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War to the Knife, or, Tangata Maori

Chapter XV

page 342

Chapter XV

Orakau was abandoned. The Gate Pah had been lost and won. It had also been avenged at Te Ranga, where a hundred and twenty Ngaiterangi warriors lay dead in the trenches, and the 43rd had full utu for the slaughter of their officers and comrades. With few exceptions, all the high chiefs were among the slain. The boastful Rawiri, the chivalrous Te Oriori, the Christian convert Henare Taratoa, had fought their last fight. On the body of the latter was found a letter in the native language, and the text, "If thine enemy hunger, give him food; if he thirst, give him water."

Orakau was the Flodden of the Maori nation. As the fugitives from the blood-stained pah trooped across the fords of the Puniu on the night succeeding the fight, the parallel may well have occurred to Sir Walter Scott's countrymen, so many of whom have adopted New Zealand as their home.

"Tweed's echoes heard the ceaseless splash,
While many a broken band,
Disordered through her currents dash,
To gain the Scottish land."

The war was practically over after the fall of Te page 343Ranga. The turbulent Waikato tribes had lost their high chiefs, their bravest young men. The flower of the land of Maui lay low. The universal wail rose high in a hundred kaingas. Taught by bitter experience, the more intelligent natives had arrived at the conclusion that the resistless pakeha must be obeyed. His soldiers and his sailors, his volunteers and his allies (leading tribes of their own blood), his guns and his mortars, were all too powerful. Their chiefs who had visited England and seen the might of Britain had told them as much before. But, strong in the pride of their own power and the oracles of the Tohungas, they did not believe it. Now it was too plain to be disputed. Defeat was written in the burned and disabled pahs, in the ruined farms, in the confiscated lands of their ancestors, which they had no power to redeem. This, however, was in strict accordance with Maori usage, with the law and custom of Rauparaha, of Hongi Ika, of Te Waharoa, those ruthless conquerors and their ancestors who had ravaged and annexed the lands of tribal foes from time immemorial. Væ Victis was one of the oldest of human laws. It was theirs also. One grim feature of a returning and successful expedition, the train of downcast or weeping slaves, driven along with blows and shouts of derision, was wanting in this campaign, No heads of chiefs or warriors were tossed out or stuck on poles as village after village was passed. No bound captive was handed over to the relations of the fallen for slow and dreadful torture. On the contrary, all the combatants, save those convicted of murder or outrage, were dismissed to their homes, while their wounded were tended in the hospitals of these page 344strangely constituted pakehas with the same care and skilfulness as their own.

At Te Ranga was the last stand made by the Maori for the possession of the lands of his forefathers. No more might he roam whither he would by river and mountain, by lake, shore, or forest stream. The white man's axe rang ceaselessly in his ancient woodlands; the white man's fields, his crops and fences, raised barriers to free untrammelled wanderings from sea to sea. Only in allotted districts, marked out by the white surveyor, would he be permitted to live out his life. Even there, the white man's school, the white man's church, the white man's policeman, would be always with him. In the place of the chief who administered justice and delivered sentence without remonstrance, without appeal, there sat the white man's magistrate, hearing evidence which he did not always understand, fining and imprisoning for offences against laws of which they had neither experience nor comprehension.

This was the state of matters to which the Maori nation had come in the opinion of the older men of the tribes, and not a few of the younger warriors who. had never quite given in their adhesion to the rule of the stranger. Haughty and tameless as a race, showing by a thousand instances their preference for death before dishonour, such was their state of feeling at this time, that had there been any other land available, they would probably have trooped away in one great migration like the Moors out of Spain, there to learn to forget their hopes and fears, their triumphs and their despair, far from the snow-crowned ranges, the rushing rivers, the fertile valleys, page 345and fire-breathing mountains of their own loved land.

On the whole, perhaps, it was as well for them, and by no means to the injury of the usurping pakeha, that the ever-girdling sea forbade a national exodus. Stern foe as the Briton has ever been while the fighting lasts, he is the most just and merciful of the world's conquerors. Of the great Roman, when the sandals of his legions trod over the prostrate peoples of the inhabited earth, it is recorded that he permitted them such personal and civic liberty as they had rarely enjoyed under their own rulers. Still, the privilege and boast of uttering the magical words, Civis Romanus sum, had to be paid for largely, as in the Apostle Paul's case. More liberal still, the Briton presents his beaten foe with the priceless gift of his equal laws, his equal suffrage. The ægis is thenceforth held over him, as of a blood-brother and a peer, a citizen of that world-wide empire scarce arrested by the poles, which rules and guards by its laws so large a proportion of the inhabitants of our planet.

While the high contracting parties were settling important points to be observed in the treaty, now necessary after the unconditional surrender made in person by, and signed by, Wirimu Tamehana Te Waharoa, the interests of private persons had their opportunity of consideration. In the ranks of the Forest Rangers doubts were still expressed respecting the fate of one Roland Massinger, reported missing since the affair of the Gate Pah.

Slyde and Warwick were lying in hospital, severely wounded, still too weak to undertake personal search.

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Warwick, who was near him when he fell, had information to give which, if it accounted for his wounds, was calculated to inspire doubts concerning his safety.

