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Ngamihi; or The Maori Chief's Daughter

Chapter XXVI. A Successful Stratagem

page 108

Chapter XXVI. A Successful Stratagem.

"Well, my men, what have you discovered?" he inquired quickly.

"We have found the girl and her captors camped not very far from here in a narrow pass," answered Hoani. "I knew we would find them there as it is one of their old resorts, and that is the reason why I wanted to follow them to-night. The pass is very narrow, and if you could get your men inside without a disturbance, their escape is almost impossible."

"What is your opinion on the matter, Ngahoia," asked the Captain turning to the other scout.

"Hoani says well. My pakeha friends can revenge themselves on the bad rebels and women stealers. The Maoris' camp is dark, but we will make many torches and *korai fire balls quickly Then I and three men will carry them to the top of the rocks over the Maoris camp. When Hoani leads your men inside wide part of pass he fire shot for signal; then I light torches and fireballs and throw them down. Soldiers have page 109plenty light then, shoot quick, and make bad rebels suffer. Captain can see where white girl is, and not kill her. When Maoris see fireballs come down, they think Great Spirit angry and lose courage."

A dozen men were at once told off to assist the guides in making the torches and fireballs, for which there was plenty of material close by. When all was ready we struck camp and made our way silently behind Hoani. Ngahoia took another direction with five men well loaded with torches and fireballs.

We marched slowly through the forest in order to give Ngahoia time to reach his post before we arrived at the pass. Our guide led the way, and we reached the open space without alarming the enemy. This surprised me, but probably they felt themselves secure in their retreat, and had taken no precautions to guard against a surprise.

Just after the men had been drawn up under the cliff, a tall Maori suddenly sprang up out of the long grass at our feet, where he had been hidden. Before he could cry out however, he was seized from behind by half-a-dozen of our men and secured without the slightest noise having been made. The capture was managed so smartly that nobody knew anything about it but those immediately concerned.

When all was ready, Hoani fired his signal shot. Instantly there was a loud yell from the Maoris, and immediately a shower of fireballs fell apparently from the heavens. The effect was singularly grand, and the whole place was lit up in a moment. A large number of the rebels, instead of dashing at us as we expected, appeared dumbfounded at the unexpected spectacle which the raining fireballs and torches presented to their half wakened senses.

page 110

"Don't fire into that corner!" cried Hoani, excitedly, pointing to a stoney rise at the side, "pakeha girl there!"

When the rebels had somewhat recovered from their confusion they jumped up and cried out, "nga pakeha hoia" (the white soldiers), followed by cries of "kiatoa, kiatoa" (be brave, be brave).

They quickly formed into line with the intention of firing a volley, but before they could do so, we poured a heavy fire into their midst with deadly effect. Our men then spread themselves out towards the spot where the white captive lay, so as to protect her if necessary. By this time the Maoris had managed to fire several irregular rounds at us, and a few of our men fell severely wounded. Captain Snell then ordered us to take cover behind several large boulders and small rocks near the side of the cliff, and from this shelter our men could fire in perfect security. The rebels were fully exposed but for the long dry grass in which they were lying. Suddenly it took fire from the numerous fireballs that still kept raining down, and many of them were frightfully burned. Our men kept picking them off as opportunity offered, and in a short time we were masters of the situation. The heat and smoke were so intense that we were obliged for a while to lie down on our faces until it cleared off.

* A kind of tow-like substance that burns with a brilliant flame. It is found in the forest among decayed timber.