The Web of the Spider
Chapter XVI. Te Katipo the Hauhau
Chapter XVI. Te Katipo the Hauhau.
The Maori approached the amazed group, and, dropping the butt of his gun on the ground, leaned his elbow on the muzzle.
"Who are you?" he asked, in his own language, regarding them with sharp brown eyes.
"Pakehas from the coast," said Palliser.
"Why are you here?"
"We have lost our way in the bush," said Palliser promptly.
The Maori stared from one to the other, his nostrils swelling with the madness of battle, his rough brawny bosom heaving.
"Where do you come from?" he asked.
"We have come from the Waikato, from the Matapihi, the window of the Maniapotos."
The Maori turned his head a little to the side, glancing askance with his eyes.
"That is the pah of Kaimoana," he said. "How did you escape that old enemy of the Pakeha?"
"It is a long tale," replied Palliser boldly. "There page 247is no time for it here. If you be Parekura, it is for you we have been searching."
"I am Te Katipo," said the Maori simply.
"Te Katipo or Parekura," said Palliser, "I know nothing of you. The woman called you Parekura. Behold, she is of the window of the Maniapotos."
Te Katipo twisted his sharp eyes on Aotea, who met them at first stolidly, then with a little shrinking. Gunshots were spasmodically cracking in the distance. The semblance of a smile crossed his face as he answered,
"It is true I was Parekura, but I have made a better name since then. Yet I am not ashamed to be called Parekura."
"If all is true you should be rather ashamed of Te Katipo," was Palliser's rejoinder.
"You are a Pakeha," said the chief, "and you do not understand. Come, we cannot stand talking here. You are my prisoners; you must yield to the power of the despicable Maori. You are in the hands of Te Katipo and his Hauhaus."
He smiled pleasantly, and waved the butt of his gun towards them in some sort of signal to his men, who advanced, a dozen armed stalwarts, upon them.
"It's no go," murmured Palliser in English; "we must yield."
"Yield, by God!" cried Foster, drawing his revolver. "Why, these are Hauhaus!"
Te Katipo smiled, catching the word.
"Hauhaus!" he said, with a nod of his head.page 248
"Put it up," said Palliser roughly. "I'm in command here. You'll have all our brains blown out."
Foster thrust back his weapon with a laugh.
"You're right, mister; I ain't in it this mess, though I could ha' cleared the ground a bit."
He patted Ida on the shoulder, as who should say she must be comforted, and turned a broad grin upon the Hauhau chief, who grinned back at him.
"I am glad the big man is persuaded," said the Maori. "He might have shot me. It would have been unpleasant."
Foster, who never could follow the Maori tongue, but had a clumsy method of his own in using it, broke out with an elaborate sentence—
"What are you going to do with us, you rat of the mountain?"
Te Katipo pointed southward.
"If the Pakeha strays into the country of the King he cannot escape. It would be foolish in the Maori. We must lock him up in our prisons, as the Maori is locked up in the ships of the Pakeha."
"You say well," responded Palliser, stepping suddenly towards him. "And I say the truth also when I say this. We have hunted for you a long time. We have crawled through the forest to find you. We have many questions to ask you. It is time, my friend," he said, throwing up his hands with a gesture of weariness and indifference. "We have been too long outside the door. Let us go in. If you will give us seats we will talk."page 249
Te Katipo surveyed him silently, and a sly smile crept round his mouth.
"You have spoken bravely," he said, and turned away. "Bring them," he cried to his men in tones of command.
In a moment they were surrounded, and marching in the care of the small band of Maoris towards the track. Half a mile farther down they waited to gather up the bulk of the victorious skirmishers, and then proceeded, some sixty strong, into a defile between two high hills. Through this passage, which was the better part of a mile, ran a creek of considerable volume in a black and stony bed. At the further end was a stretching open country, but immediately fronting the pass, where the stream bent round in a big hook, rose a smaller hill, barren of all but a few stunted ti-trees and sundry tutu-bushes. In all its height was no more than six hundred feet, whereas the twin brethren of the pass were five times that height, and in bulk proportional. The riverside of this hill had a westerly face, and the descending sunlight glittered upon it, revealing precipitous crags of a dazzling whiteness. As they drew nearer along the left bank of the creek they could perceive, crowning the white rock-faces, a fortification with white palisades, built upon the verge towards the water.
"What pah is this?" asked Palliser of the young chief in charge of their guard.
