Polynesian Mythology and Ancient Traditional History of the New Zealand Race
Stratagem of Puhihuia's Elopement with Te Ponga
Stratagem of Puhihuia's Elopement with Te Ponga.
There was formerly a large fortified town upon Mount Eden; its defences were massive and strong, and a great number of persons inhabited the town. In the days of olden time a war was commenced by the tribes of Awhitu and of Waikato against the people who inhabited the town of Mount Eden or Maunga-whau.
They were engaged in a fierce war: one side first persisted in their efforts for victory, until they were successful in beating the other party; then the other side in their turn succeeded in resisting their enemies, and gained a victory in their turn; thus the tribes of Waikato did not succeed in destroying their enemies as they desired.
After this the people of Waikato thought, for a long time, “Well, what had we better do now to destroy these enemies of ours?” And seeing no way to accomplish this, they determined to make peace with them; so, at last, they arranged a peace, and it appeared to be a sure one.
When this peace had been made, Te Ponga, a chief from Awhitu, and one of the fiercest enemies of the people of that town, went, attended by a large company, to Maunga-whau, and whilst he was yet a long way off, he and his party were seen coming along by the people of the fortified town, and they ran to the gates of the fortress, calling out, “Welcome, oh, welcome, strangers from afar!” and they waved their garments to them; and the strangers, encouraged by these cries, came straight on to the town until they reached it, and then walked direct to the large page 188 court-yard in front of the house of the chief of the town, where they all seated themselves.
The inhabitants being all now assembled in the town, as well as the strangers, the chiefs of each party stood up and made speeches, and when they had concluded this part of the ceremony, the women lighted fires to cook food for the strangers, and when the ovens were heated, they put the food in and covered them up. In a very short time the food was all cooked, when they opened the ovens, placed the food in baskets, and ranged it in a long pile before the visitors; then, separating it into shares, one of the chiefs called aloud the name of each of the visitors whom a share was intended; and when this allotment was completed they fell to at the feast.
The strangers, however, ate very slowly, knowing they had better take but little food, in order not to surfeit themselves, so that their waists might be slim when they stood up in the ranks of the dancers, and that they might look as slight as if their waists were almost severed in two; and as the strangers sat they kept on thinking, “When will night come and the dance begin?” and the thoughts of the others were of the same kind.
As soon as it began to get dark, the inhabitants of the village rapidly assembled, and when they had all collected in the court-yard of the house, which was occupied by the strangers, they stood up for the dance, and rank after rank of dancers was duly ranged in order, until at length all was in readiness.
Then the dancers began, and whilst they sprang nimbly about, Puhihuia, the young daughter of the chief of the village, stood watching a good opportunity to bound forward before the assembly, and make the gestures usual with dancers, since she knew that she could not dance so well, or so becomingly, if she pressed on before the measure was completed, but that when the beating time by the assembly with their feet and hands, and the deep voices of the men, were all in exact unison, was the fitting moment for her to bound forward into the dance, with the becoming gestures.
Then up sprang the strangers to dance in their turn, and they duly ranged themselves in order, rank behind rank of the dancers, and began with their hands to beat time, and whilst they thus gave the time of the measure, the young chief, Te Ponga, stood peeping over them and waiting a good opportunity to spring forward, and in his turn make gestures; at last forth he bounded; then he, too, bent his head with many gestures, first upon the one side and then upon the other; indeed, he performed beautifully! The people of the village were so surprised at his agility and grace that they could do nothing but admire him, and as for the young girl Puhihuia, her heart conceived a warm passion for Te Ponga.
At length the dance concluded, and all dispersed, each to the place where he was to rest; then, overcome with weariness, they all reclined in slumber, except Te Ponga, who lay tossing from side to side, unable to sleep, from his great love for the maiden, and devising scheme after scheme by which he might have an opportunity of conversing alone with her. At last he formed a project, or rather it originated in the suggestions of his private slave, who said to his master, “Sir, I have found out a plan by which you may accomplish your wishes; listen to me whilst I detail it to you. To-morrow evening, just at night-fall, as you sit in the court-yard of the chief of the village, feign to be very thirsty, and call to me to bring you a draught of water; on my part, I will take care to be at a distance from the place, but do you continue to shout loudly and angrily to me, ‘Sirrah, I want water, page 190 fetch me some;’ call loudly, so that the father of the young girl may hear; then he will probably say to his daughter, ‘My child, my child, why do you let our guest call in that way for water, without running to fetch some for him?’ Then, when the young girl, in obedience to her father's orders, runs down the hill to fetch water from the fountain for you, do you follow her to the spring; there you can uninterruptedly converse together; but when you rise to follow the young girl, in order to prevent them from suspecting your intentions, do you pretend to be in a great passion with me, and speak thus—‘Where's that deaf slave of mine? I'll go and find the fellow. Ah! you will not hear when you do not like, but I'll break your head for you, my fine fellow.’”
