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Ngamihi; or The Maori Chief's Daughter

Chapter LIX. Lieutenant Lovelock is Killed is a Skirmish

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Chapter LIX. Lieutenant Lovelock is Killed is a Skirmish.

Captain Snell asked the Lieutenant if anything had been seen of the natives, and he answered in the negative.

"So you have decided to smoke them out, Snell?" said Captain Wilson.

"Yes, what do you think of it?"

"Very good plan, he answered. They will not be able to stand it much longer, unless it be that they are already suffocated."

We waited patiently for further developments, the smoke meanwhile causing us great inconvenience, as it not only obscured the outlet, but also incommoded the men in their actions. A few minutes later we were suddenly aroused by one of our men who was posted near the cave shouting out, "here they come!" We looked towards the cave and saw the Maoris darting about in the smoke, but before we had time to do anything they had fired a volley into us, killing and wounding several of our men. We quickly recovered and immediately returned their fire with interest, and as they were grouped in a page 259bunch near the mouth of the cave, our shot had a deadly effect. We saw several of them fall, and another well directed shot completed their rout.

"Lovelock is killed," said Captain Wilson to me as he hurried past to inform Captain Snell.

"I proceeded to the spot whore I had last seen the Lieutenant giving orders, and found him lying on his back quite dead. A tupara ball, judging from the size of the hole, had struck him on the temple, and he had apparently been killed instantaneously, Orders were given to place the dead side by side, and the wounded were attended to as well as possible until the arrival of the doctor. In a few minutes several parties of the civilian patrols made their appearance, attracted by the noise of the firing, and later on Hoani and the others arrived, who reported having seen Zada's maid Hema, standing on a rock watching them, but who disappeared mysteriously on their approach. A number of our men with great difficulty, owing to the smoke, which still came out of the cave in great volumes, collected the dead bodies of the Maoris, and they were soon ranged alongside of their European victims. The list of casualties were very severe, considering that only three volleys in all had been fired, and consisted of the following:—Europeans, six killed and three wounded; Maoris, eight killed and two wounded. The men were greatly enraged to find that Kiapo had escaped, and displayed great impatience to continue their pursuit of him. One of the wounded natives when asked by Captain Wilson where his chief was, replied:

"Kiapo shot one of your rangatiras with my tupara, and then ran away in the smoke. You will never kill him; a great tohunga told him that a woman would bring him trouble, and that a woman only could take his life."

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Captain Wilson endeavoured to extract some more information but without avail, the Maori had already commenced singing his tangi, and was quite oblivious of his surroundings. The dirge became fainter and fainter until it finally ceased with his last breath.

Hoani suggested that stretchers ought to be made for carrying our dead and wounded back to Wairuara, as the doctor might be delayed on account of the rough country. There were plenty of men to act as bearers, and Captain Snell gave orders to that effect at once.

Our Maori guides proved how clever they were in making temporary litters, for in a very short time they had succeeded in constructing, out of some saplings and branches, with the aid only of an axe and some flax, some fine serviceable stretchers, which would have taken our own men double the length of time to have put together. The bodies of the dead Maoris were covered over with branches, as we intended to send a party to bury them the next day.

We started on our march home as soon as possible, the bearers experiencing great difficulty in climbing the rocks with their burdens. To add to our discomfort a heavy thunderstorm came on, which drenched us to the skin, while the thunder roared among the hills with the most deafening vibrations, and the earth seemed to shake as from an earthquake. A large rock had somehow got loosened from the top of a hill under which we were passing, and nearly crushed several of our men as it came rolling down in its headlong career. Hoani, who had been casting anxious glances upwards saw it coming and called out: "the rock! look out!" his warning being almost too late, as the men had just time to get out of the way when the huge mass came down with a tremendous crash. Insignificant streams hardly page 261knee-deep had become wild and forming torrents, and we experienced great danger in crossing them, owing to the rush of the waters. An accident occurred while we were crossing one of these streams which might have been attended with more serious results. Owing to the strong cut rent, which rolled large stones like cannon balls against their legs, two of the bearers lost their balance after a vain attempt to steady themselves, the consequence being that the stretcher which they were carrying, with its dead occupant, was pitched into the seething waters and soon whirled out of sight. The bearers after much scrambling and splashing eventually secured a safe footing, but not before one of them had received an ugly wound in the head from a fallen tree. The weather cleared up as we approached Wairuara, and a beautiful full moon cheered us as our sad procession marched into the township. Great disappointment was expressed on all sides when it became known that Kiapo had escaped, and many of the civilians were for instantly starting out in pursuit of him.

