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Raromi, or, The Maori Chief's Heir

Chapter X. Light in Darkness

page 63

Chapter X. Light in Darkness.

Noble's humble cottage—his no longer—was silent. Death reigns there; and his presence paralyses the tongue even of the living.

Mrs. Norris sat and crooned to herself over the red embers of a big wood fire.

'Ah me! what a life it is! nothing fixed, sure, only that we must die. We're always dying, it seems to me, when we've just learnt how to live. Did anybody ever see such a man as he was'—turning her head—'and yet to die like that, throwing his life away, I call it?'

'Don't say that!' echoed a voice behind the window, which made her start and cry out.

'I'm sorry I frightened you, Mrs. Norris,' added Falconer; 'and yet your remarks hit me hard—but they're true; I wasn't worth the effort, the sacrifice of such a man!'

'I hope I haven't hurt your feelings, my lad; I forpage 64got you, I was only thinking about him. There's plenty of bad men about; he was about one of the best I ever knew.'

'He was, Mrs. Norris; but for me—why is it the useless ones are spared?' There was silence for a moment. Then Falconer jumped up and paced to and fro.

'Sit down, lad; you loved him, I can see—you must have loved him—'

'Loved him!' cried Falconer, facing Mrs. Norris, looking pale and haggard, and greatly excited.

'Day by day he watched for me and over me—I see it now—as the angels do, they say, over those they love. No insult, no indifference, kept him from trying to call me back to the path of honour—back from the living death of guilt and shame!

'Oh, blind, besotted wanderer!' he cried out, 'running blindly to ruin, held back by the love and self-denial of one I knew not, whose real life, whose real love were hidden from me, until now.

'And now it's too late! too late!'

'Too late, lad! it's never too late to mend; to turn from sin and folly; to seek the blessed love of Christ, which seems to me to be the only love that doesn't fail in this life.

'Think of this. Your friend's sole desire was to save you, you say?'

'It was, I firmly believe.'

'How? By leading you from sin and folly into the path of uprightness and honour. Follow out his desire, now. This is just the time. Perhaps it is the moment of decision.

page 65

'Decide, then! Men of your stamp—and will—often have a sharp struggle to get free; but, oh, it's for life or death!'

Falconer decided; but he had no force—no will—to act. The whirlwind had smitten him; who could stop its force? He felt powerless.

He jumped up suddenly and rushed out of the cottage.

He rushed along madly, feeling he must do something—go somewhere—anywhere, to get rid of the piercing, harrowing thoughts which, arming and pointing the tooth of despair, probed his quivering soul to its very depths.

Tearing along at great speed, he soon arrived on the beach. And now voices, gaiety, and laughter smote on his ear; and he hurried forward impetuously towards those who would doubtless welcome him and cheer him.

He stood before the open door of the Bar!

Light streamed out all around, and revealed the barkeeper, all smiles and cheerfulness. To and fro flitted those who danced, sang, and rejoiced with an air of such thorough gaiety and happiness that Falconer felt irresistibly drawn to join them.

Was he not miserable and lonely? was not all dark and forboding without? and did not remorse and despair gnaw at his heart and madden him within? He would fling it all off, and be gay, be—

'Come in, lad,' cried the barkeeper; 'don't stand out in the cold!'

Out rushed the drunken, reeking, howling crowd, polluting the very air by their obscene oaths.

Falconer turned and fled, a very tempest raging in page 66his soul. He saw the gulf at his feet, and rushed away ere he should be drawn into it. His very will, too, failed him; that gone, he was lost!

To flee from the Bar was comparatively easy; but to See from the power of evil, from its allurements, from his inner self!—how could he do this?

The evil he had nourished in his heart was like the boa, it threatened to strangle him the moment he put forth an effort to be free!

Falconer tore along the road leading away from the settlement, he cared not where, out towards the forest.

Fierce, angry cries burst from him; then low, muttered words like prayers; but now, at times, convulsive sobs shook him. At last, standing still, and stretching out his arms in the darkness, he cried out, 'O God, have mercy on me, and save me!'

Forward again. But he is getting exhausted. He stumbles over a fallen tree, and lies for a moment, rises to his knees, and now bursts forth a wailing, despairing cry to God for mercy and help. He waits for help, kneeling—hoping—fearing—yet pleading.

Light breaks in upon him. Hark! The still, small voice that once calmed the storm on the Lake of Galilee speaks to him—to his soul—and the tempest is hushed. There is a great calm.

Suddenly, while he is still kneeling, a whirring sound is heard, and a tomahawk buries itself in a fallen tree beside him.

He arose; and as he did so, a blow came from an unseen hand, and Falconer was stretched senseless on the ground.

page 67

'Have we caught the Kaka?' asked a painted warrior.

'Yes,' replied another,' it's the big sailor from Poneke.6 We've done our work, and now let us get paid for it.'

'But be warned; if Dog's-ear hears of this—he's the friend of the big sailor—he will send us to the Reigna, if he can. E Taringa Kuri7is mad after these Pakeha, and has ordered his own warriors not to touch anybody from Poneke.'

'What is that to us? We care not for Dog's-ear; we care not for the Pakeha.'

'Good. But is it not strange, one Pakeha makes friends with us to kill another Pakeha?'

'Oh! I am Maori. I am ready to kill all the Pakeha! And, look here, O friend! Te Rauparaha wants to do this.'

'Ah! say you so?'

'I do; but he fears.'

'Fears what?'

'To lose the big guns and the blankets these Pakeha bring in their kaipuke.'

'Come, let us go back into the forest. We shall find the black Pakeha towards Makara.'

These were outlawed warriors, employed covertly by Te Rauparaha to harass the settlers, spy out their affairs, rob them if they could, and, in fact, do anything that might sow animosity between the settlers and Maoris, of which he hoped to reap the advantage as occasion served.

Day is breaking.

Mrs. Norris has been sitting up all night. All through page 68the night she went outside from time to time, looked round and listened, and then went in to crouch by the fire, wondering where Falconer was, and praying God to have him in His keeping, and bring him home in safety.

Where is Falconer?

Yonder, dragging himself painfully along the bit of even road before turning up to the cottage.

'I can't do it!' he mutters, and sits down again, as he has done so often that terrible night.

'Shall I give in?' he asks himself. 'No! By God's help, it's now or never!' And he makes his last struggle.

Mrs. Norris hears a confused noise outside, staggering steps; and then, as she rises wearily to go outside, Falconer totters and falls, forcing in the door, and falling at her feet.

Thus it was Falconer reached home.

6 A Maori name for Wellington, derived from the English name for the region, Port Nicholson. It is used twice on this page, reinforcing that the dialogue being exchanged is between two Maori warriors. This is significant because the narration during this chapter was following Falconer, and these warriors appear very abruptly, so this repletion of Poneke helps to avoid confusion.

7 Translated into English this roughly means Dog’s-Ear. As explained in endnote six, this is to reinforce the abrupt switch of narration from Falconer to the Maori warriors.