Revenge: A Love Tale of the Mount Eden Tribe
Chapter Four: The Story Told by Maro's Mother
Chapter Four: The Story Told by Maro's Mother
Mihi, disguised, is in the whare matoro. The marriage of Mihi and Niho is foretold, and the cause of antagonism of their parents revealed. Tohi refuses consent until his father knows. The knowledge that he is cognizant of Tihe's bewitching him is revealed by Popo, and her assistance demanded. Kapu strengthens their hands by stating that she will marry Popo only on condition that he gives consent to the marriage of his daughter. The next morning, Tihe tells Popo that she will marry Tohi. Rahi arrives and is met by women. A pakuha is arranged for the following day.
Mapu was not long in the council house before he saw Niho and his party arrive. He left the house and came quietly to the door of Popo's whare, where he saw Tata and Mihi. Mihi was so much changed in her looks that at first he could not recognise her. She was now a fine-looking young chief.
Again Mapu returned to the council house and, after sitting down for a short time, he said to Niho, "Who is the fine-looking young chief who is with Tata in the house of Popo?—but never mind him. Let us see you and the young people of Otahuhu pa dance the haka. Tohi is not sleeping and I can go and fetch Tihe to come and look at you. She has not seen a haka since the last great meeting you had here."
Tohi, who was listening, said, "We can have a haka if you like, and as we are not many you and our party can join in together." page 68 "But," Niho said, "can you get the young chief you said was with Tata to come? Who is he? Perhaps he can show us some new haka?"
"No," Mapu replied, "let us ask Popo to come and! see the haka. He is neither well nor ill, but he can look on. Which of you girls," he called, raising his voice, "will go and ask Popo to come and see your haka ? You would all try to please the son of Tahau."
"Yes," the girls replied, and a number of them went at once for Popo. As they gained the door of his house, Tata was saying that his friend the young chief was deaf and dumb, and that he had come from a distance—from Whangape to the north of Hokianga. He was descended from one of two sisters who had gone from Waikato as wives to a Nga-puhi chief. These sisters were called Reitu and Rupae, and this young chief was the son of Reitu. He had come all the way to see Tata to ask him about the ceremony of setting the kumara, 1 as their crops had been a failure in the last two seasons.
The girls looked with lively interest at the young chief. They sat in a group by the door, and there was much whispering, and admiring comments were passed among them. When Tahau had done speaking, one of the girls said, "We have come, O Popo, for you to go to the whare matoro to see a haka. Tohi and some of our people are taking part in it."
Tahau made signs with his hands to the young chief that he was to go with him, and Popo rose and, with the help of his father and mother, left the house, followed by Tata and the young chief.page 69
As Tohi had not seen Popo since his arrival in the pa, he pressed noses with him. Popo then sat down at the further end of the house, while Tohi at once set himself in a line with the young people who had come with him. He called to the boys and girls if Mount Eden to form up in a line opposite to them. Someone said, "Will the young chief join us in the haka?"
"No," said Tahau, 'let him see your mode of haka first."
For some time the young people had been amusing the older ones who had gathered in the house. When the young chief got up all eyes were fixed on him. He went across and patted Niho's head and, at the same time, by signs and gesticulations, made him understand that Niho was to sit opposite to him, and he would join in the haka.
The young people put forth all their energies in their efforts to win the praise of the older people, but everybody's attention was fixed on the young chief. When the haka was ended he went and sat down by Popo and, not wishing to look at strangers, laid himself down at full length on his mat.
Tahau said, "My friend is deaf and dumb, but he is of noble rank. He is descended from the Ngati-tama issue, and is a Nga-puhi by his father's side. His slave who came with him says that his master is a great priest and can, by looking at us, tell what is in our thoughts. They have the same gods as we have, but they are related to the Ngati-whatua2 who say they page 70 never came here in a canoe, but are the people of the land. Their mother—the woman who was the ancestor of the Ngati-whatua, was a korakorako, 3 and as these people lived in the mist, the descendants know more than we who came from Hawaiki."
"Then if that is so," said Mapu sceptically, "let him tell me who and what I am!" Tata made signs to the young chief, but he could not answer him. Mapu said, "Can his slave come here and tell us what he says?" The slave was sent for, and proved to be a short, thickset and very dark young man. He was one of Tata's slaves who had made his face dark with poporo 4 juice and had tied his mat several times round his waist to make him look corpulent.
Tata went for the slave, and on his return Mapu again put his question. The dumb chief made various signs to his slave, who, in a girlish voice, said, "Mapu is said by the chief to be a Ngati-awa. He is now a slave, and was a kind fellow in his youth." Tihe had come in just at this moment. She had heard of the young chief, and though she had said she would not come to see the haka, her curiosity had compelled her to see the stranger. As soon as she heard Mapu's question and the reply, she saw that now was her opportunity to see what the future held for her. Before anyone else could speak, she asked, "Who am I in love with?"
The slave put the question in signs, and in signs got his reply. "You are in love with Tohi," he said, "and he loves you. It is right that those who are in love should have their loved ones if their love is requited." At this Tihe burst into a loud laugh. Again the chief made signs, and the slave said, "He says you page 71 know that your laugh is false. But false or not, you will not see the next moon before you are living at Otahuhu and are the wife of Tohi."
Tohi's face was a study in emotions. "Let him tell us wny he says such things and who told him!"
Question and answer in dumb show were given again. The slave then replied, "He says that the gods saw the karetu girdle that Tihe sent to you. They saw that you came here to-day to see Tihe. They know that you are the one she can obtain as a husband. They know she will take you." The slave paid attention to his master again. "He says that you, O Tohi, and your brothers and father are not guided by the gods in what you say to your sister about her lover. The gods know that you will not let Niho have her as his wife. They know, too, what took place in your mother's mind in days of old."
