Ngamihi; or The Maori Chief's Daughter
Chapter XL. Taipua Makes His Appearance
Chapter XL. Taipua Makes His Appearance.
About eleven o'clock next morning six Maoris were escorted into the township by a party of our civilian contingent, who had formed a patrol party, and placed themselves under Captain Snell's orders. As Lieutenant Lovelock was in command during the absence of Captain Snell, they were marched to him for instructions. I was writing when Andrews came in and said:
"Sergeant, a party of Maoris have just been brought in. I'm afraid our Lootenant will make a mess of their reception. The critters mean well, and have voluntarily given themselves up, so I don't think he need talk their heads off as he is doin'. Hurry up and stop his gag if you can. I wish some of our boys had him out in the prairie, they'd make him sing small."
"Don't speak like that of your superior officer, Andrews," I said, greatly amused.
"All right, I'll let the cuss alone, but of all the tarnal critters I ever seed in uniform——"
I left Andrews maundering to himself and proceeded to the Lieutenant's quarters. I found him standing on the doorstep page 164talking to a group of maoris, while about a dozen of our men were measuring out pieces of rope.
"Ah, Sergeant," he said as I came up, "Just see that these webels are twied up, and put them—aw—into the gward room. I think we will shoot the demd fellows at two o'clock."
I knew he was talking nonsence, but said nothing. One of the 'webels' here stepped forward and seized my hand in a strong friendly grip.
"Taipua!" I said in astonishment, "what brings you here? I hope you are not in any trouble?"
"Kahore (no), pakeha. When Taipua last saw you and your good Captain and Koti-roa, he promised to hold tapu (sacred) the pakehas, and their property. Also to submit to their mana (authority.) Is the Rangatira Snell here?"
"No, he will be away all day; I wish he were here. How is it that you are—?"
"Sergeant, stop talking to the webels, and march them to the gward room. Get them twied up first."
"Excuse me, Lieutenant Lovelock, but I would suggest to you not to illtreat those natives. Although they have been rebels, I believe they are now friends. The young man who was speaking to me is the chief, Taipua, Captain Snell and Doctor Gill think very highly of him. Besides, Taipua is not a rebel now, and if we treat him with proper consideration he may become a most powerful ally to the troops."
"Do as I order you Sergeant, and don't attempt to dictate to me. I will do as I wish; I am your superior officer, and I page 165don't—aw—choose to take advice from any non-coms. Its like everything else in this beathly hole! Twy them up, I say!"
The Lieutenant gave this order with an air of great importance, standing with his legs rather far apart, and swinging his gold eyeglass with his left hand, while he caressed his pet dundreary whiskers with his right. I had the greatest difficulty in controlling ray temper, and from the men's glowerings looks I was afraid they would resent his insolence. From what I heard afterwards the Lieutenant would have been only too glad of a chance to bring a charge of insubordination against me. I, whispered to the chief in a low tone—
"Try and put up with this for a little while, Taipua. I will see that you are not prisoners for more than an hour or two,"
"I heard your words to the kapua mangu (black cloud), and we have every trust in you. Tangata kino tena, (that is a, bad man)" said he, glancing at the Lieutenant.
"What did the webel say in his lingo, Sergeant?" demanded the Lieutenant, looking up sharply.
I was hesitating what to say when Andrews observed with a grave face. "He was just wishin' you long life and happiness, sir."
The Lieutenant looked doubtful, but said nothing. In a few minutes the Maoris were secured and put into the guard room, and I hastened to see Captain Wilson to inform him of what had occurred. I found him at his quarters and when he heard my story, he expressed great indignation at the vindictive way in which the Lieutenant had acted.
"Confound the fellow; he will undo all Captain Snell's good work. A few friends among the Maoris is a thing much page 166to be desired. From what I have heard, Taipua is a chief of some consequence, and his services would be extremely useful to us at the present juncture."
"I told him, Captain before coming here that he would be free in an hour or two, as I thought you might be able to do something."
"Quite right Douglas. Although Lovelock is in charge, I will advise him what to do. Officers who have nothing but the amount of their private influence to recommend them, and who are utterly ignorant of the Maoris character, do an immense amount of harm by this lack of tact and discretion in dealing with Maori questions. Come with me at once to his quarters, and take no notice of his rudeness,"