The Ancient History of the Maori, His Mythology and Traditions: Tai-Nui. [Vol. IV]
Chapter V. — Ponga And Puhi-Huia. (Nga-Ti-Kahu-Koka.)
Ponga And Puhi-Huia. (Nga-Ti-Kahu-Koka.)
’Tis fruitless love for the beloved:
But where is the obsidian stone,
That I with it may cut
The tattoo-mark now on my skin?
How jarring to the ear,
The tingling news oft heard!
I, as a fish, am severed
Part from part, and like that fish
Upheld to be on altar laid,
Where gifts to gods are made:
Yet my two hands
Will ever clasp my throbbing heart,
Which trembles as the leaf of kahakaha plant.
Oh! hold for ever thy fond love for me,
The sacred power of which, and mine,
Are more than midnight offerings
Made to gods for noble dead.
O peak of distant hills,
Now seen far in the south;
And those of Tau-whare
So dim, far in the north;
Where oft I sat and watched:
Now hid by passing cloud,
And darkened by the shadow
Of the western seud, and cold,
Revolting, clammy fog.
Come, welcome, Hoki; come,
the news that I
Shall throw me into
Spirit-world's cold air:
That, crushed with fell despair,
I may not live, debarred
By mountain-range the presence
Of my own, my only love,
Whose fame and comeliness
Are sung in song by Ati-rangi
With upheld taiaha (the baton Of the brave alone). But I, I only am the maimed
And bruised, and cast as worthless far away.
In the days of ancient time the Nga-ti-kahu-koka were a brave and numerous tribe, and occupied the district from the entrance of the Manuka (anxious) (or Manu-kau) to the entrance of the Wai-kato (high water) River. They occupied many stockades (pa), some of which were on the peaks of the hills; others were built on stages erected in the lakes and swamps which are situated between Wai-uku (clay used as soap) and the Maioro (ditch outside of a pa). But the principal pa or home of the tribe stood on the peaks of the hills Puke-tapu (sacred hill) and Titi (Pelecanoides urinatrix), which were inland; and the stockades (pa) occupied by those who procured fish for the tribe were at Awhitu (sorrow) and Tipi-tai (skim along the sea), near the entrance of Manuka.
Some of this tribe occupied pas inland of Wai-uku, at Tewhakaupoko (the head), Titi, and on Te-awa-roa (long creek). At Te-awa-roa the pa occupied a mound or hill in the midst of a koroi (Podocarpus dacrydioides) forest in a swamp, on the east in passing from the Wai-kato River up the Awa-roa Creek to Wai-uku. This was usually occupied by those who procured eels for the tribe, but is in these days used as a burial-place for the illustrious dead, where it is said Pou-ate (steadfast liver), Papaka (crab), and Te-niho (the tooth), progenitors of the Nga-ti-te-ata Tribe, are buried.
This tale is in respect only of the tribes which resided at Awhitu and Tipi-tai.
In ancient times the tribes descended from those who came over in Tai-nui, and occupied Maunga-whau (hill of the Entelia arborescens, Mount Eden) and Awhitu, were in continual war with each other. These wars had their origin from disputes about fishing-grounds in the Manuka Harbour, and shark-fishing off Pu-ponga (trumpet made of the ponga — Cyathea dealbata). The Nga-ti-kahu-koka Tribe claimed these fishing- page 117 grounds; and the Nga-iwi Tribe, who occupied Mount Eden, claimed them as their right as the senior family of the tribe. When those of Mount Eden went to fish they were attacked by the Awhitu people, and those of the Awhitu tribe were attacked by the Mount Eden people, whenever they went out to fish, in which attacks many on each side were killed, and thus a continuous hatred was felt by each tribe toward the other.
But at various intervals the counsel of the old chiefs in each tribe would prevail, who advised peace to be made between them: then each tribe would fish on the disputed grounds in company with the other. But at times, when fishing at Pu-ponga for shark, some of the canoes of one of these tribes would not succeed in taking any shark, thus causing jealousy on their part on account of the quantity of shark taken in the canoes of the other tribe. The younger members of the non-successful party charged the successful ones with witchcraft, as the cause of their not taking any shark. Now, at the time they all agreed to make peace the various fishing-grounds were apportioned to each tribe, so that if either party failed to take fish on their fishing-grounds these blamed the other party for having bewitched the fish in the part where they were fishing.
Another cause of anger on the part of the young people of Awhitu was that the Mount Eden Tribe claimed to be descended from a senior family of those who came over in Tai-nui, and this caused these young people to be more daring in their acts of aggression on the Mount Eden people, which at times culminated in blows, and war was again proclaimed between these tribes.
