Weeks later I learned that Rua had been fined five hundred dollars and costs for sly-grog selling in Waimana. As he pulled out a roll of notes representing from two thousand to five thousand dollars, he remarked: "I will see the Governor about this. To dog the footsteps of the fanatical warrior-prophet Te Kooti forty years before would have been a risky venture.
We were bound for Waioaka, a former stronghold of Te Kooti's, and now a shiftless-looking spectacle at the base of foothills, seven miles from Opotiki. It was Saturday, the Hauhaus' Sabbath, and we hoped to reach the pa in time for church. Many years ago, an old Maori told me, Waioaka was the largest of four pas that then stood in the immediate neighborhood, and had three thousand inhabitants. As Maoris are not noted for accuracy in furnishing census returns, that number of inhabitants probably was an exaggeration. Perhaps it included dogs and cattle; for the Maori loves a joke, and census enumerators not infrequently have learned that heads of native households have represented canines and livestock to be human beings, and they have been so entered.
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At any rate, the settlement's population was now little more than one hundred persons. There was nothing formidable in Waioaka's appearance as we drew near it. Only low, grass-grown sections of the demolished ramparts remained. There were no ditches to cross, no closely-set tree-trunks to scale, to reach the group of small one-story houses built around the carved house of worship.
Still there was a barrier, a sort of mongrel affair. It was a diversified fence, a fence in evolution. It was opened to us by a Maori boy. Near us stood a group of boys and girls with uncombed hair and loose-fitting clothes. Was it a Sunday-School class? No; these youths and maidens were merely waiting for dinner. As we drove toward the village square, an old man waved his hand to Tom, and came to meet us.
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He was clad in new overalls, a torn gray coat, and a vest; a cap crowned his head and unlaced shoes protected his feet. He shook hands with us. Following him came a large, barefooted man wearing a dark suit. Both were prominent men of Waioaka. Then we were called upon to shake hands with a woman in black. We accepted their invitation to sit down on the village green, and there told this volunteer entertainment committee why we had come.
Church was dismissed. The benediction or its equivalent had been pronounced at On Monday! If they don't go to church or don't pray at home, they are not doing right. A great many pray at home in Hauhau land, and on this day Waioaka could not be excepted. Where were the villagers? There were so few the place was lonely. Some had gone to town. Even Mary Hira, the chief woman of Waioaka, has gone to town to-day.
We were late for church services, but could we not do the next best thing, and see the church's interior? Yes, said the man in overalls, as he turned to lead the way to the wharepuni, which stood inside a fenced area, and had a flower garden in front. At one corner hung a little bell.
The building was old, with the exception of the roof, the outside carvings being decayed with age and dull with faded paint. Outside the inclosure was a meeting house of more modern appearance. Indeed, it was so modern that the carved figure at the front gable peak looked more like a Beau Brummel than a Maori warrior, although a mere held in one hand indicated warlike propensities. Passing under two long gable boards bearing carved representations of three noted Maori ancestors coming to New Zealand astride a great fish, our village guide opened a large wooden sliding window and threw back the heavy sliding door.
To do so would be a desecration. The wharepuni's interior was gloomy. It was a good place for solemnity. On the bare floor of the one large room there was not a single bench or chair. All around the room were carved wood panels, thick, and of various widths.
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Each of them, said my guide, represented a dead great man or woman. I wished to know why some panels were so much wider than others. So, after death, a Maori's greatness was measurable by the width of his memorial panel! Simplicity, like consistency, thou art a jewel! Why should not the memorial tablets of the Caucasian be modeled likewise? Each panel bore a different design, and between the panels, likewise differing from each other in pattern, were combinations of strips of wood tied to toitoi with narrow strips of flax and the tough creeper kiekie.
The wood and flax were dyed red and black, and the kiekie's bleach furnished white. At the bases of the posts supporting the roof were carved figures. One was an incongruous production, being such a mixture of ancient and modern styles that one would be justified in presuming that the finishing touches were made by a humorous great-grandson of the artist who began it. The remainder of the figure was painted, showing a black tie, a low black waistcoat, and black trousers and shoes.
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It looked as if the upper part had come from a Maori battlefield and the lower from a ballroom or a banquet hall of the twentieth century. As it was with this carved and painted pedestal, so differences distinguish the Hauhaus of to-day from their warring forefathers. About the same time its believers started a war against the colonials, and for seven years their war-cry of "Father, Good and Gracious," accompanied by right-hand passes and the cry "hau," was heard from Taranaki to the Bay of Plenty.
When they marched to battle a sacred party of twelve warriors preceded the army; and when in action bullets were rendered harmless, they professed to believe, by mystic hand and barking "hau. Chief of all the Hauhaus was Te Kooti. By his followers he was regarded as a demigod, and by the troopers, who were three years effecting his capture, he was admitted to be an accomplished Artful Dodger.
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He entered the Hauhaus' wharepuni, and as soon as his presence was known the meeting was placed in his hands, and he conducted it two days. As soon as he was gone, the Hauhaus reconvened. After all, was this liberality undisguised politeness, or a disguised desire to get rid of the missionary in a diplomatic way? Following our inspection of Waioaka's house of worship, Tom and I strolled about the village, entering smoke-stained kitchens, mat-carpeted sleeping-houses, and mouldy sweet potato pits.
In the native-built houses warmth seemed to be the main consideration.
That is why, looking into a sleeping-house large enough for two or three families, I saw that the interior resembled a smokehouse. The walls and ceiling were as brown as a cured side of bacon, and there was no apparent outlet for smoke excepting through open door and sliding window. When these were closed, the room was a capital place for coughs and inflamed eyes, as was many another Maori house of olden days, when a hole in the roof was commonly a substitute for a chimney.
Some of the sleeping-houses of Waioaka contained mattresses, but the majority had only flax and kiekie mats, under which bulrush was sometimes spread. Excepting one place, we were welcome in all parts of the village. The exception was the little cemetery on the hill. In their graveyards the Maoris do not, as a rule, want white visitors, I was told.
If these are stolen, say superstitious natives, the spirit of one whose body is thus dishonored cannot abide in Heaven. As we neared the close of our village sight-seeing an odor of cooking was wafted to us. Waioaka was preparing its noonday meal. Most of the cooking was done outdoors, in pots and on heated stones.
When the stones were sufficiently heated by the fire built around them all the ashes and unconsumed wood were raked away, whereupon vegetables and meat or fish were placed on the stones, and over all water was poured.