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War to the Knife, or, Tangata Maori

Chapter X

page 213

Chapter X

A few hours of soundest sleep sufficed for the guest's present needs. Looking through his casement, he beheld the sun just clearing the tops of the pines ere he summoned this secluded world to its occupations. Early as was the hour, Mannering was already dressed, and strolling through the garden with his matutinal pipe. The kainga was alive and busy; women hurrying to and fro, preparing the food for the day; children clustering around in expectation; the young people bathing in the river or launching their canoes. The hovering flock of sea-birds showed where a shoal of kakahai, at which they dashed from time to time, ruffled the surface of the water or leaped above it. All nature was responding to the day-god's summons, as a warmer glow suffused the sky and tipped the crown of the frowning dark-hued pah with gold. Massinger betook himself to the jetty at the foot of the garden, and, plunging into the clear cool depths, felt refreshed and strengthened for whatever the coming day might provide, returning after a lengthened swim just in time to dress for breakfast.

"I thought that you and my father would never leave off talking last night," said Erena, as she came page 214into the hall, looking as fresh as the morn, which she not inappropriately typified. "You did not disturb me, for I slept soundly for hours, and when I awoke, thinking it was near morning, I heard your voices, or rather my father's."

"I am not certain that I should have gone to bed at all if he had not suggested it," said Massinger. "I never had such a glorious night."

"I am glad to hear you say so. It is such a treat to him to have a visit from any one who knows about books and the world, that he cannot find it in his heart to leave off. When Mr. Waterton pays us a visit, they talk all day and all night nearly."

"What is that you're saying?" called out the man referred to from the garden. "Who is taking away my character? I have no better answer than a paraphrase of Charles Lamb's: 'If I go to bed late, I always get up early.' There will be plenty of time to sleep when there is nothing better to do; that is, if Te Rangitake and his Waikato friends will let us enjoy ourselves in our own way, which I begin to doubt. In the mean time, let us take short views of life. So you two young people are going to look at the pah?"

"With your permission. I should like to examine it well. The knowledge may come in useful by-and-by. Who knows? When was the last attack made upon it?"

"Twice in Heke's war, more than twenty years ago. I was younger then, and had the honour of being one of the defence force. We beat off the besiegers with loss."

"I suppose firearms were used?"

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"Certainly. Every tribe was well provided at that time. They bought them dearly, too, as the chiefs compelled them to work so fearfully hard at the flax-dressing—Phormium tenax being the purchase-money for muskets—that many died of the unhealthy conditions, marshy levels, and crowded whares in which they lived. However, there was nothing else for it. The tribe which first became armed proceeded at once to crush its nearest neighbour or enemy, as the case might be."

"So it was a case of life and death?"

"Nothing short of it," said Mannering. "The first use which Hongi Ika made of his civilizing visit to England, where he 'stood before kings,' was to grasp the immense significance of the gunpowder invention, and make bad resolutions, to be carried out when he should return to his own country. With characteristic Maori reticence, he kept his own counsel when staying with the worthy pioneer missionary, Marsden, at his house in Parramatta, where Admiral King often met him, and was much struck with his dignified and aristocratic carriage. By the way, it was the admiral's father, Governor King, who took the trouble to return to their own country two deported Maoris from Norfolk Island, where they were languishing in exile, having been carried there with some idea of teaching the art of flax-dressing. This, of course, they could not do."

"Why? Did they not know?"

"Of course not. They were chiefs, and as such incapable of menial labour."

The weather being favourable to the expedition to the pah, Roland Massinger and his fair guide set page 216out with that sanguine expectation of pleasure which the exploration of the unknown in congenial company excites in early youth. The path lay across the cultivated plots of the tribe, where he noticed the neatness and freedom from weeds which everywhere prevailed. The plantations were chiefly on an alluvial flat, through which a creek ran its winding course. It had been swollen by recent rains, so, encountering a small party of women and children carrying baskets, Erena inquired in the vernacular as to the best place to cross. A pleasant-looking woman asked, apparently, who the pakeha was, and after receiving Erena's reply, in which Massinger detected the word "rangatira," laughed as she made a jesting reply, and volunteered to guide them. This she did by leading the way to the side of a boundary fence; from this she extemporized a bridge, which, though narrow, answered the purpose. The pakeha gave a shilling to a bright-eyed elf running beside her, the sudden lighting up of whose face told that the value of coin of the realm was not unknown even in this Arcadian spot.

