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Te Rou, or, The Maori at Home

Chapter X. The Watchers of The Dead—Kino and The Woman of Six Husbands—A Woman's Quarrel and its Consequences

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Chapter X. The Watchers of The Dead—Kino and The Woman of Six Husbands—A Woman's Quarrel and its Consequences.

It was long past noon, and the sun was declining fast, when Tupu rose and said, “The old men of my people know that my son and daughter must be taken home with us. They cannot remain with the dead of this place. Their fathers sleep at Matuakai, and there must they also sleep. We must not take our children home naked. Let the clothing of the dead be ready for them, that when we reach our home they may not look like slaves, and we be thought common people for neglecting our sleeping son and daughter.”

The old men caused new mats to be brought, which they placed on the litters, and the old men and women brought feathers taken from the tail of the huia, and white feathers taken from the wing of the albatross. The oldest among the women decked the head of the dead wife with some of the feathers, while the old men decked the head of the dead husband.

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Tupu's men built a house without sides or ends in the centre of the marae, and covered it with the leaf of the nikau.1 Beneath this, one at each end, the two bodies were laid. Three old women kept watch at the end of the house where the dead wife was laid, three old men doing the same where the husband lay. Each party of watchers kept a fire at their respective ends, round which they sat chatting in a low tone; but not a laugh was heard, nor did the old men or women address a single observation to each other. Between sunset and dawn of day not one of the warriors or people of the pah went near the six old folks who kept watch.

One of the old men was noted for his silence. His beard, which hung down to his waist, was as white as scraped flax. His head was not quite bald; but the little hair left on it was as coarse as the swamp-rush. As he kept it rather short, each hair stood alone and erect. He did not join in the undertone conversation carried on by the other two. He sat with his heels drawn in close to his thighs, his chin resting on his knees, and his white beard hung halfway down to his feet. He sat facing the fire, with his hands clasped under his beard. In his youth he had been very brave, and was the leader of a company of youths who kept the old people in a constant state of turmoil by their mischief and daring. As a feat of his boyhood, he ate two bunches of the poisonous tutu2 berries. Before he

1 Areca sapida, a palm abundant in the North Island forests.

2 Coriaria ruscifolia.

page 147 could be held down, and a ball of prepared flax put into his mouth to prevent him biting his tongue, he had so bitten it that he never afterwards recovered its full use. When the ball of flax had been put in his mouth, his mother was in such a terrible fright on account of her boy, she did not look into the mud-hole into which she intended to plunge him, so as to partially suffocate him, and so cause him to perspire, and throw the tutu poison off. There was a root of a tree in the mud-hole, against which he struck his head, and injured his eye so much that his eye burst and left an empty socket; hence his name, “Poko,” or the “eyehole.” Thus sat Poko looking at the fire with his good eye, while the light shone into the red, eyeless hollow. Another of the old men had very long hair, which he tied up in a tuft on the crown of his head. He lay with his feet towards the fire, and his head pillowed on a log of wood. The third man was in a half-sitting, half-reclining position, nearly opposite to the last. His hair was all cut off close, save a lock which he kept on the left side of his head above his ear. This lock had never been combed with a heru paraoa1 for years. It looked like a tangled mass of grass intermingled with earth. At intervals he put his hand up to slap or scratch that part of his head where he kept the lock of hair, in a vain attempt to deaden the tingling, itching sensation which seemed constantly to irritate it. Each of the watchers had a mat round his back, leaving the

1 A comb made of the white bone of a whale.

page 148 front open, to gather as much heat as possible from the fire.

Turi, who had his long hair tied up in a tuft, asked Kino, who had the uncombed lock, “What do you think of the acts of our warriors?”

“Think?” answered Kino. “Do you ask me what your own stomach knows? Does it not feel as if it could talk to you of hunger? Did you ever know of such a thing as food being given to us by Tu, and we not to eat it?”

“You never told me why you keep that paki-paki taha (uncut lock of hair) on your head?” asked Turi.

“O, why confuse my thoughts?” answered Kino. “If you are ignorant, remain so still.”

“But tell me,” said Turi. “I have never heard why you keep it. Perhaps I can help you to get revenge, and then you could cut it off. I see that it will ever keep your remembrance alive. You do not work harder at anything than you do at slapping and scratching it.”

“Then listen,” answered Kino. “You know that I had a father.”

“Yes,” said Turi. “I know that you are not a god, and gods sometimes have fathers.”

“My father was a fine-looking man—at least, so I am told by those who knew.”

Turi asked, “Was your mother's father an ugly man? If he was, you are like him.”

