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Revenge: A Love Tale of the Mount Eden Tribe

Chapter One: Maro Introduces Himself

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Chapter One: Maro Introduces Himself

The young girls Puhi and Moho ask Maro to tell them the story of his love for his first wife, Rehu-tai. After consulting the omens in connection with the forthcoming visit of his grandson Ronaki, Maro begins with an account of the origin of his name.

It was springtime. The morning repast had been eaten, and all the people of the tribe had gone to their daily work. The old women were in the midst of the kumara 1 crops, carefully taking out the weeds that grew between the plants, while the men chopped down the undergrowth with their stone axes, preparatory to felling the larger growth for the future taro 2 crops in the low, swampy ground.

The day was clear, and from the top of the pa 3at Mount Eden the distant sea on the north could be seen, and the far-away island-like peaks of Cape Colville, like lonely cusps of distant cloud clasped in a haze of mist. The country to the south lay calm and quiet. There was no sign of human occupation on the distant Waikato hills, save an occasional plume of smoke curling up from the peaks and valleys. Near to Mount Eden, down on the flat land between the pa page 2Black and white fascimile page image and Totara-i-ahua, could be heard a chorus of voices pealing out now and again as the men chanted some song used of old to encourage them in their work, and to warn any possible enemy that the workmen were there in force and could not be attacked with impunity.

In Mount Eden pa sat a man of many summers. His head was snowy white with uncut hair; his body was enveloped by an old mat dyed with red ochre; his beard was long and flowing; his head was full and sat erect on his shoulders; the sparkle of youth was not lost in his old eyes; his voice was that of a head chief, full and deep. He was looking down the northern side of the pa towards the road leading up from Wai-ariki. Sitting near to him were two girls who had seen not quite twenty summers. The eldest, who was named Puhi, turned to the old chief and said:

"When do you think they will arrive?"

"Maybe not to-day," said old Maro, "maybe not to-morrow."

"But what have they got to do to detain them at the Thames?"

"Oh," said Maro, "you girls do not think about the evils that may come on them on a journey. The karakia 4 have to be repeated, and the omens questioned before they can leave."

"But why do our people act in such a way?" asked Puhi. "We are all one people and do not need to fear any enemy."

"Did your fathers or brothers ever speak about the people who owned this land before us?" the old man replied.

"Yes," said Puhi, "But some are now down in the north near Hokianga, and some up in the south page 3Black and white fascimile page image near Katikati.6 Why fear them?"

"Ah, you do not remember the proverb, 'You made the web and I put the border on'?"

"We did not make the web," said Puhi. "We did not commence the evil, and they did not put the border on, as they fled and did not even try to obtain revenge, so how can that apply to them?"

"No," Maro replied. "If men were like you girls, they would reason in your way; but as men abide their time, there may come a day when some of our people are off their guard, and then the border will be put on the mat with more colours than one."

"Who is Ronaki?" asked Puhi. "Why do you appear to expect so much pleasure from his visit?"

"I do not know that I anticipate so much pleasure from his visit," the old man answered, "but this I do know—that he will have the opportunity of hearing much of our ancient history from me when he comes."

"If he is your grandson, why have we not heard of him before?"

"Do you make little of him ?" Maro asked sharply.

"No," said Puhi. "Chiefs do not need to be asked about, as all the world knows of them. But you never spoke to us girls of your grandson."

"I dream of him, and do not speak."

"But we are all of the same people, are we not?"

"You are not. He is descended from the people who lived in the Thames before Hotu-nui6 took that land, and he is also of those people who are called Te Ngako7 of evil hand'."

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"Then he is able to tell us of the days of old, when Tainui came into the Thames and left her anchor between the mouths of the Piako and Waihou, and how his female ancestor came overland from the Thames to Otahuhu?"

"If he tells you, it will be in the words he has heard from me."

"Are we," asked Puhi, "of rank which would entitle us to hear that ancient history?"

"Maybe you will hear it some night in the whare matoro 8 when the old people are sitting there."

