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Ena, or, The Ancient Maori

Chapter XXIII. Ena and her Companions

page 154

Chapter XXIII. Ena and her Companions.

"Why did I not pass away in secret,
Like the flower of the rock, that lifts its fair head unseen,
And strews its withered leaves on the blast?"

In vain Horo requested to be allowed to accompany the prisoners to Taupo, for his intimate acquaintance with the movements of his own hapu determined Waiki in his intention of detaining him, so that he might elicit from him information from time to time: not even a parting word with Hinema was permitted him, and, with the other captives, he was marched out of the pah, under an escort: bitterly he repented of his temerity, and deeply he regretted his weakness in giving heed to the counsels of the jealous Hinema. To return to his own people would, he well knew, be attended with disastrous consequences to himself; so, driven to despair, he deter-page 155mined to endure his humiliating captivity in gloomy silence.

Day after day the band of exiles and their guards travelled inland, holding a northerly direction. The weather was delicately fine. The scenes through which they passed were, to Mary's mind, lovely beyond any she had ever seen; Ena was much dejected. Atapo and his comrades were marched in front, and were not allowed to speak to their fellow prisoners, as these were kept in the rear under a slight guard, and were also allowed a few trifling liberties. Avoiding the pahs that lay in their line of march, the party depended for supplies of food on their expertness in snaring and spearing birds, catching eels, and on the dried fish, fern-root, and berries with which the male prisoners were laden.

If Mary could have forgotten the circumstances of the expedition she would have keenly enjoyed it: as it was, her health was becoming robust, and her mind, although torn by grief and suspense, was daily growing more resigned to her misfortunes. Her companions were attentive to her every want, and treated her with marked respect and unfaltering consideration; throughout the day, if she showed signs of weariness, the party halted to rest in the coolest places possible to select, and for the night the page 156rudely-constructed shelters thrown up by the men, and formed of flax, or whatever grasses, reeds, or boughs of trees that grew near; and of these the best was given to her use.

Over tall and rugged mountain-ranges, those spurs of the Ruahine chain that runs through a great portion of the North Island, the path of the prisoners lay: through the interminable forest on they kept, fording rivers at their shallows, camping in shady glens for the night, and resting on the brow of tall knolls during the heat of the day. The hopes of the prisoners were far from failing them; the simple fact of passing through so many of the quiet abodes of undisturbed nature imparted a solacing influence to their mind, and, for a time, they partially forgot their sorrows, but as they approached the end of their journey their fears rose to a much higher degree than they had latterly felt, while passing over the lofty and abrupt downs, abounding in beautifully picturesque gulleys. The first glimpse of their destination burst on their vision, as the travellers, after a long day's journey, arrived in sight of Taupo lake, and in the immediate neighbourhood of Pukawa pah; stopping to rest for a short time on an eminence overlooking that inland sea and the surrounding objects there, one of the party was despatched to apprise the Pukawa page 157chief of the arrival of the prisoners: in the mean time, they had leisure to look at and to admire the wonders that lay before them: Mary directed Ena's attention to object after object of interest; but the latter looked with melancholy eyes on the landscape, and signified to Mary that they would soon know the doom that was intended for them. Mary by this time could hold simple conversations with her dark friend: indeed, both girls thoroughly detested Hinema, as they were not without strong suspicions of her treachery, and therefore no longer sought her assistance in conversing with each other often than was absolutely necessary. The girl had already become sorry for her fault, and doubly so when she experienced the turn affairs had taken with herself; but her sorrow, though real, was too late. Stilt her manner was more respectful than it ever had been: her assiduousness knew no rest, and she tried every means in her power to regain the estimation of Ena; but all her attempts were vain. The proud and injured girl spurned the services of Hinema, and felt that, if she dared, she would wreak her resentment on the head of the fawning half-caste.

The gloom of Ena and the painful situation in which Mary was placed were momentarily forgotten in admiration, as she gazed with enraptured eyes on page 158the scene before her. Taupo lake lay beneath in all its tranquil beauty: the tall cone of Ruapehu, snowcapped and silent, attaining a height and proportions of magnificent dimensions. Tongariro, active with her internal fires, emitting columns of white smoke; both mountain cones lifting skyward their noble crowns, on which the evening clouds linger and gather for the coming night. The Motuopa peninsula stretching its wooded eminences far out into the blue waters of the lake. Motutaiko island, set in the placid water like an emerald on the surface of an azure shield. Numerous canoes hastening shore-wards: the songs of the rowers, the plashing of the paddles, the singing of the bush birds, the voices of children at play, the barking of dogs, the loud talking and merry laughter of men and women, all together mingled and produced a sweet, varied, and cheerful harmony; but these sights of security, these sounds of contentment and happiness, fell heavily and darkly on the souls and ears of the prisoners. The wooded ridges of the Raugitoto mountains, with their numerous points of interest and sylvan beauty; the Titiraupenga mountain, crowned with naked, grey, pyramidal towers, like a cyclopean castle in ruin; its mouldering walls loopholed by the blast and the rains of winter, its wide arching doorways through page 159which ages have silently flowed, leaving a few scattered lichens on the hoary surface of the walls as a memento of their passing visit; the echoless corridors where the lizard crawls along the broken floors with slow and gliding tread; the rock pinnacles, whitened by the keen air of the mountains, scarcely offering a foothold or a shelter to the wandering fly: no busy humming insect lingers there; the winds are its nurse, the storm its companion. No less impressive the widely glittering white cliffs of pumice-stone standing around the strands of the lake, gleaming in the evening sun; the slanting light, playing in pointed beams on the snow-white assemblage, causing the imposing array of rock and cliff to resemble bivouacking hosts of armed men. In another direction rose the high dark-green wooded range of the Kaimanawa with tall, pyramidal peaks towering behind it: all combined presented to Mary's wondering eyes the very acme of loveliness and grandeur. The Tuahara cone toward the north pointed out where the Waikato river leaves its home in the lake, to wander through tracts of the richest and most fruitful soil: the steam and white smoke rising from the bubbling springs on the lake shores, the soft green masses of the forest, the red peaks and flanks of many of the eminences, the rugged scaur on page 160numerous banks, the little streams falling like silver meteors adown the brown rocks, gave to the minds of the prisoners and their guards the impression that this was indeed the land of faëry, the home of the patupairehe, or mountain spirits.

When the messenger returned to his companions, he was accompanied by a few young men from the pah: when these saw the girls they were struck with wonder at the unusual appearance of Mary; but they restrained their curiosity within bounds, and, going on before, they led them to the pah.

Hundreds of natives of both sexes, of various ages and rank, hurried out of their whares to look at the party that had just arrived in the village: loudest of all were the women, who clamoured with extreme curiosity and not a little terror when they scanned Mary's person. The chief, Te Tukino, received the strangers with cold courtesy and stern indifference, ordering that Atapo and his comrades were to be lodged in a whare in the centre of the pah, under guard, whilst the women were to be kept in one of his own huts, under the surveillance of his wives. Throughout these proceedings Mary clung to Ena, whose quiet and dignified bearing won for her the admiration and respect of her jailers.

Now that the exiles were at their destination page 161among the Ngatiwhakawe nation, with whom they were safe, at least until further orders were received from their turbulent friends and allies, the Ngatiraukawa, the escort's duty was at end; and the dawn of the next day saw them on their return homewards.