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Hine-Ra, or The Maori Scout: A Romance of the New Zealand War.

Chapter IV. — The Mata-Kiti

Chapter IV.
The Mata-Kiti.

In compliance with directions given by the witch, the dwarf Katipo applied the embrocation prepared by his mistress to the still smarting skin of Frank Burnett. The effect was marvellous, for, almost as soon as it was applied, the venom appeared to be neutralised, as if by magic, and the hot pricking sensation to vanish.

His head still ached from the blow with the meré inflicted by the treacherous Tainui, but the stroke had not been powerful enough to cause any fracture, and the roromi (shampooing, or rather gentle stroking and squeezing skilfully) applied by the mute to the sufferer's head, albeit, much to his disgust, soon relieved the pain.

While this was going on the woman had retired to the upper end of the cavern, and seemed to be busy again with the fire that glowed there, burning therein certain ingredients that gradually filled the atmosphere with a faint pungent odor.

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At length, bidding the slave retire, she approached Frank once more. Her features appeared to have undergone a marvellous transformation. Her eyes absolutely blazed with a wild prophetic fire, partial insanity it might be, but Frank could not help being singularly affected thereby. Seating herself on the ground near him, she gazed into his eyes with her dark lustrous orbs, and began again to chant the mystic Karakea. At first the words were broken and disconnected, but having a kind of rude rhythm, and, as she proceeded, the prophetess seemed to become inspired, and the measure and character of the chant insensibly changed into a low wail, the tangi of her race:

“This is the word of Matutira te Taipo, of Matutira te Ruawahine, of Matutira no te Matutu. The Atuas have spoken, the Kehuas have whispered ‘Ka Ngaro a Moa te iwi Nei’ (the tribe will become extinct like the moa). But how? Even now I feel the Hau, that tells me the Atuas are here. What do they say to me? I cannot tell. Not to me shall the future be shown. But to this youth, this alien, this stranger to our race. He alone has been chosen. He alone has the gift. From his lips alone must I learn the dread future. Enough. He is here. It is the time. Ka hua te Marama. He hua. (It is full moon. The 13th day of the moon.) Mara po (midnight). Blood has been spilled. Let me prepare the Matutu”

As she spoke, or rather chanted, in a monotone, Frank felt a sensation of listless apathy gradually creeping over him. He seemed steeped in a kind of delicious languor, from which he had neither the power nor the inclination to arouse himself. The faint odor of the smoke from the fire filled his soul with an overpowering sense of peace, and rest, and perfect tranquillity. It was as if the present were all in all—as if there were no past, no future; no thought, no memory.

And yet his mind was active. He saw, he heard, he understood everything that passed.

He saw, as in a dream, yet clearly and distinctly, as if with some finer, keener perception than that of the eye, the woman rise from where she sat, and, with certain cabalistic signs, circle slowly round the fire, the while she chanted in a dialect he did not understand what seemed to be an incantation, or charm. Her voice, low at first, grew louder by degrees. A thin cloud of a most subtle and exquisite perfume filled the cavern, impregnating the atmosphere and producing a singular feeling of buoyancy and elation.

Gradually the cloud of smoke became more dense and less transparent, and as it did so it seemed to form itself into vague shapes which, in turn, expanded and contracted, and then rolled back into formless clouds of winding smoke.

Frank Burnett seemed to sleep, and yet he had a perception that he did not sleep. His eyes were wide open, and his brain as receptive as ever. But it was only receptive. What he saw he knew, but he only knew. He neither thought of the reason, nor wondered at the meaning.

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The vision, if vision it were, grew clearer. He seemed to be able to discern through the mist, faintly and obscurely at first, but after a time more distinctly, a phantasmagoria of figures and objects.

At this stage, in obedience to what appeared to be a series of mesmeric passes made by the witch, he began to speak. He knew that he was speaking, and yet the words seemed not to emanate from him, but from some other person. He knew that he was describing what he saw, and yet he knew not the sequence of what he said.

What was it? Trance, spiritism, mesmerism, clairvoyance, magnetism, or an abnormal straining of the imaginative faculties brought about by the operation of the fumes arising from the substances burnt in the fire? Who can tell?

Or was it the Mata-Kiti of the wizards of New Zealand and the South Seas? Is there, after all, any truth in the mysticism, the occult forces, the Astral Book, the white and black magic, the brothers of Light, and of the Shadow, of the Hindoos and the Egyptians? It were perhaps too curious to inquire in these pages.

Suffice it to say that, according to. Maori superstition, it was what is known as Atuakikokiko.

As has been said, the words issued from his lips as if by abstract volition.

“The clouds clear away,” he said, “and I see the pahs and kaingas of many tribes. The fields are green with the kumera and the taro, and the rowers chant the chorus of the plentiful fishing. The young men snare the birds of the forest, and the women weave the baskets and mats. The blue smoke of the fires steals through the trees. There in abundance of food in the huts and timangas, there is water in the stream, and the wine of the tutu in the kahakas. These are the days of peace. But the red war cloud rises in the North. The tongues of flame lick the rafters of the whares, the rivers run with blood, and the land is desolated with rapine and murder. The spear and the merè are at work, and the parekuras are many. It is the abomination of desolation, for tribe is pitted against tribe, family against family. The tangi of the widow and orphan is heard far and wide, and the smoke of the poaka-roa rises from many ovens. But, lo! from the far off lands of the west come the Tiwhas, the Warikis in their winged canoes, and like locusts they cover and eat up the land. The Maori is driven forth from the lands of his fathers. There is pestilence and famine in their midst, for the Atuas are angry with their children. The Maori says ‘E kore e take te parapara a ona tupuna, tukua iho ki a ia’ (he cannot lose the spirit of his ancestors, it must descend to him), but it is a lie. The Maori sells his birthright for the Pakeha's gold; still worse, for the poison that destroys him body and soul. Ever thus has it been, ever thus will it be: the white man plants his foot in foreign lands, the aboriginal must go. As in other countries so here. The Maori is doomed. War, pestilence, famine, vice, disease, all the spirits of evil wave their death-dealing wings over the descendants of Kupe, Turi, and page break
Treachery Frustrated [Page 14.]

Treachery Frustrated
[Page 14.]

page break page 25 Ngahui, and their place shall know them no more. This is the Apiti of Uenguku.”

As the young man uttered the last words the fire, which had burned low, shot up with one expiring flicker, revealing a strange scene in the cavern. The medium through whom the prophecy had been spoken sat up on his couch, his staring eyes fixed on the column of smoke, and his face white and bathed in perspiration, the prophetess crouched on the ground, her head hidden in a mat, while at the entrance to the cave the bestial form of Katipo cowered on his hams and claw-like fingers, his yellow tusks grinning, and his bloodshot eyes scintillating, like some fabled monster, half animal, half demon, prepared for a spring on its victim. The voice ceased, the tongue of fire died suddenly out in a blue flame, Frank Burnett fell backward on the couch in a deep, exhausted sleep, and the cavern was buried in thick darkness, and in silence profound as that of the grave.