It was still dark when Raniera awoke from a disturbed sleep. In the night the dream had come to him. Carefully he groped back through the fuzz of his awakening, pushing his thoughts back into the dark moments of oblivion. The dream … What was it now? He had seen himself in his dream. Alone—standing on the soft bank of a deep muddy creek. Stooping, peering into the murky water, and something in his hand … a rope.
Yes, a rope. Now it all came to him … the hinaki. His hinaki, sucked deep into the soft grey mud, and himself pulling on the rope knowing that the hinaki would be full of eels, because pulling took all his strength.
Slowly the wire cage had surfaced and he had seen then that it was full, not with several cels as he had thought, but with one big eel … a tremendous eel—thick, black, coiled round in the hinaki like an inflated inner tube.
And in his dream he had dragged his hinaki with the eel in it up the bank, and tipped the eel out onto the grass … the biggest eel he had ever seen. He had seen himself stoop over the eel, put a hand under each gill, and push his fingers around its slimy girth until his fingers touched under the belly. Then he had pointed his thumbs together over the eel's back and his thumbs had just touched.
… There the dream had ended—with him stooping over the eel and measuring its girth with his hands. A hand on each side, thumbs touching, fingers touching.
This, he felt, was the important part of his dream. What did it mean? He felt under the pillow for his Best Bets, then reached out to light the candle which was on a chair by the bed.
Best Bets was open at the ‘second leg’. Slowly he read down the list of names, turning each carefully in his mind—looking for a connection with his dream:‘Gay Ring,
Fair Fellow' …
Nothing about eels there.
… ‘Lonely Boy’—lonely? Alone? He had been alone in his dream.
… ‘Black Knight’—the eel was black, the creek dark … ‘Black Knight’.
… ‘Prophecy’—hadn't he tried to prophesy what was in the hinaki? But he had been wrong, and that mean ‘Prophecy’ wouldn't come in. He scratched a line through ‘Prophecy’ with the burnt match head.
… ‘Blue Smoke
He went over the dream again in his mind, then he put the book down, tipped his fingers together, tipped thumbs. A big eel. As big as that. There must be a winner there somewhere. He'd better get to town early to see Ben and the others, and they could all talk about the dream. Work it out. Must be a winner there somewhere.
“E Hika. He aha te moemoea?” called Ben as Raniera stepped from the taxi and waved to the driver.“What's the dream?”
“E tama, he tuna.”
“Ei! Kia tika ra!”
“Yeh! A big one this eel. Ka nui te kaita!” He showed Ben with his hands the size of the eel of his dream. And there under the white verandah of the T.A.B. his friends gathered to listen. Ben, Lucy, Monty, Hone, Ritimana, Haua.
Raniera told them how he had been stooping, looking into the mud. They watched him carefully as he showed them how he had pulled the hinaki in, pulled it up the bank, tipped the eel onto the grass.
‘Wii!” he said. “A big eel—that size.” And he showed them how he had measured it with his hands … fingers touching under the belly, thumbs touching over the back.
“Pai. Good dream ne?” said Haua.
They nodded, smiled, and turned the pages of Best Bets; studied the second leg.
“One eel,” said Lucy. “Number one, ‘Gay Ring’. One eel. Number one.”
“ ‘Dark Beauty’,” said Ben. “A beauty eel. Dark. ‘Dark Beauty’.”
One by one they gave their opinions and advice.
At last it was eleven o'clock, time to place bets for the double. Into the pastel-painted room they went, and had a final look at the printed lists on the wall. Up to the window, bets placed.
Raniera gave his numbers. “Twelve,” he said. No trouble there. His daughter Rose had turned twelve two days ago. Number twelve ‘Sunset Rose’. But the second?
“Aue,” he sighed. One eel in the hinaki, and the eel coiled in a ring. Number one. ‘Gay Ring’. Must be. “Twelve and one,” he said.
There was a hush in the bar as the race began. “This ti-ime,” called the commentator. “Off to a good start … Fair Fellow, Guardian, Gay Ring” …
Raniera, Ben, Monty, Hone, Ritimana and Haua drummed their fists on the bar.
“Na, ‘Gay Ring’.”
“Ho! A good start. Ka pai ne?”
Earlier that day they had heard ‘Sunset Rose’ come in, and now they listened eagerly, certain that this was to be Raniera's lucky day.
“E champion, this dream,” they said.
As the race progressed they all pressed closely together at the bar, feet tapping, bodies rocking.
“Kia kaha! ‘Gay Ring’,” they called as ‘Gay Ring’ went through to challenge the leading horse.
“My horse that one. My dream,” shouted Raniera.
But' Gay Ring', after going into the lead and holding it for a short while began to tire.
…“ ‘Gay Ring’ dropping well back now,” … called the commentator.
“Kei whea ‘Gay Ring’?”
Shoulders drooped, elbows pressed onto the bar, heads shook slowly.
… “And as they pass the post it's ‘Lucky Touch’, half a length from ‘Gold Stripe’, two lengths to ‘Lonely Boy’ …”
“E tama. Kei whea to moemoea? What happened to the dream?”
“Aue! No good.”
Once again out came Best Bets. Fingers down the list—‘Lucky Touch’. Number ten, ‘Lucky Touch’.
“Aue!” said Ben, and he flicked his arms above his head—“Number ten.” And as the others nodded, sighed, he explained.
“Five fingers on this hand. And five fingers on this hand.”
He showed them his hands. “E Ra,” he turned to Raniera. “You put your hands around the tuna like this. Na? Five and five are ten—Number ten. The fingers touched—‘Lucky Touch,’ the fingers touched.”
“Aee,” they agreed.
“Ko tera taku! I'll say!”
Raniera shook his head, “Aue! Waste a good dream.”
“No dough for the Maori today,” said Monty. “Ka hinga ta tatau crate.”
They all laughed.
“E ta, ko haunga to tuna,” said Ritimana slicing the air with his hand. “Your eel stinks.”
“Na! Ka puta mai te piro,” called Haua, as the laughter rose.
Then Raniera spread his fingers wide, raised both arms above his head. “Whio!” he yelled. Down came his arms with a full arm sweep. “Haunga!”
“Haunga!” they echoed, and their laughter swelled, burst and filled the bar.
The Ngati Tawhaki people have obtained approval to build a £2,500 Maori meeting house at Okauia. The plan was approved by the Matamata County Council in March and funds are now being raised. The site is a good one with water laid on.
Study Award For M.P.
The American Embassy announced recently that a United States Department of State grant had been awarded to Mr Matiu Rata, Labour M.P. for Northern Maori.
Mr Rata will meet Federal and State legislators and will observe the operation of congressional committees if they are in session.
He also plans to visit welfare organisations dealing with the American Indian and to meet Negro leaders to study the work of civil rights organisations.