"What did my mother say?" asked Tohi.
"Your mother has told you all about it. It is deceit which makes you ask that question."
"But what was the cause of my mother having such a dislike to Niho?"
"When you were a child there was a fishing party which went out into the Manuka to fish. Your father was there, and the mother of Niho was also of the party. And what was a very particular thing, your father caught common fish, but the mother of Niho caught nothing but gurnet. As you know gurnet is the fish which all married men allow their wives to have. When the fishers returned to the pa, your mother wanted all the gurnet. The mother of Niho gave two to her and two to the mother of Popo, and two each to some of the other chiefs' wives. But your mother was offended as she wished to have them all. As she would not do this your mother left this pa at Mount Eden and page 72 lived at Otahuhu until she died. On her death she told I you and your brothers and father not to forget the gurnet, and not to allow Niho to have your sister as his wife."
Popo said, "Can the dumb chief tell us when the mother of Tohi knew that Niho loved the sister of Tohi?"
The slave again spoke on behalf of his master. "Old people can see the young people who love each other as certainly as fish know the difference between land and water. Rahi, the father of Mihi, and Tohi knew that Niho loved Mihi and that she loved him in return; and Hotu, Rahi's wife, also knew this before she died."
Popo said, "What do the gods say about the revengeful spirits of those who poroaki 5 on their death, and bring evil to the living?"
"Some gods are like bad men. They delight in evil; but other gods are like the chief who is the shade of his tribe. They will not listen to the evil council of the dying."
"Can the good gods preserve Mihi from the power of her father and brother if she takes Niho for her husband ?"
"Yes. If such chiefs as Popo and Ha, the priest of the Awhitu people, are her friends. Ha could bewitch them if Rahi sought revenge when Niho took Mihi by force from her father."
The dumb chief now indicated by signs to his slave that he was tired and would go to the house of Tata, and that his slave must accompany him. They left the house, and Tihe said to Tohi, "What fine-looking men the men of the north must be! But, of course, they are page 73 the descendants of the fairies, or the children of the mist."
"Where is Niho?" asked Popo. "He was a hardworking young man when we were fishing for shark for you,' O people of this pa"
"I am here," Niho replied, as he rose from the place where he had been sitting for some time listening attentively to the dumb priest's slave.
"Come and let us hear what Tohi has to say to you," said Popo.
"I have been here all the evening," Niho said, "and have heard all that has been said. I came from Onehunga this evening just as you, O Popo, came into the house."
Tohi stood up, and said, "I will not allow anyone to have my sister as wife until my father and brothers consent."
"As that is your word," Popo replied, "I will send for your sister and keep her here till you all consent! ,0 Tohi, you are not a chief to impose your will on your sister in this way! The gods tell me that you are in love with a young woman. Perhaps I can get Ha to make her love someone else, and you will not then get the one you love. Why should the unsatisfied desire of your mother for the gurnet be revenged on your sister? It was the mother of Niho who was the cause of the anger in your mother's heart. Then why should your sister suffer for the kind act of Niho's mother? Niho is the son of a woman who was of a great heart, and if you, O Tohi, have a wife to keep your kutnara store for you, you may be called a great chief. Why should Mihi too not be satisfied in this matter of her heart? My word is that Niho be at once called the husband of Mihi. What do you young people say?"
One of the old men coughed, and as they all looked page 74 at him, he said, "O Popo, chief of all kind men, you will do everything that is right for those that are friendless; but will our people help you to save our cultivations from being plundered and trampled over by old Rahi when he comes to revenge this act of giving his child to Niho?"
"True, O Tatari!" said Popo. "But in my acts of kindness I do not act in the same way as men cultivating food. They set the crop of this year to keep them alive next year; and the man who has just eaten and satisfied his appetite often thinks of that which is to keep him on the morrow. If I do any act of kindness I do it because I cannot do otherwise. If evil comes, it will come, and cowards will flee, but not the brave. The courageous man would see that Mihi does not become the slave of her brothers when she is old enough to keep the food store of a chief. What do you young people say to this?" asked Popo again of the younger members who were there.
As with one voice, they replied, "You are right, O Popo. We will be your help if Rahi comes."
Popo was satisfied. "I will go to our house," he said, and looked at his father and mother. "As we have good food there for those who are like Tihe, she may come and stay at our house now if she likes, because the son of Rahi does not wish for the company of those who are not allowed to keep company with him."
Tihe said, "I will help you to say if the birds of Rahi are sweet, even though Niho may not like me to say so."
Niho looked round on the crowd. "Who has our family greenstone hei?" he asked. "It was taken from Tihe as she did not make right use of it, but Tata may let you have it back, 0 Tihe." page 75 Tihe followed Popo and his people, leaving Tohi and his young friends to make the other young people in the house as merry as they could with tales and riddles.
The three girls who had been at the large spring with Mapu were with Popo's people, and they had lighted a hangi 6 and cooked some of the birds and eels which they had brought for Popo. When he returned to the house, the food was ready for him.
When the moon had risen and everything in the pa could be seen distinctly in the clear light Popo was called by the girls to go out on to the tnarae to partake of the good food that Rahi had sent to him.
"I will go," said Popo, "but where is the man who caught the eels? As Tihe is here, go to him and tell him to come and eat with us."
One of the girls at once went for Mapu. He brought with him a basket containing some of the birds, kumara and eels, and put it before him. He sat by himself as he ate his food, but Tihe ate out of the same basket as Popo. When the meal was over and the baskets had been thrown away on to the heap on the east side of the pa, Popo spoke again. "I will sit in the verandah of our house, but you may stay where you are and talk as you sit in the moonlight.