“When my father was young there was a fine young page 149 woman in our tribe, and both my father and a chief, called—ah! I will not tell his name—fell in love with her. Each of them tried to gain her love, and my father was successful, and obtained her consent to be his wife, and also that of the tribe. At a meeting of the people the karakia atahu was said over them, by which, you know, she became really his wife. She was my mother. The disappointed chief never spoke a word of hate to my father for having gained the love of the beautiful woman who was my mother.”

Turi here asked, “Did you not get your name, Kino, for being the ugly son of handsome parents? for Kino means evil, or bad. And I must say that your talk about the beauty of your mother makes me look twice at you to see if my eyes tell the truth, that you are really so ugly. Am I right in saying that you are the ugliest man of your tribe?”

“I never asked any one in my youth to tell me what ugliness or beauty was. I only tell you what I have heard, that my mother was very pretty.”

“Then,” said Turi, “you have been living like the hotete,1 which was once a large living caterpillar, eating the leaves of the kumara; but when it has eaten much food it burrows into the ground, and a sprout grows out of the back of its head, growing like the tail of a rat stuck out of the ground. The grub does not rot, but it turns into wood; and even the legs and claws

1 The Sphœria Robertsii in its caterpillar state.

page 150 remain as perfect as when it was alive for years after it has been in the dead-wooden state. Therefore I say you are like the awhato;1 you are a man to look at, but are like the hotete, a living dead thing. You tell me that you do not know what beauty is—were you ever very hungry?”

“Yes,” answered Kino; “I was hungry the other day, when we came back after we had killed those people we were not allowed to eat.”

“Then did you not, during the time of your hunger,” asked Turi, “think that there was some sight which you would call beautiful for your eyes to look at?”

“Ah!” answered Kino, “now I know. I did think there was one sight I should like to have seen—I would have called it beautiful then—that was a basket of man's flesh cooked, some fat eels, and a cake of fern-root to eat with it. To me those are beautiful to think of. If that be beauty, I know what beauty is. My father and mother lived together three summers, and I was born. When I could crawl about, my father was busy cultivating his land: it was the time for setting kumaras. Not far from where he was working there was a plot of ground belonging to Rou, who was also putting in kumaras. The chief who had not succeeded in gaining my mother had been absent for some time from our settlement; but he had now returned, and was assisting Rou. Mind, I only tell you what I have been told.”

1 The sphœria in its dead state.

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“Yes,” said Turi; “I was thinking that you must have been a man all the time you were a child; and now you are a child, when by age you ought to be a man.”

“Never mind the tuft of hair I keep, Turi,” said Kino. “Is it not manly to get revenge? It is only the act of a child to forgive and forget an insult. But I was telling you my father was one day busy planting for himself, while Rou and his party remained in the settlement to entertain some people who came to see him. My father did not come home in the evening, and after dark my mother and others took torches and went to look for him. They went to his cultivation, and there they found him lying dead on the ground, his face looking upwards to the sky, with his own ko (a spear-like spade) stuck through his bowels, pinning him to the ground, and his body was very much mangled. My mother, who continued to cry as long as he remained unburied, would not let me come near her, and some of my relatives took me and fed me. My father's corpse was taken to the cave in the forenoon, and in the evening the people sought for my mother, but she could not be found. A few summers since her bones were found in the forest: they were recognised by a green-stone eardrop which was found with them. I was too young when she hung herself to know anything about it, and I was often called a poor orphan by my playmates; but I did not resent it then. When my mother's bones were found, it caused the people to lament and talk, and all was heard by me, page 152 and I learnt who I was. I now know why I could not love. The god of my fathers kept me from such an evil, that I might be single and have but one object in life, and that is to take ample revenge for the death of my father and mother. Now you know why I keep this paki-paki taha. I have allowed it to grow since my mother's bones were found, and thus shall it continue to grow until I send the spirits of some of the children or grandchildren of my father's murderer to the reinga.1 I have an object in life. What you said is true: I do lead a hotete-like existence; but I shall so act some day that my awhato-life will suddenly change, and I will come back to the living caterpillar again. Then I will cut off this lock of hair, and the awhato will lose the sprout that grows out of the back of his head; for my spear I shall pass through the head or body of those who shall, like the hotete, die, never to come back to mock the only child whom they kept in life untaught, and without a name. The name I bear was given me because I was so little cared for, and because, when a child, hunger often drove me to beg and steal food from others. That is the reason why Kino (evil, or bad) is my name. Kino will befall them when they are not awake to self-protection. If I would, I could not die until I have sent a few messengers to my father and mother.”

“If your mother had lived,” said Turi, “she would have been very old now; and old age is hard to

1 The place of departed spirits.

page 153 bear. Just look at those old things at the other end of the wharau.”1

“Yes,” said Kino, “but my mother would not have been as wrinkled as any of these three even if she had been as old as they are; her beauty would have kept her good-looking even in old age.”