"But you old men and women sit in that house in little groups and talk amongst yourselves in an undertone, while we young people are amusing you and ourselves with haka 9 and kanikani." 10

"Well, then," said Maro, "some of the young people who are coming with Ronaki are of the direct line from Hotu-nui, and if you ask them about our ancient history thev will tell you girls, and I can listen to see if they tell the truth."

"But how shall we get them to tell us? I have not yet seen the man I love, and perhaps some of them may think that I wish them to tell me a love tale."

"I do not know what boys of these days think or sav, but I know what I did when I was a boy," said Maro.

Puhi laughed and said: "Why, you have many wives, O Maro, even now that you are old. Are not these the wives of your boyhood davs?"

"Does the sun ever stand still?" asked Maro. "Does the moon ever die ? Do the stars ever wink from page 5Black and white fascimile page image behind the clouds? Then why should women live for ever? I have had many wives, but the first woman I ever fell in love with was to me like the heat of the sun to the frozen tui 11 on the branch of the tree where it has been kept prisoner by the frost."

"Was it a great love?" asked Puhi. "Had anyone else loved her before you?"

"Anyone?" Maro exclaimed. "Why, your own father was one of her lovers, and he was a great chief and fine-looking man. The moko 12 on his face and body was more beautiful than mine."

"Tell me of that woman who was to have been my mother," said Puhi. "I have a right to know how it was that you took her love from my father."

"Ah," said Maro, "it is very fine for you to ask so much of me in so few words; but if I tell you all the tale of love with which it is connected you may not be able to sit long enough to hear it. Besides, I have a little matter of my own to enquire into."

Puhi was anxious to hear the story. "Tell me all," she pleaded, "so that when I am an old woman I may know if those of our tribe who may speak of the matter are telling the truth or not."

"Well," said Maro, "you two stay here till I go and see old Atua, and when I have had my talk with him I will return and tell the tale."

He left the spot where they were sitting. It was on the highest peak of the pa on the south rim of the crater, where there was a large marae 13 which expage 6Black and white fascimile page imagetended for about one-fourth of the circumference. On the west side of the marae stood the large house which the young people of that hapu 14 had as their whare ma toro, where they held all their games, and where they slept. Between this house and the higher ground on the eastern rim of the crater stood two other houses. One was the house where the old people assembled in the evening to talk over the news of the day and recount the deeds of their forefathers; the other was where visitors and strangers were entertained. The whare korero 15 for the old people was that which occupied the east side of the marae, while the whare matoro of the young people was at the west end. The principal doorway of each house opened on to the marae, and all the space between was kept clean and free from weeds, and from anything that would in any way contaminate the tapu 16 of the tribe. Round the south side of the marae on the edge of the hill stood a fence page 7Black and white fascimile page image about the height of a man. This was made of totara 17wood and laced with torotoro, 18 and was the outer fortification of the pa.

Old Maro rose from his mat and walked along the marae in a northerly direction. Coming to the end of the marae, he descended the brow of the hill, and, continuing on his way, he came to another outwork of the pa half-way between the highest peak and the lower level of the scoria ground. At this outwork lived Atua, the priest. Maro went into the hut and said: "What do the toko 19 of Ronaki say to-day?"

Atua answered: "I have not looked at them yet. Come and we will see them now."

Atua rose, and, taking the downward road to the flat on the north side of the pa, he said: "Go with me, 0 Maro, and we will see in the wahi tapu 20 what the gods say. The old man followed the winding road. Still descending, they passed the lowest fence and, turning to the east, they skirted the line of scoria stone21 which lay heaped on the ground. They then followed a by-path leading due east to a swampy part of the flat. To the right of the path was a heap of large scoria boulders, in the ledges of which red ochre could be seen, patchy in some places, in others covering the whole of the blocks. These they left on their right hand, and, passing between some rocks full of shallow holes where the bones of the dead had been deposited, page 8Black and white fascimile page image they entered a clump of pukapuka,22 ti23 and other trees.

