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Ngamihi; or The Maori Chief's Daughter

Chapter XXI. Randwick's Escape

page 89

Chapter XXI. Randwick's Escape.

As we were nearing Miss Munroe's house, a letter was handed to me by one of our men. After glancing over it, I handed the letter to Miss Munroe.

"I see Captain Snell asks if you can report yourself fit for duty at once. I think that is a question for the doctor to decide."

"My arm is getting better now," I answered, "and if I can keep it in the sling, I could yet do a little. However, I will leave you now and see Captain Snell at once, as I think he is in a hurry over something. Perhaps he wants me to do some special duty."

"Mind you don't leave the township without first seeing us."

I promised obedience, and went to Captain Snell's quarters

He informed me that one of the three missing men had just turned up and reported that he and his two companions were captured by the rebels when they were trying to make their escape, after the late disaster on their road to Hirch's house. His two comrades were killed, but he made his escape by getting into a swamp during a heavy shower, and lying in the mud and page 90water among the bunches of native flax, with only his mouth and nose visible. His captors searched the swamp for over two hours, but fortunately the mud and water concealed his tracks. After the Maoris had gone the poor fellow made his way back, and was now half dead from fatigue and starvation.

"What makes the matter serious," continued Captain Snell, "is that Randwick says they have a white girl with them, who, he believes, is Arline Hirch. The girl tried to speak to him, but the Maoris kept them apart. She called out something once in a loud voice, but he could not catch the words, as her captors hurried her away. Now as Randwick says that the rebels are not far away, I think we would be only doing our duty if we made an effort to rescue her. I know nothing of this district, and it is for that reason that I wanted to ascertain if you could accompany us. I will give you no active duties if possible, and will take Anderson with us as your doctor. He has had plenty of experience in the Army Hospital Corps. I want fifty men ready at nine o'clock to-morrow, with Ngahoia and Hoani, who will act as guides. Randwick will be all right in the morning and will help us to follow the trail. I think you had better see the doctor and get his opinion on the matter. In any case you will let me know this evening, as the arrangements must be hurried on without delay."

"I decide to go, Captain, without any further pressing," I replied simply. "That's right, Sergeant, I am glad to hear it. Please God we will give the rascals a peppering. We must take two or three days' provisions in case we are detained."

I proceeded at once to carry out the orders that I had received, and found the men all eager for a chance of getting even with the same band of rebels who had trapped them so nicely. page 91Twenty young men from the township volunteered to accompany us, and offered to bring their horses. Captain Snell consulted with Hoani and Ngahoia about the horses, and they both considered that the country was too rough for them. The services of the men however, proved a welcome addition to our forces They had all belonged to volunteer forces in Australia and New Zealand, so that they could not be called an armed mob, like some hastily formed companies that I could name, where, in many cases, friends were in as much danger from their rifles as from the enemy's.

I sat in the orderly room making out the roll for the morning, when Doctor Gill walked in.

"Well, Sergeant," he said, "so you are going to rescue Hirch's girl and punish the rebels to-morrow?"

"Yes, doctor, I hope we will be fortunate in both errands. By the way, what sort of a girl is this Arline Hirch?"

"Oh, about the general run of German girls—fat, fair, and dumpty—no beauty, but a very good girl. Her sister Gretchen, who was found at the house dead, was considered good looking. —Poor girl she is gone now, and I trust you will be able to punish her murderers. Of course taking vengeance will not return her to life, but if those savages are punished severely it will have a deterent effect on their future conduct. What about you arm?"

"It is no worse, doctor. Do you think the trip will injure it?"

"Well it may not, but you must be careful with it. Your friend Miss Munroe is very cross about your going—but I must not tell tales."

page 92

"How is Captain Wilson?" I asked, ignoring the latter remark.

"Very low indeed—in fact I do not expect him to see the night through, unless perhaps that Maori girl succeeds with her unknown remedy. Good-bye, Sergeant; I wish you all success on your trip"