Page:Picturesque New Zealand, 1913.djvu/464

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316
PICTURESQUE NEW ZEALAND

Through the gap I saw fern-trunk fencing on one side of the village, and houses partly built of the same material. Most of the houses here were more substantial and respectable-looking than in the outskirts, and nearly all were on the right-hand side of the road, which corresponded to the main street.

As it was noon few of Waahi's inhabitants were astir. Some were squatting on floors eating, others were walking lazily about.

Hailing a Maori, I asked, "Where is Mahuta?"

"Somewhere up there," he answered carelessly.

In that vague precinct I paused at a picket fence surrounding a European cottage of more pretentious appearance than any other dwelling of the village. Under an awning raised on the front lawn a group of natives lay on mats and shawls. All were women excepting one, a contented-looking man. I surmised that I stood before Mahuta's "palace," and that this man was the King.

I made inquiry, but smiles of the "don't-understand" sort were the only responses. Where was that English-speaking woman Kaihau had told me I should find? I needed her badly now. Perhaps she was in that smiling group. At my query the man slightly inclined his head, but not enough to convince me that he intended to convey a meaning.

Feeling that I was leaving the King behind me, but determined to skirmish through the entire village in my quest, I continued up the "street." A youth vouchsafed me, "There his house," pointing to a small house