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Maoria: A Sketch of the Manners and Customs of the Aboriginal Inhabitants of New Zealand.

Chapter V

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Chapter V.

In the open air the Maori entered life; in the much loved open air he spent his existence; and in the open air his spirit took its departure from the mortal tenement it had inhabited. The field of battle was considered the most fitting death-bed for a warrior, failing which, the more sudden his departure the better pleased, or perhaps we should say, the less grieved were his friends. A lingering illness was deprecated as entailing useless pain and trouble upon the sufferer and his family; and, above all things, death within doors was avoided, for the departing spirit would thereby have felt insulted, "cribbed, cabined, and confined."

On the day Te Au O Te Rangi had appointed for his death, a great concourse assembled in the public square of the fort. Rotorua and the other settlements of the tribe had sent forth their chief warriors to pay the last honours due to a great chief by witnessing his departure. So many parties of dis-page 77tinguished visitors had arrived, that the residents of Ngutukaka had exhausted themselves in dancing war-dances; every party arriving on a solemn state occasion expecting to be received by the women waving green boughs and crying Come! Come! Welcome! Welcome! and by the men performing a war-dance of welcome: the visitors dancing in their turn, and striving to the uttermost to outvie their hosts in the display of strength, grace, time, and agility. The residents therefore felt a natural relief when they could see no more canoes coming down the river, and when the time for high water was at hand, the moment the chief had named for his departure to Te Reigna.

All were assembled when the Ariki, robed in the finest shawl-like garments, and his hair decorated with the feathers of the white crane, was carried, reclining upon a litter, into the public square. Four days illness had worked but little change in the appearance of the abstemious old man, and unless he himself had announced it, no one would have thought that he was about to die. Around him stood his three sons, and several of his old companions in arms, the bearers of his litter; and all were hushed in the deepest silence in the expectation of hearing the last address of the great man departing. Twice he unsuccessfully essayed to rise, then motioning to Karaka, with his assistance he stood erect. Stretching forth his right hand, in which he grasped his mere, he spoke—"My children, I have fought since I was the height of my shoulder, and I die with my mere in my hand. Would that I page 78could expire upon the field of battle. Follow my example; abhor peace and luxury, love virtue and war; be ever vigilant and prepared for battle, and take payment for the slightest insult. Farewell, my children! Farewell!" All responded by a wailing cry as he sank down exhausted.

Nothing could have been more appropriate to the feelings of his audience than the words he had just uttered, and his chiefs and visitors exchanged glances of satisfaction and admiration. But they were premature in their mute congratulations. All was not, as they supposed, over. Suddenly the old man rose without assistance, and exclaimed in a voice of deep distress, "My children! beware! beware of the Great Sea. Alas! alas! the grief of my heart!" As the last word passed his lips he fell back and expired, and a deep groan of lamention arose from the awe-struck multitude.

The death of the chief was the signal for thousands of voices to join in the tangi for the dead, the old women cutting themselves with shells, and, while the blood was flowing, singing songs of lamentation in the sensuous language of Hawaiki. Most of the younger women had good excuse to avoid this ordeal in attending to the wants of the living. Many visitors were present, and more were expected to arrive. All present belonged to or were related to the Ngatiroa tribe; but visitors from a distance might now be expected to pay a visit of condolence, and to see the remains of the dead chief, which, for that purpose, were to lie in state as long as possible.

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The corpse arrayed in the finest shawls, never to be again used, the mere of command in its hand, was placed in a temporary building in the public square; for no dwelling in which it had rested could again be inhabited; and there, all day long, visitors from a distance wept before and bade adieu to the inanimate clay, which they vainly imagined felt gratified, in some unknown manner, by the attentions paid to it. The number of mourners was certainly not diminished by the mystical warning uttered with the last breath of the departed chief. While some of the visitors were lamenting, others, noted orators, mounted the stage or tribune in front of the building in which the body reposed in state, and exhausted their art in complimentary speeches upon the great qualities of the late ruler; and his companions in arms, with the self complacency of old soldiers, related their joint achievements in battles now enveloped in the mist of half a century of oral tradition, and enjoyed to the utmost the temporary importance they derived from their old fellowship in war with the illustrious deceased. Deputations from all the kindred tribes arrived to pay their last tokens of respect, and even the tribe of the Great Central Lake sent down its chiefs and women of the highest rank to attend the funeral ceremony.

