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Te Rou, or, The Maori at Home

Chapter XI. Rou's Indignation At The Burial Of His Slain Enemies—his Dissertation On How Public Opinion Is Led, And His Vow Of Revenge

page 177

Chapter XI. Rou's Indignation At The Burial Of His Slain Enemies—his Dissertation On How Public Opinion Is Led, And His Vow Of Revenge.

The fires in the huts burned low, and nearly all were asleep save the watch, whose shrill cry at intervals was re-echoed by the mountains.

Rou, who was sleepless, when all in his hut were quiet, got up, left the hut, and awoke Heta, who followed him to the tuahu,1 where the shells of all the shellfish eaten in the pah were thrown. On the top of this heap Rou sat down, while Heta with a piece of tuhua (obsidian) cut the hair off his head. He then cut the hair close to the skin from his forehead to the back of his head, making a bald line about two fingers wide. In like manner he cut another line from ear to ear, and left all the rest of his hair as long as the breadth of three fingers. Thus shaved,

1 A rubbish heap, which is a sacred place, from the remains of food eaten by sacred persons and other things of that sort being there deposited.

page 178 Rou returned to his hut, leaving the hair cut off on the heap of shells, and lay down in the place where he usually slept, his wife sleeping in another part of the hut with Miro, her eldest daughter.

Day was breaking, but Rou still slept with his head covered with a mat. Soon all were astir in the pah, but the guardians of the dead still remained at their post. The slaves and women were all life and bustle, lighting the fires at the hangis with which to cook the morning meal. The warriors had slept in sheds erected along the side of the pah, having the fence of the breastworks for the back of their wharaus,1 a few leaves of the Nikau palm2 being put to keep off the dew. The front looking into the marae3 was left open. In these sheds the warriors might be seen sitting in every imaginable attitude, silently waiting for their food. The cooks alone were all chatter and talk.

It is not customary for cooking to be done in the open air. Every two hangis, or ovens, have a house over them. These houses are built in the following manner: — Four posts are put into the ground, which are the four corners, and upon these four young saplings are fastened for wall-plates. At each end between the two corner-posts a young sapling is put into the ground long enough to project above the wallplates, and to these the ridge pole is fastened. The rafters are tied about the length of a man's arm apart,

1 Temporary sheds.

2 Areca sapida.

3 The open space.

page 179 and transversely on these are tied small sticks, the entire length of the house. Upon these the Nikau leaves are laid, the root end being fastened to a stick near the top, and the small end hanging over the eaves. The stalks of the leaves are so tied that they are about two fingers’ length apart, the leaflets being plaited into each other. When a house is thus covered it presents a very neat appearance inside. In most cases only two layers of these leaves are put on Maori houses. Small saplings are again fastened transversely on the outside of this covering, and the roof is thatched with toe-toe1 grass, and over this a net-like covering of mange-mange2 is laid to keep the toe-toe grass from being torn off by the wind. Round two sides and one end a ponga3 fence is put; the upper end being tied to the wall-plates. The ponga does not catch fire even when hot embers fall against it. The end left open faces the marae, to afford the cooks an opportunity of seeing everything that may be taking place in the pah. In such houses were all the cooks of the pah—male and female—talking and laughing while busily employed in scraping the kumaras preparatory to cooking them.
The hangis were nearly ready to receive the food, when Rou suddenly appeared, coming out of the hut in which he had slept. He had besmeared the right half of his face with kokowai (red-ochre), and the left with soot. He wore a very old, torn mat round his

1 Arundo conspicua.

2 Lygodium articulatum.

3 Cyathea dealbata.

page 180 waist, which hung in shreds. He went into the middle of the marae, then to the hut in which old Ngau had slept apart from all the others, and looked in. He then walked past each known and acknowledged chief, and in front of the wharaus in which the warriors had slept, looking at each one of them, and then returned to his own hut. All this he did in silence, nor did any one utter a word to him.

When the cooks saw Rou, they became suddenly silent. Before his appearance they had been like a flock of korimako1 — who in summer congregate on the rata2 trees in full bloom to suck the sweets and sing to each other—who become suddenly silent when a pigeon-hawk makes his appearance among them. Thus the cooks, on the appearance of Te Rou, became quiet, and sat with their heads bowed down on their breasts without looking up. Any one who was passing from house to house stood quite still, and looked at him in mute inquisitiveness. Even the warriors did not move, but with their eyes followed him as he made the round of inspection. When he disappeared a whisper might be heard in the cookhouses; and the warriors silently looked at each other.