“You are an old man,” said Turi, “but not so very old, and yet your face looks like the ground in summer, all cracks, although you are not tattoed. If you are so now, how would your mother have looked had she lived? The youngest of these three is old enough to be your grandmother.”

Poko rose, replenished the fire, and sat down in another place opposite Kino, who looked at Poko and Turi, both of whom had lain down, and appeared to be talking each to himself.

One of the three old women was a very bustling person, and kept the fire in a constant blaze. She had been the wife of no less than six husbands. Besides being very active otherwise, her lips and tongue were constantly at work. And being of high rank, her partners had been kept by her in a constant turmoil of work or argument, and besides, they had also to stand between her and those whom she had maligned with her tongue. Her first husband was cooked and eaten, having fallen while attacking his enemies. Her restlessness would not allow her to cry long over the eaten one, and she determined to marry a young

1 A temporary shed open on one side, used by the natives in travelling.

page 154 man not half her age. By dint of following him, and making love to him in her active way, she soon succeeded, and he became her second husband. The koroi1 is a white pine which bears fruits plentifully only once in seven years. There are many kinds of this pine which are known by their fruits, but the wairarapa is the best. One tree of that latter kind grew not far from the Totara where she and her husband lived. It was a hot summer, and the wairarapa bore fruit, and she determined to get as much as she possibly could. She ordered the second object of her choice to go with her to the tree, which grew on the bank of a rocky creek, and had no branches for some distance up the trunk. She therefore proposed that he should climb one of the trees near to it, and put a sapling from the tree he had climbed to the koroi, and thus pass from the one to the other. He did so, but the sapling which he used as a bridge was so brittle that it broke, and the young husband fell on the rocks below. She gave him but one look, and rushed to the settlement, and told what had befallen him who had been her husband but for three moons, and she sat down and cried the whole day long. The young men brought the mangled corpse to her hut, and the next day a party who had come to lament over him took the body to their pah to bury him. The chief of this party had six wives, and wishing to have seven, he took the weeping widow at her request into his affections. She had again been a wife

1 Podocarpus dacrydioides.

page 155 three moons, when a general quarrel took place among the seven wives, of which she was the cause. In the midst of the noise and chatter, crying and scolding, the husband heard again and again his last espoused wife make comparisons between himself and her two former husbands; and not daring to revenge himself upon her, because of her rank, and for fear that a war party of her relatives would come and kill some of his people, and plunder him if he beat her (much more so if he used opprobrious epithets to her), he had but one alternative, and that was to withdraw directly from the noise his wives made and hang himself. This he achieved on a tree not far from the settlement. Three of his wives followed his example from sorrow, but the other four married again. The next man who called this active woman his wife was choked by a fish-bone while, in a furious passion, she was scolding him. Her fifth husband hung himself because she thought he was delicate and consumptive, and coughed very often, and as soon as he died she would become the wife of a certain chief. Her last husband actually died in a house where she could talk to him during his illness, and show him the widow's garments she had prepared. She had plaited a rough mat, and for a wonder had never spoken a word to any one while making it. This she did as a mamae1 for her husband. She was determined also to have a potae-taua (widow's cap). For many days she searched the cultivations for a hue

1 An expression of love for the dead, and a propitiation to the gods who caused his death.

page 156 (calabash), the size of her head, and succeeded in finding one. She cut it in half with a cockle-shell, scraped the inside clean, and with sharp-pointed pieces of shell bored holes all round the rim, which she made larger and smoother by passing through them burning twigs of the manuka-tree.1 Whare, he who had made a mistake at the fight, and run his spear through the face of one of his own party, had the best breed of the longhaired dogs (kuri waere). She asked permission to get some of the long hairs of their tails, which he gave. It is not usual for those who weep for the dead to make their own tua (mourning dress), but the woman being, as has been already seen, of an active, restless disposition, determined to do everything for herself. Having Whare's permission to get as much dogs’ hair as she liked, and not being able to catch and hold the dogs by herself while she plucked the hairs from their tails, she got all the young boys and girls to help her. For days they kept the settlement in a cloud of dust, with a din of noise and howling, until she had succeeded in obtaining tufts of white, grey, and brown hair, all save the black. The dog from which she was determined to get the black hair had always been known as a surly, vicious animal. But catch him they must, she said; “to show her great love to her husband she must have the black hair, and it must be the longest to be obtained, for he was a very great chief.” The dog was captured, and held on his back by a crowd of bawling, shouting, screaming children, while the

