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Ngamihi; or The Maori Chief's Daughter

Chapter XIX. The Maori Maiden turns Doctor

page 81

Chapter XIX. The Maori Maiden turns Doctor.

About a week later Captain Snell arrived from Auckland to take charge of the company, Captain Wilson being confined to his bed with a bad attack of brain fever which followed on his recent wound. Captain Snell was a gentleman in every respect and we had many conversations about the late disaster. I was anxious to know what was thought of the ambuscade into which we had fallen, and if people blamed us for being so easily led into the trap. Captain Snell assured me that though a painful sensation was created when the news arrived, no one at headquarters blamed us in the slightest. In that kind of warfare whatever success the Maoris had gained was principally due to surprise of this kind.

"I question very much," he said, "if our men could have climbed those trees with their rifles, and concealed themselves with the same skill. Those fellows can take advantage of cover far better than our men, and they are more accustomed—in fact, better adapted to this skirmishing kind of warfare than the European soldier."

A day or two later as I was rambling after breakfast in the forest at the back of Mr. Munroe's house, I met, to my surprise, page 82the Maori girl Zada. She looked ill and tired, but brightened up as she caught sight of me. It was obvious she wished to speak to me, and as I was passing she crossed over in front and said:

"Stay Pakeha, Zada wishes to speak."

"Well my girl," I said, stopping, "what is it?"

"Is the Pakeha Wilson very ill? Zada saw him lifted into the cart."

"The deuce you did!" I muttered under my breath. And then aloud, "did you know we were running into an ambush?"

"Zada is sorry, she said, hanging her head." She would have warned the good Pakeha Wilson if she could, but she was many miles away and hurried to warn the Pakehas of the danger, but was too late. Zada was watching when the Pakehas returned home."

"Have you a message to deliver?" I queried as I noticed a certain restraint in her manner.

"If the Pakeha Wilson suffers from the burning sickness (fever) Zada can cure him," she replied with a slight shake in her voice.

"Well, you see my girl, Doctor Gill is a clever man, and if he cannot pull him through, I don't think you can."

"You are a good Pakeha, and do not look down on Zada?"

"No indeed, my girl, I do not look down on you. I believe you are a good well-meaning girl. Too good for your brute of a father," I muttered in an undertone.

"Zada will explain. The daughters of warrior chiefs are page 83taught the secret medicines. Zada knows them and will save the Pakeha's life."

"You are very good Zada, I will see Doctor Gill about it and ask him to give you a trial; but don't be too sure. Doctors do not like interference."

"Do not delay, but bring me an answer at once. There is no time to lose. Can you meet Zada here in three hours time?"

"Yes; and in the meantime I will do all I can for you."

She suddenly bent low, and giving me a pitiful look, vanished among the trees in a moment.

I turned my steps towards the township in hopes of finding the doctor at his residence, and soon descried him on the verandah smoking a very shabby looking black pipe. He greeted me with a smile, and asked how my arm was.

"Getting on pretty well thank you, but I cannot take it out of the sling yet. By the way, Doctor, how is Captain Wilson?"

"Very bad, I am sorry to say. Brain fever seems to have pulled him so low that I have very little hopes of his recovery. His skull was slightly fractured by the bullet, and that makes matters worse."

"Then I suppose it is a case of kill or cure with him."

"What do you mean?" asked the doctor inquiringly.

"Would you go out of your regular beaten track if you heard of something that might save him.

"Decidedly I would."

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"Have yon ever heard of the Maoris effecting wonderful cures?"

"I have heard of their tohungas and priests doing wonderful things with herbs that we Europeans know nothing about."

I then told the doctor of Zada's wishes, and after listening attentively he appeared disposed to give her a trial at once.

"Meet the girl by all means, and tell her that I will not interfere with her wishes. Miss Munroe is at the hospital now, but will be home by that time. Tell your Maori girl to go to Miss Munroe, and she will arrange the rest; I will see Miss Munroe in the meantime. Direct the girl where to go."

I had two hours to wait for Zada, so I went round to the hospital to inquire after Captain Wilson, and also to see Miss Munroe. She called me one of her out-patients and insisted on my reporting myself every day—a duty in which I found some little pleasure.