"O Mapu, you are of the chiefs called Awa-nui-a-Rangi. Your ancestor, Awa, from whom you people are called Ngati-awa, was the son of the god Rangi,7page 76
but his mother was the wife of Uenuku.8 What I say-took place at Hawaiki. Your people are very great and know all wisdom, but we who are descended from the chief Hotu-nui, who came here in the canoe Tainui can talk with the gods. Tihe and I are from that same ancestor. She is a woman and I am a man. Men car control the gods more than women.
"The gods stole a mat from me and hid it; they put it below the surface of the ground so that it might get damp and rot; and as it rotted I must have gradually weakened in body, until at last I should have died. O Mapu, you know what the priests know! But that mat was found before it had time to rot, and I am still alive."
"Your words are true, O Popo," said Mapu. "I am the descendant of Awa. You might also have said that the pa called Totara-i-ahua was given that name because the tree that was tied to Korokino9 on his birth, which also was planted as his kawa, 10 was a totara tree; and as the people ahu 11 the soil at the root of that totara tree, the pa was so named. It was called, 'The totara tree that was hilled up.' Hence I say, as our people once had possession of this district in the days of Tamatea-pokai-whenua,12 I may speak to you on your marae. I am the slave of Tihe. Your gods page 77 are her gods, and who shall say that the gods may not do as you say they do? Tihe can talk to you of your own tapu and your own rites."
Tihe seemed nervous. "I do not know what Popo is talking about," she hastened to say, "but if the gods have told the truth they will have told him that I have often said that I cannot do as I wish."
"If I had an unfulfilled wish or revenge not completed," Popo replied, "I would get my priests to act for me; but if I were sorry for anyone, I would forget myself and try to help those who suffer on account of the evil that their ancestors have done. Tata has the mat I lost and I do not know what he may do with it. But, O Tihe, if you ask for it, so that you may take it, and if you take also the man who loves you, and thereby let Niho have the girl he loves, Tata will not then be able to affect us with evil. O Tihe, it is with you! You can do that which will save us from death!
"If Tohi is brave enough to go this night to Ota-huhu pa and get the consent of his brothers and of his father to the word of Niho, the power to do so must come from your word. I will see Tata while he is away and tell him to keep the mat for me till Tohi returns."
As he finished his speech Tihe's eyes blazed for a moment. Then she threw her mat impatiently over her shoulder and left the marae without a word.
In the house where the young people were amusing themselves there was a great deal of noise and confusion. Niho left after a while and looked in at the door of Popo's house. "Tohi has left and gone home already," he said. "He went past the sacred place where some of our dead have been left in the bright moonlight. Tihe came to our house and spoke to him and he got up in a rage and has gone off by himself." page 78 "Where is Tihe?" Popo asked.
"In her own house now. She told me to tell Mapu to go to her."
"Yes," said Popo, "Mapu knows what to say to her," and he looked steadily at the old priest, who had followed Popo when he went inside some time before. Mapu gave a grunt of consent and left the house in obedience to Tihe's summons.
As he went out of the door a fine, upstanding woman entered. It was Popo's aunt. She was still young, but she was a widow, and had the ornament of a widow13 on her head. Popo looked at her and then at his mother, as he could see the same determined expression on their faces. Kapu, for this was his aunt's name, had not been a widow for many moons. She and her husband had been to the Thames to see some of his relatives, and while he was there he joined a fishing excursion, and had been in the water all day with the net, as thousands of fish had been caught. He did not sleep well that night, and for many days he got worse, until he died. He had been brought here and was buried in the cave at Three Kings.
Kapu was still weeping for him, but now she broke her silence by saying, "O my child Popo, I hear that the son of Rahi has left the pa in a rage. His father may come here to see you. I have one word to say. There was a great meeting here not many days since and you were ill and I did not tell you then, but Rahi looked at me every time he could at that meeting. As he left he came to where I was standing looking at the people departing from the pa, and said, 'Who am I that I may not tell you to come to our pa? I will page 79 make a feast for all our relatives so that they may have the opportunity of saying yes to your being my wife.' I did not say no as he has a right to marry me, and I like him as he was kind to his wife, who is dead. But I said he must ask you and your father as you had the word.
" 'No,' he said, 'I cannot ask them, on account of Niho.' As Niho is my relative I said, 'Yes, yes, I remember that Mihi and he have loved each other since they were cildren, and you, O Rahi, have done all that you could to make your child throw herself over a cliff and die.' O Popo, I also said to him that I would never consent to be his wife while the word of his first wife was made so much of by him. I love Rahi, and if he will forgive the insults about the gurnets I will be his wife. That is all I have to say."
Without waiting to receive a reply from Popo she left the house and returned to her own hut, which she occupied alone since the death of her husband.
Mapu had left the house as Kapu entered, and went and sat at the door of Tihe's house. She came outside and sat down in the moonlight in a clear space not far from the house. Mapu took his seat beside her.
"Who told Popo all that he knows?" she asked.
"Is he not a chief, Tihe? Who do the priests teach but chiefs?"
"Yes, the priests teach them history, but who told him what he said to me about the mat?"
"I do not know; I am not a great priest; only the great priests can tell everything that is done."
Tihe stirred uneasily. "If you were not so ugly and so old I would have said you were in love with one of those three girls who went for the eels and you had told it to her."
Mapu passed over her words without remark.page 80
"The gods know all! I had a dream when I met those girls. That dream made me believe that you are not to have Popo for your husband, but that soon you will take another one; that Popo is good, but he will not see all the sunshine of this world. That is what I dreamed when you left me at the spring."
