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Ngamihi; or The Maori Chief's Daughter

Chapter LI. Doctor Gill's Experiences in Cuba

page 212

Chapter LI. Doctor Gill's Experiences in Cuba.

"By this time," continued the Doctor, "daylight began to appear at the top of my prison, and I congratulated myself on having so easily got rid of my unwelcome companions. Fortunately during my fall my provision bag had fallen with me, and I was thus enabled to make a good breakfast. The hole that I had fallen into was narrow at the top, and became wider towards the bottom, so that it was utterly impossible for me in my present condition to climb it. I kept up a good fire as the smoke would act as a signal to anyone who might be in the vicinity. Well, to cut my story short, I spent three days in that dismal hole, and on the morning of the fourth day, when I had almost given up all hope of being rescued, as my provisions and water were now exhausted, I heard to my great joy voices at the top. I gave a loud shout and directly afterwards a voice called out, 'who is there?' Doctor Gill of the 'Neptune,' I answered. 'Put your fire out, and we will lower a rope' came back the response. I stamped the fire out, and immediately a stout rope was let down and I was soon hauled to the top. I found myself amongst strangers, and was looking about bewildered when a kind old Spanish gentleman ordered his servants to carry me to his residence about a mile away, at the same time inviting me to page 213take a drink out of his wine flask, which I gladly accepted. I learned that only for the smoke I might never have been discovered. It seems that one of the country people saw the smoke coming out of the hole, and finding my rifle at the brink, he at once gave information at the Spaniard's house, with the result that my rescue was soon compassed. The residence of my Spanish friend was like a palace, and I was treated with the greatest respect and kindness. A doctor was called in immediately after my arrival, and my foot was properly attended to. I refused to stay in bed, and was installed in a most luxurious room and was paid the greatest attention. My couch was covered with the richest silk—but there, I cannot describe it, it was all so grand. My nurse was Donna Madalena, the beautiful and accomplished daughter of my host. She was a splendid musician, and could play exquisitely on the guitar which was generally her accompaniment in her songs of Old Castille. She informed me that for two days my friends searched for me, and, finally, believing that I had been murdered by brigands, the ship put to sea. Things continued like this for——"

Here a voilent snort from Mr. Munroe interrupted the story.

"Poor dad, he is asleep, I will cover his face with my handkerchief," said Jessie, going over to her father. She was soon back again and said:—

"Excuse dad interrupting, Doctor, please go on."

"Well, as I was saying, things continued like this for a few weeks, and gradually I became conscious that I was in love with my beautiful nurse, and that it was reciprocated. I believe the old Don noticed what was going on, but he said nothing. English gentleman were greatly respected at that time. As my foot page 214grew better, Donna Madalena would take me for little walks round her father's beautiful garden, and she also showed me her marble bath which was considered one of the wonders of the country. It was sixty feet long, and forty feet broad. An ornamental shed was built over it, and by a clever contrivance a series of screens shut in the place by simply turning a handle. A broad flight of marble steps led down to the water, the depth of which was from one to ten feet. One morning Donna Madalena went to have her usual bath, accompanied by her Octaroon maids. Shortly after we were alarmed by violent screams issuing from the bath house. I ran in with her father and a number of the servants, and was horrified to find a large alligator in the bath lashing about in great fury. The water was tinged with the blood of Madalena, who had literally been torn to pieces by the infuriated monster, which it was surmised had come from a stream at the back of the house during the night, and concealed himself in the bath. The alligator was soon despatched by the men, and the mutilated remains of poor Madalena were mournfully gathered together for fitting burial. I was so shocked at the dreadful fate of the poor girl that I left Cuba as soon as possible afterwards."

"How dreadful," said Jessie, "I am sure it must have been a great blow to you, Doctor."

"Oh well, that is all passed away now. But my dear young lady your father is in the land of dreams; rouse him up, it's about time we were making a start for home."

Mr. Munroe was lying on his back indulging in long drawn snores, when Jessie walked over and shook him.

"Dad, it's time to go home now."

The old gentleman sat up and rubbed his eyes.

page 215

"Oh yes lass, so it is, I believe I was nearly asleep."

"Yes, nearly asleep dad," she said demurely.

"Well, if you are all prepared to start, I'm quite ready," said Mr. Munroe, getting up and shaking himself.

"Hoani and the boy were ordered to follow us home as quickly as possible with the game, and we cantered back to Wairuara well pleased with our day's outing.