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Ena, or, The Ancient Maori

Chapter XXXIII. Mahora And Pani

page 231

Chapter XXXIII. Mahora And Pani.

"She sat alone;
She heard the rolling of the wave.
The big tear is in her eye."

Wearied with their exertions during the combat, the Wairauki chieftain and his companions, as soon as they were assured that their pursuers had withdrawn, sat down beneath the shelter of the fern trees: for some time neither spoke; indeed, their sorrows were beyond the relief of oral expression, and words could scarcely convey an idea of the depth or intensity of the calamity that had fallen upon them. From sitting, the three men threw themselves on their faces upon the ground, and there sobbed themselves to sleep: like weary children, the hardy warriors succumbed to the wants of nature.

It was not yet daybreak when the tohunga awoke and roused his companions: after exchanging a page 232few melancholy words, the party set out on their journey toward Titai. About the same time, Waiki roused his slumbering warriors, and busily prepared to return to Wairauki. Their prisoners were examined, and those of them who were able to walk were dispersed among the ranks of their captors, while those who were badly wounded, or feeble through age or fatigue, were inhumanly butchered and decapitated, and their bodies hidden among the tall fern. The sun had risen ere this work was completed, and the sweet rays of morning stole over the cruel scene through openings in the forest trees, painting the ferocious features of the warriors with its golden light, and soothing the first sad moments of slavery to the unfortunate victims whom war had given into the hands of iron-hearted masters. No loud cries were uttered: instant death was the meed of any who dared to raise a voice. Silence, not broken by even a sob, sealed up the bursting broken hearts of the enslaved prisoners: one short half hour sufficed for these preliminary preparations, and then Waiki moved rapidly toward his camp and captured pah: no molestation was offered as he retraced his steps, though a few fugitives lingered on his line of march through the forest, endeavouring to ascertain who and how many were the prisoners.

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The morning was somewhat advanced when Hahaki and his two comrades came in sight of Titai Bay: they had travelled straight to the seashore, fearing that they might lose their way during the gloom preceding the dawn, and hearing the booming of the ocean, they had wisely altered their original intention of travelling by the forest paths: they had thus emerged on the sea-beach, which they followed in a southerly direction, leading them on direct to the object they had in view: ascending the precipitous clay banks that rose above the beach, they were soon observed and welcomed.

Te Koturu related to Kikiremu the story of his friends' and his own late misfortunes; sorrow and tears and unavailing regrets were freely indulged in, but Hahaki implored the chieftains to be calm.

"Cease!" said he: "think of our women and children: the bones of the feast He around the oven mouth. Give us warriors, that we may avenge their deaths!"

To this oft-repeated request Kikiremu replied that hitherto he and his hapu were permitted to live in peace, that he had no liking for war, but would allow as many of his tribemen as chose to accompany the chiefs in their search for their wounded, and to recover and bring together their scattered people.

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To Raukawa's oft-urged request that Hahaki would remain at Titai, on account of his age and the late fatigue he had undergone, the tohunga was deaf: he must, he insisted, accompany them. A band of fifty men volunteered to enter the forest in search of the dispersed fugitives. As the Titai men knew the forest paths intimately, they led the way, and a little after mid-day reached the scene of disaster: here they discovered the mutilated bodies of the dead; to identify the remains was almost as hopeless as the task was fruitless, for Waiki had, in every instance, carried off the heads of the slain to adorn his triumph.

