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Raromi, or, The Maori Chief's Heir

Chapter XV. Death Amongst the Kakas

page 97

Chapter XV. Death Amongst the Kakas.

On emerging from the glen, Falconer found, as Scotty had predicted, the woods just in that vsisy locality were thinner. They soon came to an open circular space free from trees—a clearing.

'Hulloa! Scotty, here's a hut; some one's been here to—'

'It's a Maori raupo hut, run up for temporary shelter.'

'We'll use it, Scotty; it's just what we want.'

'No! Falconer; I don't like the affair. Somebody has not long left it Suppose the "Moa-pauks" are using this hut, they will fall upon us just when we don't expect them—we shall be trapped. No; we'll go to the opposite side of the clearing; there the woods will shelter us again, and from that point we can watch all intruders coming upon us from the glen.'

'I begin to feel confidence in you, Scotty.'

'Thanks, old boy. Do you know I've ranged Australian forests, and they sharpen a fellow up, although they are altogether different to these.'

page 98

'How so?'

'Here you have hills and dales, masses of trees which shut out the light, and thick undergrowths which hold the moisture and promote verdure. There you have flat plains—where I was—a burning sun, with immense gum trees, the leaves of which hang down like spear-heads, and give no shelter whatever.'

'Here we are, Falconer.' 'Yes, I know, at Makara.'

'Ay, but at home—look!'

Scotty had searched along the lower side of a rough ridge, and had found a shallow cave.

'Here, captain, we're sheltered—fern fronds for beds—a good fire in front, hidden too—and kakas in abundance. What do you want more?'

'Kakas will do, Scotty, but where are they? Hark! I hear the berries falling!'

'That's the rain we want,' cried Scotty, laughing; 'and now to work. If I fail—why, then, the gun.' 'What are you going to do?'

'Look, and follow me;' saying this, Scotty furnished himself with a stout stick. Then dragging Falconer with him, he cried out suddenly, 'Here's our tree! Put your back against that tree.' While Falconer was thinking of the next manoeuvre, Scotty was up the tree and hidden amongst the foliage.

All at once, strange, sharp screams—which for the moment startled Falconer—came out from amongst the foliage, well up the tree. A confused fluttering of wings was soon heard, and kakas screeched and fluttered by the dozen over Falconer's head.

page 99

Whack! whack! went Scotty's stick; and the secret was out—one after another, kakas fell under Scotty's powerful blows, and came tumbling to the ground. 'How does that look from a breakfast point of view?' asked Scotty, as he came down.

'It's first-rate.'

These hungry travellers were soon grilling pieces of parrot in front of a big wood fire; from time to time eating the part well done ravenously, each holding the delicate morsel by a long wooden spit.

'Aren't they tough?' said Falconer, at last.

'So they are!' replied Scotty; 'how glad I am I've finished.'

'Before we lose any more time,' exclaimed Scotty, after the breakfast of roast parrot,' I must set a" dodger-trap."'

'What's that?' asked Falconer. 'I have heard of "man-traps," and even of "soul-traps" amongst the natives of the Pacific—'

'Captain mine, I'm practical—come and see. First, we'll cut some of these;'—meaning reeds found in a swampy corner. These were tied in a bundle. Then Scotty took his rough jacket, and buttoned it round the bundle.

'It's a scare-crow,' cried Falconer.

'We shall see,' was the reply.

Then Scotty took the bundle and fixed it inside the doorway of the hut, so as to be well exposed to view from the outside.

'Now for a hat,' he cried.

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'Here you are!' Falconer had found an old one made of reeds in a corner of the hut.

'Now I'm ready. This dummy with my hat on—not the reed one—shall sit there. Do you see the reason of it?'

'To scare the Moa-pauks?'

'No, sir; I'm astonished at your density. Any of the Moa-pauks, crawling out of the glen, will see the figure, and think it is one of us. And I shall be surprised if they don't put a ball into it—and rush it. But this is the great point,—we shall be warned.'

The two had no sooner crawled back to their cave than Scotty, utterly overcome by fatigue, fell soundly asleep. It was one of those sleeps such as powerful men fall into after undergoing great physical fatigue.

Falconer watched him. He could not sleep. He sat and thought. Then he pulled out a small book and read; after which, on his knees, he poured out his thanks to God, and lifted his heart to Him.

Falconer now again watched Scotty. Still he slept—and slept heavily.

Slipping out of their hiding-place, Falconer mounted the ridge above them, and walked along it some distance, until he could get a good view over the clearing towards the hut—towards the entrance to the glen.

He sat there and watched.

Before long, what was his surprise to see two Maoris creeping towards the clearing.

Hiding behind trees and bushes they advanced slowly and cautiously, until they had a clear view of the hut.

Now they were hidden. All at once a gun was page 101fired, and then Falconer saw two natives bound into the hut.

Did the dummy alarm them? Was there a hidden foe? passed through Falconer's mind; for, as he sat and watched, he heard the noise of a terrible struggle going on inside.

The reason was soon made apparent. The two Maoris rolled out of the hut, and fought and struggled together like madmen—over Scotty's cap!

They forgot all else. Each one, it seemed, was determined to have that cap, or die for it.

Falconer was amused at first at the trifle which had diverted their attention, to obtain which life even did not seem too great a sacrifice. But he soon saw what a danger they had escaped, and what great service Scotty's cap had rendered them. And Scotty's wisdom appeared more conspicuous than ever.