1 Leptospermum scoparium.

page 157 widow sat with one foot on his tail to keep it steady, and she plucked what she called a lock of fine hair; but the dog proved stronger than the boy who held his head, and succeeded in freeing it. The others seeing his head free, and not wishing to feel the sharpness of his teeth, for which they had not bargained, let him go. The widow sat with her face bowed down, looking intently at the coveted hair; the liberated dog jumped up, made a snap in the direction of his tail, caught the top of her head in his mouth, making two holes in her left ear, and partly tearing the skin off the top of her head, and ran off, leaving her bleeding on the ground in a fit of fear and astonishment. She afterwards declared she really believed a war party had suddenly entered the pah, and that she was the first victim. She was attended by the women, who poured hot oil on her torn head; but as it healed her eye was injured, and cast its shadow across her nose, which caused her more grief than the loss of her six husbands. When quite well, she called a meeting of all the inhabitants of the pah, and demanded payment for her death1 from Whare. The old man said he had not done the evil, but the dog had done it, and he must be payment. After a whole day spent in talking, in which the chiefs all took part, Whare agreed to give her four live dogs, two dog-skin mats, a kaitaka2 mat, and a quantity of long

1 A native receiving an injury which might have caused death will speak of it as if death had actually followed, and representing himself as dead, will demand payment for his death.

2 A large mat made from the best scraped flax, with a wide ornamental border.

page 158 hair from dogs’ tails. The people demanded the four live dogs, because of the stain upon them caused by the insult offered to her through the dog having bitten her head. The relatives of her husband took the dog-skin mats, and the women who attended her took nearly all the long hair. She had, however, sufficient left to complete the widow's cap; and having smeared the inside of the calabash with the gum of the flax leaf, it was finished. Te Rou repeated a karakia over her, cut all the hair off her head, and she put the cap on.

Kino, who had been looking at the widow for some time, said: “Her widow's cap does not look like those I saw when I was a boy; the calabash comes too far on her head, and the tufts of hair are not near enough together, they do not cover the whole of her face. Besides, there are not enough of them in the plaits which wind round the rim to the tuft on the top of the calabash.”

“I think there is a design in the matter,” answered Turi. “Had she made her cap of grief, as I should like to have my wife to make hers, when at my death she raises her wail over me, there would have been sufficient hair on the rim to fall down and cover her whole face, so that she could see no one through it, nor could any part of her face be visible. But the old woman yonder does not like to be unseen, and if even Poko were to make love to her she would accept him. What say you, Poko? She has one good eye and one poor one; you have one good eye, so that there would be two good page 159 eyes between you, and the poor eye could be used by either of you, should you lose a good one.”

Poko gave a grunt of amusement as he looked at the widow, who sat near the fire. The bald appearance of the upper part of the calabash, and the hair all round the rim, looked as if all her hair had slipped down from where it ought to grow, and had taken root round her neck.

The other two old women were not of the same active turn of mind as the calabash widow. They sat perfectly still, save that their eyes followed the busy, bustling movements of the widow whenever she replenished the fire. One of them, Koneha, had been a wife and a mother. Soon after the birth of her first-born she had quarrelled with her husband. She had not revenged herself on him, her rank being equal to his own, but she smothered her child. Her husband did not resent her murderous act; but his brother, who came with a taua1 for the child, gave her a blow with his wahaika,2 cutting the skin off her head, laying her cheek-bone bare, and causing an ugly scar. She had been a stout woman in her youth; but now sat smiling at the fire, showing a set of most beautiful teeth, which contrasted strangely with her deep-sunken eyes and gaunt appearance. She looked more like a dead body sitting by the fire than one who had killed her own child to be revenged on its father.

1 A robbing party, also used as a war party.

2 A long-handled wooden hatchet from the head of which hangs a tassel of hawks’ feathers.

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The third was a woman of great age, whose head had become quite white. Her memory was nearly gone, and she could not understand an order unless given in an authoritative tone. Her form was reduced to a mere shadow. Her food was generally the scraps left by the tribe; and she spent most of her time talking to herself. She seemed as if she considered herself the intimate companion of the dead. She had loved in her youth; but the relatives of her lover would not allow him to have her for his wife. He joined a war party, and did not return alive. He was left behind—that is, all of him except his head, which his comrades preserved and brought back. For years she had been in the habit of sitting and talking to the head, until it had become a second life to her to keep it company. As this woman was making a long harangue addressed to her lover's head, a voice was heard in the pah, calling upon the ears of all the people to receive food from it.1

Poko, for a wonder, said, “Who is that calling to my ears to listen to his talk, just as I was about to tell a tale of the acts of my boyhood? Then there were great chiefs in the world. Since I went to the wars in my youth, men have become girls, chiefs old women, and women are only fit to wail to deaden the howlings of the dogs. Who is that fellow that calls to us, now that it is time to sleep?”

