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Te Rou, or, The Maori at Home

“How Hamu Got His Wife.”

How Hamu Got His Wife.”

“Two men courted a girl; they were both of them fine-looking fellows, not having been born with humps in or on them; and the girl could not say which she liked best. Both the men were chiefs: one, Hamu, belonged to the same tribe as the girl; the other, Koki, was from another tribe. For a long time the latter appeared to have gained her love, and Hamu became quite sulky. He must have had a hump on his tongue, for he spoke to no one.

“At last Hamu spoke to the girl's mother and said, ‘Am I a slave, that your daughter should take a man from another tribe? I shall die from a dark heart; all my thoughts are dark.’

“Koki, whenever he stayed in that place, slept with the young men in the large house, while Hamu slept in a house with his grandfather; and he had often asked his grandfather to use the power of his incantations to obtain for him the girl's love.

“The only reply he got from the old man was, ‘Be page 328 brave! Love and war are brothers, and if a man is a coward in either he will be conquered. You would not ask me to defend you in battle, if any one struck at you? If you would act for yourself in that case, do the same in this. Love has no law; you can tread on the young, the old, the common, and sacred men and women if they are in your way. Be brave! and gain your own wife.'

“Hamu had observed that Koki always slept in the same place in the large house, and that he always put his belt in the same spot in the raupo of which the side of the house was made.

“Hamu's grandfather had a meré pounamu,1 which was an heirloom, which he kept in a corner of his house, where no one durst go. Hamu had not seen him take this out to oil it for a long time; and one day that he had seen Koki talking with the girl, and noticed that she looked very pleased, he asked his grandfather, ‘When do you oil your meré? In summer or winter?’

“The old man answered, ‘I have not done it for a long time; I will do it now.’

“He went to get it; but no meré could be found; the pieces of mat and the bundle of feathers wrapped round it were there, but the meré was gone. A great meeting of the whole tribe was at once called; when all were assembled in the marae, the old priest told them of the loss of his meré, and that it must be brought back before sunset, or many of them would

1 Green-stone meré.

page 329 die, for he would bewitch the whole family of the thief.

“Every house in the settlement was at once searched, and it was found in the big house, in the corner where Koki slept; who, as he did not belong to the place, sat in one place, laughing and joking at the fuss going on; when an old woman came forward with the meré in her trembling hand, and asked, ‘Who slept in the right hand corner of the large house? He stole this, and hid this where he pretended to put his belt.’ Koki laughed at her. But when the old grandfather heard this, he ordered Koki to leave the place, and never return. He did so, and Hamu soon got the girl for his wife.”

“Ah!” said a young man, “that woman had a hump in her love, and it went into her hands, and caused the meré to be taken where it was found.”

“No,” said a girl. “It was the bad heart of Hamu; he was a coward; he could not gain in a right way the girl's love, and he stole the meré, and put it where it was found. He had a humpy heart, where love and hatred grew together; he was the thief who got the true chief blamed that he might obtain the girl.”

“But,” said Humpy, “those two men did not act as they did to please themselves; both wished to please one person, and that was a woman. If he did wrong to steal the meré, it was because his love had been stolen by a woman; if he did wrong to cast blame upon another by acting in a deceitful way, was it not page 330 because a woman acted in the same way, for she allowed both men to think that she loved them, when she knew that she could only have one of them. She was to blame for the theft and the unjust punishment.”

“How long are you going to talk?” asked a girl. “If you will talk, I propose that we lie down, and let ourselves be lulled to sleep by your voice, as it does sound better to hear than your body does to look at; the one is passable, but the other is as bad to look at as the blue matuku1 when on the wing.”

This called forth a loud burst of laughter from the young people; and, as Humpy would persist in talking, all laid themselves down to listen, and were soon asleep.

1 Ardea sacra, Buller's ‘N. Z. Birds,’ p. 228.