Sketches of Early Colonisation in New Zealand and its Phases of Contact with the Maori Race
A Bovine Adventure. — A Critical Strait
A Bovine Adventure.
A Critical Strait.
As it had been decided to hold the Annual General Muster of the herds upon the Puhoi Run, for the purpose of branding, earmarking, and drafting out the fat stock for market, preparations for such an important event had to be taken some days beforehand, as the run. surrounding the Home Station, was of considerable extent, and the stock grazing thereon very scattered and wild.
From the exceedingly rough and broken nature of the country, and there being also numerous, almost impassable swamps or morasses covering it, such an undertaking was always looked upon with some doubt and misgivings as to whether it would have a happy termination.
Those taking part in such events required, of necessity, to be mounted upon strong and active horses, carefully trained to cattle mustering and driving, whilst the horsemen must have no inconsiderable share of "dare-devil" courage and skill to make them successful stockriders.
The unseen dangers that a stockman has to encounter, over a rough country, whilst in pursuit of some beast that may have broken away from the mob, or whilst galloping through scrub, where here and there a large tree possibly may be lying upon the ground, half or wholly hidden by the rank vegetation that is to be met with on nearly every run left in a state of nature, over which both horse and rider may come to grief at any moment; or else fall into some cavity in the ground, which has been hollowed out by the workings of underground springs, or small water-courses, for untold years past, which were very numerous in some parts of the country, and upon this run in particular.page 47
Many of these cavities, or, I might with truth term some of them cares, were sometimes covered by a layer of the surface soil, more or less thick, forming the crown or top to the cave, it not having as yet fallen in, but which, from the experience of others, on several occasions has been proved to be a mere trap for the unwary trespasser.
Should any considerable weight come upon the top of this superficial crust, it would cause the crown of the cave to give wav, precipitating the unfortunate to the bottom, from where it might be found a matter of great difficulty to escape.
These varied both in size and depth, some having been found twenty feet deep and eighteen in width; but the greater portion of them were small, and not unlike a well, but none the less dangerous on that account.
Nevertheless, should a horseman be so unfortunate as to tumble into one of these unseen pitfalls, it might be some time before he would be missed by his companions, and then he would have to be sought after.
From the extent of this particular sort of country, and the great number of these dangerous man-traps, it was always deemed necessary, for safety, that the stock-men should go in pairs, and never be further from each other than they could possibly help.
So well was this peculiarly dangerous country known to the Maoris that they called it by the euphonious name of Papa Tipo or the "Devil's Flat," and nothing whatever would induce them to deviate from its well known and beaten paths, for fear of some unlucky event happening to them.
Many a thrilling tale had they to tell about the people that had disappeared upon this flat, supposed by them to have been carried off by Taipo (devil), to his underground caves, there to be roasted and eaten by himself and his evil associates.
It is a most singular fact that all their stories were of single and belated individuals, who unfortunately were compelled to travel through this weird and lonely spot at night, and that on the darkest and most tempestuous.
Never for one moment did these simple people consider or reflect that the disappearance of their relatives or friends might possibly be acounted for otherwise than by the agency of the evil one.page 48
Seldom or never was there a properly organised search made for them.
Two or more individuals, bolder than the others, would sometimes make the attempt to unravel the mystery surrounding their disappearance, but, probably, from a foregone conclusion, or else an inborn belief in the super natural, that they had been carried away by evil spirits, they soon gave up the search and the matter was afterwards allowed to drop, the result being that another tale was added to the already plethoric list, about the blood curdling and insatiable appetite of the evil one.
When closely pressed for fuller information upon the matter, and having been distinctly told that all this seeming mystery could have been quickly and satisfactorily cleared up if they had only gone about the search in a proper and rational manner, that they would, no doubt, have found their friend at the bottom of one of these underground waterways, whilst the causes leading to the formation of these underground caverns having also be explained to them, but, to all of which common sense explanation they would invariably reply, combined with a grave shake of their heads—" That it was no use of the Pakeha talking thus, for it was all nonsense."
The Maoris have, also, a remarkable antipathy to going about after night-fall, and seldom will they move far beyond the glare of their camp-fires.
