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Ngamihi; or The Maori Chief's Daughter

Chapter XXX. Blowhard's Yarn Continued

page 124

Chapter XXX. Blowhard's Yarn Continued.

'"In a short time," continued Blowhard, "the craft went down, and we had as much as we could do to prevent our ship from afollerin' of her example. I never seed such a blow, except goin' round the Horn."

"I hear it blows pretty lively going round there Blowhard," remarked one of the men with a wink.

"You bet it does," he answered, "I'll give you a notion of the big guns it blows round the Cape. One night during a big-wind, when you might have thought that all the devils in hell were let loose, such tearin' and screechins there was, we sprung our main to-gallent yard badly. The carpenter was sent aloft to fish it, and the wind blew off half his beard, and the teeth of the saw."

"You must have been a smart chap then, Blowhard," remarked one of his listeners with a broad smile.

"Indeed I was, sonny boy! One time me and one of my mates were working up aloft, when somehow he slipped and fell. You needn't believe it, but I slipped down the ropes that quick I actually caught him before he got to the bottom."

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"You don't say so," said one of his audience in astonishment.

"I expect he stopped and had a smoke half way down?" remarked Regan.

"I was'nt as heavy as I am now, sartinly," continued Blowhard; "At that time I was thin enough to crawl through a porthole."

"Draw it mild, draw it mild," growled someone.

"That's nothin'; I heard tell of a man so thin one time, that when the bum-bailiffs were after him, he crawled into his rifle and watched the enemy through the touch hole."

"Belay there, Blowhard," said one of the men amidst a roar of laughter.

"All right," said the old fellow as he gravely folded his blanket and prepared to lay down. "If you young know-nothings had knocked about the world as much as me, you would see queerer things than that. I'll take my watch below now."

In a few minutes old Blowhard was sound asleep, and soon a deep silence reigned around the camp, broken only by the mournful cry of the owl, or the flapping of some wandering night bird in the distant trees.

Captain Snell had ordered me to post a sentry at the narrow gap, to prevent anyone entering or leaving the camp without our knowledge, and another to watch the group of Maoris in case of treachery. As everyone but the sentries, and those attending to the wounded were wrapped in their blankets, I soon followed their example, and in a little time was fast asleep.

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The carts and vans arrived next morning outside the gap, soon after breakfast, and the wounded and dead were at once carried out. A member of the civilian contingent died during the night from a bullet wound in the thigh. He was a fine young fellow named Harding, and fought bravely, and I was extremely sorry to heat of his untimely death.

About a dozen of the townspeople came with the drays, among whom I noticed Mr. Brodson, and one or two other prominent residents of Wairuara. When Mr. Brodson saw me, he came forward and shook hands.

"Good morning Douglas, I hope your arm is no worse for your trip?"

"No worse, thank you Mr. Brodson. One of our men. Anderson, has just dressed it, and it is quite easy now," I replied looking round among the new-comers.

"I suppose you are looking for your friend Mr Munroe? He intended accompanying us, but his daughter insisted on coming also, and under the circumstances he thought it wise to remain behind."

"Miss Munroe rendered much assistance to the wounded after that slaughter on the road to Hirch's house," I remarked, feeling a little disappointed.

"Yes, so I have heard, and it is greatly to her credit. Miss Jessie has thought of the wounded this time also, and has sent a supply of old linen for bandages and other necessaries, supplemented by a present from her father of some old Highland whisky, which he declares is the best medicine they can take. The hotel-keeper has also sent a small keg of rum for the men, a cooked ham, a few dozen of bread, and a quantity of fresh milk, so your men will fare well on the way home."

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The carts were soon ready to start, and we resolved to go by a road that was pretty level, though much longer than the route we had previously taken under Hoani's leadership. Miss Hirch appeared more composed, and was mounted on a spare horse, so that she could travel with us.

"What will you do with your Maori prisoners?" asked Mr. Brodson of Captain Snell.

"I have made no prisoners," was the reply. "The Maoris came back when the fight was over under a flag of truce. They asked me for permission to bury their dead, and attend to their wounded, which I granted, and told them they were quite safe. I believe the conduct of our men has created a good impression amongst them, as they mixed freely over the camp fire. Their wierd stories of old Maori mythology found an appreciative audience amongst the men. The young chief sitting on that log is a splendid young fellow, and appears far above the average run of Maoris."

"I have often thought it a barbarous thing," said Mr. Brodson, "for the soldiers to slaughter their Maori prisoners in cold blood after a fight."

"I think you are under a wrong impression altogether," answered the Captain "I know that an idea is prevalent that the English soldiers kill their prisoners. How it was circulated I don't know, but I think the rumour received some colour from the fact that many Maoris who had been taken prisoners were subsequently found murdered. We were, perhaps not unnaturally under the circumstances accused of this summary way of getting rid of them. It is unnecessary for me to say that we were quite innocent of anything so atrocious. But it was to hostile Maoris who dogged us about that those bloodthirsty deeds were justly imputed, for they fell upon their defeated brethren on every possible occasion, as they consider it an everlasting disgrace to be taken prisoner by the pakehas.