Raromi, or, The Maori Chief's Heir
Chapter VII. Falconer's Danger
Chapter VII. Falconer's Danger.
After a hard struggle with the enemy, Noble was conqueror. The fever was beaten, but he looked like a ghost.
Scotty crept in again—as he had done several times—and, in spite of Mrs. Norris's signals, told Noble how delighted he was to see him smile and nod at him as in the olden time.
'I'm so much better, Scotty.'
'Nonsense!' exclaimed Mrs. Norris; 'he's that weak he can hardly talk.'
'Such an old hulks, Scotty. But I'm going on first-rate. Mrs. Norris treats me like a prince. I'm right down spoiled.'
'I told you the Maoris didn't mean to harm us. Treat them well, Scotty, and they'll be good friends.'
'Perhaps so, only—'
'Only what?'page 44
'You don't know how to take them. They've been well paid for all the land about here; and now others come forward and want to be paid over again; it's—'
'That's because we were such noodles at first. Look here, our people were so eager to buy land, that they raked together all the chiefs they could find, and then what did they do?'
'Talked them over.'
'Not exactly. But they dazzled them by offering them untold wealth—to their eyes. What was the result? These chiefs saw their chance. They put in their claims to land which did not wholly belong to them; they were paid handsomely for what they had no right to sell. Then the head chiefs—the principal owners—appeared, and we quarrelled with them for our own stupidity.
'Dog's-ear told me all about it—'
'Have you seen him—here?'
'I was with him and his tribe for some time, as you know, and for a time in an awkward position. Dog's-ear saved my life. Tell our people so. He brought me home, and has kept me in provisions since I've, been ill.'
'I'll tell our people all about it,' said Scotty; 'they will be glad to hear it.'
'Do so; but oh, dear me, I'm forgetting Falconer! How is he? Do tell him I am anxious to see him.'
'He's all right, no doubt,' interrupted Mrs. Norris; 'you've been talking too long.'
'Just one word more: where's Falconer?'
Scotty looked grave, and was silent.page 45
'Where's my bonny sailor? tell me, Scotty. Why are you silent?'
'He would like to see you, no doubt,—but—but he can't come.'
'Oh! Scotty; there's something wrong! what is it? I must know it all—and now.'
'He's in prison!'
'Falconer in prison!' Noble fell back with a sob of pain.
'Scotty,' he resumed, sitting up again, 'if you would not make me ill again—'
'No! no! I must forbid it!' said Mrs. Norris. 'Tell me all about it, Scotty!' cried Noble; 'I will know! Then I shall be quiet.'
'The difficulty,' replied Scotty, 'is to understand the affair. We cannot quite see how to defend him against the charge.'
Noble leaped up in bed as if shot. Then he bent forward and covered his face with his hands.
'This is the case as far as we know it,' added Scotty. 'He went to the Bar one night, and met the lads there. For the first time he would not drink,—so he says. Then he and Garry quarrelled. Presently, drinking and quarrelling became general, and in the end Garry was found stabbed.'
'But why take Falconer? I know Falconer It is impossible, Scotty—utterly impossible!'
'If we could only prove it! There are two things, the head constable says, dead against him.'page 46
'What are they?'
'His quarrel with Garry that night—and here all the evidence seems to be in the hands of those dead set against him, wild characters like Black Charlie.'
'In fact, you have little evidence in his favour?' said Noble.
'None—or nearly none!'
'But the other point?'
'This: Garry being stabbed the same evening that, as everybody knows, he and Falconer had quarrelled together at the Bar. These facts put together go dead against him.'
'My brave Falconer! In prison!' murmured Noble, tears trickling down his wasted cheeks. 'But, come, this will not do; let us get to work!
'Now tell me, Scotty,' said Noble, rousing himself, 'what was the exact time the party left the Bar? Did they go back—all of them, Falconer too? I want precise information here.'
'The party left the Bar at nine o'clock; and, it is said, Falconer was with them. I have found out this too, which may prove important; that the whole drinking party, including Garry, came back to the Bar after a time. They stayed there, drinking and quarrelling, and left late in the evening.'
'Was Falconer with them when they returned to the Bar?' asked Noble.
'He says he was not; that he had gone away home. If we can prove this assertion, he is saved!'
'It must be proved! It shall be proved! I will prove it!' cried Noble, springing up in bed, greatly page 47excited. But he had overtaxed his strength, and he sunk down—exhausted.
Mrs. Norris now came forward, and actually pushed Scotty outside, refusing to let him speak another word to Noble that evening.
'Would you kill him?' asked Mrs. Norris, angrily. 'The doctor says he must be kept quiet, and you come and knock him up entirely.'
'Do listen!' begged Scotty at the door; 'the trial comes off to-morrow, and I believe Noble has direct evidence in Falconer's favour. If he can prove Falconer was not there when the others returned—'
'Good-night! Come in the morning,' said Mrs. Norris, curtly, shutting the door.
Noble lay very quietly when Mrs. Norris went to the bedside, to see what condition her patient was in after his great excitement.
'Ah! I'm one—he's two—and Scotty's three!' exclaimed Noble, suddenly.
'Good gracious!' said Mrs. Norris, 'he's gone off his head again.'
Noble was over-excited and restless, and kept saying, 'I'm one—he's two—and Scotty's three! One, two, three, and all in his favour! Hurrah! We shall win!'
He then fell asleep; and as he slept he smiled.
'He's dreaming,' mused Mrs. Norris; 'God grant his dreams may be sweet!'
They were sweet. Weakness, suffering, anxiety were all forgotten—he dreamt of victory.
It must be explained that the young settlement had page 48just received a judge sent down from Sydney to act in criminal cases.
Englishmen in the colonies like to have a doctor to tell them when they are ill; a lawyer to settle their disputes; and a governor to hoist the Union Jack, and remind them of home.
The settlement at Port Nic. had its doctor, its judge, and, it was said, a governor was en route, who, with twenty soldiers and a subaltern, would overawe turbulent characters, and keep order and peace!
Sad to say, one of the judge's first trials was that of Falconer, for the wilful murder of Garry; and the trial, stripped of much of its ceremony—as conducted at home—was fixed for the morrow.