingly bank. Fortunately page 322 all the cargo—the baskets of dried eels and the calabashes filled with honey—had been made fast to the thwarts, as a precaution against such an accident, and so was saved; but old Hakopa lost a little kit—his bush savings-bank—containing a sum of money which he had acquired at the Waitara. On the bank a fire was kindled by means of flint and steel—commonly used amongst the Maoris in those days, and still occasionally seen in use in remote forest districts, such as the Urewera Country. By the blaze of the great fire the wrecked canoeists dried themselves and their garments, and they camped there that night.

At daylight next morning they embarked again, and another day and a half at the paddles took them down to the Hukatéré kainga, a large settlement of raupo-thatched houses, standing on the left bank of the Patea, in a beautiful bend, with the lofty, forest-fringed cliffs of Pariroa jutting out abruptly on the opposite shore.

The approaching canoe, its four paddles flashing in the sun and dipping again all together, was seen from the kainga while still some little distance up the river, and the men and women of the Hukatéré gathered on the water-side and cried and waved their welcome to the long-absent people of the bush.

Kumea mai te waka!” they chanted, and the women waved shawls and green branches in the poetic greeting of the powhiri. “To-o-ia mai te page 323 waka! Oh, haul up the canoe! Draw hitherwards the canoe. To the resting-place—that canoe! To the sleeping-place—that canoe! Oh, welcome, welcome, strangers from the forest-land! Urge swift your paddles, for home darts your canoe!”

So, chanting their ancient song, the villagers received the new arrivals, and, still waving their garments and their leafy branches, retired slowly before them as they landed and walked up the sloping banks until the open marae in the centre of the kainga was reached. There the guests from Rukumoana were received by a dignified chief, whitebearded old Nga-waka-taurua (Double-canoe). Now the powhiri was succeeded by the doleful sounds of the tangi, and one after another the Hukatéré tribespeople pressed their noses to those of Rupé and his household; and they wept long and unrestrainedly for the dead, for those who had passed away since they last met.

And then the feasting. The bush-family and their “tame white man” enjoyed a meal of truly huge proportions and variety in comparison with the meagre forest-fare to which they had been confined so long. And when the pakeha tobacco and pakeha grog came out—unwonted luxuries to the mohoao, the bush-people—old Rupé and his household were indeed in the Promised Land for which they had longed for many a month; they had all that the heart of the Hauhau could desire.

page 324

The feast over, the dried eels and honey, conveyed with so much toil from distant Rukumoana, were brought up to the marae, and ceremoniously presented to old “Double-Canoe,” who distributed the food amongst the people of the village. The canoe itself was similarly presented to the chief as a gift of aroha from Rupé. In return, the men of Hukatéré placed before the visitors their gifts—£5 in money (representing the sum total of the pakeha cash in the village), and blankets, shirts, and other articles of clothing, of which Bent and his companions were in much need after their rough life in the bush.

“While I was in the kainga,” says Bent, “the local chief went down to the town of Patea, a few miles away, to get me some European clothing. He informed some people in the town that Tu-nui-a-moa, the paheka-Maori, who had been with the Hauhaus for twelve or thirteen years, was in his kainga, and next day about twenty Europeans rode up to the settlement out of curiosity to see me. We had a long talk, and they gave me some articles of clothing, and told me all about the white man's world from which I had cut myself off. This was about the end of the year 1878.

“After a month's stay we returned to our own village, in a canoe belonging to the Hukatéré natives, loaded with goods and ‘tucker.’ Five days' paddling and poling up-river took us to Ruku- page 325
Kimble Bent, the Pakeha-Maori. (From a photo taken in 1903.)

Kimble Bent, the Pakeha-Maori.
(From a photo taken in 1903.)

page break page 327 moana. Planting season came round again; then we whiled away the time in Maori fashion—hunting wild pigs, snaring and shooting birds, catching eels, and getting honey—until the crops were harvested. And not long after that we bade farewell to our old kainga for ever, loaded our canoe for the last time, and once more paddled down to Hukatéré.”

. . . . .

From Hukatéré the pakeha-Maori and his girlwife went to Taiporohenui—Bent's old home in the war days. There he lived for a year or so, blanketed like a Maori, and working in the cultivations. Here, too, in the long nights he was much with the old men of the kainga, and from such learned men as Hupini and Pokau—true tohungas, or priests, and soothsayers—he learned much of the strange occultism of the Maori. He saw singular ceremonies, the rites of the makutu, the black art. He learned scores of karakias—incantations useful in Maori eyes for all sorts of purposes, all conditions of war and peace time. Some of these were makutu spells by which the wizard could slay an enemy, by witchcraft and the power of the evil eye. Many a case of death from makutu came under Bent's observation during his life among the Maoris. Old Hupini, says the pakeha-Maori, undoubtedly killed men with his makutu—a combination of three factors: projection of the will force, the malignant exercise page 328 of hypnotic influence, and sheer imagination and fright on the part of the person makutu'd.

Many Maoris believe that the witchcraft can be wrought by an adept or tohunga by taking some of the hair or clothing or even remains of the food of the person intended to be slain, and pronouncing the appropriate powerful karakias and curses over it. The enemy's hau—his life-essence, his vital force—then lies in the hollow of the tohunga's hand.

