Ngamihi; or The Maori Chief's Daughter
Chapter LXI. I get my Commission
Chapter LXI. I get my Commission.
Mrs. Munroe was in the front garden when I arrived, and I was surprised to find that she already knew of my promotion. Jessie and her father came out while she was congratulating me.
"Well Douglas, my lad," said the genial old gentlemen kindly, "good news travel fast as well as bad news, and we have already heard that you are getting your commision. Jessie does not care about your soldiering, but to retire after getting a commission is better than without one. Come Annie," said Mr. Munroe, turning to his wife, "leave the young people to discuss their plans, as I daresay they have much to say, I remember we did'nt care about a third party when we were arranging matters. Oh, I forgot," he added, "have you heard anything about Hema, Douglas? No one has seen her since that ghastly head business."
"Yes, Mr. Munroe," I answered, "I saw her at Zada's funeral, but she disappeared when she saw that she was observed. I will, however, instruct the men to keep a sharp lookout for her when they are on patrol."page 274
"Thanks; I must make arrangaments so that she wants for nothing, if only for Zada's sake. The poor creature, I suppose, acted according to the old law. 'An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth,' and we certainly do owe her something for wiping out that villian, Kiapo."
Nothing of importance occurred after that as regards the rebels. Te Pehi, ever warlike and implacable, refused to surrender and was compelled to withdraw from our district, but a large number of the fighting tribes tendered their submission to the government. Taipua and several of his friends received a grant of land near Wairuara from the authorities, and commenced to cultivate it. A sum of money was subscribed to purchase implements, horses, pigs, &c., so that they were afforded every chance of success, and appeared delighted with their prospects. Te Tangemoana, Hoani, Ngahoia, and Te Range-whenua also formed a company and commenced operations. I received my commission in due course, and a dinner was given by Mr. Munroe to celebrate the event.
Hema never returned to Mr. Munroe's, and the search for her was eventually discontinued. Some months later her remains were found on Zada's grave frightfully emaciated. The poor creature had apparently starved herself in the forest, and finding that life was fast ebbing she had dragged herself to the grave of her dead mistress. Jessie and I frequently visited Zada's grave, which we kept well replenished with flowers.
"I am sure poor Zada, or Ngamihi, as Hema always called her, would appreciate our offering if she could only see us us," said Jessie thoughtfully one day, when we had delayed longer than usual. She often told me 'that flowers were the Great Spirit's jewels.' Do you not think there is a great unreality page 275about death, Lance? Sometimes I seem to feel that she is near us in the spirit when we are here. Do you know the lines:—
"Yet can I not persuade me that thou art dead,
Or that thy beauties lie in wormy bed,
Hid from the world in low-delved tomb?"
A beautiful marble tomb marks Zada's resting place. Mr. Munroe, Doctor Gill, and several others, including many of the influential residents of Wairuara, who had somehow felt under some obligation to Zada ever since her timely warning of her father's attack on the township, wished to subscribe towards a suitable monument, but Captain Wilson insisted on bearing the expense himself. He bore his sorrow well, but resigned his commission when the tomb was completed, and a few days later he bade us farewell, and started en route for England. The day of my marriage drew near, and Mr. Munroe expressed a wish to send for Bishop———of Auckland, to perform the ceremony, but I persuaded him to engage our local clergyman, who was a great favourite of Mrs. Munroe's. After the ceremony it was our intention to start for Auckland, and thence take passage from the Manukau harbour in a sailing craft to Hokitika, where I had promised to visit some friends. The sea coast to this port is grand and rugged in the extreme, and for a distance of two or three miles out to sea the white foam of the heavy Pacific breakers can be seen with great distinctness as they dash with thunderous roar against the hard jagged rocks. The tall cliffs, penetrated here and there with hidden caves, in whose inky and silent darkness it is said are concealed the bones of the great tohungas of the country, mixed with the greenstones and ornaments which it was customary to deposit with them, rise precipitiously out of the water with startling abruptness hundreds of feet in the air, surmounted by magnificent forest, page 276while in the far back-ground on some of the mountains gleamed the white glint of eternal snow. Jessie was quite enthusiastic in picturing the scenery, though she did not half like the idea of making the voyage in a sailing vessel. From Hokitika we intended to take steam to Melbourne, and after a week or two there resume our journey to England.
Andrews received his discharge in due course, but with it came a change over him for which I was little prepared. All his old comrade style had departed, and he now treated me with the greatest deference and respect. His stiff military salute when-ever I gave him some trifling order, and the alacrity with which he obeyed my slightest wish, caused me as much embarassment as it did amusement to my friends. I secured furnished lodgings near Mr. Munroe's, where we were temporarily established, and Andrews proved of great assistance to me in many ways. Jessie was greatly pleased that I had obtained his services, and the faithful fellow was never tired of proving how grateful he was for the little I had done for him.
Some few evenings before the date of my marriage I was sitting with Mr. Munroe and Doctor Gill before a roaring fire in the former's house. We had been talking about different things when the subject of strange signatures cropped up, in which the Doctor showed an unwonted amount of interest. After a remark made by Mr. Munre about the illegibility of the signatures of some of the greatest men of their time, Dr. Gill observed:—
"A friend of mine showed me the Earl of———signature, and no one but those acquainted with the name could possibly decipher it. It was simply a scrawl, no attempt whatever being made to form even a letter."page 277
"Oh, there is nothing uncommon about that," I remarked, "I have a box in my portmanteau containing some very valuable papers, one of which bears the genuine signature of George the Third, which would be hard to beat anywhere."
"Indeed," said the Doctor with interest, as he stopped smoking. "Have you any others?"
"Yes; I have also the signatures of George the Fourth when he was Prince Regent, the Earl of Panmure, the Earl of Sidmouth, Queen Victoria, and several others."
"By Jove, Douglas, I would not have thought that you were the owner of such valuable documents," said Mr. Munroe. "I would like very much to see them; but you surely don't mean to say that they are all illegible?" he continued with some animation.
"Oh, no," I answered laughing. "George the Fourth wrote in large school boy fashion, while the Earls of Panmure and Sidmouth also wrote well. There is not the slightest difficulty in deciphering their writing.
"Look here," said the Doctor after musing for some time, "send for the box like a good fellow, I have always had a fondness for anything of this kind, and have seen the signature of most celebrities, but I have never yet met with George the Fourth's or his successor. Is it too much trouble to ask you to send for them?"
"Not at all," I answered, glad to satisfy the Doctor's curiosity, "I will despatch a messenger for them at once."page 278
"Pat, the gardener, received full instructions where to find the box, and after a short absence returned with it under his arm. I found everything in good order, and spread the papers out on the table for examination, both Dr. Gill and Mr. Munroe displaying great interest in the the musty and yellow-coloured parchments. A fac-simile of George the Third's signature (the original of which is on family papers in the author's possession) appears opposite, which may not be uninteresting to the general reader.*page break page break