Should they be compelled to travel after dark, which seldom happens, they set up a song, or rather shout it, at the top of their voices, which can be heard, on a calm night, for a very great distance, this forcibly reminding one of the story about the little boy who, on passing the cemetery "whistled loudly, to keep himself company and frighten away the ghosts and witches."
Should any one ask them for an explanation of this peculiar conduct on their part, they would most probably tell you that it was "to frighten away the evil spirits."
The Maoris are a most superstitious people, believing in witchraft as well as in good and bad spirits.
In his native habits the Maori is very regular, retiring to his bed shortly after sunset, but being on the move again just as day is breaking, reminding one of the old nursery rhyme—page 49
"Early to bed and early arise,
Makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise!"
But, I am sorry to say, that it does not hold good in his particular case, for, like most semi-barbarous people, they are rather an improvident race, being content with the fullness of the day but never thinking of the morrow its consequences.
It was a most beautiful morning, and one peculiarly charateristic of the semi-tropical portion of the North Island of New Zealand.
The birds of the forest sang cheerily their joyous morning songs, the air balmy with the sweet fragrance of the numerous beautiful aromatic flowers of field and forest, the sky clear and bright, giving promise of a glorious day for the great event of an annual cattle muster on one of those large stations where the herds can be counted by many hundreds, and as wild and dangerous as bisons.
It has willingly been acknowledged by gentlemen of fox-hunting experience in the old country, that such sport there affords no parallel to the thrilling excitement to be experienced in stock-riding upon some of the large cattle stations of the colonies, where, upon general mustering occasions, the stockman on rounding up cattle, may be compelled to dash off, in mad ride, after some beast that may have broken away from a mob of these semi-wild animals, and that, very probably, over a country where it is impossible for the horseman to see what is lying upon the ground three lengths of his horse before him owing to rank vegetation, and knowing not the moment that some unseen obstruction might precipitate them both head foremost to the ground, possibly with broken limbs, if nothing worse.
It was a most interesting spectacle as eleven horse men, including myself, mounted upon strong, active, and well trained stock-horses, assembled at the Home Station, with some half dozen others partially mounted, farmers from neighbouring districts, who had kindly tendered their assistance (as is customary on such occasions on all large cattle runs), which was thankfully accepted and appreciated by the propriatary.page 50
On nearly all occasions whereon these annual musters took place, there were to be found stray cattle belonging to neighbouring run-holders or farmers of the surrounding districts, which, when noticed, were immediately culled out from the herds and turned into the stock-yard paddocks, from where they could be taken possession of by their owners, and driven home at their convenience.
Should no such owner be present, notice was sent him to come, claim, and take possession.
After partaking of a plentiful and hospitable repast, provided by the proprietary for all, an adjournment was made to the stock-yards, situated about a mile from the Home, where preparations were at once made for the exciting and dangerous events of the day.
Prior to accompanying my fellow stockmen to the yards, I paid a visit to the fowl-yard, so as to secure some fresh-laid eggs for may favourite and pet horse Aotea.
It may appear strange to the uninitiated, but it is nevertheless perfectly true, that if you inticipate a hard day's saddle, work for your horse, there is nothing better nor more sustaining than half a dozen fresh laid eggs before putting him to work.
Incomprehensible as it may seem, horses will quickly take to and eat them greedily.
You have only to take the bit out of their mouths, hold their muzzles upwards, then break the shell against the top of their mouths, whereon they will chew first then swallow the whole, shells and all.
A horse soon becomes passionately fond of such, and will rob a nest made in his manger in the twinkling of an eye, from under the very nose of his groom.
I have, myself, seen a horse wait patiently until the cackle of the hen proclaimed that she had laid, whereupon he would take a small wisp of hay in his mouth, then quietly insert his muzzle beneath the fowl, and take possession of the egg, without in the least disturbing her, chewing the whole first and then swallowing it, with every appearance of satisfaction.
