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Ngamihi; or The Maori Chief's Daughter

Chapter XLIX. A Day's Shooting

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Chapter XLIX. A Day's Shooting.

"You are a dear good fellow Lance," said Jessie when we were alone, "for backing up my petition. I would not have cared so much, only that I want to see what duck shooting is like."

"I am glad that I have pleased you dear—but I won't keep you talking as you have plenty to do."

"Not very much; fortunately I have plenty of 'grub,' as dad calls it. If you like you can help me to cut the sandwiches. You sportsmen eat such a terrible lot when on these shooting excursions."

"I know of some dieaway sentimental young ladies who can eat a powerful lot too at picnics, especially when the gentlemen are not looking," I retorted.

"I hope you don't class me among the dieaway young ladies," said Jessie. "For my own part I think no lady ought to be ashamed of a healthy appetite. But here is the ham, so we will commence work at once."

"How is Zada getting on?" I inquired after we had been engaged for some time cutting and slicing.

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"Very well indeed; she is with the mater most of her time, but strange to say she still has her usual rambles in the forest every day. By some means or other she knows exactly when Captain Wilson is going for his constitutional, and I have found out that she is generally in his vicinity without his knowledge. I fancy she thinks he is in danger from someone."

"I suppose she is playing the role of guardian angel," I answered, laughing.

"You have no business laughing at the failings of my protégé, sir. If you knew that I were in danger, I believe you would be found not far away."

"Yes, certainly; but surely that absurd threat of Kiapo's is not frightening her?"

"I believe it is."

"Have you heard anything about Kiapo lately?" I inquired.

"Yes, Zada told me that Hema still keeps her informed of his movements. The girl only stops a short time and then returns to the forest."

"Do you think he is near Wairuara at present?"

"Yes, Zada believes he is still watching for Captain Wilson, and it makes the poor girl very unhappy."

"I wish some of our patrols could catch him, and I fancy Taipua would do all in his power to help us. I will speak to Captain Snell about it."

Our united efforts soon made a small mountain of sandwiches, and the cook got orders to prepare other delicacies.

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"Good night, Jessie, I must be off now. Oh! there is another important thing I must remind you of," I said with assumed gravity.

"What is it Lance?" she inquired gravely.

"As it is a matter of some importance I must whisper it." She inclined her pretty ear. "Don't forget to smuggle away some of your father's Scotch whisky." Before she could reply I was out of her reach, just escaping a sandwich which she pelted after me.

I called round to Captain Snell's quarters about my leave, and it was arranged to my satisfaction. I informed him about Kiapo's movements, and he said that he would consider the best course to pursue under the circumstances.

Next morning was beautifully fine, and the air was sweet and fresh in consequence of a heavy thunderstorm that had kept most of us awake during the night. I arrived at Mr. Munroe's a few minutes before our appointment, and found Jessie in high spirits at the prospect of the day's sport. Just after breakfast Doctor Gill arrived on his cob, and we lost no time in getting away. I got a horse for Hoani, and Mr. Munroe's boy rode behind in charge of two well filled hampers. Our way led across the clearing where I had rescued Jessie from her Maori abductor. She pointed the spot out to her father, who expressed some little surprise at the great distance which her captor had traversed in the little time he had at his disposal. A little further on we came to the swamp where we intended to do our shooting, and after dismounting, the horses were left in charge of Hoani. Mr. Munroe soon posted us in our places, and as the swamp was alive with ducks and Maori hens we were soon all busily engaged with our guns. After a few minutes Jessie page 205succeeded in killing the first blue duck with a good shot, the bird being on the wing. After that the shooting became general. The blue cluck (Hymenolaimus malacorhynchus) is about the size of a widgeon, and though a very fast and erratic flier, it evinces a great disinclination to be on the wing, and will not rise until thoroughly disturbed. We frequently had to pelt them with stones to bring them together so that we could fire into their midst. The fun was great while it lasted, and at lunch time we had a pretty fair bag.

We spread out our provisions under some black pine trees, and the pleasant perfume of the crushed leaves, the beautiful hills in the far background covered with fine forest trees, added to our recent exhiliarating exercise, seemed to give a fresh zest to our appetite, which we were not slow to recognise. Jessie proved a splendid caterer, and she seemed by some strange intuition to know exactly what we all wanted. Has the reader ever observed how cheerful young and old become—how their spirits rise in the joyous unconventionality and freedom of such occasions as these? "Far from the maddening crowd" indeed. Mr. Munroe and the Doctor were like two young schoolboys, and vied with each other in relating stories of their old schoolboy days.

"How many are there Jack?" said Mr. Munroe, lazily lying on the ground puffing contentedly at his pipe, to the boy who was counting the slaughtered game.

"Forty-nine blue ducks, sir, and ten Maori hens," answered the boy.

"Not bad, Koti-roa?" said Miss Munroe, looking at the Doctor, "considering that we have still the afternoon before us."

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"Mr. Munroe," protested the Doctor with mock solemnity; "don't you think it hard lines that I should be saddled with a name like Koti-roa, because I happened to be wearing a long riding coat when I first made my bow to the natives of this country?"

"You must not mind that Doctor," I said slightly amused. The Maoris canonize you under that name, and speak of you as Koti-roa, the Good Doctor."

"Oh well," said the Doctor, stroking his beard and still grumbling, "I suppose I must submit, but I would rather that somebody else was burdened with the title."

"We all have our crosses Doctor," remarked Jessie smiling. "Consider that one of yours."

"Come Douglas, you are not eating half enough," said Mr. Munroe turning to me.

"Yes, do take some more, Lance," said Jessie, "For I am sure you must be famished after the dreadful havoc you made amongst the ducks."

After lunch Hoani offered to conduct us to a secret haunt of the large paradise ducks, where he said they often congregated in large numbers. We followed leisurely, Mr. Munroe and Dr. Gill smoking in silence, while Jessie and I brought up the rear.