The continuing story of Ahu and Ahuahu her husband in a Maori village in Aotearoa before European settlement of New Zealand. (Have you missed an episode? Click on Ahu in the labels bar for previous posts)Hinewai agreed to accompany Houhia as she showed Tiemi the pakeha botanist the forest so he could list the plants that were not known to the pakeha. Until Hinewai could make time to go with them Tiemi was permitted to visit rhe sea shore to note the plants and dunes there.
Hinewai meanwhile had spoken to Ahuahu about Tiemi. “Be careful, Ahuahu. He may seem friendly but he too may be being used. The pakeha will send such men to assess each area to see if it is worthwhile for their use…for farmers and miners and the woodmen. Remember never, never accept pakeha money when they want to visit you or hunt in our land. There have been many Maori that find that by accepting pakeha coins they have given away their land for all time. Pakeha buy land by giving their money for it not by fighting for it like we do. They pay us to use the land but steal it as they have given you money. This laughing man may be innocent but it is not him who is the danger but the men who send him and want to take our land away from us.”
“Yes, Hinewai you are right we can trust none of them. But how can we get him to tell the other pakeha there is nothing here for them?”
“We must show him that there is nothing worthwhile here. Let him use all his energy in seeing what he has already seen. The pakeha know already of the big trees where Torangi and Hauku live and have started to use them, we do not have big trees like that. They already know of our hot springs but they do not like them” she said with a smile. Maybe they are looking for metals in the ground and for precious stones. There is no secret about where agate is found but they are probably looking for gold that shiny yellow stone in the creek beds. The pakeha value that very highly.”
Ahu shook his head “No, I think they might be looking for good farming land. We are in the foothills of the mountain that catches fire. The soil is always good for growing here except by the beach. Young Tiemi will tell the authorities not only of the plants that grow here but of the soils they grow in. How can we stop him?”
Hinewai’s eyes laughed. “We do not have to stop him, Houhia will.”
Ahu looked doubtful, “She already looks at him with soft eyes. We cannot ask her to deceive him.”
“Houhia will laugh with him but she loves the forest, she will not let him see too much but will use all his energy looking for things that are not there.”
Later that evening Tiemi told of his walk along the beach and of the plants he found there. Houhia asked if he was looking for something in particular.
He nodded and said “Yes it is a plant we call Cook’s Scurvy Grass but I did not find any it is a yellow flowering plant on the shore whose leaves can be eaten to ward off scurvy which is a sickness that travellers by sea get if they do not eat vegetables. The sea journey to England lasts many months depending on the winds and the season and the seas currents. You can never take enough vegetables with you. You can get very sick indeed.”
Ahu eyes lit up but said nothing and when she noticed Hatiti looking at her she shook her head as if to say “Do not speak even though we know of it”.
When all the talk was over, Ahu spoke to Tiemi alone, “Hinewai will be able to go with you and Houhia tomorrow. Ahu notices the way she looks at you. I know that you make her smile but I also know that many pakeha have wives in their own country. Do not make the mistake in thinking that she is like the Maori girls at Big River who just want presents and to have a good time. You are in danger here, our law will protect her not you. If you have an accident we will return your body and all you belongings with great ceremony to your countrymen and say how much you were respected. Be careful on our land Tiemi and what you say to Houhia.”
“Houhia has already told me that I must be careful not to drown in the sea or be crushed by a falling tree. I do understand what she meant Ahuahu.”
“Good, but I was thinking that you might fall in the boiling water at the hot springs.”
So the next day Hinewai, Houhia and Tiemi set out to walk along the beach northwards then to head inland through the forest and make a big circle to see the various plants closer to the beach then climbing slowly up to the forested area where the trees grew large and the undergrowth dense and the light was dim. They each took cutting tools and bags to carry their finds. Houhia would know the names and properties of the plants they used and Tiemi would apply his botanic skills work out what family each plant came from. Hinewai would watch and listen for danger in the forest and from Tiemi.
At one time Tiemi found himself alone with Hinewai. He looked around and then looked at her questioning her with his eyes.
“Are you worried Pakeha?”
“I was worried about Houhia.”
“She is at home in the forest. Don’t you feel at home pakeha?”
“Why do you not call me by my name, Hinewai?”
“Why remember your name when it needs to be forgotten? I do not think the forest here likes the look of you. Do you know how you can make the Maori happy…Tiemi?” She asked. Then before he could answer she said, “By sailing away and not coming back. You are killing us.”
Suddenly Houhia returned silently appearing through the bushes and stared at them both glaring at each other. She put her finger to her lips and motioned them to squat down in silence and pointed to a partially cleared area close to where she had come from. They stayed still for a few minutes and then a Kiwi nervously emerged and brought two chicks out with her. Houhia again held her fingers to her lips as they watched them pecking and scratching at the ground. Slowly the Kiwis moved through the clearing and back into the undergrowth and were gone.
Houhia looked at Tiemi and saw him writing in his book. “This is the land we love do not take it away from us. What have you collected so far?”
Tiemi showed them some of the plants he had collected and wrapped up. When Houhia saw them she shook her head. “This is wrong pakeha, you have the earth with the plants. That is our land. We said you could take the plants for they will grow again. But the land is ours and must not be taken. I wanted to like you but I see now that we are being used by you again. Will you take away everything I love and is ours even the ground we walk on?”
Tiemi looked from Houhia to Hinewai and in horror he saw she now had her dagger in her hand. “Houhia is right pakeha, from now on we will check everything you take. We so wanted to trust you.”
Clearly Ahu had spoken to Houhia last night.