"What did the woman say?" he asked, as they went on their way towards the steep ascent.

The girl's eyes sparkled with merriment, as she replied—

"She wished to know who you were, and when I said a pakeha rangatira, her reply was, 'Oh, quite true; he looks like one.' They are keen observers, you see, and very conservative. It would astonish you to see how quickly they find out the different rank and standing of the white people they meet."

"They have no modern craze for equality or socialistic rule?"

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"None whatever. A chief is born to his exalted rank, which is undisputed. At the same time, he must keep up to a certain standard in war or peace, otherwise his mana, his general reputation and influence, would suffer."

"And a slave?" inquired he.

"Oh, a slave is forced to work at the pleasure of his owner, and may be killed for any reason or none at all. So also the common people of the tribe must obey the chiefs, more particularly in war, though, like those of other nations, they can make their voices heard at critical times."

"And the women?" queried Massinger.

"Oh, the women!" said Erena, while a graver expression overspread her face. "I am afraid that they have to work hard, and are not so much considered as they might be. They do most of the cultivation, mat-making, cooking, and general household duties, particularly when grown old. The younger ones have a better time of it."

"So they have everywhere. It is the prerogative of the sex. It only shows that human nature is much the same everywhere, and that all societies differ less in the essentials of life than is generally supposed."

Having skirted the river-shore, a part of which was of the nature of quicksand, and so needed a guide to the manner born, they began to ascend the slope of the volcanic hill, which, as throughout the North Island, had been selected for the tribal castrum. After a lengthened climb, which would have tested the powers of less practised pedestrians, they stood upon the wind-swept summit, artificially levelled, and page 218through the heavy sliding gates entered the ancient fortress. Before doing so they had to cross trenches, to scale embankments, and had time to note the various strategic preparations which, though crumbling or partially dismantled, exhibited the skill with which they had been constructed. The water-supply, as in most of the "castles" of the period, was the weak point, the besieged having to steal out in the night at the peril of their lives to procure the indispensable element.

"What a glorious view!" exclaimed he, as, side by side, they looked on the wide expanse of land and sea which lay beneath and around them—the broad estuary, the broken and fantastic outlines of the mountain range beyond the river-bank.

The surf was breaking on the bar between the heads of the Hokianga, while southward lay the valley, studded with the whares of the kainga and the gardenlike plots of the kumera fields. Almost unchanged was the scene since the rude warrior, standing on stages behind these palisades, launched his spear at the foe, or, wounded in the assault, looked his last upon mountain and valley, sea and shore, but died shouting defiance.

"What a strange thing is this life of ours!" said Massinger, musingly. "It is less than a year since I was living contentedly in an English county, on an estate which my forefathers had held for centuries. I had then no more idea of quitting England than I have of setting out for the planet Mars."

"And do you not regret the leaving such a paradise as England is said to be, when one is born to wealth and honour?"

"I cannot say that I do. So far from it, that I page 219consider I have made a distinct advance in knowledge and development. My life then was narrow and monotonous, leading to nothing save contentment with a round of provincial duties."

"But travel, high companionship, ambition, the Parliament of England,—noble-sounding words! What boundless fields of enjoyment and exertion! Were not these enough to fill your heart?"

"Possibly. But all suddenly my life lost its savour; hope died, ambition vanished; existence revealed itself merely as a pilgrimage through a desert waste, haunted by lost illusions, and strewed with withered garlands. For a while I thought to end it, but a convalescent stage succeeded. I arranged my affairs and sold my place, resolved to seek a cure for my soul's unrest beyond the narrow bounds of Britain."

"Sold your ancestral home! How could you do such a thing? And what possible reason could you have had for such a mad step, as I have no doubt your friends called it?"