"He was shot from behind," he said. "I am as certain of it as that I lie here; it was the act of that skulking scoundrel Ngarara. I was near him at the time. Von Tempsky himself was hardly a foot in front of him as he was trying to spring on to the parapet, when I heard a shot behind us on the right flank. Mind, the troops were standing forward for a bayonet charge, and the covering volleys were on the left flank. It surprised me, so that I looked round; there I saw a band of the Ngapuhi that had dashed up in advance of the main body. Sheltering himself behind a tree, I saw Ngarara. He had missed the first time, but had reloaded. I caught sight of his face for a moment as the second report came, and Mr. Massinger fell forward on his face. Before I could turn towards him I was knocked over by a bullet from a rifle-pit, and knew no more. But a ranger who was close to me at the time, and helped to carry me to the rear, heard Mannering shout out an order, upon which several of the Maketu men closed round Massinger and carried him off. Following them up, he was sure that he saw two women. These he didn't recognize."

"Shouldn't wonder if one of them was the girl he was philandering with at the Terraces. Heard she was with her father's hapu. Princess and wounded knight business. Turn up all safe by-and-by."

"I'm not so sure," mused Warwick. "He's a treacherous dog, that Ngarara. He'll have another page 347try before he gives in—unless the chief shoots him, which he's very likely to do, on sight."

"Summary justice." said Mr. Slyde. "Points in savage life, after all. Come to think."

"I saw him do it once," said Warwick. "I was a boy then. He shot a Maori dead who had helped to murder a white man before the fellow's friends."

"What did the tribe say?"

"Nothing—though there were many of the man's relations present. They knew he was in the wrong. Besides, the act was that of a chief. That means a good deal in this country."

"Seems it does. Power in the land. Must look up one with an eligible daughter. A hundred thousand acres of the Waikato land would be a snug dowry. Live like a baron of the Middle Ages. No more beastly reports to write. Tell my directors to go to the reinga."

"How long is it before the doctor says we shall be fit to travel?" said Warwick, wandering from the point.

"Three weeks at farthest. I vote we go on the scout for Massinger. Can't leave him in the tents of the whatsynames—Amorites or something. Dance at his wedding if we can do nothing else."

"I'll see it out," said Warwick.

"So we will, dear boy," said Mr. Slyde. "Have Ngarara's scalp. Revival of ancient customs. Must have rational amusement now the war's over."

What did really happen to Massinger was this. He felt himself struck under the right shoulder from behind by a hard blow as from a stone, such being the sensation of a bullet-wound from undoubted page 348personal evidence. Before he had turned round to see who had given him such a hurt, he felt a queer faintness, and noticed a stream of blood running down his breast, while the evil face of Ngarara, lit up with revengeful triumph, glared at him, partly covered by a huge kawaka tree.

Before he could combine the concrete and the abstract sufficiently to formulate a theory, "darkness covered his eyes," and a sudden death rehearsal was in full operation.

When he recovered his senses, the night was so far advanced that he glanced upward to the stars with a half-conscious, wondering doubt as to his condition and circumstances. On a rude litter, formed of branches and twisted flax, the bed of grass and fern-leaves beneath him being by no means uncomfortable, he was moving slowly along a forest path, on which four bearers were trying to carry him as smoothly as circumstances would admit of. Two women in native dress walked in front, in one of whom, as she stopped to speak a word to the bearers, he had no difficulty in recognizing Erena.

After an answering sentence from the bearer nearest him, she held up her hand, and the little party halted. Coming close to his head, which he was as yet unable to raise, she looked anxiously in his face, and in softest accents said—

"You have awakened."

The loss of blood had been great, but by some styptic known to the natives, a people much acquainted with wounds of all degree of severity, it had been arrested. He tried to speak; a faint inarticulate murmur was all the reply he could furnish. He raised page 349himself; but the effort was too painful, and again he became unconscious.

When he awoke once more he was aware that locomotion had ceased, and that he was lying upon a couch covered with mats. All was darkness, with the exception of flickering gleams thrown from a fire which was lighted at the entrance of the vault or cave in which he was lodged, Becoming more used to the dim uncertain light, he discerned the limestone walls and roof, which were festooned with stalactites in all sorts of fantastic, delicate shapes. There was a sound as of falling water, so that the difficulty of assuaging thirst would not be among the privations suffered by the inmates of this singular retreat. After a white he was relieved by the appearance of his good angel, as he felt impelled to call her.

"Tell me," he said, "how has all this come to pass? I am anxious to hear about the fall of the Gate Pah, and the way I have been removed to this place."

"I knew," she said, bending over him with the frank tenderness of a woman who loves passionately, and does not fear to disguise the fact, "that if you remained longer where you fell you would stand a chance of being tomahawked, if not worse treated. My father gave the order for you to be carried off, and at the same time signed to me that I and my cousin Riria were to accompany you. The cave in which you find yourself is only known to our hapu, and has always been regarded as being impenetrable to any one not acquainted with the secret approach."

"But it was evident to me," said he, "that I was shot through the body. How was the flow of blood stopped, and the wound found not to be dangerous?"

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"We were told," she said, "that it was not mortal by a well-known tohunga of our tribe, who has been left a stage behind. He will be here to-morrow, and is a medicine-man of some repute, I can assure you. He applied a styptic, which was successful, and found that the bullet-wound, though it had grazed the lung, would not be dangerous, though hard to heal."

"I owe everything to you, dearest Erena," he said, pressing the hand which lay nearest to him; "and the life you have saved is yours for ever. If I come scatheless out of this war, you will have no reason to doubt my gratitude. How shall I ever repay you?"

"It is only too easy to do so," she said, as she gazed at him with eyes that glowed with all the intensity of a woman's love, for the first time awakened in that passionate nature. "But you must not talk of gratitude," she continued, with a smile, "or I shall begin to doubt whether you love me as we love —in life, in death, to the grave, and beyond it."

As she spoke, she wound her arms tenderly around him, and, kissing him upon the forehead, hastily left the cave.

