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Revenge: A Love Tale of the Mount Eden Tribe

Chapter Six: Maro's Story

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Chapter Six: Maro's Story

Maro now speaks from his own recollection of the pakuha meeting. The Thames people come to Mount Eden, and among them Rehu-tai. The pakuha is begun. Tihi accepts Tohi only on condition that Mihi weds Niho. Kapu, annoyed at the continued silence of Rahi, promises herself to Tutu of Owairaka. The grandson of Manu claims Puhi. Tata gives Popo's mat back to Tihe. Maro claims Rehu, but she is forbidden him. He goes to Takapuna and there plights his troth with Rehu in secret.

Here Maro paused in his narrative and looked out over the Waitemata with a reminiscent twinkle in his old eyes. "I can tell you of the rest of that day from my own memory," he said. "I have told you the story my mother told me. I was at that pakuha, and I took part in it, as you shall see."

The Story Maro Told

The rest of the day was passed by the people in relating the gossip of each pa, whilst the grandson of Mihi told me of the people of the Thames. He had come up with some of the young people to Takapuna to see one of their relatives who was the wife of the head chief there. I had seen these young people with Mihi's grandson when they came on to this marae. There were several young women in the party, and though I had liked many girls in my boyhood days, there was not one whom I had loved as much as one page 120Black and white fascimile page image of these young women. I loved her on that very day when I first saw her. She was the sister of the woman who had married the Takapuna chief, and she had come in company with her younger sister, who, it was said, was very like the girl who was loved by Popo, who was called Ata, but whom Popo referred to as Rehia. As I had not seen Ata I could not say if it were true, but I knew I loved the elder girl. Her name was Rehu-tai, but we all called her Rehu. I played with the young people all that day, but I cannot say what we played at, as I could not see anyone but Rehu. All that was said was but a noise to me, and even the words spoken by Rehu sounded in my ears as the words of the spirits. I had heard that the people of Thames did not like our tribe, but I was not old enough to know the cause of their dislike. But this I did know, that I loved Rehu, and I was old enough to say so in a meeting.

We had been amusing ourselves with a haka, and as I was a talkative boy I said, "Let us boys decorate our faces for the haka with the tip of the leaf bud of the ngaio 1 tree; and let the girls get the leaf of the wharawhara 2 and decorate their faces with the lower end of the leaf with its black and white feathery part." As these were not easily obtained, I went with some of our young men down the north part of the pa and got the wharawhara roots. I helped Rehu to make a fire and roast the lower end of the leaves and then, by inserting a piece of wood between the outer skin and the pulp of the leaf, a thin, soft substance came off. The bottom of it is white and the top black. By putting the white part on the lips and wetting it, you can put it on your face and there it will cling for some time. This I helped Rehu to do her face. When all was done, we page 121Black and white fascimile page image had our haka, and Rehu sat in the line of girls opposite me. Her face looked beautiful with the wharawhara decoration, but she laughed at me and said the ngaio leaf buds looked like smudges of soot on my face.

The grandson of Mihi had been talking to his ancestor and had not taken notice of us young people till we gave a loud laugh. He turned and saw me looking at Rehu. What I had said I do not know, but all the girls laughed at Rehu and the young men looked at me. Mihi's grandson said something to the old lady, and I overheard her reply, "It is only the talk of children."

When our haka had come to an end, Rehu went and sat beside old Manu. I had not left the place where I had been in the haka, but I could see Rehu looking at me several times while I was sitting there. I did not care what the meeting was for, nor did I care who might speak so long as I could say what I intended to say.

In the evening all the people assembled in the whare matoro. It had been cleaned and mats put all round the sides and along the inner end by the young people. Torches had been put up the middles in rows, and a fine mat put on the carved tiki on the centre post. Mats were also put on each of the other posts, but they were not of the same fineness as the one of the principal tiki, as that one was the figure representing our ancestor Hotu-roa.3 The others were his son and grandson, and those of generations after them. The house looked very fine with all the young people in their best mats. The older chiefs and women sat on the right side of the house as we entered, and all the young people on the left, with the men and women of the tribe at the upper end.

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Just before we went into the house Tata, the priest, had called the same young men who had taken the mats and offerings to the tuahu when the gods were propitiated for the recovery of Popo. He had called them just before it was dark, and now as we were assembling, they entered the house with the mats and other things which they had taken to the marae, and as each one followed Tahau into the house, he put down his burden at the feet of the Hotu-roa figure and left it there. Tahau sat near the foot of Hotu-roa. Old Manu was there in her rough mat sitting with the old people on the right side of the house in the tapu seat near the window. She did not look at anyone, but listened to all that was spoken.