While the heartbroken Mauopokos were investigating the scene of battle, they were observed by some of their own fugitives, and were joined by many of those unfortunates, who had lingered near the scene of conflict after their dispersion, in the hope of rendering some assistance to their less favoured tribemen: in this some few succeeded, and, among others, Mahora, wife to Hahaki, was rescued from a perilous situation: the old woman had taken command of the women and children early in the fray, but when she saw how matters were tending, she attempted to lead her charge away from their temporary fortress, in the hope of saving themselves by a timely flight; but in this she was forestalled by the quick general-page 235ship of Waiki: ere she had retreated many paces, Waiki and his warriors were upon her, and, surrounding her feeble charge, drove them back. She then, with wonderful presence of mind, fell forward upon the ground, and there lay as if she were dead, while the enemy trampled upon her, not heeding her nor waiting to spear her, as she lay to all appearance lifeless: this stratagem cost the old creature much pain, for she was repeatedly trodden upon by the warriors as they rushed past in the avalanche of death. When her people broke and fled, and not before, the old woman ventured to leave her self-imposed durance: she would then have rejoined her unfortunate charge, had she been able; but she was severely bruised after the first onset of the enemy passed over her: when at length she saw that the slaughter was going on in another part of the field, she crept away into a small hollow near, where the tangled Kuriwæ and drooping ferns afforded a safe hiding-place: here she was joined, late at night, by a fugitive from the battle, a poor wounded fellow, who remained near the old prophetess, and who, collecting a few berries, sustained life in Mahora, until he had the good fortune to observe the search-party; whom joining, he immediately guided Hahaki to the place where his wife lay, suffering from the pain of her many page 236bruises. To meet the faithful partner of his youth, the being who never faltered in her love and watchfulness toward him, under such painful circumstances, was a sore trial to the priest; but there was no time for regrets: placing her in a simple litter, between two, he directed that she should at once be conveyed back to Titai, there to be nursed by the women.

Raukawa and Te Koturu now conversed more freely on the aspect and outlook of their affairs: the former now homeless and tribeless; the latter, in generous sympathy for his friend, warmly declared that until he rescued Ena from her captivity he likewise would be a homeless wanderer.

While the young chiefs were superintending the interment of the bodies of their mutilated dead, a few more of the runaways from the battle rejoined them: these had, by a common instinct, remained near, in the hope of meeting with friends. Scarcely a wounded person, escaped, save Mahora and the man who discovered her, and who was the means of restoring her to her husband. The murderous industry of the Ngatiraukawas was as diligent as it was cruel, and all of the Mauopoko hapu who returned to the scene of combat were the young and the vigorous.

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When the last rites of decent burial had been observed, the search-party returned: whilst on their way home to Titai, and just as they came in view of its fences, the tohunga noticed to his companions that an unusual commotion was going on outside the pah; this, as the old man surmised, was the arrival of some unexpected and unknown guest; and when Hahaki and his company drew nearer, they understood the cause of the agitation. A few of the Titai people had been down to the shore, gathering shell-fish, when they were accosted by a stranger, a decrepit old woman, who asked them for information concerning Hahaki and Raukawa: the people led her up to the pah just as the search-party were emerging from the forest. Hahaki recognized the old woman at a glance for the missing Pani, her who had left Wairauki the day after that on which Ena and Mary fell into the hands of the enemy. There was much silent speculation at the time of her disappearance, but none ventured to mention the fact of her absence in the public ear of the hapu.

When the poor tired old outcast had rested a little and refreshed her drooping spirits, she told, at the request of Hahaki, the following brief narrative:—

"When the Ngatiraukawa carried off the gentle Ena and her companions, I determined to follow page 238them, confiding my intentions to Mahora alone, who encouraged me in the design; and the morning after the terrible storm that followed the death of Te Rangitukaroa and the loss of his daughter, I left Wairauki before the sun had risen: travelling slowly, but seldom resting, I got as far as the swamp pah on the evening of the first day of my journey. Many were the plans I pondered in order to deceive my late friends, the people among whom I had spent the greater part of my life: but fortune favoured me, and when I came near to the fences I was met and accosted by a few women who were returning from the seashore to their homes in the fortress: these pitying me and recognizing me, they told me that my husband had died some time previously, leaving me free and unfettered in my future actions: I immediately resolved on making a pretence of having returned to wail his death, which gave me a passport to an unsuspected residence in the pah. In this I succeeded fully; the garrulity and the forgetfulness of the women saved me from the discovery that would otherwise have followed my reappearance among the people of the tribe. Now, I did not know, nor could I easily have learned, that my husband was dead, unless some one among themselves had previously told me; as it was, I industriously performed the usual page 239prescribed period of mourning, and this so entirely dispelled all suspicions, that when the mourning was ended I was at liberty to carry out my secret mission, and soon made the acquaintance of Ena, the pakeha, and Hinema: they, however, were carefully watched, and were not allowed to approach the palisades of the pah; nor were they left a moment alone, a few women remaining by turns with them by day and night. With a little contrivance I managed to be one of those to employed; but my conversations with Ena could only be held at night, when my companion watchers were fast asleep: a large whare was given up to our use, and none but the women dared to enter it: on several occasions we talked over the possibility of escape; but the vigilance of the sentries and the wakefulness of Waiki effectually debarred us from making the attempt.

