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Ngamihi; or The Maori Chief's Daughter

Chapter LII. A Story of the Early Days of New Zealand

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Chapter LII. A Story of the Early Days of New Zealand.

Zada was waiting for us at the gate when we arrived looking exceedingly becoming in a white muslin dress with a fine red camelia fastened in her breast. She gave the Doctor a letter, and then handed another to me.

"Captain Snell sent them here as he knew you and the Doctor would soon be back. A good natured looking fellow—Andrews I think you call him—gave them to me. He was so droll in his manner that I could not help laughing at him," she remarked smilingly.

"That is only his way Zada," I answered, "because I know he thinks highly of you."

'Oh, he was not rude; but he had such funny sayings," Zada said laughing.

"Has anyone else been during our absense?" inquired Jessie.

"Yes, Captain Wilson was here for a little while," answered Zada, a little confusedly.

"Oh, I'm so glad he was here," said Jessie, a smile lighting up her face. "I hope you entertained him suitably, Zada?"

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"Yes, he was very kind," answered Zada, with the least bit of hesitation in her manner.

When the Doctor had finished reading his letter, he turned round to the company and said:—

"Doctor Preston, son of an old friend of mine, will arrive here to-morrow, and is going to stop with me as my assistant. I am getting rather old now and cannot run about so much as I used to."

"Good chance for Miss Davis," I said, alluding to a young lady that set her cap at everyone.

"I hope he is young and good looking, if only for the sake of the girls here," said Mr. Munroe.

"He is only a mere youth just commencing to learn how to kill people in the most approved scientific style," said the Doctor with a merry twinkle in his eye. "As to his being handsome," he continued, "that is a question for the girls to decide. He was only a child when last I saw him."

"You appear to have good news Douglas?" said Mr. Munroe coming over to where I was standing, reading my letter.

I motioned him aside, and placed the letter in his hands.

"Hum," he said after reading it. "In consequence of a lot of property left to you by your uncle, you are requested to return to England at once. Well, I am very glad to hear of your good fortune, my boy, and so will Jessie. Go to her and let her hear the good news.

I soon found Jessie, and needless to say how glad she was to hear of the alteration in my prospects.

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"I intend to celebrate the event by giving a dinner to-morrow Doctor," said Mr. Munroe, "when we will be able to sample some of our ducks We will expect you at half past six, and if your assistant should arrive in time bring him also. Jessie will sing a song or two, and Doctor Preston might also assist."

"That reminds me," said Doctor Gill laughing. "I was informed by a friend that my new assistant is very fond of showing off his singing qualities, but as a matter of fact, he has a most discordant voice and cannot sing a bit, although like many others he thinks he can. However, you will be able to see him for yourself."

"Do bring him, Doctor, I will soon find out what he can do," said Jessie laughing.

"None of your tricks with him young lady," said the Doctor, shaking his finger at her. "Recollect that he is under my care."

"I shall be very tender with him Doctor, I assure you," answered Jessie with an arch smile, "and Zada will help me—won't you Zada?"

"I think you will do well enough without any assistance from me, Miss Jessie," said Zada demurely.

"And now Doctor," continued Jessie. "the evening is young yet, so you must tell me the story you promised the other day about Lieutenant Crozet's adventures near Gape Brett. Don't go away Zada, come here and sit with me, for this promises to be very interesting."

"You should not make rash promises to Jessie, Doctor," said the old gentleman laughing. "She has a good memory, page 219and has a knack of giving a gentle reminder at the most inconvenient times. I should like to hear this story myself, however, so you can put the whisky and glasses on the table Jessie, and bring out that new brand of cigars which came by the last boat from Auckland."

"About the middle of the year 1772," began Doctor Gill after we were all seated comfortably, "the ships 'Mascarin' and 'Castries,' commanded by Captain Marion of the French East India Company, came in sight of the Bay of Islands, near Cape Brett. As they neared the land three canoes came towards them crowded with Maoris. There was not a breath of air, and the sea was as smooth as glass. As the foremost canoe approached the vessel the sailors, by friendly signs and trifling presents, after some little difficulty, at length persuaded them to come on board. They were treated with great kindness by the ship's crew, who offered them food and showed them the various articles of interest on board the vessel. The Maoris appeared delighted with everything they saw and allowed themselves, with evident pleasure, to be dressed by the kind hearted sailors in European attire—i.e., shirt and trousers. They betrayed a great greediness for hatchets, chisels, and such like tools, and when they were made presents of some they made great demonstrations by signs and gesticulations of their satisfaction. After being some time on board they descended into their canoes in evident glee at their kind treatment. When they had gone a little distance from the ship, they divested themselves of their European clothes and resumed their habitual costume, which at best was very scanty. The other two canoes seeing how well their companions had been treated, in turn visited the vessel, and they also were given presents which pleased them greatly.

In the evening the wind increased almost to a gale and page 220compelled the canoes to depart, but several of the natives who had got very friendly with the crew remained on the vessel. After a good supper with the sailors, amongst whom they freely mixed, they slept on beds prepared in the cabin without the least suspicion or fear of the white people among whom they were thus so strangely placed. Their chief, Takouri, who showed considerable alarm every time the vessel rose against the waves, was a fine middle aged man, elaborately tattooed, and possessing a great deal of authority over his people. Towards morning the weather moderated, and after breakfast the commandant sent a detachment ashore to erect tents on a small island near the mainland, where there was an abundance of wood and water, as well as a good landing place for the boats. There the sick were established under a suitable guard. The native name of this island was Motuaro. They had scarcely landed before a large flotilla of canoes arrived loaded with fish, and they were soon busily engaged bartering for small pieces of iron, &c. As some of the officers could use the Tahitian vocabulary they spoke in jest, and were surprised to find that they were understood. After that there was no difficulty in trafficking with the natives. At night the canoes departed, leaving behind several of their number, who passed the night on terms of cordial friendship with the men.

On the following day the canoes went out to the ships which were both securely at anchor, taking with them their daughters and wives. They also brought fresh quantities of fish, and received in exchange glass beads and nails. Many of the chiefs who were recognised by the plume of birds feathers stuck in their hair came on board, and were shown the cabins and firearms, all of which seemed to greatly impress them. The married women were distinguished by an ornament of plaited page 221rushes on their heads, while the young girls wore their hair falling in perfect freedom about their necks without any ornament to bind them. The savages themselves made the men acquainted with these distinctions in order to secure a proper respect for their married women.

Some days after Captain Marion and Lieutenant Crozet having received a cordial invitation to go ashore, embarked in the ship's shallop with a detachment of soldiers, and rowed to a point in the bay where they could see a large number of kaingas standing some distance back from the beach.