"Who told you to go to Otahuhu? I wished you to see if the mat was at the spring. You have not told me that Tata the priest has it. You and the people here are not men! I will go and reside where there are chiefs and not slaves. Then you can see if you can find someone who will be as good to you, my slave, as I have been."
Early next morning a voice was heard crying out loud and clear from the flat land beyond the pa. The slaves and the young women and girls were out lighting the fires in the hangi to cook the morning meal, and they stopped their work to listen. These are the words of that voice:—
I am here to tell you, O Nga-iwi, that Rahi will meet you where I now stand! See who has the most powerful words! Let all your best men come to the fight! Let Rahi see the boy who tells him what he is to do with his child! The sun will not set to-day before Rahi has taught boys not to assume the power of warrior chiefs! Wait here, O Nga-iwi, till death comes to you!
Popo heard the voice when it first called the people to attend, and as the herald left he looked at his mother and laughed. She had not taken the least notice of what the herald had said, but took the web of a mat she was weaving and set to work till the morning repast was ready.
Tihe came and sat in the verandah of Popo's page 81 house, but as he had hid his head in his mat and laid down as though to sleep, and as his mother was sitting with her back to the door so that the light might fall on her work, Tihe was not seen until the slaves came to call Popo to the meal. He rose and came out on to the marae and, seeing Tihe, said, "You eat from my basket."
She saw his purpose, and said, "You do not need to show me any aitua 14 to let me know your purpose that I should have a husband before you have a wife! I pave made up my mind to have Tohi as my husband. All men are not true. They speak, but their actions belie their words."
Popo laughed, and said, "I never said I loved you nor have I ever said that I loved anyone save Ata, so my acts are not deceitful."
"I do not say you; but slaves are slaves and chiefs are not true chiefs who get slaves to tell them what their masters intend to do when they should be silent." "I have not spoken to slaves," Popo replied, "but I do speak to slaves if they are forced to do evil by those who could kill them if they did not obey. It was my gods, through Tata, who told me where my mat was and what had been done with it. Mapu did not tell me any word, nor did he tell anyone else who might have told me what you had done with my mat." Though he was still weak, Popo raised himself to his feet and looked down at the girl with some anger and resolution in his eyes. "If I hear that Mapu has died I will make you suffer for his death. Remember my word. He has not informed me of any of your evil ways when you tried to gain me as your husband. Death must not touch Mapu or evil will follow!"
Tihe tossed her head. "I would not touch the page 82 Taranaki dog," she said, scornfully. "I do not need him now for my slave as Tohi has people to provide for me all I want." She rose to her feet and went away without another word.
The Mount Eden people had not gone to their work that morning as they were expecting Rahi. Popo asked his father to call all the chiefs and those of the men who had wives. They came to the marae in front of Popo's house. His wishes had been carried out, so that there were no single men, women, girls or children among them.
When they had all assembled Popo addressed them. "I am quite a child. It is your kindness that has made me what I am. I wish to say what I would like you all to do. If any old chief feels the same in his mind as Rahi does towards me, and you do not wish a child to dictate to you, say so now and I will sit down."
The oldest chief in the assembly said, "No, O our child, you are the son of wisdom and kindness. It is that which makes a chief fit to be a leader of his people. Grey hairs and wisdom and kindness and the power to speak well do not always go together. Youth may at times teach old age, as you do. Speak on!" At his words the people gave a murmur of assent.
There was some animation in Popo's face as he continued. "Rahi is coming to do evil to our crops because of what I said to his son Tohi about his sister, and my word that she should be allowed to be the wife of Niho. I say, when Rahi comes, if he intends to damage some crops, that this will be in accordance with our custom, that he revenge himself in this way for my having dictated to him. He and his people will not come up here into the pa, but will stay on the flat. There they will do their work and return home. As page 83 I have said more than I ought to have said about his daughter Mihi, we must bear with this act of his and not retaliate. I wish you, O chiefs and people, so soon as Rahi and his men come in sight, to let your wives and daughters go to meet them. Do not let any man or boy go with them. Let my mother and her sister, Kapu, my widowed aunt, head the body of women. My mother and Kapu know what they will say to Rahi; and let your wives and daughters speak along the same line of thought as that spoken by my mother and her sister."
"We all will do as you say, O our bird of sweet song," they cried, and departed to instruct their women-folk in all that they were to do.
It was not quite midday when a cry from the highest point of the pa announced the coming of Rahi. Very soon after a crowd of women and girls made their way down the eastern slope of the pa and proceeded directly to the flat where the herald had stood to deliver Rahi's message. They had not gained the foot of the hill when Rahi was led by the herald to the place where he had delivered the message. Seeing the troop of women coming towards them waving their mats and carrying boughs of trees, the warriors sat down and waited for them to come up to them.
The two parties at last met and sat down on the grass in separate companies facing each other. As the visitors formed a war-party the women did not conceive it their duty to speak first. After a little silence Tohi got up and said, "Where is Tihe, my intended wife?"
Reko, the mother of Popo, answered, "Do you think we come here to bring your wife ? Have you nothing else to say?"
This time it was Rahi who spoke. "Why do page 84 sucking children tell me what I am to do with my daughter ? If a boy can get a wife for himself, that is all that his young thoughts can grasp."
"Why do you stay here?" Reko asked in reply. "Why do you meet us here? The pa is the place where the men live. It is only women who stay here to guard the crops. We are not the slaves of our husbands, but we came here to find out what you intend to do. If you are going to work, then work and let us see your power."
An old chief of Rahi's party said, "I did not come here to speak to women. It is about women that we came here to talk and act, but it is with your husbands that we must fight. They are the ones who have insulted our people."