The men of the far-off southern tribe wore the usual mourning head-dresses formed of leaves of the mahoe or of those of other trees devoted to this purpose; and most of their women displayed a profusion of the rare feathers of the huia and the kakasso, never seen so far page 80north before in such profusion. Others wore what few of those present had ever seen at all, the long, coarse, hair-like, dark green feathers of the moa, that great bird being even then extinct in the north and centre of the Island. The leg bones of this enormous biped were sometimes carried as weapons by chiefs upon occasions of state, but their brittleness forbade their being used in actual war; a fact well established at the expense of those who had been tempted to make the experiment.

The last and the least expected guests were a deputation from the Great Northern Tribe, with whom the Ngatiroa had had but little intercourse for three generations, since the day an exhaustive war had forced both tribes to accept peace from utter prostration. Since then, the intercourse between the tribes had been limited to presents carried by slaves or persons of no importance. The deputation of the Rarawa were therefore received with marked distinction. On their approach they had sent forward a herald to announce their arrival; and when, a few hours afterwards, they were seen wending their way along the beach on the north side of the Waitebuna, an unusual stir moved the Southerners assembled in Ngutukaka. Nine men formed the advancing party, which was rejoined, while yet on the north side of the river, by its herald bearing assurances of welcome. Of the very small number advancing, six carried pikau or back-loads, a certain sign that they were slaves or persons of no account. The deputation therefore, in Maori opinion, consisted page 81of four persons only, and those to whom it was sent were divided in their estimation of the prudence of their late enemies in sending so small a number into danger, and of the latter's temerity in venturing into the shark's mouth. Peace had never been formally made with the Rarawa; custom, therefore, would not have been outraged by the slaughter of the deputation, but the Northern Tribe, in selecting their ambassadors, had hit the happy medium of neither tempting their late enemies by the envoy of men of great name and rank, or of offending them by sending mere nobodies; so killing being negatived, dancing and feasting were the order of the day.

The importance of the occasion called the stentorian lungs of Ruia into play, and he having proclaimed, as the mouthpiece of the Runanga, that the approaching embassy would be received at Kauroa, a general rush was made to the river. Half-a-dozen of the largest canoes, fully manned, put off to bring over the strangers; while Karaka marshalled his men about a quarter of a mile from the beach. As the visitors ascended the bank, the war chief of the Ngatiroa, stationed at his usual post, the centre of the left flank, gave the word to advance; and raising the refrain of a war song, his army advanced to welcome the strangers. Arms and weapons were raised, voices and feet kept time, and the ground literally shook under the tread of the advancing human avalanche, which seemed bent upon sweeping into the sea the tiny cluster of its enemies. Not till they had reached within a few feet of the embassy did page 82the word of command from their leader bring the Ngatiroa down upon one knee, panting like chained animals eager to spring upon their prey.

At a signal from Karaka the reception terminated; and the army moved away by divisions under their own chiefs, for all the southern visitors had joined in giving the northern ambassadors an imposing reception, wishing to impress them with a high opinion of their number and discipline. The ambassadors having been duly cried over and saluted by rubbing noses, Karaka led them to the Fort; where, as in courtesy bound, they shed floods of tears in front of the corpse, which they had come so far to honour. On the following day the body of the dead chief was carried into the forest and placed in a hollow rata tree, there to remain for three or four years; after which lapse of time the bones would be exhumed with great ceremony, wept over, and finally deposited in a cave in the mountains.

Karaka, he involuntarily often took the lead, having seen the remains of his father deposited in their temporary resting place, was at liberty to attend to the investigation of the rumoured causes of the chief's death.

