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Raromi, or, The Maori Chief's Heir

Chapter XVIII. Tinirau's Pet Whale

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Chapter XVIII. Tinirau's Pet Whale.

On landing from the whale-boat, Falconer hastened to find Mrs. Norris. 'We have picked up a poor whaler badly hurt,' said he; 'I must bring him up here. Shall I put him in my bed?'

'Another in family, Falconer?'

'True; but I can't leave the poor fellow on the beach to die.'

'Oh, no; bring him up—I'll do the best I can for him.'

His three mates and Falconer took him into the cottage. When they had done so, Falconer asked them to follow him.

He took them into the storeroom. Here, a table was set out with a good meal for each; and a small stove flared and roared most cheerfully.

'Eat and warm yourselves, lads,' said Falconer. 'I know you all; but under my roof, placed as you are, I think only of your misfortunes. I am sorry I can do no page 121more for you, but when you have fed and rested, I should advise you to leave quietly.'

'And Charlie!' said one of them.

'I'll heal him, if possible; and then he shall go free—as you do.'

The fact was these men were gaol-birds, and Charlie was evidently their leader. They vowed Falconer was a good fellow. Unknown to everybody in the cottage, they disappeared, and were lost in the forest.

'I'm afraid there's no hope for him!' was the doctor's verdict upon Black Charlie. 'He is in a fearful condition! Besides which his past life—'

'Do you know him?' asked Falconer, eagerly.

'I do—well.'

'Then, for my sake, and'—here he whispered in the doctor's ear—'keep this secret.'

'I will.'

'At any rate let him die in peace—his secret will come out at last, and you will know why I ask you this.'

'How is he?' asked Falconer, a few days afterwards; just, in fact, before the Kahawai sailed on her first voyage up the Straits on a trading trip.

'He's marked! His days are numbered.'

'Oh! don't say that.'

'I must say so,' replied Mrs. Norris, 'for I see it. But there's a mystery about him—'

'Indeed; what?'

'Do you know, whenever I ask him if he is comfortable, or if I can do anything for him, he's so gruff, and actually hides his face from me!'

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'He's very ill; men are always gruff when they're ill; they're not used to it.'

'The other evening I sat here; you and Scotty were out; I was looking into the fire and thinking about the poor sailor. I turned to look at him. The light from the fire fell on his face.'

'Was he asleep?'

'No. He seemed to be watching me. But directly I caught the expression of his eyes I was reminded of my Will. It was foolish, but I began to cry.

'"Don't cry, missis," said he; "t'ain't no good. Cheer up! Let's finish off plucky like!"

'And that voice! Oh, Falconer, it was his voice! I haven't heard it for years now; but it was his voice!

'Who is he?' asked Mrs Norris.

'A whalerman; a sailor; a kind of waif who has drifted into our little harbour of refuge.'

'I must speak to him, and tell him about Will. Perhaps he's met with him, and seen him; sailors roam about every where. Oh! if he's dead! dead! Yet, mind you, lad, I've prayed for him night and day all these years, and my faith and hope somehow get stronger. I seem to feel—I don't know why—I shall see him again.'

'Poor heart!' murmured Falconer, deeply touched. 'You think he's turned out bad, do you?' Falconer turned his head—he could not command himself.

'You believe it, Falconer? Then will I lead him to the Saviour's wonderful love, which finds out robbers and lost women—to Him who saves and loves the lost page 123ones, when everybody spurns them and turns away from them.'

The Kahawai was about to sail. Nivens was delighted with her. The three builders and Dog's-ear had cruised about the harbour, even in half a gale of wind, to try the Kahawai's sailing qualities and rate of speed.

'She's a right-down spanker, she is,' said old Nivens. 'I've done my best, lads—and, to tell you the truth, she'd never a bin done like that 'ere, only you sly dogs you kept the grog away from me.'

'But you've been happy with us, Nivens?' said Falconer.

'Happy! Jolly as a sand-boy. I wish we could allus sail together.'

'What sail will she lie-to with best?' asked Falconer.

'The foresail.'

'We'll have a good one, then. It may be our only chance, if we get caught, to carry the foresail close-reefed.'

'Quite right, lad; allus look ahead.'

'No water-casks on deck for me,' said Nivens. 'If you gits in a bubble, and gits washed about, away goes the casks. No. I've put slidin' panils in the bulk-heads fore and aft. You can cook in the hold, and you can git stores out o' the forepeak, and all without going on deck.'