A young woman named Moho asked the old chief to tell her whether he ever durst speak when his wife said he should not. "If you are so over-ruled at your pa," said Moho when the old chief remained silent at this thrust, "why should you come here and talk to us as you do? If our men have insulted Rahi, have you not done the same to us women?"
With an impatient wave of his hand, as if to dismiss the wrangling of children, Rahi said, "Let your brave men come here and look at us."
"No," Reko replied firmly. "We will not take your message. As you are a man without a wife you must accept our 'no' as meaning 'no.' As you have no wife to help you, we will stay here till you think of something else?"
"Where is Mihi?" he asked.
"Who knows?" Reko replied. "She is not our child. She is of your pa. You should have the word to teach her."
"Let Niho come here and I will tell him my word!" page 85 "No," said Reko. "It is Popo who has said the word that has angered you, and it is to Popo you should speak. But if you prefer, let there be other work which will amuse you and allay your anger. We will look on. We are the wives of chiefs. If they were to act as you are doing now we should say that they were not men. Men would wish to meet men in the open marae, not women in the midst of the cultivations. If you are so timid in your heart you will not gain another wife, O Rahi. You dare not touch one hill of our kumara while we are here. Now go to your own pa and leave the young people who came with Tohi to be payment for the insult you have offered to us women." Reko turned to the other women, and said, "You can go back to our pa. Moho and I will stay here to fight these feeble men. You can sit by the ditch of the pa and look down and laugh at us. Do not tell the men what these people have said!"
The women rose in a body and left while Reko waved her mat to them in mock farewell. Kapu was the last to leave her, and as the other women preceded her they talked together, and the subject of their conversation was Kapu.
"Rahi has a great heart for fighting," said one of the women, "but he has a greater heart for Kapu."
"Yes," said another of the women, "did you see how Rahi sat looking at Kapu all the time we were there? I did not ever expect to see a man so feeble in words. He did not answer any of the points in Reko's speech."
A young woman said, "Why speak of the old man? We can see his stupidity without your drawing attention to it. It is best to let stupid people be stupid without giving them notoriety by speaking of them."
An old woman joined in. "I would not wonder if his people leave him in disgust and return to their own page 86 pa when they see that his heart is in his eyes and not in his arm." As this remark was being made Kapu caught up with the women. One of them said, "O Kapu, did you hear what has been said of Rahi?"
"No," said Kapu, "unless it is that the moko on his face is very beautiful."
"It is not that," said the woman. "It is not tl at. It has been said that Rahi is now very brave in love, but a most feeble man to attempt to take revenge for an insult offered to him by a boy."
"Yes," said another woman, "and I saw his lips talking to themselves when he was looking at one of our party. He did not listen, nor did he answer your sister, O Kapu. Why did he not answer her? Is this the man to keep his child from having a husband, and he such a coward as to forget an insult he has come to avenge when he is looking at a widow ?"
"Who has said he looked at me?" Kapu asked fiercely.
"I did not say he looked at you. You are not the only widow in this party, so you need not get into a rage when we talk of a brave man in love and a coward in revenge."
"It is me that you mean," said Kapu, "and as I can command I will have my revenge for your chatter about me. Am I not the sister of the mother of Popo? Are we to be held on the tip of the tongue of anyone who may lisp our name in derision? Do as I bid you!"
Kapu looked a determined woman of unbroken will as she strode past her companions. When she reached the head of the straggling line she stood and looked round with flashing eyes, and said, with a wave of her arm, "Follow me!" On she went with the step of one who could act as well as speak until she reached the sacred kumara pit for strangers. Having arrived page 87 at the door of the pit, she ordered one of the women to open it. When this had been done she ordered others to fill six baskets with kumara, and stood by all the time to see that her orders were carried out.
Since Kapu's outburst the women had ceased to chatter,' and had entered the pa in silence. The people there who were of an inquisitive turn of mind crowded round the kumara pit to hear the news, but Tihe was the only one who dared to break the silence. As she came up to Kapu, she said, "Are the people so hungry that you are taking food to them?"
"The body asks for food," Kapu replied, "but the tongue gives food to the ear. The kumara takes moons to grow, but evil words are planted and are ripe to the harvest in the same day."
"You are right, O Kapu," said Tihe. "I will go with you to take the food for Rahi so that he may be made strong to talk and make love to some of our widows. I can see that he is not so brave in war as he is in love. You do not like Rahi, so when he comes up into our pa, if you sit near me, I will laugh at my future father-in-law. I am going to make love to his son, but I intend to make love to the old man first."
"You can take the food yourself," Kapu said, "and I will go to the top of the hill in the pa where the strangers' house is, and look at you when you deliver the food to him."
"Who is 'him'?" asked Tihe. "There are many 'turns' in the party who came to fight us because of Popo's words."
"You are a child," said Kapu scornfully. "Children often talk to those who are older in such a way that only the tapu of their bodies saves them from more than words."
"But how stupid you must be if I am to have the page 88 son and you the father. You will be my mother, and talking to me as you do is enough to make me sing a song, shut my eyes, and jump off a cliff and go to Paerau."15
"You have always been the most impertinent child in our pa" Kapu said. "The young men have be: stupid enough to look at you and repeat your name in your presence, and now you do not know how far your rank will allow you to go. There are more deaths than by killing or by suicide. I do not wish to talk to those who boast in public of their lovers. Men do not like daylight love which all people can see."
"Come," said Tihe softly, "Come, O Kapu, let me go with you, and we will make love in company."
