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Poenamo
Book the Fourth - Chapter V.
Waiting in Expectancy


Taihoa had now killed off the three weeks in which the house was to have been finished, and it was little more than half-finished. And so it came about that our little garden gave forth quite refreshing green signs of life, and we began to have misgivings that the very potatoes we had planted might, by the virtue of taihoaism, be ready to dig before the dining-room was finished in which we hoped to have eaten them.

And we began to wax impatient—very, for we wanted to have the house out of hand so that we could then get Te Tara to take us in his large canoe across the Hauraki to Herekino, for we craved to see Waipeha and learn some news of the outer world.

It was now some six weeks since we had communication with our fellow-Pakehas in the land, and we began to wonder what had transpired about the movements of the Government and the capital where was it to be fixed?

Te Tara had given us a half-promise to take us, but upon our pushing him home on the point, and asking him to make a start, he caved in and declined. The fact was he was afraid to go, for although the Maori tribes were then at peace, still in the days of which I write there existed amongst them a strong mistrust of each other, and the Ngatitais being but a very small tribe, it would not have created any very great sensation if they had all been eaten off the face of Maoridom.

So our friends deemed prudence the better part of valour, and preferred staying where they were in the flesh to running the risk of being converted into that article for foreign consumption. and only living in the spirit.

So taiho did yet greatly prevail and great was the dawdling over the whare.

We grew so hungry for some news of the outer world that we seriously mediated an attempt to paddle across the firth in our little canoe. But we should have been obliged to wait for a calm day before venturing, so we ultimately caved in, even as Te Tara had done, and acted the prudent part, and had to be content to do taiho as to finding our way to see Waipehma at Herekino.

Taihoa got so completely the best of it that while we were waiting our potatoes and pumpkins and melons all made their appearance, carpeting the ground and showing great promise of not far-distant prolific results. And our cookhouse was finished and 'dabbed" to completion before the mansion was finished, though even in spite of the length of the taihoa that the natives took, that even approached almost to completion.

And all these great improvements were good and pleasant to behold, yet they satisfied us not. Many would have rejoiced over such a life "devoid of care," but that figure of speech means something very akin to stagnation, and makes one think of lying on the flat of the back basking in the sun, and dropping macaroni into one's mouth under Italian sky. And life devoid of care is not the motto on the banner which leads onward. It was not in us to lie basking on the sunny shore of Motu Korea and make the Maori taihoa the burthen of our song.

There was to be a future for Maoriland under the Pakeha, and we were craving to know when the first page of its history was to be written—query was it not so already? And so we unkindly denounced the Ngatitais as very stupid and tiresome. at being frightened to paddle us over to Herekino, though we admitted they were very good fellows for coming to build us a house.

But relief came when we least looked for it, for one day we heard the exclamation from a thatcher busy on the roof of the whare, "The Pakelia haeremaite boat haeremai." So we sang out, "Hurrah, news at last!" Yes, news at last, for here was Puma coming, so we were saved the risk of drowning ourselves on route to Herekino had we gone in our own canoe, and the Ngatitais were saved the risk of being eaten had they taken compassion upon us and taken us in theirs.

Pama had brought us a welcome supply of "trade," which was the term then used to mean a stock of goods adapted for trading with the natives— which we had ordered from Sydney, and which had arrived to Waipeha's care. We were now in a position to pay all our debts—the old Kanini for the island, Te Tara for building our whare, and we had now the means of buying the necessaries of life in the shape of pigs and potatoes whenever considerate aborigines visited us with intent to barter. The island, however, was not as yet lying in the great thoroughfare of commerce, for we had to tell Puma that we had never seen one single canoe, far less a boat, pass it since the day we had landed.

But Parna brought us startling and cheering news, of a kind which promised ere long to rob our little sea-girt possession of any claim to being a solitary place, and far from the haunts of men, for it was soon to lie on the very threshold of a future populous neighbourhood.

The Government had discovered the harbour of the Waitemata, and the capital was to be built upon its shores!

"We twa" shouted a wild hurrah when this welcome news fell upon our ears, and we began acting something like the "Hielan fling," and if we did not hug Pama it was only because we were afraid the Maori lookers-on might think we were seized with some cannibal intent towards our countryman and pay us a similar compliment.