Some fifteen miles inland from Ngutukaka lived a small serf-tribe dependant on the Ngatiroa. They were descendants of the moa hunters, the aborigines of Maoria; and some of them, who had attended the obsequies of Te Au O Te Rangi, had asserted that Pihoe (the lark), their head man, laid claim to having accomplished the death of the late chief by witchcraft. Strange as it may appear, a Maori very seldom kept page 83silence as to matters in which he was personally concerned, and yet never betrayed a tribal secret. Not-withstanding the penalties attached to incontinence, it was frequently a race between the guilty parties which should be the first to disclose their secret intercourse, and in the present case, though death would assuredly be the punishment, the doer boasted of his deed.

The morning succeeding the funeral, Karaka, spear in hand, started for Pihoe's settlement. For some miles his path lay up the gorge of the Mohaka stream; then striking into one of the ravines, which, with something like regularity, descended to the stream upon either hand, it led him through a dense damp underwood of tree-ferns and miniature cocoanut trees. Passing through these he soon reached a more level country where the trees were larger, and where the ground was encumbered with less underwood.

The sun was still low when his feet emerged upon a small clearing, where advantage had been taken of an oasis of fern, a few acres in extent, to form a small settlement. Upon a knoll in the open ground, stood six or seven houses, secure in their insignificance and in the protection of the neighbouring fortress, to which the hapu or sept were tributaries. The entire piece of open ground was either preparing for, or had been under cultivation. The time for planting the kumira was near at hand, and "the family" (hapu), men and women, were busily employed, wooden spade in hand, turning over the soil and exterminating the fern root. The children of the settlement were equally busy at page 84play or lessons, with the inevitable spear for their copy book, when Karaka appeared, and with unmoved stony face gazed upon what the scene would never again display—at any rate for long years—happy homes, thriving industry, and the sports of childhood.

As soon as Karaka was seen and recognised, he was joyfully saluted and welcomed.

"Come hither! come hither! Our Chief, our Master, come hither! welcome! welcome!" and the women ran to prepare the delicate food, which they, as in duty bound, had hoarded in case any of their masters should perchance visit their retreat. Pihoe did not wait to be summoned but came forth to meet his chief. He was a tall spare man, considerably darker than the generality of Maoris, many of whom were of an olive complexion. Pihoe's skin, hair, and features declared him to be of a different race to that of his master, to whom he was merely a serf of the land; though the amalgamation, or rather the conquest, of the aborigines had been so complete that they had come to be looked upon as having been gradually transformed into an inferior order of Maoris by the infusion of a proportion of their conqueror's blood. In the case of Pihoe and his unfortunate relatives, their black skins, flat features, and crisp curly hair unmistakably showed that their Papuan blood had been but little sweetened or ameliorated by that of the Pacific Islands.

"Pihoe," said the chief, "I am told that you affirm that you caused the death of the Ariki by witchcraft?"

"Who told you so?"

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"Your own people said so."

"Yes!" said Pihoe, "it is true; I did bewitch the Ariki."

"Why did you so?"

"Because he called me 'a lazy fellow' without cause. The winter of last year was very severe; storms of wind and rain followed one another with no intervals of fine weather, the snares we placed upon the trees and upon the tracks were destroyed, and we caught few birds, and almost no rats. We delivered at the Fort all the latter (the edible forest rat, the only indigenous quadruped on the Island, was considered a great delicacy), all the kakasso, and half the kiwis, wood pigeons, ducks, and other birds we succeeded in trapping; retaining for our own use the other half, to which you know we have the right for ever and ever. When the spirits of the air and of the water destroyed our snares and there was little game taken, that was not our fault; yet the Ariki sent for me and told me that I was a lazy fellow. I therefore determined to bewitch him. I was more than a year before I succeeded. I failed last year, but at last I have been successful. You know the rest; that is all I have to say."

"Have you finished?"


A thrust of the spear passed through the unresisting man as if he had been a figure formed of reeds, such as the children were accustomed to set up for a target; and the troubles and the occupations of the unsuccessful page 86birdcatcher were ended. Not so those of the relatives he left behind him, who, terror-stricken, had witnessed his execution without dreaming of assisting him, or of attempting to avert their own fate.