But in one interval of peace the young people of these tribes exchanged visits, in which they engaged in the ancient games of haka (song with a dance), kanikani (dance with a sawing sound), niti (a game of throwing a fern-stalk along the ground), poroteteke (stand on the head, with the legs straight up in the page 118 air), mamau (wrestling), ta-kaihoteka (whipping-top), andtu-matia (game of the art of fence and defence with the spear), and many other games of those days of old. But these games were not then joined in by the old people, but were exclusively enjoyed by those of the young men and women who visited each other from the two tribes, who simply went to visit each other without the usual presents taken by the old members of a tribe on such occasions. If these visits had been by the old people of the tribe, each one going in such a party would have taken presents to be given, each to his or her near relative, which would have consisted of topuni (dogskin mats), kaitaka (mats with broad border), pounamu (greenstone), and all that was considered valuable in those days, which each would have carried in his or her hand to be presented so soon as they entered the pa of their hosts. But on the occasion of these visits by the young people to each other the custom of taking presents was dispensed with, as they could plead the excuse that their youth prevented them from possessing such things; and it was only when chiefs were of considerable age that they were honoured by the chiefs and relatives with the gift of such valuables.
Now, in the days of peace between these tribes a party of young people of Awhitu proposed to visit those of Mount Eden. They were young, but of that age when young men were to be tattooed, and when their age gave them a right to speak in any council of the tribe. In those days the young men and young women of the two tribes saw each other. The daughter of the head chef of the Mount Eden Pa was a noble-looking young woman, and had not taken a husband. The young people of Awhitu held a council, and determined to visit Mount Eden, on which visit they saw the daughter of the head chief of Mount Eden, who was called Puhi-huia (plume of the huia— Neomorpha gouldii), and each of the Awhitu young men secretly said to himself, “She shall be my wife.” In the visiting party from Awhitu to Mount Eden there were many young chiefs, but only three of supreme rank. page 119 Ponga (Cyathea dealbata) was one of the party, but was of junior rank, and did not hold high rank as a chief among his associates.
Again, a time came when all these young people from Awhitu proposed to pay another visit to Mount Eden, which intention was laid before all the Awhitu tribe, and was agreed to by those who had become of mature years. This proposal was made in the winter; and, as they had time to prepare those things which young people can procure by their own labour, each obtained the bark of trees, and grasses, and moss to scent oil or dog's fat, to present to the old people of the Mount Eden tribe. Winter was nearly passed, and Mata-riki (Pleiades) would soon appear, when the earth would be warm. The kowhai (Sophora tetra-ptera) would bloom; the hutu-kawa (Metrosideros tomentosa) would also in time be in full flower. Then, when the time came, these young people collected the berry of the miro (Podocarpus ferruginea), and from them extracted scented oil; they collected the moki (long-leaved low-growing fern), ake-rau-tangi (Dodonia viscosa), karetu (Torresia redolens), and all other grasses or mosses used to scent oil or fat in ancient days: these were in the present instance made to scent the oil of the miro (Podocarpus ferruginea), tangeo (Tetranthera calicaris), and kohia (Passiflora tetrandra).
Ponga was a tautahi (the only child of his parents): he inquired of his mother how to use the bark of trees, and grass, and moss to scent the oil. He was a man of noble conduct, and not fond of much speaking, and very industrious, and displayed the mind of an industrious man in regard to the produce of his crops, much of which was given to those who needed. When his mother heard the question of her son, she asked her friend, the other wife of her husband, to assist to make the scented oil for Ponga.
When the rata (Metrosideros robusta) was in full bloom, and Mata-riki (Pleiades) had passed the meridian of the sky, and autumn was near, and when the kumara-crop had been taken page 120 up and placed in the storehouses, the young people of Awhitu determined to pay the intended visit to Mount Eden. All the other young chiefs of the party had a supply of presents for their friends. As these were of superior rank, an order from them was sufficient to procure scented oil or other small matters from the lower class of the tribe: these therefore collected their taha (calabash) of scented oil, scented belts made of the karetu (Torresia redolens) grass, plumes of albatross-feathers, and the tail-feathers of the huia (Neomorpha gouldii); but Ponga had only those trifles which his mother and her friend had made for him, which he took in his hand and embarked in the canoe, and with the others of the party launched forth and paddled up the Manu-kau (all birds) waters towards One-hunga (light sandy soil). At the time these ardent self-sufficient young men with whom Ponga was going were collecting the scented oil and other trivial things, some of them boasted how they would gain the love of Puhi-huia, whilst others taunted their associates with jesting remarks as to the effect which their presents would make on the affections of Puhi-huia. One of these, when going in the evening to the whare-matoro (house where games were played, and where the young people of the tribe slept), was heard to say, “O friend! how amusing is the conduct of so-and-so [mentioning the name of a young female], and how various are the presents which she is taking with her, as though her flaunting manner and her presents will gain a husband for her at Mount Eden !”
The young woman named by the young man replied, “Then why do you take the albatross-feathers which adorned the head of your ancestor who died at Kawhia, and plume your head with them? Do you think, as you are going to Mount Eden, that those albatross-feathers will add to your beauty as you toss your head to and fro,—that Puhi-huia will admire you, and that you will thereby gain her love?” Thus they jested each with the other till sleep that night silenced them all. But in all this Ponga did not utter one word. The one ipu (calabash) of scented oil which he carried in his hand was taken to oil his page 121 hair when he should join in a game of haka.
