Other formats

    Adobe Portable Document Format file (facsimile images)   TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

Ngamihi; or The Maori Chief's Daughter

Chapter L. Te Rangewhenua gives a Warning

page 207

Chapter L. Te Rangewhenua gives a Warning.

We had not proceeded far before a tall strong looking Maori suddenly stepped from behind a tree, and stood in front of our horses, to the utter amazement of everybody but Hoani. Jessie saw him first and gave a slight scream. Hoani who appeared greatly pleased, commenced rubbing noses* with the stranger, and made other demonstrations of joy at the meeting.

"Tenakoe" said the Maori civilly bowing to us when he had finished the ceremony of greeting with Hoani.

"You seem disposed to be friendly my man. Who are you?" asked the Doctor.

"My name is Te Rangewhenua and I am a friendly Maori. One time I was a great Rangitira in my own tribe, but I did not agree with my people, because they did murder and would not fight fair so I left my hapu for ever. I have seen a tau (war party) some distance away under a bad man named Kiapo, and I have come to warn you in time."

"Is it a big force?" inquired the Doctor.

page 208

"No, only eight men, Koti-roa," answered the Maori.

"You seem to know me," said the Doctor perplexed. "Where have you seen me before?" he continued.

"Many Maoris have spoken to me about you, and I know you by your appearance."

"Have you any idea where this war party is going to?" interrupted Mr. Munroe.

"I do not think they intend to attack your Kainga," answered the Maori, "as their numbers are too small, but I am certain Kiapo is after no good. My brother, Te Tangemoana, told me that Kiapo loves Te Pehi's daughter, who is with the pakeha's in Wairuara, and I think he is going there."

"Hum," said the Doctor, rubbing his chin. "That is the girl Zada; she is quite safe, I think, as everyone in Wairuara would fight in her defence. So you know Hoani?" said he turning to the Maori.

"Yes, I knew him a long time ago when we were 'tamarikis' (children), and I am very pleased to see him again."

"Are you on your way to Wairuara?" asked Mr. Munroe.

"No, not now; but I am going there soon with my brother."

The Maori after having a few more words with Hoani, vanished in the forest, as suddenly as he had appeared.

"Come on," said Mr. Munroe, "this need not spoil our afternoon's sport."

About an hour's slow riding brought us to the spot where page 209Hoani had promised us good shooting. It was a swamp similar to the one we had just quitted, but of large dimensions and half dry, surrounded by tall rushes and ti tree, in which we soon found ample cover. We found the paradise duck (casarea variegata) rather hard to get at, as they were extremely timid, and we had great difficulty in getting within range. However by dint of great patience, and not a little inconvenience sustained in cramped positions, we managed to get thirteen of them. They proved to be much larger than the others and were in splendid condition. By this time the Doctor and Mr. Munroe had both agreed that they'd had enough of it, and the latter proposed to camp for half an hour before going home, and sample the whisky bottle.

"I think we have had a very good day's sport, Doctor," he remarked, munching at a sandwich. "How many did you kill, Jessie?"

Two paradise ducks, five blue ducks, and two Maori hens, dad," she answered a little proudly.

"Well done, lass; let me see," said her father counting on his fingers, "that makes seventy-two ducks and ten hens. Mr. Lovelock would call that 'vewey good, vewey good indeed.'"

"Speaking of the Lieutenant," said the Doctor glancing at Jessie, "reminds me that he is telling everyone that you are engaged."

Jessie blushed and looked confused.

"Well he is telling the truth for once in his life," broke in her father. "Did he tell how he spread his handkerchief on the carpet, and flopped on his knees before Jessie, and his coarse behaviour when she refused him?"

page 210

"No, I heard nothing about that," said the doctor interestedly.

"Ma conscience," said the old gentleman choking and laughing over a piece of cake. "If he tells the truth, he ought to tell the whole truth. And now I will have a stretch on the grass while you folks talk."

"Allow me to congratulate you Douglas, on making such a conquest," said the Doctor, turning to me. "I had an idea it would come to this in the end, and I can assure you that your choice does you infinite credit. Heigho!" said he sighing, "I was in love myself once with a beautiful Spanish girl in Cuba, but she met with such a horrible death that I have put all such thoughts out of my head since."

"I have never heard you allude to your past life before, Doctor," remarked Jessie kindly.

"No, it seems like a dream now," he answered thoughtfully, gazing into vacancy.

"If it would not be too painful Doctor, I should like to hear it," said Jessie, with a sympathetic look in her eyes."

"Well, my dear, there is not much to tell. When I was a young fellow and just started in my profession, I went to Cuba as ship's doctor in the 'Neptune.' After our arrival there I went on shore, and started on a long ramble among the hills with a few of my companions. Each of us carried a leather bag well filled with provisions, including some wine, as we intended to camp out in the open air. We each carried a revolver and rifle for protection, as it was well-known that a lawless band of thieves were lurking somewhere among the hills. By some means or other on our first afternoon out, I somehow got page 211separated from my companions, and in trying to regain the lost ground I unfortunately fell down a deep narrow hole, and would certainly have been killed but for some bushes and stunted trees which broke my fall in the descent. I must have lain unconscious for some hours, as it was night time when I regained my senses, and an inky blackness enveloped me so that I could not see what kind of a place I had fallen into. I tried to stand up, but my ankle gave me such pain that I was unable to bear its weight on the ground. I lay patiently waiting for daylight; but the question arose: 'How was I to get out of this place on one leg?' I was feeling a bit drowsy when I suddenly felt something cold creeping over my neck. I shook the horrible thing off with a cry of horror, and tremblingly struck a match. The sight that met my gaze made me bristle with fear, for right in front of me was a nest of large snakes, some of them fully twelve feet long, crawling about and uttering strange sounds in the most hideous fashion. The light from the match appeared to fascinate them, and they remained quiet so long as it burned. Fortunately I had a good supply, and gathering together some dry sticks I made a fire, which appeared to daze them as they remained quite motionless. The bottom of the hole appeared to be about ten feet square, so that there was very little room to move about in.

The reptiles evidently did not like the smoke, and I observed that it had a stupefying effect on them. In a little while I noticed that, as the smoke grew more dense, they perceptibly moved further away, and one of them started to crawl up the side of the wall. He was followed by the others, and with a great sigh of relief at my providential escape, I watched the last disappear from view over the top of the hole.

* The Maori mode of salutation.