In the middle of this grove stood a large flat rock with a clear space all round. In this space stood spearlike sticks, each with a wisp of hair or piece of garment tied to it. This flat space was the tuahu, 24 and the sticks standing up all round it were the toko of each chief whose welfare was in the charge of old Atua the priest. As the two old men entered the precincts of the tuahu they threw off their mats, leaving only their maro 25 tied round their waists. With slow, measured steps and bowed heads they went up to the stone. Atua pointed with the forefinger of his right hand to one of the toko. This was the toko a Ronaki, on which Atua had tied a piece of mat which had been worn by Ronaki, and erected it in the tuahu. When about the length of a man from it, Atua motioned to Maro to stand still. After standing silent for some time, Atua said, "Put forth your hand."

Maro did so.

"One step forward and reach out the forefinger of your right hand and touch the mat on the toko."

Maro obeyed.

"What does it feel like?" asked Atua.

"It is warm."

"Turn towards me and stretch forth your hand."

Maro did so.

"Open your hand and look into the palm. What do you see? Is it wet or dry?"

"It is dry," said Maro.

"E tnoe,"26 said Atua, and, beckoning to Maro,

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he turned round and left the tuahu.

Maro followed, and they both went on in silence till they had passed the cave of bones and the ochre-bedaubed rocks.

"Follow on," said Atua, as they passed a pool of water at the foot of a bank of scoria on the level ground far below the outpost of the pa. The track was overgrown with scrub, but presently they came out on to a small clearing, in the middle of which was a clear spring of water. Here Atua sat down, and drawing a calabash from his garments he ordered Maro to go to the spring and fill the vessel with water. Maro placed the calabash in the water, and returned with it to Atua. The priest rose and took a twig of karamu. 27 He poured the water on it the while he held it over Maro's head, and repeated an incantation to take the tapu off him. He shook the twig vigorously, so that Maro was well sprinkled by the water. Maro then sat down with his chin on his knees and his hands clasped round his legs while Atua repeated the ceremony over himself. They both left the spot, and Atua threw the karamu branch back into the pool.

They met Puhi and her companion on the marae when they reached the pa. Atua leered at the girls and said: "How small must be your kumara plot if all the weeds have been taken out so soon in the day!"

Puhi tossed her head. "The sun will shine tomorrow," she said, "and as we have many days to come we will take out the weeds when we feel more inclined."

"I am an old man," said Atua, "and I have seen many things; I know the proverb that says, 'Poor food will not go to fine lady, but fine lady will go to poor food.' "

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"Why should we work if our people will do it for us?" Puhi replied.

"It is all right to say so now," said Atua, "but you know that the grub is not always a grub, but that the butterfly comes from it. The white hair comes from the decay of the body. Maybe you will have white hair on your heads when you are called by the name of your father's mother."

"O, Atua, you are a man of great knowledge. You are powerful and feared by the tribes because you talk with the gods. If any of the learned men will teach us, why should we girls not try to gain some part of that power?"

"Puhi has asked me who my wife was," Maro interjected, "and I am going to tell her the tale of Rehu-tai, who was, as you know, a Thames woman. You will remember all the stir that was made by my love for her in those days."

"We are not as idle as you say," said Puhi before Atua had time to reply. "If our kumara crop does not grow, we can get Maro to repeat karakia. He is really the cause of our not having gone with our people to gather the weeds to-day."

"What does the toko say?" asked Maro of Atua. The girls bowed their heads as the old priest began to talk.

"O, Maro, the omens are good. The toko was warm—that is health and life. The toko was dry-there are no tears shed where your garden is."

Atua rose, scratched his head, and put his finders to his nostrils and sniffed them. He walked a short way from the others and stretched himself on the ground, as if he were going to sleep. "Tell the tale, O Maro, he said, "and as I am here, if you do not tell page 11Black and white fascimile page image it truthfully I will stop you and tell the tale myself."

Maro glanced quickly at him and gave a little frown of distaste, "Yes," he said shortly, "you can teU all that I may not be able to remember." He rose and went to the house where the old people assembled in the evening and brought out a floor mat. Putting it on the ground where he had been sitting, he spread it out and sat down on it. Then, taking the belt from his waist, he sat with his legs crossed before him, with his chest and arms bare, and said: "I was neither the oldest nor yet the youngest child my mother had."

