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Raromi, or, The Maori Chief's Heir

Chapter XIX. A Fair Captive, Unfairly Captured

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Chapter XIX. A Fair Captive, Unfairly Captured.

A Wonderful panorama opens out on all sides, when the voyager, having left Port Nic., is well off Cape Terawiti, and has opened out Cook's Straits in all their beauty in fine weather.

Looking northward his eye catches the glittering peak of Mount Egmont, at least one hundred miles distant; and on his right hand, close to, the wild, broken peaks and glens, and bluff headlands of the Tararua range, where it comes down to the Straits. To the south the lofty Kaikouras, and the rugged scenery of the elevated parts of the Middle Island, add to the wild beauty of the scenery; which is completed by the bold, weird-looking coast on the left hand, hiding one of the most splendid series of harbours in the southern hemisphere—Queen Charlotte's Sound.

The Kahawai was in the midst of this coast scenery. But the weather had changed suddenly. It seemed inclined to blow.

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'Raromi,' said Dog's-ear, 'you must run in and make fast the big canoe close under the island, Mana; very fast! It will blow, but hold on to Mana!'

Following Dog's-ear's advice, Kahawai was run in between Mana and Porirua, close under the lee of Mana, and was anchored in two fathoms of water—so close, it seemed as if one could throw a biscuit ashore.

Mana lies just off the harbour of Porirua. Here the truculent, savage chief Rangihaeata lived and ruled; a magnificent Hercules, but a thorough savage; who once, after this period, even before the governor, 'thrust out his tongue, which quivered like a serpent's, to an unnatural length, and rolled his bloody eyeballs like a demoniac,' in a moment of anger.

Dog's-ear went ashore on Mana, to find means of crossing over to Porirua. At this place he was going to try and trade on Raromi's account. In fact, as Scotty and Falconer were amusing themselves, looking up and down the coast opposite, they saw the chief cross the roadstead, enter Porirua harbour, and disappear, on board a big canoe.

Our two sailors, cooped up in a small cabin, found inaction almost insupportable after a time.

'We'll take the dinghey and go ashore,' said Scotty; "I must have a turn.'

'We can't go together, Scotty.'

'Why not? Under the lee; the Kahawai moored as if she were in Port Nic. harbour. Come along, and don't be disagreeable, old fellow.'

Falconer yielded; the two stepped ashore, and hauled up the boat, high and dry.

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'There ought to be a village close by, for I fancied I saw the top of a whare before we landed,' said Scotty. 'Perhaps we can get some potatoes—who knows?'

'Here's a discovery!' cried Falconer, who had hurried up from the shore; 'here's a deserted pah. Look! what a splendid bit of carving is on that whare; it must have been a chief's house.'

They had, in fact, stumbled on a deserted pah, not long before deserted by Rangihaeata for a stronger pah at Porirua. They stood before his whare.

This whare had been called by its owner 'Kai tangata' (lit. eat man); and from its name the reader may guess at another feature in the huge chief's character.

The boards facing the portico, or verandah, always carried out so as to leave an open space in front, were finely carved with grotesque figures, the eyes of which were made of mother-of-pearl. Each figure also had the tongue thrust out to great length (the Maori style of shewing defiance). Inside was the carved image of a most hideous form, which supported the ridge-pole; said to have been carved by the chief himself.

'Suppose we take possession, old boy,' said Scotty. 'You're a bit of a chief, Mr. Raromi; and Dog's-ear is your friend—father, I ought to say, for he has adopted you.'

'Suppose the owner found us here! However, we'll look round—and then aboard.'

A tall, scowling native crawled round the whare, and, with his head nearly on the ground, looked in at the front of the house, and watched the two young men as a cat does a mouse.

'But where are the natives?' asked Scotty.

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'It's deserted, don't you see? I'll warrant it belonged to Rangihaeata. I heard he was building a new pah at Porirua.'

'Here's an odd crib!' now burst from Scotty, whose eyes were everywhere; 'let's go inside and explore. It's quite romantic: what else shall we find?'

This was a semicircular house, made of wood; the roof was carried out, and made a kind of verandah. In front of the verandah hung what had been a costly and beautiful mat; and tufts of albatross feathers hung about in bunches.

The Maori spy saw them enter the house, and as he watched them his eyes dilated with fury. He clutched a short club with a nervous grasp, and jumped to his feet—he ran inland and disappeared.

If the two friends had known it, they would have gone a hundred miles in another direction, would have run any risk, rather than desecrate the Wahitapu, or most sacred resting-place of E Tohi, sister of Te Rauparaha.

This simple event, this slight accident, changed the current of their future lives.

'I've had enough of this deserted pah,' said Falconer, at length; 'let's get aboard—I'm anxious.'

'How jolly!' cried enthusiastic Scotty. 'What a discovery we've made!'

The sailors now hurried down to the shore, towards the boat. But behind them, and keeping well out of sight, crept some stealthy Maoris.

'The boat's gone!' cried Falconer. 'What's the meaning of this?'

'I'll swim aboard,' said Scotty, 'it was my—'

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'Yes, Scotty, but I must find the boat. We can't go to sea without a boat!'

Hearing a slight noise, Falconer faced round, when instantly a small band of Maoris rushed at them with such headlong speed that Falconer and Scotty were thrown down, and before they could recover themselves they were prisoners—and bound hand and foot.

'Why is this?' cried Falconer, with pretended fury. 'Maori and Pakeha are at peace. E Taringa Kuri is with us, visiting Rangihaeata; his fury will be great when he—'

'Ha! Dog's-ear is with you!' said a young chief.