When she reappeared, bringing such food as the natives had been able to secure, she said—

"Now you must eat all you can, and grow strong, as the sooner we leave this 'Lizard's Cave,' as it is called, and get back to my father, the better. I know that he will make for Rotorua as soon as the fighting is over."

"Tell me about the Gate Pah," he said. "Our men were falling fast, were they not?"

"Indeed, yes. Nearly all the officers were killed page 351or mortally wounded in less than a quarter of an hour. Colonel Booth died next day; the captains of the 43rd were all killed, besides naval and volunteer officers. The natives had determined to retreat by the rear of the pah, but suddenly found themselves met by a detachment of the 43rd. They rushed back, and, mingling with the soldiers, were taken by them for aMaori reinforcement. Some one called out "Retreat!" and the troops, having no officers, were seized with a panic, made a runaway—what you call a rout of it."

Massinger groaned. "Who could have imagined it! Such a regiment as the 43rd! Think what they did in the Peninsular war! Such things will happen from time to time. Why didn't they starve them out?"

"That was what my father and Waka Nene said. They were surrounded. They had no water, and only raw potatoes to eat. In a few days they must have given in. In Heke's war Colonel Despard made just the same mistake. My father and Mr. Waterton were there."

"Tell me about it"

"Well, of course it was long, long ago—in 1845; but I heard my father tell it once, and never forgot it. You heard of the Ohaieawa Pah, and how the troops were repulsed then?"

"Yes; I read some account of it."

"It was like this fight. The pah was strongly defended, and the colonel said he would take it by assault. My father and Mr. Waterton were fighting along with the Ngapuhi under the chief Waka Nene. They came to the colonel, and my father said, 'Colonel Despard, if you are going to try to take the page 352pah by assault before you make a breach—and you have no artillery heavy enough—I consider it amounts to the murder of your men, and it is my duty to tell you so. The chief Waka Nene is of the same opinion.'

"'What does he know of the science of war?' said the colonel, angrily.

"'More than you do—that is, of Maori war,' said my father.

"'How dare you talk to me like that?' said the colonel, now very angry. 'I have a great mind to have you arrested.'

"'What does the pakeha rangatira say?' inquired Nene of Mr. Waterton, as he saw that something serious was likely to happen.

"'He says he will arrest us,' said Mr. Waterton.

"Upon this the chief walked forward, and, looking in the colonel's face, placed an arm on either of their shoulders. Then he said quietly—

"'These are my pakehas. You must not touch them;' and he looked round to his tribe, drawn up rank by rank at the foot of the hill."

"Well, and what happened?"

"The colonel turned away and said no more. The Ngapuhi tribe were loyal to the English, and have been ever since. They would never have conquered Heke without them."

"So he did attack the pah?"

"Yes—by bad fortune. The old chief drew his men off, and would not join in the assault. The soldiers and sailors, also the volunteers, tried to storm the pah, but were beaten back with dreadful loss. Many were killed, and some taken prisoners. The natives left the pah the next night, but it was a boast page 353of Heke's tribe for years after that they had beaten back a pakeha regiment of renown, and that some day, if all the tribes would unite, they would drive the whites into the sea."

"It was well for us that they did not unite, by all accounts," said Massinger; "for their numbers were greater than ours then by many thousands. Now it is the other way, and unless they make peace their doom is sealed."

"You must not talk any more," said Erena, with playful authority. "Old Tiro-hanga will come up tomorrow, and then he will say if you can be moved. You had better try and go to sleep."

The war was now virtually over. The Waikato tribes and their allies, the Nga-tiawa and the Ngatihaua, had surrendered unconditionally. The wounded warriors, Slyde and Warwick, were in a condition to be moved to Auckland, where rest and comfort awaited them. The military surgeon, in releasing them from camp quarters and fare, advised them to take advantage of all the comforts of civilization, which he believed would effect a more speedy cure than any of the resources of his profession.

"You've had a narrow shave, both of you," he said—"particularly Warwick. When I saw him first, I hardly thought he was worth carrying to the rear. We were short of bearers, too; not like those infernal natives who have so many women about, full of pluck, and handier than the men for that matter. By-the-by, what's become of that young friend of yours? It's rumoured that the Ngapuhi carried him off. Beautiful daughter, and so on. Romantic—very."

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"Odd thing. Don't know where he is," said Mr. Slyde. "Warwick here means to go on the scout as soon as his blessed wound heals. We're getting anxious."

"I'm not," said Warwick, "Depend on it, if Erena Mannering has him in charge, no harm will come to him. Not a man of the Ngapuhi but would die in his defence, always excepting that brute Ngarara. We don't know who were killed at Orakau and who got away yet. As long as he's above ground neither Massinger nor Erena are safe."

"Seems badly managed, don't it," yawned Mr. Slyde, "when so many a good fellow has gone down, that reptile should escape? Hope for the best, however. Feel inclined to help Providence the next time we meet. Awful sleepy work this recovery business. I must turn in."

Some anxiety might have been spared to his friends if they could have beheld Mr. Massinger at the moment of their solicitude. The sun was declining; the shimmering plain of Rotorua lake lay calm and still, save for a lazy ripple on the beach below the room wherein the wounded man lay, on a couch covered with mats of the finest texture. Beside him sat Erena, regarding him from time to time with that rapt and earnest gaze which a woman only bestows on the man she loves or the child of her bosom. He had rallied since the first days of his wound, but the pallor of his countenance, and his evident weakness, told those of experience in gunshot wounds that the progress of recovery had been arrested. In such a case the danger is worse, say the authorities, than in the first loss of blood and organic injury. The patient page 355moved as if to raise himself, but desisted, as if such effort were beyond him.

