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Ena, or, The Ancient Maori

Chapter III. Ena

page 13

Chapter III. Ena.

"She came in all her beauty,
Like the moon from the cloud of the east.
Loveliness was round her as light,
Her steps were the music of songs."

The dusk of evening was spreading over the forest; the sea-birds were wheeling above the rocks in graceful gyrations; the sentinel on his stage looked over the calmly heaving sea; the natives in the pah were grouped in conversation preparatory to meeting in the runanga, ere they separated for the night, when Mary awoke refreshed and composed from her slumber. Hinema, who had watched while her charge slept, immediately quitted her place, and proceeded toward the principal whare the hill-fort contained. The building was the residence of Te Rangitukaroa, chief of the hapa, or tribe; and here the old man, after a long and chequered career, lived with his two page 14children, Ranukawa, a tall, brave youth, and Ena, a girl of rare beauty. The whare was of elegant appearance, and finished with careful attention to the elaborate detail of its several parts. Outside, the walls were four feet in height from the ground; on the inside they were a little more than six feet: a door and two small windows fitted with sliding shutters were in the front wall: a low verandah, supported on posts grotesquely carved, ran along the front elevation, which measured fifteen feet in length. Both gable ends were ornamented with finials richly carved in arabesque figures; the whole carefully painted in red, white, and black lines. The roof was thatched with the bark of the totara tree, and confined to the ridge and eaves by supplejack interlaced with the skill so characteristic of the native art-workman.

At the verandah of the whare Hinema met Ena, who had been expecting and hurried out to meet her. The appearance of the latter betokened her station. Her person was tall, graceful, and fully developed; her dress, a snow-white flax mantle bordered with black, and fastened on her breast with a curiously carved bone pin: the border was further adorned with diamond-shaped figures, in white and red colours, in correct and appropriate divisions. Her page 15feet were bare, long and tapering toes uniting classic interest with faultless proportion and symmetry. Her features were cast in the severest style of high Maori beauty: melancholy was the leading expression of her face, but it was quite unlike the European trait understood by the same name. Hers was the index to an implicit trusting of the ethereal part of human love to the care and keeping of a dearly prized object. Unalterable devotion reposed in the eyes of the queenly maiden, and over her finely cut lip curled the fragrant incense of her heroic soul. In the tresses of her raven hair she wore a feather of the huia; and from her neck, suspended by a narrow band, a large and exquisitely carved green-stone heitiki rested on her bosom. Hinema told her mistress that the strange maiden was awake. As they walked to the whare, the contrast between the girls was very great, but exceedingly interesting. Not so tall as her mistress, Hinema was a winsome beauty: her port was marred by an undulatory motion as she walked; the expression of her countenance was simplicity, with a slight tinge of piquancy that relieved and gave point to the ready smile that lurked in playful moods in the cushioned plicature of her lips; her eyes were soft brown, glowing with a lucid beaming that soothed whilst it ensnared. She was page 16much attached to Ena, and was always at her side; and towards Ena's brother she cherished a sister's feelings. Year after year these assumed a more tender aspect, and they had now ripened into love. Yet she was careful to conceal the exact state of her mind from her mistress, and also from Rankawa, the object of these affections. From him she had always received a brotherly regard, but nothing more. Toward the young men of the tribe she assumed a cold demeanour—haughty, but not imperious: many would gladly have taken her to wife, but to their importunities on the subject she turned a deaf ear.

Ena and her attendant now entered the whare, and Ena, embracing the rescued girl, saluted her after the manner of the Maori; then, seating herself on the matting beside Mary, she requested her to relate the circumstances that led to her unfortunate arrival upon these shores.