There were thirty-five [seventy] young people who proceeded on the visit to Mount Eden, including some slaves as attendants; and the female puhi (betrothed young women) had their own attendant young females. They crossed from the south side of Manu-kau (or Manuka) to Pu-ponga (trumpet of the Cyathea dealbata), and paddled up to One-hunga.
In those days Mount Eden was a large pa with thousands of warriors, and a great many houses therein, with outposts all around. Great and many were the kumara-pits in that pa; and each pit or storehouse for the kumara had its own name. The great or principal pa had an extensive marae (courtyard), which was situated on the top of the hill on which the pa stood; and on the east end of this stood the whare-matoro (house where games were played by the young people). The whare-manuwhiri (reception-house for strangers) stood on the west side of the marae. The maioro (embankments for defence) of that pa were high and great; and the pekerangi (outer fences of the stockade) were high and strong, with houses close up to the maioro all round the pa. The spring of water which supplied the occupants was on the north of the pa, down on the flat, on the road leading from Mount Eden towards the Too [a little pa occupied by fishermen in the fishing season, situated on a point jutting out from the west side of Freeman's Bay], which spring was never known to be dry, even in the hottest summer.
The canoe in which the young people embarked was approaching One-hunga, and was seen by some of the Mount Eden people who were there gathering pipi (cockles), who waved their garments, and with loud voice welcomed the strangers to the shore. They landed, and guided by the cockle-collectors they proceeded to Mount Eden, and, when seen by those in the great pa, were welcomed by waving of garments, and the old chant, “Come, O stranger from the horizon.” They went on over the hard scoria flat on the east of the pa, and ascended the page 122 hill by a path that led from the Tiko-puke (Mount St. John) Pa, and sat down on the marae (courtyard) of the pa, where speeches of welcome were uttered by the chiefs and answered by some of the young men of the guests. Food was cooked, and a feast given to the strangers, which the senior in rank of the young people apportioned out amongst themselves; but, in view of the games in which they were to take part in the evening, all ate with feigned gusto, pretending [which was according to custom] that the feast was of the most delicious flavour; but they ate little, lest they should be drowsy and feel corpulent, and thereby detract from the agility needed in the coming games, and lessen the praise of the onlooking crowd of the Mount Eden party, who would expect to see those engaged so agile that they could move their bodies as though the waist of each were cut in two. After the feast they sat wondering when evening would come; also the people of the pa felt the same query pass through their minds; but the people of the pa were incited to this thought by seeing that all their guests were young men and young women who could excel in the haka and kanikani games. Such games were ever held at night, when the old people of the pa (in this instance) might not join, so that the young folk could continue their sports till dawn of day. It was usual for the young people only to join in these games, whilst the old people were the audience; and, when these games took place in the whare-matoro (house for games played by the tribe at night), the old people could not take offence if the games were kept up till day dawned, as such house was exclusively used by the young people; but if the games were played in the strangers' house (whare-manu-whiri), which in many instances was occupied by the old people and in which they slept, and as the aged often pass their time at night in talking, the games might be interrupted by a request from the old people for the young folk to withdraw.
Evening came at last, and all the inhabitants of the pa collected on the marae, where some of them arranged page 123 themselves in lines, and played the game of haka; but Puhi-huia did not at once join the party, but waited her time when she could take up a position in front of the haka party, and display her art of making grimaces with good effect. She thought she would not join in the haka till they had gone so far in the game when each should shake the hand, bow the head, and sing in perfect chorus: then she would join, and display her agility in the game. The sport went on; all the players were in perfect sympathy of action, and of chorus in voice. She joined them. Bowing her head from side to side, she made the most perfect grimaces, her eyes shining like a full moon. Seen by the young men of Awhitu, they became lost in admiration and love of her; but Ponga silently and to himself admired the agility and noble contortions of body exhibited by Puhi-huia, as he felt a most inconceivable love for her: but not one word did he utter to his most trusted friend. The other young men of the party talked of and lauded the beauty of Puhi-huia, and her agility in playing the haka: all were lost in love, and each dared to say that he would obtain her as his wife.
The Mount Eden people had given their haka; and now the Awhitu visitors must in return give a haka to their hosts. In this all joined; even the vassals who had attended their female masters were allowed to join in the game, and with the chiefs of high rank, to give an effect by an appearance of numbers, and to add a volume of sound to the chanted songs. The lines of the players were arranged, the game commenced, all slapped their hands in unison, but Ponga kept back till an opportunity was favourable to obtain a place in the front line of the players. All the people of the Mount Eden Pa were the audience. Ponga nimbly jumped forward and took a place in the front line of players, and, bowing his head first on one side, then on the other, moved his hands and body in perfect unison with the other players in a more polished and noble manner than they, which caused the audience to applaud his fine performance. At this time Puhi-huia was sitting with the crowd of onlookers, page 124 and watching the admirable performance of Ponga, till her heart became quite bewildered in love with him, and possessed solely by a resolution that he should be her husband, and a desire to try and get as near to him as possible. But how could she do this? If she went near to him her tribe might say she had forgotten her dignity, and had lowered herself to the grade of the common people, by deigning to sit near the offspring of a younger branch of the family, and had brought discredit on herself as the daughter of the head chief of the Nga-iwi Tribe.