The silence was broken by a mother who had not seen Rou. She was the cousin of Poko, and had taken a chief of no energy or name for her husband; but being of a wild and uncontrollable spirit, she spoke on all occasions both for herself and her husband. She

1 Anthornis melanura or bellbird, Buller's ‘N. Z. Birds,’ p. 91.

2 Metrosideros robusta.

page 181 had suffered by last night's fight and firebrands. She came forward, carrying a child in her arms, until she was directly opposite to the warriors, and they could not but see her. She demanded who was to pay her for having her feet burnt? and asked why women could not fight without kicking the fire about in the manner they had done last night? And if they did fight to please themselves, why people should be burnt who found pleasure in looking at them? The two women had kicked the fire about; the fire had burnt the child; and she must have utu for the pain the child had suffered. Holding up the child, she showed a large burn on the little boy. He had burnt his foot, and had sat down on a large ember, which had made a scar across his body.

When lifted up, the child screamed. The father came out and said, “Women are the cause of evil. I told you to stay with your children when you heard the tumult last night; but you will always be in the way of mischief, and you took the boy with you. You are the cause of his being burnt. I say, give me utu1 for my child being burnt by you.”

“No,” said Poko; “you two were the cause of my child being burnt, and I must be paid. Give me the kaitaka mat you now wear; and you, my sister, give me that fine mat you lately made. I will teach you to take care of my children, and not allow them to be burnt. Am I not their teacher? Do you forget that if I do not obtain satisfaction for the pain of my

1 Payment.

page 182 heart, those children will be taught by me, and do, after my death, whatever I command them? Then you must pay me for allowing any evil to come to them.”

“Yes! yes!” cried the warriors. “You are right, Poko.”

The husband threw his mat to Poko, while his cousin went for the new one, which she laid at his feet. He did not touch them, as he was tapu1 while keeping guard over the dead. After a little time a young man passed, to whom he called, saying, “Keep these mats till the dead are taken away, then give them to me.”

The food being cooked and taken out of the hangis, some of the cooks were busy making small paro baskets2 (such as people eat out of) to hold it. When everything was prepared, the food was taken to the opposite end of the marae to that where the dead lay, and the warriors were soon all gathered round it.

At the same time, at some distance from the dead, the old women (the guardians of the dead) were kneeling in a half-bowing posture with their hands behind them, whilst in the midst of them sat an old slave with a paro of food before her, out of which she fed them in their turn. The eaters, being old, could not masticate rapidly; but the slave, who was anxious to be in time to obtain some food for herself, passed her hand round as fast as possible; and it often

1 Sacred.

2 Made of plaited green flax leaves.

page 183 happened when one of the eaters was in the act of swallowing, her mouth would be filled to choking. Thus the slave kept them employed until the paro was empty. Whare's newly-made wife asked for a drink. The slave brought a calabash of water. The drinker put her two hands to her mouth in the form of a trough, into which the slave poured the water; and while she was doing this a young woman called to the slave to come at once, or there would be no food left for her. The slave turned round to answer, at the same time lifting the calabash, and pouring the water on the new-made wife's bald head and down her back, so that the cold startled her, and she rose into a standing position. The slave still continued to pour the water with her back turned to the now enraged woman, who struck her with her fist; and the slave, to her no small astonishment, found herself laid on the ground. The calabash rolled some distance on the marae, ejecting some of the water from its mouth at every turn.

The slave did not understand what had happened until she heard Whare's wife say, “Shall I be thus insulted by a slave? Am I to be insulted by water being poured on my head by you?” At the same time she went towards the prostrate slave with a large stone in her uplifted hand. At this moment the eyes of all turned towards the two, for they expected to see the head of the slave broken by the stone; but just as the blow was about to be given, one of the other two old women jumped up and struck the page 184 uplifted arm of Whare's wife, causing the stone to fall on her naked toes; and down she sat to nurse her foot. This had been done so suddenly that she hardly knew how it occurred. But a loud laugh from the warriors so offended her, she limped away towards the dead bodies.