Kapu gave a cry like a small clap of thunder. She leaped high in the air and came down with a thud in front of Tihe. Her eyes flashed with fury, and she cried, "If a man spoke to me like this I could act, but a child will make me forget I am a woman." She turned quickly to the women who were listening, enthralled with the conversation. "Haste ye!" she cried. "Are the baskets full of kumara? Have you tied them up?"
"Yes," said one of the women. "All is ready."
"Take them up, then. Let one basket be carried by two women, one at each side, and follow me."
Tihe had left Kapu when she spoke in such a loud voice, and had gone back to her people. In a hurried manner she ordered two small baskets of the best taro to be given to her.
Kapu went in front of the kumara carriers as they descended the hill. She had on all her widow's weeds. Her skull cap fitted closely to her head, and the rim page 89 encircling the brow was decorated with the black hair of the dog's tail. As it was blown with the wind, it kept crossing over her nose, giving her face a haggard and determined expression. She was in such a temper that the women, especially the girls, were afraid of her.
Tihe followed Kapu's party with two girls, who carried the baskets of taro. As they reached the level land they came up with the women, but they kept just behind them till they arrived at the spot occupied by Rahi and his men. Kapu went and sat down next to her sister without saying a word about the food, which she had ordered to be brought. Not so Tihe, who walked straight up to Rahi and beckoned to the girls to bring the taro and put it down.
"O chief of our tribe," said Tihe, "I have not forgotten that our people give the best to their great men. I must say with the proverb, 'There is the small basket of Mahore.' It is the food of priests, as it is the taro which only is eaten by them. I see that our people have brought food for your men, but as I love you, O my chief, I have not felt ashamed to tell you before this multitude. When I was a very little child your wife Hotu frequently spoke my name with that of your son Tohi. You, O Rahi, must say if your daughter is to have the man she loves as her husband. Your wife has said I must be the wife of her son; then, O Rahi, if your wife who is dead commanded me to take your son, why should Mihi not have Niho, whom she loves, as her husband? O my chief, do not be deaf to my words. I heard it said in our pa that some of you were looking at our widows instead of answering the words of our messenger Reko. Yes, O father, it was also said that you are brave in love, but your arm is weak in warfare. I have been told that you do not like the sun to shine on your love, but, O our chief, there are page 90 faces even now in our presence to whom the sunshine would be good.
"Come, O chief, and lift the cover that hides the face, so that the young people may look again on the face and on the eyes that say that lightning is not found in the sky alone. Come, O our father, and we will sayyes to your word, whatever it may be. I do not say that, in your speech to the people, you are to address me and say that I can look at Tohi and he at me. You must talk about the men who have looked at our widows. Be sure to say to our chief that if our widows are to be made the keepers of your homes, your men will stay in their pa, or you may have to come here again with another war-party as dreadful as the one you are now leading. You are all brave, but your power is more in the sound, like thunder, than in the deed.
"There is one great chieftainness in our pa who says that she knows your secret thoughts. She says that you do not prefer the love of a woman that is like the bright sunlight that shines on all things and makes everything feel warm; but that you prefer love that is like a star which shines only on one. Come, O chief, come into our pa and I will show that woman to you. Our chiefs will see your noble face, for they seldom see the face of a great warrior."
At this moment the pu-tara was heard sounding forth from the pa. It gave a low, soft note that could not be heard at any great distance, but Rahi, who had been sitting with his head bowed while Tihe was speaking, heard it and looked up.
Tohi had also heard it, and cried, "That is the pu-tara of Popo's father. It says 'Come!' It is for us; rise, let us go."
As the men rose and looked at him, Tohi walked page 91 out into the road and stood waiting for his father. In the meantime, all the women had passed on before him and waved their mats and branches of throbs behind them as an invitation to Rahi and his men to follow them. As they drew level with the rim of the crater our people gave a cry of welcome to Rahi and his party, while the women who had preceded them went to the cook-house and lit the hangi.
The young people who had come with Tohi when he brought the birds for Popo and Tihe were sitting with our people, and with them sat Niho. Rahi looked at him, and the young man could tell that he expected to see someone who was not there.
The food was cooked and eaten, but neither Popo nor Tahau, his father, nor the priest Tata had made their appearance. As the food which had been cooked was the evening meal, all our people had partaken of it, but they did not eat with any of Rahi's war-party, although Tohi and his friends sat with our young people.
In the evening the young people went to the whare matoro, while Rahi and his party made their way to the house for strangers. An atmosphere of restraint weighed heavily on everybody. There were no games, nor any loud talking, but everyone seemed to be on the tip-toe of expectation. Even in the whare matoro the young people could not form any kapa 16 for a haka. At last, when the moon was shining brightly, a voice was heard crying, "We wish to hear the words of Rahi. We will meet in the house of the old people."
In a very short space of time the people, each one clad in his or her best mat, came up the paths leading to the highest point on the east of the pa, where the council house stood. They did not take long to settle page 92 down, and sat in two lines at each side of the house and across the upper end, leaving an open space from the top, or head, of the house all the way down the middle, and as far as the door. The seat of the chiefs was occupied by Rahi and his people, as shown to them by Tahau. In the middle of the house, between the posts with the carved and tattooed figures, torches were set up to give light to the house. Close to each torch sat a boy or girl whose duty it was to tap the torches now and then, to knock the charred part off so that they would continue to burn with a steady flame.
All the chiefs had taken their places, and for some time the only sound that could be heard was the tap tap of the torch guardians.
