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

Chapter IV. An Elopement

Chapter IV. An Elopement.

I have never heard how long it was after what I have alread told until that which I am about to tell took place. It was one morning, near to the dawn, within a moon of midsummer, when the flowers on the Mapau are seen. Around this pa of the great Matomato, instantaneously a great commotion arose; the noise that then was made,—well, there is really no name for. Between deep-voiced men hoarsely bawling, women screeching, children crying, as if each of them had got-redhot flagstones under their naked feet, such a tumult as might have frightened anyone listening at a distance, almost out of their senses. The cause of all this page 16 big hullaballoo was not from any disturbance under them in the earth, neither above them from the clouds, nor yet around them from either fire or from water, but only from Tongamimi having apprised Motomato that his daughter Runa had been missed from her moenga for several hours then at a stretch. Almost as fleetly as the flash of lightning the tidings of this most deplorable and most startling event went from ear to ear. The toilet, almost on all occasions, of the Maori is well known to be a short one; hence, almost momentary after the discovery became known, they were all on their feet huddled in groups together, on the outside of the palisading, and loudly halloaing as if each individual there thought, that the test of the interest which they took for their master would be measured by the height of sound, which they could produce! In this awkward strait, those people, then did, what all people I believe commonly do, when overtaken by any exciting perplexity. Which is, that numbers try hard to gain a mark, by immediately fixing on who, or what is, to blame. Some put Runa's mysterious disappearance on one cause, some put it on to another, but, mostly agreed that she had been cunningly decoyed by the evil spirit of the demon Whero! However, when this plausible opinion among the people was mentioned to Matomato; he vehemently, with his strong voice thundered forth—“All ridiculous trash and absurd nonsense! The evil spirit,” said he, “which has stole away my daughter; daily, I'll be sworn to it; when he can have it, fares on Punga-roots, kumaros, and the flesh of sharks and eels.” But, with an oath, by far too terrible for one easily to get the tongue round, he spoke thus—“There is not in all the lands, nor yet is there either in all the seas of this far out-stretched earth, a nook, wherever it be, that for any length of time, will afford whoever it is, safe shelter from my just vengeance.—Ho, hark, listen! chiefs beneath me of my own hapu, quickly see, who it is that is amissing! Chiefs of neighbouring hapus, quickly see, who it is, that is amissing! Muanga's of remants of strange hapus, quickly see, who it is that is amissing! Every man, woman, and urchin, quickly see, who it is that is amissing! Then, mark well, when once I know, who the dastardedly wretch is; at once, by the broad nose of my Great Tupuna, I'll know the way too, which will make it as hot for him, as if that he were fast stifling in the entrails of a famished Moa! Ay! By Ma, Uta and Moana! a passage I'll find to his Whekau, at the wrong end of his korokoro!”

Promptly were the commands of Matomato complied with, and promptly too, their came a shock; O, such a shock I which nearly took everybodys' breath away! Nanahu, page 17 Nanahu! the slave, the common drudge, Nanahu! the mean, petty messenger, was found to be the only one, whose presence could not be sighted.

