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Ena, or, The Ancient Maori

Chapter XIX. Arrival of Allies

page 126

Chapter XIX. Arrival of Allies.

"Who pours from the eastern hills,
Like a stream of darkness?"

After the sanguinary scene described in a preceding chapter, in which Atapo and his men were so completely defeated, he with his four comrades were marched in front of the Waikatos. Well he knew that to betray his enemies was impossible; he could not send notice to his own pah; and were he to lead them into intricate grounds, there could be no advantage taken of the stratagem, so he was obliged by the exigencies of the case to reach the camp of the Ngatiraukawa by the easiest and shortest route possible.

The chief men of the contingent held aloof from Atapo: they consigned him and his comrades to the safe keeping of a strong guard, composed of men of page 127the common rank. The day was one of great beauty and enchanting loveliness: the eloquence of the mighty forest appealed to every heart. Already hopes of plunder and plans of seizure and final settlement came fast and absorbent into the minds of the hostile strangers; the rich glades glowing in sylvan luxuriance, the open stretches of fern-covered soil, the many streams, the reed-grown lagoons in which the luscious tuna, or eel, attained a large size, the numberless birds that flew from tree to tree, the flocks of the kuku, or pigeon, that occasionally darkened the air, afforded an earnest of the wealth of the natural resources of the country they were traversing. Far as eye could reach, from the summit of the range that witnessed the late encounter, the landscape was an immense vale of plains covered with forest trees, and intersected by open spaces of fern-land: united, these formed an area of vast dimensions. The horizon towards the west was a sinuous line of softly blending amethystine hills.

The advancing marauders pushed on vigorously, halting at noon by a stream. After a hasty and frugal meal of dried fish and berries, and a draught of water, the march was resumed with a savage hurry and an indomitable determination to succeed in overcoming danger. Many hours were spent in the page 128toilsome march; and evening found them in a dense labyrinth of trees and climbing vines, through which it was difficult to force a laborious passage. Night soon falls in the darkened domains of the bush: the order was given to bivouac, ere going too far into these intricate fastnesses. The aspect of the sky was carefully noted by the tohunga accompanying the Waikatos: his long experience gleaned from a lifelong, careful, and intelligent survey of the heavens, subjected to an analytical process of reasoning on the weather, its simple changes, its usual phenomena, and its ever-varying phases, were all very clearly understood by the sage, and he now imparted the result of his observations to the commander of the contingent, telling him that a storm of wind and rain was approaching. To throw up rude huts formed of branches of trees and covered with leaves and strips of bark was the prompt employment of the band; but before all were quite housed the storm came up over the land, the rain penetrated the frail covering of the huts; and many of these were broken by the fallen branches of the trees. Lives, indeed, were lost from this cause. The distress of the party was intense: the howling of the storm, the sublime terrors of the earthquake, completely vanquished the evil dispositions of these fearless human beings. Often during the wild terrors page 129of the sleepless night did they wish themselves back again in their own homes: moreover, the superstitions of their religion assailed them, and they thought that the god of war was displeased with them in their lawless undertaking. But when morning came and the face of nature assumed its wonted serenity, their evil dispositions returned, and they prosecuted their journey with unabated tenacity of purpose and renewed vigour of will.

The morning had half passed when the entire party had reached the summit of a low range of undulating hills, from which the eyes of the Waikatos were feasted with the welcome view of the camp of the Ngatiraukawa in the low-lying land below; sand-dunes spread all around for miles, the broad ocean calmly reposed in front, immense swamps interspersed with patches of scrub, black pools of stagnant water, deep and dangerous to the unwary, all presented a scene of wild grandeur to the wily reconnoitrers.

Doubting the faithfulness of their information as to the identity of the pah, and fearing that their guide, Atapo, in the desperation of revenge might play them false, they dispatched a courier to inquire at the camp below as to the identity of the locality, and to communicate the intelligence of their arrival: whilst awaiting the return of the messenger, the sound of page 130the pahu, or gong, bore to their ears the welcome of their expectant friends; loud and sonorous the hoarse, heavy notes pealed over the savage landscape, summoning the allies to hasten to the embrace of their brother warriors.

Soon the hills were descended, the intervening swamps and sand-heaps passed, and the Waikatos were received with open arms by their friends.

As this pah was constructed only for temporary uses, the labour usually expended on the "war-pah" was not visible here; yet skill was shown in selecting the site. It was surrounded by a series of quaking morasses, black pools of water, and a large raupo swamp. To approach the pah within spear-cast was almost impossible; but to facilitate the egress of the warriors, they had by them a store of portable hurdles made of the slender stems of the manuga shrub: these were to be placed in line, extending from the gate of the pah across the swamp, and this contrivance would assure firm foothold to its defenders in case of having to repel an attack.

Te Tumu, principal chief of the Waikatos, was related to Waiki, leader of the horde of the Ngatiraukawa. Their welcomes and compliments done, the prisoners were given over to the care and custody of Waiki, who at once decided on sending them far page 131inland to Taupo, in company with Ena, Mary, and Hinema: the latter had, on their arrival, occasioned a large amount of talking and deliberation as to the best means to be adopted in disposing of so valuable charges: and when the Waikatos had arrived with their captives on the same day as the former, it was unanimously agreed that it were advisable to send the prisoners to some remote place of security; and Taupo, as before mentioned, was selected, where they could remain and await the pleasure of their masters and the fortunes of war.

An escort of twenty men was furnished with arms and supplied with food: these with their eight prisoners set out on the long and tedious journey to Pukawa, on the shores of Lake Taupo: several weeks must pass whilst they journeyed; and as soon as the prisoners were at their destination, their escort had positive orders to return without delay.

The early summer-time was on the North Island, where the weather, if not quite settled in character, is always pleasant and agreeable: the home-sick exiles were on their wearisome road, the Waikato allies were in deep consultation day after day with the Ngatiraukawa; where they must needs be left, in order to return to Wairauki and its terror-stricken inmates.