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Ena, or, The Ancient Maori

Chapter XVIII. The Return

page 121

Chapter XVIII. The Return.

"Streams of the mountain, roar!
Roar, tempests, in the groves of my oaks!
Walk through broken clouds, O moon!
Shew thy pale face at intervals!
Bring to my mind the night when all my children fell."

In lonely wakefulness Te Rangitukaroa spent the night: sleep did not visit his couch. He sat by the embers of a wood fire which from time to time he replenished with fuel; the fire, faint and flickering, was the only light in the whare. He heard the waves of the sea dash up on the beaches below; and their moaning voices seemed to call to him in accents of long-parted friends. "Yes," soliloquized the chief, "I shall soon be with the spirits of the waves; I shall join those that are gone before!" When thoughts of Ena rose in his mind, the grief of the bereaved father was pitiful and extreme.

The dawn approached, and notice of its welcome page 122presence was heralded by subsidence of the wind and cessation of the rains, although the latter still continued to fall, but in greatly lessened quantities; the sea-fowl screamed as they slowly wheeled over the cliffs on their return, from the bush where they had taken refuge, to their usual haunts by the seaside.

Rising from his squatting position, the old man looked out by the small window of the whare. A thick haze enveloped the neighbouring eminences; the pah was in silence, not a foot was stirring save the sentinels at their posts. As the morning advanced the east grew bright, and the rain fell lightly; as the sun rose higher the rain ceased altogether, and the picturesque greyish mists fled up the ranges and disappeared in the atmosphere. The face of nature bore traces of the conflict of the night. The clouds hung in broken masses along the sky; the trees were much shattered and tost, their foliage torn and blackened; the shrubs looked weary; the grasses were laid as if a mighty roller had passed over them and buried their frail stems in the saturated loam, from which a hissing sound issued as the water permeated its upper stratum.

The appearance of the forest and the early hour had a soothing, though depressing, effect on the mind of the ancient warrior. As the day wore on, his anxiety and uneasiness increased.

page 123

Ere noon Raukawa returned bringing the sad news of his baffled attempt to recover the missing ones. No sooner were these melancholy tidings broken to the chieftain than the remnant of Atapo's forces entered the pah amid loud and prolonged wailings of their friends and families. Fathers rushed frantically amongst the drooping men, to inquire for their sons. Mothers beat their bosoms, gashed their arms, breasts, and faces with angular pieces of shell: blood gushed, bearing a sad testimony to the depth and terrible reality of the unutterable anguish experienced by the sufferers in this their deepest calamity. When the outburst of sorrow was at its highest, Hahaki came amongst the mourners and ordered all to retire to their whares, there to indulge in their distress. He then sent out another party to continue the search for the girls; his next care was to console and comfort the chief in his bereavement. With this intention he entered the dwelling where Te Rangitukaroa, locked in his son's embrace, stood mute in his grief. When the priest crossed the threshold, the old warrior relaxed his arms from the neck of his son and sank in utter helplessness upon a mat. His features assumed a vacancy quite foreign to their ordinary expression: at times he smiled as a child smiles when presented With a new toy; at others, he would cry like an infant page 124in the agonies of pain. Consternation seized the mind of Raukawa; he spoke to his father, but received for answer an inarticulate attempt at speech. The priest whispered in the young man's ear, "Your father's end is near: his reason is gone."

The utter misery and woe that came upon the Mauopoko may be imagined, but cannot be described: party after party returned, and went out again day after day in the futile attempt to recover the captives, or to glean any intelligence of their probable fate.

When the absence of Horo became known to the people of the pah, this added to their grief and consternation. Some suspected the youth of a treasonable correspondence with the enemy, others thought that he must have fallen into their hands; his relatives attributed his absence to his love for Hinema, and that on this account he had gone after her in the hope of rescuing her from captivity; but the chief men decreed that if he returned of his own accord, or fell into their hands through the chances of war, and it were proved against him that he had been in treasonable communication with the enemy, the utmost pangs of torture preceding death should be inflicted on him.

The health of the aged Te Rangitukaroa broke; he refused all nutriment, and would take only a little page 125water. Thus he lingered for a week, watched over by his son, and tended by the women of the pah, heedless of all around, but strangely obstinate in his determination to accelerate the approach of death by steadily refusing all food. At dawn of the eighth day, whilst Raukawa was watching by his side, the worn-out warrior opened his languid eyes, and with a motion of his feeble hand beckoned his son nearer. Eagerly Raukawa leant over the old man, when the latter spoke in a perfectly distinct, but very weak voice—"Ena! Ena!" Drawing his hand slowly to his bosom, a gentle sigh escaped from his thin lips, as the spirit of the once renowned chieftain passed from its ruined tenement. Hahaki took charge of the remains, deferring until a more convenient time the usual tangi and other ceremonies for the dead: after lying in rude state for a few days, the body was removed by the tohunga to a secret place, there to lie until the relics were fit to be placed in their final sanctuary.

After these preliminary matters were settled, Raukawa despatched a messenger to Te Koturu of Kapiti with the message of the late disasters that had befallen him, accompanied with an urgent request that the youth would come to Wairauki in order to concert some measures for their mutual relief.