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The Adventures of Kimble Bent

Chapter XIV — Adventures at Te Ngutu-o-Te-Manu

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Chapter XIV
Adventures at Te Ngutu-o-Te-Manu

In the midst of dangers—Bent stalked by Hauhaus—Old Jacob to the rescue—” Come on if you dare!”—The white man's new Maori name—Government forces attack and burn Te Ngutu-o-te-Manu—A new use for hand-grenades.

When Bent returned to the “Bird's-Beak” stockade he found himself in a position of extreme peril.

The Hauhaus, excited by the news of Kane's treachery and summary execution, were fiercely hostile in demeanour, and some of the young bloods came dancing about the white man, as he walked into the village, with menacing shouts, emphasised by savage thigh-slapping, pukana-ing, and grimacing with out-thrust tongue and rolling eyes, and similar demonstrations of derision and hatred.

A council of the people was held on the marae, and the killing of Kane was narrated in minutest and barbaric detail. Then several Hauhaus rose in turn and demanded the death of “Ringiringi,” on the principle that all pakehas were unreliable, and that it was a foolish policy to keep one in the camp who might sooner or later betray them. “Let us page 140 lead him outside the pa and shoot him,” proposed one truculent young warrior of the Tekau-ma-rua.

Kaati!” cried Titokowaru, in his great roaring voice, as he rose with his spear-staff in his hand. “‘Ringiringi’ is my pakeha. I have tapu'd him, and I have told him that his life is safe. If you want to shoot him—well, you must kill me first!”

Then, turning to the white man, the war-chief took him by the hand, led him to his own house, and shut the people out. He told “Ringiringi” that in the present temper of the tribesmen he had better remain as much as he could in the wharé, and that, at any rate, he must not venture far from the door unless he, Titoko, were with him or in view.

Some days later, “Ringiringi,” imagining from the more settled and pacific attitude of the Hauhaus that he no longer ran any risk in taking his walks abroad, wandered a short distance outside the stockade into the forest, and, seating himself on a fallen tree-trunk, filled his pipe for a quiet smoke. Suddenly he heard a cough. He looked about him, but saw no one.

“Who's there?” he called out.

A voice close above him replied, “It is I— Hakopa.”

“Ringiringi” looked up quickly, and saw an old tattooed man named Hakopa (Jacob) te Matauawa, perched on the lowest branch of a rata-tree, with a double-barrelled gun in his hand. Hakopa was a page 141 tall, lean, straight old fellow, a veteran of the ancient fighting type. Bent had a thorough admiration for him as a man of singular courage, without the braggadocio of the young toas; Hakopa had for a long time exhibited a kindly leaning towards the white man, and had been a firm friend of his all through the troubled days in the pa.

“Quick, quick!” he said, in a low, cautious voice. “Hide yourself, Ringi! When you walked out of the pa I heard two men who were watching you say that they would follow you up and kill you as they had killed Kingi. They went to their wharés for their weapons, and I followed you quickly to warn you. I saw you standing there, and climbed on this branch to see what those men are doing. E tama! Conceal yourself! They are coming.”

The white man hastily selected a hiding-place. He lay down behind a big log near by, a fallen pukatea-tree; the log and the creepers and ferns that grew about it quite concealed him from the view of any one approaching from the pa.

Hardly had he hidden himself than two villainousvisaged young Hauhaus walked quickly along the track from the pa gateway. Both swung tomahawks as they came, and one carried at his girdle a revolver—trophy taken from some slain white officer.

Seeing Hakopa descending from his tree-perch, they stopped and asked:

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“Where is the pakeha? Did you see him pass?”

“Why do you ask?” said the old man.

“We have come to kill him,” replied one of the men. “Where is he?”

Hakopa instantly put his cocked tupara to his shoulder and levelled it at the foremost of the Hauhaus, the man with the revolver.

Haere atu!” he said sharply. “Go! Leave this spot at once, or I will shoot you. ‘Ringiringi’ is my friend.”

The old fellow's determined air quite overawed the pakeha-hunters, and they sulkily and silently returned to the pa.

Jacob watched them off, and when the white man had risen from his hiding-place he escorted him back to the pa, walking in front of him with his gun cocked, on the alert for any attack on his protégé. He took “Ringiringi” to his house, and then reported the affair to Titokowaru.

The chief showed genuine anger. He assembled the fighting-men, and sternly ordered them to molest the white man no more. “If you harm him,” he said, “I shall leave the pa and return to my own village. Listen! ‘Ringiringi’ is henceforth my moko-puna—my grandchild—and I now give him another name, the name of one of my ancestors. His name is now Tu-nui-a-moa.”

And behind Titokowaru leaped up old Hakopa, a bright tomahawk in his hand. Making sharp, quick page 143 cuts in the air with his tomahawk, he cried, as he danced to and fro:

“Yes, and if any one attempts to touch the white man, he will have to kill me too! Kill me and Titokowaru! Who will dare it? Come on, come on!”

Thereafter Bent was not molested. He went by his new name, and “Ringiringi” he was called no more; at any rate, not by Titokowaru's tribe.

The “Bird's-Beak” soon received its baptism of blood and fire. Colonel McDonnell, with a force of about three hundred Armed Constabulary and volunteers, under Majors von Tempsky and Hunter, attacked the pa on August 21, 1868. The whites charged right into the village under a heavy fire, and the Maoris fled to the bush, losing several killed.

Bent, fortunately for himself, was not in the pa; he had gone over to the Turangaréré settlement, a few miles away, to procure gunpowder and paper for the manufacture of cartridges, and most of the other men were out cattle-shooting in the bush. Titokowaru retired to his praying-house when the firing began, and sat there muttering incantations, and it was only with great difficulty that he was persuaded by his people to leave the wharé and retire. The great house was set fire to by Colonel McDonnell when the pa was captured, and the sacred wharé-kura, where the high-priest had so often exhorted his people and with enchanted taiaha told off the warriors of the Tekau-ma-rua, was soon a page 144 mass of flames. The Government troops lost four men killed and eight wounded in the engagement. Most of these casualties occurred in the march back to Waihi, which became a heavy rear-guard action, for the main body of the Hauhaus came up in time to attack the troops briskly as they retired through the thick bush. Then they drew off and returned to their half-demolished pa, to weep over their dead and the ashes of their great wharé-kura and rebuild their ruined homes.

The troops had placed a number of hand-grenades, small shells filled with powder, in the thatch of the wharés when they fired the village; but some of the houses were not destroyed, and on the return of the Hauhaus, they found some of these grenades unexploded. The dangerous shells were given to Bent to handle. He pulled out the fuses—which the Maoris called wiki, or wicks—and emptied the precious powder into flasks. In this way a sufficient quantity of powder to make eighteen gun-cartridges was obtained from each hand-grenade.