Karaka having partaken of the food set before him, ordered the miserable sept to assemble. This they did, thinking that the death of the man they had reverenced as their chief balanced all accounts. But they were deceived, for, in place of an address such as they usually received upon the rare occasions of one of their master's visiting their settlement, commanding them to be industrious and to pay their dues with regularity, the relentless war chief ordered them to follow him to Ngutukaka. Man prefers to suffer in company to suffering alone. The men might have made their escape into the forest, and singly, or in small parties have eked out their existence; yet not one of them attempted it, all preferring to meet their fate in the company of those whose companionship they valued more than life itself.

Upon their arrival at Ngutukaka the miserable band of nearly forty men, women and children, were horrified to find themselves presented to the Rarawa ambassadors, who felt much elated at the receipt of so considerable a gift. Irrevocable fate admitted of no remonstrance, and the following day the unfortunate wretches commenced their journey northwards under their new masters, who looked upon them in the light of domestic slaves. These were usually prisoners taken in a tawa, which was sometimes undertaken solely with the view page 87of their acquisition. The lives of slaves were painfully dependent and laborious, and they seldom reared any children, being unwilling to transmit their unhappy position to their posterity. Servile septs, on the other hand, possessed comparative independence. They paid tribute, and accompanied their masters to war rather as carriers than as fighting men. Still they did engage in battle, and instances had occurred of serfs by their bravery and good fortune rising to high position. But the crime of which Pihoe had declared himself guilty was one of unprecedented magnitude; hence the severity of the punishment.

The first funeral ceremonies in honour of the departed Ariki being now terminated, the rest of the visitors left without any ceremonious leave taking. The tears shed upon their arrival were not renewed upon their departure, and the parting guests left with merely the customary adieus from those who chanced to be on the spot. "Go in peace!" "Remain at rest!" Esau and Jacob wept when they met, and those of us who have left our homes early in life may have been greeted with tears upon our first return. Upon our second departure the sympathetic drops may have been as scarce as they were at the leave takings of the patriarch and his brother, or at those of the Maoris, who looked upon such incidents as the separation of riends and relations as the inevitable lot of man, natural links in the chains of their lives best left untarnished by the outpourings of affection. Meetings of friends were considered more than a sufficient solace page 88for the pangs of absence, and tears were shed more from the joy of reunion than from sorrow for the loss of those who had departed during the interval of separation.

The ordinary business of life was now resumed at Ngutukaka; the Ariki, the war chief, the members of the Runanga, the warriors who formed the adult male population, all returned to their labours. In Maoria no sort of work was considered degrading, even to a chief, except the carrying of a load upon the back. This, indeed, was left to the young lads, women, and slaves. It was a distinction to be a skilful workman; and the higher descriptions of work, such as the carving of canoes and weapons, the designing and making ornaments of green jade by the process of rubbing one stone against another with sand and water sprinkled between them, a labour which would have exhausted the patience of Job, were generally performed by men of rank who had passed the prime of life; while net-making, as we have said, supplied an unfailing resource to the old people who in other countries would have been considered past work. It never entered the primitive mind of Maoria to conceive that it was honourable to lead a life of inaction. On the contrary, idleness was repudiated, and to be called "a lazy fellow" was to suffer a grave insult, and might, as we have seen, entail serious consequences. The Maoris would have said that all education was comprised in physical training, but those whose taste led them to exercise their brains as well as their muscles, page 89found ample scope in learning the thousand traditions of Hawaiki and Maoria. Indeed, not to be a genealogist was, in a person of birth, considered disgraceful.

The night frosts, which in the early spring were so destructive to an exotic like the sweet potato, being nearly over, all betook themselves to the preparation of the kumira grounds. At the expiration of the morning meal, long lines of cheerful workers were to be seen descending from the Fort and wending their way to the plantations; the men with a weapon in the one hand and a spade, axe, or rake, in the other. Their first care was to burn the brushwood, which had been long cut and allowed to dry thoroughly. The land was then dug with long-pointed spades; every stump and root was in its turn carefully consumed; the stones, if few in number, were collected in heaps, if numerous, were built into walls to shelter the soil; and the ground, after being thoroughly broken into fine garden mould, was ready to receive the seed potatoes, provided it was light soil. Heavy stiff soil required to be mixed with sand; and, as this was necessary near Ngutukaka, trains of women and slaves were all day long engaged in carrying baskets of sand from the beach to the plantations.