"I cannot think," he said, "why I do not gain strength. I do not seem to have improved in the least; rather the other way. I wonder if there is any injury we don't know of."

"Pray God there is not!" she said, bending over him, and bathing his forehead. "My father says he never knew old Tiro-hanga's medical knowledge to fail. He says you only want time to be as well as ever. How many wounds has he not recovered from?"

"I should be more than willing to believe him," said the sick man. "But why am I so wretchedly weak? I feel as if I would like to die and be done with it, if I am to lie here for weeks and months. But I am a beast to complain, after all your goodness, child," he went on to say, as the girl's eyes filled with tears. "Please forgive me; I am weak in mind as well as body."

"Is my love nothing to you?" she cried, with sudden passion. "My life, my life—for it hangs on yours? If you die, I die also. I swear I will follow you to the reinga, as my mother would have said. I will not remain behind. Do not doubt of that."

As she spoke she moved nearer to his couch, and, throwing herself on her knees at his side, took his hand in both of hers, and, bowing her face upon his breast, burst into a tempest of sobs, which shook every portion of her frame.

Massinger, touched and partly alarmed by her grief, tried by all the means in his power to soothe her, smoothing her abundant hair the while, as it flowed over him in a cascade of rippling wavelets.

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"My darling, my darling!" he said, "I owe my life to you, and it shall be spent in proving my love and devotion. You must not despair, you who are so brave. I am afraid you are not an Ariki, after all, but only a woman—the best, the bravest, the dearest, in the world. This is only a passing faintness. We shall live to spend many a glad year together."

"It is I who am weak," she said, lifting her tearstained face, and essaying to smile as she drew back the long silken tresses from her brow. "Something seemed at that moment to warn me that I should never live to claim your love. I have often felt it. But, if your life is spared for long years to come, I shall not mourn. No, no! But you will never forget your poor Erena, who loved you—loved, yes, you will never know how much!"

As she spoke her last words, she rose to her feet, pressed one lingering, passionate kiss upon his forehead, and was gone.

With the dawn the tohunga arrived. This important and mysterious personage, of which one was always to be found in the larger sections of a tribe, combined the offices of priest and sorcerer with the more practical profession of the physician. Unquestionably, his knowledge of simples and general surgery was far from despicable. By incantations and spells, it was thought in the tribe that he had foreknowledge of the death or otherwise of his patients. As a soothsayer he had now used the powerful spell of the "withered twigs." Chanting a karakia, with a sudden jerk he broke off from the tree two of equal size and length. The piece he held in his left hand page 357snapped off short. The longer twig remained in his right.

"The pakeha will not die," he exclaimed. "My art has saved him. It will be good for the Ngapuhi tribe, and for the maiden Erena, whose mother I so much loved."

Arriving at the couch of the stricken pakeha, he looked upon him with solemn and mysterious regard. He felt his pulse, and minutely scrutinized the cicatrice of the newly healed wound. Meanwhile the eyes of the girl, dilated with terror and anxiety, watched his inscrutable countenance, as the mother of the sick child in more conventional abodes fixes her gaze on the physician, whose words contain the issues of life or death.

"Speak, O Tiro-hanga! Say whether he will die —and I also. One word will serve for both."

The tohunga placed his hand upon the shoulder of the excited girl, whose every nerve seemed quivering, as if the tension of mind and body had exhausted the limit of human endurance.

"As you are, so was your mother in her youth," he said, speaking with deep though restrained feeling in the Maori tongue; "in those days when the tall pakeha rangatira came to Hokianga from Maketu—he whose arm was strong as the lancewood of the hillside, and whose counsel was wise in the day of battle. I would have killed him, though my own life was forfeit, had I not seen that she would follow him to the reinga. But I could not cause a hair of her head to be harmed, such was my bondage to her mana. And you, O pakeha, will I save, likewise, for her sake. Comfort yourself, O Erena; the pakeha will not die."

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"Is it so? Truly do you say it?" almost gasped the frenzied maid, "Is there anything more that we can do? Have you the healing medicine for him?"

"I will prepare the bitter draught for him—that draught which will bring a man back to life, though the jaws of death were closing over him," said the tohunga. "When the sun is high, a change will come upon him."

"Are you sure? Are you indeed aware that he will begin to gain strength?" she asked eagerly. "He has been so terribly weak, and was beginning to lose heart."

"Did the daughter of the Toa-rangatira ever know my saying to prove false?" asked the priest, haughtily.

"Oh, no—no!" she rejoined hastily. "But tell me more. Shall we be able to carry him to the homes of his people? And shall we be happy afterwards?"

"I see," said the sage—"I see the pakeha standing among his people; he is well; he is happy; joy is in his face—in his voice. But there is blood—blood through it. I can see no more. There is a mist—a darkness. The future is hidden from me."

"A bad omen," said the girl, sadly. "You saw blood, O Tiro-hanga! But I care not for myself, so that lie be safe and unharmed."

"Such is the woman who loves," mused the tohunga, as he stalked moodily towards the shore of the lake—"of whatever colour or race, in the old days as well as in this present time, when chiefs are falling like withered leaves, and the pakeha drives the tribes to their death, as the wild-fowl on the warm lakes. And what cares she if the whole island is delivered to the stranger, and we become his slaves? All her thought page 359is for the recovery of this pakeha, whom, till ten moons since, she never set eyes upon."

With this moral reflection concerning the "eternal feminine," the substance of which has been stated by less recent philosophers, the magician of the period betook himself to the raupo whare set apart for him, where he remained long in deepest meditation, none of the humbler members of the tribe daring to disturb him.

