Maoria: A Sketch of the Manners and Customs of the Aboriginal Inhabitants of New Zealand.
It is time to return to Ngawhare. The Ariki was seated on the ground in the verandah of his house, when the Tohunga entered. He had a small stone chisel in his hand, with which he was finishing the carving on the outside of a canoe bailer, which in shape and appearance resembled the upper shell of a tortoise. He exchanged greetings with the Tohunga, and continued his work in silence. Te Au O Te Rangi was of faultless pedigree; he could name his ancestors for twenty-two generations, commencing with the chief who commanded Aotea, one of the canoes which carried the immigrants from Hawaiki to Maoria. "The Elder Father," as Te Au was often called, was a man well-advanced on his earthly pilgrimage, for he had numbered nearer eighty than seventy years; not that this was looked upon as a great age amongst "this vigorous race of undiseased mankind," for both men and women still survived who had reached maturity at the time of page 53the Ariki's birth. Age had but lightly marked the old man; his close curly hair, the destructive practice of covering the head being unknown in his world, was but slightly grizzled; his beard, in accordance with universal custom, had been extirpated; and the dark lines pencilled upon his forehead and face by the art of the tattooer, concealed the lines drawn by the hand of time. The traces of the latter were chiefly visible in his sunken eye and thin nose; but even these marks might have been attributed to the too abstemious life led by the old man, and to anxiety rather than to old age.
His powerful frame was little bent, but the prominent veins on his arms and legs told the story that a life of hard work and long and weary marches inscribe on the tell-tale tablets of old age. Upon great state occasions when he addressed his people, his mere in his hand, his hair decorated with the rare feathers of the Kotoku, and the eyes which had looked upon so many victories again flashing fire, he looked indeed a great chief, and in the eyes of his countrymen was still without an equal. Other tribes would doubtless have said the same of their leaders, so it remains for the impartial historian to own that he was one of the half-dozen great chiefs of the island. Te Au had passed through life in a highly creditable, almost in a distinguished manner. Under his rule the tribe had held their own at home, and gained military distinction upon many distant expeditions.
His character, in the opinion of his countrymen, was page 54unimpeachable. In youth a promising soldier, in manhood the head and war-chief of his tribe, two dignities sometimes held by the same person, he had resigned, as age crept over him, the latter office to his son Karaka; a transfer amply justified by the high military qualities of the latter. His tribe were the more obedient to and satisfied with his sway that it was not tempered with mercy. One instance of his manner of administering justice will suffice. He had a favourite slave who followed him and slept at his door like a dog, and who, like a dog, was always ready to perform his behests. This man complained to his master of the infidelity of his wife. "Bring her before me," said the chief. On her appearing, "Woman!" said he, "my slave, your husband, has complained to me about you. I warn you not to transgress again." After a time the slave a second time complained to his master, who again told him to bring the woman before him. On her coming the chief took a rope, and after throwing ashes over the miserable naked creature to make her "a thing of no value," he bound her to a post, where she remained for some hours exposed to the derision of the children. The chief then unbound her and ordered her to follow him. In vain the victim and her husband begged for mercy, promising that she would not transgress again. "Do not mistake." said the chief, "I am not about to kill you for that, but for disobeying me." He led her to an unfrequented part of the fortress, and, ordering her to "lie down and not to look at him, as it would disturb him to see her eyes," with one blow of his mere he procured page 55a more effectual divorce for his servant than any ever pronounced by the courts at Westminster.
In his own person the Ariki was a model of conjugal fidelity. He had, as was usual, married early in middle life, and had, as we have seen, a family of three sons and one daughter. Though he lost his wife in comparatively early life, he had, when solicited to replace her, always peremptorily refused, that he might the more exclusively devote his time to public affairs. The one test of merit throughout the world—success—had ever accompanied his undertakings; it was therefore with reason that his tribe looked upon him as a great chief.
The Ariki worked on in silence for a long time after the arrival of the Tohnnga; at last replacing his tools in one of the carved boxes in which the Maoris were accustomed to keep their valuables, meres, earrings, rare feathers, etc., he sat down beside Ngawhare, and, using the vocative case in the usual manner, exclaimed, "O, friend! accept this, the last piece of work I shall ever finish. I shall never commence another, for I am going away."