At last Rahi rose, and said, "Some of our people from Otahuhu were here, and one came back to me; but you, O chiefs, did not send any word by him to me. Great words were spoken in the presence of Tohi, but he did not reply to the words of a boy. I am not a child that you, O fathers, should sit in silence while a boy talks about me. Do the gods speak to children? Do children know from experience whence comes the good and evil of this world ? Have the eyes of children seen what our eyes have seen in war and death? I do not know what to answer, for the words spoken to me by Tohi were not your words, O my fathers and elder brothers."
Tata said, "Speak, O father! Yours are not the words of a child. You are your own master now that Hotu is dead, and you can tell your children not to dictate to you; but we are not as you—we have not been ruled by our wives, and we have never said that our wives and children are always to be silent We know that the boys will be men, and that they will be page 93 the chiefs of the people in the summers to come. We teach our boys who are full of thought to be able to speak in the sunshine. Some boys are never boys and some remain boys all their lives. We are not of a tribe of slaves. Some of our children are as wise as the old men. When we find a bird of sweet song we do not make a noise, as you do, and frighten it away, but we teach it, so that our ears may be delighted with its song.
"Why, O father, did you come to see us? We wish to know what your thoughts are."
When Rahi did not reply to Tata's question, Tohi rose in his stead, and said, "I do not answer for anyone. I will speak for myself. Rahi has said much in the years of his life, and yet the young women of these days talk to him as though he was so old that he cannot detect what is said in jest, what is said in truth, and what is intended as a sneer. Rahi may not say any word to the question put by Tata. There is one here who knows why I came back with Rahi, and if anyone has the word to forbid me to take that which my heart so long has wished for, let him now speak. That is all I have to say."
The people now expected Rahi to speak, but as he sat sullen and forbidding in his place, an old man, an uncle of Rahi's, was seen to move restlessly on his mat. At last he could restrain himself no longer, but stood up and adjusted his mat, and looked round at the people. He was an old man, fully tattooed, with a fair skin, on which the moko could clearly be seen. His head was as white as the peak of the Taranaki hill17 when seen on a cloudless day from the Waikato heads. He stood by the pou tokomanawa and leaned against page 94 the image made on it. Presently, he bowed his head and looked for a moment at the feet of the tiki. Then he raised his head again slowly and fixed his gaze on Tata. "O my son Tata, you know the proverb the old chief said, you know the proverb that says The waving of the kakaho 18 may be seen when the wind blows, but the corner of the heart cannot be seen.' You have asked what Rahi came here for. We came here to see who has the power to give the child of Rahi to Niho. Your boy Popo had said that Mihi might do as she liked. I can remember the words of her mother, Hotu, and Rahi has not said that these words are to remain unfulfilled. We have come here to see if Popo will be your leader, and whether you will carry his thoughts into effect. That, O Tata, is why we came here."
The old man lay down again, and as he did so, there was a slight movement near the door, and Kapu came up the clear space in the middle of the house to where Popo was sitting. When she reached him she took off her widow's cap, which, up to this time, had not been off her head, and laid it at his feet. She did not say anything, but went back to her place.
Another person rose, and all the people turned their heads to look at her. She had a fine kaitaka in her hand, and, as Kapu had done with her head-dress, she laid it at Popo's feet. This woman was Tihe, and when she sat down, the people looked at each other, wondering what was going to happen next.
They did not have long to wait. Tata left the house, saying, as he went down the opening in the middle, "Wait till I come back." The ensuing silence was almost painful. Not even the breathing of the people could be heard. Tata came back again with a companion, whose head was covered with a mat. Tata page 95 also had a mat in his hand, and this he laid at Popo's feet, while his companion went and laid down behind Popo. All eyes were now fixed on Popo, but he did not speak.
Tahau rose to his feet, and said, "I will now ask a few questions. We are men and not rats. We live in the daylight and need not, like rats, do our work when the sun cannot shine on it. I will ask you, O Rahi, have you in your possession the hei that was given to Tihe for her to keep?" "No," said Rahi, "I have not."
"Is that hei a very sacred heirloom?"
"Yes, it is."
"What is it called, and where did it get its name ?"
"It is called Whakarewa tahuna, and it got its name because it was a chip of a large block of greenstone of that name. The block of greenstone is kept in this pa in a sacred place, and is the first greenstone obtained by our ancestors from the south island."19
"Yes, it has been used to ascertain what the gods say."
"Who was the last person in whose possession you saw it?"
"You had it last. Before Hotu died I saw it with you at our pa when you and your people came to cry over me for the death I had felt."
"Was I wearing it?"page 96
"No, but one of your people had it, and that was as good as if you were wearing it."
"I want you to say who had it in the days of your weeping for Hotu."
Rahi sat still for some time without speaking while Tahau stood with his head bowed. Then Rahi gave a cough and looked at Popo and said, pointing his finger at him, "It was in the ear of that child of yours."
"Is your family entitled to wear it?" asked Tahau.
"No, not by right of birth, but some of my female ancestors have worn it when married to men who had a right of temporary possession."
"Did you see it in the ear of anyone when you were at the great meeting lately when Popo was so ill, and the property was given as an offering for Popo to make the gods keep him from death?"
"I did not notice it then."
"Was Tihe near you at that meeting?"
"I do not remember."
"Was anyone else near you when you left to go to your own pa?"
Rahi did not reply, but the old, white-headed chief who had not been at that great meeting rose and said, "It is wrong for me to interrupt the speakers, but why do you question our chief, who is an old man, as though he were an evil-doer? It would seem that you are trying him to see if he has done some evil deed. Let me answer your questions, O Tahau. I am old and can answer all your questions."
"No," replied Tahau, "you do not know everything. That which you did not hear or see could not be known to you unless you had thousands of dreams and could tell what you saw in the spirit world as facts which have taken place where men live. O father, page 97 your speech just now shows that you came here with Rahi not knowing half of what he came for. It is good to offer to help him, but Rahi can answer for himself, and you may only listen."
