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Legends of the Maori

Gratitude of a Kind

page 168

Gratitude of a Kind

IT has been said that the Maori language contains no word equivalent to thanks, and that the quality of gratitude does not exist in the race. I This of course is absurd. The following true story will show that the promptings to gratitude are present, though there is a certain thirftiness in sacrifice noticeable in some, and an inclination to change the obligation which is known for one which is secret, and for which payment, in consequence, is not likely to be demanded.

Osborn had a cattle farm and a hut at Atiki, Manawatu. He was a bachelor and cooked for himself. To save baking he brought bread from Foxton one evening. He returned weary and hungry from his rounds to find that the one loaf he had left in the morning had vanished. Keys were unknown. Renata was a native of Papakiri, who was frequently about the place, and he arrived on a visit that evening. Said Osborn:

Renata, some scoundrel of degraded birth and slavish habits has taken my supper. I know you for an honest and self-respecting person.” (The Lord forgive you, Osborn!) “I should no more think of suspecting you than of accusing my brother, who is fourteen thousand miles away.”

Renata said the thief was a taurekareka. The wood-pigeon was plump and luscious from feeding on the miro berries, and he should like to replenish the larder of Osborn to show his regard. “Would Osborn lend him the gun for the morrow?”

Gun and ammunition were supplied, and Renata disappeared till next evening. Then he returned, and throwing two plump geese on the floor of the hut, he said that the sin of another had been paid for by himself, and he hoped the reparation was ample.

Osborn wondered at the generosity of Renata in paying two of his own geese for one little loaf. When he found presently that the geese were the property of his neighbour, Harry Symmons, he did not know by what name to call the morality of Renata. But he did not complain of the peculiar form the Maori’s gratitude took. Osborn at any rate had the best of the bargain.