When the evening shades deepened into night the young people of Awhitu took the presents they had brought with them, and each gave his or hers to their relatives. But those of the Awhitu people who were higher in rank, being the offspring of an elder brother than the ancestor of Ponga, presented the feathers of the huia, plume of albatross-feathers, and an ipu (calabash) of oil scented with the taramea (Aciphilla squarrosa), to the head chief of the pa, the father of Puhi-huia; and these young chiefs were invited by him to sleep in the house occupied by his family. Ponga and others of their party slept in the house in which strangers are entertained.
Whilst the Mount Eden people and the guests slept soundly Ponga was restless, being tormented with the thought, How could he get near, and be in the presence of Puhi-huia?
He meditated long, but could not devise a plan by which he could be near to Puhi-huia, and thereby somewhat appease the ardent longing of love for her by being in her presence. He had long lain silent and still to court sleep, but in vain; and he rose and went out and sat on the marae. At the same time by accident his attendant rose and left the house, and, seeing Ponga (whom he did not at first recognise) sitting in the courtyard, went towards and sat down near to him. Ponga asked, “Who is this?”
The attendant answered, “It is I, your slave, whom you order.” page 125 Ponga said, “How strange that I am not able to sleep in that house!”
The attendant said, “You have overfatigued yourself in the haka, and in making grimaces: but, as the proverb says, ‘He who fishes for the aua (sprat) can sleep, but the eel-fisher must keep awake.’”
Ponga said, “Yes; but it is also strange that I have lost all thought of Awhitu matters.”
“But,” said the attendant, “to what do you allude?”
Ponga said, “Having regard to deeds of past times I feel that I must be cautious in my conduct. The evils which in days gone by came on the people of this pa by the conduct of our tribe have not been avenged.”
“Yes,” said the attendant, “that is true; but we came here as guests, and are all quite young. What can rats do?”
Ponga said, “It is so; but the old proverb says, ‘Though the mokoroa (a grub that perforates the puriri tree) be a little thing, it can cause the big koroi (Podocarpus dacrydioides) to fall.’”
The attendant said, “Yes, but we came here for amusement, and are relatives of our hosts, and we presume on the fact that peace is made between the two tribes.”
“Yes,” said Ponga, “provided that all our party keep their hands from taking that which is not ours. If such were to take place evil would fall on us all.”
The attendant said, “Yes, such would be the case; but you, the chiefs of high birth, only dare to touch the sacred things of this pa. Such as I am would not venture to commit such an act.”
Ponga asked, “Do you mean, to touch and take—that is, to steal property?”
The attendant answered, “Not quite so. Property is property; but there is also such a thing as sacredness in property that has life.”
Ponga asked, “Do you allude to Puhi-huia?”
He answered, “Can the fact be hidden that the eyes of you, the noble of birth, glistened and flashed when looking at that page 126 young woman, more especially when she made grimaces in the game in which she took part ?”
Ponga said, “Friend, you speak the truth; I have become quite bewildered. Let us return to our home, lest evil befall me. I can see that those of our party who are my seniors in rank have fallen deeply in love with Puhi-huia, and, if I should gain her as my wife, death to me would follow.”
The attendant answered, “I must say sacred things are ever held sacred; but in the days of courting the restrictions of the tapu do not apply to those who follow their beloved.”
Ponga replied, “Quite so; but at our own home such liberty may be allowed to us, but not here where we are guests.”
The attendant said, “I would ask, were the houses of our priests sacred when the people of other tribes came from Ao-tea to court the young women of our tribe? Those I speak of came from a distance, even to Manu-kau. You are descended from the great of ancient days, and cannot be taught how a warrior should act, nor can you be schooled into the art of how to satisfy the palpitating one.”
Ponga answered, “I am perfectly dazed. I have not the power to think on any one subject.”
Thus these two sat in the dark of the marae, and for some time each was silent; but, as the attendant had a fear that his master might be led to commit suicide, he spoke again, and said, “O friend, I have a thought: do you hearken; and if you agree to what I propose it will be good; and, if you object to what I shall propose, you have the right to reject. Let me speak. Let us return to the house; and if you can sleep, well and good, and if you do not sleep it will be good; but be brave. Let your spirit live in you; food is food—eat it. Talk and laugh, and let the sorrow you feel be smothered by the power of your determined will; let it be kept hidden from the knowledge of others. On the evening of the coming day feign to be thirsty, page 127 and call for me; but at that time I shall not be near, but in some house far distant from the one in which you are, so that I shall not hear your commands. Call loudly, and order me to go and fetch water for you; but I shall not hear, and it will appear as if I were defying you. Your call may be heard by the mother of Puhi-huia, and, as you are her guest, and of high rank also, she may perhaps ask the daughter to fetch some water for you, which would not be degrading to her in consideration of your rank. The mother may say to her daughter, ‘O daughter, how can you sit still and hear our guest, Ponga, calling in vain to his slave to bring water for him? Can you not go and get some for him?’ And if the young woman obeys her mother, and goes for water, you can follow as she goes to the spring, where you two can talk. But if she goes for water for you, and you follow, as you leave the house let those within hear you say, ‘I wonder where my deaf slave is. I will go and seek him. How disobedient this slave is! It will not be long before I shall crack your skull.”’