The warriors having finished their meal, began to prepare for starting on their way home; and all the inhabitants of the pah were in lively motion, when Rou was again seen to come out of his whare.1

He had not partaken of the morning meal. He paced in front of the wharau2 where the dead lay, and by his gesticulations frightened the old woman with the injured foot, who got up and hobbled off to the other side of the whare.

She did this in such a grotesque manner that Poko actually laughed, and said, “I have seen lame parrots walk on the ground; but you would frighten them if you gave them a lesson in walking.”

The old slave who had fed Poko and the other two went and sat by her; and when her rage allowed her to speak she asked him, “How was it the stone fell on my foot instead of on the slave's head?”

“How am I to know?” he answered. “Is the pain great? If it is, why not stoop down and lick it, if your back is not as stiff as mine; you can stoop for once, as your tongue has great power to stop pain. You remember your husband, who was in great pain

1 Hut.

2 Temporary shed.

page 185 after he fell from the tree which you got him to climb for fruit? When dying, he asked you to say something to cure his dark heart; and you said you would die when he died, to keep him company to the reinga. Your tongue cured him, and his spirit departed in a cloud, receding into distance as the sound of your voice died into a whisper. If the heart, which is hid by the skin, flesh, and bones of the breast, can be cured by your tongue, surely, if you lift your foot to your mouth and lick it, your tongue, which is so powerful to cure that which it cannot reach, will cure the pain of your foot by its touch.”

“No,” she answered; “nothing can cure it but the knowledge of how I received the blow on my foot.”

“Did you not see how it was done?” asked the slave.


“Then surely the gods of the dead,” he continued, “who were offended by your being angry so near the corpses, knocked the stone out of your hands, and you yourself let it drop on your foot. Perhaps the wound will swell or fester, and you will die. The gods do such things, you know, and after all Whare may not become your husband. Hush! Rou is speaking. He seems determined to kill some one; and if your tongue is not used to cure your foot, it may cause the death of your whole body.”

Rou stood facing the people, who sat looking at him in silent expectation. He said, “I am not speaking to children, I talk to you, O my fathers and elder page 186 brothers, my mothers and younger brothers, you alone can understand!

“‘Cease, O tears,
To flow into my eyes,
Sit you still within,
And let me guard you
For future use.
Let me turn,
I will look
Another way;
Lest the love arise,
And sorrow urge me,
Till it spends its
Strength and departs.'

Yes, to you I speak, O Takuai! You and I are descended from the same ancestor—is not this the proverb of our family? We are called ‘The stuttering sons of Rutaia.’ If we are the stuttering children of such a man, whose fault is it? Am I to blame? Did I do the deed which robbed me of the sacred knowledge of the wise men? Shall I tell you what I know of the history of that about which I am now speaking?

“There was a time when our male and female ancestors lived together, and loved each other. But our grandfather wished to go and see some of his brothers, who lived at a distance, and as he would be away a few days, our female ancestor did not go with him. We are the children of her firstborn, who was then the object of her anxious expectation.

“Our grandfather gathered two bundles of fern-root, which he laid near her, saying, ‘If any of my brothers page 187 come during my absence they will bring dogs with them, because we intend to catch some kiwi1 for you and our child, as a feast to welcome him when he comes. This bundle is for my brothers, and this one for their dogs. Remember and do as I tell you.’ Our grandfather had tied the bundles with flax, each one having a different knot.

“Our ancestor went away, and soon after his departure his brothers arrived. They had come by another road, and therefore did not meet him. On account of the anxieties of her condition, our ancestress did not remember which of the bundles of fern-root was intended for the dogs and which for the men. His brothers were, however, kindly treated by our female ancestor.

“After some time our grandfather returned to his wife. He asked his brothers if they had received a bundle of fern-root, and what kind of a knot it was tied with. Having been told the name of the knot, he exclaimed, ‘Then my orders have been disobeyed, and you have been cursed by my wife, who has fed you with dogs' food. From this time I will go back with you to your place, and that woman will not have me to teach her child. He will have no teacher; for I shall leave her, and her son shall be a stuttering son of Rutaia, as there will be no one to teach him the sacred words. My brothers have been fed with dogs' food, although I pointed out the difference between the two bundles to that woman. She is not fit to be the wife