"That was the exact word they used. But I had made my choice. All things habitual and familiar had become distasteful—finally insupportable. I chose this colony as the most distant and interesting of England's possessions; and here I am, an exile and a wanderer in a new world, but"—turning to Erena—"honoured with the friendship of the best of guides and most charming of comrades."

She heard almost as one not hearing; then, suddenly fixing her eyes, bright with sudden fire, upon his countenance, said—

"May I be told the reason of this breaking away from all you held dear? You said I was a comrade, page 220and, believe me, no man ever had a truer. Was it a——"

"A woman? Of course it was a woman. When is man's life eternally blessed or cursed except by a woman? When is he hindered, injured, ruined, and undone by any event that has not a woman in it?"

"And she was beautiful, clever, high-born?"

"All that and more; I had never met with her equal. She was an acknowledged queen of society. She had but one fault."

"She did not love you?" said the girl, hastily, while her tones vibrated with suppressed excitement.

"Not sufficiently to link her fate with mine for the journey from which there is no retreat. She admitted approval, liking, respect—words by which women disguise indifference; but she believed that she had a mission in life, a call from heaven to go forth to the poor and afflicted, to elevate the race—a sacred task, for which marriage would unfit her."

"You pakehas are strange people," she said musingly. "And so she would not be happy because she desired to teach, to help the poor, the common people! And if she failed?"

"She would have wasted her own life, and ruined that of another."

"Life is often like that, so the books say—even the Bible. 'Vanity of vanities!' Either people do not get what they want, or find that it is not what they hoped for. Yet I suppose some people are happy—generally those who know the least. Listen to that girl singing. She is, if any one ever was."

They had been descending the hill, when at an angle of the narrow path they came upon a young page 221native woman, sitting at the door of a cottage which bore traces of European construction. A child stood at her knee, while she was busied about her simple task of needlework. The midday sun had warmed, not oppressed, the atmosphere, and there was an air of sensuous, natural enjoyment about her air and appearance as she looked over the river meadows where the tribe was employed. Her face lighted up with a smile of recognition as she saw Erena and her companion.

"Good morning, Hira. Where is Henare? You are all alone here?"

"Oh, he is at some road-work," she answered cheerfully, "but he always comes home at night. He gets good wages from the contractor."

"What a nice cottage you have!—weather-boarded, too. Who built it?"

"Oh, Henare and another half-caste chap sawed the boards and put it up. He likes living here better than in the kainga, and so do I. We can go down there when we want to."

"Good-bye, then. I have been showing this pakeha gentleman the pah.—Now, those people are just sufficiently educated to be happy and contented," said Erena. "He is a steady, hard-working fellow, and, as roads are beginning to be made, he is able from his pay to build a cottage and live comfortably."

"Education is a problem. If it leads people to think correctly on the great questions of life, it is—it must be—an advantage; but if, through anything in their condition, it produces envy and discontent, it is an evil, with which the nations have to reckon in the future."

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"I sometimes wish I had not been educated myself," she said with a sigh. "I seem to have all manner of tastes and hopes most unlikely to be realized. Whereas——"

And just at that moment the lilt of the girl on the hillside came down to them, joyous with the magic tones of youthful love and hope. It furnished an answer to her questioning of fate, immediately apparent to both.

"Do not doubt for an instant!" exclaimed Massinger, touched to the heart by the girl's saddened look, and realizing the justice of her complaint. "You were never born for such a life. Nature has gifted you with the qualities which women have longed for in all ages. Your day will come—a day of appreciation, fortune, happiness. Who can doubt it that looks on you, that knows you as I do?"

In despite of her boding fears and the melancholy which so often depressed her, she was not proof against this confident prediction. Her youth's heyday and nature's joyous anticipation protested alike against a passing despondency.

"It may be as you say. Let me hope so. Do not the bright sun, the blue sky, the dancing waves, all speak of happiness? And yet, and yet——But here comes your schooner, rounding the point. Our time of friendship is over. I wonder when we shall meet again?"