"Five months ago," said Mary, "I left my American home, and accompanied my father in his own ship, leaving my mother and two sisters in my native city. The pain of parting was soon allayed by the interesting incidents of the voyage, and the new scenes we witnessed: the books my father took with him amused and instructed me, whilst the hope of soon returning to my friends and home banished all fear page 17from my mind, and I gave myself up to the full enjoyment of each passing hour. Four months glided by in undisturbed serenity, and when we sighted the northern point of these islands, coasting southwards, we engaged in the business of our voyage, namely, trading. My father's reverses of fortune compelled him to become a trader, yet they did not prevent him from exercise of a strict care in securing order and cheerfulness among the men under his command. In a few weeks of uninterrupted success we determined to proceed to Sydney: whilst on the passage, high and adverse winds beat us back, the winds grew stronger and more boisterous until they blew a gale, which continued for three days: to lighten the ship, much of her valuable cargo was tossed overboard, the masts were next cut away; the boats were rendered useless, as they were stove in by the waves as they swept over the decks. The crew were quite exhausted with the hardships which they underwent; all hopes of life abandoned us on the third morning, as the ship sprung a leak: the men stood by the pumps, until, worn out with unceasing toil, the poor fellows fell on the deck, only to be washed overboard by the terrible sea that was then running; to add to our distress the rudder broke, and so became useless. As the day advanced, we page 18perceived that we were nearing land: mercy was asked from Heaven; the interposition of Divine Providence was tearfully sought by the surviving seamen; the sight of land was hailed with a joy, alas! only momentary in duration, for a dark line of rugged rocks was seen amid the wild breakers that lay right in our helpless pathway: on these black-stone heaps we must soon enter a yawning grave; the mountain billows that broke the ship's rudder swept my father overboard. One, whose memory I must ever cherish, then lashed himself and me to a spar in the hope that when the vessel drove upon the rocks we might chance to be driven ashore: such we trusted might be our good fortune, as the ship was carried in a straight line toward the lowest portion of the reef. I can never forget, nor can it ever be obliterated from my mind, the extreme tenderness that beamed from the eyes of the man who stood by my side, dressed in scarlet flannel blouse and blue trousers, one arm supporting me in my ill-concealed terror, whilst with the other he brushed away a tear that stole down his cheek; nor can I ever forget the unwonted courage that braced up my heart, when the last moments came, in which the ship smashed on the rock, and when, with a swift bound, he shot off the parting timbers on the back of a foaming billow, and we were page 19carried clear of the stony ridge: then I heard his voice rise above the thunder of the elements, as the brave man shouted the well-known watchword, 'All's well!' I remember no more."

"Tell me," said Ena, "Who he was that was lashed with you on the boom."

Mary answered, "He was mate of the ship, and my affianced husband. When we returned home, we were to have been married, but that day I shall never see."

At the recital of the fate of her first and her only love, Mary's sorrows flowed afresh. She pressed her face on the bosom of Ena, whose soft dark eyes filled with tears that fell on the fair ringlets of the poor pale face. Mary wept bitterly, while the girls bent their heads on their breasts, and, with hands clasped on their knees, chaunted in a low and melodious voice a wail for the early dead. Although Mary did not understand the burden of the lament, yet she felt its soothing effect. When the wail was ended, she asked for an interpretation of the melody, which Hinema gave her as follows:—

All thy sorrows, gentle maiden,
All thy griefs so dark and drear,
Claim our pity; thou art laden
With Death's cold and gloomy fear.
Tears are falling,
Sprites are calling,
Calling us to smooth the bier.
page 20 Ever round thee, gentle stranger,
May a charmèd circle cling;
Ne'er may pain or envious danger
Fix on thee their venomed sting.
Tears are falling,
Sprites are calling,
Calling us Death's wail to sing.

When the words had been communicated to Mary, and whilst her tears were still flowing, a knocking was heard at the window. One of the slaves arose, and opened the shutter, asking who knocked; she received answer that Ena's brother wished to be allowed to enter the whare. But Ena would not grant him permission to do so, deferring until the morrow an interview with her brother. To this arrangement he expressed acquiescence; the slaves then withdrew from the whare, leaving Mary, Ena, and Hinema together for the night.