1 Apteryx Mantelli.

page 188 of a chief.’ He said this, and left her. He and his brothers went away.
“Our female ancestor did not go after him, and I love her for her great heart. I am like her: I do not ask any of you to do anything for me. I would rather see the flesh cut from my legs and arms than ask any man to redress my wrongs. Yes, I say I love her who could sit alone, and by herself become the mother of a son from whom we are descended. She uttered no word of sorrow or anger—she sent no word of kindness to the chief who had left her. Did she send and tell him that his child was a son? No! She taught her son—our father—all she knew, and no one ever gained her love again. No! Why should she believe in any man again? Are not men like the wind? Did you ever know the wind to blow from one direction on one side of your pah, and from the other direction on the other side? No! You know that; it always comes from one direction. The wind does not blow gently on one side of your pah and furiously on the other. No, it does not! If the wind is strong, it is all strong; if gentle, it is all gentle. Even so, O fathers! man is like the wind. Wind is one part of created things. At the time that Rangi and Papa1 were divided wind was created, being one of the sons of Rangi. It has a life of its own, which it still keeps. Even so is man. Man is like this world: he has many parts to make him complete. He has a voice: the world has its wind. The world has soil: man has a heart. The soil grows

1 Heaven and earth.

page 189 food, trees, and weeds: a man's heart has its food, trees, and weeds. The food is the thoughts, which are for the good of himself and fellow-men; the trees are those thoughts which are the origin of great actions, such as bravery in battle, and taking ample revenge for any wrong that may be done to one by his fellow-men; the weeds are those evil thoughts which lead to lies, thefts, and cowardice. The world has a sun to shine on it, and make warmth in summer, and cause food, trees, and weeds to grow: man has his eyes, by which he can see the things of this world, and thus keep his memory alive to warm his knowledge, giving him fresh power every day to feed his thoughts. The world has a moon, which shines now and then in the night: man has a soul, which sits in the dark within him, and which gives light to his thoughts, when his eyes cannot shine on his sorrow, or brighten his heart when it has become dark through neglect or slight. O Nga, Takuai, and all you priests, I do not wish to weary you with my talk; but listen, O fathers! I say that man is like the wind: when it blows strong it is all strong, or if it blows gently it is all gentle. Even so is man in his actions of kindness or assistance to his fellow-men. You priests say that you have potent incantations, by repeating which you can lull a storm or cause a gale to blow. I do not know one word of such sacred lore. I am, as I have just now told you, the son of a man who was not taught by his father; for his father was not taught by him who should have given him that knowledge. Still, I do know that you possess page 190 the power of moving the elements which are in man. I often see, and have observed the same since I was a boy, that if a chief does anything, no matter how little good may come from the act, yet as it is done by a chief, even as the wind is strong, so do all men join in making a loud noise of praise. Thus man is like the wind. If the wind blows one way, it all blows that way. If one man praises a chief, all men praise him, because he is a chief; but if a common man does a great act, he is an intruder into your sacred circle. Being a common man, although he be brave, yet he cannot be learned. He cannot obtain the degree of sacred lore possessed by you: hence no common man is allowed to come into your presence, or even dare he do a brave act in war or on the mountain, such as trapping the rat, nor in any way show a great soul; for is he not at once looked upon by you with disgust? And as you command the elements of this world, your looks are noticed by men: thus you control the elements of their souls. As the wind blows in one way, so men blow in the direction you indicate with such power and effect, that a brave common man is blighted by the storm you raise, even like the blight caused by the cold south wind on the tops of the kumara plant. Hearken, O my fathers, hearken! Do not be tired. I am a common man. I do not say that I have done any act that could give offence to you chiefs. Though my heart is dead, yet my eyes are not so blind but I could see how you have commanded the souls of men during the last few days. Let me speak, O fathers, let me page 191 speak! I do not ask assistance of you, for I am a man of mean birth. O Takuai! you know how true my words are. Hence, I say to my father Tupu, the next time I ask any one to assist me to take up my crops I shall not ask a chief who will, when my crop is gathered, tell me not to eat that for which I have laboured and suffered. O my fathers! do I insult you when I tell you that I did not cause the flesh of man to be eaten for the first time? I am not a priest, yet I do know that the eating of man's flesh was begun by the gods.
“You know that once there was nothing at all. There was no world. Nothing was the only thing that was. From nothing came thought, from thought came seeking, from seeking came darkness, from darkness came the world, which was a ball. In this ball were its children, six in number, being gods. These gods conspired against their parents, Rangi and Papa,1 who together had made the round ball. Five of them by their exertions separated their parents, putting Rangi (sky) above and Papa (earth) below. One of the six gods, Tawhiri, who had remained with his parents, determined to punish his five brothers, and came down, accompanied by other children of Rangi. To save themselves from the rage of Rangi and his son Tawhiri, one of the brothers became a fish, another trees, another kumara, and the fourth the fern-root. Tu was the only one of the five rebels who did not change himself. He fought the army of Rangi, and gained

