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Revenge: A Love Tale of the Mount Eden Tribe

Chapter Three: The Story Told by Maro's Mother

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Chapter Three: The Story Told by Maro's Mother

Mapu is forced to accompany Mount Eden girls to Otahuhu. They return with young people of Otahuhu pa and Mapu arranges a meeting between Mihi, the daughter of Rahi and Niho. Mapu presents a mat to Tohi, the son of Rahi, on behalf of his mistress. Rahi has forbidden the marriage of Mihi and Niho, so Mapu leads Mihi to Popo's house, and they formulate a plan to make Tohi agree to his sister's marriage with Niho. Mihi is disguised as a young chief.

After her conversation with Tihe, the girl returned to her own home. As she was one of the family tribe of Popo, she went into the house where Popo lived with his father, Tahau, and Reko, his mother. He was much better than he had been for some time, as he had eaten of the eels which the young women had obtained for him. As the girl went in she heard Reko say, "O Popo, you are like yourself again. You look as if you can soon meet the young people in the whare matoro. The eels have given you life again."

Popo said, "There is someone else who is sick, and should be thought of by those who are full of life."

"Who is it?" asked Reko.

"Who but Tihe?" Popo replied. "If I were well I would go and get some for her. Why do not some of the young who are so fond of looking at her go and get some for her? Young men do not stay young for page 51Black and white fascimile page image ever. Sickness will come and then they will wish for things that they never thought of giving to the sick until they were afflicted themselves."

The girl said, "I have just come from the house of Tihe,.and have told her that we girls will go and get some for her."

"Yes," said Popo, "and some of the other young women will go with you. Maybe when you are sick you will not feel dark when you remember how kind you were to someone who was sick when you were young."

"I," said a girl, "and I," said another, who had just come in, "will go with you."

The sun was just up above the hills of the Thames when the three girls descended Mount Eden, crossed the path from Orakei to Onehunga, and made their way towards Otahuhu. When they arrived at the big fpring at the side of the road, they prepared for their work by putting their maro round their waists and the koka 1 over their shoulders. One of them paused as she was swinging the koka over her head, and said, "Someone has slept here last night This is where he has had a fire. He feasted on eels, too, for here are the bones." The other girls stared at the embers. "Yes," said another, "and he did not have any kinaki with the eels, for I cannot see any husks of karaka, 2 rind of taro or skin of kumara anywhere."

Just as they were talking, old Mapu, the slave priest, came up from the swamp to the eastward. He did not see the girls at once, so they had time to put on their home garments and put away the eel-catching page 52Black and white fascimile page image cloaks before the old man arrived. They sat down and watched him approaching. As he came up to them he threw down a large basket full of fat fresh-water eels.

"This is your fire ?" asked one of the girls. " You slept here last night?"

"Yes," said Mapu.

"Have you been here ever since you left Matuku-rua with Tine and her party?"


"And I suppose you have been living as wild men do who have no place in which to live, for fear of those who may kill you?"


"Then you do not know that Tihe is dead? You may not live long; you may be killed to go with her to the Reinga." 3

"Perhaps so," said Mapu.

"Who are the eels for ?" asked one of the other girls.

"For Tihe."

"But we are going to catch some for her," said the first speaker, "and as she may not die till you get to our pa we will take yours when you have carried them there."

Mapu smiled. "If you have said all you wish to say that is not true, I will tell you something that is true."

"Oh!" one of the girls exclaimed. "You have been dreaming! Your dreams are not those of young men who can tell us what is worth listening to."

Mapu smiled again. "The ears are the caves page 53Black and white fascimile page image where words sit," he said, "and the heart is the judge whether they are good or bad. How, then, can your hearts tell whether the words I am going to say are good or bad until you hear them?"

"Say on," said one of the girls.

"It is all very well for you to tell me to talk, but I do not know which to tell you—my dream, or the news I have to give you."

"Let us cook some of the eels while the old man is telling his tale," said one of the girls.

"Cook the eels if you like," said Mapu, "but wait for some time before you put them on the fire for fear you burn them. I know how girls like to hear about the young men of another family tribe!"

"Tell your tale then, you untattooed-faced old man," said the last of the three girls, who had not spoken till now, "and let us hear if you can ever talk sense to your kind lady, Tihe, who saved your life the time you were to be killed to go to the Reinga with the child who was burnt to death."

Mapu sat down and drew his cloak round him. "Have you young girls ever seen the cave" (pointing with his finger towards Rangitoto) "between us and the road that leads from Remu-wera to Waiata-rua lake ? There is an atua there. I know, for I have seen him."

