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Revenge: A Love Tale of the Mount Eden Tribe

Chapter Seven: Maro's Story

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Chapter Seven: Maro's Story

Maro stays at Orakei for a while. His friend, Kape, is marooned on an island in the harbour. Maro returns to Mount Eden. Rahi kills Hake. Matuku-rua people form an ohu to help Rahi, and then kill him to avenge! the death of Hake. Maro stays at Orakei for a time. Some of the Nga-puhi people are staying there, and one of the young women of rank chooses a husband from Tamaki. The Nga-puhi depart for die north and Maro accompanies them. Adventures by the way, including the catching of a shark.

I stayed at Orakei for some months till all the crops were gathered into the rua. 1 One day, soon after the kumara had been stored, there was a great fuss in the pa. A chief named Tara had taken to wife the sister of one of my playmates called Kape, and as it was a fine day Tara asked his brother-in-law to go out to the rock we now call Kapetaua. It has received its name from that boy.

Tara had for some time been annoyed by the tricks of the boy Kape, as he was always engaged in something which the old men called mischief, but which we boys thought was only fun. Kape was always the ring-leader in our sports, and one day he suggested that we should put the floats of the sea-net of Tara on the bottom, together with the sinkers, so that when it was set, it would be twisted into a bundle. We did page 136Black and white fascimile page image this, and many similar tricks we played. Tara became annoyed and determined to take revenge on Kape and kill him if he could; but as the boy was a near relation of his he durst not kill him in the sight of others, so he concocted this fishing excursion to drown him.

They went out in a canoe together, and Tara put Kape on the rock at low water and left him to drown as the tide rose. When Tara came ashore without the boy, his mother asked for him. Tara said he had come ashore before him, but as the mother could not find him in the settlement, she went down to the beach and was just able to distinguish her son's voice, calling as if he were in the water. She took a canoe and paddled out, and there on the rock she found Kape with the water up to his neck. She rescued him and nothing more was done about it, save that the people called Tara many hard names for leaving the boy on the rock.

I came back to Mount Eden in the springtime. While I had been away nothing had been heard of Tihe or of Rahi, for his people were fully occupied with their work. In our pa in those days there were many quarrels among the people. The women would tell tales of each other, and the men would make more of what was said and done than there was need for.

On his return to Otahuhu, old Rahi had sent for the curious little deformed priest called Hake who lived at the Matuku-rua pa, and who had so frightened Tihe when she went to that pa.

Hake had come to Otahuhu at the request of Rahi and had lived there many moons. One day he went with Rahi to catch eels on the banks of the Tamaki. The mud was very soft and deep there, and from a canoe in the river the eel holes could be seen in the bank at low water. The people saw them go away together, page 137Black and white fascimile page image but only Rahi came back, and it was said that the chief had killed the little priest. Many of the people had heard Rahi asking about the mat which Tine's priest had bewitched to kill Popo, and of the narrow escape of Tihe from death, which escape Rahi had been heard to say was the fault of Hake. If Tihe had been killed, Rahi's son would not have had a wife, nor would Mihi have married Niho. "You are not a priest," Rahi had said to Hake, "or you would have known how to make death take her, and not have me see day by day the girl who was the cause of my son getting a wife, and of Mihi being taken by Niho."

As these things were repeated it was suspected that Hake had been killed by Rahi. A search party went out in canoes to the place where Rahi and Hake had been seen in their canoes together, and at the same time of the tide as when they had gone. They found Hake sunk in the mud on the river edge. Though he was deformed, he was a chief, and all the people of Matuku-rua came and carried his body to their pa, and after crying over it, they put him to sleep with his ancestors in the sacred place a little beyond Tiki-raupo.

Nothing was said by his people till the spring came, when they sent a messenger to Otahuhu to say that they were coming as an ohu 2 to help Rahi put in his kumara crops. On a certain day, which was the rakau-nui of the moon, they would appear, twice seventy3 of page 138Black and white fascimile page image them, each with his ko 4 and work one day and then return home.

Rahi had food collected for them, and when they came, all was ready for them. The mara was on the level ground to the north of the pa—that neck of level land from the Tamaki river to the head of the creek that runs down from Otahuhu to Onehunga. They had set this flat with kumara right from the Onehunga water to the Tamaki river. The Matuku-rua people had their ko made so that they could slip the teka 5 up and over the upper end and use the ko as a spear. The men of Otahuhu took the east side of the mara on the Tamaki river bank, and the Matuku-rua people took the side on the west, and dug the ground up from the Manuka water so as to meet the Otahuhu people on the top of the ridge. Each party worked with spirit, vying with the other. As they approached the ridge they had their backs to each other. They could readily guess how far away they were from each other by the sound of the tapatapa 6 they sang while digging the ground. Some of the Matuku-rua people kept looking round to see in which part of his people old Rahi was, and now and then a low whisper was heard, "Let the brave man so-and-so be in a position to meet Rahi when we close our work." This was done, and as soon as the two working parties had met, just as the last few hills of kumara were being dug up, the Matuku-rua warrior who was next to Rahi slipped up the teka of his ko, and turning round quickly, with a heavy lunge he thrust the sharp point of his ko through Rahi's body. As he gave the thrust he said, "That is the last mound made for page 139Black and white fascimile page image Hake." Then he and all his companions ran away to their pa at Matuku-rua.