As all laboured, however, the long day's toil, a necessary evil where there is an idle class and a labouring class, was unknown; and before sunset all had returned to the Fort, the women carrying home loads of firewood upon their backs.

The labour of the day was nearly concluded, when a page 90solitary wayfarer, who had made his way to Ngutukaka by one of the inland tracks, presented himself before Ora, his mistress, as she was looking at some young girls who were busily employed striving to finish a piece of ground before the time to leave off arrived. Ora was not doing much, though she was probably under the impression that she was assisting her companions. For once, Keia, the laugher par excellence of Ngutukaka, was not laughing; and a more forlorn figure could not be conceived than the stout, dark, half-witted slave as he stood silent before his mistress, his hands extended and clasped in front of him, as if praying for forgiveness. So absorbed was he that the solitary garment he possessed, a tattered old seal skin, was not worn in its place round his waist but was carelessly thrown over the left shoulder.

"Speak to me, fool!" said the young lady, "where are the eels?"

"The eels?"

"Yes, the eels."

"Listen to me, and you shall hear," said the repentant emissary.

A Maori, telling a story, invariably commenced from the earliest period, and proceeded chronologically with his adventures, without omitting even the most trivial incidents. We shall therefore skip a considerable portion of Keia's narrative.

"I left," proceeded Keia, "in the fastest of our canoes which went up the river on the first day of the fishing season. There were three of us in the canoe, page 91myself, Awarihi, and Whana. We left in the afternoon, and pulled all night. In the morning we stopped at a village and swallowed food; then we started again. I was not sleepy, but my companions were, so Whana said, 'The west wind is following us; cannot we hoist a sail, and then we can sleep while Keia steers?' Awarihi answered, 'This is a pulling canoe, there are no holes in her sides in which to fasten the stays of the mast, and we have no tool but an adze.' Whana replied, 'Keia is a brave man, he shall give us a front tooth to bore holes in the sides for the stays.' They persuaded me to agree to this, and Awarihi held my head between his knees, while Whana punched out my tooth with the stone blade of the adze. The pain made me cry, but they laughed at me, and said that if they had not been very careful I should have lost both my front teeth. Then they cut a sapling, and, with my tooth fixed on a stick for a borer, and a piece of flax to turn it, made holes in the sides of the canoe. With a mat for a sail we ran before the wind. I steered the canoe while they slept. In the afternoon we reached the Rotorua River, and they woke up, and we soon pulled into the lake and reached the Pa. The next day, when we heard the news that the Ariki had made up his mind to go away and leave us, many prepared to go down the river to Ngutukaka. I did not wish to go, because my head was swelled and I was crying with the pain in my jaw. In a day or two I was better, and I thought that you would be longing for eels; so I went to Maire, the guardian of the eel weir, and told page 92him that I had come for smoked eels for you. Maire was angry, and replied, 'One, two, three, four, five times have you come to me for smoked eels for your mistress, how is this?' I replied, 'My mistress likes eels, and so she eats them; who has a better right to the eels of Rotorua than the daughter of Riwihutia and Tomo?' Te Maire answered crossly, 'Au!' Then he told me to go to the store and take what I required. I went, and made a back load of a hundred couple; for I had determined not to return by water for fear that some sleepy fellows might persuade me to part with the other front tooth. I left Rotorua the same day, for I was frightened at having answered Maire, whom you know every one is afraid of. I did not go far that day, and I did not touch the eels; at night I stopped at Puketutu, where there was plenty of food. The next morning they gave me a small basket of cooked kumiras to take with me; but they forgot to put a kinaki (a relish) in with them, and I thought that you would not know, unless I told you, that I had eaten a few of the eels; but when I had begun to eat them, I could not stop myself. I ate all that day as I walked along, I ate all the next day; I went on eating them till this morning: and now I declare that there is not one left! Shall I go back and get some more? I am more afraid of you than I am of Te Maire—indeed I am."