Atapo and his companions were kept in close confinement, and with him I could not even once speak.

Ena suffered much when she learned that, with her companions, she was to be sent up to Taupo: we knew that the actions of Waiki were conducted so carefully and so secretly that it were sheer impossibility for you to learn anything of the fate of your friends. With the young man Horo I had had several conversations: from him I learned why he left page 240Wairauki, also how basely Hinema had deceived him, and how treacherous and cruel she had been to her young mistress. Before Ena was sent to Taupo, he had determined on escaping from the pah and endeavouring to return to his own tribe. His fate you already know; and it was not until that event had taken place, and Waiki sallied out of his pah in pursuit of you, that I could follow Ena in her enforced wanderings.

"When the swamp pah was left almost empty on that occasion, unnoticed I stole out of the fortress, and, taking the route by which I saw the prisoners and their escort enter the forest, I followed, under unnumbered privations of hunger, pain, weariness, despair, and the weaknesses attending old age; I struggled onwards, and reached the destination of those I loved, the long-sought Pukawa pah. My long and unceasing toil had worn me to a spectre, my appearance won for me the compassion of the people among whom I now found myself, and, after attending to my wants, I so far recovered my strength as to be able to tell my improvised story:—that I had lost my way in the forest, where I had been out gathering berries, and that I had wandered for weeks, living as best I could, until I reached their pah, reduced to the state in which they beheld me: this tale answered all my hopes, and I was thenceforth free to page 241go where I choose, and was not long before I made myself acquainted with the circumstances in which Ena was placed. Here, as in the swamp pah of her captors, she was under the surveillance of the women, but was allowed more liberty: the pakeha girl was becoming more contented; and the traitoress Hinema had been espoused by a youth of the pah.

"After a week's rest, during which time I had undisturbed opportunities of discoursing with Ena, I resolved to return to Wairauki. In this she encouraged me, as she said, in the hope that I might be able to tell her people where she was, and also of her determination to escape from captivity, when a suitable opportunity offered.

"Atapo was separated from the few comrades who were left to him; and from him I learned that he still had hopes of getting away, and of returning to his own tribe.

"I set out from the Pukawa pah one evening, when the men were on a fishing excursion on the lake; and, after undergoing a similar journey in returning as I had previously in going thither, I arrived in view of Wairauki as Waiki and his men were scrambling down the cliffs after you: cautiously I followed, and, passing the pah, I followed the sea-shore, choosing rather to keep by the sea, where I had a chance of obtain-page 242ing food, than to enter the uncertain forest-paths. Toward night a small party of men passed along the shore, whom I overheard say that the Mauopoko were dispersed and most of them killed: these men were travelling in the direction of Wairauki, and I knew by their voices that they were of the Ngatiraukawa. Sick at heart, I knew not what to do or whither to turn: all night I remained among the rocks by the shore, and, when morning came, I travelled onwards, not knowing what people occupied these lands. When I descried this pah I approached it, and, with no little joy, I find myself amongst my friends."

Raukawa and Te Koturu listened with fixed attention to Pani's narrative. Then, taking Hahaki into their council, they asked the old seer if it were not better for them to go up to Taupo and endeavour to rescue the prisoners, as, under the present circumstances, little hope remained to them of being able to collect together the remaining members of the hapu so as to be able to drive away the enemy. To this Hahaki agreed, hoping to hold together the returning fugitives, and, with them, go over to Kapiti, and there remain during the absence of the chieftains.

The young men again heard from Pant a minute description of the paths through the forest; and they carefully noted all her instructions, as where to page 243ford the rivers, what mountain peaks to keep in view, and how to avoid the few inland pahs they were likely to come in sight of.

As the evening fell, a few more stragglers from the battle of the previous day came into Titai, and were cordially welcomed by the chieftains: the few preparations necessary for the long journey before them were made by the young men; then, retiring for the night, they rested until the morning light roused them to action.