"That is Puketea," returned he. "The White Hill, which the Pakeha cannot turn red with Hauhau blood," he added, grinning.page 250
They had seen nothing of Te Katipo since the increase of their numbers, but now they recognised his voice calling directions in the crowd. They turned off across a tussock flat, and, reaching the foot of the hill, which rose abruptly from the plain, as a solitary sentinel from the mountainous country northwards, began to ascend slowly. The hill was steep, and when they got to the top Palliser at a glance saw the strategical value of this position. The pah was the key of the pass, and, according to the base, commanded either the northern highlands or the open country to the south. He saw, too, that the fortifications rendered Paketea almost impregnable, and the number of whares was evidence of the fighting power of the pah.
The young Maori, whose name, it appeared, was Tutanga, conducted the party into a large whare, and then left them, after placing a guard before the door.
When they were alone no one spoke far a little, till Foster said suddenly, with an uneasy laugh,
"Well, you've got us into a pretty mess. Not even a pocket-knife to make a good fight with at the end."
"We're not sure about the end yet," said Palliser.
"No, we ain't; of course, we ain't," assented the blackbeard glancing, hastily at Ida. "A long way from it. You're about right. But I wish you'd let me wade in a bit in the bush."
"Where do you suppose we should have been?" asked Palliser.
"Quite so. I ain't saying you are wrong, but only page 251regretting. I could ha' potted the old cormorant pretty easy."
"And been promptly potted by the cormorant's followers. No, we did the right thing, and——"
"What do you think they'll do to us?" broke in Ida anxiously.
Foster jogged his companion. "Lie," he whispered, "lie for all you're worth."
Palliser looked into the girl's startled eyes, and smiled.
"Now, Miss Caryll," he said, "how can I know? We shall be kept prisoners, I imagine, for some time, till Parekura or Te Katipo, or whatever he calls himself, thinks fit to release us. But as he was a great friend of your father's, I should say he wasn't going to starve us."
"But the Hauhaus," said she. "Aren't they——"
"I know nothing about the Hauhaus, except that they have some wonderful tales on the west coast. But I've learnt to doubt most of what I hear, and I daresay the Hauhaus are no worse than ordinary Maoris. Besides, as a friend of your father's, Te Katipo——"
"Te Katipo is a rat and a spider," broke in Matuku, catching the name. "The great chief, Pariha, is so proud of his cunning that he thinks he can outwit him. It is an idle thought. Te Katipo is a shark; he turns the sea red with blood. I have no patience with the Pakeha who thinks such idle thoughts. But I have prophesied all from the beginning, and now I hold my peace."
"That is right," said Aotea suddenly. "Hold your peace; Pariha is wiser than you. You may wriggle page 252in the spider's web, but the bluebottle can break through it. That is all I have to say. It is always talk, and there are no deeds. We are one step nearer the murderer of Ihirua. I am content. It is easier now to sleep. When I awake I shall see him. Enough."
"You hear what she says," said Palliser. "Why do you not hold your peace? If we want advice we will come to you. You are nothing but a parrot cawing in the valley. There is much sound in you, but we want wisdom. Peace, I say. Would you have the Pakeha girl trembling at the name of this Te Katipo? He is Kariri's friend. That is enough. He shall also be our friend."
"What do they say?" asked Ida.
"Matuku says Te Katipo ain't a bad sort," replied Foster at once. "He's got the reputation of being rather a gentlemanly chap, except when he's in war. Then he goes ahead, and that's how the stories get about, you see."
"Only trust us, Miss Caryll," said Palliser gravely.
"I do trust you," she answered earnestly; "and you," and she laid a hand on Foster's grimy arm.
"Well, little gel," he said, "you're jolly well right," and he set to whistling snatches in the cheerfulest manner.
Towards evening an old Maori woman brought them food, for which they were hungry enough to he grateful. She grumbled to herself as she passed them, scowling in the faces of the Pakehas, but when she came to Aotea she looked astonished and said something. Aotea took page 253no notice, and the woman withdrew, still grumbling. After that it grew dark, for the whare was ill lighted, and one by one they curled themselves into the easiest corners and rested,
"It shows we're going to he treated well because we ain't tied," Foster explained to Ida.
Palliser had put away his thoughts and was dozing in the profound darkness, when a light was flashed before his eyes, and he eat up quickly, to find To Katipo standing over him with a torch in his hand.
"You sleep lightly, Pakeha," said the Hauhau, piercing him with his sharp eyes.