Tahau rose and said, "I do not wish to speak; but when the time comes for me to act, you will see what I shall do! Speak, O young people. This is your marae. We are not like the korimako, 4 afraid to sing if the karearea 5 is near. There is no hawk here. Let each sing his own song, and as we who are listening are old, we shall know the true song from the false. Sing, then, O young birds, sing your song of love."

As soon as the pakuha had been decided on by old Manu, Tohi and some of the young men who had come with him from Otahuhu proceeded from this pa to their own. As they were young and nimble, they did not take long to go and return. Just before Tahau sat down near the mats that had been brought from the tuahu, a slight noise was heard outside the door, and in came the young men, followed by Tohi. Each of them was dressed in a new mat. They all looked big men and very stout, for they had tied mat on mat over and round their bodies. They took their places page 123Black and white fascimile page image with the young people. Old Manu rose on her elbow and took a look at them. She gave a slight smile and laid down again without a word, but some of the young people would have laughed out in a boisterous manner, except, that the customs of old forbade it. The appearance of the young men covered with mats, who were known to be slim, was so amusing that they were forced to choke back their laughter and hide their heads to keep the old people from publicly making any remark to them.

A young man of this pa who had never been known to make love stepped up to where Tata was sitting. He looked round on all the people and said, "O Manu, I am glad you have called this meeting, as I can ask some questions of you. I want to know how I am to tell whether any of the girls here tonight will take me. O Manu, you are not only old—you are older than old age; you must know all the things of this world. I want to know how I am to speak to the one I love. I often wish to make love to her, but when I am going to speak my tongue becomes so lazy that it will not work for me and speak the words I have ready to put on it. How am I to act, O Manu?"

He sat down again/ while the people tittered. No one knew if he was in earnest or in play, as he was one of the most witty and lively young men in the pa. In actual fact, there were girls there who really loved him, but as he was so much liked by all for his good humour, he was no doubt perplexed to know which of the girls loved him, and who only liked him for his fun. He acted now in such a way as to test the love of the one who really loved him, as true love would speak openly and not be ashamed.

Old Manu spoke from her mat where she was lying and said, "A good heart makes a good face, and a page 124Black and white fascimile page image happy heart makes light of difficulties, but wit and fun will not make the food to grow. Laugh and be happy when you are at work, for that will make the work light, but do not make love in fun. There is not much difference between the blunders of a fool and the wit of a great man, for each makes the crowd laugh. Kohe, you must not make love in the same manner as you have made your enquiry of me."

Kohe replied, "O Manu, you have not answered my question. I tell you all. The people of this pa know that I am not one of the idle boys. I could point now, if it were daylight, to the kumara hills I have made on the flat between our pa and Remu-wera. If there is any idling in the matter, it is the girls' fault when they come to weed the crop. They talk to me, and when I answer them, they laugh at what I say. I have been afraid that I should be called idle by the old people, for I have worked where girls have weeded the mara, 6 thinking that if I worked in the company of one at a time, I could find who would let me work and not laugh at me. But they all appeared to wish me to go and work at their mara. Now I say that there must be something about me that they like, but how am I to know who likes me best?"

He sat down, and a girl rose to her feet and stood out and said, "I wish to answer the word of Kohe. We girls have seen for many years that Taru has loved Kohe, and we will not say no to her love if her brothers and cousins say yes. Taru is the wife for Kohe."

Old Manu now rose and said, "I do not see any reason why Kohe should not take Taru as his wife. They are of the same rank. If anyone has the word no to this, I am here to answer the questions that may be asked."

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There was silence for some time till old Manu said, "If my word in regard to Kohe and Taru is good to you, O people, let me hear it."

As the relatives of Taru were pleased with the arrangement, no one spoke, but some of them got up in the meeting and laid mats at the feet of Kohe. Then the relatives of Kohe laid mats at the feet of Taru, and all the people answered the questions put by old Manu, by saying it was good that these young people should be man and wife.

Tohi now said, "I have but one word, and that is Tihe.' That is all I have to say."

Popo said, "I wish to know what Rahi and your people say about Niho and Mihi before we can say yes to what you ask."

"I do not speak for my father," Tohi replied. "All I have to say is that Tihe loves me and we will be man and wife, whatever my father may do."