"When indeed?" thought her companion. But, determined in his heart that this should not be his last interview with this fascinating creature, so subtly compounded of the classic beauties of the wood-nymph page 223and the refinements of modern culture, he answered confidently—

"Before the year is out, surely. This war, if so it may be called, must only be a matter of months, perhaps weeks. The tribes, after a skirmish or two, can never be mad enough to defy the power of England. I must make a Christmas visit to Hokianga, if indeed we do not meet in Auckland before the spring is over, at the ratification of peace. There are sure to be festivities to celebrate the event, and you must dance with me at the Government House ball."

"Without shoes and stockings?" she said laughingly—"though I dare say I could manage them and the other articles. But we must not deceive ourselves. Months, even years, may not see the end of the war. May we both be living then, and may you be happy, whatever may be the fate of poor Erena!"

That trim little craft, the Pippi, tight and seaworthy, was anchored near the wharf when they returned. Certain cargo, chiefly kauri gum and potatoes, had to be taken in, and the passengers were informed that towards sundown her voyage would be resumed. No time was lost, therefore, after lunch in sending their luggage on board, strictly limited as it had been to the requirements of the march. Warwick, who as paymaster had been giving gratuities to the native attendants who had come on from Rotorua, reported that they were more than satisfied, and would not forget the liberality of the pakeha. They would take the chance of returning to their hapu, where they had first been met with.

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"It is as well to leave friends behind us," he said. "There will be all kinds of bush-fighting for volunteers such as you and I may be, and native allies often give warning when white ones would be useless. They may counteract that scoundrel Ngarara, who will do us a bad turn yet if he can."

"By the way, what became of him at Rotorua?"

"Oh, he cleared out. The kainga became too hot to hold him after the chief's dismissal. He will join some party of outlaws. They will be common enough when real business begins."

The chief walked up with Mannering from the kainga, and joined the party at lunch in order to say farewell. Massinger was much impressed with the calm dignity and courteous manner of this antipodean noble. Apparently unconscious of any incongruity between his national surroundings and those of his entertainers, he might have posed as a British kinglet during a truce between the Iceni and the world's masters.

"A friend of mine dined with the Reverend Mr. Marsden at Parramatta in 1814," said the host, "where he met Hongi Ika with his nephew Ruatara. That historical personage had recently returned from England, where he had been, if not the guest of a king, favoured with an audience, and in other ways enjoyed social advantages. My friend said none of the swells of the day could have conducted themselves with greater propriety or shown a more impassive manner."

"All the time Hongi had blood in his heart. He deceived the good Mikonaree," said the chief. "His thought was to destroy Hinaki and his tribe, the page 225Ngatimaru, as soon as he could buy muskets. Yet he did not take Hinaki by surprise, for he told him to prepare for war, even in Sydney. Then Totara fell, and a thousand Ngatimaru were killed. But the times are changed. The Queen is now our Ariki; for her we will fight, even if the Waikato tribes join Te Rangitake. The Ngapuhi and the Rarawa have taught the Waikato some lessons before. They may do so again."

With a fair wind, light but sufficient to fill the sails of the Pippi, they swept down the river, which, increasing in volume near the heads, showed an estuary more than two miles in width. Not far from where the breakers proclaimed the presence of a bar, and opposite a point of land historically famous for tribal orgies, stood the ancient settlement of Waihononi. A substantial pier, available for reasonably large crafts, also a store and hotel, showed the proverbial enterprise of the roving Englishman. Fronting the beach stood Mr. Waterton's dwelling, a handsome two-storied mansion, surrounded by a garden which, even while passing, Massinger could note was spacious and thronged with the trees of many lands. An orchard on the side nearest the ocean was evidently fruitful, as the vine-trellises and the autumn-tinted leaves of the pears and apples showed. An efficient shelter had thus been provided against the sea-winds and the encroachment of the sand-dunes. These had been planted with binding grasses, including the valuable "marram" exotic, so wonderful a preventative of drift. Ability to protect as well as to form this outpost was not wanting, as evidenced by the presence of page 226half a dozen nine-pounders, which showed their noses through the otherwise pacific-appearing garden palisades.