He stayed till the close of the following day, to watch the effect of his potion, and finding that Massinger professed himself unaccountably improved in mind and body, directed that in three days the patient should commence his journey to the Oropi missionary settlement, and departed mysteriously as he had arrived.

The day was drawing to a close when a cry from one of the Maori converts at the mission station of Oropi informed the inmates of the approach of strangers. Cyril Summers and his household still clung to their lodge in the wilderness, in spite of the disquieting rumours that evil was abroad, that murder and outrage were still possible. As a matter of history, it has always been stated that, even after the official surrender of an enemy, and the disbandment of troops, guerilla bands capable of the wildest excesses are formed, recruited from the more desperate ruffians, whom only the stern punishments of martial law could hold down. Accustomed to comparative licence, often tacitly condoned in time of war, and being—to give them their due—often recklessly daring, their offences against discipline are leniently judged. But when the excitement page 360and the prizes of the campaign have been removed, the period of enforced repose often appears to the restless warrior of either side a season especially arranged for the payment of outstanding grudges, or the plunder of isolated homesteads. To the malevolent and treacherous Ngarara, devoured with jealousy of the pakeha preferred before him, it appeared as though the demons of wrath and revenge, worshipped by his ancestors, had delivered his rival into his hands. Infuriated at hearing of his removal and partial recovery, he had, by means of spies and kinsfolk, kept himself well informed of Erena's movements. Fearing that the wounded soldier would be withdrawn from his powers of injury, he resolved upon a bold stroke, by which he could free himself of his rival, and possess himself of the girl, for whom he was but too willing to sacrifice life itself.

Hypatia, ever alert to encounter the day's labours or adventures, had been the first to hear the announcement of the arrival. With Mr. Summers, she walked towards the small party which, emerging from the forest, came slowly along the path to the homestead.

"These are strangers," said he, looking earnestly at the cortége. "Three or four women, not more than a dozen men, and some one, either weak or wounded, carried in a litter. Who can they be? To what tribe do they belong?" he asked of the Maori servant woman who had followed them.

"Ngapuhi," said she confidently. "Rotorua natives, some of them, going to the coast with sick man."

"Who is the girl walking by the litter?" asked Hypatia, with quickened interest. "She is taller than the other women."

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"Most like Erena Mannering. Not sure; but walk like her. Half-caste she is, daughter of war-chief. Pakeha rangatira, belong to tribe all the same."

"Now, I wonder if this can be Lieutenant Massinger?" said Summers. "He has not been seen since the Gate Pah affair. This Erena Mannering was reported to have carried him off, when he fell fighting bravely beside Von Tempsky. His place of refuge may have become insecure; for that or other reasons they may wish to reach the coast."

Hypatia made no reply, but, walking quickly with her companion, reached the bearers of the invalid, as the girl, signing to them to halt, accosted Mr. Summers.

"You are the missionary of Oropi?" said she, in perfectly good English, spoken with a purity of intonation not always remarked in the colonists of presumably higher education. "We are bringing a Forest Ranger who was badly wounded at the Gate Pah to the coast. Will you kindly allow us to rest for a day? He is very low, and much fatigued by the journey."

As she spoke, Hypatia fixed her eyes, with feelings alternating between astonishment and admiration, upon this altogether amazing young person. Dressed, or rather draped, like the native women who formed part of the escort, without covering to head or feet, the simple attire rather heightened than disguised her beauty. Her free and haughty carriage, utterly unconscious as she seemed of her unconventional attire, the splendour of her glorious eyes, startled Hypatia, while her graceful pose as she turned to explain the situation reminded the English girl of the statue of Diana which she had seen in the Pitti palace at Rome.

As the two girls faced each other, with the half-page 362inquiring, half-challenging regard of the partly conscious rivals of their sex, they would have formed a contrast, rarely met in such completeness, between the finished aristocrat of the old world and this wondrous embodiment of all the womanly graces, reared amid the lonely lakes and wild-wood glades of a far land.

Alike in beauty, though one possessed the blue eyes, the abundant fair hair, the delicate rose-bloom of the mother isle; the other the ebon tresses, the flashing eyes, burning from time to time with a strange lustre;—alike their classic figures and graceful movement, each might have stood, had there been a painter in attendance, as the realization of the glories and graces of early womanhood.

Hypatia took the initiative. "Of course Mr. Summers, all of us indeed, will be too happy to be of service in such a sad case. And what is the name of the wounded man? I am very pleased to meet you."

"And I also," said the Maori maiden. "You will speak to him, will you not? Perhaps you may have seen him before."

Walking to the litter, a rude but efficient couch, Hypatia looked down upon the wounded soldier, who tried feebly to raise himself. The wasted form and drawn features of the sick man startled her, while in the bearded face and pallid brow, from which he feebly essayed to push back the clustering curls, she almost failed to recognize Roland de Massinger.

For one moment she gazed in horror and dismay, then taking his wasted hand and bending over his couch, the once calm and self-repressed Hypatia Tollemache covered her face with her hands and wept like a child.

"You know each other," said the forest maiden, page 363in a deep low voice. "I thought perhaps it might be you—you for whose sake he came to our unhappy land, for whose sake he now lies, perhaps dying."

"Erena!" said the sick man, "what are you saying? Surely you are not angry with Miss Tollemache? Is it her fault that I loved her once? Let it be sufficient that now I love you. Give me your hand."

With a look of ineffable tenderness, she gave her hand obediently as does a child.

"Miss Tollemache—Hypatia," he said, "she saved my life; will you not be friends?"