"It is daylight," said one of the girls. "We do not feel afraid of an atua in the sunshine."

"I slept there by myself last night," said Mapu, "and as my fire began to burn dim, I laid down to go to sleep. Just as my eyes closed I heard a noise like that of a rat making the sound that is the omen of death. I looked out of the corner of my eye and saw a large thing standing just beyond where the embers of my fire were making a glow-worm-like flicker as page 54Black and white fascimile page image the evening breeze blew on it. I did not move, but kept looking at the atua. I do not know what it was like, but I saw its two eyes. It came to the fire, but it did not seem to see my feet. I was lying, as we all do when sleeping in the open air, with my feet to the fire. The thing sat down, for I could see its eyes sinking nearer to the ground. It began to talk, and I listened to the words.

" 'Men and gods are warned by the sun. The moon does not make oil for the head of those it shines on; love, like a fire, often burns those who keep the nearest to it; death is good to some—death is not welcome to all, but some would like death better than life.'

"How long it would have talked like this I do not know. The fire was nearly out, and my feet grew chilly, and all at once I sneezed."

"Yes," said the talkative girl, "and yours is a sneeze! I have heard it. If all your tribe sneeze like you, and if our husbands were to do so at the same time, it might be heard in Waikato."

"Ah," said Mapu, "it was such a noise that I made that the atua decamped at once, and after I had replenished the fire I fell asleep."

"It was your own atua who thus spoke to you, and not any of those who stay in the cave yonder with the dead," one of the girls interjected. "What an old stupid you must be to think your dream was a reality."

"Well," Mapu replied, "we shall see that the sun will not forget to rise, and when the moon comes and goes you will see whether this atua who talked to me was a dream or not."

"Why!" exclaimed one of the girls, who had taken the basket of eels and was beginning to untie it, "the old fellow has had some snipe. Here are the feathers." page 55Black and white fascimile page image "You young women are so full of sneers," said Mapu, "and so impatient of any way other than your own, that you do not listen to those who could teach you great knowledge. I said I had news to tell you."

"Tell it, then," said one of them. "Let us be doing our work and not sitting here. We are not at our kumara plantations at Mount Eden."

"Listen," said Mapu. "I went from here this morning before the sun had risen. It was a cold, foggy dawn. As I got to the head of the salt-water creek I heard voices. I left my eels and went on and saw the men of the Otahuhu pa at the bird snares. They had put the snares for the snipe up on the flat where you say the canoe Tainui4 was dragged overland from Tamaki to Onehunga. In their nets and snares, which had been set up on the portage, they had caught hundreds of snipe. I did not go near to them but kept on the scoria on this side of the creek till they called to me. I had some food with me and some of the feathers stuck to my mat. That is the reason for your having seen them in the basket."

"What has that to do with news?" asked one of the girls.

"What is news? When I was a boy I was told that life and death were news. Food is life—that is news. As snipe is food, that is news. And as the death of Tihe, of which you told me, was news to me, I can see life for her in what I have told you."

"Yes," said one of the girls. "You are an old man, and sometimes you can think. Let us go to Otahuhu pa and perhaps they will give us some birds for Tihe and Popo. That would be the food of the page 56Black and white fascimile page image gods for those two sick ones."

"What made such an old man as you," said the girl who had said least of the three, "stay here by yourself when you came so far from Manurewa with Tihe and the others? You slept here in the cold, and old men like warmth. Why did you not come to our pa with them?"

"Why did you come here?" Mapu asked in reply.

"To catch eels for Tihe."

"And what else brought me here?" said Mapu. "I heard the young men saying that they had seen some of you at the great meeting in our pa, and that you were——" Here Mapu began to cough as though he had caught a cold.

"Go on!" said the girl. "The young men said we were——?"

"Yes," said Mapu, "you were just like——"

Again the old man coughed so much that he was unable to speak. At last he managed to gasp out that he would have to tell them just a word at a time, as the cough he had caught when he sneezed the atua away now prevented him from telling anything at once, as his breath had been given to him in pieces and not in a lump like other men. "But you ought to have——cough——allowed me——cough——to have said all——cough——I had to say——cough——and not——cough——put your words into my words——cough——my cough——cough——is worse." He wiped his eyes and looked like one half-strangled. Then he tried again. "Some girls are kind to others——cough. When they take a journey they can make——Oh!" Mapu spluttered, "my cough is bad——can make love from a distance."

The talkative girl shrugged impatiently. "I think the old slave is mad. He spoke of the sun in his dreams.

