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Raromi, or, The Maori Chief's Heir

Chapter XXXI. Nivens Finds a Partner

page 209

Chapter XXXI. Nivens Finds a Partner.

A Few evenings after Harold Morpeth and his wife had arrived home, as they sat by the woodfire, they reviewed certain passages in their lives, as travellers do who compare notes about the dangers and adventures they have gone through—the perils from which they have opportunely escaped.

'Have you ever thought it was strange to find me out in Australia?' asked Clara, archly.

'The thought passed through my mind once or twice, but I never dwelt upon it—why should I?'

'I had not a friend here when first I came out.'

'No? None?'

'None besides yourself, Harold mine.'

'I give it up—is it a secret?'

'It is; and now you shall know it.'

'Do you see this?' asked Clara, holding up a faded-looking letter. 'This made me cross the water to be on your side of the ocean.'

'Do you know it?'

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'I shall know when you let me see it, Clara.'

'That lette,' said Harold's wife, 'came to me when I was sorely tried—feeling alone in the world. God knows how I suffered then, for I had lost knowledge of my mother's relations, and after Noble—as you call him—left me I had not a friend in the world. That letter was balm to my wounded heart.'

Harold took the letter—it was his!

'Oh, Clara!' cried he; 'what would I not have given to have known it had reached you! I waited, and waited—and heard nothing.'

'How could you hear, Harold? The letter only reached me a short time before sailing. It was a despairing letter, too—I could not reply to it. However, I made up my mind. I came out with the family of a fresh governor, to teach his daughters music and French.'

'I wrote that,' said he, deeply touched by the memory of the past, 'after I had somewhat come to myself. I had had a terrible fight to gain the mastery over myself; I could scarcely hold the pen to tell you how awfully and shamefully I had fallen—'

'Hush, dear,' added Clara; 'don't look backward now—but forward, onward, and upward!

'I said to myself, Harold, when I had studied that letter—which has always been with me—it marks the moment when a brave man awoke to see his danger,' who, after a terrible inward struggle, has decided for God—truth—and honour.'

'And for you, Clara.'

'For me too, dear Harold. May God bless us and page 211 keep us ever loyal to Him, to the truth, and to each other!'

Nearly a year passed, and the firm of Morpeth and Scott is rapidly pushing its way to the front. Hard work, energy, and perseverance allied to tact will do more than idle, limp people imagine in this world—they give success. While Harold Morpeth sent cargoes of New Zealand produce to Sydney, Scott was ready to receive and dispose of them, and then buy up goods for the return voyage.

Let Mr. Ewen Scott speak for himself, and give what Australian news he has at hand. He says, in a letter to Harold Morpeth:—

'The cargoes you send are so well selected and arrive in such good condition that people look out for the Kahawai, money in hand. Mr. Morgan is so good and so kind, I hardly know how to speak of him. He treats us as if we were sons. He advises me constantly, and each time I see the value of his advice and profit by it.

'I live with Mr. Jarvey, an old bachelor; but I am constantly at the Morgans to spend the evening. In the society of mother and daughter I find a real home influence. This I prize very highly, after the rough-and-tumble life at New Zealand.

'Foxwell and his gang, you will be rejoiced to hear, have been captured at last, after infinite pains and much danger.

'The authorities could never make out how, after each serious affair, in which the ruffian invariably shewed page 212 skill as well as daring, he and his gang could escape for weeks or months and leave not a trace behind him.

'The secret is out. An outlying settler, a man of great determination, had been robbed and ill-treated by this gang. Mounting a horse of tried mettle, and taking natives and dogs, he at last tracked Foxwell and his gang to their lair. They had chosen an isolated spot, well-hidden amongst the spurs of the Blue Mountains. Here they lived in perfect security, surrounded by plenty, and hidden from the world.

'The increasing demand for good potatoes and other New Zealand produce leads me to think we want a bigger craft for our trade; one of, say, two hundred tons at least. The timber trade is sure to increase and pay well. Here, as you know, we have hard, durable timber; but not the light, easily-worked pines which abound at your very back-door.

