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Ena, or, The Ancient Maori

Chapter V. Morning

page 27

Chapter V. Morning.

"The blast of the morning came, and brightened the shaggy side of the hill."—Fingal.

Ena rose as the dawn softly flowed over the eastern forest lands; and, leaving her companions asleep, she left the whare. The pah was still wrapped in sleep, even the wakeful dogs were silent; but the birds, those silver-tongued minstrels of the wilds, were pouring from a thousand feathered bosoms the very magic of woodland melody. Ena stood to hear, and wept, she could not explain to herself why, as she listened to the birds' hymn to the morning. The heavens seemed to open above the bush, the mountain sierras, and the sleeping sea; streaks of golden-tinted cloud were strewn on the wide, expansive vault, whose foundations are laid on the white wings of the youthful morning: upon these clouds Ena page 28fancied she saw the footprints of aerial spirits, and, as they flitted from vermeiled vapour into azure vista, she was fain to think that occasional glimpses of their flowing hair could be discerned as they melted pensively from her view. The upper line of the sun's disc wheeled an arc of liquid gold over the distant horizon; and, with the velocity of winged fire, all animate and inanimate nature thrilled to the kiss of the virgin day. Hot tears welled over the bronzed cheek of the girl as she caught to her soul the indescribable loveliness of the first blush of the rising sun: the thrill, like all moods of bliss, soon and swiftly passed away. From her father's whare she saw her brother emerge, and as he caught sight of her, he approached to where she stood; she came toward him, and they met at a mound of freshly turned earth which immediately attracted Raukawa's notice: he stood in silence, and, as he took Ena's hand in his, she observed the effect produced on his mind at sight of the mound, and related to him the events of the preceding day. "This," she said, "is the stranger's grave; the body was wrapped in a mat and laid here in obedience to our father's order. You may remember that it was here Hahaki cast the reeds of divination, on the occasion of his last visit to the pah; and this mound renders the spot tapu."

page 29

Turning away, they walked in silence up to the sea-front of the fortress, and looked out over the calm, broad sea beneath. The island of Kapiti was within view, being not more than five miles distant from the mainland. On the highest point of the island could be seen the fences, earthworks, and whares of a war-pah. Columns of blue smoke curled up toward the sky from the numerous fires that were burning, as the morning meal was in preparation. With a deep-drawn sigh, Ena contemplated the distant island pah; and, turning toward her brother, who had also been looking toward the island, she asked him what message had Hahaki sent to the tribe. Raukawa repeated the old man's sayings with scrupulous care; at the same time admitting his own utter incapacity to comprehend, much less to unravel, the meaning of the involved periods of the sacerdotal message. "That," he continued, "there is an impending evil ready to fall upon us, I no longer entertain the slightest doubt. The conduct of the Ngatiraukawa, our inveterate enemy, certainly warrants us in assuming that blood and conquest are the objects of the raid begun by them since they drove us from our distant home beneath the shadow of snow-snooded Tarawaki." Ena listened to her brother with deep and fixed attention, and immediately explained to page 30him the meaning of the tohunga's parables. "The white pipe," she said, "evidently refers to the Pakeha maiden" (whom Raukawa had not yet seen), "and the other imagery refers to our hostile neighbours."

Whilst the brother and sister stood upon the summit of the cliff, their attention was drawn to a figure which slowly toiled along the rugged path that led by a series of diagonal lines from the beach below up the front of the fortress. Nearer the figure came, and soon Ena could distinguish the bearing as that of old Mahora, wife to the tohunga. She was bent with age and toil; her clothing was a white mat of carefully dressed flax, bound round her waist, and reaching to the knee; she carried a long staff in her hand to aid her in walking. When she came within hail of the pah, she uttered a low, moaning call, which reverberated from crag and cliff in an exceedingly musical succession of cadences. This call she repeated at intervals, with much variation of tone, harmony, and time. Ena caught up the strain, and answered with a wailing that caused the old woman to halt, clasp her staff with both hands, bend her head toward the ground, and so remain until the moment arrived in the melody when a repetition of the words adds tenderness and sorrow to the music; then Mahora, rising from her melancholy posture, page 31and, with her hands quivering above her head, beat time to the concerted music that she sang with Ena. The prolonged notes rang out over the sea and the bush; from the whares of the pah the inmates came pouring in silence, and creeping noiselessly up to the front defences, where they assembled to welcome their visitor. She came to tell the warriors that Hahaki had altered his previous intention of coming to the pah, and that they should come up to him as soon as the evening sun touched the horizon. This message formally delivered to her hearers outside of the pah, she then entered and saluted with a calm and dignified affection the beauteous Ena. Mahora was of tall and slender figure. In her hair she wore a single white tuft of albatross down: her lips were thin and firmly compressed: her eyes were of a dull, black hue, with a pupil of lustrous fire that literally sent a thin point of light through the beholder: her nose was of firm and bold outline, but age had reft it of harmony: her chin was of the orthognathous type; and when youth balanced with its fulnesses the proportions of the once majestic Mahora, hers was a countenance rarely seen, rarely surpassed. Tears flowed from the eyes of the umbered warriors as they beheld the wreck of the once famous Ngatikagnugnu beauty, the object of their old and time-steeled page 32affections. Theirs were the memories that harden and brighten with the flight of years, until the will and the action take colour and permancncy from their silent sway. The women cowed before her as the slave bends to the lash of his driver; the children peered fretfully at the being who never knew an infant's helplessness, nor cared for the love of children. When her compliments were paid, she left the pah, not having entered a dwelling there, and betook herself to her homeward journey.