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Ngamihi; or The Maori Chief's Daughter

Chapter LVII. Death of Ngamihi

page 246

Chapter LVII. Death of Ngamihi.

In a few minutes several men arrived with Doctor Gill and his assistant, followed by the Ambulance men with a stretcher. Doctor Gill gravely and with tender care examined Zada's wound, but refrained from expressing an opinion until after further investigation. He ordered the men to place her on the stretcher gently, and take her to the hospital.

"Will the bandage I put on do for the present, Doctor?" I inquired.

Yes, you have succeeded in stopping the blood," he answered, "and I could do no more for the present."

Just as the melancholy procession was about to start, Mr. Munroe hurriedly arrived, and insisted on having the unfortunate girl brought to his house.

"Very well, Mr. Munroe," said Dr. Gill. "Perston," he added, turning to his assistant, "would you please go round to the surgery, and get the necessary instruments for taking out the ball, as quickly as possible?"

We soon arrived at Mr. Munroe's house, and Jessie's grief was pitiable when she saw the condition of the protegé. Zada page 247was carried to one of the bedrooms on the ground floor, as the Doctor would not allow her to be taken upstairs to her own room

"I want everyone to leave the room now while I examine the patient," said the Doctor with a serious face, "but as I require an assistant, will somebody please go for the hospital nurse at once."

"Can I be of any assistance, Doctor?" inquired Jessie, who had been standing by, in a gentle tone.

"Yes, Miss Jessie, but are you sure your nerves are strong enough?"

"I believe I will be better than a stranger, Doctor. Please let me do all I can," she added—pleadingly, choking back her tears.

The Doctor and Jessie remained closeted in the room for some time. Doctor Preston presently arrived with a small parcel, and after gently knocking at the closed door, Doctor Gill opened it, and, taking the parcel, told him that he would call him if he were required. In a couple of minutes Jessie again opened the door and beckoned to me.

"Get me a large jug of hot water from the kitchen, Lance," she said in a suppressed whisper.

I hastened to do her bidding and soon returned with a steaming jug of water. We spent an anxious half hour, as no one cared to go away until they had heard Doctor Gill's opinion of the nature of the wound. The news of the outrage had evidently become known throughout the township, as a large number of people were gathered to hear the latest particulars, outside Mr. page 248Munroe's house, not from mere idle curiosity, but out of genuine respect for Zada, who was respected and loved by everyone to whom she was generally known as the 'Maori Princess.' Hema had followed us from the forest, and now remained crouched at the door with a hard fixed look on her face.

Doctor Gill at last made his appearance, and seeing that we were on the point of asking him questions, he said gravely:—

'My friends, I am sorry to tell you that the poor girl is in a very low state indeed, and I am afraid—very much afraid—that she is past all human aid. I have taken the ball out—here it is," he said, showing us a rifle bullet.

Captain Wilson, who had covered his face with his hands, appeared too agitated to ask any questions, so I inquired:—

"Has she recovered her senses yet, Doctor?"

"Yes, but she is extremely weak. I have given her some-thing that will keep up her strength for a hit, and——"

Here the door opened gently and Jessie signed to Doctor Gill. They conversed in a low tone, after which the Doctor called Captain Wilson aside. The latter got up slowly, and Jessie then led him into the sick room, where she left him, closing the door gently behind her as she came out.

Half an hour had passed before Captain Wilson, with a grief-stricken expression on his fine face, and his eyes red and swollen with recent weeping, emerged from the sick room. No one ever heard what transpired during that sacred interview, but it is safe to say that it was fraught with the most poignant grief to at least one of them. Mrs. Munroe came downstairs a little later and asked the doctor for permission to see his patient, page 249which he allowed, but told her not to stay long. Doctor Gill returned home, but left his assistant to take note of any change, and to send for him if necessary. Mr. Munroe kindly offered Captain Wilson a bed for the night, and also extended to me a similar invitation, which we both accepted.

A hospital nurse arrived during the evening by the Doctor's orders, and thus relieved Jessie, whom I persuaded to take a turn with me in the garden.

"How does Zada bear herself, Jessie?" I inquired.

"With the greatest resignation and thankfulness, Lance, as her misfortune has been the means of saving Captain Wilson's life. Her attachment to him must be very deep, as she told me she would give her life a hundred times over if possible, to save him from pain or injury."