"Tell me more," replied his visitor.
"Last year when I found the sun less bright and warm than it used to be, I thought I was about to become ill, and die of weariness, the disease of old age. Thereupon you asked me was there no part of my life I would wish to live over again? I said that there was; when you replied that I could not then be weary of life, and I, in consequence, set aside the idea of dying. The part I would have wished to live over again was my page 56first tawa. I was a young man when I went with the great northern tribes to attack the Ngatirankawa at the Rotorua Lakes. We defeated the tribes of the lakes, and encamped for a week at Ohinematu, the Lake of Boiling Springs. We feasted and caroused over the spoils of our victory; but that was nothing, I have done that in many other places. It was the bathing I looked back to. In Te Reigna itself, the land of spirits, the bathing cannot be more delightful. You enter the warm water and swim towards the other side of the bay, where the boiling geysers are continually pouring hot water into the lake. You swim about in any temperature you please, and return to land, furious with the hunger of the hot mineral waters, to feast upon the stores of your enemies' provisions; at least, we did. It was glorious. I have seen many a tawa, but never one like my first to the Rotorua Lakes. You brought it forcibly back to my memory, and since then it has often formed the subject of my thoughts. But the dream has passed away now. I might have remained here a few years longer; I thought so myself, but yesterday I received notice to depart, and I am ready and willing to go. Listen to what I saw. The morning was pleasant and calm, and the sun shone brightly, so I thought that I would go outside and see if he was as warm as he used to be. I ordered a slave to spread a carpet on the mound at the back of the house, and I laid down upon it thinking on the past, when over my head I observed what at first I mistook for a small cloud. After a time it assumed a shape, but it was of page 57nothing that we know upon the earth. It distinctly resembled a canoe, and yet it was not the resemblance of an earthly canoe; both stem and stern were alike, and both round. The stems of our canoes are sharp and their sterns are either round or sharp. They have but one mast and one sail, whereas this monster had three straight masts and one slanting one, and carried eight sails. This terrible apparition was for a short time distinctly visible to me, but before I could call others to see it, it disappeared. A mirage, as you know, is not a very uncommon sight; but then it is merely things of this earth that we see mirrored in the clouds, mountains, trees, and water, sights portentous enough when seen in the sky, but insignificant and unimportant compared to the awful bark from the land of spirits that yesterday floated in the midst of heaven. It came for me."
The old man ceased, and the Tohunga sat long silent. The apparition seen by his chief was beyond even his philosophy. At last he solemnly replied, "It is true what you say; you have commenced the journey to Te Reigna, the land of the hereafter. You have done with life. Which of your sons do you name as your successor, Karaka or Te Wira?"
"Karaka, without doubt."
"Yes, I too look upon Karaka as the hope of the tribe; but is it not straight that the Runanga should be assembled to decide upon so important a matter as the passing over of your eldest son."
"Most of the Runanga are now at the Lake," replied page 58the old man. "Few of them are in the fort; but as you wish it, let them meet here to-night."
The Tohunga, having seen his patient inside the house, appropriated without a qualm the parting present of the old friend, whose last wishes he was secretly determined to thwart, and proceeded to give notice to the members of the Runanga who were in the neighbourhood to attend the meeting to be held that night. These were the three sons of the Ariki, an old chief named Ruia, and himself.
The Tohunga knew that were Karaka named Ariki of the tribe, that determined clear-headed man would rule without an adviser, and his own paramount influence would become much lessened. He therefore thought that his interests would be best served by placing at the head of the tribe the reserved and silent Te Wira, over whom he had much influence. Weighing in his mind, as he went forth from the Fort, the chances for and against the success of the manœuvre by which he hoped to defeat the wishes of the dying Ariki, and secure the succession for Te Wira, he came to the conclusion that he held the game in his own hand.
Crossing the square to his own house, the Tohunga gave the Chief's last gift into the charge of the lady who presided over his town establishment, with strict injunctions that no one was to touch it; for he felt a certain respect for his dying friend, a respect mingled with the sorrow of a great physician who has pocketed the last fee from his most profitable and most distinguished patient.page 59
He then wended his way to the most busy part of the dock-yard, and there, as he expected, found Karaka; who, adze in hand, was directing the work of a number of men who were dubbing down the hull of a large war canoe which had been found to be too heavy.