"It is true," returned Palliser. "It is necessary in the place of the Hauhaus."
Te Katipo grinned, but suddenly checking himself, said, in a stern tone,
"Night is the council time of the Maori. What reason is there why you should not be put to death?"
Palliser struggled to his feet. "I am glad we have come to words," he said. "Let us finish this business. I do not care to be bothered with the things on my mind."
"You have a brave voice; perhaps there is nothing behind it. What can you say to save spies from their death?"
"We are no spies," said Palliser. "I will speak plainly. You shall know why we are here."
"I shall know why you say you are here," said the chief sarcastically. "What has a Pakeha to do in the King's country? It is to fight, or to steal knowledge."
"Te Katipo is brave," said Palliser, "but Te Katipo page 254would not take a few against thousands," and he waved his hand towards his companions, who were regarding the interview from afar. "Te Katipo is cunning also, but he does not take women on his exploring party."
The Hauhau turned and contemplated Ida as if in thought, but his glancing eyes belied his reflective pose.
"That is true," he said presently. "But you have not said why you are here. What wonderful tale is this you will invent?"
There was some scorn in his voice as he brought back his gaze, and fastened it unflinchingly upon Palliser.
"As I have said," replied Palliser calmly, "I am glad of this sense we are talking. It will soon be over, and I shall have the bother off my mind. O Parekura, I have a tale which the Hauhaus will laugh at. But it is true. And Parekura will not laugh, though to Te Katipo it may seem foolish. There was a Pakeha, Kariri, in the window of the Maniapotos."
Te Katipo kept his eyes moving restlessly over the face of the speaker.
"It is true," said he. "Kariri lives in Matapihi."
"That is not true," said Palliser. "Kariri is no longer there. Kariri is dead."
Te Katipo started. "When did he die?" he asked.
"We do not know. It is hard for me to say anything. It is all difficulty. There are mists. It is clear that he is no longer in Matapihi. It is clear also he is dead. But where? That I am unable to tell. It is that I have taken this expedition for. Perhaps you can tell us? You were his friend, they told us."page 255
"What have you to do with. Kariri?" asked the Maori suspiciously.
"I am his friend too. His daughter and I seek him, and the Pakeha, the friend of us both, and the Maniapotos also. We have been seeking him many days. It is two moons since he was lost."
Te Katipo turned again, and once more regarded Ida steadily.
"I was Kariri's friend," he said at last. "This is his daughter. Kariri was a Pakeha who was fond of the Maori. He married a Maori wahine. He was a Maori himself. I was fond of Kariri. He was my friend, but Kaimoana did not like him. Kaimoana said, 'Why should we have these rats here? Let us turn them into the sea that they may be drowned. I will swallow the sea with their bodies. Why should they grow over the land like thistles?' That was my opinion, too, I hate the Pakeha, the Kawana and the Kuina" (queen). "I am not so foolish as to say, 'Let us have two kingdoms here—the Pakeha on the coast, and the Maori in the mountains.' I am wiser than Wiremu Tamehana or Rewi.* They are foolish chiefs, but they are brave chiefs. But why do I talk about these things to you, my prisoners? Though I hate the Pakeha I was fond of Kariri. We hunted together, and we caught eels together, and we lived in the same whare. He was a Maori, and not a Pakeha, and we were friends; but he would not fight against his own people, though I tempted him. I said, 'You are a Maori; you page 256should fight for your wife and your whare against these rats.' But he refused. He laughed, and said he would be glad to shoot me when those days came. I laughed, for I knew better. Then the war came, and the Ngatiawas arose, and they called me back, and I left. I know nothing more. Kariri was sick when I left him, but he was alive, and Ihirua, of Kaimoana's tribe, was nursing him. After that I saw nothing. I am sorry that he is dead, but if you come to me for this, you have come on a foolish inquiry; I know nothing more. I tell you this because you are Kariri's friend, and his daughter is seeking him; I was his friend, too. But what is all this trouble for if he is dead?"
"It is true," said Aotea, stepping forward suddenly. "Parekura speaks truly. He knows nothing of Kariri, nor of Ihirua. On the night of their departure Parekura had been gone three days. What has he to do with this?"
"I recognise this woman," said the chief. "She is the sister of Kariri's wahine. What is she doing here?"
"I am on the track of the murderer of Ihirua," said Aotea heavily.