1 Heaven and earth.

page 192 the victory. He was so enraged with his brothers for leaving him that he determined to punish them. He sought for them. One, the kumara, he found by the leaves resembling the hair of his head; another, the fern-root, by the tops resembling his hair. Tu next caught some fish, and broke some trees, and took of their fruit. Wishing to be lord over all his brothers when found in this state, he cooked and ate them.

“Hence, I say, I am not the first to cause man's flesh to be eaten. If then the gods eat each other, and they were brothers, and were eaten for their cowardice, I ask, why was I not allowed to eat those who killed my child? The pain I feel is on account of the murder. The gods had not such pain. Compared to you, O priests! I am but a child in knowledge; but you know the gods teach me to take ample revenge for any wrong I receive.

“Do you forget Maui? He was a god; he was also a man. He had a wife, Koke, who was a goddess. Maui was very proud, and did not like to be less good-looking than his wife. His envy led him to ask her to exchange faces with him; but she refused, and in his rage he killed her by witchcraft. After three days, by her own power, she caused her life to come back, and killed him by witchcraft. She then died again to keep him company in the reinga. And in her malice against man, for it was the man part of Maui that caused her death, she became the guardian of the entrance to the reinga, and beats all who pass her. She is also the evil spirit page 193 who puts bad thoughts into the hearts of men, such as murder and all other evil.

“If the gods teach me to be a man-eater, and to bear malice for ever, shall I, O my fathers! be blamed if I take revenge when and how I can?

“O spirit of my dear child! hearken to the weeping of thy father and mother! Do not enter the inner portion of the reinga, but wait near the door and watch me. Not many moons shall pass before I send a crowd of spirits to keep you company. Listen, O my son! You shall see the dead, and hear their cry, and the noise that their flesh makes whilst cooking. My old teeth are not so blunt but they can bite the flesh of those I kill.

“Go, my fathers, to your own places. I will not dig up the dead you killed and buried. No, my fathers! I could eat them even now, though they would have been better fresh; but they shall be sacred because of your word. Go, and let me sit in my own place. I will not kill myself; I shall not die soon. I do not ask you to help me. You know the proverb that says, ‘The anger of relatives is a fire that burns fiercely;’ and another that says, ‘The hand alone can get food and to spare for its own body.’ I can get ample revenge for my sorrow. Go, O my fathers! go!”

Rou did not sit down, but went at once to his own hut, where his wife had cooked some fern-root during his absence. She placed it before him, inviting him to eat, which he did, saying, “Now that my heart page 194 has been fed, my body can also be nourished by food.”

While Rou was eating, Nga rose and said: “I do not quite understand what my father means.”

“We, your fathers, have taken revenge for you. If you like to burn yourself, do not let the fire touch my house, or I may be scorched, and become angry with you.”

Tupu rose and said: “I know what my brother means. Let me tell him that I sleep with one eye open; and my ears are not like his, so old that they are nearly choked with hair. My ears can hear well. Even my mouth is as good as an ear, for I sleep with it wide open; and as I do not snore, any noise that may be made near me I shall understand.”

Tukai now spoke, and said: “O my relative! what you said about our ancestor is true. But why do you think you have been slighted? We are not chiefs. Had you been a man of low degree we should not have come at your call. Take care, my relative, that your anger does not blind you; but if you must do anything, let your eyes and ears be open; let your heart have a good memory, that you may know how far the blow you give will be heard. There will not be any to help you then.”

Rou's wife now came out, and, after pacing to and fro a short time before the warriors, said: “Yes, my fathers, yes, your words are true; but can you men suckle a child? I never knew a man who kept a child page 195 from death by his breast. Go, my fathers, go! and let your big hearts think you have been brave. If I do not get revenge in Rou's lifetime, I have sons who will live, and they shall get utu for me. Rou has spoken, and that is the word now.”