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Ena, or, The Ancient Maori

Chapter XXXIV. Journey To Taupo

page 244

Chapter XXXIV. Journey To Taupo.

"Sadness ought not to dwell in danger,
Nor the tear in the eye of war."

The parting scene between Hahaki and his young friends was tender and affectionate to the utmost degree; the heart of the old seer was nigh breaking, so intense were his sufferings in thus parting with the head of his once illustrious tribe: to exchange farewells with Raukawa ere he departed on his journey, Mahora desired that he would come to the whare where she lay, and there the affectionate old creature besought him to bring back the lovely Ena and her gentle companion, the pakeha, mournfully adding that she would, in that case, die in peacefulness and contentment.

Their leave-taking over, the two chieftains, in the dress of common tribemen, set out on their perilous undertaking.

page 245

After a few days' nursing, Mahora recovered from her bruises, and by that time many of the escaped fugitives from Wairauki had reached Titai pah: at the request of Hahaki, Kikirema lent him a few canoes in which to transport his tribemen to Kapiti. In these vessels there embarked the remnant of the Wairauki hapu, without women or children: all of these latter, save Mahora, perished on the battle-field, or were carried into Wairauki as slaves.

Hahaki and his charge arrived safely on Kapiti, and then sorrowfully dispersed themselves among the people there, endeavouring to forget their subordinate position, and giving up all hope of future power. The old seer, with his wife, shut himself up in the seclusion so compatible with his ascetic calling, and soon grew into repute among the islanders, where we shall leave him, to follow Raukawa and his friend.

Profiting by the experience gained and imparted by Pani, the travellers were enabled to make steady progress, and after suffering much privation from want of food, they came at length in sight of Taupo lake: this was to them a scene of unwonted grandeur and beauty. As their journey was drawing to a close, they had leisure to make some arrangements as to what disguise they were to adopt, or what pretence to page 246make to deceive the people of Pukawa, in order to obtain a residence amongst them. Raukawa agreed with his friend that since they knew exactly the position which Waiki and his allies occupied in the affairs of the country, and how much of the attention of the tribes was given to predatory movements, they could not adopt a better plan, and one more likely to succeed, than that of representing themselves as belonging to Waikato and employed by Waiki to return to the tribes there, to solicit reinforcements for the future conquest and occupation of the lands of the Mauopoko; also as being ordered by the Ngatiraukawa chieftain to make Taupo on their route, and bring express orders to Te Tukino that his prisoners were to be taken the greatest care of. This expedient adopted, the chieftains boldly entered the pah, and were soon the centre of attraction to large numbers of the people: the arrival of strangers is always regarded as no ordinary event, but when it was known whence these came and what their errand, the news was on every tongue. When the travellers were taken before Te Tukino, he questioned them with a minuteness so perplexing that they feared their interlocutor suspected they were not what they pretended to be. However, having with care and adroitness satisfied the chief, page 247they were allowed to remain in well simulated indifference, moving freely amongst the people, and even accompanying fishing parties on the lake and taking a share in the ordinary occupations of the tribemen. So ready were they to assist and to advise, that in a short time they had so insinuated themselves into the good graces of the hapu that they both became universal favourites. This point gained, they assiduously set to work to gather information concerning the prisoners: they learned that Atapo and his comrades were kept under strict watch, but they could not see them, nor dared they make the attempt. As for Ena and Mary, they were, it appeared, on the island Motutaiko, with Te Tukino's wife Poro, whither she had been taken to benefit her health. When the invalid returned to the pah, it was determined to remove the prisoners to the island, as there they would be safer than on the mainland, and would require no guard.

In a few days' time Poro, attended by Ena and Mary, returned to the pah: as they came ashore from the canoe, Raukawa and Te Koturu were on the strand and saw the girls, but did not think it prudent to make themselves known; but as they entered the pah, the young men followed and ascertained where they were lodged: it was a secluded quarter of the page 248enclosure, where several large gnaio trees shaded the whares in which the chieftain Te Tukino and his family lived, and here the captive girls were kept. During the day the fair prisoners freely moved wherever they chose; but at night they slept in a whare with several of the women belonging to the chieftain's household. On the afternoon of the day in which Ena and Mary returned to the pah, both went outside the whare to enjoy the sunshine, as was the custom: they had not been long there before they were seen by Raukawa and his companion from a little distance, where both were watching for an opportunity to discover themselves to the objects of their search: walking leisurely up to within a few paces of the girls, lover and brother were soon recognized by Ena through their disguise; but, restraining herself, she notified to Mary who the men were that approached, at the same time cautioning her to seem indifferent to them, so as not to excite suspicion. Ena and Mary advanced to meet the young men, but with so much seeming coldness and indifference of manner that even those women who were in sight took not the slightest notice of them. In few and hurried words the misfortunes of the hapu were told—the present was gloomy, the future equally so: to escape from Pukawa would be easy, but whither page 249should they go? Kapiti alone remained to them, and to this, the consummation of their hopes and fears, their souls turned with yearning affection and unceasing solicitude. Not daring to remain long with each other, they separated, promising to meet again in the same place.