The speedy chastisement she proceeded to inflict with the first stick she could find was his mistress's answer, and its vigour showed that it was not without reason page 93that Keia was afraid of her anger. Having thus relieved her feelings, Ora announced her intention of proceeding to Rotorua in the canoe of her friend Ngawhare, who had accepted a pressing invitation to visit the Lake. She would then, she said, assert her right to send for as many eels as she pleased. Much persuasion had been necessary to induce Ngawhare to consent to pay a professional visit to Rotorua. He had refused to return with the visitors, but had promised to follow them in a few days. In spite of his assumed reluctance, the Tohunga, however, was by no means averse to making a trip to Rotorua as soon as he had had a sufficiency of fishing; for since his last visit to the Lake his peace of mind had been much disturbed by visions of a stately young widow, whom he had consequently determined to add to the number of his wives, if the addition could be effected without too much trouble.

Ngawhare having announced his intention of starting up the river, his family and admirers did their part in seeing that his large and commodious canoe, Te Toke, was well found in "mataetai," as produce of the sea is generally termed. They filled Te Toke with dried and baked fish, and mussels strung upon strings or strips of flax, in which state they keep for months. To be sure, the traveller upon his return would, as a matter of course, bring with him a share of the good things of this life appertaining to the quarter whence he came. It is a fine thing to belong to the great ones of this world, even in barbarous Maoria, for there, no less than in civilized London, unto those who have much is page 94much given, and unto those who have nothing nought is meted out but six feet of earth in which to put them away out of sight.

Ngawhare did not follow the visitors from Rotorua for some days. In the first place he was fond of fishing, an art in which he excelled, and fish had been biting freely. However, the wind at last settled in a fine airt, the weather became too clear for fishing, and being satisfied that there was no danger of himself, the ladies who travelled under his care, or his provisions suffering from even a passing shower, the Tohunga took his place in the stern of Te Toke (the worm), and hoisting or rather ordering others to hoist the large sail, he left Ngutukaka on the top of the young flood. With a fine south-west wind\e Toke rapidly passed the sand-banks a little above the fortress, from which canoes were returning laden with pipis, a small shell fish which formed a very important article of diet. The banks were inexhaustible, but for several years they had been "tapu." The late Ariki had "tapued" the pipi banks under the pretext that they had been overworked, and required time to recover; but in reality because parties from the Tribes up the river had been working the banks in a manner, which, in process of time, would have given them a positive right to do so whenever they thought proper. Te Wira, at the general wish, had removed the tapu, and pipis were again plentiful in Ngutukaka. Pipis are collected by canoes working in pairs, each pair having a large many-pronged fork, which the occupant of one canoe thrusts into the sand page 95while his companion hauls it out with a rope, raising the shell fish which cling to the fork. The numerous mounds, many feet in thickness, of pipi shells which are found near the sites of the old settlements, show the extent to which this little bivalve was used. The pipi banks, once passed, gave place to low reed-clad islands, succeeded in their turn by those bearing a higher order of vegetation; and before the limits of the flood tide were reached, the islands and banks of the panoramic progression were covered with vegetation of tropical luxuriance. The shallow soil of the islets sustained umbrageous trees whose branches hung down over the stream until they concealed their parent stems and appeared to grow out of the water. The character of the vegetation and the absence of man would have reminded the Tohunga, had he ever seen them, of the Soonderbunds, that great desert of jungle and water formed by the mouths of the Ganges. But on the banks of the Waitebuna there was neither lurking snake, crocodile, or tiger to be dreaded. There was nothing to cause alarm except the imaginary terrors with which man had invested some of the islands. One was extensively used as a burial ground, and on its melancholy shores only a funeral party would have cared to land. But to explain the reasons why some of the others were tapu, would have puzzled most of those who would not have trod their soil even to escape the risk of being drowned. The Tohunga, an adept in these mysteries, could easily, however, have unfolded them; while in his secret heart he, perhaps, despised and held them in page 96derision, though with truly human inconsistency he omitted no occasion of practising them.

