The continuing story of Ahu and Ahuahu her husband in a Maori village in Aotearoa before European settlement of New Zealand. (Missed an episode? Click on Ahu in the labels bar for previous posts.)
Rapata returned to Big River and reported his proposals for the Ngerengere settlement to his mission church leaders and it was approved that he should provide assistance to them but he would have to work there on his own, not with a team of helpers that he wanted. Later he came back to Black Sands and told the village council of the plan and asked that if they could consider it. After a long debate they finally agreed that he could do this work but that they must be informed of all that he did there. Rapata asked for help in building a clinic and accommodation for him there and after another lengthy discussion it was agreed and some assistance would be given to him in its construction. In order that the men from Black Sands who helped were not in contact with the residents of the ngerengere settlement it was built on the edge of their area. This also satisfied the authorities from Big River who said they would need to inspect it from time to time. However they never did.
Kamaka who was a skilled carpenter himself, offered to work there as did Tane and Mahora also from Black Sands. So a three roomed hut in typical Maori style was soon erected. On the day that the Black Sands men had finished their work Rapata thanked them and noticed that Kamaka was not returning back to the coast with the other men but started to make his way across country through the woodlands. So he called out after him “Where are you heading Kamaka?”
“To visit my daughter in the village where the Kakas call,” He replied.
Rapata waved to him and set about putting his belongings inside the new building. It was not long before some of the residents came around to see the new building and he explained to them again how he could help them.
Kamaka told his daughter Hinewai what he had been doing and of the pakeha priest who had been given permission to work with the ngerengere.
“They are like rats in the forest,” she said, “Will we always be plagued with them?”
“He seems like a good man for a pakeha, Hinewai.”
“Then he must be dead.” She laughed.
“He is older than me but speaks our language well and does not judge us. He calls himself Rapata and he laughs a lot.” He paused then continued, “He will surely become ngerengere himself.”
Hinewai just nodded and they spoke of him no more.
It was some months before Hinewai met Rapata at Black Sands. Although he worked with the ngerengere he would walk down to the village speak to Ahuahu to ask for help with food and clothing. Now that he was at the settlement much of the regular gifts from the villagers had eased off as they assumed the pakeha was caring for them. Ahu and some other women still went there but mainly to tell them of village life and of their families.
On one occasion Hinewai was visiting Hatiti at Black Springs and was talking to her and Ahu when Rapata approached with a sack that he hoped to fill for the ngerengere. He nodded respectfully to the women and asked if Ahuahu was there, and he kneeled on the floor because the women were all seated. Ahu nodded at him and said, “I will have him fetched,” as she called out for Rouora to fetch his father.
“You look older, priest,” said Hinewai.
Rapata turned to her and recognised her even though he hadn’t seen her for some years.
“Hello Hinewai. It is good that you have returned home.”
Hatiti stared at Hinewai, “You know this priest?”
“Oh, yes, wherever there are pakeha, there are evil men and usually a priest close by; they go hand in hand.” Hinewai now spoke in English, “So you are the fool that wants to live with the ngerengere, are you Rapata? “
“I am getting old, Hinewai. I must do something right in my life; the Church wanted somebody to help, so I offered.”
“You will surely die, then.”
He nodded, “Surely, Hinewai. But I shall be doing something worthwhile for once.”
Hatiti and Ahu stared at the two of them as they both spoke words they did not understand.
“I am glad I can see you again.” Rapata said “And to see that you are with the people you love.”
She smiled, “You cannot see all of me; remember that came at a price.” Then thought a little then said. “I think I understand now. I expect that when Pastor John reported that he had failed here you picked up on who interpreted for him.” She paused then said, “You rescued me all those years ago but you took too long to do it and so you became lost yourself.”
Rapata was nodding at Hinewai and smiling sadly at her as she was too at him, when Rauora came back in with Ahuahu.
“It is all right, Ahuahu,” said Hinewai laughing, “It is only a pakeha begging for aid. I am sure we can find him something.
“You know this man, Hinewai?”
“Oh yes, Ahuahu, he was the one who persuaded me to come home.” She then added with a smile, “It took him a long time for him to do it so do not thank him, he does not need it, you have given him all that he wants here, his paradise in fact.” She then spoke in English again smiling at Rapata, “He has already had his reward.”
Later as Hatiti and Hinewai spoke together, Hatiti asked “What does he want here, Hinewai?”
“He wants somewhere to die and to be forgiven, Hatiti.” She paused then said, “I love this man because he is flawed just like me but at least he brought me back to you.”
“Will you tell me about him?”
“One day, Hatiti, one day. But I will tell you this; he is the only man that cried when he made love to me.”
Hatiti blushed as she bowed her head in embarrassment.
The reader may guess that Rapata was a priest that tried to get loose Maori women to give up their trade in European settlements and return to their villages. Unfortunately Rapata took his time with Hinewai and had a relationship with her himself in the process. This guilt weighed heavily on him so he has chosen the very difficult job of working with the ngerengere as a penance for his mistakes…but clearly he still loves Hinewai and she him. But now that is all over he is working with the ngerengere as no one will touch him ever again and he may be barred soon from visiting the village too.