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

Chapter VI. A Somewhat Wild Apostolic-seat!

Chapter VI. A Somewhat Wild Apostolic-seat!

I, who tell this old Maori tale, was then at a growth, which may be called midway between a piccaniniy and a tall-grown man, when, one day behind a boulder on the beach; near the Sugar Loaves here in Taranaki, I found myself near to where two whitemen were having a talk. They both must have seen me; but I suppose that, my brown skin, together with my native togery page 24 —which was simply a koko on my shoulders, and a mero round my waist, gave me the privilege of not being very much heeded: they could not know, that the raw dark-skinned urchin close to their feet had received a prize for reading and speaking English at the “Grey Institute,”—just on the top of the hill from where they were then sitting! One of these men, I thought could not have been a real-born Englishman. For, this was of what he spoke, and this also was how that he spoke it:

“Dos ees von most vonderful blas vor de making ov de large cakes ov gonglomerate stone—you notice—hollow onterneath. Led me tell you my vriend, how id ees, dat doz thingz com apout. Voorst in de strong sturms, de wafes prings wid dem de large poulders, drops dem, ven doo weak vor do carry dem any more. Dat makes von wall. Very well den! when not so schtrong ees de storm, vrom von point de waves pring clay; des clay vastens on de top of the stones, whot pefore com, and projects von leedle pit; negst com de gravel vrom von oder point an vastens on de clay; den de iron in de water vrom de land comes an zements de clay and the gravel poth dogether, an zo on, ontil de small peginning may schpread vor miles, wid de sea running onter it all de white. Des ees vot ees called von valse pottom—Den, teufel! Here doo, ees az mooch oil wasting apout, az vot it would pring, would pay von large army!

Those words of the strange speaker, have never since that time, for long together left my head, and may explain what further on in my story wiil be told * * * It was no vain threat of Matomato's, that of the banishing those untrustworthy people away to some place where that they should have to live by themselves! How, or by whom conducted? that, I know no more about than a sea-gull; nor would it matter much, as far as the tale goes, even if I did. At this time, away off scaward, north by west, about two miles from the outer Sugar Loaves of Taranaki, a flat low island of over seven miles in round measurement stood, which went by the name of Motupora, and now, thereupon, these cunningly entrapped fibbers were compelled to live. By all the accounts which have been handed down from different sources, this flat island of Motupora could not have for anyone been a very comfortable habitation, from its lowness and flatness; it must have been frequently drenched during westerly and northerly gales; from its rocky surface, but little vegatation could have sprung. But one bad thing there was, ever so much more bad than any—the want of water to drink! Whenever the attempt was made to preserve in holes of the rocks, that which fell from the rain; the attempt turned out to be quite a failure, for in less than an hour page 25 afterwards, such tasted bitter, and naucious, and quite unfitted for use; therefore, every drain they used had to be brought in large calabashes, conveyed in boats from land. Then flesh of birds and fish, as far as Motupora itself could yield, must have been the only diet! So unquestionably such would have been the case, had not upon this very same island, there lived a renowned Maori Tohunga and Poropiti whom—as the Pakeha saying has it—“brought them plenty of grist to the mill.” Many were the nice fat presents both from near and from afar, which this priest Toto received. But what might have been thought as plenty for Toto and his former few disciples might not have been sufficient, both for these, and eleven late arrivals from the shores of Lake Taupo—But, Matomato thought Toto to himself, was materially all-powerful; therefore, he (Toto), must make the best of it, and resign to grin and bear—Aye! but this is just the thing—which will be after shown—which Toto did not do! at least not meekly, nor with any manner of praiseworthy resignation! Toto, after a time, probably on quietly thinking, began to get fully convinced that those people which had been palmed upon him, had so been, more as a punishment on himself for reviling-out-spokenness, than from any notion of bestowing on them a proper dessert. For what had they done? Why, not a single tittle more than the rest of their kind did, almost every wakefulhour in their lives! In short, Matomato did not believe, and had freely expressed as much, in the power which Toto professed to claim outside of that which was visible. Then Toto on the other hand did not believe in the power which Matomato had derived from blood, murder and rapine, as was put down by him; hence, it was, that the beliefs of these two big men, did not very well accommodate themselves to each other. Toto, however, had some small excuse for his malevolence—the flower and pride of the hapu, of which he was a member—Matomato, twenty years before this, had, after a fearful massacre led into captivity; and not only that, but in spite of frequent and fervent pleading, had refused any to release! I do not know whether or no such inhumane conduct—as was stated—on the part of Matomato, was the cause of Toto choosing the life of which he did—that of taking upon himself the office of Priest and Prophet! He may—mind, this is only my own thought!—felt so dreadfully embittered, so as to determine this within himself; that, if Matomato had acquired great control over men by weapons of the hand, he (Toto), would strive to acquire control over them also, by the weapons which could be set in motion within the brain! Well! it matters little whether Toto, at first wrought page 26 out in his mind, this scheme, or that his after-success, like as trouble, came unexpectedly upon him; all that can be now said at this stage is, that Toto's power over the Maori was a thing not altogether to be lightly weighed! Great dread of the upheld lash, draws generally abject submission. The lash which Toto held over the people was coming evils! unless through himself averted! This is, what it is said he did, which is hard to make oneself altogether believe, to show the people that he was more than common; several hollow punga-trunks, pierced with many holes were upright-fixed in different places of his island. Then, when the blackness of night covered up the heavens, and when also multitudes were on the shore, in the beautiful form it is told, of flat branches of the nika-palm, he caused fire to spread out of these upright trunks of punga! Well, after listening to the Pakeha's words, of the waste of oil, the thought has frequently struck me, however, much absurd it may seem, that possibly Toto may have tapped the lode, in these days, on the island of Motupora! who knows?

If now this wonderful project of Toto's has not been swollen by the tributaries of many succeeding generations, is there anyone who can keep from feeling, that little surprise need exist at Toto's hold over the minds of more than half of the Maoris, in this part of the island in those days? And need they, either feel surprise, that though Toto had establisbed himself on a place where there was not a great variety from its own yielding, to put into the mouth, that a greater variety was here partaken of, than actually was by those who were living and working on the fertile soil!

Toto held great runangas—what you Pakehas name meetings—on this sea-rimmed rock; and with a chant something after this fashion, at his order, the proceedings, according to hearsay, were opened.

Great is Toto, the companion of Atua!
Take ye heed!
Mercy and ruin are in his hands!
Take ye heed!
This world soon like reeds of raupo,
By the lights of Rangi falling down,
Shall all but Motupora be ablaze!
Take ye heed! Take ye heed! Take ye heed!

page 27

Toto the companion of Atua, shall save!
Listen! Listen!! Listen!!!
All those who to his flanks will hold firm!
Listen! Listen!! Listen!!!
When the other lands all into nothing have gone!
Out of this island a new world will form,
And the people of my choice all thereon will dwell.
O! all ye people listen! Listen!! Listen!!!
Where will then be Matomato the Great?
And, all who on me do not confide?
Where will the strong be who boast of captives?
Where will be all who've lapped up blood?
Which flowed through the veins of a brother?
All, all, all consumed!