"Salutations to you, friend!" he said to the chief who was working as well as giving directions.
Karaka, the war-chief of the tribe, presented the personification of manly strength to the eyes of his countrymen. In a language in which, as we have said, the word "beauty" has no existence, he was termed "a choice man," meaning; that he was a fine powerful fellow. As the Maoris were neither phrenologists nor physiognomists, his broad forehead, calm face, and square, determined-looking lower jaw, were disregarded; but his width of chest, strong arms and hands, and enormously powerful lower limbs were fully appreciated. Where any day might prove a day of battle, waged not by missiles, but by close hand to hand encounter which the death of one of the combatants alone could terminate, strength of leg was of immense advantage to a warrior; and Karaka, with a kick, could have levelled most men. Distinguished for his courage, generosity, and hospitality, amongst a people remarkable for those virtues, he was wise, skilful, and unselfish to a degree that sometimes led him to abandon his own opinion out of deference to the feelings of his friends. He was so highly thought of, and the honour of being related to him by marriage so eagerly sought after, that he possessed four wives of rank and several of inferior page 60degree. His first wife, as he said, he had married for his own satisfaction, the others for the satisfaction of his friends. Yet so great were his forbearance, kindness and good temper, that he was able to preside over his large family in a quietude unknown to most polygamists.
Karaka, on being addressed by the Tohunga, laid down his adze, courteously returned the salutation, and, leading his visitor out of hearing of the workmen, awaited his pleasure.
Maori etiquette prescribed that a visitor who had an important communication to deliver should not immediately unburden himself; a custom sometimes carried to a very inconvenient extent, it being considered the height of rudeness to ask a guest the purport of his visit.
Ngawhare commenced by speaking of the morning's sport, and the prospects of the fishing season. He criticised the alterations making in the canoe with the authority of an expert, and then, in the same quiet tone of voice, informed Karaka that a meeting of the Runanga had been commanded by his father, and would take place that night after the evening meal. Without asking a question Karaka replied that he would attend the Runanga, and that he would tell Te Wira, who was at hand engaged in carving wood-work.
Re-entering the Kauroa Pa, the sooth-sayer proceeded to Ruia's house. There, overcome by the morning's exertions, first in fishing, and secondly in eating a prodigious quantity to satisfy the appetite page 61thereby acquired, and gratify his long unappeased craving for fresh food, which sailors expressively call being hungry for "blood meat," he found the obese warrior fast asleep in the folds of a net suspended in his verandah.
The blanks in life's lottery are everywhere many and its prizes few. The latter however do occasionally occur, and one of these in the Maori military lottery Ruia had had the good fortune to draw. It happened in this wise. The tribes of "the River," as the inhabitants of the banks of the Waitebuna loved to call that stream, were once, many years before the time of our story, engaged upon a tawa upon the east coast. Till the day of the battle which made Ruia famous, he had been looked upon as a staunch man-at-arms, but as one too heavy and too inert to have any chance of distinguishing himself. The rival armies joined issue, and at the all-important moment of the charge, Te Au O Te Rangi was wounded, and struck down; whereupon the enemy shouted,—"Te Au is killed. They have fallen! They have fallen! Kahoro! Kahoro!"—the term applied to a land-slip and a flying enemy. In the fallen chieftain's forces the young men of unsteady valour were already looking over their shoulders, and in another minute the battle would have been lost past redemption, when Ruia, who knew that he must either conquer or die, for a man of his size could not run away even if he desired to do so, bestrode the body of his chief, and wielding with the strength of seven men his terrible two-handed broadsword, formed from the page 62rib bone of a sperm whale, speedily cleared a circle round him, shouting the while,—"Rescue! Rescue! The Ariki yet lives!" At the sound of his well-known voice (his stentorian lungs were unequalled in the army) those who were about to fly took heart of grace, charged home, and caught the fluttering wings of victory as it hovered undecided over the field of battle.