Owing to certain mercantile arrangements, the departure of the Pippi was delayed for a day; a consignment of Kauri gum had not arrived. This was too valuable an item of freight to be dispensed with; and the Rawene dates of sailing not being so rigidly exact as those of the P. and O. and Messageries Maritimes, the detention was frankly allowed. Time was not of such extreme value on the Hokianga as in some trading ports. Mr. Waterton expressed himself charmed with the opportunity thus afforded of entertaining any friend of Mannering's. Massinger was equally gratified with the happy accident which permitted him to meet another of New Zealand's distinguished pioneers. So, general satisfaction being attained—rare as is such a result in this world of accidental meetings and fated wayfarings—a season of unalloyed enjoyment, precious in proportion to its brevity, opened out unexpectedly.

"I should have been awfully disgusted," was his reflection, as he found himself inducted into a handsome upper chamber, from the windows of which he beheld a wide and picturesque prospect, the foaming harbour bar, and the aroused ocean billows, "if I had lost this opportunity. The delay in land-travelling might have been serious, but, as the Maoris are not yet a sea-power, a day's passage more or less cannot signify." So, having dressed with whatever improvement of style his limited wardrobe permitted, he allowed the question of the sailing of the Pippi to remain in abeyance, and joined his host below.

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Of that most interesting and delightful visit, it would be difficult to describe adequately the varied pleasures which thronged the waking hours. Lulled to sleep by the surges, which ceased not with rhythmic resonance the long night through; awaking to seek the river-strand, where the white-winged clustering sea-birds hardly regarded him as an intruder; the well-appointed and compendious library in which to range at will; the walks; the rides through forest and vale; the fishing expeditions, in one of which Massinger, proud in the triumph of having hooked a thirty-pound schnapper, discerned the snout of a dog-fish uprising from the wave. Then the evenings, prolonged far into the night, with tale and argument, raciest reminiscences of lands and seas from his all-accomplished host—quarum pars magna fuit—author, painter, sailor, explorer; such truly Arabian Nights' Entertainments Massinger had never revelled in before, and never expected to enjoy again.

Auckland once more! The traveller, though now a confirmed roamer, was, for obvious reasons, by no means grieved to find himself again in the haunts of civilized man. He had been interested, instructed, illuminated, as he told himself, by this sojourn in woodlands wild. Face to face with Nature, untram-melled by art, he had seen her children in peace, in love and friendship. He was now, as all things portended, about to obtain a closer knowledge of them in war—a rare and privileged experience, unknown to the ordinary individual. How grateful should he be for the opportunity!

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His first care was to possess himself of his letters and papers. There were not many of the former, still fewer of the latter. The county paper gave the usual information, as to poachers fined or imprisoned, a boy sent to gaol for stealing turnips. The hunting season had been fortunate. More visitors than usual. The riding of Mr. Lexington, son of the new owner of Massinger Court, had been much admired. That gentleman had exhibited judgment as well as nerve and horsemanship in (as they were informed) his first season's hunting in England. His shooting, too, was exceptional, and a brilliant career was predicted for him with the North Herefordshire hounds. A few epistles came from club friends and relatives. They were of the sort written more or less as a duty to the expatriated Briton, but which rarely survive the second year. The writers seemed much in doubt as to his locale, and uncertain whether New Zealand was one of the South Sea Islands or part of Australia. They all wished him good luck, and foretold future prosperity as a farmer, which was the only successful occupation out there (they were told) except digging for gold, which was agreed to be uncertain, if not dangerous. They concluded with a strong wish that he would come back a quasi-millionaire before he became a confirmed backwoodsman. And he was on no account to marry a "colonial" girl, when there were so many charming, educated damsels at home. This last from a lady cousin, who had with difficulty restrained herself from imparting the last South African news, as being apposite to his situation and circumstances.

