Ahu and Hoata had gone to the woods to find the Hirau tree for the pigment from the trunk to make a yellow for dyeing. The two young mothers had their babies in slings on their backs and Kamaka’s teenage daughters by his first wife had gone with them. Hinewai had not forgotten her punishment for being too forward with Ahuahu but now treated it as a lesson on how her future husband might treat her. Hatiti on the other hand was saying she wanted a husband like Ahuahu who was gentle, despite his scar. Ahu and Hoata laughed at the teenager’s innocence as they searched for the tree and gathered berries and leaves at the same time. The young girls wandered off and at noon they had still not returned to where the mothers had set up a site to chop down the Hirau tree they had found.
Hoata said they could do with the mens help but Ahu said “No, let them feel good that they provide the food from the sea and talk together.”
“Talk!” replied Hoata. That is all men do. When they fish, they talk. When they return, they talk. But I am at ease that Kamaka has Ahuahu as a friend because they laugh a lot. It is easier to love your husband if he laughs.”
“Yes, we laugh a lot too.” Said Ahu, looking down so as not to convey her true meaning. Hoata noticed the look straight away and said “I could laugh a lot more like you without two silly girls in the house.”
As the two mothers chatted away, the forest was quiet except for the rustle of the ground dwelling birds searching for food and the chirping of insects. The women had by this time packed several piece of the wood required into their baskets. Hoata was about to call out for the girls when there was a frightened scream and a crashing through the undergrowth.
Hinewai came rushing toward them, shouting “Pakeha, pakeha,” all the time looking backwards over her shoulder. The two mothers froze at the words. Strangers were uncommon and there was always fear that another village may have sent a raiding party their way. They pulled the scared teenaged into the dense vegetation and indicated for her to be silent. Hoata signed to say ‘where is your sister?’ but Hinewai just shook her head. They lay still and quiet for a few moments until they heard a tramp of feet through the woods. They could just see that two curious strangers in odd clothing were making their way noisily along, slashing at the foliage in their path with bladed weapons. The three stayed quiet and luckily the babies slept untroubled as the men passed by and went further into the trees. When all was quiet, Hoata again asked about Hinewai’s sister Hatiti. With tears in her eyes the frightened teenager could still tell them nothing.
“It will take some time to get back to the village,” said Hoata to Ahu. “Take the babies back” and handed Paikea her baby to Hinewai, “I will look for Hatiti.”
Ahu could think of no better plan but looked at Hoata, smiled weakly, nodded her head and handed over the machete and touched her on her shoulder. With that she started off with Hinewai and the babies to the village.
After sending Hinewai and Hoata’s baby to their home, Ahu went straight to the chief's house and told him of the pakeha. She told how they were dressed with shiny buttons on strangely coloured clothes, and wearing headpieces she had never seen before.
“Was he of fair skin?” asked the chief. Ahu nodded “Was it war paint?” she asked. The chief smiled grimly and shook his head. ”No, Ahu, that is his skin. They come in a very large boats carrying many men from far away. They are trouble for us. He then made Ahu tell of the encounter again to ensure there had been no omission. Finally satisfied he said “Go to Ahuahu and tell him to come to me.”
By the time Ahu reached their house she was shaking like a leaf. Ahuahu was lying down, but got up straight away when he saw how troubled she was. She told him briefly what had happened and of the chief’s instructions. He came up to her, rubbed noses and wrapped her in his arms holding her tight for a few minutes before leaving for the Chiefs house.
Some time later, Hinewai came, called out and said Hoata was back with Hatiti. The older girl had been sensible and hidden quietly in the bushes too until the pakeha had gone by who had following Hinewai as she had ran off.
It was after dark before Ahuahu returned. They had tracked the pakeha back to the beach where there was a strange boat with huge oars about to set off for a mighty ship at anchor out at sea. The Black Sands men approached them brandishing their weapons and challenged the pakeha with threats and chants. The pakeha though were already making to leave, did so hurriedly as the Black Sands men approached them. One man on the boat made an explosion with a black stick in his hand and made all the men on the shore run but no one was hurt. When they looked back at the boat it approached the huge ship now displaying great sails at its masts and then with the pakeha aboard it moved away to deeper water.
“We should follow them” said one of the men. The chief shook his head sadly, turned and made his way backwards to the village. “They will go this time but they will come again. They have been before many years ago. This is not good for us.”
The next day Ahu met Hoata again. Hoata was smiling with her eyes, “We should see more pakeha,” she joked. “Kamaka would not leave me alone last night.” Ahu though still remembered her fear.
Pakeha - Stranger, Foreigner