On the return of the tawa to Ngutukaka, the maidens came forth to welcome the conquerors, waving green boughs and singing songs of victory; one of their many customs, which, combined with the Jewish appearance of their chiefs, would almost induce us to suppose that the Maoris are connected with the lost tribes of Israel. Ruia was the David of the day; the maidens hailed him as "the toa (hero) of Wairoa," and the chief whose life he had saved, successfully exerted his influence to bring into the Runanga the man who, as he said with truth, had saved the army from destruction. Honours so unexpected surfeited the stout warrior, who, having reached a position which ensured a full share of what in his secret heart he ranked far higher than military glory, viz. a share of the richest and rarest delicacies, such as pigeons and tuis baked and preserved in their own fat in boxes of totara bark, baked lampreys, bread made of whitebait, baskets of delicious little fresh water crayfish (generally caught in insufficient quantities to allow of their distribution among the commonalty), rested on his established fame, and was soon by his daily increasing bulk rendered perfectly incapable of undertaking any further offensive warfare.page 63
By tacit public consent he appropriated to himself a post such as his soul loved, and for which he was well qualified, that of superintendent of the seine nets; and many a choice moke and mullet were toasted for him by his crews, conscious of their master's weakness, as they rested during the heat of the day. Five minutes' active service had thus made Ruia a Field Marshal on full pay and allowances for the rest of his life, and enabled him to lead a much respected life of mingled greatness and gluttony; while, upon state occasions, his presence was eagerly sought after by the tribes of the River as being highly ornamental. Such a life of perfect happiness was too bright to last; in his wildest dreams he could not have conceived an existence of greater bliss than that which had befallen him, until it was disturbed by what he considered impertinent interference with his own speciality.
The seas which surround Maoria are less bountifully supplied with fish than the waters of the northern hemisphere. And the numerous bays and harbours on the east coast are better supplied than the two estuaries and the few harbours on the west. It is, however, the old story of quantity for quality. The west coast fish are of infinitely better quality than those on the east, probably because the occidental seas are of a lower temperature. Moreover on the stormy west coast the ever rolling breakers make trawling upon the sea-board an impossibility. Fishing is, therefore, there confined to the estuaries and the mouths of rivers. In these localities there are what the Maoris page 64term "fish tides," and "tides without fish." When the weather is quite fine and settled, or the reverse, any fisherman can tell whether fish are likely to be obtainable; but when the weather is variable few can judge whether the flood tide, the best time for fishing, is teeming or barren. The great seine nets the Maoris made use of required two large top-sided canoes to hold them, and from sixty to eighty men to haul them. It was therefore a matter of some little importance to them to avoid casting their nets on days when but few fish were likely to put in an appearance.
Ruia had blundered several times in casting the nets in "tides without fish;" and an outsider had at last advised him to wait on more than one occasion when he had proclaimed a fishing day; worse, had proved to be in the right by the want of success of the obstinate fishing party; and, worst of all, had had the presumption to proclaim fishing days without Ruia's sanction, and return with the canoes loaded with fish.
The individual who had thus embittered the old man's life was now standing beside him, looking at him with good humoured contempt. After a long contemplation of the chief fisherman, Ngawhare seized him by the arm, which he shook roughly, saying, "Friend! rise up! rise up!" The old soldier awoke at the first word, and stretched his arm towards his taiaha or wooden sword; but, before his hand had reached his weapon, recognizing his visitor, he drew it back, sat up, and without speaking resumed the netting slumber had interrupted.page 65
The Tohunga made no use of his customary circumlocution. "The Ariki," said he, "would see you after the evening meal; the Runanga will assemble at his house."