These despatches were put down with an impatient page 229exclamation, after which he sat gazing from the window of his hotel, which afforded a fine view of the harbour. Then he took up a letter in a hardly feminine hand, which he had placed somewhat apart, as a bonne bouche for the latter end of the collection. This turned out to be from his candid and free-spoken friend, Mrs. Merivale, née Branksome—a matter which he had probably divined as soon as he glanced at the rounded characters and decided expression of the handwriting.

Opening it with an air of pleasurable expectation, and observing with satisfaction a couple of well-filled sheets, he read as follows:—

"My dear Sir Roland,

"Now that I am safely married and all that, I may make use of your Christian name, with the affectionate adjective, I suppose. The adverb in the first line was part of the congratulation of my great-aunt, who evidently thought that any girl with a decent amount of go in her, who did not habitually confine herself to phrases out of Mrs. Hannah More's works and read the Young Lady's Companion, was likely to end up with marrying an actor or an artist, whose useful and more or less ornamental professions she regarded as being much of a muchness with those of a music or dancing master.

"Well, one of the advantages of my present 'safe' and dignified position is that I can have friends, even if they happen to be young men, and give them advice. This I used to do before, as you know, though as it were under protest. 'This is all very fine,' I can hear you say, 'but why can't she leave off writing about herself, and tell me about—about— page 230why, of course, Hypatia Tollemache. Is she "safely" married (hateful word!), gone into a sisterhood, started for Northern India to explore the Zenanas, and teach the unwilling "lights of the harems" what they can't understand, and wouldn't want if they did?' None of these things have happened as yet, though they are all on the cards. She tried 'slumming' for a time, but her health broke down, and she had a bad time with scarlet fever. I made her come and stay with me after she was convalescent, and oh, how deadly white and weak she was!—she that was such a tennis crack, and could walk like a gamekeeper. I tried with delicacy and tact (for which, you know, I was always famous!) to draw her about your chances—say in five years or so. But she would not rise. Said, 'people were not sent into the world to enjoy themselves selfishly,' or some such bosh; that she had her appointed work, and as long as God gave her strength she would expend what poor gifts He had endowed her with, or die at her post; that in contrast with the benefits to thousands of our suffering fellow-creatures which one earnest worker might produce, how small and mean seemed the conventional marriage, with its margin narrowed to household cares, a husband and children! Were there not whole continents of our poor, deprived not only of decent food, raiment, lodging, by the merciless Juggernaut of inherited social injustice, but of the knowledge which every adult of a civilized community should enjoy without cost? And should any man or woman, to whom God has granted a luxurious portion of the blessings of life, stand by and refuse aid, the aid of time and personal gifts, to save these perishing page 231multitudes? When a girl begins to talk in this way, we know how it will end. In the uniform of a hospital nurse; in a premature funeral; in marriage with a philanthropist, half fanatic, half adventurer: what Harry calls a 'worm' of some sort—the sort of parasite that preys upon good-looking or talented women.

"Dear me! as my aunt says, I am getting quite flowery and didactic. Isn't that something in the teaching or preaching line? I forget which. Harry says I am a journalist spoilt. I don't know about that, but I should like to be a war correspondent. I am afraid there is no opening for a young woman in that line yet—a young woman who isn't clever enough to be a governess, loathes nursing, would assassinate her employer if she was a lady help, but who can walk, ride, drive, play tennis, and shoot fairly. By the way, there's going to be a war in the South Island, isn't it? Couldn't you contrive to be badly wounded? and perhaps—only perhaps—she, 'the fair, the chaste, the inexpressive she,' might come out to nurse you.

"Harry says that's a certain cure for—let me see—indecision, the malady of the century as regards young women. I remember being troubled with it myself once. He says I was—whereas now—but I won't inflict my happiness upon you.

"What a long letter, to be sure! Never mind the nonsense part of it. That is partly to make you laugh. He advises you, in the elegant language of the day, to 'keep up your pecker,' which he says means nil desperandum. I say ditto to Harry, and ask you to believe me, always,

"Your sincere friend,

"Elizabeth Merivale."