A tohunga can take the hau of a man's footprints and thereby makutu him; he can even makutu an enemy's horse so that it will fall sick and not be able to travel!

Amongst the prayers and ceremonies which old Hupini taught Bent were the karakia for combating the evil spell of the makutu and for restoring a bewitched and ailing person to health and safety—to the Land of Light and Life, the Ao-marama.

One of these rites Bent describes in true Maori fashion:

A person is taken seriously ill; it is the makutu. The wise man is called in; he divines that the illness is caused by another tohunga's witchcraft. At daylight in the morning the sick man is carried to the water-side. The wise man then takes three small sticks or twigs (rito)—fern-sticks will do—and sets them up by the side of the river or the pool. One of these sacred wands represents the invalid, page 329 one the tribe to which he belongs, and one the mischief-working wizard (te tangata nana te makutu). A charm is said over them, and then two rito are taken away, leaving only one—that for the wizard —the “wand of darkness.”

An incantation, beginning:

Toko i te po, te po nui, te po roa” (“Staff of the night, the great night, the long night”), etc., is repeated over this wand. When this is said the priest conducts the sick person to the edge of the water and sprinkles water over his body, repeating as he does so a charm to expel the makutu spirits from his body, ending with a curse upon the malevolent wizard—” Eat that tohunga makutu, let him be utterly eaten and destroyed.”

When this is ended the patient is taken back to his house. He is told that the wise man has, by virtue of his very strong charms, seen the rival tohunga makutu, and that it will not be long before that evil man dies. The curse falls, the wizard is himself makutu'd, and the invalid—perhaps—recovers.

About the year 1881 Bent—now able to venture into the towns of the pakeha again in safety—left Taranaki, and travelled to Auckland and up to the Waikato. Then he went on to the west coast, and spent some months amongst the Maoris of the Ngati-Mahuta tribe, living in the historic old settlement Maketu, on the shores of Kawhia Harbour, page 330 close to the legendary landing-place of the Tainui canoe—the Waikato Maoris' pilgrim ship.

Tawhiao, the Maori King, was then living at Kawhia, and he asked Bent to remain with him and be his pakeha and interpreter. The white man was now, however, wearying to be back in his old home, Taranaki.

“Tawhiao,” says Bent, “insisted on me remaining with his tribe, but I repeated a Maori incantation which I had been taught by the tohungas in Taranaki, a karakia used as a charm by strangers (tangata tauhou) who may desire to leave the place where they are staying on a visit and proceed to a new pa, and who fear obstruction. The charm begins:

‘Ka u, ka u, ki tenei tauhou,
Ki tenei whenua tauhou.’

“When the old king heard me repeat the incantation he exclaimed:

“‘Ha, so you are a tohunga!’

“‘Yes, I am,’ I replied.

“Then the old man said, ‘Kua tuwhera te rori mou’ (‘The road is open to you.’) He permitted me to return to Taranaki, and sent four of his men to escort me through the King Country to Waitara.”

The last quarter-century of Kimble Bent's life has not carried much adventure. Living amongst the Maoris, he acquired some reputation as a “medicine-man.” During his wild life in Maori- page 331 dom he had become expert in the rude pharmacopoeia of the bush, and learned to extract potent medicines from the plants of the forest. Native herbs and tree-bark and leaves, prepared in various ways, are exceedingly valuable remedies. The knowledge of these herbal remedies, gained from many a tohunga and wise woman of the bush tribes, the white man now turned to practical account. His fame as a doctor reached Parihaka, the village of Te Whiti, the Prophet of the Mountain. The prophet's people sent for the white medicine-man to come and heal the sick. He spent a week in Parihaka, and returned to his Taiporohenui hut with more money in his pocket than he had possessed since he left his old home-town of Eastport to see life in England. “And I was luckier than most pakeha doctors,” says the old man, “for none of my patients died!”

. . . . .

And so the tale of “Tu-nui-a-moa” is told, and we take our leave of the old pakeha-Maori—Kimble Bent, sailor, soldier, outlaw, Hauhau slave, cartridge-maker, pa-builder, canoe-carver, medicineman, and what not—sitting smoking his pipe in the midst of his Maori friends. He is still living with the natives; working in their food-gardens, fishing with them, house-building for them. A grey old man, of mild and quiet eye, who might easily be taken for some highly respectable shopkeeper page 332 who had spent all his life in city bounds. Yet no man probably has lived a wilder life, using the term in the sense of an intimate acquaintance with primeval, passionate savagery, and with the evernear face of death. He is the sole living white eye-witness of the secret Hauhau war-rites; the only white man who has survived to tell of those terrible deeds in the bush, to tell the story of the last Taranaki war from the inner side—the Maori side.

Bent has reached the age of seventy-three; and now the old man's thoughts go to his boyhood's home in the far-off State of Maine, and he sometimes expresses a wish to reach his homeland again. “If I could only get a berth on some American sailing-vessel bound for New York or Boston, I'd even now try to work my passage home,” he says. “I'd like to die in my mother's land.” But that can never be. He is for ever beyond the pale; and he will die as he has lived, a pakeha-Maori.