'He is. We are under his protection, beware his anger!'

The only reply to this was a hurried order by the young chief, when the two friends were roughly hauled aboard the Kahawai, and, after lying a few minutes on deck, were unceremoniously bundled into the hold. The hatches were replaced.

They were in utter darkness!

Now came confused noises of those talking, of the pattering of hard feet overhead, of hungry natives rummaging and quarrelling in the cabin. But these sounds ceased suddenly, and were succeeded by others more ominous of trouble and disaster.

The natives were hauling up the anchor—were trying to get the schooner under weigh!

'She's under weigh!' said Scotty.

'My poor Kahawai!' said Falconer, sadly. 'What will they do with her?'

'And with us, captain?'

The Maoris jumped about overhead,—the Kahawai page 132heeled over,—the water swished against her sides,—she began to plunge and heel over; she was evidently outside the harbour—out at sea!

Then came over Falconer and Scotty a moment of depression and despair, such as the brave feel at times. The brave fellows, who had borne up under trials, difficulties, and dangers without number, felt unmanned.

Their pretty Kahawai, their fortune, their future, swept away, and themselves prisoners!

'Those Maoris dogged our steps!' said Falconer, at length,

'Yes, and they're in possession. I'm sure we're running along the coast. Oh, if—there, I've done it!'

'Done what?'

'Got one hand free. Now for the other—and now the legs.'

Scotty had freed one hand, had reached his pocket-knife; their thongs were cut—they were free!

There was a sliding panel in the bulkhead which separated the cabin from the hold. A very slight opening here enabled Scotty to scan the interior of the cabin.

'I say, old fellow,' whispered Scotty to his mate, 'there's—why, only fancy!—there's a Maori lass in our very cabin—a beautiful girl, too!'

'A woman?'

'Yes, and a young chief talking to her like a "lovyer" of the British type;—and yet that's the rascal who has run off with our Kahawai.'

'And ourselves!'

'Yes; let me think. I must find it out; there's a reason for all this. What is it?

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'I have it, Falconer,' said the irrepressible Scotty; 'I see through it all.'

'Do you? I wish I did.'

'These two are lovers. Their friends were against them; their tribes enemies, perhaps. They have run away. They care little how they get clear, so that they are not caught; once at home with his tribe, and they are safe. Maori chiefs often run away with noted beauties like that'

'That's small consolation to me, Scotty—to know I shall pay for this, and be ruined!'

'Not so fast, Captain Falconer; you don't look far enough.'

'Tell me which way to look, then; any way out of this fix!'

'I believe these are runaways; they found us ready to hand, and they will use us. The rascals will run into some creek or river, will jump ashore, the gentleman will fly with his lady-love, and we shall be free.'

'Think you so, my brave Scotty?'

'I do; I believe it.'

Scotty was partly correct. Tuimoa, a dashing young chief of a band attached to the Ngatiraukanas—loose allies of Te Rauparaha—had seen the beautiful Kahoki, a niece of Te Rauparaha, and had loved her. She came from the Rotorua district, where her father was a noted chief.13 In one or two general assemblies of the allies under Te Rauparaha at Porirua the two had met, and Tuimoa had made known his love by the pressure of the hand—the Maori fashioa Their love was reciprocal, but the wily Te Rauparaha wanted to page 134get rid of Tuimoa's small band; they were not to be trusted.

Te Rauparaha warned the fair girl against Tuimoa. There was an ancient feud, he said, between the two tribes. Besides, she was the destined bride of a distinguished chief, and her father had agreed to him.

Kahoki said nothing. She soon after, however, went over to Mana, giving out it was a visit to an aged relative who lived at the back of the island.

Tuimoa, unable from the strong wind to take a canoe and escape, saw the Kahawai from his hiding-place close at hand. His love and desperation on the one hand, and hatred to the Pakeha on the other, led him to seize the schooner, and make use of her for his own purpose.

The young chief was wily. The desecration of the 'sacred place' of E Tohi served his purpose admirably. Under pretence of bringing the two sailors to justice amongst the Maoris themselves, he could secure his bride, make his own escape, and plead if necessary in justification his horror at the invasion of one of the most sacred spots under the law of the tapu.

In the main, as we have shewn, Scotty had guessed right as to the position of affairs up to a certain point; but the greatest danger to which he and Falconer might be exposed had so far escaped him.

Their great danger was this. Only let the young chief for his own ends excite the cupidity or malice of the fierce, savage spirits in the tribe, and both vessel and crew would be probably sacrificed to the fury of those who longed for a pretext to shew their hatred to the Pakeha.

13 Rakapa Kahoki’s father was Te Wehi-o-te-rangi of the Te Arawa iwi (a tribe from Rotorua, as Fraser details). Her mother was Rangi Te Kuini, of the Ngati Toa iwi, who was a figure of such stature that she warrants an entry in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Rangi Te Kuini was also a niece of Te Rauparaha. Significantly she was one of only five women to sign the treaty of Waitangi. (“Topeora, Rangi Te Kuini” https://www.teara.govt.nz/en/biographies/1t1-g1-t203/topeora-rangi-te-kuini). Less is known about Rakapa Kahoki, but Fraser is correct in describing her as beautiful, as Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins’ hand-coloured tinted lithograph ‘E Wai and Kahoki’ (Figure 1) from his 1847 book The New Zealanders Illustrated depicts.