Other formats

    Adobe Portable Document Format file (facsimile images)   TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

The Sunken Island. A Maori Legend: Occurring Ere the Time of Captain Cook.

Chapter XIII. A Non-Claimant Claimed

Chapter XIII. A Non-Claimant Claimed.

The Chief of the Tateawa's mere proved quite as effective in obtaining for Runa a cordial reception at Wanganui, as though it had been a lengthily written despatch. Nothing, in short, was too good for the tamahine of Matomato, as a guest; nothing was wanting on the part of the Ngataranui tribe, so as to make Runa feel as if she were in the midst of familiar friends—in short, as one of themselves. “I would most willingly,” urbanely urged Koriti, “now, at once, make a large feast for your reception, were it not that my people are busy before the winter wet-weather sets in, making required preparations. By and by though, depend upon it, you shall be convineed of how Koriti can welcome those whom it is his delight to entertain.”

Many are the grossly absurd notions which the Pakeha has of the Maori, ere the Pakeha's advent hither. But, none are really so far away from the truth as that of imagining that the Maori did nothing in those olden times but negotiate with waibines; bunt on sea or land for his food, tomahawk, and sometimes banquet on his enemies. For, however turbulent and jealous they were for what they regarded as their rights, causing, too frequently, internescine war, still, there underlay all this bellicose spirit, a high appreciation of industrial productions. A proof of what is now said may be gathered from this very circumstance: that a good canoe-builder or carver, seldom page 51 figured in their assaulting ranks. Then, on the other hand, victorious tribes could not secure a much more prized trophy than that of collaring such adepts of ingenuity as captives. As many as a hundred slaves, I have been told, have been delivered over for a well-carved wooden effigy! Ay! and an immunity for a series of years from a powerful tribe's attack, has been acquired for nothing more than the gift of a skilfully ornamented canoe! It was a frequently repeated saw—” Little thought with little work speedily bring fungas on the brain.” Now, in fancy—if you will—cast your eyes around inside and outside of this Wanganui pa. Here look! just in front squats a company of nga hakui, or otherwise old women accompanied by lots of mud and dust, begrimmed picaninies, some of the women cleansing fish; some constructing hot-stone pit-ovens therein to cook their dinners; and some scraping with sea-shells the skins from the kumaroes: ay! and they will skin them too with their simple instruments quite three for one, that the most expert pakeha scullion can possibly do with any of their steel blades. A little to the left, close under the bank, observe there are a number of younger wahines, busily at this very moment plaiting mats, mending garments and nets. They make a tolerable fair shift too, it must be allowed, with these three inch-long ground-down whales-teeth needles, and their homespun threads. Yonder under the cool shade of the totoro, a group of nga kotero—young girls — are gravely exercised over trying the effect first on the innerside of barks of different mineral and vegetable dyes, then as the shades are obtained to their liking, they are put into separate troughs—hewn out of trunks of trees—amongst the yarn. That is anything but a bad specimen of wahine's handicraft, that girl by the hara keke tree is just now overhauling with it spread over her knees. It has somewhat the appearance of scroll-work. The Maori designs mostly are taken from fish and shells, cither in weaving, tattooing, carving, or ingraining, and the pleasing results are surely a strong recommendation to the choice. The natives it may be admitted are often rather loud in colour, but seldom or ever in delineation. Those men under the open raupo-thatched roof are busy at present indenting variagated coloured shells into the handles of their weapons of war, making them dazzle as though they were constituted of the most priceless of gems. Holloa! what is now that grizzly-haired fat woman gabbling so excitedly about? O! only because that she cannot succeed to kindle the sticks for making a fire for her earth-oven. That is her husband, you see now hurrying to her relief. Not quite so ready that as the lucifers of the pakeha; still you will page 52 notice that by about ten minutes persevering—rubbing upon the pith of a dry-flax stick with another of a more tenacious nature, the old man succeeds in procuring fire to the very great delight of his tip-toe expectant partner, who has all the while been stooping over him watching the operations.

Either on the third or the fourth day of Runa's sojourn among the Wanganui natives; the party having the kukupa with the five threads wound around the leg, in and through Koriti to her made their presence known. After a somewhat protracted deliberation, it was finally agreed upon by all the parties interested that the bird instantly should be liberated, and also one of the swiftest-footed messengers which possibly could be procured, was immediately to follow and deliver to Matomato personally, an account of all the wondrous things concerning him, which in these parts had lately come to pass.