On the following morning Te Tukino ordered a war-canoe to be launched, in which Atapo and his comrade captives were to be taken over to Motutaiko: Raukawa asked and obtained leave from the chief to go, accompanied by Te Koturu, along with the other paddlemen, in the canoe to the island. The prisoners were led down to the shore and placed in the vessel, and, when their arms were pinioned, Raukawa managed to get a seat beside Atapo: the unfortunate captive recognized him, and with tearful eyes gave silent proof of the intensity of his feelings: to hold a conversation was impossible, but a few words explained to the captives how matters stood with the exiled chieftains. Atapo's grief was perceptible to his companions, who also recognized their chief; but all prudently forbore betraying the discovery. When they were about midway between the island and the Pukawa shore, a sudden gust of wind swept from the mountains down upon the lake: this alarmed the paddlemen, as they feared a coming page 250storm: anon the wind rose among the southern ravines and valleys, and broke upon the bosom of the lake with increasing force and fury, lashing the water into short tumbling waves crested with white foam, so that the utmost strength of the paddlemen was engrossed with keeping the canoe to its course: as the wind increased in violence, the lake presented a picture of sublime terror, and the prisoners begged to have their pinioned arms set free, while Raukawa urged the reasonableness of their request, inasmuch as they might then assist at the paddles, or, if the worst happened, they would have the chance of swimming for their lives. To these entreaties the Pukawa men were deaf, although their own continuous exertions at the paddles were fast exhausting their strength. The water rose in blinding showers of spray, obscuring the view of the mainland and the island; the paddlers became confused, and it was with extreme labour that Raukawa and Te Koturu kept the canoe baled: at intervals the island was visible, but it was evident to Te Koturu, who was well skilled in such matters, that the vessel was drifting about, and not making any progress in the direction in which the island lay. A few muttered words fell from the lips of one of the Pukawa men who sat near the chieftains, to the effect that the lake taniwha Horoma-page 251tangi was drawing them slowly and surely up into his cavernous mouth: once there, destruction would be their inevitable doom; and this conviction forced itself upon the others, who were now willing, but too late, to undo the lashings that bound their prisoners' arms; for the canoe was tossed to and fro, a mere plaything on the water, which came over the sides so fast that the united efforts of the crew could not keep it afloat: lower and lower it sank in the water, until at length a heavy squall, accompanied by a series of rolling billows, overwhelmed the vessel, with its living freight, who clung to its sides with the tenacity of drowning men. Raukawa and Te Koturu, with quick presence of mind, kept firm grasp of a paddle which each had fortunately in his hand at the moment when the canoe sank. In the water they disengaged themselves from their swimming or drowning companions, and kept themselves afloat by the aid of the paddles, and by swimming. The gusts of wind now abated their fury, and the water subsided as quickly as it had risen: whilst the chieftains were thus exposed to the uncertainties of their fate, they saw their canoe floating bottom upwards, with a few men clinging to it; thither they struck out, and reached the vessel only in time to save their own lives, as they were nearly exhausted by their exertions to keep afloat. Great was page 252their joy when they discovered that the island was not far off; so, clinging to the canoe, they rested for a time: then, pushing the vessel before them, they swam behind it, and so made their way to the nearest point of land, on which, in a short time, they safely landed, and succeeded in righting the canoe. The wretched prisoners sank like blocks of stone to the bottom of the lake; and the two chiefs and five of the Pukawa men only escaped with life. As the lake was now calm, they set out on their return without further delay: as they approached the mainland, the sun shone out with renewed splendour, shedding a marvellous effulgence over the entire scene, transforming, as if by magic, the late disturbed face of nature into a picture of peaceful loveliness; throwing a veil of extraordinary sweetness over the landscape, and limning every object in

"A flood of such rich dyes
As make earth near as heavenly as heaven."

The fate of those in the canoe was anxiously watched from the pah when the storm broke on the lake, so long as the view was unobstructed; but the clouds of spray obliterated the object of vision, and the canoe and its passengers and crew were given up for lost: the shore was consequently lined with an excited throng of women, children, and warriors, who came to welcome and to mourn.

page 253

The details of the accident and the marvellous preservation of the survivors were minutely described: the loss of the prisoners was little heeded, and that it had been witnessed by the two visitors was a fortunate matter for Te Tukino (so, at least, he thought, and warmly congratulated himself on the fortunate coincidence), but the loss of those who belonged to his own tribe was long and tearfully bewailed.