Ponga listened in silence to all his attendant had said: then they rose and entered the house. All slept; the light of the coming day glimmered faintly, and day shone forth. When all rose the morning meal was cooked, and all but Ponga partook, but his attendant reserved and hung up a portion for him on a stage, and when he awoke it was past midday. Having partaken of this, he went to the whare-matoro, where he stayed till near sunset, and went and entered the house of the mother of Puhi-huia. He sat and admired her, while he listened to the conversation of the old people who were conversing about ancient history and deeds of battle. The sun had set, and games were being played in the whare-matoro; a kanikani was also performed in the house for the reception of strangers. Ponga did not go to either house, but sat moodily in the house with Puhi-huia, with her father and mother, and many of the old people of the pa.
These old folk were amusing themselves in rehearsing the history of the family from the days of their coming from Hawa- page 128 iki in Tai-nui: this history was given in honour of Ponga, to acquaint him with that part of their history. It was stated he was of a junior family of those who were descended from Hotunui. The old people rehearsed the acts of their ancestor which took place after they landed on Ao-tea (North Island of New Zealand), with the wars which were waged from the time of Hotu-roa to the days when he came into the Hau-raki (Thames district); the travels and deeds of Tama-tea-pokai-whenua (light son who travelled all round the land); and the acts of the Nga-ti-awa Tribe when in occupation of the district called Hokianga-o-kupe (the returning-point of Kupe), with those of Kauri (Dammara australis) and his migration to the districts of Tauranga and Tara-naki. The old men continued their rehearsals till some of the audience left and went to their own houses, and those in the house went to sleep. Ponga did not return to the whare-manuwhiri, but remained in the seat he had occupied all the day, and there slept. He awoke and felt thirsty, and called for his attendant to bring water for him, and said, “O you man! bring some water for me.” As the attendant was at some distance, he did not hear the command.
She answered her mother and said, “Rather you might ask, ‘Are not the weeds on the road gods, that I should not feel a dread?’ ‘Kuo is god of darkness and descendant of spirits.’”
Puhi-huia rose and took a kiaka (calabash) and left the house. She and her parents slept at the opposite end of the house to that at which Ponga slept. There was a door at each end of the house. As she left the house with a lighted kapara (torch made of the split wood of the decayed rimu—Dacrydium cupressinum—or koroi-tree—Podocarpus dacrydioides) in her hand, Ponga rose at the same time and said, “Let me go out to my deaf slave, who does not pity my raging thirst, whose soul will soon go along the road to Pae-rau (main road to the world of spirits).” These words he uttered were pure simulation, and only said to mislead those who heard them, and to prevent a knowledge of his intention to follow Puhi-huia. He had not any intention to seek his attendant to kill him.
He left the house, and followed the path the young woman had taken. He had not any knowledge of the road that led to the spring, but followed as best he could the light of the torch and the voice of Puhi-huia as she went singing a song to keep her heart brave, and amuse her ears with the sound of her own voice, and prevent spirits from touching her. Ponga followed on till she had arrived at the spring. She was in the act of pressing the calabash below the surface of the water to fill it, when Ponga came up and stood at her side. When the gourd was full she lifted it from the spring, and beheld a man standing near to her, whom she recognized by the glare of her torch; but she did not utter a word, and stood still for a short time. Then she said, “What did you come for?”.page 130
Ponga said, “I came to obtain a drink.”
She answered, “I came for water for you. Then why did you not stay in the pa? and I would have taken it to you.”
He answered, “My word in regard to thirst is true; but my thirst is that of the heart, and it is from within that I feel a longing for you.”
She heard his words, and thought, “Why, he loves me!” They sat down and talked. Ponga said, “My home at Awhitu is famed for its fish and shellfish; but your home has only fern-root.”
She said, “We have fish in our pa, which is obtained on the west coast, and on the east also—that coast of which the proverb says, ‘The coast where a female may paddle a canoe.’ And our pa has fish sent to it from many parts of every seacoast.”
He said, “Yes, you may have much food in your pa, and peace may reign there; but what food does the heart obtain ?”
She said, “Quite so: maybe at your home the young chiefs of highest rank delight themselves in sports.”
He said. “That is true. Then return there with me, that you may behold and join in the delights and games of that place.”
She said, “That I may look at what? I have seen you.”
He said, “If you can think as I do, you can go back with me when our party returns.”