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He must have had his head cooked by the sun, and his words are all like himself, saved only by the coolness of the pity offered to him by our forbearance."

"Ah," Mapu replied, "I will go with you and will let you see the young men who spoke those words about you."

"Who asked you to do so?" asked the silent girl. "Who wants you to meddle in the words of chiefs?"

"Let us go!" said the talkative one.

They all rose and went on the road towards the crossing at the head of the creek, leaving Mapu to put his eel-basket on to a ledge where the dogs or rats could not meddle with it while they were away.

After the girls had passed the creek they loitered on the road until Mapu came up to them, as they wished to hear more about the people of Otahuhu pa.

"Now," said Mapu, "I do not intend to speak at all when we are welcomed by your people. You know I am but a slave. You are young women and there are many young women in the pa who will look at you and say all kinds of——" He broke off abruptly and pointed with his finger. "That is where the snipe snares were put up when I saw them taking the birds." As they went on Mapu took his place behind them. This was against all custom, as the slave should have gone in front to call the attention of the people of the pa to those who followed. But the old man was not afraid of girls, and by now they were so angry with him that they did not think of the slight cast upon them by his taking the place of a chief.

Soon they were seen by the people at the top of the pa, and a loud call was given. At once the young people of the pa came out of the western gate and waved their mats. Mapu had again developed one of his fits of coughing and came on at a slow pace. The young page 58Black and white fascimile page image women had entered the pa ere he had got half-way up the hill. The girls were seated on mats in front of the meeting house on the marae when he got in.

The young people of the pa were eager to see the visitors and came and sat down by Mapu. A ch ef rose, and said, "Come, O children of our brothers, and see us at our place. We are glad to see you. Welcome!"

It was now the required custom for one of the visitors to get up and answer the welcome, but the young women looked at each other, and the talkative one, who had so much to say to Mapu, did not rise. The three girls remained silent so long that at last Mapu rose, and said, "Call to us, O chiefs! We are but children and young women and have not learned how to speak to an assembly. We young women can only talk to one person at a time." A smothered titter was heard from the young people. "We came here to ask for some kinaki for our sick ones left at our pa. Love sent us here" (again the smothered titter was heard), "and it is only that we expect to be sick some day and may want some nice food that we cannot get for ourselves that we have come here to-day." Mapu's cough seemed to trouble him again, and he sat down.

An old man of the pa said, "Come, my children, come and take the good things we have. Take them to our son Popo. We all love him. I speak for my own heart. I do not say there is not love in the heart of our young people for Popo only. You girls know best, but if I can see what colour the clouds are at sunset, and if I could see the same colour in your pa when our young men are at the great meeting, then I say take my love to Popo. But now let others say what they have to say."

Through sheer vexation at what Mapu had said, page 59Black and white fascimile page image and which had given cause for this bantering speech of the old chief of Otahuhu, the silent girl rose, and said, "We are glad you have said we are welcome. The girls of our pa are welcome anywhere in this district. But our' slave has not spoken our thoughts."

"No," said the old chief, "he has not. But I am sure that you will."

"Popo asked us to come to the foot of Rarotonga and get some eels for the sick girl, Tihe. We came and found the old man Mapu at the spring. It was he who proposed that we should come here, and as he had told us of an atua he had seen the night before, we thought we would come on and see whether it was a dream or not."

"I have had many dreams in my day," said the old chief. "Some were true and some were false. I once dreamed that I was loved by a girl when I was a young man. I told her of my love for her, and she burst into such a loud laugh that I awoke to see that all the people had been laughing at me. I had been walking in my sleep. Girls cannot dream like that. Never mind," said the old chief, "it is not slaves you wish to dream about but chiefs."

Food was now set before the girls, but, contrary to custom, the old chief sat down with the girls, while the people left the marae and went to other parts of the pa. Mapu had a basket of food set before him, and he ate alone. As he was eating, the old chief said, "I must eat out of the same basket as my daughters. What you said might have made a young man like me feel very angry when you taunted me with your talk of love."

"No," said the talkative girl, "you old men are like an old tree—the frost of a sneer or taunt does not wither your boughs as it does the young shrub or the page 60Black and white fascimile page image grass that is just coming to life. We did not come here to see your people."

"I did not say so," replied the old man. "You did not come to see our people, but perhaps you came to see one particular person in our pa."

When the repast was finished the people began to collect again, and some of the young women brought baskets of snipe and put them down on the marae. Not a word was said till the Mount Eden girls and old Mapu made ready to depart.