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Massinger put down the letter of his frank and kindly correspondent with feelings of a mixed nature, akin to pleasure, as evidencing an interest in his welfare not all conventional, but, on the other hand, recalling regrets exquisitely painful. These being partially dulled, he had mistakenly concluded that they had no further power to wound. And now, after a comparative cure, when his tastes had been satisfied and his curiosity aroused by the incessant marvels of a fantastic region, he had been recalled to the old land, resonant with the past anguish. The inhabitants of this enchanted isle, with their mingled pride and generosity, chivalrous courage and ferocious cruelty, had aroused his sympathies. There, beyond all, stood the figure of Erena, with her frank, half-childish ways, her countenance at one time irradiated with the joyous abandon of an innocent Bacchante, as she laughed aloud while threading with him the forest paths; at another time with shadowed face and downcast mien, when a presage of future ills caused the light to fade out of her luminous eyes.

The free forest life, with its daily recurrence of adventure and excitement, had sufficed for all the needs of his changed existence. And now, even by the hand of a friend, were the seeds of unrest sown. He thought of Hypatia Tollemache stricken down in the pride of her mental and bodily vigour, laid low in the conflict in which she had so rashly, so wastefully, risked her magnificent endowments. Had he been in the neighbourhood of Massinger, to cheer, to comfort, to gently question her plan of life, to offer to share it with her, to urge his suit with all the adventitious aid of predilection and propinquity, what success, page 233unhoped for, indescribable, might he not then have gained?

At this stage of his reflections he collected his correspondence, and, locking them up in his long-disused travelling portfolio, went forth into the town. Here he was confronted with the world's news, and details of this, the latest of Britain's little wars, in particular. First of all he betook himself to the offices of the New Zealand Land Company, where his first colonial acquaintance and fellow-passenger, Mr. Dudley Slyde, might be found.

That gentleman was, happily, in, but his arduous duties as secretary and dispenser of reports seemed for the moment in abeyance. He was engaged in packing a sort of knapsack to contain as many of the indispensable necessaries of a man of fashion, and apparently a man of war, as could be adjusted to an unusual limitation of space. A rifle stood in the corner of the apartment; a revolver of the newest construction then attainable lay on a table; the smallest modicum of writing materials was observable; and, neatly folded on a chair, was a serviceable military uniform.

"Delighted to see you, old fellow," said Mr. Slyde. "Sit down. Try this tobacco: given up cigars for the present—don't carry well. Suppose you've taken to a pipe, too, since you've begun your Maori career? Got back alive, I see. Didn't join the tribe, eh? Report to that effect. Girl at Rotorua, fascinating, very."

This suggestive compendium of his life and times caused a smile.

"You're as near the truth as rumour generally is," he said;" but I wonder that people concern themselves with the doings of this humble individual."

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"New country, you know. Great dearth of social intelligence since the war. Tired of that, naturally. Free press, you know; say anything, confound them!"

"Another chapter in the book of colonial experience, which I shall learn by degrees. But what am I to understand by these warlike preparations?"

"You see before you a full private in the Forest Rangers. Must join something, you know. Situation serious. More murders. Waikato said to be joining. Taranaki settlers afraid of sack and pillage. Troops and men-of-war sent for. In the mean time, the devil to pay. What shall you do? Go back to England? I would, if I wasn't a poor devil of a Company's clerk and what you call it."

Massinger stood up, and looked at the lounging figure fixedly for a moment, until he saw a smile gradually making its way over the calm features of his companion.

"No, of course not," he said, as if answering an apparent protest. "Only my chaff. What will you join? Town volunteers? militia? Ours rather more aristocratic; trifle more danger, perhaps. Corps of the Guides, and so on. Von Tempsky's Forest Rangers! Splendid fellow, Von—Paladin of the Middle Ages. Seen service, too. Son of a Prussian general, I believe. Commission in 3rd Fusiliers in '44. Cut that, and travelled through Central America. Commanded irregular Indian regiment. Piloted officers of Alarm and Vixen in affair of the Spanish stockades at Castilla Viojo. Been in front everywhere, from Bluefields Bay to Bourke and Wills' Expedition in Australia, when he refused to be second in command. Man and regiment suit you all to pieces."