She said, “The matter rests with you; but on the night preceding the day of your return command your friends to go to One-hunga and cut all the fastenings which hold the top-sides on our canoes, and keep your canoe well out and afloat, so that when I leave with you there will not be any canoe available in which our people may pursue us.”
They agreed as to the day when he would return home, and she took the calabash of water and ascended the hill to the pa; but she said, “Go in front of me; go quickly, and arrive first at the pa.”page 131
He entered the house, and asked, “Has any water been brought for me?”
He was told, “Not any,” and said, “I have not been able to find my slave: thus he has saved his skull from being cracked by me.” He was still talking when Puhi-huia entered at the door on the other end of the house with water in a calabash. Her mother remarked to her, “How long you have been!”
Puhi-huia replied, “Is the road so short? and does the sun shine, that you should wonder at the time I have taken? I told you that Kuo was god of the night.”
The mother said, “Take the water you have obtained to your junior relative Ponga, who has felt the pang of thirst so long in waiting your return.”
She took it, and, as he was a chief of rank, he could not drink directly out of the calabash, but placed his hands together to form a cup-like shape: she poured the water into them, out of which he drank, and was satisfied.
The Awhitu young people stayed at Mount Eden till they had played at all the games known in those days, and agreed to leave the pa and return home on a certain day.
The night preceding the day on which they were to leave, Ponga said to his attendant, “Go to your associates and tell them that I command you to go this night to One-hunga, and near dawn of day cook food, and wait for us; but also go and cut all the lashings that hold the top-sides of the canoes of the Mount Eden people—do not leave one canoe uncut, and take our canoe out so that she may be afloat, and keep her so. Now, this is what you shall say to your companions: I (Ponga) have heard what the old people of the Mount Eden Pa have said, which was spoken in the house in which I slept, when they were giving the history of Kupe, Hotu-nui, and Tama-tea-pokai-whenua, and also that in which all the wars of Wai-kato are given, and in regard also to those which relate to the battles between the descendants of those who came here in Tai-nui. Now, when you get to our canoe let her be kept afloat, and let those of our party who shall arrive at One-hunga embark at page 132 once in the canoe, and let each take his or her paddle and sit in readiness to use it, as we shall start for our home so soon as I come to you; but wait for me, as I shall be the last to leave the Mount Eden Pa, that I may be able to learn the intentions of the old people of that pa in regard to our party. Wait, be cautious, and let your suspicions be alive, so that we may start in a hurry, and that we may arrive safely at home at Awhitu. Hence I have told you to cut the lashings of the top-sides of their canoes, in order to prevent our being pursued by them.”
The attendant went to his associates and gave them the commands of Ponga. On learning the purport of the orders, they were struck with fear, and rose at once, and that night in the dark went to One-hunga; and at dawn of day they took action and carried out the command of Ponga to its full extent. When their own canoe was afloat they embarked and waited for Ponga and his associates.
Ponga and his friends waited till the time came which he had specified to his attendant, as he had said, “When the sun rises let food be cooked, and we shall be with you.”
When they had partaken of the morning meal in the Mount Eden Pa Ponga said to his companions, “Let us depart; the distance by sea is great; let us embark at once, so that we may cross the Manu-kau River by light of day. Who can assure us we shall not be attacked by a sea-monster if we have to cross in the dark?”
It was said there was a sea monster at the Manu-kau heads called Kai-whare (eat in the house), who at times attacked and wrecked canoes. On this account the words of Ponga were at once agreed to by his companions.
The young people of Awhitu rose, and girded their belts on ready to start. The people of Mount Eden assembled to utter words of farewell to them; and the head chief of the pa rose, and took his mere-pounamu and gave it to the young chief of supreme rank of the Awhitu guests, who in return gave his page 133 mere-pounamu to the old chief. These two meres were heirlooms, and it was in accordance with ancient custom thus to exchange such weapons between men of supreme rank. These two were in the direct line of descent from Hotu-nui, and by whom such weapons were kept. These heirloom weapons were kept by some of each head family for a time, and then handed those of senior rank of another branch of the tribe of the original owner or maker of such weapon. This exchange of weapons was a ratification of any terms of peace which might have been agreed upon by the tribes, and also a final pledge of the complete and genuine feeling of amity entertained by the young guests from Awhitu toward the Mount Eden people. Thus each held possession of the mere of the other.