Bands of Maoris stood on shore and fired their old muskets, and shouted farewell in one of their ancient lays; to which the crew of the Kahawai—Scotty, Falconer, and Dog's-ear—replied by three hurrahs! that made the welkin ring. And the Kahawai stood away on her first cruise.

As the Kahawai drew near the Heads, the wind fell page 124light. And as it was useless to run out into the violent tide-rips outside without a smart breeze, Falconer, upon Dog's-ear's advice, came to an anchor.

The evening was lovely. The setting sun from behind a cloud shot out rays of all colours and of great intenseness, which swept over land and sea, meadow, mountain, and peak, bathing them in floods of glorious tints that no living painter could limn.

'There, on the flanks of the Tararua Mountains,' exclaimed Dog's-ear, 'the sad remnant of the once-powerful Nga-ti-tama still hunt the kiwi, still snare the kaka, but their pas are deserted, and their kaingas are empty. Behold, Raromi, the old warrior joins hands with the Pakeha, and longs for peace. May the Atuas of our great ancestors now teach us how to live in peace!'

'But you live for war,' replied Falconer; 'it breathes in every word of your songs, and shews itself in the way you treat your enemies.'

'True, O Raromi! I will speak straight to you. This stone mere'—holding it up—'has been raised in anger, and has struck down the foe without pity or mercy, and yet—' he hesitated.

'Speak, O father,' said Falconer.

'That time is passed; I'm tired of war. Many a word—good, straight words—your friend the little Pakeha (Noble) spoke to me in the house yonder. They have sunk into my heart.'

'Oh! Dog's-ear,' exclaimed Falconer, 'I owe you undying friendship; for when alone and in danger you saved him, and stood by him, as you saved me and stood by me!'

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'Say you so, Raromi! Your words smite my heart. I will keep them there. May the great Atuas of our ancestors send me to the Reigna if I cleave not to you—as you do to me!

'But I'm afraid, O friends, I have been too eager about this voyage. The tribes up the Straits are uncertain, jealous, and ready for revenge.'

'But Rangihaeata is your friend—your ally—so we shall be in no danger at Porirua, where you want to land,' said Falconer.

'With me he is straight. But the wily one at Kapiti, who leads him, would plunge us all into war for a dozen muskets.'

'It's Te Rauparaha, then, who does all the mischief?'

'All, all, Raromi; and he is chief over all. He is our Ariki—we are bound to him. Yet the tribesmen sing, when alone:—

"Go and find out the
Good of Rauparaha;
Is he good, or is he bad?
He is a deceiver.
Don't forget! Don't forget!"'

'Suppose we have supper', said Falconer.

'Yes, supper,' echoed Scotty—yet the two men hesitated, and looked at each other in silence.

'Come, Scotty! this is weakness. One of us must cook—must be cook—though it goes against the grain. Let us draw for it.'

'No! no!' replied Scotty, darting through the panel; 'I said I would do it, and I will.'

'Kapai!' exclaimed Dog's-ear, sniffing the odour of cooked steak; 'it's the sweet smell of Tutunui.'

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'Tutunui! Who was he?' asked Falconer.

'Tutunui was Tinirau's pet whale; but I will tell you the story.

'Tinirau, one of our ancestors, fell sick. Now there was a celebrated priest, named Kae, noted for charming away the spell (Maoris believe, or believed, sickness was the result of some evil spell; charm away the spell, and the sickness would go); and Tinirau sent a messenger for him, although he lived at a great distance, to come and charm him.

'When Tinirau was well, Kae begged to be allowed to return home quickly on the back of Tinirau's pet whale, Tutunui.

'Tinirau called the monster close in shore. "Mind," said he, when Kae had climbed on the whale's back; "Mind this; when you get home, and in shallow water, Tutunui will begin to wriggle; you must then jump off his back at once, and send him back."

'Tinirau gave his orders to Tutunui, and it set off at great speed.

'Now when the whale reached Kae's place, and in shallow water, it began to wriggle; but Kae kept his seat, until, in fact, Tutunui was fast aground, until it was left high and dry ashore.

'The wicked Kae, as soon as the whale was dead, began to cut it up, to roast it, and to eat it.

'Tinirau waited anxiously for his pet—he called it—he was angry. It came not. He went out in the wind, and the odour of the dead whale, his pet, reached his nostrils.

'Since then, when we Maoris smell anything good, we say, "Oh! it's the sweet odour of Tutunui."'