W hat I believe to be genuine and authentic the collected publications of William Colenso



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Part II.


This which follows is the second part of that tale of Houmea; which, however, is more concerning her husband Uta.

Now it came to pass that Uta very greatly feared his wife, lest both himself and his two children should be swallowed up alive by Houmea; and, therefore, he one day said to his two children, “My dear children, this is my word to you two; whenever I may send you to fetch drinking water, be very sure that you two do not go; when I shall threaten you (for not going), be sure that you two do not go; when I shall strongly order you to go, saying also that I will beat you with a stick if you continue disobedient, be sure you two do not go for any water; and even when, with a high voice and severe threatenings, I make you two to feel afraid, still, be very sure that you two do not go.” It was not long after this, that their father ordered them to go (for water), when those two children paid no heed and stirred not at hearing the commands of their father. Then Uta turned to his wife and said, “O mother dear, O mother dear, wilt thou not go and fetch me some water to drink? Verily I am dying through want of water. Here, also, have I been repeatedly ordering those children to go, and they [30] will not move, nor do anything, remaining as if deaf to my commands.” On hearing this, Houmea went herself to fetch the water; and when she was gone forth, Uta began to say his spell; and this was it:—

——“Be the water absorbed (sunk into the earth), be the water decreased, be the water dried up; proceed onwards, O Hou,689 proceed onwards; away, away, up to the very head of the streamlet, to the distant hill-country.”

And so it came to pass, for, as Houmea went onwards, the water also retreated before her, going out of sight, sinking into the earth, and drying up. Then Uta said to his two children that they should all go away together; so the children went on to the sandy beach where their father’s big canoe was. Then Uta taught and showed (by gestures) to the village, to the houses, to the clumps of trees growing near, to the privy, and to the brow on the hill (or place of look-out), that when Houmea should return and seek and call out the names of those three who were now leaving, they (the fixed residents) should all respectively answer to her calling,690 and that not one of them was to remain silent; and so he ended his indications (showing-forth by gestures) to them. Then he, also, went to the sandy beach, and dragged down the canoe to the sea, and when she was fairly afloat, they all got on board and hoisted the sail, and away fled their canoe before the wind! away, away, to a very far-off distance indeed.

About this time it was that Houmea returned to the village, and not finding her husband and children, she went about calling them loudly, saying, “O sir, O sir, wherever can you all be; thou and our children?” Then the response came forth from the privy; the response came also forth from the houses, from the clumps of trees and shrubs, and from the crest of the hill. At last her heart failed her and became weak, and she began to pant and to cry. Then she went up onto the top of the hill and looked out towards the sea, and looking long and closely she saw the canoe far off, as a mere speck on the horizon. Then she walked to the low sandy tidal-bank and entered into a shag,691 and went away out to sea floating upon the ripple of the tide. The two children in the canoe kept looking towards the land, and by-and-bye they, through their sharp look-out, saw Houmea coming on after them. On seeing her they cried to their father, “O sir, O sir, here verily is the demon (atua) coming hither!” At this time their father was asleep. He, awaking from sleep, said to them, “O (my) dear children, whatever shall I do, lest (I) be destroyed by that demon, swallowed down alive into her big stomach?” The two children rejoined, “Lo! we two [31] will hide thee below the platform-deck of our canoe, that thou mayest be surely concealed.” So they accordingly hid him there, and he was out of sight. All this time Houmea was coming rapidly on to kill Uta to become food for her. As she neared the canoe her big throat opened wide to swallow them all! Coming close up, she cried out, “Where is my food?” The two children replied, “There, indeed, left behind upon the land; we two came out to sea to catch fish, and were carried away hither by the force of the wind.” Then she called to them, “I am nearly dead from want of food!” On hearing this the children gave her some roasted fish. She ate up all the fish and was not satiated. Then she cried again to them, “Have you not plenty of fish, for I am not satisfied?” The children said to her, “O mother, O mother, here indeed is the thumping big morsel of food for thee, still upon the fire.” On this she cried out, “Give (it) hither, give (it) hither, that it may be eaten up at once.” Then they said to her, “Open thy mouth wide!” And, on her doing so, they flung an immensely big hot stone, by means of a pair of wooden tongs, right into her open throat, which went down into her stomach and burnt it! So Houmea perished there upon the ocean. But her offspring (representative or alter idem) is the big shag which still lives here among us. These related are the doings of Houmea of old. Of Houmea692 that now dwells here in the habitable world (among men), this is the proverbial saying,—“Houmea, rough and ugly flesh!” And so the name of Houmea still remains among us, and is used and applied to all evil women; that is, all adulteresses and thieves found dwelling among men.

A few things mentioned in this tale may be briefly noticed.

1. The invariably kind and courteous words used by the husband, Uta, in addressing his erring wife, even when having received from her great provocation. Also, his kindness to his children.

2. The fishing-canoe must have been of large size, and of a different build from those of modern times (of Cook’s days), for it had a platform-deck, under which the chief, Uta, was stowed away. So in the case of Rongoua, who snugly stowed himself away in the bow of the enemy’s canoe, which was also a fishing-canoe, for a war-canoe on that occasion would have told its own tale. (See, Uenuku, (supra), p. 10).

3. That their deep-sea fishing canoes also carried a fire-place, and had fires and heated stones used for roasting fish.

4. The charming simplicity of their spells! and yet their (believed) great powers! and consequent value. [32]




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