It stopped raining in the morning but a mist still lay about the ground and trees. The people were standing in the small yard between the verandah and the hedge. Their breaths clouding for it was a fresh morning. Some were shuffling the stones with their toes and talking quietly. Others were just standing waiting. Every one looked fresh and clean. The children were on the verandah in a little group. Kurram was holding the railings and resting his face against the sharp cold wood, and now and then he would look up as one of the adults brought out a handkerchief and shook it. And he would watch to see if they were crying. His Auntie Mary had been crying and a lot of the
others, for there were red welds beneath their eyes and the skin on their faces were shiny.
When the door to the passage opened the group moved back and some looked up to watch. But Luke and some of the younger ones looked down at the ground and jostled bits of stones with their toes. The men shuffled through the door awkwardly the weight of the coffin upon their shoulders and slowly, with their eyes straining to see the steps they shuffled down onto the gravel path. Aboot was at the back, his head leaning out and his other arm over and steadying the top of the coffin.
Someone held the gate open and the men moved past the group of people and under the archway to the outside.
Wi's old truck was backed up by the shop verandah and Wi himself was standing at the side brushing away with his hand, some dirt that was on the deck. He was dressed in a blue suit with white stripes flecked throughout it. His face was shaven and his hair parted neatly in the middle. As the children's mother was led through the gate, he went around to the door, and opened it And he and the other two women helped her into the truck. There was a look on his face, a look of understanding and sympathy. It was on everyone's face that morning, when the children were there on Luke, on Aboot, and on their mother.
The wreaths were placed on top of the coffin and the children were lifted up beside it. Then the men put the sides of the truck back up. Aboot sat at the end with his elbows on his knees and his face in his hands with the fingers closed. He was not crying and his eyes were open, he was staring fixedly at the wood of the coffin.
The truck moved slowly down the road with the people all around it. The mist had begun to lift and the sun was already beginning to show through.
At the corner some of the people branched off and went up the short-cut through the scrub. When Kurram looked back he saw the yellow light of the sun upon the wall of the shop. Some people were turning to warm their hands and they would rub them together briskly. From everyone clouds of mist were blowing into the air. There were a few cars coming up slowly behind the people, the sun reflected on their roofs.
At the mill turning the truck turned off and moved slowly up the rough track to the graveyard. Some people were already waiting at the
foot of the hill. They were standing in little groups warming themselves in the sun and talking quietly. Wi drove the truck up beneath the big pine tree and old Doc Hepi held up his hand for him to stop. But Wi leaned through the window and said.
“I think we can get it a little closer Doc. Just see if there's no ruts or broken bottles in the way.” And he moved the truck further out into the field.
The priest in his long heavy robing moved on up at the head of the crowd. The track was steep and slippery and it curved a few times. The children followed up behind the coffin, and they watched it swaying high on the shoulders of the men. And they watched the clouds of the men's breath rising into the air. The track was wet and black and the smell of the soil mingled among the people.
At the top the men stopped and the sweat stood out on their faces. Then the priest beckoned to them and pointed to the two planks that lay at the edge of the grave. Slowly the men lowered the coffin onto them.
The people were very quiet while the priest spoke. And except for the sniffing and coughing of some of the women and the twittering and fluttering of the sparrows in the pine-trees behind the group; the hill was very still.
The men began to lower the coffin with the ropes and the children's Auntie Mary broke into loud high wailings. Her voice rang out over the crowd and along the hill. The people seemed suddenly to come to life. Some wept loudly, and some called “Haere ra e Teho”. All about them was a stir. At the edge of the group the children saw their mother. She was crumpled forward between their older cousins, and her face was twisted with pain. She tried to move towards the grave but the two women held her tightly and as her hair fell over her face Pane the bigger and stronger one brushed it back.
Then Willy Hagg began to shovel the earth back into the grave and as the first lot hit the coffin, it echoed hollowy and loudly, and their mother lurched forward with a small cry, her eyes wide and frightening. The two women held her and she almost fell. And Pane spoke to her sharply.
At the sight of his mother Kurram felt a sudden horrible shock run through him. And in desperate bewilderment he turned about looking for somewhere to go. Then he felt someone quite close beside him and he looked up. His cousin Paul stood over him and he said to the boy.
“Never mind Cur you hold on to me.” He put his arms around the boy and the boy put his face against his cousin's shirt and began to cry. Paul stood for awhile letting the boy cry then he began to squeeze his shoulders and say.
“Never mind, Cur. It's all over now. Don't cry now”. The people were already moving down the hill. And some voices could be heard at the bottom. Willy Hagg and one of the Mill-hands were still shovelling dirt in the grave. The boy could hear the noises of the shovels against the earth. He could hear the murmuring of the people moving down the hill and someone coughing. He could smell the rich wet earth and his cousin's shirt and he could feel the warmth of the sun upon his back. He was aware of everything except that his father was dead and that he would never see him again.
When they reached the bottom of the hill the boy had stopped crying. His face felt fresh after the tears and the cold in the air stung him a little on the cheeks.
Wi's truck had already gone with his mother on it. There seemed to be a relaxed feeling all through the crowd, for they were talking quite freely. Some of them were smiling and every one was trying to enjoy the sun.
By the apple trees a group of women were busying themselves with their shawls. Two of them were lifting their babies onto their backs, and they bounced them around a little to settle them more comfortably in the blankets. Down by the Hepis's fence the priest was talking with old Doc and Tita. He was gesturing slowly with his hands and now and then he would look off across the paddock at the sun. Every one was talking about the beautiful day, everything except the burial.
Soon the paddock to the road was alive with moving people, as they walked down to the boy's home. The sun shone brightly down onto them and made them seem very small against the yellow grass. Their clothing reflected strangely gay red shawls, blue handkerchiefs, black coats, brown felt hats.
Then one of the women turned and called, her voice full and gay, clear on the morning air.
“E Tita kia tere ra”.
The Maori community at Bluff is to receive more than £2000 from the Ngaitahu Trust Board towards the cost of building a new community centre at the port. This was announced by Mr R. Whaitiri, the local member of the board. A concert and dance were held to raise funds, the programme for the concert being arranged by Te Roopu Pipiwhararoa, of the Academy of Maori Culture of Tuahiwi, one of the principal maraes of the South Island. The members of the concert party, which has been in existence for more than 20 years, are drawn from many tribes.
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Carvings for the new Tapeka meeting-house being erected at the ancestral home of the Tuwharetoa tribe at Waihi, are nearly completed. The chief carver, John Taepa, hopes to have the work finished by Easter.
All the carvings are new.