A brighter gleam came into the tearful eyes of the English girl. "You are more noble than I," she said. "His life has been given to you, to save and retain. Let us be sisters."

They clasped hands with the fervour of generous youth, ere the passions that rend and ravage have darkened the spirit. As their eyes met, the wounded man looked up with a faint smile.

The state of Massinger's health necessitated more than one day's sojourn at Oropi. However, on the following morning a marked improvement had taken place, so that it was decided in council that a farther stage might be reached on the way to Tauranga after the day's rest. The sufferer had been allotted the chief guest-chamber, a modest apartment, but exquisitely clean, whence looking forth on the mission garden, the fruit trees and old-fashioned English flowers recalled that beloved home-land which he had almost despaired of seeing again.

At the evening meal Erena, who had caused one of her dusky handmaidens to bring from the camp a mysterious package, appeared in European costume.

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Quietly but well dressed according to the fashion of the day, it was a revelation to her entertainers and to Hypatia to mark the ease and self-possession which she exhibited in her new part. The soft rich voice, the perfect intonation, the repose of her manner, through which but an occasional flash of emotion showed itself; the total absence of gesture which, in her other habiliments, seemed natural to her;—all these, as Hypatia admitted to herself, placed this antipodean maiden on a perfect equality with the best specimens of European society. When together they saw to the comfort of their patient, nothing could have surpassed the good taste and delicacy of her ministrations. Without making parade of proprietorship in the helpless sufferer, she assumed the rank of his fiancée, appearing equally confident of her companion's acceptance of that of friend and well-wisher.

In the case of many other women, her frank trust might possibly have been misplaced. But the justice and generosity which were the leading qualities of Hypatia Tollemache's nature, rendered her perfectly safe as a companion, precluded by every impulse from conspiring against her happiness.

As for Mrs. Summers and her husband, they were completely fascinated by her, holding that the reputation which she enjoyed for beauty and intelligence was even less than her due.

Hypatia, it may be, in the seclusion of her chamber, reflected, as other maidens have been known to do, on perhaps the too hasty dismissal of a lover so brave, so loyal, in every respect so worthy of woman's holiest devotion. She had, against her heart's inclination, against his fervent appeals, resolved page 365to give her life to the regeneration of the race, to the reform of the social system, to the alteration of a condition of things which the efforts of saints, philosophers, rulers, and prophets throughout nearly two thousand years had failed materially to change. "Who was she," it now seemed to be inquired of her, by an inward voice that would not be stilled," that she should presume to expect to move this colossal structure, so firmly rooted in the usages of immemorial custom?"

In her first efforts, she had been discouraged and disillusioned. In this her second endeavour, what had she effected? As a direct result of her hasty and inconsiderate action, Massinger had abandoned home and friends, rushed away for distraction to this Ultima Thule, at the very end of the habitable globe, where he was now lying between life and death. And, as if that was not a sufficiently dolorous conclusion, his life had been saved by the courage and devotion of another woman, to whom his faith was justly, irrevocably pledged. The full bitterness of her position was reached, when she acknowledged to herself that in her heart of hearts she was now conscious of feelings which before she had only suspected.

But Hypatia Tollemache, strong and deeply seated as were her primal emotions, was no love-sick girl to bewail herself over the inevitable; to chafe to morbid unrest against Destiny, that ancient force, which even the gods of an earlier world were powerless to disturb. No! "a perfect woman nobly planned," she accepted the blame of her mistaken act, as it now appeared to her, and facing, as she had full many a time and oft done before, an uncongenial part in life's mysterious drama, resolved to follow unswervingly the path page 366marked out for her by duty and principle. Was she to falter, to fail, because the unexpected had happened; because life's thorny path had become difficult, wellnigh impenetrable? "If thou faint in the day of adversity, thy strength is but small," said the wise king. More than once in time of trial had she braced up her courage by recalling the warning. Once more she looked the conflict of the future firmly in the face, and leaving her chamber with fixed resolve and earnest prayer, felt a renewed confidence in her ability to withstand, to undergo, whatever trials might be in store for her.

On the following morning, which had been fixed for the departure of the sick man and his attendants, it was evident that another day would be required for restoring his strength, which had been much drawn upon by the journey. He was most anxious to proceed; but Mr. Summers, who was not without some knowledge of medicine, as well as practical experience, distinctly forbade his removal. "It would be most dangerous," he asserted; "and at least twenty-four hours' additional rest was required before the patient could think of pursuing the journey." Mrs. Summers also pleaded with Erena, who, though manifestly anxious to reach a place of safety, consented to remain one more day.

"Do you think there is danger? "asked her gentle hostess. "I thought the war was all over."

"The fight at Orakau is over, the last stand at Te Ranga was made in vain; but the war is still in the hearts of the Waikato and the Ngaiterangi," said the Maori girl. "My father has enemies, and I, even I, have those who wish me evil. There is one whom page 367I fear for his sake"—here she intimated the room wherein Massinger lay. "It is hard to know where he will strike."

"But do you think he would come here? "said Mrs. Summers, turning pale. "We have never done anything but work and teach and pray for the welfare of the natives."

"When blood has been once shed, there is little thought of good or evil. And besides the old custom of revenge, a new religion has sprung up among the tribes, called the 'Pai Marire.' They have a false prophet, Te Ua, who persuades them that the pakehas are doomed to destruction. They also carry about with them the head of an officer of the 57th, whom they surprised at Ahuahu, and perform sacred rites around it."

"What a dreadful thing! "said Mrs. Summers, rapidly approaching a state of terror and amazement. "But surely they have always spared the missionaries?"