"Yes," said Atua, "you must tell of the love of your deformed sister and how she was the most learned woman of our tribe, and that she did not live long enough to gain the love of the man for whom she wept so much."

"Maybe," said Maro, turning his head away. "My mother was a most determined woman, and not easily frightened, but she had some very curious dreams before I was born. She dreamed one night that a great owl came and sat on her shoulder, and with his big glaring eyes looked right down into her face. The dream was so real to her that in her sleep she aimed a blow at it. But it was a dream, and not the owl did she hit, but the face of my father, who was sleeping with his face not far from her fist. It came with such force against his nose that his eyes in the dark of the house saw more stars than any man had ever seen in the heavens. At the same moment my mother uttered such a yell that everyone in the pa heard it. My father added to the fright of the people by crying 'The enemy! The enemy!' He struggled to his feet and, with his page 12Black and white fascimile page image nose running with blood, grasped his mere 28 and ran out of the house to fight the foe on the marae, so that he should not be killed like a young bird in its nest.

"The people of the pa hurried to the whare matoro of the young people, and it was soon packed with chattering women and armed warriors, all asking where the enemy was. My father was as much at a loss as the others to know what had caused the sacred blood29 to flow, and who had given the pain he felt in eyes which never before had seen an enemy who had not fallen before him. The hum of voices was protracted so long that my mother wondered when the time would come to tell her dream.

"By midnight the people had quietened down, and many had gone to sleep again, but the warriors were still sitting in groups near the palisading of the outer pa, talking in subdued tones. Their sole topic of conversation was the origin of the panic.

"At length my father laid down to sleep. My mother had remained silent while he offered conjectures about the blow he had received from the unknown hand, and only replied in monosyllables. As he lay down, she said,

" 'I have a word to say. Will you listen to me, and not take heed of what the people are saying?'

" 'Yes,' said my father.

" 'I dreamed a dream. A big owl came and sat on my shoulder and so frightened me with the glare of his eyes as he looked at me that I struck him. Then I awoke. Did you hear me make any noise?'

"'Noise?' my father exclaimed. 'Do I hear a noise when the thunder peals ? I did hear a noise! In all your speaking, if all you said in your life were put page 13Black and white fascimile page image into one, the noise would not be as loud as that which I heard when I awoke.'

'How was I sitting when you awoke?'

" 'How could I see ?' my father asked. 'My eyes were full* of stars, and my ears were booming like the seashore when the waves are thrashing it.'

" 'But did you see me in the house?' 'No. I could not see anything but a big fire in my heart for revenge.'

" 'I wonder what it was that hurt you. Is your nose very sore ?'

" 'We will go to sleep,' said my father abruptly; and as my mother did not like to make him admit that he had been struck in mistake for an owl, as that would be a curse, she said, 'Oh yes, we will sleep now and not speak of the owl again.'

"The next morning all the people in the pa were moving about here and there, before the morning meal was eaten, and the fright of the past night was again the subject of conversation."

"What owls they must have been!" said Puhi, breaking into Maro's narrative, and drawing herself up into a sitting position.

The two young women who were listening to the old man were very different in character and appearance. Puhi was tall and of slender figure, with bright, liquid eyes, rather fair in countenance, and a slight tinge of red could be seen to suffuse her cheeks when she was animated or spoke with determination. Her hair was not long, but curled in waves round her large brow, lending power to her dark eyebrows, and giving an expression of self-control, and the natural female assumption of superior rank to which she was entitled.

Her companion, Moho, was a brunette, of silent disposition, but her face gave an indication of her will- page 14Black and white fascimile page image power. Her form was full but not stout, and her long, slightly curling hair fell over her shoulders and framed her face. Her eyes were those of a thoughtful girl who would not always tell all the thoughts in her mind.

In a moment or two the girls resumed their reclining posture. They lay at full length in front of Maro on a mat which Moho had taken out of the old people's council house.