Tihe stood up and said, "O Tohi, I will hear an answer to the word of Popo before I say what I shall say to our people. Old Manu has said we need not fear to speak, as she is here to listen. Then why has Rahi kept so silent? I love Mihi, and I would like to see the word which was given to Niho, years ago, agreed to by our people. I will not have you, O Tohi, if Mihi is not to have Niho. Your word is great, but our tribe in this pa so love Popo that his word is greater than those of the chiefs of our whole tribe to us."

A chief from the Mangere pa now rose and said, "Why do you wait for the word of consent from Rahi ? Am I not the brother of Hotu, and is not Mihi my niece ? Why ask him? He is only the father. My sons and daughters will give their consent. What do I care for the foolish anger of my sister Hotu about the gurnet?"

He turned to his children and asked, "What do you page 126Black and white fascimile page image say, elders of Mihi ?"

With one voice they replied, "Let Mihi have Niho and we will see that Rahi does not take her away again."

"Do you all consent to the word of Niho in regard to Mihi?"

"Yes," said the people, so loudly that they could be heard all over the pa.

Tata now rose and lifted one of the mats which he had brought from the tuahu. These were the mats which had been given to the gods. "Mihi will have no reason to say that her taking of Niho was an act of poverty." He held up the mat and said, "Here is the mat given to the gods by . . ."

"Yes," said the owner. "Give it to Mihi."

Thus the priest lifted up each mat or other gift, repeating the name of the owner as he did so. As their names were called they invariably said, "Give it to Mihi." This done, the uncle of Mihi, together with his wife and children, laid a mat and other articles at the feet of Niho.

A chief who had come from Owairaka pa rose and went to where Tata was sitting and said, "I came here at your call. It is what I wanted to take place. I often wished that you would arrange a pakuha. I say that I love Kapu, and have done so for many years, even before she took her husband who is now dead, but I was afraid to tell her so as she is a woman of one word. If it is 'no' it is 'no' with her. I have lost my wife, and as Kapu is a widow, and I have no wife, I wish to say to her that I love her. If she will say 'yes' I know the word will be true."

"No," said Popo, "Rahi has said that he loves Kapu, and if he rises in the presence of all these tribes and tells Kapu that he will take her as his wife, the word will then be for Kapu to speak. The people have given page 127Black and white fascimile page image the daughter of Rahi to Niho, and Kapu is her own mistress. She can take a husband for herself, and the people may not say 'no'."

For some time there was silence. Then as Rahi did not speak, Kapu rose and went on to the open space. Looking at Popo and Tata, she said, "The mats for Mihi are very beautiful—but Rahi did not give any of them. Frost can kill the crop when first it appears on the surface of the ahuahu. So can silent vindictiveness kill love! I did love you, O Rahi, when you were here at the great meeting for Popo, but your continued silence since then has proved one of two things, that you must be of a very vicious heart, or you are a stupid; and if you are either of these, you cannot be the man whom I will call my husband. The time for your love for me is past!"

She turned to the chief Tutu of Owairaka. "O Tutu, if all our people agree that I should go and live at your pa and will say so now, then, when the kumara crop is taken in, you may come here and I will go back with you. I must let the moon shine on the love I had for Rahi till then, when it will be dead, and I can love you. What do you say, O chiefs? Speak!"

"Yes," said the chiefs, "it is good, as you have said."

Tohi rose again and said, "What do you say, O people, to my word which Tihe referred to you? You have taken my sister from Rahi and have given her to Niho. Why should I not have the one I love ?"

Reko, the mother of Popo, said, "Put the pakuha presents at the feet of Tihe and then see what the people say."

Tohi looked at the young men with the mats who looked so corpulent. One of them rose and walked to where Tihe was sitting and began to take the mats off page 128Black and white fascimile page image one by one. At the same time he made wry faces at the young people. There was silence until he came to the last mat he had to give. This had been tied on with a flax band, but as he could not find where it was tied he tried to burst it. In so doing he had to bend forward, but with the force of his exertion it suddenly gave way and he fell forward on to some of the young men. Manu had been lying with her eyes closed, but when she heard the sudden burst of laughter she raised herself on her elbow, and, as soon as she saw the young man surrounded by discarded mats, she joined in the laugh. Each of the young men approached Tihe and went through such a variety of antics in taking off the mats that the people, having laughed aloud once, kept up a constant roar of laughter all the time. When all the mats had been put down, Tohi stepped forward and laid a beautiful kiwi feather mat and an eardrop of greenstone at Tihe's feet. Not one word was said all this time. When Tohi had taken his place again, Tihe's relatives presented him with mats. When they had given them they remained standing while Tihe's old slave priest, who had also given a mat to Tohi, said, "O Tata, I wish you to give a mat to me for Tohi. I ask for the mat now worn by Popo."