The old hero gave a grunt which at once expressed his displeasure and his acquiescence, and the Tohunga departed. "Ah!" cogitated the old man, with a sigh of relief, pausing in his occupation, "it is well that the sorcerer is gone. I wish I had cut him down before I knew who it was! To awake me in such a rude manner! I am sure that he practises witchcraft in secret, or how could he tell a good fishing day better than me, who am an honest man, a good fisherman, and a great warrior? Well, if I cannot get at him in any other way, I can oppose him at the Runanga to night. I am sure that he is not of good descent; indeed, it is beyond doubt that a direct ancestor of his, only four generations back, was taken prisoner and carried into captivity by the Ngapuhi." The recollection of this flaw in the escutcheon of his tormentor soothed the feelings of the veteran, and he resumed his netting. Net making was the usual employment of the old men, who were assisted in it upon wet days by large numbers of both sexes and of all ages. Nothing could be more simple than the Maori fashion of making nets; the flags of the flax plant were split into strips by the finger nail, smoke-dried to make them as durable as possible, and strip by strip netted on the hand without mesh or needle. Smoke-dried though they were, however, they were not everlasting, and new nets of a large size page 66being constantly required, their manufacture afforded constant employment to all who were not otherwise engaged, or who were incapable of active, and more laborious work.
With the feeling of satisfaction felt by a man when he has succeeded in placing a difficult undertaking in a fair way of accomplishment, Ngawhare went in search of his devoted adherent, the melancholy Tomo. He found his friend superintending the adjustment of a long bathing plank over a deep pool, for the amusement of his wayward daughter Ora, it being a favourite pastime of the young people to run up a plank and spring from it into deep water.
Fortune had never tired of persecuting the youngest son of the reigning house. She had taken away the wife of his youth, destroyed the appearance of his face, and for fourteen years his neglected second spouse had, every alternate year, with the regularity of the seasons, made him the father of an additional daughter; while, climax to his misfortunes, the one whom he alone idolized was not as other girls were.
The plank being at last fixed in the right place, Ora rewarded the exertions of the most active of the workmen, who was no other than her own favourite but half-witted slave, Keia, by allowing him to be the first to run along the plank and jump far out into the stream, from which he emerged, declaring that whoever had told his mistress that summer had come was a fool.
"Never mind, Keia," said his mistress, "you have shown such strength and skill in fixing the spring-board page 67that I am going to recompense you. The canoes with the presents of baked fish leave for the upper river this evening; you shall go with them as far as the lake, where you can take a small canoe and bring back a supply of the smoke-dried eels to which I am so partial." Keia joyfully promised obedience to the commands of his young mistress, for he too was fond of smoked eels, and singing, as usual, took his way to the landing-place. Ora, tired of the pool, set out with her father and his friend, and as the three entered the village of Kauroa on their way to the fort, they passed many women busily occupied in stowing baskets of baked fish in the canoes which were about to start up the river. An exchange of presents was the commercial system of the Maoris. Those who made the presents considered that they were preforming a labour of love and generosity, but they always expected and duly received "utu" payment; it being considered a matter of honour to strive to return a gift of greater value than the one received. In some shape or other they were always making presents of what went by the general name of "property," such as arms, clothing, or canoes. Donations of food were generally restricted to the members of the same tribe, and no return was of course expected for the gifts received from serf tribes in the shape of tribute.
Whether the Tohunga took Tomo into his confidence is unrecorded in history, but before they separated the former doubtless satisfied himself that he could rely upon his friend's support.
As night drew on the different members of the page 68Runanga took their way to the old chief's house, outside whose door a rahui, formed of a bunch of leaves tied to the end of a stick, stuck into the ground, was ample intimation that the house was "tapu," and that "all admission except on business" was strictly forbidden.
The Ariki, his three sons, Ngawhare, and Ruia, seated themselves upon mats round some embers in a small fire-place, formed of four stones sunk into the ground in a square, in the centre of the house. The younger members sat in respectful silence until the old chief spoke. "Listen to me, my children," said he; "I now address the Runanga for the last time;" and he proceeded to repeat the story he had told Ngawhare that afternoon.
"Father, are you slain by witchcraft?" asked Karaka.
"The thought is with you; I cannot say," replied the old man.
"How say you?" said Karaka, addressing the Tohunga, who replied; "Witchcraft assumes so many shapes that no experienced man can, without long and careful investigation, say what is or what is not witchcraft."