The day was so genial that the proposal to bathe was hailed by general acclamation; and one of the islands was selected, under the banks of which there were some eel-holes in hollow trees which had sunk and fixed themselves in the bottom of the river. Diving for eels was a favourite sport, and in summer time the young men spent days pulling about in canoes, diving at the different rua, for every hole in which an eel was likely to have made his home was perfectly well known. The diver, holding in his hand a large fish-hook, made of sperm whalebone, to which a few feet of cord were attached, plunged where he knew of the existence of an eel-hole, and if he found his prey at home, invited it to accompany him to the upper air by inserting the hook as deeply into his flesh as possible.

Two fine fish had rewarded the exertions of the divers, and had been consigned to the hangi, which had been heated in anticipation of their appearance, when the Tohunga asked if any one had searched the log under the puriri-tree at the bottom of the island. On being answered in the negative, he remarked;

"Perhaps there is a large fish there; who will give an account of it?"

Either the divers were tired, or for some other reason no one felt inclined to renew the sport. The Tohunga, therefore, spoke again, and addressing by name a stout young fellow, a servant of his own, said;

"Papahua, is it not good that you should go and prevent the large fish being wasted?"

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At this command the slave, in no very good humour, resumed his hook and line, which he fastened round his waist; and, as the easiest way of reaching the rua at the bottom of the island, plunged into the water.

'The divers had refreshed themselves by nearly an hour's sleep, and the women were about to draw the oven, when Ngawhare asked;

"Where is Papahua?"

He had not returned. His master immediately told two young men to go down to the rua and see what had happened, emphatically enjoining them to touch nothing. They soon returned, and reported that the unfortunate diver had hooked a great eel; at least they supposed so, for he lay dead upon the log, to which he was tightly lashed by the line he had incautiously fastened round his waist.

"Did you touch the body?" demanded the To-hunga;—for contact with a corpse made a man unclean (tapu again) for a time, and a person in that state would have defiled his travelling companions.

"No; you told us not to touch anything."

"Then you acted wisely. Papahua has attacked a taniwha, which has killed him, and which would have killed you too, had you interfered."

Ngawhare then ordered them all into the canoe, directing them to leave upon the island the food they had landed, and the clothes they were wearing.

This being done, he directed the canoe to be pulled a short distance into the stream, leaving himself the last person upon the island. He then stripped off his page 98garment, which he hung conspicuously upon a pole for a rahui; and, having finished his incantations, plunged into the stream and swam to the canoe, secretly congratulating himself that the accident had happened to a person of no consequence; for had the drowned man been a personage of importance, his body must have been recovered, to the inconvenience of the living in general, and of himself in particular, for he truly hated being put out of his way. The compliment of "tapuing" the island, which in a few days would be known throughout the length of the river, was a sort of joint tribute to himself and to the eel, or taniwha, who had gained the victory; the loss of a servant being an incident of no importance whatever.

In Maori economy, the eel played a most important part. More than every other kind of food it represented fat, the nutriment which man, whether savage or civilized, universally craves. The beauty of Bel-gravia, and the Brahmin of Benares, would alike waste and pine were they deprived of milk and butter, pastry and sweetmeats. They must both eat fat in some shape or other. In Maori there were no animals deserving the name of quadrupeds. Man was therefore forced to gratify his craving for fat at the expense of a lower order of creation. Fish was his staple article of diet, and of all fish the eel was to him of the greatest importance. For its capture he executed engineering marvels only surpassed by those he erected to protect himself from his fellow-man. He cut canals leading from the lakes that he might have water-page 99courses in which to place his elaborate stake-nets; and on these and on the lake's natural outlets, he built eel-weirs of so gigantic a size, and of such durable timber, that they remain to this day; monuments of the work, man, in the stone age, was capable of performing. Of the manga manga, he made the most beautiful and durable eel-pota ever seen; and though our imperfect knowledge restricts us to but one name for the whole species, the Maori had nearly twenty appellations for the different varieties of this delicacy, for the right of catching which he was ready to fight as for one of his most valued possessions. The short course of the Rotorua is nearly at right angles with that of the great river into which it falls. On its banks the presence of man was far more marked than on those of the main stream, and amongst the many traces of his hand, the numerous eel-weirs were the most conspicuous. The Tohunga's canoe soon reached the first of these, which in the shape of the letter V crossed the stream, leaving a small opening at its apex to admit of the passage of canoes.

