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Te Rou, or, The Maori at Home

Chapter VIII. The Return To Te Roto Next Day

page 130

Chapter VIII. The Return To Te Roto Next Day.

It was grey dawn, and the camp awoke to life. The girl who had nearly strangled Pipo could see whom she had mistaken for her father, and felt vindictively annoyed.

Another girl said to her, “You need not be so angry; a live slave is better than a dead chief. You are a coward; you were afraid of a dead man walking. Why did you come with us if a dead man could make you fear? You tremble to see a whole body walking which ought to have been cooked; but you would not have refused the flesh of any of those limbs of his if it had been cut from other flesh, and come to you from a hangi. Pipo does not think anything of your hugging him, then why should you?” The speaker was Miro.

She was interrupted by the blind chief, who at this moment rose and said: “Listen, O fathers, and women and children! You came here to kill us all; why did you leave any one alive? I, who did not do the evil, page 131 am saved; and he who did the evil is saved. Those who were killed were the men who did not say yes or no to the evil. If I may judge by the noise and chatter of voices, you are many, yet you would not have been many had I been able to see. Think you that I would have sat quietly on a house-top if I had not been blind? No! you would have felt the strength of my sinews. Go then, O warriors! and talk of the deeds of this fight; but say that there was a brave man in the pah, who would have killed many of you, but the sun did not give him light by which to do it.”

Tupu rose and said: “Who can answer you, O warrior of the world of spirits? As you are in two worlds perhaps you can speak in a way that we men cannot. Your face is in this world, but your eyes see into the next. We cannot answer your speech, for you have been talking to your friends who live where the sun never sleeps. Shall I get Nga to call a spirit to talk with you? I have not that power myself; but I could have sent five to that world yesterday, and I did think of sending you as guardian of the troop. If you are tired of life tell me, and I can cure you; but if not, keep silence, then we shall think you are a god, and are talking with spirits.” Then addressing all the people, he continued: “Hearken, O people! and listen, O ye dead! I shall speak to the dead and the living. We have done what we have done; but now I must act. My son is dead. O, ye warriors! ye did not rise to avenge me. I did not ask you; I was ashamed to do so. I arose, and with my page 132 men took ample vengeance for my dead, and revenged yours. O, Rou! I shall cut the fish. Have I only one dead? There are two, my son and his wife. I shall then take all the land of Otu which belongs to the dead and those prisoners, save that small piece near your place, O Rou! you take that for your dead. I take the larger portion, for I have lost a man and a woman; you only two men, and I avenged your dead. Speak, O Rou!”

Rou rose and said, “I am not able to speak. I have not had anything to eat; and a hungry man does not speak but in anger.”

Tupu answered, “I know O Rou! what you mean.” Addressing the people, he continued, “Are the litters ready for the dead, O my people? We now start for Te Roto.”

The corpses of the young wife and her husband had been left in the karaka grove, whilst Nga, as the senior priest, was the only person who slept near them. The litters being ready, eight of the oldest warriors, without being ordered, took them, and went and sat down near the corpses. The young warriors rose first and led the line of march. Next followed the prisoners, then Takuai (the priest), Kete, and other warriors, next went the females, and last of all the eight who carried the two litters, Nga going with them. The advanced body halted as soon as they were near to their former encampment at Te Roto, when Nga ordered the litter-bearers to put their burdens on the side of the path, at some distance from the camp. page 133 They then joined the main body, who separated from the women and advanced towards their old camp, the women keeping back out of sight.

The warriors went on until they could be seen from their old camp, when Te Rou's wife and all the old women of the pah came out to meet them. They halted, and the women asked in a shrill voice,

“Whence have you come, great travellers of Tu?” The halting warriors, with one voice, answered,—

“We have come from the land,
We have come from the sea,
An assembly of Tu;
We have dealt out our vengeance,
We have found satisfaction,
An assembly of Tu.”

The chorus of women—

“Is Tu appeased?
Has Tu been great?
Has Tu received?
Is Tu enriched?”

Chorus of warriors—

“Tu is great as heaven above,
He is appeased; he rests in joy.”

Chorus of women—

“May ye rest in peace
When quiet is gained,
Ye assembly of Tu.”

