Ngamihi; or The Maori Chief's Daughter
Chapter VII. Zada Keeps Her Promise
Chapter VII. Zada Keeps Her Promise.
A Few days later Mr. Munroe hinted in as delicate a manner as possible that he would like to give me a substantial reward for the services that I had rendered his family, but as I was quite content with the thanks that I had already received. I expressed a desire that no further fuss should be made of the matter. He then offered to write through Captain Wilson to headquarters, recommending me for promotion, but as I expected shortly to return to England, I would not allow him to do so.
My fortnight's leave passed very rapidly as my friends did all they could to make me comfortable. My hostess and I soon became great friends and we had many an interesting conversation together. She usually reclined on a couch placed before the window, where she was always to be found busily engaged in some crewel work. She was rather tall and must have been graceful in her youth, and her face which still retained a whining simile, bore traces of beauty of no mean order. Her dress was plain with the exception of an expensive antique lace cap which confined a few silky white cur's on each side of her face, and she wore black lace mittins and a black shawl, fas'ened by a broach containin; her daughter's miniature. Altogether her appearance page 35was striking and imposing. When I was leaving, Miss Jessie gave me a gold pencil case accompanied with many blushes, and her father insisted on my taking a handsome gold watch.
Shortly after rejoining my comrades, information was brought in that a band of hostile Maoris had been seen some miles away, and it was believed that they had some white captives with them. Orders were on the point of being given for thirty-five men to go in the direction indicated, when four miserable looking objects unexpectedly made their appearance and asked for our captain. They informed him that they had been prisoners to a party of Hauhaus, about forty miles away. Five of them, including a boy, were surprised by the savages in a small deserted whare (hut) while on their way to a diggings that had just broken out As they were unaware of the danger they were in, they had taken no precautions for their safety, The Maoris soon made them prisoners, and they were tied to saplings outside the whare. They all believed they were intended for some terrible death, and their worst fears were confirmed when they were dragged to a spot where a large group of the fanatics had gathered. Suddenly a young Maori girl in a quaint native dress, walked in among them with a haughty gesture, and was received with extreme respect. Walking up to the chief, a tall fellow with beautifully tattooed marks on his face, she spoke to him for some time in their own language. He did not appear to relish what she was saying, as he danced with rage and seemed to defy her. The girl drew herself up, and spoke some sharp words of authority, whereupon the chief yelled out something, and immediately the savages in a body rushed up to the captives with clubbed rifles and rusty swords with the evident intent of killing them. However, before they could accomplish their purpose the girl sprang to their side and waved page 36over their heads a short curiously carved rod, which she carried in her hand. At sight of this the Maoris stopped at once, awed by some mysterious power which the maiden evidently possessed.
The young girl then quietly cut the ‡tora tora that bound the captives, and told them to follow her. To their surprise the Maoris in sullen silence watched them depart, and made no show of interference. When she had led them about three hundred yards from the camp fire, she stopped and turned.
"Have any of you pencil and paper" she asked hurredly They gave her what she required, and she remarked gently:
"A good pakeha taught Zada many things once—well for you and others that he did."
The girl paused for a moment and then wrote rapidly on the paper, and desired them to go to Wairuara at once, and see the Pakeha Chief Wilson, to whom they were to deliver the letter, and to make as little delay as possible. She then called a girl they had previously noticed following, (Hema) and gave her some orders. The girl hurried away and soon returned with a flax bag, filled with cooked pig's head, dried hapuka (cod fish) and a kind of oaten cake. Their dusky friend after giving them the food, waved her hand with a smile and disappeared in the forest, followed by her companion.
"You may be sure we made tracks as quickly as we could," said one of the men, "but we could never have done it, only for the food given to us—bless her heart."page 37
One of the men then handed the Captain a piece of paper. It was discovered that the contents were written in the Maori language, but it was ultimately translated as follows: "Zada promised the pakeha Wilson two lives: she has given four; Zada has kept her promise."
"Indeed she has faithfully kept her promise," said Captain Wilson warmly "I wish some others would follow her example You are fortunate men in getting off with your lives, be more careful in future when you are travelling."
"You may be sure we will, sir, as I don't think we will forget in a hurry the experiences of the last few days. Ugh! it makes me shiver to think of our narrow escape, for I have no doubt they intended to kill us all at some convenient time."
Next morning we started on our reconnaissance, accompanied by a young native lad named Hoani, who was well acquainted with the country. Hoani had been discovered by Captain Wilson some time before in a destitute condition, wandering aimlessly in an old deserted Maori pah. He was brought into the barracks, where under the influence of kind treatment he developed into a fine steady young fellow, and became greatly attached to the men, among whom he was a general favourite. He was usually employed as an interpreter whenever we captured stray Maoris, and lately his services had been in great request owing to an unusual number of spies that had been found prowling about the township. Towards Captain Wilson he evinced a deep affection, and nothing pleased him better than to be in the company of the Captain when on some of his solitary rambles in the forest.
‡ A kind of strong creeping plant like a small rope.