Upon the bank stood the fortified village of the proprietors of the weir, small compared to those at the upper or lake end of the little river. Ngawhare's party passed through fourteen of these weirs before it reached the weir and Pa of the Ngatiroa, at the entrance of the lake. This was indeed a stupendous work for the primitive workmanship of the stone age. Most of the timbers—as big as an Indiaman's maintop mast—were made of the imperishable kanaka wood, page 100and stood as close together as it was possible to drive them into the river-bed. The weir's right wing extended fully four hundred yards into the lake; and the left was nearly of the same dimensions. The possession of this envied eel-weir was the undisputed right of the Ngatiroa, so long as they were strong enough to hold it against all comers; but no longer. This right, however, had not for several generations been put to the test; though the powerful tribe of the Patupo, which held the next weir and Pa, asserted among themselves that they had been, and would again be, the owners of the upper Pa. Divisions of these two tribes held also most of the Pa's lower down the stream. Beyond the eel-weirs the long Rotorua lake stretched far away to the west; narrow and deep where the hills upon either side defined its course, full of swamps and lagoons where the receding shores allowed it to extend its shallower waters. The chief village of the Ngatiroa was built upon a rising ground slightly below the eel-weir, and somewhat disagreeably close to it was the Pa of the Patupo. The large weirs of these rival tribes were both very valuable; but those lower down were comparatively of little account, and were held principally for the purpose of enabling their owners to boast of the possession of a fishery on the celebrated Rotorua; for, in point of fact, the value of their takes was insufficient to keep them in repair. The upper weir also possessed the almost exclusive benefit of the mullet fishery, without mention of which a description of Rotorua would be incomplete. Upon page 101a fine day, when a southerly wind was blowing, a motionless figure would invariably be seen seated upon the top of one of the posts which formed the doorway of the exit from the first weir, watching a round bag-net inserted between the posts, or rather watching the shoals of mullet playing about the entrance to the lake. Suddenly a cloud of fish would dart out of the lake, and the fisherman would twitch up his net, his patience rewarded by the capture of some of the finest mullet in the world. They are, if possible, too fine, nearly as long as a man's arm, and lined with fat, like the prize pigs in a cattle show. They are, indeed, too rich to be eaten. The question may be asked, from whence do they come? They are larger and fatter than any sea mullet. As well might we ask whence come the myriads of Rotorua silver eels, which give celebrity to the lake? At all times after rain the latter leave the lake in numbers; but during the first autumn floods they leave in shoals, and are taken in immense quantities. Towards the end of summer, when the lake was at its lowest, every preparation for the coming eel-fishing was completed; every worn post was removed, and divers filled the interstices of the sunken beams with the pith of a water plant. With the first heavy rain in autumn the eels made their first move, and the master of the eel-weir, the dreaded Maire, gave the welcome order to put down the huge bag—a net made as strong and as close as strips of flax could be netted. It was lifted every hour during the night, and its contents poured into the page 102canoes moored ready to receive them. The eels, which were all of one size and appearance, bright silver eels of about eighteen inches in length, were cured, eaten, or sent away as presents, on the following day.

Often as the divers stopped the orifices between the posts, numbers of the migratory shoals would still force their way through, and go to reward the exertions of the fishermen at the weirs lower down the stream.

The party of the Tohunga found that they had not arrived an hour too soon. The residents of the lake had arrived some days before them, and an interesting duel Upon the tapis had been postponed till the arrival of the visitors from Ngutukaka. A more delicate compliment to the Tohunga could not have been conceived than restraining the public impatience for several days Upon his account. Postponing a "battue," pending the expectant arrival of a Royal Highness, is only postponing an amusement the monotony of which has wearied most of the performers; but an exhibition in the arena, whether a combat of gladiators, a bull fight, or a public tournament—for such the Maoris considered a duel—ever presents new and exciting features. Besides, the blood shed in the arena is so much more exciting than that of the tame beasts massacred at the covert side, and public impatience could not have been longer restrained out of compliment to any man living; not even to gratify the great Tohunga, whom all wished to conciliate, and who, from his infirmity of contracting marriages, was connected with all the most powerful tribes of the River.