"The new teaching is that all the missionaries are to be killed," said the girl. "We have heard that Mr. Grace has been threatened, and Mr. Fulloon's house burned."

"But will not the troops protect us?" urged Mrs. Summers. "I thought they were quite close now?"

"They have marched to Te Awamutu. I was told so by a native woman yesterday," said Erena. "She said, besides, that Ngarara, the man who has sworn to revenge himself upon Roland, is out with a taua, or war-party, and may at any time surprise us."

"I suppose that is the reason you were so anxious to get on?"

"Partly, yes. And, besides, I did not wish to bring trouble on your household. But we must go page 368forward to-morrow, and perhaps what I am afraid of may never come to pass."

The day was mild and pleasant, though a louring sky had promised otherwise in the early part of the morning. Massinger was able to be moved into the sitting-room, and there, refreshed by his morning meal and the change of situation, declared that he felt strong enough to travel in the afternoon.

"We have arranged otherwise," said Erena, with a mock assumption of authority. "One day will not make much difference. I am going to the camp for an hour, so I will leave you to the care of Miss Tollemache." Here she smiled playfully at Hypatia, who had just entered the room. "I dare say you are anxious to have a talk together."

"How trusting and unsuspicious she is!" thought Hypatia. "Having once received his troth, she is absolutely sure of his fidelity. She has a noble nature, and, from me at least, she need not fear any disloyalty."

Mrs. Summers had already left the room. Then the man and the maiden who had last met under such widely different circumstances in another land, were once more free to have speech, undisturbed by the presence of onlookers.

But for this forest nymph, so sweet, so strong, so impossible to condemn, how differently even yet might their romance have ended! But the knight was in the toils of the Queen of Faerye, and to Elfland he must fare, under pain of death, or transformation to a being' that even she could not recognize. A creature false to his plighted troth, ungrateful to the girl who had saved his life at the risk of her own, whose love he had won. A love not transient and page 369fleeting, like so many affected by the women of his race, founded upon vanity, ambition, greed of wealth or rank, but changeless, immortal, strong as death, true to the grave, even to the dark realm beyond it.

Hypatia had probed and purified her heart, and she felt, though she loved him now with a force and passionate feeling hitherto unsuspected, that she could not for worlds have accepted his hand, even had he offered it.

They were now two different people. She, after trial, change, and the bitterness of lost illusions, had vowed herself to the life-devotion which succeeds the sanguine expectation of mighty work among the heathen. He, the haggard, war-worn soldier, sick unto death and sore wounded—ah! so unlike the trim sportsman and correctly attired country gentleman of the old half-forgotten life.

He was the first to speak. She gazed on him with the pitying tenderness of womanhood shining through her troubled eyes.

"A strange meeting, Miss Tollemache, in a strange land!" he said, with a brave attempt to smile. "Rather a change from Hereford here! Who would have thought of seeing you here, of all people?"

She made haste to reply, lest the unshed tears should resist all efforts to control them. She would have thrown herself on her knees by the side of his couch and clasped his wasted hand, had she dared to give vent to her feelings. Then she spoke lightly, though her mouth quivered with the effort.

"Isn't it hard to say where you may fall in with any given man, or woman either, if it comes to that, in these exciting days?"

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"Certainly you are the last person I ever expected to see here," he made answer, half musingly. "In New Zealand of all places, and at this particular mission station!"

"It is easy of explanation. I was tired of London life—disillusioned, if you will. You prophesied it, you may remember; and hearing from my old schoolfellow, Mary Summers, that she was hard pressed for help in her work, took my passage, and here I am."

"So I see" he replied gravely. "And from what I have heard lately, I heartily wish that you were anywhere else."

"But, surely, if there be danger—and I suppose you mean that—I have no more right to be shielded than another."

"Mrs. Summers, whom I deeply respect, has followed her husband in the path of a plain duty. But why you, without ties or adequate reason, should have volunteered for this forlorn hope, I cannot comprehend. It is the personal sacrifice which has a charm for some women, I suppose," he went on.

"And for some men," she retorted, "else why should you be here, wounded almost to the death in a quarrel in which you had no share, and which I believe in my heart you consider unjust. When will men come to understand that women differ widely among themselves, and are attracted, even as they are, by novelty and adventure?"

"Mine is only a man's answer, and scarcely logical either, but it is the best I have. I came to New Zealand because I could not live in England. Like you, I had lost a world of hope, trust, and fond illusion. This war was commenced without my consent page 371or support, but finding myself between two camps, I chose the British one."

"It was very natural," she said with a sigh. "But tell me of yourself. How were you wounded, and why did you not remain at the camp?"

"I should have remained there altogether," he said, with a flickering smile, "had it not been for Erena and her two cousins. We met with a reverse at the Gate Pah, and every man that fell near me was tomahawked within two minutes. These girls rushed in through a hail of bullets and dragged me into the high fern, where I lay safely until some of the Ngapuhi joined them. They carried me to a cave only known to the tohunga and a few individuals of the tribe."

"And after that?"

"I found next morning that the bleeding had been stopped and the wound bandaged. Since then I have been terribly weak, but am now recovering slowly, very slowly. To-day I feel better than I have done for some time past. I shall pick up as soon as we reach the shore."

"May God grant it," she replied. "If it was through any act of mine that you quitted home and friends, I should feel that your blood was on my head. When I think of your renunciation, I cannot help doubting whether any woman is worth the sacrifice. And now we must say farewell. You are to leave at dawn, I hear; so if we are doomed never to meet again, think kindly of Hypatia Tollemache, and believe that you have her best wishes, her prayers."