“Do not be angry so soon, Poko,” said Turi. “Your one eye makes you see but one part of the subject;

1 I.e., to listen to what would be said.

page 161 and I really believe that one of your ears is also blind. If it were not so, the sound of words would go into your head from each side, and your brain would see the two meanings any words may have. How you do stare when any person talks! You must in the days of your youth, when in the daytime you went into the forest with other boys, have seen an owl sitting under a tuft of wharawhara,1 with its great eyes wide open, looking like the stare of ten expiring men. And yet with all the eye and all the stare the bird could not see. It could only hear the noise you made when stepping on the dry, crackling twigs of the forest, and it would turn its head here and there, first on one side and then to the other. You are doing just now what the owls do. Do you not recognise the voice of Heta, who has so long wanted Aramita for his wife, but was never thought to be brave enough until he saw the dead whom we were not allowed to eat? Just listen, you man of one lock, and if you are not taught to love that woman with an eye and a half, then tell me after you have heard Heta speak, and have slept over his words.”
“Hearken, all ye winds of heaven!” cried Heta. “Listen, all ye stars, and the moon, and ye clouds that sweep over the Whakatere Mountains! Ye must carry my words to those who are not here to hear my voice. Listen, O chiefs, and ye priests! listen, ye women, and even you children! I have been killed even for you. Each one of you may lament for his own relatives; but I am brave enough to lament over myself for my own

1 Astelia Banksii.

page 162 death. Was I not killed by Takuai? And did I not go to get assistance for you? Then tell me that I am a slave if I ask for her. I shall not mention her name, for you all know it. I did not ask her to be mine unknown to any of you, and now I ask your consent. If she is not to be mine, then I will have death for my wife; and I tell you that she will soon come to me, to where you must all soon follow, and there we shall know who are the men and women of great heart. I shall say no more; let those who wish to speak say their words, my word is spoken. It shall stand as firm as the mountains round this pah.”

Old Whare was now heard coughing, as he came out of the house in which he had remained since the warriors had eaten. He coughed several times, and then came towards the fires of those who kept watch over the dead; again he walked back, and disappeared in the dark. Poko and the old women watched him attentively, as he kept appearing in the light and disappearing in the dark. At last the old man said, “What did my young kinsman say about death? Did he cry over the dead now before us? How is it I never before heard of his love for Aramita? Has he become brave all at once since he saw my mistake? He has not yet killed a man. No; he has not even attempted to make a third hole in a man's face to assist his eyesight, or to give him a third ear with which to hear more readily the news of war, or the call to a feast or a lovetale. I made love in my day; I did not care for father, mother, priest, or tapu. I loved, and that was all I page 163 wished to know; and love was my only master. Why does my young relative tell his love-tale while his ancestor Rou is sick for want of some kinaki (relish) to eat with his fern-root? Had I a thousand daughters, I would not give one of them to a man who was not brave enough to rush into a forest of spears and carry away his wife. And were I a girl, I could not love a man who went to war, and did not even take a child as his slave.”

Takuai called from his hut, “Whare, I must speak now.” At the same time he came out and said: “Who calls my young relative a coward? Who went to tell you what has befallen us? Are you all so young that I must remind you that the messengers who went for you might have been killed by the Otu people had they wished to do so? Did not Heta go and tell you? Was that the act of a slave when, in my hurry, I killed him,1 did he ask a great utu2 for my act? You say, O Whare, that you once loved a woman. You are a brave man, we all know that; but a brave man cannot have a wife who is not brave, or his children would not be brave if they had a coward mother. Is not Heta a near relative of your wife? She is brave; so is he. Did you ever in your life give property to satisfy a woman who had been bitten by one of your dogs? If you did, then women are brave; for did she not make you pay her for an act not your own? And you must have been in fear of her. Own that you were a coward to allow a woman to make you pay for the act of a dog. Tell your love, O Heta! If you are a coward, so are we all.

1 Struck him in the river, see p. 33.

2 Payment.

page 164 If they do not allow you to have Aramita for your wife, Rou will give you his daughter. You, O my relative! shall not act like a coward by asking them again.”

The woman with an eye and a half, she of six husbands, jumped up and screamed as if in pain, and said: “Sit down, O Takuai! sit down. Why am I told of the just acts of years gone by? Was I not a widow at the time you speak of? And was not Whare without a wife? And I was not so old then. I did ask him for some hair from the tails of his dogs to make a cover for my head beneath which I might weep for my dead husband. Old men are not fools; but he did not or would not understand the meaning of my request; and as his dog injured me, I punished him for not accepting my offer to be his wife.”

