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Ngamihi; or The Maori Chief's Daughter

Chapter XLVII. Miss Munroe's Suitor

page 194

Chapter XLVII. Miss Munroe's Suitor.

We reached Wairuara before dark, and I reported myself to Lieutenant Lovelock. He received me in the most insulting manner, and glared at me in a way that made me doubt his sanity. Connor subsequently told me that the night previous the Lieutenant was very drunk when he went to bed, and he had heard him swearing at me several times.

"I don't see why the Lieutenant should swear at me behind my back, Connor," I said. "I have always treated him with respect as my superior officer."

"Yes, I know you have sir, but he seems to have a great down on you for something."

"What did he say, Connor?" I inquired.

"He coupled your name with a certain young lady's, and said a non-com, was not good enough for her, and that she ought to aspire higher. He also said that you had come to New Zealand to lay a trap for a girl with money, and that he could prove that you have a wife in England. But don't take no notice of him sir; I would'nt let it bother me if I were you."

page 195

"No indeed, Connor." I answered. "If it amuses him to talk like that in barracks, it does not harm me in the slightest. At the same time if Captain Snell or Captain Wilson were to hear of it, the Lieutenant might be obliged to curb his tongue a little more. By the way, where is Captain Snell this evening?"

"Mr. Davis gave a dinner party this afternoon, and Captain Snell was invited. I believe he is there."

"Tell Andrews I want him, Connor."

In a few minutes my American friend made his appearance. After giving him some directions I told him that I intended to go to Mr. Munroe's for the evening.

"Be careful Andrews while I am away. The Lieutenant will be only too glad to seek a disturbance while Captain Snell is off duty."

"Yes, but he will find me equal to the occasion," was the grim answer "I saw him goin' into Mr. Munroe's house yesterday evenin' while you were away. When he came back there was the devil to pay. I never seed whisky go down a man's gullet as quick in my life. I thought the show worth 25 cents to anyone. Somethin' you have done has put him out awful. He would be delighted to hear that some of the Maoris had put a bullet through you. He can beat some of our backwood men at swearin', an it takes an almighty lot to do that. Take care of him pard. A critter like him is not to be trusted."

A little later I was comfortably seated by Jessie's side. Mrs. Munroe was in her room, and the old gentleman was at Mr. Davis's dinner party, so that we were quite alone.

"I have had such an honour done me since I saw you last, Lance," said Jessie after the first greeting was over.

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"Well dear, you know I am glad to hear of any honour that you may receive—but what was it?"

"I am not sure whether I shall tell you," said the dear girl blushing and looking down.

"Why do you torture me thus?" I answered mockingly.

"What will you give me if I tell you?" she said putting her lips very near mine.

"A kiss, my darling," I answered, suiting the action to the word.

"Very well, I won't tease you any longer. Yesterday evening Lieutenant Lovelock suddenly appeared at the drawing room window and requested an interview with me alone. He had such a solemn, serious look on his face, that I feared at first he was the bearer of bad news. He commenced with telling me about his family in England, and of some large estates he expected to inherit. I listened as patiently as I could, wondering what was coming next, when suddenly he spread his handkerchief on the ground at my feet—fixed his eyeglass firmly, and dropped on his knees before me. In this ridiculous attitude he made me a proposal of marriage, pouring out such a torrent of words about his great love, that for a moment I was completely bewildered, and could hardly prevent myself from laughing at the ludicrous faces he made in trying to keep his eyeglass in its place. Imagine a man making a proposal with his face screwed all on one side!"

"Poor fellow," I answered, "he was rather late. What did you say to him?"

"Well dear, I told him that I was fully sensible of the honour that he had done me, but as I did not love him, I could never be his wife."

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"How did he take that?" I inquired.

"He would not take 'No' for an answer for some time. I was inclined to answer him as an American girl did when a would-be lover importuned her:—'In the first place, I do not love you; in the second place, I don't want to love you; in the third place, I couldn't love you if I did want to' After a little more persuasion he attempted to embrace me, which made me so alarmed that I threatened to call the servants to put him out of the house. At this he got into a terrible passion. When he had cooled down a little he asked me if I loved anyone else. I told him that he had no right to ask such a question. It was enough for him to know that I did not love him, and that the very sight of him was hateful to me."

"That was very rough on him, Jessie," I answered. "Still he should not have pressed you in that way. How did it all end?"

"He seemed to entirely lose all control over himself, and stormed in such a dreadful manner that I got frightened. I tried to get him out of the room quietly, but he seized me by the wrist, and hissed into my ear that you had a wife in England, and was the father of three children. He also said a lot more that I do not remember, as I was nearly fainting with fright. I made another effort to get away from him, when to my relief dad walked into the room."