Rahi's people did not pursue them. They carried the body of their chief to the pa, where the usual tangi 7 and ceremonies were performed, and Rahi was buried.

All the chiefs of our pa went to the tangi, and at the feast the chiefs, having heard of the former acts of Rahi and of the murder of Hake, cautioned his sons not to make war, as the people would not fight to avenge the death of such a sulky man. Thus the words of Manu about Rahi came true. Tihe did not cry. Mihi went to the feast, but Niho stayed at our pa as he said he did not know what poroaki the old man might have left.

Again I went to live at Orakei, but before I went there I wanted to see Tohi, the son of Rahi, so I went to Otahuhu. There I saw that the mara that had been dug up by the people at the time Rahi was killed was not set with kumara, for the blood of Rahi had made it tapu. While I was there news came that some of the Nga-puhi had arrived at Orakei, so I went to live with my friend Kape. We had not been long together before Kape said his heart was very dark on account of Tara leaving him as food for the fish. "Many summers might come and go," he said, "but still the fish would want feeding." However, I did not think much of what he said at that time. I met the strangers and often heard them talk of their land, and of the Ngati-pou, the people who had been driven out of the Thames, to whom I was related.

These people stayed many moons at Orakei, and one of the chiefs was loved very much by one of our women, but as she was a puhi she could not have him.

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When they left I went with them, and I saw the woman throw her girdle into our canoe to the chief she loved, and heard her say, "When the morning bird sings I shall be at Tamaki." This act, as you will hear later, was to have some consequence to our people.

The first night we slept at Te Kawau, where, in the large bay on the west side of the island, we caught a great lot of fish by putting the branches of trees at the mouth of one of the creeks that comes into the bay. There were some bird-spears in the canoe, and with them I got some tui. In the evening we made torches and speared flatfish.

The next day we landed at Omaha. This was a beautiful little bay, and we stayed to dig fern-root for our voyage. The fern-root was good here, and we stayed a few days to dry it. Then we left and passed across the mouth of Whangarei, where, on the point that juts out on the north head, we went into a little bay with a sandy beach with a line of large pohutukawa growing there. Here we found a fine bed of pohue. 8 As we did not want to live on fern-root alone, we dug this and dried it, packing it in baskets.

We passed on to Tutukaka. I have seen the places on our Waitemata river, at Onewa, and at the Titirangi, where we catch the kaka 9 , but I never saw so many of them as here. We killed as many in one day as would page 141Black and white fascimile page image fill six big kits. These, with the fern and pohue, provided us with better food than we get at our pa here every day. Tutukaka obtains its name from this bird, as nearly every tree in the bay might be called tutu 10— hence its name, "The Kaka Perch."

We passed on and stayed at Kopua-whango for the night. This is a big bay with a sandy beach, but there is a ledge of rocks nearly at low water leading across the moutfi of a creek that runs into the sea at the south end. As we had a longing for fish, we went and stood on the point of the rocks which, like a doorway, let the sea into the creek. Two of us stood on the rocks on each side, and with long spears caught sufficient tamure 11 to last us for several days. These too we dried in the sun. While we were there some of the men said that this was the place where the mako could be caught. They had brought their lines with them, as you know that in travelling you must take all that is needed to procure food.

The place was rockv and there were plenty of putikete 12 there—next to the kanae the best bait for the mako. We caught a basketful of these crabs and put out to sea. I had a line given to me, but as I had never fished for shark in my life I had to be guided by my friends. We pounded the crabs into a pulp, and then, with muka, 13 made a big ball of the pulp all round the hook. The hooks were very big, as large as my doubled arm. They had bare points and took about a dozen crabs to bait. We did not use sinkers but threw the line out as far as the weight of the hook would carry it from the canoe.

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The canoe was allowed to drift with the wind or the tide. We had been out but a little time when we saw a big shark going round our canoe. All my friends pulled in their lines and threw them out to where he was, but as they pulled in the lines the shark disappeared. I sat holding my line carelessly. Just as the others threw the hooks out again, there came a sharp tug and the line I was holding ran through my hand. I held on to it and the others, seeing I had a fish, at once drew in their lines. One man ran to the opposite end of the canoe, and, with his paddle, headed it in the direction indicated by my line. One of the others tied my line to the taumanu 14 and then we sat still and let the shark pull us hither and thither. Sometimes we were pulled out to sea, and then into land again until at last the line became slack and one of the men pulled it in. As soon as the shark came near the canoe he made a splash and off he went again. This we did several times until the man steering- the canoe called to one of the others to take the steering paddle and he would attend to the shark. He took the end of the line and made a running knot, and as soon as the shark was tired out he nulled it close up to the canoe and out the line over its head and under its fins. Then holdinsr the two lines, he drew the fish close up to the side of the canoe and with a stone flax beater he gave it a heaw blow on the nose. This stunned the shark and made it more easv to manage. Again and again he nulled it up to the canoe and struck its nose until finallv the fish floated lifelesslv in the water. We all then took our naddles and towed it ashore.