Miro came out of a hut in which her mother and other women of her hapu1 had assembled. She had witnessed their furious rage, and heard the taunting words used by them to Rou, her father, because he allowed Tupu to keep the killed from being eaten. She came close to the fire at which the three old women sat who kept guard over the dead, threw out her arms, put out her tongue, danced, and made grimaces at them. She screamed, hooted, turning her eyes till the pupils could not be seen, showing her teeth, and twisting her mouth and face in such a manner that she transformed a good-looking girl into something quite inhuman. Exhausted by her antics, she paced before the fire a short time, then addressing

1 Subdivision of a tribe.

page 165 the woman of six husbands she said: “What did my mother say? Did she wish to give me the cap she now wears, that I might keep my head warm? Does she wish me to be always angry? I have not yet killed one man. I have not made my tongue jump up and down so as to cause the death of a warrior. Tell me, then, you woman of many husbands, how you killed them when you wished? Tell me that, you woman of many husbands, so that when I do take a husband and get tired of him, I may kill him as you have killed yours, without any one knowing how the deed is done. I might become a greater woman than you are. I might kill twenty, while you have only killed six. If killing men makes a man great, why should it not raise a woman to the rank of a warrior? I want to be a warrior and have a great name before I die. If you will give me your head-cover I will wear it, and not be timid. I will put it on, and go to old Whare, and sit down before his face, and cry all summer and winter until he says he will be mine. I would not be a coward, and make love to him through his dogs. Truly yours is howling love untold. Here, give me that thing from your head, and I will show you how to act.”

The woman of the dogs'-tail cap threw it to Miro, saying, “There, child, there is the cap for you. I shall die of rage. You may become old like me, and have no son to protect you from the insults of a child girl.”

When divested of her head-dress she looked more like a bundle of bones covered by a mat than a woman. She bowed her face on her knees and began page 166 to weep; and in a low tone, while she wept, repeated the words of a song of former days.

Miro answered: “Wait; let your cap lie there. Did some say that I was to have Heta if Aramita was not allowed to become his wife? Am I a dog to be thus given to any one you like? I am not a man, I am not a priest. But I tell you, men, women, children, and priests, you may do as you please with your own. You may kill them and even bury them if they have done that for which they ought to be eaten. O Takuai! talk on, and let the birds hear your voice; perhaps some kaka may be persuaded by the power of your words, and when the sun rises in the morning make love to a pigeon. Love those you like, O Takuai! but I shall not allow you to say whom or where I am to love. You are tattooed, but your face is not beautiful; the lines are as crooked as a lizard's leg. Then why do you talk to me of a hairy untattooed face like his whom you have coupled with my name? Look out of your house and see me.”

She put on the widow's cap, and dancing with it on, she called upon Takuai to say whether he and Heta together would not make love to her. Though ugly as she now was, was she not better looking with all the bush of dogs’ tails round her face than ever they were, or ever could be? She took the cap from her head and threw it into the fire; and with a slow and defiant step returned and entered the hut, in which her mother and the other women were still talking in the most rapid and excited manner.

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While Miro was dancing and speaking, the old woman who kept the preserved head of her lover sat in astonishment and pleasure, staring at Miro with her mouth half open, and her eyes sparkling with an idiotic glare, while her hands now and then moved as if in deadly struggle with some foe. Now she would partly rise, and then sit down again with a low laugh. But when the widow's cap fell on the fire she sprang up, took a bundle of wood and threw it on the cap, at the same time uttering a scream which caused Miro to look back over her shoulder, but she did not deign to stop or turn round.

The relict of six husbands jumped up, and was in the act of springing to the rescue of her cap, when the blighted one caught hold of her, and the two struggled, screamed, and tore each other. The noise they made roused the inhabitants of the pah, who hastened to see what they thought must be a spirit from the reinga carrying away a living being to that world against her will.

The third of the female guardians, knowing that all the people would come to see the cause of the fearful noise, at the first scream of her struggling companions had taken a firebrand and scattered the burning embers of the fire hither and thither all over the marae.1 On came the barefooted crowd of men, women, boys, girls, and little children. The noise was

1 The open space in every village surrounded by the huts. At the side or end of this space is always situated the house or hut of the leading chief of the village.

page 168 at its height. The two struggling women in their fury had torn nearly all the covering from each other, and were now rolling and tumbling, now up, now down, occasionally coming in contact with a burning ember, the pain caused by which kept up their fury, as each thought the other had either bitten or pinched her. The rushing crowd came on howling, crying, talking, or laughing, with all the dogs of the pah following, who with bark, and growl, and yelp mixed in the savage chorus, until all had come near enough to see the struggling women. The scene now changed. Those chiefs who had, in the full glory of command, come to give orders, uttered half a sentence, trod on a live ember, and instantly stopped. A sudden inspiration seemed to take possession of their feet, for all, old and young, began to hop up and down, then crouch in silence to nurse their feet, staring at each other, not understanding what had befallen them. Even the dogs which had rushed on, tails erect and open-mouthed, enjoying the noise and excitement, suddenly dropped their tails, and ran back to the huts or into the dark to lick their paws. The boys and girls, in the wild spirit of youth, enjoyed the sight of the two struggling women, who had become exhausted, and could scarcely hold each other. These boys and girls would suddenly stop in the middle of a loud laugh or joke, make a wry face, and run howling into the dark. The women of the crowd evinced no sign of pain. When burnt they sat down and covered their heads with their mats. The combatants were exhausted. They now sat page 169 panting, moaning, and weeping from the pains of the burns they received in rolling over the hot embers.