"Look here, lads," said an old miner named Kemp, "I have made a vow to take Kiapo dead or alive before Miss Zada is buried, and by Heavens! I mean to keep it!"

"Hear, hear, Kemp! We'll back you up," answered several others.

"The Doctor came out to meet us on our arrival and said that the storm had prevented him from seeing us earlier. He at once took the wounded in hand, and after a very careful examination, said that he thought none of their injuries would prove fatal.

I had hoped to pay Jessie a short visit, as I knew she was anxious to hear the result of our expedition, but I was too busy to do so. Just before ten o'clock however, I was glad to see her father walk into the barracks.

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"Well, Douglas," he said, shaking me warmly by the hand, "so you have had some rough experiences to-day, I hear? Your officers have given me a full account of your brush with that bloodthirsty villian, Kiapo, and his band, but I thought I would just look you up before I returned home. Jessie has been extremely anxious all day, picturing all sorts of disasters, so I suppose I must bring her news of you in particular. Escaped without a scratch, eh?"

"Yes, Mr. Munroe, without a scratch The danger from Kiapo's rifles was not great as compared to the rough experiences of our homeward journey. The carrying of our dead and wounded was made the more difficult and dangerous owing to the rough country, and to the fact that we were overtaken by a heavy thunderstorm."

"So Captain Snell was telling me. Fortunately the man who tumbled out of the stretcher had no life to lose. If it had been one of the wounded, the sudden immersion in the water would have about finished him off. I was sorry to hear about Lovelock's death, and the way in which he was killed convinces me that beneath that careless and affected exterior beat the heart of a soldier."

I told Mr. Munroe about Hema's mysterious movements, and how I had seen her on two or three occasions in the most unexpected places. She seemed to be dogging us as it were, though I had been ridiculed by some of the men, who said that I must have been mistaken.

"Very likely, you are right," said the old gentleman. "Shortly after you left, Hema got up from her crouching position at the foot of Zada's bed, kissed her dead mistress's hand and then rushed into the forest in great haste. Since then no one has page 263seen her, and my belief is that she has gone back to her old haunts. By the way," he continued, "we will have a large funeral to-morrow—Zada, Lovelock, and the soldiers. Poor Zada and Lovelock little thought that they would be buried on the same day, but as the Maoris say 'tala hoki koa te aha.'"

"How is Jessie taking the death of her friend, sir?" I inquired.

"Pretty well, but of course the lass feels it keenly. She loved Zada like a sister. And now, my boy, it is time to go home," said he, rising from his chair. "Let us see you before the funeral if you can. Good night, lad," and the kind old gentleman disappeared in the darkness.

Several small parties were organized during the night, and went out early next morning to scour the country in search of Kiapo, intending to return in time for the funeral.

As soon as my duties allowed me, I went to Mr. Munroe s and found Jessie watching by the body of her friend. She looked careworn and tired, but greeted me with a faint smile as I pressed her hand to my lips. In spite of entreaties by several of her friends she would not relinquish her mournful post, and it was only after a good deal of persuasion that she consented to leave the room for a few moments to have some light lunch. That she had greatly taken the death of her friend to heart was plainly apparent, and all my efforts to comfort her could not take away from her eyes that look which bespoke how intense was her grief. I had never suspected how deep was the attachment that existed between the two girls, and probably Jessie was unaware how dear Zada was to her until Kiapo's bullet had awakened her to a truer state of her feelings. It is so in all the walks of life. Vainly grasping at wild shadows we pass unheeded the rough gems at our very feet, the value of which is not realised until irretrievably lost.