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Ngamihi; or The Maori Chief's Daughter

Chapter XXXIV. Zada Hears Bad News from the Forest

page 139

Chapter XXXIV. Zada Hears Bad News from the Forest.

Lieutenant Lovelock belonged to the 1st T——Ritfles, and was only a recent arrival from England. The authorities intended to send him with us when we left Auckland, but he exhibited great reluctance to leave, and by a strange coincidence he suddenly became 'vewy ill indeed,' 'too weak to twamp to that beathly hole.' As he had great interest at headquarters, he was allowed to remain behind, and eventually became a standing ornament and regular lady's man in the drawing rooms of Auckland society. His manners and supercilious airs became so insufferable, however, that he was soon received everywhere with coldness and reserve so that ultimately he was only too glad to clear out of Auckland and go to the 'beathly hole,' as he called it. In appearance Lieutenant Lovelock was very like Southern's character of Dundreary, with out his lordship's good points. There was a lurid look in his deep blue eyes, like the light in a thunder cloud. Though undeniably handsome, there was something repellent in his glance. There was a coldness, an apartness in his look, which seemed to say, "I am sufficient for myself; don't interfere with page 140me." His hands and feet were unusually small and well formed, apparently indicating that he had some patrician blood in his veins; at the same time noble blood is not always represented in that way. He was decidedly coarse in his mental tone, and inclined to personal braggadocio. He gave no one credit for a good motive, and usually judged people by his own standard, and accepted things and people at their lowest level. He possessed a keen sense of self importance, which may have overawed his friends in England, but which rather amused the colonials. Nothing annoyed him so much than a feeling that at times he was being made fun of by the outspoken though hospitable colonists. Although I disliked the man, I was often secretly amused at his affected drawl and lisp.

Lieutenant Lovelock prided himself upon always speaking his mind, which in practice meant that he had a decided inclination to make himself disagreeable. It is possible that a good deal of the politeness and civility one meets with in ordinary life, is nothing more nor less than the language of conciliation. In some instances it is really the language of fear; and much of it would be changed to indifference or positive rudeness, if subordination or expectation of advantage were exchanged for complete independence.

About dinner time next day the detachment arrived, and a fine lot of men they were. Hoani was sent to meet them early in the morning, for the purpose of conducting them by one of his short cuts. I believed he managed to get them into some outlandish places on purpose. I spoke to him about it afterwards, and he said with a grin: "The boss of the new men called me 'nigger,' so I showed him what a grand country we were in."

page 141

The Lieutenant looked very limp when he arrived, and after shaking hands with Captain Snell, remarked with a drawl:

"What a hawid country this is—beathly hole. How can you manage to exist in it?"

"For goodness sake Mr. Lovelock don't commence like that or the good people here might make it uncomfortable for you.'

"Aw, there are good people here then—would'nt have thought it," he simpered as he adjusted his eyeglass.

"Come in to dinner," said Captain Snell, with ill-concealed amusement.

"Afterwards you may look at things differently."

Lieutenant Lovelock was evidently out of sorts, and had to resort to whisky to recruit his exhausted energies. He imbibed so freely that two of the men had to put him to bed shortly after dinner. As he was being carried away he expressed his opinions pretty freely on the 'beathly hole' he had been sent to.

Next morning the township was thrown into a great state of excitement by the vagaries of a madman named John Trant. His wife and children had had a bad time of it, and they had done their best to hide his state from the public with some little success. Trant seemed to have a method in his madness, like Hamlet, and had managed to keep out of the reach of the law for a considerable time. As his condition was daily becoming worse, his wife threatened to send him to Mount Eden upon which he grew more violent, and one night tried to smother her with a pillow, as Othello smothered Desdemona. The poor woman was in constant fear of her life, and was finally compelled page 142to report the matter to the police, who lodged him in the lockup for safe keeping. Doctor Gill saw Trant, and made arrangements to have him sent to Auckland for examination by the medical board, and for detention there in the Asylum if found necessary.

One evening I was chatting to Mr. and Mrs. Munroe, when Doctor Gill called to see Zada. Miss Munroe had persuaded the girl to stop for a day or two, and was trying to wean her from the free life of the forest. The Maori girl Hema, Zada's constant companion in her wanderings, was often seen in the township, evidently on the lookout for her mistress. Miss Munroe on hearing of it, sent for her, and told Zada to expect her friend. The two soon met, and Hema, who was much agitated, must have delivered some important news, as after a hurried conversation in their own language, she left in haste and entered the forest, leaving Zada in a profound reflection. Soon after Zada spoke to Miss Munroe in the garden.

"You were kind to Zada in asking her to stay here. She will remain now with you until Hema's return."

"Very well, Zada" answered Miss Munroe, "I am glad to have you on any conditions, and hope you will ultimately be prevailed on to stop with me altogether."

"Miss Jessie is very good," said Zada with some emotion as she grasped her hand.

During the ensuing week Zada appeared much worried and evidently had something on her mind. Her face wore an anxious expression, and she took little or nothing to eat. She frequently took long rambles in the forest alone, but always returned before dark. Dr. Gill had noticed how thin she was getting and had page 143persuaded her to take some nourishing food, and now began to regard her as one of his special patients.

"Well, Miss Jessie," said the Doctor, "how is my Maori princess."

"She has just returned from one of her long rambles, and seems greatly fatigued. I am convinced that she has a deep motive for these long walks."

"I have noticed her watching for Captain Wilson two or three times. I believe he has not seen her since his recovery," remarked the Doctor.

"No. He called yesterday, leaning on his servant's arm," said Mr. Munroe, "and inquired for Zada. He said that he wished to thank her for saving his life. I looked to find her, as she was present when he arrived, but she had suddenly vanished"

Maoris dislike the term 'nigger.'

Asylum at Auckland.