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Ena, or, The Ancient Maori

Chapter XXXVII. Mary, Mahora, and Ena

page 273

Chapter XXXVII. Mary, Mahora, and Ena.

"Pale she lies at the rock,
The cold winds lift her hair."

Mary had, since her arrival on the island, drooped in mind and body; for recent fatigues and privations had wrought their sad work on her delicate constitution, and a severe cold which she caught had taken hold of her lungs, and soon there followed premonitory signs of the first stages of consumption.

Mahora watched over her with the care of a mother; and when the first pangs of Ena's grief were passed, she also attended on the invalid, taking her out in the open air for the exercise which was so necessary to one in Mary's enfeebled condition. But her cough became more troublesome every day, until page 274in a very short time she was unable to leave her bed: inflammation of the lungs set in rapidly and with distressing severity, her nurses becoming the more loving and attentive to their meekly-suffering patient. After a night of calm sorrow and tender nursing, as the dawn was breaking, and whilst Mahora and Ena sat by the bed of the dying girl, she took Ena's hand in hers and addressed her in her usual endearing and affectionate manner. "Ena," said she, "you are to me a sister, a dear friend: such have you always been to me since I first knew you; I must now leave you, but I hope we shall meet again in yonder heavens, dearest Ena, where I trust we shall be united never to part. The Being dear Ena, of whom I have told you often, will take us to Himself; He has bought us from the world, and when we are tired of life and He calls us, He brings us home to be with Him for ever. Kiss me, Ena, I am entering the dark house. Ena, Mahora, farewell!" In heartrending silence the stately Ena kissed the pale lips of the dying pakeha. Hot and parching tears rolled down the withered face of Mahora, as she pressed the vermeiled cheek of the lovely being who had won her way to the grim and seared heart of the necromanceress. In a few moments Mary's spirit, without a struggle or perceptible effort, crossed the mysterious boundaries that so page 275faintly and yet so completely separate this world from the bourne which lies beyond it.

Ena's grief was overwhelming when Mary died, for the loss of the gentle and affectionate girl was keenly and passionately deplored by her: her sorrows, indeed, increased in virulence and bitterness. Lover, brother, and friend taken from her, her home ties ruthlessly severed, herself an exile—life had few, few attractions remaining for her: gloom surrounded her, peace was gone, no hope remained. In tearless, speechless misery, she hovered near the temporary hut that sheltered the mangled bodies of her lover and her brother until these could be taken to their last resting-place.

Sorrow mingled largely with the triumph the islanders had obtained over the marauding invaders, but the terrible thirst for vengeance which absorbed the better natures of the Kapiti hapu, served somewhat to allay the poignancy of their bitter grief: the heads of their enemies adorned the posts of the palisades, and the revolting ovens offered to the anger-dilated nostrils of the warriors the thrice welcome incense of the (to them) savoury viands prepared from the flesh of their enemies.

Hahaki and Mahora observed Ena closely, and watched her every action, dreading the remedy that page 276too often is sought by the native when in extreme mental depression, resulting from the loss of their best loved friends: now that Mary was dead, Ena's affectionate guardians feared that the worst consequences would result to her, the last object of their solicitous care and love.

Mahora obtained a promise from Ena that she would remain in her own whare on the night that Mary died, as the old woman had to assist her husband in the ceremonies necessary to be performed at the burial of the two chieftains.

When the cannibal orgies and the mourning for the dead were past, Hahaki had prepared the remains of Raukawa and Te Koturu for interment: in this sad duty, owing to his weakly health and failing strength, he allowed Mahora to assist him; and from her he learned all that had happened, and that she had obtained a promise from Ena to remain in her whare until she returned, which would be only a few hours at longest.

The moon gave her fullest light, small clouds of snowy whiteness and silvery radiance flecked the lovely vault of heaven; the hour was calm, and disposed the mind to reflection: the mild moon soothed the spirit, foreshadowing a calmer and a happier clime, as the ancient seer and his wife took up the page 277prepared remains of the departed warriors, each in its several parcel, and proceeded to the caves in which the islanders were accustomed, time out of mind, to hide their dead. These caves were in the rock on the south end of the island, and were of vast extent: the interiors of the caverns were rent in many places by deep chasms, through which the ocean sent his waters with a hollow sound, filling the listening car with gloomy suggestions, and transfixing the superstitious temperament with a dark and indefinable anticipation of death. The rent and blackened roof hung in pointed spikes of stone overhead; the cold night wind hurtled through the sharply-whispering passages, as the tohunga and his wife entered with their burdens; a few scafowl shrieked in terror as they wildly flew out from their roosting-places, whence they had been disturbed, and awoke the slumbering echoes among the cliffs by their oft-repeated screams. The mournful pair penetrated the cavern to its greatest extent, cautiously avoiding the treacherous crevices that yawned close to the precarious pathway; and when they arrived at the last chasm that rent the rocky floor, they each laid down their burden, and, lighting a torch, they sang a death-hymn. The weird music was broken by heavy sobs, the deep, dull thud of the black waters below in the fathomless abyss filled up the page 278interval, and completed the melancholy death-dirge to the manes of the departed. With his own hands the tohunga then gave the remains of the chieftains to the keeping of the spirits that were supposed to be in waiting below to receive them: he next took the burning torch from a cleft of the rock in which he had placed it, and, waving it several times around his head, pronouncing at the same time the farewell spell, he cast the flaming brand into the abyss: with a sharp hiss the fire went out, leaving the wizard pair in utter darkness.

The rites of sepulture over, the tohunga and his mate commenced their return. When they came in view of the entrance to the cavern, they saw that an object obstructed their egress, and, as they approached nearer, their alarm increased on perceiving that it bore an exact resemblance to a human being: terror seized the tohunga and his wife, neither of whom, in their superstitious fears, dared to advance one step further; so, cowering down on the black rock floor, they squatted closely enveloped in their flax mantles, with gaze intently fixed, but neither of them speaking a word. Their fears increased as the night winds howled through the corridors of the caverns, and joined their hollow voices with the deeper breathings of the rock-embowelled waves of the ocean: the page 279terrors of the watchers increased as the object of their fright was seen to sway and swing backward, forward, and from side to side, in terrible mockery of a playful mood: the dancer kept up its ghostly antics, and, as if to add to its soul-harrowing merriment, at times it would spin round and round in the giddy mazes of its midnight revels. Throughout the slow passing hours of the night, the tohunga and his wife watched with an unabated, and (if such were possible) a momentarily increasing fever of withering terror: when at length the dawn slowly broke, and its dim and uncertain light began to spread on the blue ocean without, the spectre of the night remained and grew into an object of a more and more increasing magnitude of size, probability, and intention. As the daylight became more diffused and brighter, Hahaki thought that he could discover the features of the intruder on the sacred places of the dead: for a short time he was busily employed in mentally analyzing the distorted lines of the facial expression of this object of his terror; but his mind almost broke down into a frenzied paroxysm of insanity when he discovered, on endeavouring to rouse Mahora from her position, that, although her open eyes and attentive attitude still preserved every semblance of life, she sat beside him a lifeless corpse.

page 280

Hahaki advanced towards the cause of his fright and of his latest sorrow, and discovered the cold and rigid body of the ill-fated Ena, suspended by a cord, in the firm and abiding embrace of death.