It fell out also, about this same time, that a pompous young swell of the name of Ngote, gave great annoyance to Runa, by his almost day and night hanging around, endeavouring I suppose, to test the extent of his magnetism, beseeching, pleadingly whenever the slightest chance presented itself, to be given the opportunity of having with her a quietly uninterrupted korero. All such tumoremore Runa endured with most admirable good nature; but when the conceitedly-verdant fop forgot himself by stating Nanahu's illegibility to own such an incomparable pearl, as the tamahine of Matomato. Such aroused Runa's indignation to a pitch beyond a moment's fanther toleration—sending promptly a message to his chief to rid her at once of such an unbearable nuisance.

“Who are you?” vociferated the enraged commander, as he hastily flailled poor Ngote ont of the pa with a formidable sapling.” How dare you bring evil upon my hapu?”

“O! chief! spare me, spare me!” whimpered Ngote. “For my purpose alone was to compass good to your hapu by striving to become through the tamahine of Matomato, illustrious in council!”

“Begone grub, begone,” loudly bawled out the still farther in ensed chiet. “Put the length of this river's course between you and this, ere you think to cease travelling! Ay! and as long as you live too, well remember, that any eel its head may raise, but this it can never do, it cannot keep it raised! Hist! get thee off from hence to the far back desert, and learn humbleness from contemplating at thy leisure the majesty of the Moa!”

As for Nanahu and Runa, it was a hard matter to tell, which of their sufferings had penetrated deepest into the core, page 53 by their painfully enforced separation, ever since away farther north they were brought ashore in the fishing canoe. Too well! alas! each of them knew how ineffectual in their case would prove remonstrance, therefore, both mutely bore their almost insupportable sorrow! Aye! a sorrow too, of the most depressive sort, whereon hope refused to shed the faintest scintillation. Prospective joys or looming troubles customarily are to an absurd degree over-rated, but downcast Nanahu, at this time with his hanging jaws, lustreless eye-balls, and neglected-scraggy locks, must have thought it as a mattter of impossibility to have over-rated his merciless coming doom. As here, now he strolled away from all communion with any of his kind, his hands in front of the pit of his stomach unconsciously making his thumbs revolve around each other—manifesting thereby that he was in a revelve of gloomy despair. While thus distractedly pacing hither and thither; while thus mechanically with his two thumbs describing stellar movements, poor Nanahu got startled almost into fits of convulsions by a substance suddenly plunging from a thicket bordering upon his beat, straight in front of him; something it was after the form of a limp-filled sack of chaff, held up by the middle! Such afterwards turned out to be, a poor old beldam with her back set in a double, by in her day and generation carrying pondersome, overpowering burdens! Nanahu looked down and regarded the unfortunate creature before him sympathetically, the antique decrepit crone looked up at Nanahu, with considerable effort and regarded he, whose path she was crossing, with prying interest. After the two wayfarers koreroing for a few seconds, the aged woman playful-like raised her supporting staff, and tapped Nanahu with the point of it gently under the terminal of his face! Then no sooner had she exercised this odd sort of liberty, than she went into such a rapturous frenzy, as naturally conveyed the impression to Nanahu, that the old dame must be clean, stark mad I Not a single word more, however, could be got out of this seeming-sorceress. She betook herself as fast as ever she could manage to waddle, instantly away from him in the direction of the chiefs whare, mumbling all the time some incoherent jargon, which added more to Nanahu's bewilderment than it did to any enlightment received.

But what soon subsequently gave a no less shock to Nanahu's already dreadfully shattered nerves, was the sudden appearance of a mob of people in commotion rushing from the pa, in the direction of where he was then standing. Waying their hands, and shouting with trilling intonations, “Haere-mai; here-mai—come thither, Tamati Mangu; haere- page 54 mai, tamati Mangu, why stay you so long away from us as a stranger, beyond the outer shadow of your own gates?” Nanahu gazed upon their approach quite paralysed with confusion. When the company came close upon the deranged spectator—without even saying so much as, “by your leave,” they adroitly placed him upon a litter of green boughs which had been prepared for the purpose, and bore him away triumphantly upon their heads followed by a large concourse of women and children. Three times the whole troop went round the stockade before entering, singing heartily ka pai te rai ka mui pai te ra. Blessed be the day that has welcomed back to his people their long lost rangatira!!!

Thus Nanahu, like a short stumpt wick of candle on being lighted contines long, low, lurid, and dubious, at length, in a twinkle, starts into brilliancy.