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Ngamihi; or The Maori Chief's Daughter

Chapter XXXVII. Captain Wilson Confesses his Love for Zada

page 151

Chapter XXXVII. Captain Wilson Confesses his Love for Zada.

"Have you seen Zada lately, Douglas?" asked my companion after musing for some time.

"Yes, I saw her at Mr. Munroe's. She asked after you, and said that you should be careful and not go far into the forest unless you had protection; from her statements I gathered that your movements are watched, and that you have some secret foe who intends to do you an injury."

"What does she mean, I wonder? and what particular enemy can I have?" he asked earnestly, as he looked sharply at me

"I don't know," I replied, "But I am sure she has some good reason for warning you."

"Strange girl, she is wonderfully keen and observant and yet modest. When I recovered my senses after my illness, I was under the firm belief that it was Miss Munroe who was my nurse, and yet somehow when I was lying partly unconscious I had a vague sort of feeling that the liquid dark eyes that were often fixed on me did not belong to Miss Munroe. As we are Old comrades Douglas, I will make a clean breast of it. When page 152I was hovering between life and death, I distinctly remember feeling the warm lips of a woman pressed to my brow, cheeks and hands—somehow at the time it seemed to give me comfort, and I felt in no way surprised at these marks of tenderness. I also knew that my nurse sat on the floor beside my bed, and held my hands for hours, wetting them with her tears. At other times I was aware of a low sweet voice chanting a wild and weird song in the native tongue, which had a peculiar though pleasant effect on my senses, and I would dreamily lie and listen to it with an intense satisfaction. When Miss Munroe told me who it was that nursed me during the crisis of my illness, I somehow felt that it was—as it should be." My companion here paused, and appeared greatly agitated.

"I can sympathise with your feelings Captain Wilson, and I am sure they do you honour."

"I know that old fellow, or I would not have been so out-spoken. I confess, although it may appear strange to those who know me, that I love the girl Zada with an intensity that I her not think myself capable of. I always admired her, and did devotion during my illness—her services rendered to me unsought and unasked—has completely broken down the barriers of caste and religion, and I now feel indifferent as to what the world may say to such an alliance—that is granting she will have me," he added quickly.

"Nothing remarkable about that, Captain. Many English gentlemen in good positions are married to Maori ladies. Zada is beautiful, noble, and naturally refined. I am sure were she educated to the customs and usages of European society, few could compare with her. Her native way of speaking in the third person appears peculiar, but that could easily be overcome. page 153Miss Munroe, who has great influence over her, has persuaded her to lay aside her native dress and few would now know her from an English brunette."

"You are a. good comforter Douglas, and I feel the better for speaking to you.—What is the matter?" he said anxiously as I gave a sudden start.

"Nothing," I replied, as I did not wish to tell him what I had seen.

While we were speaking I was astonished to observe Zada glide from behind one of the rata trees and conceal herself behind some brushwood. That she had seen us I was certain, but our conversation was carried on in too low a tone for her to have heard it. Somehow I felt convinced that her motive in thus spying upon us was not an unworthy one, for all her actions from the time we had first seen her were frank and beyond suspicion. I was quite at a loss to account for her strange presence, and the thought that we were in danger from some hidden enemy, I banished from my mind as ridiculous.

"I have made every effort to see Zada," pursued the Captain quietly, "but so far without success. It is singular that I cannot meet her in spite of all my efforts to do so, and I have finally come to the conclusion that she is wilfully avoiding me. I don't know what cause I have given her to make her fear me; but that she purposely shuns me I am certain."

"I think you must be mistaken, Captain, for she makes no attempt to conceal the interest she feels in you. The difficulty, I am sure, will yet solve itself," and it did in a manner we little expected.

page 154

"Let us call on Miss Munroe on our way home," said the Captain getting up and taking my arm, "I have a great deal to thank her for also, perhaps we might come across Zada. By-the-bye, I wonder where she got that name from? I do not remember ever hearing it before, and my friends only the other day were chaffing me about her nationality and peculiarity of manners. But after all, what's in a name. That of a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. But enough for the present," said he abruptly, squaring his shoulders.

Miss Munroe was in the garden clipping a basketful of flowers when we appeared and greeted us warmly. After shaking hands, Captain Wilson thanked her for the attention she had given him during his illness.

"I have already told you that somebody else was responsible for that affair, and that in thanking me you do an injustice to another. I was merely in assistant—not by any means the principal," she added with a smile.

"Nevertheless I am grateful for what you have done, Miss Munroe. I know to whom you allude, but so far I have been deprived of the opportunity of personally thanking her. I am sincerely glad to hear that you have prevailed on her from returning to the wild life which she has hitherto led in the forest, for although nature may have its charms, civilisation has far greater permanent attractions. Is Zada in the house at present?" he inquired as we entered the nice old-fashioned drawing room.

"No," answered Miss Munroe, "She has gone off on one of her usual rambles. Regarding the little I have done for her, I assure you it has given me the greatest pleasure. She is a page 155most entertaining companion, and if she could be induced to adopt European dress and habits, I am afraid she would leave poor me in the shade, Amiable and straightforward in disposition, she has already endeared herself to me, and it is my greatest wish that she should reside permanently with us."