'Dog's-ear has Kai-wara-wara glen, has he not? Could you not get it from him by purchase or lease, and start a saw-mill, worked by water power? If so, I should advise you to buy a flat, strong brigantine here, an American, which is in the market and can be bought cheap. We could run her to the Wanganui river, and load up sawed stuff direct for this port or Melbourne.

'You remember Whippy, who served you a good turn here; he wants to return to New Zealand. He has asked me to enquire whether you will take him in the warehouse, and whether you could find work for his son. He has turned out an honest fellow, and I should advise it.

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'Mr. and Mrs. Linton are the most enjoyable people I know. They have told me their history. It is as wonderful and startling as that of a friend of mine. You shall hear it when I see you. I have always their kind remembrances to yourself and Mrs. Morpeth.'

We give Mr. Harold Morpeth's reply to this letter, and the more readily, as he refers to the lives and conditions of some of those who figure in these pages; of whom with the reader's permission, we must now take leave. He says:—

'You would not recognize the old cottage again. Nivens has entirely altered its appearance. I have also planted so many flowering plants and shrubs that we are embowered in masses of foliage, and festooned with sweet-smelling flowers.

'Nivens has married Mrs. Norris. They live in a cottage he has built at Kai-wara-wara. I have fixed him there at the yard, to build boats and small craft—it pays well.

'You would laugh to see how the serious, sorrowful Mrs. Norris of olden times thaws when a restless fit comes over Nivens—a relic of old times. She hands Nivens his flute, and he gives such a lilt that one dances in spite of oneself.

'Visiting them one evening, when Nivens had the fit on, I caught Mrs. Nivens, and we danced so joyously that, at last, Nivens threw down his flute, and cut capers like a schoolboy. "Shiver my timbers, if the old lady ain't thawed at last!" he cried out. "I'll teach her to do a hornpipe; a woman as can do that can do any-page 214thin' in this mortial world." Mrs. Nivens can now dance a hornpipe; and Nivens is happy.

'Your suggestion about a saw-mill is a good one. I have just obtained the right to throw up a dam across the glen, and have a saw-mill where we think fit. Dog's-ear said at once, "Takewhat land—what position—you like; and when you cut wood give me enough to build a cottage like the Pakeha; I will end my days near you, Raromi."

'To settle the affair properly, I induced him to have a Korero, so that the poor fellows who form the sad remnant of his wasted tribe might get the fair payment of what I meant to offer. "Raromi, my son," said he, "what is your will? I, Dog's-ear, say, Let it be done." I named the price—a fair one—and it was accepted at once.

'"Nga-ti-tama, listen," said the old man. "My time is short; let me speak to you for the last time—yes, for the last time. My word is this; you are few, and you want rest and peace. Be it so. When I die, Raromi shall be chief. He is my son; he lives in my heart. To him I leave this mere pounamu (beautiful jade club), which has come to me from brave Nga-ti-tama chieftains. Love him, Nga-ti-tama; his word is straight; work for him; trust in him, and you will find a friend when, alas! you have none. I have said it!" The old chief sat down, and tears rolled down his furrowed cheeks—it was really touching.

'I like your idea about buying the American brigantine, but I wish to judge for myself as to her intrinsic value. These American craft are often wholly built with soft page 215 wood, and unless we are careful we shall perhaps buy a worthless craft which will be used up in five or six years. Send her here for a trip, on freight, that I may see her. Mr. Morgan will tell you what to do.

'We are in rather an unsettled state just now. A tribe of natives, evidently from a distance, are creeping into the woods near Port Nic. Cattle are being killed and stolen, and two settlers have been found murdered. Are these fellows on a war-party? Dog's-ear has had news, and is on the alert. He declares he will go and find out definitely who it is, and what is the meaning of this invasion.

'The last few days the old chief has watched me come and go with a deep, affectionate regard, as if he were afraid to lose sight of me. "Tell me," said I, at last, "what is in your heart?" "I have had a warning," said he—"and it means death." '