The old chief of Otahuhu rose with a stick in his hand, and with it he struck the baskets of birds, and said, "These are for my children Popo and Tihe. Who will take them?"

"I, I, I," said many voices. The young people were eager to go, but there was one young woman who did not join in the joyous outcry. She was the daughter of the old chief who had so much amused himself with his banter about love in front of the three girls. She had been sitting in silence for some time. Her father had taken the cue for his remarks from the manner in which Mapu had spoken for the girls. This old chief was a widower with three sons and one daughter. She had been sitting in the corner of the verandah of the whare runanga 5 and had been a keen observer of all that was said and done. Her brother was one of those who said he would go back with the three girls— not, of course, that he had said he would carry any of the birds for Popo or Tihe. No, he was not of those who can carry food on their backs. His sister looked at him when he said he would go, as she herself had a great desire to visit Mount Eden. But not a sign or a word came from her father or her elder brother.

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Mapu had seen this young woman when he visited the tribe on their bird-catching expedition, and also at Mount Eden. He had learned more of her history than she knew, for Tihe had told him of her love for one of the young men who had been with Popo when they were at Awhitu. As the young people made preparations for their excursion to Mount Eden, Mapu came to her and said, "Where is your elder brother Tohi? I do not see him here." The old slave priest looked round carefully at the men engaged in taking the snipe out of the snares.

"I do not know," she said. "He is somewhere in the pa. I will go with you if you want to find him. You are the priest who talks with Tihe, are you not?"

"Yes," said Mapu, "and your name is Mihi. I have heard Niho speak of you."

Niho was the name of the young man at Mount Eden whom she loved, and the girl looked at Mapu closely as he pronounced her lover's name, but the old man's face was quite expressionless. "Come," she said, "and we shall find him."

They met Tohi going down the path towards the beach where the bird-catchers were at work. Tohi recognised Mapu and sat down to await the arrival of the old man and his sister. When they came up to him Mapu sat down on the opposite side of the road while Mihi passed straight on. The slave had beneath his mat a girdle worn by females. It was made of the sweet-scented grass called karetu. 6 Without a word he drew it forth and gave it to Tohi, rose, and went down the path, and went to collect the eels he had caught before setting off home.

He had not gone far before he was seen by the page 62Black and white fascimile page image girls, who called to him and made him go back to the Otahuhu pa. Here he saw Mihi again. She did not speak to him, but he went close up to the verandah where she was sitting, and said in a hurried whisper, "Niho is at Onehunga and will be there to-night. It is low water just as the moon rises." Mihi remained silent, but showed her consent to Mapu's suggestion by lifting her eyebrows slightly. Any further communication was interrupted by the young people, who were now all ready to set out for Mount Eden. Rahi, the old chief who had so confused the three girls with his talk, said, "Who will carry the birds?"

Three of the slaves volunteered to do this, and Tohi rose and left the pa, followed by Mapu. After them came a number of the young people, and lastly, the three slaves carrying two baskets of birds for Popo, and one for Tihe.

They had not gone far on the road when Mapu said to Tohi, "Let us sit down here as I wish to speak."

"No," said Tohi, "I must not follow food on the road.7 Tell me what you have to say as we walk on."

"Tihe told me to say that when you come to our pa you will see what you never thought to see, and words you never thought to hear, and that you will say words you never thought to say. Tihe sent that girdle for you. You must have seen it before, as it is the girdle worn only by those of high rank. It belonged to her mother and is very sacred, but as you are of the same tribe, you had better keep it as an heirloom in the future."

"Yes," Tohi replied, "I know that I am a man, and this year has been a year of plenty."

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They had unconsciously slackened their pace as they talked, and by now the young people had come up to them, so they all went on together. Having arrived at the spring Mapu took the basket of eels on his back and then took his place with the other slaves, who followed in the rear of the party.

The day was drawing to a close when they arrived at Mount Eden. The slaves had carried the birds to the cookhouse and had given them to Popo's slaves. Tohi had gone with the other young people of his party to the whare matoro, but Mapu had at once gone to his own people. He had put half of the basket of eels in their house, and half he had given to the slaves of Popo, and disappeared at once.

It was dusk, and the moon was just peeping over the hills near Papakura when the slight, tall form of a young woman advanced, in a hurried manner, but with a steady, determined step, along the bush track near the big spring to the east of Onehunga. She came on to the beach opposite to Mangere and then turned up and walked along the eastern rim of the cove to the point of scoria rock at the commencement of the shelly beach of Onehunga. On that rock, unseen by anyone, sat old Mapu. He had seen the girl coming towards him. It was Mihi, and when she came level with him fie spoke in a low voice so as not to frighten her. "It is I, Mapu. I have seen Niho, and you are to go with me to our pa at Mount Eden. Niho says that he will meet you there where your elder brother Tohi is, and I can say you came up the road after us."