Yes, the panorama from the crater-summit of Remuera had been gazed upon by other eyes than ours since we had stood on that spot last autumn. The governor of the colony had stood there, and it now and for evermore became known to Pakehas as Mount Hobson. He had looked down upon the isthmus, stretching from sea to sea, and only the question of whether the new capital should be higher up or lower down the Waitemata remained to be decided.

When we were busy digging out our canoe in the forest of Waiomu we little thought our anticipations regarding the future of the isthmus were to be so speedily realised. While we were at work a survey cutter had been lying quietly at anchor in the Waitemata, and a survey of the harbour had been completed; and Patha went the length of saying that the very spot on which the future capital was to be built was already fixed, and that no long time would elapse before the plan of the town would be commenced, for the land had been already already purchased from the Ngatiwhatuas.

I suppose there had not been any squabble over the fag-end of a potful of soup, and Te Hira had not been in the sulks, and the very land which we had wanted to purchase for "the town that never was" now belonged to the Government. And so it turned out that Te Hira's sulks had been a fortunate thing for the township-site-hunters, for had they dealt with the natives for the land they would only have got into a squabble with the Government, and certainly would have gone to the wall.

Pama was going to the Te Hira settlement, so in a day or two, on his return, we should get all the news from the Maori fountain-head—from the actual sellers of the land.

The next time "we twa" passed round the crater edge, on the summit of our island, how buoyant was our step, and what an enhanced value our little domain had acquired in our eyes.

Great was the suspense in which we were kept until Pama's return, and great the disappointment he brought to us, for we had been discounting the situation too prematurely, and had a sudden comedown from our high hopes.

Yes, alas! the Ngatiwhatuas knew nothing whatever about the capital; no purchase of land had been made; they knew nothing of where the Pakeha town was to be.

What they did know was only this:—A small vessel had come come into the Waitemata, that Pakehas had landed at Orakei and gone to the top of Remuera, and that they had gone away again after sailing all round the harbour; that afterwards another smaller vessel had come, and had kept sailing all round about and through the harbour, and a small boat had pulled into all the bays, and that a long time had been spent doing this, and then one morning the vessel was no more to be seen; but as the natives had all been away at Mangore kumera planting and shark-fishing, this was all they knew, gathered from an old woman left at the Orakei settlement.

And so we had to conclude it was very much like the old story of one's neighbour settling all one's business and knowing all about it better than one's self, and we were left to draw what conclusions we chose as to the "capital to be."

So we discounted our new situation to the following conclusion:—That the "capital' question had faded away towards the end of the year; that we must be up and doing, and not tahtoa-ing and. letting the fern grow under our feet; that the only one thing we could do was to stock our island with the only edible animal that existed in the land, and which, of course, would be in demand as soon as there was a capital and citizens to inhabit it, who would require supplies of daily food.

So we determined to convert the island into a pig station—make a pig-run of it; and in due course of time we might look forward to being able to paddle our own canoe, with our own reared pigs, to a capital market, somewhere, we hoped, in sight of our own island.

We told Pima, on his return to Waiou, to send a message to a certain Pakeha who owned a small un decked schooner to find his way to Motu Korea, as we wanted him on a pig-purchasing expedition; and so away went Pama.

Our mansion was now approaching completion, and only wanted the second coat of raupo lining, when one day a canoe arrived with a message that the Ngatitais must put in an appearance somewhere or other at a "tangi." Some stupid old woman had gone to explore the Maori bourn, and had to be duly tangied over.

This summons was imperative; the rapidity with which our friends bundled their traps and themselves into their canoe was enough to make any one believe they had for ever forsworn taihoa, and expunged the word from their language. They made such precipitate "tracks" that we could only get one word out of them when we anxiously demanded when they would be back to finish their work, and that one word, what could it be but—"Taihoa?"

And that taihoa remained taihoa for evermore. They never came back to finish the house, and it never was finished.

Strange events happened that caused us never to require that that house should be finished, and it never was either by us or any one else.

We had hoped to have got hold, of a Ngatitai boy to remain with us and do our hewing of wood and drawing of water for us, but it was no go, they all would go; one was going to have the initiatory tattooing of one side of his nose begun, another was going to have the tattooing of the other side of his nose finished, and so we were left all alone to get on as best we could, to collect our own drift-wood, to draw our own water, and practically test of what mettle we were made, and to what account we could turn the "cookhouse" we had ourselves built, and of which we were ourselves to be the cooks!


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