Tata went up to Popo and took hold of the mat which had been bewitched by this old priest. Popo lifted the mat and helped Tata to take it off his shoulders. It was then given to Tohi by Mapu, who said, "Do we, O our family, give Tihe to the son of Rahi as his wife ?"

"Yes," said the relatives of Tihe, "we do."

"Then you, O Tohi, have now been answered. Your question is now not ours, but it is for you to say 'no' if you like."

The grandson of old Manu now rose and said, "O page 129Black and white fascimile page image people, I have one word to say. I have not been here very long, but I have seen many of our tribes. I have seen the summers which make boys into men. I know what I think, and I now say, let your voice say 'yes' when I ask for your child Puhi."

This took the meeting by surprise, for no one had ever thought that a chief of the Thames would come here and ask for a girl of this pa when he had so many more to choose from. The Puhi I am telling you of was a most beautiful girl, and you, O Puhi, are called after her. Puhi had been a silent child, and was like Popo in heart—she was kind to the old people and the slaves. She was loved by many of our young men, but she had never returned their love. As the Thames chief sat down, Puhi rose and said, "I have the word to your word. I have not yet seen the young man whom I can love. Do not go away and think that as you have said your word I will remember it, and that in some of the moons to come, your word will have grown in my heart, so that I will be ready to go with you to the Thames. No, I will not think of your word. Your grandmother Manu knows that I speak the true word of my heart. I will not be your wife."

I had listened to all that had been said, and now I made up my mind to speak boldly as I felt. As I stood up I felt as though all the people in the house were flying round and round me, and that they were all making faces at me. I staggered out on to the open space where Tata was sitting. Atua was there, and you, O Atua, did not laugh at me, though the others did. I [felt as though I had a fire in my head, but I said, "Hearken, all ye people! Listen, O Manu, to my words. I have not many words to say. I will have her for my wife. I will not care if big waves come between us, if mountains rise to keep her from me, I will have her.

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Not even thunder and lightning and waterfalls shall stop me from following her till I take her as my wife. That is my resolute word, and it will last for ever. I will take Rehu as my wife."

I sat down at the feet of Tata, who at once said in a low voice, "You will not get Rehu for your wife; you will hear the reason why, so do not persist lest men's lives be the payment for your persistence."

The grandson of Manu said in a calm, determined manner, "Why do the boys of this pa ask for what they cannot have? O, old people, why do you forget to tell them that I have come here with my relatives to see you, and that we are going away in a few days? Then why should any of your children make sport of us? We did not come here to get husbands. There are fine young men in our tribe at the Thames. I will not answer your child; he is too young for me to speak to, but you, O his fathers, tell him that Rehu is to be the wife of one of our chiefs, and if he persists he will have to pay for his obstinacy."

I heard all that was said, but I did not see that there was any truth in it. I loved Rehu, and that is all I saw or knew or understood.

Old Manu now rose and said, "I will say the last word. All have spoken who wanted to speak, and all has been done by you, O people. I wish to say this to Rahi. You, O old man, came here to make love to Kapu, and you made your people believe you were angry with Popo; but as you are such a sulky man you have been paid for your own action. You came to obtain revenge, and you have revenged yourself. Did you see the mat that was on the shoulders of Popo, which was asked for by Tihe, and given to her? That mat was used to bewitch Popo, but it failed. If that had been the reason for your revenge, you might have done as you page 131Black and white fascimile page image have. Look at yourself, O Rahi, and look at Popo. Who of the two is the child ? Grey hairs are often seen on big children, and you are one of them. Let me tell you one word. Live in peace till you die. If you attempt to make war with our tribes, you will have all the people against you. You may perhaps forget, but there are evils you once did for which revenge has never been taken. Let me tell you that if you keep that sulky mind, the people will not bear it, and some day, when you least expect it, you will find a hand that is strong. I do not wish for war. We all wish for peace, but such silence as yours is louder in insult than the words the tongue utters. Go home, O Rahi, to your own pa and live in peace."