When silence was partially restored, old Poko rose and said, “Listen, O people! listen to a man who has never made a speech before in his life. Why did you nearly frighten me to death? Why did you come to see these two women fight? Why did any of you ever take a wife? Why did you not do as I have done? Why did you ever fall in love with a woman? Why did you ever have children? Why did you continue to keep men and women in existence? Why did you burn your feet? If you had been like me, there would not have been one of us here to-night. If you had not had children there would have been no death to cry over, and none to keep watch over the dead. If there had been no one alive, there would have been no need of fire to keep them warm. If there had been no fire you would not have burned your feet to-night. I say it is all your own fault. And you, O weeping women! are the cause of it all. You are the mothers of the boys; the boys become men, and the girls look at them; then they talk as the people of past generations talked. Then they become man and wife, and so the evil continues. I say to you, you are to blame for your burnt feet. If you had not been burnt you would not have the pain you now feel. My word is, let every one be as I am. Let no one be husband or wife, and in a few years we shall all sleep, and be away from the evils which have befallen you this night. My words are the words of the gods. The dead are gods. I page 170 learnt them while sitting here and looking at the dead.”

While Poko was speaking, mothers who had been weeping under their mats rose, and called their children by name, each answering by a loud yell of “I am burnt,” to which the mother would answer with another scream of motherly grief. Then might be seen hurrying to and fro in the dark half-frantic mothers led by the wail of their burnt children, and in their anxiety rushing against each other, or against children, the sudden contact bruising and knocking many over. And again there would occur a deafening noise of howling, crying, and angry words of scolding women.

The men sat in sullen silence until quiet was nearly restored, for all evils come to an end in time. When they one by one returned to their huts, Poko and his two companions again quietly nodded to the fire around which they sat.

She of the three women who had thrown the embers about said to the other two, “Have you done your work yet? You wished to have some sport, and I thought it would be right to put the fire out, so that you might not be seen by the people who would come. If you want any more sport say so, and I will not light the fire.” As she received no answer, she again made the fire, and whilst doing so she found part of the dogs'-tail cap, which she threw to the owner, saying, “What will he say when he knows the cap you made to weep under for him was put in the fire? I should not like to be a widow and have such page 171 a thing done to me. It would make me kill some one, and then kill myself.”

The old woman of six husbands, who had partially recovered from her fatigue of wrestling, got up and called upon all the world, and every person in it, to the rocks and fishes, to the birds and dogs, and lastly upon Whare, saying, “You, O Whare! are the cause of my now being killed. I have no one to protect me. Why should I continue to live alone to be the sport of girls? Go, O people! go and live as long as you can. O Tupu! see that I am buried with your children, whom I will keep guard over till the sun rises, when I will go with them.” She sat down and tried to convey with all the strength of her lungs the idea that her heart was really breaking.

She had cried some time, when a voice was heard from the other end of the pah, saying, “Stay, O mother! stay, and I will keep you from insult. I did not see before what your words meant, but now I do. Sleep, and then we can protect each other.”

The fire burned brightly, and the three old women sat near it to warm themselves. The light danced in flickering rays on the bald head of the now rejoicing wife of her seventh husband. The other two laughed at her bald, shining head, but she said, “You may laugh, but I shall not again be angry. Whare will protect me.”

A voice was again heard from the dark. The speaker was the brother of one of the former husbands of the woman whom Whare had agreed to make his page 172 wife. “What did I hear?” he asked. “Did I hear you say, O Whare! that you would take my sister for your wife? Did she say you were the cause of her being hurt? What does my sister mean? You did not ask her to make the cap which she wears for my brother. Why does she wear a cap for her sixth and last husband? And did she not do the same for any one of the other five with whom she lived? Does my sister think that I do not see, and do not notice or understand why she acts as she has done? Does she think she will live for ever? Does she think she will live until she has had six more husbands? I ask of what good has she ever been to our tribe? She has killed six men, and not been the mother of one child. The greatness of a man is his wives. A man of one wife is not thought so great a chief as the one who has six wives. And the honour of a man and his wife is their children. For two things are they an honour: first, they cry over the death of their parents; second, they keep up the strength of the tribe. But my sister has not been an honour to us or to herself. If she takes Whare for her husband, she must make my heart glad. She has not given me a child by my brother; she must give me other things to satisfy my heart.”