When the ceremony was completed the Awhitu young people rose and departed, but some of the Mount Eden people accompanied them a short distance. The road the Awhitu party took was down the slope of Mount Eden, on the south side towards the Tatua (Three Kings), and thence on over the scoria flat to One-hunga. As the guest left the Mount Eden people came to the gates of the Mount Eden Pa and called the farewell— “Depart, depart, go to your home;” and as the strangers went on the people of the pa waved their garments as a farewell, but at this time some of the young people of the pa, including boys and girls, with the daughter of the head chief of Mount Eden, stood outside of the pa and waved their garments. But Puhi-huia went secretly to another spot with some young friends, laughing and in high glee, knowing she would not be discovered by the people, and stood and waved her garment, and, walking on, followed the young people of Awhitu. When she had gone some distance from the pa her father saw her, and, calling her, said, “O girl, come back. It is only the insane who go to a distance as you now do, when guests depart from their hosts. You will be called a girl of low birth.” She may have heard the voice of her father, but she did not heed page 134 his command, as she had determined on a certain line of action, and would not relinquish that on which her heart had determined. Her female friends at once came back, in compliance with the command given by the father of Puhi-huia; but she went on slowly at first, then hurried, and when she had gained the scoria-flat she ran, and, like a flying bird, went fast over the ground. Driven by the power of her love and the great longing of her heart, she flew to him with whom all her affections were. On she went, and when near a great block of scoria, which hid her from the gaze of her people at Mount Eden, she hurried on, never looking behind. Ponga now saw her following, and his friends observed that Puhi-huia was following them in a hurried manner as if in fright. Ponga said, “This is wrong. Let us make less haste. Maybe evil has arisen in the pa after we left; or how can it be that the most noble of all in Mount Eden is following us ?” The Awhitu people waited for her. She came up to them and at once went to the side of Ponga, while her heart throbbed like the flapping wings of a bird. She said, “Let us proceed swiftly; life is in our power of muscle, and by this we shall gain the canoe.” They all went on “like the feather of a bird, driven by the wind,” or “like the weka (Ocydromus australis) which has escaped from the trap,” or “like the pingao (Desmoschænus spiralis) of the sea-coast, driven by the wind along the sandy beach.” All went on; men, women, and all went onward; nor did one feel fatigued. From their pa the Mount Eden people saw Puhi-huia join the departing guests of Awhitu, and each member of the tribe hurried to his weapon of war, thus affording time for Ponga and his loved one to pass farther beyond their reach and gain the landing-place at One-hunga, in the Manu-kau.
The Mount Eden warriors grasped each his weapon, but, as they were not in command of any leader, they ran down the steep on which the pa stood in a confused mob, each tumbling against the other in the hurry to follow the fleeing girl. Men, women, and children followed in pursuit; but, the growth of page 135 shrubs and grass partly closing the road, they stumbled and fell in their eager desire to capture the fugitive. But when those who had outrun their companions had gained the hill from which they looked down on the landing-place at One-hunga, Ponga and his companions had embarked in their canoe. When Ponga and his companions discovered that a party was following them they plied their paddles lustily, and made the canoe dart out on the stream like an arrow from a bow, and made the sides of the canoe to tremble.
When the pursuers saw their betrothed lady had gone with the Awhitu guests, at once they rushed to drag some of their own canoes into the water; and, as was the custom, a line of men and women collected along each side of the canoe to be dragged to the water; and a chief, to give the time that all might pull in accord, gave the word of command by repeating these words:—
“Move it, move it;”
to which the party dragging the canoe replied in chorus,—
“Slide on, slide on;”
and each pulled with all his or her might: but the lashings on each side of the canoe had been cut; the side boards came away and left the body of the canoe unmoved; the people and the side boards fell together in a heap, some of them falling flat on the ground and others on them. The youth were thrown to some distance; some fell heels over head, whilst others were held down by the weight of the side boards: these had their arms and legs bruised. Some of them rose, rubbing their heads, arms, and legs; but some escaped without any bruise and without having been knocked down. These, seeing the dilemma in which they were, addressed the departing Awhitu guests and said, “Go, go! but we will follow you. The sun will shine, and the sun will set, but we will be with you.” The guests paddled towards home, full of glee, and proud of the young woman of high rank who was accompanying them. Ponga's page 136 attendant felt highly gratified, as his lord had gained the daughter of the supreme chief of Mount Eden.
Ponga and his associates paddled their canoe far out into the stream to escape from their pursuers, who were still seen dancing and making grimaces of rage at them, and uttering threatening words of revenge and war.
Those in the canoe had not taken the seats to which according to rank and birth each was entitled. The young chief of supreme rank with whom the father of Puhi-huia had exchanged his mere was standing in the centre of the canoe, and encouraging his associates to be strong and brave. As Ponga was the last to leave the shore, in consequence he was in the stern of the canoe, and held the paddle that guided her in any direction ordered by the chief, who stood in the centre of the canoe. They had gained the bay at the portage of Te-whau (Entelia arborescens), when he who was standing in the centre of the canoe went astern and took the steering-paddle, and said to Ponga, “Go into the centre of our canoe and chant the songs to keep time for the paddlers.” Ponga was going, when one who was senior in rank stood up and chanted the songs to which the paddlers kept time, and Ponga sat down in the centre of the canoe, usually occupied by an attendant to bale out any water which might be in the hold. Ponga took a paddle and assisted to row and help the other rowers. Puhi-huia had been sitting in the whakarei (stern of the canoe), where those of supreme rank usually sit, and where the wananga [miniature temple of the sea-god, in whose care seafaring people place themselves] was placed. Such part of a canoe had been sacred from the days when the great canoes came from Hawa-iki, and hence those of junior rank or of low birth dared not sit there. Puhi-huia had been one of the last to enter the canoe: she sat there. But in the days of Ponga the wananga was not placed in river-voyaging canoes, but only in those which went out to sea; and in this temple the god was placed, to which the priests chanted the incantations. In case there was not a god in the wananga page 137 the incantations would be chanted to the temple itself.