All the people from the settlement now joined the old women. They had not been visible before, nor could any one have had the least idea they were so near. So many men, women, boys, girls, and children had been hidden, it seemed almost as if they had page 134 suddenly risen out of the ground. Those of them who were too old to join in the dance which now took place, satisfied themselves with waving their garments, and as far as their cracked and trembling voices would permit, joined in the general clamour. Each one of the whole assembly tried their utmost to make his or her voice heard above all the others while the young people danced, half a dozen young women dancing apart by themselves, fifteen or twenty young men doing the same in another part of the scene, and a number of little children had a small dance by themselves. The elders, who did not dance, kept calling out some one thing, some another, the general import of which was, “Welcome! Return! Return!”

The warriors, who were tapu, and therefore could not yet partake of food, went to the stream in which they were baptized to Tu on a former occasion, taking with them everything they had brought from Otu (loot was also tapu, for it had been touched by warriors who had shed blood), and sat down facing the water.

Nga, the senior priest, now picked up a round pebble, and forded the stream, leaving his garments on the side with the warriors. He had also in his right hand some fern-root and a piece of human flesh, all of which he was to offer to Tiki, the creator of man, who must be appeased because of the slaughter of those he had formed. The kumara (sweet potato) is sacred to Tiki, also the right foot, especially the great toe of it. With that foot only does the Maori page 135 dig when setting kumaras. Nga sat down facing the warriors on the opposite side of the stream, and while he offered the round pebble, the fern-root, and the human flesh to his great toe, as the representative of Tiki, he repeated aloud the following incantation:—

“Thou canst now eat and consume;
Thou canst now eat in a house;
Thou canst now eat with the priests;
Thou canst now eat with the gods.
Now! the thunder of the heaven
And of the earth is over.”

He stood up, forded the stream, and went to the tuahu,1 where all hair is deposited whenever any one of the tribe has it cut. There he left the stone, flesh, and fern-root; he then returned, and, passing on the right of the still sitting warriors, entered the stream, where he sat down in the water overhead. Suddenly rising erect, he said, “The gods are appeased.”

Hearing this, the warriors simultaneously rose, and, facing towards the pah, they exclaimed, “Tiki and Tu are satisfied.”

As soon as Nga had put on his garments, he advanced in front of them towards the pah, the warriors following in a line, walking two abreast, each one carrying as he chose anything he had. When returning from the battle-field and up to the time of the whakanoa2 to Tiki, they had to carry anything taken in battle (save the dead of their own people) in their

1 The sacred place of the settlement.

2 The ceremony of removing the tapu.

page 136 left hands, and as near the ground as possible. Now they were all noa,1 the tapu had been removed from them by the ceremony at the stream, they could again mix with the people.

Before they entered the pah, Tupu came out from the right side amongst the warriors and repeated the first words of a war-dance song. The warriors immediately took up the words, and danced with a slow and measured tread until they came to the words “It is now glaring at all of us,” when a frenzy seemed to come over them, and they danced furiously, making demoniacal attitudes and gestures—all keeping perfect time with each other, and with the words:—

“Yes, yes, it must be,
It is Tiki-rau-kura,2
Whose left eye we know
Is now glaring at all of us;
Yes, yes, at all of us.
How red he has turned
By the heat of the sun,
Yes, yes, by the sun
Of the hot summer's day.”

During this dance the inhabitants of the kainga who had taken no part in the battle kept within the pah, but here and there faces could be seen peeping through the palisading, looking anxiously to see who in life were dancing there and who were left behind.

The dance was done. The warriors marched silently towards the pah. As Tupu, who was the first to enter, came in sight of the inhabitants, who were sitting in

1 Freed from the tapu.

2 The god of enjoyment of war.

page 137 a body at the inner end of the marae, they all shouted, “Welcome! Return! Return!”

The old men silently rose and leaned on their spears, which were stuck in the ground; while the old women, who sat in front, and therefore were nearest to the advancing warriors, threw their arms about and clawed the air, as a welcome to the gods who reside in the wind. The younger people kept their heads covered with their mats. The warriors continued to advance silently until they were about six paces from the people, then halted, formed into a square, put the ends of their weapons on the ground in front of them, and bowed their heads on the right side of their weapons. They and the people then joined in a general tangi,1 and a chorus of wailing and howling was indulged in for some time. The din became lower and lower, and then ceased altogether. Each one then went to his brother, wife, mother, sister, or father, and a general rubbing of noses ended the reception.

1 Wailing lament.