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

Chapter XIV. Preparations for a Journey to Bring Back Triumphantly the Wanderers

Chapter XIV. Preparations for a Journey to Bring Back Triumphantly the Wanderers.

Tongamimi! did I say? No; that was not the name she bore twenty years before this: but what of that? when it is explained that she was one and the same person which clave to the child, as if her own, when carried away captive to Taupo, thus putting the infant on the same mean level as she was herself. In those far-awa-times, the wahines and children had nothing to look forward to, when captured in war, but a life of slavish servitude. Chief's families, by the intermixture of blood, were usually in time released; but not always.

Tongamimi did not get anything-like gentle treatment from the hands of Matomato, when the glad tidings spread to Taupo of all that which had lately taken place away south in Taranaki. And, the only excuse which Tongamimi offered for her mischievous secrecy, was, “That Korite's uncle Manawatu (the father of Nanahu) whom the Waikato slew, used to make frightsome faces at her, when they played as children together; and that she, even then did not forget to tell him to his face too, she would yet live to see the day when she would be able to addle his eggs!” Tongamimi was packed off to another standing billet after this confession to make bark creels for kumaras alone by herself in the forest.

Nothing was talked of in and all around the pa at Taupo in these days of uncalculated upon good, but the wondrous story of Nanahu and Runa. Nothing, indeed, seemed to be thought of but feasting, dancing, and all sorts of merry page 55 making diversions. Old, old, decrepity, infirm people, with childish voices, thus idly gabbered away—“That of all the jollities they had ever looked upon during their long long: lifetime,” such as the return of warrious who had been victorious; what was going on meanwhile on account of the tidings from Nanahu and Runa blotted out for liveliness, right-good fun and delicious revelling, every one of them, as daylight does the stars. “Aye! but even all this, good as it is,” added they, “will be put far in the background, if what is said is true, by that which is still going to be at a place called Maungaroa, somewhere beyond the Mokau!” And these green-hearted old boys would briskly hitch up their shoulder points and cakle bravely, “O, if I were only but young again, I should be sure to be there!” The real secret, it strikes me, of people living to be old is that such always live as though that so they were not!

It will be gathered from the chatterings of these old-Ruts there, that in addition to all the jollifications and feastings at Taupo over the good tidings of the Tamahine of their esteemed chief; that there were likewise proposed the holding of a magnificent festival away at Taranaki previously to accompanying the heaven-favoured pair back to their old home. It was a puzzling job for the chief to make a judicious selection for who should and should not be included in this grand outing without creating disagreeable dissension, ill-feeling, and spleen. Everyone craved to be of the number, when, not nearly one half of the number craving could possibly go, as the mouths which food would have to be provided for on the march and at their destination had to be well deliberated upon: moreover, the number it would be prudent to leave behind for protection had likewise to be given a thought to; of course, as to this last consideration, their late victory lessened the danger of any attack, but, at anywhere which space surrounds a storm may at anytime arise.

At length Matomato hit upon a plan, which he thought might tally to a T with the humour at this time, of one and all of each of his tribes. Twelve would be chosen from those who could furthest put the stone; twelve from the best at swimming; twelve from the best at diving; twelve from the best at high and level jumping; twelve from the swiftest runners; twelve from the readiest climbers; and twelve more from the most dexterous in managing the canoes. Any on the list of winners who had wahines could take them at their own option and trouble. But lo the painstaking chief found out to his astonishment that half the difficulties of selecting were not well commenced, for no page 56 sooner had this mode of picking become known than such an uproar of dissatisfaction arose from the single wahines as would almost have deatened the noise of thunder! “Well,” said Matomato at this unforseen demur his eyes humorously ogling all the while, “by the great growl of the moa, I should much rather by far have to fight half my battles over again, than again to take in hand such an awkard job as this is going to be.” To gather his thoughts together, so as to best get over this quandary Matomato, with his chin supported by his closed knuckles, betook himself with slow strides a little distance off on to a level plain, drew thereon a line with a piece of stick, then called out, “Wahines, waho it tangatas (women without husbands), all this way, this way. Now everyone of you stand on the line, and the twenty who can stretch the furthest and make a mark with their finger without mind the knees coming on the ground, shall be those who shall have the reward of the covetted jaunt.” Near to a hundred wahines then raced forward; ay, and in the lot too one who was known that had not straightened an arm with rheumatism for fifty years: however, by slyly evading the main rule, the old croon managed to set her mark as far to the front as the best at the trial. “Kahore tika! kahore tika (not fair)!” out loudly bellowed those who happened to have back marks. “Your knees came on the ground!” “They didn't!” “They did!” “They didn't!” “They did.” Thus went they on until hoase. “How, old Kotero,” then, interrupted the chief with amused regard, “did ever you manage to score so high a mark?” “Just this way great chief, by my knees going on the ground and not as forbade coming on it,” was the wahines ready, as well as strictly truthful answer: “You shall certainly go wahine,” said Matomato, splitting his sides with laughter, “even if we should have to carry you on a litter.”