After a long pause the Ariki resumed. "I have not called you together to settle the cause of my death; you can do that at leisure after my departure. I am not sorry to go away, for I have done my work, and I am weary; it is right that I should go. Never was the tribe stronger or better prepared for war. When we page 69assembled at the eel feast at Rotorua last fall, after leaving a sufficient garrison to protect this Fort, we had still two thousand pairs of warriors to dance the war dance by the banks of the lake. Our storehouses are full of fern roots, and our war canoes are numerous. But it is not to hear me boast that you are here, but to name my successor." The old chief ceased, and Ngawhare was the first to answer.
"The safety of the tribe will be secure in the care of Karaka. The conqueror of Waipuna can carry the burden." Instantly Ruia replied, "What of Waipuna? Waipuna was mere fighting in ambush. There are those present who have distinguished themselves in great battles such as Wairoa, but that is nothing. The question is not about fighting, but who is to rule the tribe here in our settlement. Karaka cannot do that better than the eldest son of his father, therefore let Karaka remain our war chief, and let Te Wira be our Ariki. The less said about Waipuna the better."
The skirmish of Waipuna to which the Tohunga had insidiously made allusion, had been entirely successful from a military point of view, but in other respects the tribe would gladly have dispensed with its results, and would fain have forgotten its memory. It had occurred some years previously. Early one morning Karaka was superintending the launching of a canoe, when a messenger, torn, bleeding, and exhausted, his appearance proclaiming disaster, arrived upon the scene. "Wait till I have finished my work," said the war chief to the messenger, with Maori dislike to leaving any-page 70thing unfinished, to do so being considered unlucky. In a few minutes he was at liberty to hear the messenger's story. Waipuna, the most southerly settlement of the tribe, or rather of an offshoot of the tribe, distant from seventy to eighty miles from Ngutukaka, had the preceding morning been attacked by a southern tribe, taken, and a large number of prisoners made by the the enemy. "He tawa! He tawa! (A war party! A war party!) Sound the war horn!" cried the chief, before the messenger had finished relating his disastrous tidings. The call to arms was joyfully repeated all round the fort. In the meantime the chief entered the Pa, and, mounting the tribune, repeated the story brought from Waipuna. Walking to and fro upon the stage as he related the news to the rapidly assembling hundreds, he proceeded: "Tomorrow, or at farthest the day after, shall be a day of battle in the south. With me shall march three hundred files, all picked men with fully tatooed faces. I want no boys in whom the sap of life is still rising, to drop from fatigue upon the road. I require active athletic men in the prime of life, for we must fly if we would overtake the enemy before he is secure in his own fortresses. Two hundred files will follow to support me, that will be sufficient." More men than he required eagerly offered themselves. Of these he rejected the oldest and the youngest, until there remained the required number of warriors, of from four or five-and-twenty to forty years of age. Within little more than an hour of the arrival of the express, the war party started, encumbered with nothing but page 71their arms and the few handfuls of roasted fern-root carried by every man. They proceeded at the slow run, man's substitute for a trot, which, as practised runners know, admits of being sustained for a far longer period than a quicker pace. At noon on the following day their zeal was fired by the sight of the destroyed settlement, and at sunset the tracks of their foes were so fresh, that Karaka halted his men on the northern slope of a range of hills, while he proceeded alone to reconnoitre. He discovered the hostile party encamped at the foot of the range, where they had found the two requisites for an encampment, wood and water. Returning to his warriors, who were too fatigued with their forced march to attack that evening, he waited for the night. When the darkness had set in, he crawled round his enemies, who were carousing, exulting in their success, and feasting upon the provisions they had made their prisoners carry.
He presently reached the stream to which his feasting foes were sending the captive women to fetch water; their escape being guarded against by long ropes made of strips of flax leaves attached to their wrists. Karaka revealed himself to one of these unfortunate women, and told her that on the following night he would attack the camp and release the prisoners, all of whom he begged her to warn to throw themselves flat upon the ground when they heard his war cry. The next day was spent in renewed carousal on the one side, and silent watching on the other; but, as night fell, Karaka and his warriors rushed upon the camp of their enemies, page 72and amply revenged the insult their tribe had received. When a Maori was taken prisoner, his friends looked upon him as dead. The return to life of the departed is no doubt always awkward to the living; and in Maoria, moreover, the disgrace of having been a prisoner was indelible, and was handed down to the offspring of those who had suffered this last indignity. The recovery of the prisoners was therefore by no means so acceptable to the tribe as the slaughter of their enemies, and an allusion to the battle fought on the southern border after the destruction of Waipuna was no pleasant subject of conversation at Ngutukaka, where but one word was used when the two surprises were indiscreetly brought to memory.