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"Just the man I should choose to serve under. Where can I be sworn in, and when?"

"All right; I'll show you. Leave for the front, day after to-morrow. Jolly glad to have you, believe me."

This important ceremony being performed in due course, Massinger betook himself to the office of Mr. Lochiel, where he expected to receive fuller information as to the state of the country, and the prospects of a general rising. He was received by that gentleman with warmth and sincerity of welcome.

"My dear fellow," said he, "I am delighted to see you safe back. Macdonald and I were most anxious about you. We knew that you must pass through Maori country, and in the present disturbed state of the island there was no saying what might have happened to you, or indeed to any solitary Englishman. I hear that you returned by sea."

"I was advised to do so by Mr. Mannering at Hokianga, with whom I stayed for a few days."

"Best thing you could have done, and no one was more capable of giving you advice. He is judge and law-giver among the Ngapuhi, and a war chief besides. A truly remarkable man. I suppose you saw his handsome daughter? Wonderful girl, isn't she?"

"She certainly did surprise me. It seems strange that she can consent to lead a life so lonely, so removed from the civilization which she is so fitted to appreciate."

"And adorn likewise. We are all very fond of her here. But she is passionately attached to her father, and nothing would induce her to leave him. Have you heard the latest war news? Came in by special messenger this afternoon.."

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"No, indeed. I am only generally aware that matters are going from bad to worse; that the militia and volunteers are called out; also the Forest Rangers, in which band of heroes I have just enrolled myself. Dudley Slyde and I will be companions in arms."

"Slyde! Dudley Slyde? Very cool hand; rather a dandy, people say. All the more likely to fight when he's put to it. He knows the country well, too. There is no doubt in my mind that every white man in the North Island who can carry arms will have to turn out."

"And how long do you think the war will last? Six months?"

"I should not like to say six years, but it will be nearer that than the time you mention. Maclean thinks five thousand troops will be required if the neighbouring tribes join Te Rangitake. Richmond is of the same opinion. Three Europeans have been shot on the Omata block. It was to avenge these that the volunteers and militia turned out, when the men of H.M.S. Niger behaved so splendidly; the volunteers also held their own."

"Is there any further demonstration?"

"Yes; a great hui, or meeting, has been held at Ngarua-wahia, on the Waikato. They say that three thousand Maoris were present, who were all on the side of Te Rangitake. Fifty of his tribe were there, asking for help."

"And what was the outcome of it all?"

"They were agreed in one thing—that the Governor was too hasty in fighting before it was proved to whom the land really belonged. The killing of men at the Omata block naturally followed when page 237once—as by destroying the pah at Waitara—war had begun."

"What became of Te Rangitake's fifty men?"

"Well, a body of the Nga-ti-mania-poto went back to Taranaki with them under Epiha, the chief. On the way they met Mr. Parris, the Taranaki land commissioner, whom the Maoris blamed for the Waitara affair. Te Rangitake's people wanted to kill him at once, but Epiha drew up his men, took him under his protection, and escorted him to a place of safety. Parris began to thank him, but was stopped at once. 'Friend,' said the chief, 'do not attribute your deliverance to me, but to God. I shall meet you as an enemy in the daylight. Now you have seen that I would not consent to you being murdered.'"

"What a fine trait in a man's character!" said Massinger. "And what discipline his men were in to withstand the other fellows, and save the man's life who was responsible, they believed, for all the mischief!"

"Yes, that's the Maori chief all over. He has the most romantic ideas on certain points, and acts up to them, which is more than our people always do. But I hear that the Governor is going to stop the Waitara business for the present—very sensibly—and give the natives south of New Plymouth a lesson."

"And what about the settlers around Taranaki?"

"They have been forced to abandon their farms. The women and children have taken refuge in the town, while Colonel Gold has destroyed the mills, crops, and houses of the natives on the Tataraimaka block. So the war may be regarded as being fairly, or rather unfairly, begun; God alone knows when it may end."