So ended the great pakuha, and all the people were let loose again like birds which have been kept in cages. They sang songs, played at poi, at haka and ti rakau till it was past midnight. Then they slept, but I could not sleep. I had only one desire, and that was to say some words to Rehu before she left the pa for Takapuna on her way to the Thames. But as soon as I was near her she looked away for the grandson of Manu and went to him. Her sister, who was so like Ata, laughed at me, and would not stand still for a moment for me to tell her my word for Rehu.

The next day, that is, the second day after the meeting, I was sitting near this marae when I heard someone talking in the old people's house. It was Manu and her grandson. He said they were going back that day, and as a canoe was at Wai-ariki they would cross before the ebb tide, as the sea breeze would make a ripple on the river. Ah, I thought, I will go down at once and sit in the canoe. I went down from the marae and passed the house where Atua now lives, past the big spring, and along the ridge of the hill till I got down to page 132Black and white fascimile page image the canoe. It was one of the principal roads from this pa, as it still is for the fishermen and the women who collect cockles at the river.

When I got to the river I saw some of the young people who had come from the Thames. They asked if I would go to Hauraki with them and see the intended husband of Rehu.

'What is he like?" I asked.

"Like?" said one of them. "He has eyes like an owl, and if he looked at you with them you would run away."

"Who is he," I asked, "that I should be so much afraid of him?"

"Come with us and see. We cannot tell you what he is like, but he is a chief, and if you will go with us you will see him with your own eyes."

"I am young," I said, "and can live many summers. I may see him at some meeting. I am going in your canoe to Takapuna."

"If the grandson of Manu says you may go, you can get into our canoe, but if he says you may not, you must not."

"I will see," I said, and sat down to await the coming of Rehu. All the time I stayed there these boys and girls of the Thames made sport of my love for Rehu. They asked who I was, and who was my grandfather. I did not tell them then, but in after life I taught them in a way they did not expect.

In ages past my ancestors were of the same tribe to which these boys belonged, but some of our people were driven out of the Thames by the descendants of Hotu-roa. They left their home and land and went north to the Bay of Islands, and thence along the west coast to Maungonui. This I had been taught by my grandfather, but on my grandmother's side I was page 133Black and white fascimile page image descended from Hotu-roa. I felt angry with the chaffing of these young people, so when the rest of the Thames folk came, I was not in a humour to ask a favour of anyone.

One of the boys said to the rest of the party, "This boy says he is going across to Takapuna with us, as though he and his people have not enough canoes of their own to cross in."

I replied, "I did not ask you to paddle me across. I can obtain a canoe for myself. I am but a slave, but slaves have friends."

I left them, but just as I was going I looked round and saw Rehu looking at me. I could not help it, but stood still and looked at her till they had all entered the canoes.

Some of our people had a pa at Tauna-rua, so I went back over the ridge, crossed the Waipapa creek and got into Mata-harehau before the Thames canoe had paddled out. Here I got a kopapa, 7 and taking one of our young men with me, paddled across the harbour and landed on the Takapuna beach before the other canoe. I knew some of the young women of Takapuna, and they had all heard of my love for Rehu, so I told them what had been said and done at the meeting, and the insults heaped on me by the young men from the Thames. One of the girls said, "Tell me your true word, and I will tell it to Rehu-tai. I do not fear the Thames people or the lover of Rehu who is at a distance."

I said, "If she loves me, let her still love me. I will not die soon, but live, and the day will come when I will be able to take her as my wife. I will not take another wife so long as she lives, even thoug I may be at a distance. I delay now only that I may make my page 134Black and white fascimile page image arm strong to take her against all power in a future year."

I slept there that night, and on the morrow the girl told me that Rehu would always love me, though she was forced to take the husband to whom her parents had made her puhi. Still she would love only me, and wait till I could make my word true.

I saw Rehu and her sister and the people depart, and when they had passed Motu Korea, I returned to Kohi-marama in our canoe. The people of that place had returned from our Mount Eden pa. Old Rahi had not said a word to anyone when he left, but Mihi, his daughter, had stayed with her husband at Mount Eden. Tihe had gone with her husband, the son of Rahi, to Otahuhu, and all was quiet again. The time had come for the weeding of the kumara plots.

1 Myoporum laetum.

2 Astelia Banksii.

3 Captain of the Tainui canoe.

4 Bellbird. Anthomis melanura.

5 Bush-hawk. Falco novaeseelandiae.

6 Ground under cultivation.

7 A small canoe.