Again the Tohunga spoke. "Friends! the talk of Ruia is straight. Let the eldest son succeed his father. Te Wira shall be our Ariki, and Karaka his right hand, as he is that of his father. Te Wira is thoughtful, generous, brave, and calm: he shall be our ruler; we cannot find his superior."
Tomo followed suit, and strongly supported the claims of Te Wira to succeed his father.
"No!" said Te Wira, "it is not right that I should undertake duties for which another is better qualified than I am. I know that I think too much of what is and what is not. I am a dreamer, and my brother is a man of action, judgment and determination; as a warrior, whether as a leader or a man-at-arms, the whole river has not his equal. He shall be our Ariki." Among no race were the ties of blood relationship so page 73strong as they used to be in Maoria; not even among the sons of Israel, from whom, as we have observed, some are of opinion the Maoris are descended. Uncles and aunts were "fathers" and "mothers," cousins were "brothers" and "sisters," and ties of kindred were traced with a minuteness no herald's college could have surpassed. Karaka loved his brother with a deep and tender regard, which was not diminished, that, in his secret heart, he thought him a dreamer wanting in decision; and his affection would not allow him to be exceeded in generosity. "No, my brother," said he, "you undervalue yourself. I salute you as the successor of our father. I would not have it otherwise, and it shall be so." This, coming from a man of the determined character of Karaka, settled the question of the succession.
The old man was disappointed, but felt powerless, for he knew that no "last word" would alter the determination of his second son. "Then it must be so," said he with a sigh; "Te Wira, in two days time you will be the Ariki of the tribe. I would be alone."
The Runanga rose, the Tohunga exulting in his secret heart at the success of the machinations by which he had secured the prolongation of his influence, and which he looked upon as the triumph of superior intellect. The discomfited Ruia felt quite confused by the, to him, unexpected turn affairs had taken. He felt that in some way or other, though how he could not fathom, the Tohunga had made a fool of him; and he speedily sought his home that his wife Moni might unravel a page 74web which was beyond his comprehension. Moni was a stout, round-faced, nimble old lady, whose restless beady eyes showed her own activity of temperament. She was that night too full of her own troubles to listen to her husband until she had unburdened her mind. "Ruia, listen to me," said the old lady. "I have had such trouble to day! You know my servant girl Peka, whom you gave me when she was a child, on your return from the east coast tawa. She had grown to be a strong girl and was very useful to me. But she was very conceited, and I suspected our son of casting eyes at her. Well, to-day I set her to pound fern-root, but she was above her work and did not half pound it; and when I reprimanded her she was impudent, and asked me if I could pound it better myself. So I told her to lay her hand on the block and I would pound that. The first blow only broke some of her fingers; but I should have forgiven her if she had not given me more of her impertinence, so I pounded away and beat her hand till it was like a jelly-fish, when she became quite quiet, and did not say another word. But what do you think? Shortly afterwards she slipped away to the tapu totara trees and threw herself over the precipice. Did you ever hear of such impertinence as that of a slave girl presuming to kill herself at the very spot where so many distinguished people have taken the leap to Te Reigna?" Ruia held his peace about his own perplexity, for the old lady was clearly in a state of mind to receive rather than to administer comfort.
On the following morning express canoes started for page 75the settlements up the river, and messengers were sent inland to announce the approaching death of the Ariki from witchcraft, and to carry a general invitation to all members of the tribe to come to Ngutukaka to witness the departure of their chief. Rumour generally ascribed the illness of the old man to a distant and hostile tribe, who were said to possess the deepest secrets of the black art. Some, who thought that they knew more than their fellows, hinted, rather by signs than by words, that Maire, the master of the eel weir at Rotorua, practised witchcraft, and was supposed to have caused the death of many of the tribe. But neither rumour nor the knowing ones were right; the culprit was nearer at hand, and after the death of the chief was made known by his own confession.