As she spoke she held out her hand, which he clasped in his; so thin and wasted was it that the tears rose to her eyes. He pressed his lips passionately to it, and relinquished the slender fingers with a sigh.

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It was late when Erena returned. The little household was assembled at the evening meal when she entered the room, and, declining to join the repast, stood with a countenance troubled and darkly boding before she spoke. So might Cassandra, as she stood before the Trojan host in high-walled Ilion.

"Bad news!" she said abruptly. "So bad that it could hardly be worse. This Hau-Hau sect is gaining ground. They are carrying round Captain Boyd's head to stir up the tribes; they have murdured Mr. Volkner, and are marching towards the coast. No one can tell where they will strike next."

The countenances of the women blanched as this announcement was made. Mr. Summers, though visibly affected, preserved his composure, as he asked where the dreadful deed took place.

"At Opotiki," said Erena. "He came in a vessel, though he was warned not to do so. He and Mr. Grace, another missionary, were at once taken prisoners, and Mr. Volkner was hanged on a willow tree by Kereopa; the tribe assenting."

"Is there any chance of their coming here?" said Mr. Summers. "We have never had the slightest altercation with the tribes. I have been here since 1850, and every thought of my heart, every word from my lips, has been with the object of their benefit. No chief would permit such an outrage, such an unheard-of crime."

"You do not know Kereopa," replied Erena. "He is one of those natives who go perfectly mad when their blood is up, and think no more of killing any man, woman, or child near him than you people do of wringing the neck of a kea. Besides, Te Ua, page 373who has declared himself to be a prophet, boasts of a message from the angel Gabriel, that the sword of the Lord and Gideon is committed into the hands of the Pai Marire, with which to smite the pakeha and the unfaithful Maoris. But I have sent one who will put Ropata on their track; if he comes up with them, they will learn more of Old Testament law."

"A day of rebuke and blasphemy, murder and outrage," groaned Cyril Summers. "And is this to be the end of our labours? I feel inclined, though it is putting one's hand to the plough and turning back, to make for the coast until matters are more peaceful. What do you intend to do?"

"My people and I, with Mr. Massinger, will start at midnight," said the girl, decisively. "I wish now that we had left this morning. I implore of you to leave with your family at the same time."

"But the road in the darkness?" said Summers. "The forest is difficult to thread by daylight."

"To our guide," said Erena, "the night is as the day. We shall keep on steadily until we reach Tauranga."

"I am tempted to join forces with you," he said. "But no! we must show the natives that we believe what we have taught them—that God is able to save those who trust in Him. Mary, Hypatia, you had better go with Erena's party, and take the children."

The delicate form of Mary Summers seemed to gain height and dignity as, with all the devoted courage of her "deep love's truth" shining in her steadfast eyes, she said, "I have but to repeat the words I spoke in the church where our lives were joined—'till death do us part.' My place is by you, my darling, here and hereafter. May God protect us all in this dread hour!"

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"And Miss Tollemache?" said Erena, addressing Hypatia. "Will you wait for the coming of the Hau-Haus—to be carried off as a slave, perhaps?" and here her piercing gaze seemed to read Hypatia's inmost soul. "You do not know what that means; I do! Taunts and blows, water to draw, burdens to carry, degradation unspeakable!"

The English girl drew herself up and returned the fixed regard of the daughter of the South with a look as unblenching as her own, ere she answered, calmly, almost haughtily—

"When I promised my friends to be a fellow-labourer with them, I made no reservations. I have cast in my lot with them, and will share their fortunes, even to the martyr's death, if it be so ordained."

Erena watched her with an expression of surprise which changed to frank admiration.

"Farewell, O friends," she said; "may God protect you from all evil. As for you, you are worthy of his friendship, of his love."

As she made the last gesture of farewell, she stooped, and taking Hypatia's unresisting hand, raised it to her lips and glided from the room.

It was no time for sleep. Praying and conversing by turns, the household awaited the departure of the little band. From the verandah they watched the bearers emerge from Massinger's room with the couch. This they placed upon the litter on which he had lain for so many a weary mile. They saw Erena take her place beside it as the bearers moved silently away. A dark form glided before them on the narrow path, the cortége followed through the darksome arches of the forest, and was swallowed up in the midnight gloom.

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After their departure, the household engaged in prayer. When Cyril Summers addressed the Almighty Disposer of events in earnest supplication that His servants might be spared the last terrible penalties of savage warfare, it cannot be doubted that each hearer's inmost heart responded most fervently to the appeal. Mrs. Summers wept as, with her hand in her husband's, she echoed his cry for deliverance, and rising from her knees with streaming eyes, threw her arms around Hypatia's neck.

"We have brought you into these horrors," she said. "Oh, why did I ever encourage you to come to this fatal shore?"

From Hypatia's eyes there fell no tears. An intense and glowing lustre seemed to burn in her deep blue eyes, as she gazed into the distance, as one who sees what is hid from ordinary mortals. One could fancy her a virgin martyr in the days of Nero, receiving her summons to the arena. Unquestioning faith, dauntless courage, and an almost divine pity, made radiant her countenance as she looked on Mary Summers and her sleeping children.

"I am not afraid of what man can do to us," she said softly. "The God whom we serve has power to deliver us in this dread hour. Did not Erena say that a body of the Ngapuhi men were marching on the track of the Hau-Hau band? 'Oh, rest in the Lord, and He will give thee thy heart's desire.' As her sweet voice rose, and the beautiful words of Mendelssohn's immortal work resounded through the room, a ray of hope illumined the forlorn household, as with a final hand-clasp all retired to their couches, though not to sleep.