When those who had remained on land saw what we had obtained, tbev danced and called to us like mad-page 143Black and white fascimile page imagemen. We carried the fish up on to the beach, but nothing was done to it until the chief had repeated the karakia so that the god Tangaroa15 might not spoil the teeth. First the head was cut off, after the first karakia had been said. The chief took the head in his hands and while repeating another karakia he held it up as high as he could reach.16 This done, the body was taken and a stage made in the branches of the pohutukawa on the beach. Another karakia was repeated and the body was placed on the stage. This was a gift offered to Tawhaki17 and Maru,18 so that the teeth of the shark might be worn by man. The head was then put into a basket, with the leaves of the kawakawa filled in all round it to keep the rango 19 from blowing its maggots on it. As Rango, the personification of the blowfly, is the god of death, the maggots would be a curse on the teeth, and they could not then be worn by living men, as the maggot is only of the dead. I asked them whv they did not cook the head.

"Oh, no," they said, "the teeth would be ruined by fire. They must be taken out when all the flesh has rotted."

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"What," I asked, "will you do with the teeth? Are there many of them?"

"Yes," said the chief, "there are many teeth, but some are no good, as the points turn down. As you caught the fish, the two great teeth are yours."

"No," I replied, "I am a stranger with you, and the line and the canoe were yours."

"That is not the custom we follow. You caught the fish, and the two great teeth at the inner end of the jaw are yours."

I did not say what I thought at the time, but in my heart I said, "If I get them I will keep them hid away in my mat; and if ever I see Popo again, I will give him one; and if I get Rehu for my wife, the other shall be hers."

We continued to sail all day and slept ashore at night. We landed at Ngunguru and stayed there all night, but did not get anything, as it was a poor place, just a hollow in the middle of a hill. The next day we passed Motu Kokako and landed on one of the islands in the Bay of Islands.

1 Store pits.

2 A band of volunteer workers.

3 There is probably a good deal still unknown about the Maori system of numerology. In his account of the system (The Maori, Vol. 2, p. 173 et seq.) Elsdon Best says that there is no word for seventy (p. 176). Unfortunately White does not give the Maori rendering, but there seems to be some indication, by its form, that there may have been a specific word for seventy in use here.

4 A digging implement, from six to nine feet in length, which, as will be seen, was sometimes used as a weapon.

5 Step or projecting footpiece, used for forcing the ko into the ground.

6 Incantation or chant

7 Wake; mourning or lamentation for the dead.

8 A creeping plant. Calystegia septum.

9 Nestor occidentalis. "Sprightly, social, noisy, the kaka is one of the most interesting . . . inhabitants of the bush. Few birds are so perfectly adapted to living and feeding exclusively in the forest The peculiar formation of its feet enables it to climb with remarkable agility. Disturb it and it will hop among the branches with great dexterity, using its beak and wings to assist its awkward but none the less rapid progress. Once above the bush, it can fly well with a gay soaring and gliding which shows off its beautiful plumage. If the food supply fails in any particular district, parties of kakas may migrate to other parts. The method of flight now changes to a businesslike, methodical one designed to get the bird to the new feeding ground with as little waste of time as possible."—N.Z. Forest Inhabiting Birds.

10 A tree in which snares are set.

11 Snapper. Pagrus unicolor.

12 A small crab.

13 Flax fibre.

14 Thwart.

15 The god of the sea. One of the offspring of Rangi and Papa.

16 Offerings were frequently "waved" before the gods, in similar manner to the "wave-offerings" of the Israelites.

17 A hero of Maori legend who ascended to the sky and became the god of lightning. In White's Ancient History of the Maori, Vol. One, p. 57. he says, "Tawhaki is a god, and now, from' the manner of counting practised bv this blind woman," (Tawhaki's blind ancestress, from whom he stole nine of her ten kumard) "when offerings or sacrifices are made to him nine are again dealt with in the same way, and the ninth put on one side. Thev are divided into ten portions, his name is called aloud, and these ten portions are each, one by one, lifted up as they are counted from one to ten, and the tenth is put on the left side of the ministering priest. The nine are again dealt with in the same way, and the ninth is put on one side. This is repeated until all have been put on one side. And hence in the sacred mode of counting, the tenth is not called Te-kau (ten), but Nga-huru (collection, compact)."

18 The god of war. According to White, ibid p. 103, Maru was the ancestor of Tawhaki.

19 Blowfly.