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Raromi, or, The Maori Chief's Heir

Chapter III Dog's-Ear's Maoris

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Chapter III Dog's-Ear's Maoris.

If Noble was soon down in the dumps, soon overcome by weakness, he quickly recovered his usual gaiety, and he was soon up again.

'I'm like some of the flowers,' he used to say of himself to Falconer; 'a cold, sharp wind nips me, and I droop at once; but a bright, warm sun calls me to life again; and, like you sailors, "I crack on sail" at once.'

The next day the little man was working in his garden, active and cheerful as ever. The sun came out bright and warm, and numerous birds flitted about and sang amongst the trees at the end of his garden.

'Ah! my sweety, you're there!' exclaimed Noble, looking up and listening; 'I knew you would come and give me a cheer up.' As he said this, a small bird of a yellow-greenish colour perched over him, and made the place resound with its rich melodies.1 Then others page 19came and joined in the concert. While it lasted, Noble, leaning on his spade, and in rapt attention, lost not a note of the band of warblers; he was filling his heart with melody for the day, as he often observed. The warblers ceased; then came the payment. Noble stood under the trees, and the birds flew about him, and picked up the bread-crumbs which he threw about, talking all the while as to old and valued friends.

The concert ended, the day's work began in earnest. 'I've forgotten the rest of my family, have I, Bouncer?'

The rough colley, Bouncer, had taken the tail of his master's coat, and was saying 'Good morning' as plainly as he could. A kind word sent him off frisking about like mad.

'Now, Bouncer; off those beds, sir, at once! and come and help me. We must dig some potatoes, and pull some lettuces and onions.'

'How early you are, Noble! Why, when do you git up, I should like to know?'

'Ah! Watts, how are you? I'm glad to see you. Won't you come inside?'

'I thought I was up early,' continued Watts,' but you—'

'I mostly get up at sunrise, and sometimes before it The fact is, I like to lay in a stock of melody and courage for the day. I get up to meet the King?' 'King! I like that, Noble; what King?'

'The King and Lord over all. Then the King of Day appears,—the Sun. And after that, my concert.'

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'Concert!' Watts stared in blank astonishment.

'Yes; I step down the garden, and my birds are generally waiting for me. They sing, and sing, until I fancy myself sometimes in fairyland, or in heaven.'

The birds were nothing to Watts, so he jerked out, 'You're like Robinson Crusoe out here; ain't you afeard a bit?'


'It's so lonely-like; and you're away from the town.'

'To tell you the truth, Watts, I feel quite at home out here, and not so lonely as I should be in the town—'

'That's accordin' to taste, anyhow; but how about the Maoris?'

'What about them? Anything new?'

'They're up to mischief agin, haven't you heard of it?'

'No. What have they done?'

'They've broke out again; though it ain't exactly what they've done what troubles us, it's to know what they're going to do. They've come down upon Mills, out beyond Kai-wara-wara, and Mills has been brought in cut about by a "tommyhawk." So you see you're in for a lively time of it.'

'Is it Dog's-ear's tribe, do you know?'

'They say so; only he's been pushed to do it by the big bully as hates us all, Rangihaeata, from Porirua. He swaggers about, and says he'll drive all the Pakeha into the sea—and them as is left he'll eat!'

'I'm surprised at this, Watts, because Dog's-ear and page 21his men are so friendly with us out here. They're always coming to have a chat with me. Only the other day Dog's-ear gave me his staff, telling me it was tapu (sacred), and that my cottage would be tapu too.'

'It's a sudden quarrel has set them agin us. And I'm sent to warn you of it. It's for you to know what is best, but if I was you, I should leave this—'

'But tell me about the quarrel.'

'A small chief, a swaggerin', bullyin' sort of a Maori, struck one of Tommy Withers' boys. So Tommy gave him one between the eyes and sent him spinnin' on his back. He jumped up and ran off howlin' vengeance. And now all the Maoris round about are out on the war-party, so look out!'

Noble, attended by Bouncer, was away nearly all day in and about the town. He had to dispose of his produce and nets, make purchases, and look up his patrons, the sailor-fishermen, and get fresh orders from them.

When the little man arrived home, tired and hungry, he was surprised for a moment to find the door ajar. This, however, did not trouble him. The door was always on the latch, and any one could enter during the daytime.

His evening meal was soon finished, and he sat down to read, deeply absorbed. At this moment several dark figures glided up the garden in the dusk. When they reached the cottage they clustered around a partly-open window at Noble's back; they were Maoris, painted, armed, and on a war-party.

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As the Maoris with fierce look watched Noble, only waiting the signal to act, he rose from his chair, shut the book, and knelt down.

The warriors were astonished; where was his God? they could not see him. It was his Karakia, they whispered. Was the white man's Karakia very powerful, very dangerous? What would happen to them?

Nothing did happen, and their courage revived.

In an instant they burst into the room and seized Noble; an axe gleamed aloft, just ready to descend!

'Stop, O friends!' cried Noble. 'You know Dog's-ear is my friend. He comes here—he eats—he drinks—we're friends; won't you eat?'

'Kapai!' they cried; 'yes, we'll eat'

The Maoris were ravenous, and Noble's food diminished fast. Eating seemed to appease them, and they called Noble a good Pakeha, although so very small.

Suddenly in dashed a young chief. 'Ha! Tau-reka-reka!' he cried, in a state of fury. He rushed at those Noble was feeding, and drove them out with hard blows.

'Pakeha, dog!' he exclaimed, 'your time is come—you die!'

'Look here, O chief!' cried Noble, presenting Dog's-ear's staff. 'I claim protection; this is tapu, the cottage is tapu, and I—'

With a fierce growl the chief rushed at him, bound him up as a prisoner—he dared not kill him—thrust him out, and drove him along the road towards the Maori camp.

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The old pains came upon Noble. He begged to be allowed to rest.

'You Pakeha have insulted and beaten me,' hissed the young chief. 'I'll have revenge!'

At length Noble sank down, utterly exhausted and unable to march further. He was hoisted on to the back of a big Maori, to his disgust, and was borne thus into camp. There he was pitched into a corner, and left to himself.

He fainted, and for the moment was insensible to suffering.

1 This is most likely a wax-eye or silver eye. It can only be found in Australia, New Zealand and various south-west Pacific Islands. It is suspected that the wax-eye only began to inhabit New Zealand after the arrival of humans, as its Maori name, tauhou, means stranger or new arrival. The species’ permanent invasion of New Zealand occurred in or around 1856 (“Silvereye” http://www.teara.govt.nz/en/1966/silvereye). This is roughly ten years after the narrative is set, but thirty years before it was written, potentially making this detail contextually incorrect.