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Ngamihi; or The Maori Chief's Daughter

Chapter XLIV. Arline Hirch gives Evidence in Taipua's Favour

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Chapter XLIV. Arline Hirch gives Evidence in Taipua's Favour.

When we entered the cottages that did duty for barracks, one of the men was brushing some clothes. As he appeared annoyed about something, he did not notice our entrance. Captain Snell, with a smile, made a sign for me to be silent while me watched Murphy's peculiar way of brushing a pair of trousers.

"Be me sowl," he said, the tailor that made them pants ought to make another pair and then hang himself. To think that I want brushin' up and down like this, it's a caution."

Murphy followed on for some time in this strain, occasionally using expressions more forcible than polite, when the Captain inquired with a smile of amusement:—

"What is the matter Murphy? you appear excited."

"Beg your pardon Captain," said Murphy standing at attention. "I did'nt know you were there."

"All right, my man, but what is the matter with your trousers? Why, this is one of the new issue, too," continued the Captain. "Dont they fit? the shape seems all right."

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"The fit is all right sir," said Murphy, "but you see sir, I have to brush one leg up and the other down."

"What do you mean? I don't understand," answered the Captain looking puzzled.

"Well you see sir, the tailor, bad luck to him—beg pardon Captain—made a mistake and turned the grain of the cloth the wrong way in one leg. You see this leg brushes down all right, while this leg gets as rough as the back of a cat sthroked the wrong way if you brush it the same way."

"Oh, I see what the matter is," said Captain Snell with a smile. "Sergeant, see that Murphy gets another pair of trousers; these will do him for barrack duty."

"Thank you Captain," answered Murphy, saluting. "I don't mind the up and down brushing if I get an extra pair."

After Captain Snell had given me instructions about the shelves, he said:

"As Andrews' leg is better, he can assist you in arranging for the inquiry. Lieutenant Lovelock, I understand is unwell."

At eleven o'clock there was a good gathering in the orderly room. Most of the leading people of Wairuara were present, including Mr. and Miss Munroe and Mr. and Mrs. Brodson. Captain Snell conducted the inquiry, and nearly all the visitors were accommodated with seats, while a great crowd of Maoris and others were collected outside. The young chief was called forward, and Captain Snell addressed him in a kind voice:—

"Taipua, you must not suppose that this is a trial. I simply want to get at the truth of many things that occurred when Hirch's house was burnt by your band, and of page 183after events also. I will ask you questions from time to time, which I am sure you will answer truthfully. I give you my word that neither you nor your companions here shall suffer for it."

"The pakeha Rangatira says well. Taipua will be glad to speak the truth to his pakeha friends. His eyes now see good, where the tohungas said there was none."

"Miss Hirch," said Captain Snell, "will you kindly come forward and tell us what you know of the unfortunate events that occurred on the night when your house was burned down and your subsequent rescue from your captors?"

Arline Hirch came forward from among the crowd near the door, and as she was passing the young chief, she turned and shook hands with him most cordially, to the evident astonishment of many in the room.

"On the night you speak of, sir," she said a little nervously at first, which however, soon wore off, "I was in the garden, when a Maori—that man," pointing to the young chief, "jumped over the fence. Before I could move or utter a cry, he said, 'do not fear, Taipua means you no harm; I came to warn you that some of my people are coming to destroy this place. Taipua can fight like a man against the pakehas and their soldiers, but does not like murder. Your father was kind to Taipua when he was a boy. Tell him that he must hide in the forest quickly, or it will He too late, as my brothers are many. Taipua is a chief, but Te Pehi is all powerful and his commands are law.' Before I could make any reply he had jumped over the fence and was gone."

"Very good Miss Hirch, what followed?" asked Captain Snell, looking kindly at the girl.

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"I at once told my father and mother, but father only laughed and said, 'that there had been too many false alarms for him to the afraid now.'"

"Did he take any precautions for his safety?" questioned Captain Wilson.

"No sir; the told me a few minutes later to go to a little field near the house, and bring in an old horse, which he wanted to use in the morning."

"Could he not go himself?" interrogated Captain Snell. "He had hurt his foot during the day, sir, and din not care about walking. We had two men working on the farm, but they lived about a quarter of a mile away."

"Tell us what occurred after you got the horse?" was the next question.

"When I was leading back the horse, I saw that the house was surrounded by Maoris. As I felt frightened I hastily turned the horse loose and hid myself in the forest."

"What did you see from your hiding place, Miss Hirch?" asked Captain Wilson.

"I don't remember anything very clearly after that, sir, I believe the fright made me faint. When my senses returned, I found that I was being dragged by two Maoris through the underwood, towards some of their companions who stood in the forest. They tied my handkerchief over my mouth and nearly smothered me. Besides that my arms were tied behind my back, and the cords gave me great pain."

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A murmur of sympathy went round the room as the witness described the manner in which she was bound.

"When Taipua saw me," continued Miss Hirch, glancing at the young chief, who stood with his head bent, "he took the bandage from off my mouth, and untied the cords, which was a great relief. Shortly after he whispered, 'Taipua will try and save the pakeha wahine (girl.) Drop bits of your dress, on anything as you go through the forest, so that your friends may be able to follow you. They will soon look for you.' (Taipua at this period raised his head and gazed intently at the witness.) I took his advice, and tore some ribbon into small pieces, and dropped them at intervals."