When Ponga, according to the request of the young chief higher in rank than himself, went to the spot where the water was usually baled out of the canoe, Puhi-huia was left by Ponga at the stern, and thus was compelled to sit near to him with whom her father had exchanged meres. When the canoe was off Paru-roa (long mud— Big Muddy Creek), the young chief who was steering stooped down and drew out of his bundle the mere which the father of Puhi-huia had given to him, and showed it to her and said, “O young woman! there is your weapon, the weapon of your father, which was given by him to me. It is an ancient heirloom, and, as such, was given into my charge: accept it as your gift to our lords at Awhitu.”
She replied, “Am I a man, that I should hold such a sacred thing? It is for you, in the male line of supreme chiefs, to hold such things. I will not take it, lest in the days when evil befalls the people it should be said it was caused by the hand of a female having held that sacred weapon.”
He answered, “Accept it; and let it be a gift to our head chief at Awhitu, for your having run away from here, and having come in our company, who are your juniors in rank. Will it be right for you to go into their presence without a gift in your hand? Will it be right for you to go with the propertyless hand of a poor person into the presence of the head chiefs to whom we are now going?”
She answered, “Should there be an exchange twice repeated? No; all I shall take with me is that which I now possess. Man is man before decay has taken hold of him; but when decay takes possession of him the worms hold him, and disgust sits round him.”
He asked, “Who received the oil scented with rau-tangi (combination of scents) which was taken by our young people to your pa?”page 138
She replied, “Such was placed in the open courtyard as: property for all the people, and was shared in by the great and small; but I did not receive or accept any.”
He said, “I asked my question, as I thought your remark as to a ‘double exchange’ alluded to the scented oil.”
She said, “You are impertinently inquisitive. You can see, and have seen, that I came here with and am going also with Ponga; and I sat next to him in this canoe. Yet you ask questions.” She rose, and went and sat down next to Ponga. The canoe went on, and when off Pu-ponga he who chanted the songs to keep time for the rowers was full of glee, on account of having in their canoe a young woman of such supreme rank as Puhi-huia, who was the highest-born of all the tribe. The time-chanter, who sang to keep time for the rowers, in his flush of spirits gave an impromptu song of his own to the rowers. It was a calm day; not a ripple bubbled on the face of the sea; so that the Tipi-tai (skim over the tide) people could hear what was said by any one, even as far off as Pu-ponga. The timekeeper for the rowers sang these songs, with others of his own composition:—
Pull on; put the paddle deep.
How leaps my fluttering heart,
As flash of brightness
Gleams from out thine eyes,
O Puhi-huia! Pull on.
And this is also another of his songs:—
Though thy fame at Maunga-whau
Was spread and heard in distant lands,
Thou deignest to live at Tipi-tai.
They paddled on, and, when halfway across the harbour from Pu-ponga, again the young chief who was steering said to Puhi-huia, “O young woman! accept this, your weapon; it is the weapon of your ancestor; it is the famed weapon called Kahotea (white batten).”
She answered, “You hold your own weapon.”
He said, “I must therefore end my overtures of kindness to you; and we will not land at Tipi-tai.”page 139
She said, “You may ponder your thoughts, and I will ponder mine.”
He said, “Then let us cease our contention in respect to the weapon of your ancestor, which has been handed down through many generations. The hand of a low-born person shall not touch this weapon. It was offered to you as a gift from you to your ancestors at Tipi-tai, as a gift to bind the peace which has been made between them and those of your ancestors at Mount Eden. Peace was made in days of old, and there is food in the fish of the sea which we are now crossing; and you are not ignorant of the fact that death has come on many of each tribe because of these fish. I did think you would determine that such deaths and the cause of them should for ever cease; but now, O young woman, you have come to this section of your people, I did wish to put this heirloom into your hand, that I might have the honour of protecting you.”
She answered, “You, of us two, are the more ignorant. You have seen that I was in the protection of Ponga when we ran from Mount Eden to One-hunga; and you could not but observe that I came from where you now sit, and am sitting next to the one who is known to my heart, and whom my spirit embraces. He will be my protector.”
He said, “Then, do you say Ponga is to be your lord?”
She answered, “If so, what then? It is as you say.”
He said, “It is well; let it be as you say.”
She answered, “Who are you? And what is he, that I should not take him as my lord? And what can you do? Are you so sacred that you cannot work in the cultivations? Of such as you it is said, ‘The brave in war never lose their fame or power;’ and of such as Ponga it is said, ‘The brave to cultivate are but faltering braves.’ I and my heart have found one for ourselves; but, if evil does come, only death shall part me from Ponga.”