"Oh, no," said Mihi. "I will say all that is to be said. You must not speak. Better that I bear the wrath of my people than that you be killed. You do page 64Black and white fascimile page image not know what my brother might do."

Mapu stood up, and, following the road from One-hunga, he accompanied Mihi to the house where Tihe and her people lived. When they had come up the steep bank of the pa, Mapu said, "Stay here till I go and someone." He left her sitting in a nook in the scoria on the right of the path. He was not away long. Then, reassuring his charge, he took her to the house of Popo and his mother and father. They all lived together now that Popo was ill.

Mihi went straight in, while Mapu sat down just outside the door of the whare. 8 She hongi-ed with her three friends and sat down. Mapu gave a cough, and when Popo looked at him, he said, "I have only one word to say."

Popo said, "Say on, but come inside and be near me that I may look at you while you speak. I have heard more about you than you perhaps know. I like to see the face of anyone who is speaking, as there is a language in the eyes which comes from the heart. The language of the tongue is sometimes nothing but spoilt air. Come in."

Mapu went in and was pointed to a place on the opposite side of the house. "Speak!" said Popo. Mapu looked at Popo, and said, "My word is in regard to Mihi. Niho is at Onehunga, and you all know that Mihi's brother Tohi is in love with Tihe. Tohi is now in the council house. Why should I, a slave, speak? Yet it is said of my people that we can devise a line of action in an emergency. I say this because of the proverb 'South there are many lines of action; North there are few.' As Niho is a chief and Mihi is of the same rank, why should their love burn like a fire until it kills them or makes them die of grief? They may page 65Black and white fascimile page image perhaps sing a song and jump over a cliff, causing great weeping and perhaps the death of many others in battle if their love burns hopelessly.

"Now I am a slave, but I know that when the last visitors from the north, of Nga-puhi, came here, some of them gave you a quantity of paraheka wahi awa, with which our young people tattoo their faces. I refer to the pigment with which they mark their faces as a sham tnoko, and which will not wash off for several days. This is my word. Get some of this pigment and let Mihi attire herself as a man. Let her hair be cut short and her face tattooed like that of a man. Niho will be here to-night. I will go to the whare matoro and by my talk get the young people there to send for you, O Popo. You can come this night and bring Mihi disguised as a young man. She will play the part of a man from the distant people of the north, who is deaf and dumb, but who can kanikani as well as, if not better than any of the young people here. I can talk, and you, O Popo, can talk. As Tohi has come here to make love to Tihe, I can make the talk embrace the love of his sister for Niho without letting the name of Niho be heard. O Popo, you can, if you will, make Tohi agree that his sister must have the one she loves, even as he wants Tihe, the woman he loves. Are my words the words of a slave?"

"No," Popo replied. "No, I can see by your face that your heart said all that your tongue said. Go and do your part, and I will be led by my father and mother to the house when I am sent for."

Mapu rose and went to the council house while Tahau went for the priest Tata. He came at once and marked Mihi with a putanga on one side of her face, and the aro poureha, with the hongi on each side of the nose, and one half of the titi. He cut her hair as page 66Black and white fascimile page image short as that of a man's, and tied it up in a pare kou-kou, 9 into which he put some toroa 10 feathers, and suspended a large mako 11 in her right ear.

1 A rough cloak of undressed flax, used principally to keep off the rain.

2 The berry of the karaka tree. Corynocarpus laevigata.

3 The spirit-land. Slaves were frequently killed at the time of their owner's death. The greater the mana of the chief, the greater the number of slaves dispatched at his decease.

4 The canoe of the great migration of the fourteenth century, which brought from Hawaiki the ancestors of the Waikato people. See The Coming of the Maori to Ao-tea-Roa. Reed.

5 Public meeting house.

6 Hierochloe redolens.

7 The tapu regarding chiefs and food of any kind, especially cooked food, was very strictly observed. A chief who was tapu for any reason was not allowed to touch it, and had to be fed. Here we see an extreme example of the prohibition relating to this matter.

8 House.

9 An arrangement of the hair in which it is tied in a plumed knot on top of the head.

10 Albatross, Diomedea exulans. The feathers of these birds formed a favourite ornament for the ear, a bunch of them usually being inserted in an elongated hole in the lobe.

11 Shark tooth.