But all these, as the pakeha would say, hard nuts to crack, by way of knowing how to settle matters forsooth were only but a mere play, and really after all as nothing to what was afterwards to follow. Odd enough, it will be admitted, that not the slightest whisper was heard about Taupo of the extraordinary goings-on of Toto until quite half a moon after the things which had transpired about Nanahu and Runa were related. When, at last, though tardily, the news came of how Toto had been acting, it made every particle of pleasantry at once forsake the grand kingly countenance of the chief, and in short, brought the blood to near the boiling point in one and all, inasmuch as had Toto there and then been convieniently about, Tobunga and all as he was, his flesh would have probably given work to do page 57 for several thousand teeth. “O, pride inordinate!” uttered the greatly enraged chief in koraroing within himself, “what lengths wilt thou go for exaltation? What won't thou not do to obtain passing glory? Toto! Toto!” went he on, “thou grudgest me the fleeting fame of being a conqueror! And craves to put thy foot upon the flare so as its dazzle should not thy puny importance shadow! then, all because I have had no ear for thy trumpt-up contemptible mysteries, thou selects me as the chief object of thy vile envenomed hate! Aye, distorts the truth, does this meddlesome Tohunga, by telling the people that I am greedy to possess their land, when, not even so much land as would give a rat a decent burial, I by subjugation at this moment claim. Ah! and when in good sooth too, I might have had well nigh the whole island! Distorts the truth likewise does this troublesome Tohunga, by druming into people's hearing that the sight of helpless misery does at all times Matomato's cruelty whet; when, all during my life, those who know me best can tell, that wretchedness has ever stayed my wrath and awakened instantly my compassion! I have ever endeavoured to win fame, more by mercy, uprightness, and justice than I have done by the work of deadly weapons. Aha! Aha!! Toto, and hast thou this been told, that young Raniera had his knee down upon Matomato's levelled gorge? Aha! Aha!! Then, of course, by such a tale was doubtlessly built by thee stupendous mountains based upon clouds! Thou then unquestionably sayest within thyself—Raniera, a vanquisher, might hoist me up, which Matomato, a vanquisher, yet has never done! Hence, I will now show to Raniera the detestation in which I, Matomat o, hold! Pradence though, surely might have advised better than to have been so hasty in seeking to destroy the sole fruit of my tissues! Then, failing in that, like unto a puling child when refused the breast, that kicks, pushes, and drives at whatever else comes in the way thou threatens taking the lives of those who upon me still had some little claim. Were I to detatch Toto's head forsuch behaviour such would be Toto's due and just desserts, but, then, what good should be gained? For Toto dead should be as sharks prepared for a feast, much more valued dead than living. Toto must be removed though, should it only be for a term from that fabulous and unaccountable island. Wakamarana across raukawa from where he is now will yield him roots, and herbs, and shelter too, and for there my canoes at once must be got ready to take him, and there for a certainty he must abide until such times as Toto can do as others do; live as nature directs, and not mendaciously as evil instigates!”

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On communicating this decision Matomato was greeted with a thousand tongues, uttering, “Ka pai O, great chief! ka nui pai O, greatest, greatest of all chiefs!!”