The old man sat down, and Tahau turned to Rahi again.
"Did you speak to anyone when you went out of the east gate at the conclusion of the meeting?"
Rahi gave a little grunt and did not speak. Then Popo stood up, and said, "O Tahau, stand where you are. I am not going to make a speech." He waved his hand to the people who were between him and Rahi, and said, "Let me have space to go to our father, Rahi." The people shifted at once and made a clear space. Popo took up the widow's cap and went and laid it down at Rahi's feet, saying as he did so, "That is not my gift. Perhaps you know, perhaps your heart does not know the thought that is with you." Again, he returned to where he had been sitting and, taking up the mat Tihe had put before him, he went back to Rahi and laid it before him, saying, "That is the payment for your heart being so dark on account of the words said by a child."
A murmur was heard on the side where our people sat, and as Popo sat down again, the chiefs of our people rose one by one and took mats and greenstone ornaments and laid them at the feet of Rahi. The last one, as he laid down his mat, said, "O father Rahi, our people are dark on account of your being so angry when our young bird of sweet song sang a tune that we all thought so right. Here is the property to make your heart live again."
When all was quiet Tahau spoke to Rahi again. "What is the omen for good when Whakarewa tells what the gods say?" page 98 "If it is clear," said Rahi, "it is well; if dull, evil."
"Do the gods tell lies, O Rahi?"
"Not when they have spoken by Whakarewa. I never knew evil to come when Whakarewa spoke for good."
"Let us look at you, O Mihi!" Tahau cried.
The veiled figure which had been lying behind Popo now rose. As the mat was removed the people saw that it was Mihi, and that the sacred hei was suspended from her ear.
"Come near to this torch," Tahau said.
Mihi stepped up to the torch and sat down.
"Look at the sacred hei, O people of Rahi," said Tahau, "and say what it looks like."
The old, white-haired chief was the first to look, and he was soon followed by the others.
"Say, O uncle of Rahi, what does Whakarewa say?"
"It is quite clear like flowing water rippled by the frost and made hard."
"Now, O old chief, since it shines so clear, say if it is in the ear of one who will have a right to it? And as Mihi has had the sacred stone put there by me, say if she is to take Niho for her husband as I intend her to do. And as Niho is next in order to wear the sacred stone, say if any evil will come to the family of Tihe who are next of kin, and who last had charge of it. Will evil come if Niho take Mihi as his wife?"
"No," said the old chief, "Whakarewa says that it is well, and no evil will rise."
"Then," declared Tahau, "we men have done all our work. If our father Rahi will keep that head-dress until to-morrow, he will hear the words of its wearer. We can have a pakuha,22 where the young people can page 99 speak. Answer you, O Rahi."
"As Whakarewa has spoken, I will not reply," said Rahi. "I do not say that I am greater than our heirloom, and it is only the head chief who speaks at the conclusion of any meeting."
The meeting broke up. Before they left, Popo, Tahau, Reko, Kapu and others went and pressed noses with Rahi. The Otahuhu chief became quite talkative to his own people when they were left alone in the strangers' house.
1 The rites and ceremonies in connection with the planting of the kumara, as with so many other actions, were strictly observed. In the setting of the kumara there was an invocation to the god Rongo. At the conclusion of the setting, the kumara field was tapu until the time of harvesting.
2 This is an interesting reference to the people of the land. The Maori visited Ao-tea-Roa from their Hawaiki for several hundreds of years, the Great Migration which took place in the Fourteenth Century marking the close of settlement from Hawaiki. Hawaiki was the Homeland, to which the departed spirits made their way. For an account of the migration, the populating and settlement of the country, see The Coming of the Maori to Ao-tea-Roa. Reed.
3 Fairy. In native belief the fairies were white-skinned.
4 A plant. Solatium nigrum.
5 Leave instructions on departing.
6 Native oven. A hole was scooped in the ground and a fire lit in it Stones were placed on the fire and when the wood had been consumed the embers were raked out and a layer of ferns placed on the hot stones. The food was then laid on the fern and sprinkled with water, which percolated through to the hot stones and turned to steam. The food was quickly covered with another layer of greenstuff, and the oven covered with earth, which was stamped down hard and thus imprisoned the steam, so that the food would be cooked perfectly.
7 The Sky Father. The seventy children of Rangi and Papa, the Earth Mother, comprised the highest class of atua known to the common people, and were tutelary beings, personifications of nature, and creative gods.
8 One of the offspring of Rangi and Papa, the god who is the personification of the rainbow.
9 A totara seedling was planted on the top of what is now called One Tree Hill or Maungakiekie during the ceremonies connected with the birth of a child of high rank.. It was considered an omen of good luck. I always understood the child's name to be Koroki. He is said to have later distinguished himself as a warrior in Taranaki. The tying of the tree to him is probably a figurative expression. (A.G.S.)
10 A young tree used in certain rites.
11 To heap up.
12 Captain of the Taki-tumu canoe.
13 The potae taua,, or cap of mourning, consisting of a plaited band worn on the head, with strings of seaweed or of some plant suspended from it.
15 One of the districts or places in Rarohenga, the underworld of departed spirits.
16 Rows or ranks.
17 Mount Egmont. Taranaki, the name of the mountain, is now applied to the whole province.
18 The stalks of the reed-grass. Arundo conspicua.
19 Greenstone is found only in the South Island, principally in the Arahura district. The first explorer of New Zealand, Kupe, brought back with him to Hawaiki a piece of greenstone and preserved moa flesh as the token of his discovery of the southern land.
22 A feast at which betrothals were made.