Maro continued, "I was born some time after that night of alarm, and the first name I had given to me was Ruru.30 This name was given to me at my mother's persistent request, as she said my eyes were so full and big that I must be called her ruru. My father did not like to speak about an owl, but as he had no wish to dispute the point with her, Ruru I was called by all the tribe. But my father had another name by which he called me, and that was Maro. How true the tale is I do not know, as I never durst ask my father; but I have been told that he called me Maro because of the arm which was maro, or stretched out, and which had done more damage than the owner of the hand had ever durst attempt save in a dream."

1 Sweet potato; one of the staple articles of diet in many parts of the country. Ipomoea batatas.

2 Food plant with large leaves, the roots and stalks of which were eaten. It was not a staple article of diet, as was the kumara. Colocasia antiquorum.

3 Fortified village.

4 Incantations.

6 Lakes and harbours were frequently divided between different tribes, and the fishing rights in the agreed areas were strictly observed. Sometimes the boundaries were indicated by lines of stakes; in other cases the area was defined by its relation to prominent landmarks.

6 Lakes and harbours were frequently divided between different tribes, and the fishing rights in the agreed areas were strictly observed. Sometimes the boundaries were indicated by lines of stakes; in other cases the area was defined by its relation to prominent landmarks.

7 In his Ancient History of the Maori, Vol. VI., p. 246. White gives the descendants of Hotu-nui. His son Maru-tuahu had by his second wife (Hine-urunga) two sons, the first born being Te-ngako.

8 The house specially set aside for social intercourse.

9 Dance, or song accompanying a dance. More particularly a war-dance.

10 Dance.

11 Parson bird. Prosthemadera novaeseelandiae. "The gayest and most aggressive bird in the forest, noted throughout the land for its extreme activity of movement, the gloss and sheeri of its plumage, the wild outburst of joyful notes, its general air of bustle, happiness and gaiety." —New Zealand Forest Inhabiting Birds.

12 Tattooing.

13 The communal meeting place.

14 Sub-tribe or clan.

15 Lit House for conversation, speech.

16 A word conveying many shades of meaning, some of which will be exemplified later in the narrative. Broadly speaking, tapu may be referred to as "sacred" or "ceremonial restriction."

"According to the laws of the New Zealand Tapu, certain persons and things were always sacred. These were: the bodies of chiefs and priests, and everything connected with these dignitaries, who had likewise the power of imposing the tapu on others; human flesh; dead bodies, and everything which touched the dead; persons engaged in planting sweet potatoes; food and seed-houses; sick persons; the first sweet potatoes dug up, and the first fish caught in the season; slaves attending on sacred persons; the sticks upon which priests kept memorial records of their ancestors; war parties; persons weaving nets; fishing expeditions; the wood of old houses; and food which has touched anything tapu.

"Various other things and persons were temporarily tapues for certain objects; such as trees likely to make good canoes, rivers, roads, particular tracts of country, fishing grounds, places where mutton birds lay their eggs, and sands abounding in edible shells; in short, it was in the power of the chiefs and the priests to tapu anything. As a general rule, whatever related to chiefs and priests was sacred, whatever related to food and cooking was unclean."—The Story of New Zealand, Vol. 1., pp. 101, 102. Arthur S. Thomson, M.D.

17 A wood particularly suited for exposed positions, noted for its durability. Podocarpus totara.

18 A climbing plant, with vines of tough fibre, used extensively for binding. Metrosideros scandens.

19 Sticks used in the sacred rites of divination.

20 Sacred place.

21 Mount Eden was an extinct volcano, and scoria is found for many miles around.

22 A broad-leafed shrub. Brachyglottis repanda.

23 A shrub of the Cordyline species.

24 Sacred place for the performance of divinatory rites.

25 An apron, or kilt, worn by both sexes.

26 Sleep on.

27 A shrub; a species of Coprosma.

28 A short, broad-bladed weapon for fighting at close quarters. 29 The blood of a chief was sacred.

29 An ornament suspended from the throat. In this particular case White uses the term as an ear-drop.

30 Owl, or morepork, as it is usually called in New Zealand. Ninox novae zealandiae.