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Ena, or, The Ancient Maori

Chapter XXXVI. Attempt On Kapiti

page 263

Chapter XXXVI. Attempt On Kapiti.

"The wrathful delight in death:
Their remembrance rests on the wounds of their spear,
Strife is folded in their thoughts:
Their words are ever heard."

The fugitives suffered severe hardships in the forest. their food was principally berries and fern-root; the many rivers they came to gave them a scant supply of small fish, and the chiefs were expert in snaring the wild fowl that abounded in the swamps and in the depths of the forest; but the great difficulty in obtaining fire deprived them of the luxury of many a strengthening meal, which they sorely required during their exhaustive fatigues. They kept on, however, in the hope that they would soon reach the shore, and regain at length their hapu on Kapiti. From unceasing fatigue and insufficient food Mary's health was page 264visibly suffering, her strength was beginning to fail, and after one day's toilsome wanderings she spent the night in feverish wakefulness; when morning came she was unable to proceed, her brain throbbed with pain, her lips were parched with thirst, her skin was burning with an unnatural heat. Her solicitous companions constructed a comfortable hut, in which they placed her, and here Ena nursed her with a love that compensated for her lack of skill in the art of healing: the fever at length left Mary weak and worn. Profiting by their enforced rest, the young men collected a store of food of various kinds, and had the use of fire throughout the interval. A week had nearly elapsed ere Mary was able to proceed on the journey, and even then only by short stages: at times, when she was weary, the chiefs would bear her in a light litter upon their shoulders. They carefully shunned all localities that seemed to be the resort of any of the tribes through whose territories they passed; they kept strictly to the most unfrequented paths, and very often had to halt during the day in order to shun some real or imaginary dangers: rising at dawn, they walked until tired, then resting again, they set out; and thus they persevered until the sea and the island of Kapiti at last lay before them at a distance of another day's short journey.

