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Ngamihi; or The Maori Chief's Daughter

Chapter XLII. A Delivery of the Mail, and its Consequences

page 171

Chapter XLII. A Delivery of the Mail, and its Consequences.

As I was going in at the gate I heard a shout, and on looking round saw that a gentleman had been thrown from his horse. Pat, the gardiner, came out and looked up the road also.

"Who is it, Pat?" I inquired, "I cannot recognise him from this distance."

"Troth, I think its the parson, sir," he answered shading his eyes with his hand.

"Perhaps you had better go and see if he requires assistance."

"Troth and its little time I have now," he answered, lighting his pipe, "besides he won't be wanted until Sunday."

I waited a moment and had the satisfaction of seeing the clergyman remount his horse and ride away apparently not much the worse for his fall.

I found Miss Munroe and Zada having a confidential chat. The latter had made wonderful progress in every way. Her manner was easy, and her peculiar style of speaking in the third page 172person had modified greatly under Miss Munroe's tuition. We succeeded in arranging a good programme for the concert, and although that kind of thing was new to Zada, she appeared greatly interested, and made some valuable suggestions. Mrs. Munroe was confined to her room, and shortly after Zada went to sit with her.

"Good night Mr. Douglas," she said extending her hand, "I will go and sit with Mrs. Munroe. You, I daresay will not miss me," she added rather significantly.

When she left the room, Miss Munroe said:—

"What do you think of Zada now, Mr. Douglas? She has never called you 'Mr. Douglas' before, and she speaks of herself as 'I,' and not 'Zada,' as has been her usual custom."

"I hardly know what to say Miss Munroe. If I were to tell you my opinion you might think it was flattery and not believe me."

"I will take it for granted then that you said I was clever, and good, and—all that sort of thing," she said laughing.

"Did you experience much trouble with Zada in her tuition?" I asked.

"No, very little, Dad says I have done very well."

"Who is that speaking of dad?" said a voice from the door, and Mr. Munroe suddenly appeared with a packet of letters in his hand. "I was having a conversation with Captain Wilson," he continued, "when the mail arrived. As there were several letters for Mr. Douglas, I took the liberty of putting them in my pocket, as I thought that I would find him here. And now my boy, I must be off again, I have to see old Davis on business."

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After he was gone, Miss Munroe rose from her seat and said:—

"I will leave you to read your letters now, Mr. Douglas, and in the meantime I will go upstairs for a few minutes and see how the mater is."

One of the letters was from my mother informing me that I must leave New Zealand at once on urgent business, connected with some property. She herself did not know the full particulars of my mission, but said that I would be fully informed on the receipt of a letter from her solicitors, as they intended to write by the next mail. She begged me to resign my present position, as she yearned to see her boy again.

It was with mixed feelings that I contemplated the desire of my mother for my return to England. For many reasons the idea of leaving New Zealand, and "Wairuara in particular, saddened me greatly, and the thought of leaving Miss Munroe, for whom, with the arrival of this sudden and unexpected news, I was now fully conscious I had conceived a deep affection, was not pleasant to contemplate. While in this perplexed state of mind, racked by the uncertainty of unrequited love, and tortured by conflicting doubts, Miss Munroe suddenly re-entered the room.

"Pray what is the matter, Mr. Douglas," she said with the greatest concern, "I hope you have not heard bad news."

"It may be bad news—and yet it may be good news, Miss Munroe," I said with difficulty controlling a desire to clasp her to my breast. "I have just received word from my mother craving my return at once on important family affairs."

"Yes, yes," she faltered; "and you must go. Your first page 174duty is to—to—your mother. And—and I hope, Mr. Douglas, that you will think sometimes of—of—" Here she turned her face away, and I thought I heard a stiffled sob.

"Miss Munroe—Jessie—is it possible that you care for me—that you love me?" said I, grasping her hands, the touch of which strangely affected me.

For one brief moment she cast her eyes up and met my burning gaze, and then let them drop as if afraid that they had betrayed too much, but not before I had seen enough to fill me with a tremulous gladness. Slipping my arm around her waist, I drew her unresisting form to the sofa, where, folded in my arms, she burst into a flood of tears.

What relish is this? how runs the stream?
  Or am I mad, or else this is a dream.
Let fancy still my sense in Lethe sleep;
  If it be thus to dream, still let me sleep.

I will not reveal all that passed during the next half hour. It is enough that we were happy, and time and place were alike forgotten in the tender exchanges of vows which I fondly hoped would be consummated at the marriage altar.

"Why have you so long delayed telling me of this, Lance?" Jessie inquired a little shyly.

"I have loved you, Jessie, from our first meeting, when I bathed your head after the rescue in the forest; but my position and unworthiness, and a slight doubt that after all I might be mistaken in your love kept me from declaring sooner how dear you were to me. And then again I considered that my position as a non-commissioned officer was not sufficient to warrant me in asking for your hand."

page 175

The play of roseate light on an autumnal sky at evening could not have been more beautiful than the changing tints that passed over her beautiful face as I spoke. For a moment she was silent, and sat musing with a happy expression on her countenance.

"You silly boy! A soldier—and yet so timid! You might have known my answer," said she half reproachfully.

"Ah, Jessie, I know I am a terrible coward, but your sweet words have given me courage. Am I to retain these dear hands for ever? Not one, Jessie, one will not satisfy a love like mine—a love that is interwoven with my whole being."

"Yes, you may have them both, dear Lance, and can keep them until you—grow tired of me," said she half playfully.

"That will never be, my own. But, dear, what about your father! I should have asked his permission first before speaking to you, but this has happened so suddenly that even now I begin to think that it is all a dream."

"No, Lance dear, it is not a dream but a happy reality, and this is a proof." Drawing my head down she pressed her lips to mine with all the fervour of a pure love. "Do you know those beautiful lines from Byron?" Jessie continued softly—

Think'st thou that I could bear to part
  With thee, and learn to halve my heart?
Ah! were I severed from thy side,
  Where were my friend—and who my guide?
Years have not seen, Time shall not see,
  The hour that tears my soul from thee:
page 176 Even Azrael, from his deadly quiver,
  When flies that shaft, and fly it must,
That parts all else, shall doom for ever,
  Our hearts to undivided dust.

"And do you love me so much as that," said I gently.

There was no answer. Only a slight pressure of the hand, and a soft arm stealing gently round my neck—and I was quite content.