"Is the woman dead too?" asked Te Katipo. "We have too much to do with the dead in these times. It is a sad thing, but how can we do without them? You have not told me why all this trouble is."
"I will speak plain words," said Palliser, "and you shall say if you will be friends with us. Two moons ago Kariri sent his wahine with a message to me, down to page 257Te Awamutu, but someone met her and stabbed her, robbing her of the message. She crawled back to the whare, and Kariri, hearing it, was angry. He bound up her wounds, and they went out together in the night towards Te Tauru. This was the tale of Aotea, the sister of the wahine. We have followed in their track to find them, but there are no signs of them. They are lost, and we thought that Parekura, the firm friend of Kariri, could give us news of them; therefore we are here. But now you say to us, 'I have no news. I know nothing. I was the friend of Kariri, and I saw him alive in Matapihi. There is nothing more.' That is what you say to us."
"There is nothing more," repeated the Hauhau after a pause. "That is what I say to you. Kariri was my friend. Wait. It is night, and night is the council time of the Maori. Wait, I say," and so saying, he stalked to the door of the whare, and went out, leaving behind him silence and the night.
They were undisturbed for many hours, and as the night advanced one by one they fell asleep. It was not until the morning that anyone came near them, but at last the old woman who had attended to them previously brought them a breakfast. An hour afterwards Tutanga, the young chief of the guard, entered the whare, and, addressing Palliser, said,
"Te Katipo has a word for you at the foot of the marae. Follow me."
Palliser passed out through a group of Maoris seated outside the doorway, with their guns leaning against page 258the building, and followed his guide between innumerable whares to the open courtyard. At one end of this, just before a hut which was apparently his own abode, sat the Hauhau chief on a bundle of coloured mats. He had no weapon by him, and he was smoking thoughtfully, oblivious, to all appearance, of everything passing. His scarlet-stained huia plumes nodded gently in the breeze. At a little distance a group of young warriors chatted together, stopping now and then to throw a glance in his direction. "When Palliser approached Te Katipo looked up, and gravely bent his head.
"Salutations to you, O friend," he said.
"To you also, salutations," returned Palliser. He had been hopeful that the Hauhau would deal generously by them, but a little anxious. This form of address, which was merely conventional, did not relieve his fears.
"It was a strange tale you told me last night," went on the Maori, when Tutanga had withdrawn to the group of onlookers, "but you spoke truly. I know the truth when I see it. I have been sorrowful for my friend Kariri. It is the duty of a daughter to tend her father. I do not blame her. It is a friend's desire to find his lost friend. That, too, is necessary. But if there is trouble in the land there are dangers. A man will catch them and say, 'Here are spies; they are only dogs to be killed.' It is a hard case, but it is well to be dispassionate. I am not angry with a foolish pursuit. I think it foolish, but I think it also necessary. Why do I tell you these things? You fall into page 259my trap, and I could put you to death like rate. I could also turn you out, saying, 'Bah! I am sleepy; let the rats wake me up.' But what have I settled to do? I will keep you in the whares. Men are stupid. The Waikatos and the Maniapotos, and all that uphold the King, are stupid. What good can come of my killing men who are not spies? But they are so foolish they will not see this. They would say, 'See Te Katipo: he lets these spies go. Why does he not tramp on these rats?' It is foolish; but a time will come when they will see better. Yet the councils of the Maori must be kept whole. If you divide a thing it will come in two. So all these Maniapotos and Waikatos and the foolish Ngatihaua must not come in pieces. We must hold them together. This is the duty of a wise man. He must avoid the cause by which they are cut in two. Hence it is that I cannot turn my rats loose, though I will not drown them. They must be kept in the trap."
Palliser had listened attentively and without interruption to this long explanation. He had hoped for some such sentence, but in view of Te Katipo's repute ho had come prepared for the worst.
"You will keep the rats in the trap," he said. "Till when?"
Te Katipo made an impatient movement with his hands. "How can I foresee the future? It may be to-morrow. Perhaps it will be a moon. Let time decide."
"Let it be so," said Palliser.
"But," continued the Hauhau, "behold you are page 260Kariri's friend, and Kariri's daughter is come for him. You shall be kept in food. No doubt you hear wonderful stories of Te Katipo?" He shot an inquiring glance at Palliser, and waited as for an answer.
"They are wonderful," assented Palliser. "We are told that he is a devil, but I do not find him a devil."