"How did she bear the pain when the Doctor was extracting the ball?"

"The poor girl did not feel it, as the Doctor took it our while she was still unconscious."

"Does he entertain any hope of her recovery, Jessie?"

"I am afraid not. He told me she would not have lived so long but for your promptitude in staunching the blood. When I first heard the fatal shot, dad hurried out immediately to see what was wrong, but I little thought that that shot meant to me the loss of my dearest companion."

"Did Zada give you any particulars of how it all came about?"

"Yes," answered Jessie; "she told me that she has been in constant dread for some time of an attempt on Captain Wilson's page 250life, in consequence of Kiapo's threat. Her maid Hema has kept her well posted up in all his movements, and she was thus enabled to follow him wherever he went. To-day she intended to ask the Captain not to walk in the forest, but was afraid of being ridiculed. She has always watched him from a distance, and this afternoon she was watching as usual when you and the Captain were going down the back track. They followed quietly among the trees, when they suddenly caught sight of several armed Maoris in the underwood watching a spot where you were going to pass. She hastily told Hema to stay where she was while she ran to give you and the Captain warning, making a slight detour to avoid the Maoris. She had just reached the side of the track when she saw Kiapo take aim at the Captain, and she then rushed out, receiving the bullet intended for him."

"Brave girl; this is the second time she has saved his life. The fever would have been as fatal as Kiapo's bullet but for her,' I answered, deeply touched.

"And now, Lance, dear, I must go back, but I will see you again shortly," said Jessie, making her way into the house.

A long sad evening followed, Jessie at intervals reporting to us the condition of the patient. Mr. Travers, the Church of England clergyman, had arrived and prayed for nearly half an hour by Zada's bedside, and when he finally left the room he remarked, that for true christian fortitude, he had never met at better example.

About eleven o'clock Dr. Preston hurried away to call Doctor Gill in consequence of something the hospital nurse had told him. When they returned Dr. Gill entered the sick room, but only remained for a few moments, and then came out looking very grave.

page 251

"I am afraid she is sinking rapidly, although her voice is stronger," he said quite calmly. "The poor girl knows that she is dying, and has asked to see her friends, and as it can do no harm now, you had better humour her."

"Very Well," said Mr. Munroe sorrowfully, "but don't say anything to the mistress," he continued, addressing one of the servants who was standing by; "she cannot bear it."

Captain Wilson, Mr. Munroe, and I, went into the bedroom, where we found Zada lying with the upper part of her body slightly raised. Directly she saw us a weak smile passed over her face. Jessie was kneeling by the bed with her face buried in the bedclothes, when Zada made a sign to Mr. Munroe, and he went forward and took her hand gently.

"Mr. Munroe," she said in a low faint voice, "I will soon be no more; I feel it; I want to thank you and all your dear family for what you have done for me. Do not let poor Hema run wild—look after her for my sake. E noho koto u katoa*," she added in husky tones raising her hand.

Mr. Munroe turned away to conceal his emotion.

"Jessie dear," she continued, putting her hand on Jessie's head. "God bless you; may you be happy with your choice. Think of your poor Maori sister sometimes—darling, don't cry so. Look up and kiss me."

Jessie was sobbing bitterly, but at, this last request she almost completely broke down.

"Mr. Douglas, you, too, have been a good friend to me, and you must not think me ungrateful for all your kindness. Watch page 252over him for my sake," She added earnestly, taking my hand and glancing at Captain Wilson, who stood with his hands pressed tightly over his face, while his whole frame shook with suppressed emotion. She remained for a moment looking at him intently, and a slight tremor seemed to pass over her as she withdrew her gaze.

"Mr. Wilson," she said with a painful gasp, extending her hand to him, "Harold, dear, do not fret for me, I am happy—it was your life or mine—your's is of more value. Zada loves you; kiss me dear for the—last time."

Captain Wilson, who was making fruitless efforts to restrain his tears, bent down and kissed her lips passionately. A happy smile lit up her face and continued there, when Doctor Gill, who was standing at the foot of the bed, hurriedly came forward and bent over his patient.

"It is all over now," he said in an awed whisper, while he reverently bowed his head. "She suffered no pain during her last moments, and has passed peacefully away."

"Oh sweetest flower, no sooner known than blasted,
Soft silken primrose fading timelessly."

* An expressive greeting of farewell.