Having heard the speech of the brother of one of her former husbands, the newly-engaged wife rose to speak, when one of the other two women said, “Mind what you say, old Whare is listening; his eyes may not see the wrinkles in your face, but his ears can hear the cracks in your voice.”

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Standing still, she said, “Does my brother ask me where my children are? Do all the people in the world have children? If I never had a child you cannot blame me for any ill names it gave its father's brother. I know that my husband was not a great chief, because whenever he wanted to take two or three other wives I would not allow him; he, according to your own words, was not so great a chief as you are. You have three wives. But I have, year after year, offered to teach your children to make mats, if they were girls, and you have always answered, ‘Taihoa,1 wait till they come.’ Taihoa has been and is now a god of evil. Let me ask you when your three wives are to have a son or daughter? If I am a dishonour to my tribe, what honour have you rought to it? You have taken people's daughters, but in return have not given them a single grandchild. There is another evil you have done to our laws. Shall I remind you that I was the widow of your dead brother, and it was your duty to have taken me for your wife? Did you ever ask me? You have trampled that custom in the dust. Now that Whare has taken me, you ask to be paid for my not having first, according to custom, asked your permission to be his wife. Never, never, never shall you be paid. Pay me for making me remain a widow so long when it was for you to make me your wife, which our custom demands. Cease asking payment for yourself. When you and your three wives have a child

1 By-and-by.

page 174 send it to me, and I may give it something; but to you never, no never.”
Silence had reigned for a short time, when a young woman called on Takuai and all the old men of the pah to listen to her; it was Aramita who spoke. She said, “What evil have I done? You, O fathers! have seen me ever since I was born. Was I a child of evil omen? Did those who gave me life curse me before I came by giving me to the son of some chief unknown to me? Am I a puhi,1 that I am so long kept from being given to him for whom my love is ever burning? Why do my own kindred say no? If I am a puhi, and am to be given to some one—the son of an enemy—to gain peace because of your constant dread of murder and surprise, tell me, and I shall be able to bear the thought of his not being mine whom I have loved since we were boy and girl playing together. You are not timid, you are not afraid to speak great words to those you love; you call loud enough in battle; then speak loud to me, and let me know why I remain as I now am. I am not afraid of you. Do you think that I cannot do as I like? Remember what you all thought and felt when you were as many summers old as I am. When you saw one you loved, would you not have gone over the high mountains, crossed the deep rivers? Yes. I can do the same; and I would do it if I knew that I alone would suffer. If you like to kill me, do so, and I will not return the blow; but, remember,

1 A woman betrothed.

page 175 if you even touch him I love, you die by my hand. I do not say the words of madness, but truth; I never shall be the wife of any one else, but of him, my only love.”

There was one hut in the pah, the occupants of which had not taken part in what had transpired outside. That was the hut which Rou, his wife, and relatives occupied. On his return from the fight, Rou had narrated all that took place in the battle.

In answer, his wife said, “If you are not fed by others I shall not feed you. Go and get food for yourself. Go feed your good brother Tupu with kumara. Such food is the best for you. Am I to live when those who were killed have not been avenged? Are we slaves, that we are to die like slaves by the hand of any man that likes to kill us, and you are not brave enough to defy the woman words of a man like Tupu? O, why did I remain here, and not go with the old women who went to the fight? Truly you are not as good as my old slave Konehu. She would shame you. You have your eyesight and can see your enemy. You are young compared to her, and you are strong. You are related to those who were killed; and when the god Tu gave you the bodies of the murderers, you put them into the earth. Are they so sacred, common eyes must not look at them? Konehu did not act like that. She was sitting over a hangi in which we had cooked some food for you cowards, and while searching about for the remains of sow-thistle that might have been left by those who had taken the food page 176 out of the hangi, she touched a surly dog, which bit her arm. She caught the dog's head with her other hand, and bit off a piece of its ear, and ate it for revenge. O Rou! are you not ashamed to have less of a warrior's spirit than my old slave, who is nearly double with the weight of her great heart bowing her down to the earth? Go, O father of my children! and tell them if they are murdered you will not allow their murderers to be sent to Paerau1 to show that they died avenged by your love. Go, O Rou! and tell them that your love of life was greater than your love for them or me.”

His wife did not say all this continuously, but with intervals of silence she would utter a few words, and again become silent. The other occupants of the hut sat with their heads covered, crying in a low tone, Rou and his daughter Miro being the only two who sat erect. Miro listened to those who were making speeches outside in the dark, while Rou sat in sullen silence on the right side of the door on entering the hut. No one had attended to him with food, nor had his hunger been appeased since the meal he partook of as the warriors left to attack the pah. What his thoughts were no one could guess. He had not spoken a word, save to tell his wife of the battle.

1 The place of departed spirits, nearly synonymous with the reinga.