A curious smile stole over the chief's face. "No," he returned, "there are lying tales abroad, because there are things done in war. All these reports are absurd. We know better than to trust to the lying newspapers," and he grinned at Palliser. "But the Maori is different from the Pakeha. But why should he always be different? I do not know everything, but I know this is a strange thing. I have many ideas. The nigger has ideas sometimes. How is it proved that he is the inferior of the Pakeha? It's only the Pakeha who says so. But the Pakehas know more things. That is quite true. They have been learning longer. Very many of their habits are excellent, and could not be improved. They pretend to tell the truth. That is well; but it is sometimes only a pretence. The Maori trusts him, and is cheated of his land or his wife or his kumaras. These things do not happen among the Maoris: it is only when the Pakeha brings his gin to us—then we go mad and act like the Pakeha. But you have told the truth about Kariri, who was my friend. The Maori has honour; even the Hauhau has honour about whom you hear these devil tales. They are not inferior to the Pakeha. For Te Katipo will make your word his trap. You shall speak the truth to him and page 261keep it, and it shall be the trap in which yon are the rats. The trap shall be of your own building. I have spoken much. Enough."
He paused, and looked at Palliser expectantly. The Pakeha, whose mind, accustomed to Maori phrases, had caught the Hauhau's meaning, was astounded at this offer of parole. "You mean that we shall swear to you and you will let us go free?" he asked.
Palliser reflected. He was undesirous of being precipitated into a promise he might afterwards regret; so presently he said, "Your words are kind, as becomes the friend of Kariri to Kariri's friend and daughter. But there are others. I am not alone. We must talk over your kind words."
"Talk," said the chief, darting his bright eyes towards the warriors. He held up his hand, and Tutanga came across the marae towards him. "Haere ra," said Te Katipo, staring into his prisoner's eyes.
Palliser returned the customary reply, and forthwith set out after Tutanga towards the prison-house.
His news was received with the utmost incredulity by Foster, whose mind was well primed with the horrors rumoured of the newly-risen Hauhau chief, Ida said nothing, but her faith was justified, and she was altogether content. Aotea expressed no opinion, but Matuku started a little when he had heard, and shook his head repeatedly.
"Well, I ain't got over that fuzzy fiend turning out so sweet," said Foster, stroking his beard. "Lord, the page 262tales told of him, even in a short time, are enough to set your hair on edge. Judging from them you might safely ha' put 'im down as a rough lot. While now he smiles all over his face."
"Well, there's only one possible theory of his conduct," said Palliser, "as far as I can see. There's no earthly reason why he shouldn't have knocked us on the head. It seems a fairly rational view to take to believe that, being a friend of poor Caryll's, as from both Aotea's account and his own he was, he is inclined to feel friendly towards us. I'm bound to say his explanations are very plausible. Anyhow, we've got to decide. Are we to give our parole or not?"
"Well, considering all things, I say yes," said Foster slowly.
"All things?" repeated Palliser interrogatively.
"It would, be more acceptable," with a glance at Ida, "for all parties," explained the ranger. "And in view of the fact that we might as well look to escape out of Hades as out of Puketea, perhaps it is just as well."
"Are we going to promise?" asked Ida, looking inquiringly into Foster's eyes.
"That's the showman, Miss Caryll," he replied, wagging his head towards Palliser, who stood wrapt in thought. "Well, old chap, what is it to be?"
Palliser looked at the girl, and a smile came gradually into his face, on which the lines of care had softened. "We have done much better than you expected, haven't we?" he said.page 263
"No," she made answer quickly. "I knew it would be all right. I know you so well now, you see."
He laughed pleasantly, and stroked his beard thoughtfully. "Yet our mission is a failure. What have we done? or what can we hope to do?"
"Perhaps we are nearer it," she replied, after a pause. "At least we have done all we could."
"Yes." He kept on stroking his beard, when suddenly a black frown gathered his eyebrows closer; his responsibilities seemed to lie more heavily upon him than they had ever done. "It is all my fault," he said. "I brought you on this mad chase. But, on the whole, I am inclined to believe in this Te Katipo. We shall see. I think—"
At this moment the door opened, and Te Katipo himself strode towards them, his long red plumes quavering and doubling as his quick lithe step set his body in motion.
"Have you talked?" he said, glancing from one to another.
Palliser looked him full in the face. "Yes," he said at last. "You have trusted us; we, too, will trust you. The friends and the daughter of Kariri trust the friend of Kariri. We promise."
"It is good," said the Hauhau, his brown eyes gleaming.