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Ngamihi; or The Maori Chief's Daughter

Chapter IV. A Rescue

page 22

Chapter IV. A Rescue.

Some distance from where we encountered Zada we pitched our camp. We would have proceeded much further but that we had to march on soft sand — terribly hard work, though far preferable to cutting our way through the suple jacks and prickly whin bushes. Next afternoon near sunset we camped about two miles from wairuara, our destination.

Captain Wilson intended to march us in next morning and get us settled in our quarters. After I had satisfied the inner man with a good supper I asked the Captain to allow me outside the lines for an hour or two, and receiving the required permission, I strolled out with my rifle. As it was a bright moonlight might, I sauntered through the forest where walking was possible, towards the township until I came to a large natural clearing about two acres in extent. I had often noticed these open spaces. At first sight they looked like selections cleared by farmers and abandoned, but on closer inspection they are found to be perfectly natural clearings. As I was feeling rather tired, I sat on a log at the side of the clearing with my rifle between my knees, and had fallen into a deep reverie when suddenly I heard a scream a long way off in the direction of the township. I listened, and it ceased. In a few minutes a rushing sound like someone running through the underwood became audible, and a page 23tall Maori dashed across the open space with a white woman on hit back. My first impulse was to fire, but I was afraid of killing the woman. On seeing me she struggled desperately and cried out.

"Save me, oh save me! for God's sake! fire, even if you kill me!"

At that moment the Maori, still on the run, hoisted her up on to his shoulder. I fired at once, and he fell with a sharp cry of pain. The woman jumped on to her feet and over to me, and after uttering a few incoherent words, sank fainting at my feet. In the meantime the Maori sprang into the low brushwood on one leg, and was gone in an instant.

I got some water in the hollow of a large leaf, and bathed her face, particularly her lips, which were very much bruised and cut, and soon had the pleasure of seeing her senses returning. The young lady appeared to be about twenty years of age, and after she had gathered her long fair hair into a tidy knot, I felt a glow of satisfaction for being the means of rescuing so much youth and beauty.

"A form more fair, a face more sweet,
Ne'er hath it been my lot to meet."

I had great difficulty in stopping the torrents of thanks which she was inclined to deluge me with for her deliverance, and assured her any other man in my place would have done the same. My only regret was that I had allowed her assailant to escape so easily. "Pour encourager les autres." When the young lady had calmed down a little, she informed me that she was the daughter of Mr. Kenneth Munroe, and had been in the colony for over eighteen years. Mr. Munroe had used his little capital with judgment, and was now living at his ease after all his hard work. Some few years ago he returned to Scotland with his family, intending page 24to end his days in the land of his birth, but, like most colonials, he got restless after the first twelve months, and thought that the climate of Maori land would suit his old age better. One of his daughters died suddenly while they were in Scotland, and as her death was attributed to the change of climate they returned to New Zealand at once, and were now living on the outskirts of the township of Wairuara.

Mr. Munroe's residence stood in the midst of a large garden, which it was the old gentleman's hobby to keep in first-class order, with the help of a labouring man occasionally. On this evening a party of friends were visiting at the house, and after they were gone, Miss Munroe tired with her efforts to amuse the company, went into the garden and sat down on a rustic seat.

She was aroused by a quick movement behind her, and in a moment she was seized from behind, and a gag was forced into her mouth before she could utter a cry. Her assailant, a tall powerful native, put her on his shoulder, and after jumping a low wall, ran to a portion of the forest a short distance from the house. After he had got well under cover, be settled down to a quick steady trot. After going some distance Miss Munroe got the gag out of her mouth, and screamed for help, but as very few people were about at that hour, her cries met with no response. The Maori threw her on the ground, and succeeded in replacing the gag. It must have been about this time that I heard her scream, and it was fortunate that I had brought my trusty rifle, otherwise the rescue might not have been accomplished so easily.

As Miss Munroe appeared to have recovered from her fright, I asked her if she could walk to our camp. She inquired where it was situated, and became my guide by a much shorter route than I would have taken. When we were passing the first page 25sentry, he told me that captain Wilson was annoyed at my long absense, but remarked with a smile, "that perhaps my companion would very likely make some excuses for me."

"Indeed I will," said Miss Munroe with a grateful look, "I can prove that he has made the best possible use of his time. I shudder to think of my fate if Mr. Douglas had not been out."