There was none, but what looked for Matomato to be overwhelmed with a consuming passion, at such a mortifying contingency, and were sadly dismayed when pondering over what the consequence probably might be. Their fears were groundless. For, when Matomato did hear of it; no token whatever of exasperation could be traced on his grand countenance. He was as calm as the heavens are, after is passed over them the rolling of the thunders; as unruffled as the snow is during a clear frost on Ruapehu. Such, I should not wonder—was the true secret of Matomato's ever success, and ever greatness. He seemed to be as impetnous and noisy as the burning of parched branches, or móoana lashed to madness by the wind, at but inconsiderate trifles; but, when work was needed to be done, as bright and cheerful as a star in the west, after receiving refreshments from a fleeting rain-laded cloud; and, aye! as tranquil and stately as the tall forest trees under an undisturbed full-round moon. He immediately went about making preparations for what was required; much in the same way as if he were directing workmen working at a canoe, or wahines labouring at making or repairing fishing-nets. Three men with their wives were dispatched to scour the country around Kawhia; another three-pair Taurangi; another three-pair Petane; another three-pair Taranaki; another three-pair Wanganui; and several more companies sent out to short distances all around. The former were instructed to continue their search until stopped by a particular message; the latter to return on the going down of each day's sun. Mostly all of the tribes had had their curiosity tickled, for sometime previously at Matomato's getting together numbers of different kinds of birds, and confining them in a hollow, overgrown with scrub, and well secured by fishing-nets, so that none of these birds could get away. This day, however, the purpose of which they deemed, they had at length discovered; by Matomato with his own hands, giving to each party, which he had appointed to long distances a kakupa—to the one with the party for Kawhia, a thread was tied once round one of its legs; the one with those for Taurangi the thread was wound twice; for Petane thrice; for Taranaki four times; and for Wanganui the thread was wound round five times. So, that when any were freed, on the party succeeding in making a capture, at the return of the kukupa the direction where it took place would be distinctly known. Was it any wonder then, that page 18 a man who could think of such strange things, was a man that none could get the better of whether in peace or in war? Where indeed! should have been the Pakeha now, had the Moari had had the good luck to have had Matomato amongst them for a leader in the late wars of Governors Brown and Grey?

Nearly every day for sometime after, constantly succeeding rumours arose, that Kuna and Nanahu had been apprehended, and that every moment they might be looked for, back once more again inside of the pa, and like spent waves over a shingly beach murmuring, so arose every time each lying tale was declared, the sound of the weird-like wailing tangi. The Maori, understand! tangis, be the occasion, either one of grief, or one of joy; and, but alone a Maori, well knows, which is which.

As naturally may be considered, the Great Chief more and more got displeased, the longer these trumpt up stories of Runa and Nanahu's arrest were kept in circulation; but, still the chief showed no outward mark of disapprobation. One morning, however, before there were any out of the pa, or had so much as left the precincts, they were all ordered—without excuse—to meet on a great plain near by. Thereon, Matomato took hold of one, and asked him if he had heard concerning his daughter the latest tidings? and from whom? The first thus accosted, was directed there and then to stoop, with his hands on his knees; the second—the one who told it, behind the one he told it to with his hands too bearing on the small of the first one's back, the third in a similar position behind the second, and so on, until a circle was formed including all the people living in and around the pa. Imagine quite a thousand people in the position described, forming a ring. The last who was challenged, saying, that he had been told by the first! Matomato gave a sort of grin at this rather peculiar result—made the points of his shoulder-bones give two or three short jerks, locked his hands behind his back, and thus spoke. “All ye people! now listen! I am very pouri, very much pouri, indeed! as all the trouble which I have now taken, and all the trouble which I have now also given, has this day proved to have yielded no fruit. I am now as you all know getting well shaken with years, cast down and heirless! Like unto a fool, I unwisely thought by this plan, which I devised, and which you, O, people! have all likewise witnessed, that, I should have found out some one whom no one communicated the latest tidings to, so that, if it had been a tangate, I purposed to have made him my own successor, and if it had been a wahine, I purposed to put her in the way of raising me successors. But—but”—Matomato's page 19 speech at this juncture—instantaneously was stifled by a crowd of men and women of every age from twelve to ninety breaking away from the ring which had been so amusingly put together, and singing out with all the strength of their lungs. “I! master! hark! I am the one; it was me! it was me! I did it to break up the dullness! I did it, to keep us from any other mischief!”

Matomato in the centre, regarded the group of clamouring perjurers as they drew towards him with something between a sigh and a smile; and, truly there was much to cause a sigh; and nothing to wonder at, for drawing a smile. For, there, parading around him as applicants for the held-out reward, were men nearly bent double—ripe for the grave, and decrepit, withered hags who had ceased bearing for at least the last forty years! “Out of my sight, you vile, shameless wretches!” with great indignation burst out Matomato. My scheme I am happy to tell you, has succeeded beyond all expectation—people who cannot be relied upon, are unworthy to live with those who can; and for that reason, from this hour—I most solemnly command—that from hence you go, to a place where you will live by yourselves; and where only yourselves, your infamous falsehood can injure! Mark! I am firm and unchangeable—prepare yourselves for an immediate long journey! There are people may be likened to a fire, they become brighter by moving!”