page 265

The memorable swamp lay beneath the ranges on which the travellers now stood. In the swamp Waiki's pah remained; and as the chieftains looked down on the land below them, they could plainly discern that the swamp pah was still occupied. Now that their long journey was so near its close, the wanderers consulted as to the best way in which to obtain intelligence concerning the people of Kapiti and the doings of Waiki during their long absence from the scene of the enemy's operations. The young men again disguised themselves, then, leaving the girls in a place of shelter on the wooded ranges, they descended to the low grounds; and, in crossing the swamp, they came upon a small party of men engaged in eel-fishing: pretending to them that they belonged to a subsection of the Ngatitoa, who were well known to be favourable to the political views and rapacious intentions of the Ngatiraukawa, the chiefs learned that Waiki intended to attack Kapiti in a few days' time, and was busy making every preparation for the projected raid: having asked and obtained from the fishermen the nearest route to Wairauki pah, they parted from the unsuspecting enemy, and, retracing their steps, returned to the hill on which Ena and Mary had been left. That evening it was agreed to move down the ranges and enter the swamp, penetrate page 266through it as far as possible, and at dawd make the shore, and search for a canoe in which they might escape to Kapiti. As there was no time to lose, the party again moved on; and, after a short night's feverish rest, they came to the sea-shore at dawn, and there, shored on the beach, they found a small, but perfectly appointed canoe. In this they were soon afloat, and successfully made their escape. Te Koturu's joy was unbounded when he found himself at last returning with his loved Ena to his own happy home; but with these joyish thoughts there was a deep grief intermingled: the losses his friend and himself had sustained, the prospective troubles that were accumulating—these meditations weighed heavily upon the mind of the returning exile; but they only served to nerve his arm, and with an effort he shook off the sadness of his forebodings and wielded the paddle with increased energy. As they neared the well-known shores and entered among the sheltering rocks of the little bay, the overjoyed islanders crowded each point of vantage, and gave expression to their joy in loud and prolonged bursts of welcome, accompanied with the waving of green boughs: when the party landed and were conducted to the runanga or meeting whare, where old Hahaki presided, the old seer's feelings quite overpowered him, page 267and it was some time ere he could restrain himself: the girls underwent the same kindly welcome from Mahora and the women. When these bursts of joy and sorrow were expended, Hahaki and the tribemen heard from Te Koturu the dreaded news of the intention of the terrible Waiki. To put the outworks of their stronghold in a thorough state of repair engaged the attention of the warriors, and impressed the aid of the women. Matters went on quietly for a few days more, when one morning, early, a small fleet was observed approaching the island from the mainland. At the distance of half a mile or so from the island of Kapiti, there is a small islet, insignificant on account of its size, and toward it the canoes held their course: on these barren rocklets the canoes discharged their cargoes, which, as seen from Kapiti's overshadowing heights, were of armed men, painted warriors arrayed for the bloody conflict of life or death. When the warriors disembarked, the canoes returned to the mainland, and by noon were again in sight, bringing further freights of warriors and provisions: a small party in each vessel was next dispatched to recon-noitre the island; but this was done at a safe distance, as the islanders followed on the shore and cliffs in a line parallel with that of the canoes on the water. Waiki—for he was in command of the expedition—page 268determined to attack the islanders in the little bay so often mentioned in our story: and as it was opposite to the outlying islet, he could with ease take off almost all his forces at one trip. With this view the warriors under him embarked, and paddled slowly and carefully over the intervening water. Te Koturu and his friend Raukawa with their forces opposed the enemy's landing in a vigorous and determined manner: huge fragments of the overhanging cliffs were hurled down the steep face of the rocks, which gave Waiki great trouble, and threatened him not only with the loss of many of his men, but with the entire destruction of his canoes. However, the intrepid Ngatiraukawa effected a landing at the head of fifty of his men on a point of rock some little distance from where the islanders were drawn up to oppose the invaders: this was observed by Raukawa, who at once hastened to dispute the further progress of the chief: hand to hand on the rugged shore the two warriors met. In the eager impetuosity of youth, Raukawa rushed at his enemy, and, when within a short distance, he hurled his spear, which entered the thigh of the stalwart Waiki, and hung with barbed fang in the bleeding flesh: one of Waiki's warriors promptly extracted the heavy weapon; and, hastily binding up the gaping flesh wound, the bleeding chieftain calmly page 269awaited the further onslaught of his enraged opponent, who, with a bound and a cry for vengeance, sprang toward his antagonist, but when in the act of alighting on his feet, the treacherous rock broke into shreds beneath him, causing him to stumble widely, and ere he could recover himself the meri of Waiki sank through his skull as if the firm bone were only of the consistence of paper. While this was taking place, Te Koturu was hastening to support his friend, and arrived only to witness the sad termination of his career: with their native agility, the islanders clambered over the rocks, and, ascending what seemed a perpendicular face of the cliff, got immediately behind and above Waiki and his party, whence fragments of rock were hurled down on the astonished warriors Te Koturu, more cautious than his fallen comrade, merely stood his ground and firmly disputed the advance of the invaders: the Ngatiraukawa turned in a panic, and fled over the rugged stones in order to gain their canoes, and, while thus engaged, a large stone fell on the terrible Waiki and broke his back: for a few moments he writhed in the agonies of dissolution, when Te Koturu hastened up to where he lay and taunted him in his dying moments with his rapacity and his cruelty: then, burying his meri in the head of his quivering victim, the islander stripped page 270his prize of his arms, and taking these and the body of Raukawa up the rocks, he delivered them into the hands of Hahaki. For a time the enemy were checked, but the following morning witnessed a similar onslaught. In this instance the command of the invaders was under a Waikato chief named. Teroa: he landed at the head of a large number of men, two canoes coming into the bay side by side, and discharging the warriors who occupied them at the same instant on the narrow strand: again the islanders bravely defended their position, and hand to hand was again the order of the battle; Te Koturu was as agile and as gliding in his motions as his native lizard: the Waikato chief Teroa had witnessed his action toward the dying Waiki on the battle-scene of the previous day, and now singling him out for a mark, he directed his blood-stained progress to where Te Koturu fought at the head of his band. Teroa was supported by a faithful following of his own best men, and, ordering these up to support, he was soon face to face with Te Koturu: for an instant the combatants on either side stood still, and not a hand was raised, as the chieftains eyed each other, measuring with wolfish glances each other's capacities for blood and death. Not a word passed between them, and silence fell on all around: at this instant Teroa raised his spear, Te Koturu did page 271the same: shouts of exultation and revenge rent the air, hoarse, savage cries of passion rose from either body of the armed spectators. Teroa flung his weapon; it flew with the speed of light: but the agile islander stooped at the moment the hand of Teroa liberated the dreadful shaft, and it whistled harmlessly over Te Koturu's head, but mortally wounded one of his warriors who stood behind him: ere the spear reached its destination, and ere Teroa could entwine his meri thong on his wrist, that of Te Koturu clove the skull of his adversary. With a bound and an irresistible plunge forward, the Waikotos, on seeing the death of their leader, seized Te Koturu and literally tore his body asunder. For this, however, they paid dearly: a large rock overhung the strand, and from beneath it the Waikatos had warily kept aloof; but now they forgot it, with the danger it threatened; and, in the eagerness of the fray, they fought beneath it. A sudden shower of cyclopean fragments of rock fell upon them and crushed their mangled remains in terrible confusion beneath the feet of the industrious grave-diggers who stood on the cliff above. Panic seized the Waikatos and their allies: all ran to their canoes, quickly followed by the furious islanders; nor could they embark without sacrificing a large number of their men, who in the hurry and eagerness to escape page 272were left behind in the hands of the islanders: every one of those who had the ill chance to be deserted by their comrades were slain on the strand in sight of their retreating companions, who fled to the mainland, relinquishing, for the present, all attempts to take the strongholds of Kapiti. The canoes in one trip succeeded in conveying to Wairauki all who had escaped: their dead and wounded were numerous, and these remained in the hands of the islanders. The ghastly trophies of the fight ornamented the posts of the stronghold, and gave a grim satisfaction to the bleeding hearts there, as their own losses were severe, and prolific of future miseries to the suffering hapu.