Thus the slave advised his master, and they arranged fully the plan of their proceedings. The next day Te Ponga went to visit the chief of the village, and sat in his house watching the young girl, and before long evening closed in, and they retired to rest, and some time afterwards Te Ponga, pretending to be thirsty, called out loudly to this slave, “Halloa! sir, fetch me some water;” but not a word did the slave answer him; and Te Ponga continued to call out to him louder and louder, until at last he seemed to become weary of shouting. When the chief of the village heard him calling out in this way for water, he at length said to his young daughter, “My child, run and fetch some water for our guest; why do you allow him to go on calling for water in that way, without fetching some for him?” Then the maiden arose, and, taking a calabash, went off to fetch water; and no sooner did Te Ponga see her starting off than he too arose, and went out of the house, feigning by his voice and words to be very angry with his slave, so that all might think he was going to give him a beating; but as soon as he was out of the house, he went straight off after the young girl; he did not, indeed, well know the path which led to the fountain, but led by the voice of the maiden, who tripped along the path singing blithely and merrily as she went, Te Ponga followed the guidance of her tones.
When the maiden arrived at the brink of the fountain and was about to dip her calabash into it, she heard some one behind her, page 191 and, turning suddenly round, ah! there stood a man close behind her; yes, there was Te Ponga himself. She stood quite astonished for some time, and at length asked, “What can have brought you here?” He answered, “I came here for a draught of water.” But the girl replied, “Ha, indeed! Did not I come here to draw water for you? Why, then, did you come? Could not you have remained at my father's house until I brought the water for you?” Then Te Ponga answered, “You are the water that I thirsted for.” And as the maiden listened to his words, she thought within herself, “He then has fallen in love with me;” and she sat down, and he placed himself by her side, and they conversed together, and to each of them the words of the other seemed most pleasant and engaging. Why need more be said? Before they separated they arranged a time when they might escape together, and then each of them returned to the village to wait for the occasion they had agreed upon.
When the appointed time had arrived, he desired some of the chosen men of his followers to go to the landing-place on Manuka harbour, where the canoes were all hauled on shore, there to wait for him and Puhihuia, and he directed them when they got there to prepare one canoe in which he and all his followers might escape; he desired that this canoe should be launched and kept afloat in the water with every paddle in its place, so that the moment they embarked it might put off from the shore; he further directed them to go round every one of the other canoes, to cut the lashings which made the top sides fast to the hulls, and to pull out all the plugs, so that those following them might be checked and thrown into confusion at finding they had no canoes in which to continue the pursuit. Those of his people to whom Te Ponga gave these orders immediately departed, and did exactly as their chief had directed them.
The next morning Te Ponga having told his host that he must return to his own country, all the people of the place assembled to bid him farewell; and when they had all collected, the chief of the fortress stood up, and, after a suitable speech, presented his ade mere to Te Ponga as a parting gift, which might establish page 192 and make sure the peace which they had concluded. Te Ponga in his turn presented with the same ceremonies his jade mere to the chief of the fortress; and when all the rites observed at a formal parting were completed, Te Ponga and his followers arose, and went upon their way: then the people of the place all arose too, and accompanied them to the gates of the fortress to bid them farewell; and as the strangers quitted the gates, the people of the place cried aloud after them, “Depart in peace! depart in peace! May you return in safety to your homes!”
Just before the strangers had started, Puhihuia and some of the young girls of the village stole a little way along the road, so as to accompany the strangers some way on their path; and when they joined them, the girls stepped proudly along by the side of the band of strange warriors, laughing and joking with them; at last they got some distance from the village, and Puhihuia's father, the chief of the place, seeing his daughter was going so far, called out, “Children, children, come back here!” Then the other girls stopped and began to return towards the village, but as to Puhihuia, her heart beat but to the one thought of escaping with her beloved Te Ponga. So she began to run. She drew near to some large scoria rocks, and glided behind them, and, when thus hidden from the view of those in the village, she redoubled her speed; well done, well done, young girl! She runs so fast that her body bends low as she springs forward. When Te Ponga saw Puhihuia running in this hurried manner, he called aloud to his men, “What is the meaning of this? let us be off as fast as we can too.” Then began a swift flight, indeed, of Te Ponga and his followers, and of the young girl; rapidly they flew, like a feather drifting before the gale, or as runs the weka which has broken loose from the fowler's snare.
When the people of the village saw that their young chieftainess was gone, there was a wild rushing to and fro in the village for weapons, and whilst they thus lost their time, Te Ponga and his followers, and the young girl, went unmolestedly upon their way; and when the people of the fortress at last came out ready for the pursuit, Te Ponga and his followers, and Puhihuia, had got far page 193 enough away, and before their pursuers had gained any distance from the fortress, Te Ponga and his people had almost reached the landing place at Manuka harbour, and by the time the pursuing party had arrived near the landing place, they had embarked in their canoe, had grasped their paddles, and being all ready, they dashed their paddles into the water, and shot away, swift as a dart from a string, whilst they felt the sides of the canoe shake from the force with which they drove it through the water.
When the pursuers saw that the canoe had dashed off into Manuka harbour, they laid hold of another canoe, and began to haul it down towards the water, but as the lashings of the top sides were cut, what was the use of their trying to haul it to the sea? they dragged nothing but the top sides—there lay the bottom of the canoe unmoved. Pursuit was impossible; the party that had come to make peace escaped, and returned uninjured and joyful to their own country, and went cheerfully upon their way, carrying off with them the young chieftainess from their enemies, who could only stand like fools upon the shore, stamping with rage and threatening them in vain.