A magnificent and noble creature was my horse Aotea. About seventeen and a half hands high, in colour a dark bay with black points, having a skin that shone like satin, with a beautifully arched neck set upon a page 51strong deep chest; small head, with inflated velvety nostrils, showing great wind-power; expansive forehead, with large expressive eyes, small tapering ears, clean of limb, with powerful driving hind quarters, through whose veins coursed aristocratic blood, the dam being an imported Arab mare, and his sire that celebrated old stallion Pacific, who up to then had produced some of the finest horses that ever ran a Maori course.
Having lost his mother when but a month old, I took charge of him, and brought him up by the hand.
To me, but to none else, a perfect pet, following and playing around like a spaniel dog, understanding or com prehending nearly every word I said to him, and, in his dumb way, returning all the kindness and affection that I lavished upon him; but more of him anon, in other stories.
As I took my place amongst my fellow stockmen, many envious eyes were cast upon him, and numerous were the flattering remarks made as his splendid points were noted by the critical eyes around.
Move where I would, he was sure to follow, every now and then rubbing his intelligent head against my breast or back and pawing the ground meanwhile to let me know he was there; nevertheless he was all anxiety to be on the move.
Strange as it may appear, the intelligent creature comprehended perfectly what was about to take place, and enjoyed the excitement of a run after wild cattle as much as any human being.
According to Cuvier "The horse is one of the most noble and valuable conquests ever accomplished by man over the brute," an assertion that very few, I think, will be found to contradict, when it is considered that he has been found man's companion and friend all the world over.
Preparations were soon commenced, men being ap portioned their respective stations, the fires lit to heat the branding irons, ropes uncoiled and ready for use, the different gates thoroughly examined to see if they were in good working order and then thrown open ready to receive the rush of cattle as they were driven up to the stockyard.page 52
The stockmen were told off in parties of threes or fours, as the nature of the country required, each party being handed a diagram of that portion of the run they were to work, the swamps, crossings, and dangerous localities being conspicuously marked in red, this being considered necessary, as several of the hosemen were strangers to the run.
Several of the stockmen were accompanied by their dogs, either singly or in pairs, which were always found very useful and necessary in such a county and occasion as this.
The following lines extracted from a small book containing a number of Australian bush tales are applicable to such an occasion—
"Give me the open country,
With lowing herds so wild;
Beneath me, my trusty stock-horse,
With cattle dogs around,
And roaring stock-whips sound,
I roam the country round and round,
And live a life so free."
An exhilerating ride of a couple of miles brought us amidst large mobs of cattle, who were grazing quietly amongst the swamps and gullies, or cropping the succulent herbage to be found upon the ridges, happy in their freedom, and unsuspicious of danger.
The real work of the day was now about to commenced in earnest, the stockmen separating, so as to get behind the cattle, each individual working towards a given point, but all trying to drive the cattle into one great herd.
The sharp cracking of the stock-whips were now to be heard reverberating continuously from hill to hill, which, with the barking of the dogs, caused the frightened cattle to make for the tops of the ranges, the better to see the cause of all this disturbance in their usually quiet home.
Now and then one or more of the beasts would break away, frightened by the incessant noise of whips and dogs, but would soon return, not being followed by many of the herd, the greater body of the cattle, as if spellbound, or anxious to see the cause of all this disturbance, page 53would remain, tossing their heads in the air and stamping their fore-feet upon the ground, an act which showed plainly how excited they were, and very dangerous to be approached, except you were well mounted.
Gradually they were got together and headed for the stockyard.
Now commenced the task of hard and furious riding, which was most trying to both man and horse, the stockman ever having to keep his eye upon the mob, whilst plying the whip freely, trusting for the most part to the sagacity of his horse to pilot his way over or through unforeseen dangers, whilst every now and then being called upon to gallop after some beast that would endeavour to break from the herd, but which, after more or less trouble, it would be compelled to rejoin.
Sometimes a serious battle would take place between the stockman and a refractory bullock, who would neither remain with the herd nor move at all in fact, but, to use the phrase understood for such, to "sulk."
The bullock would madly charge, but the stockman being mounted on a well trained stock-horse, was ever ready, for as the enraged animal dased forward with horns bent low for the terrible pitch upwards, his horse pivoting upon front or hind legs as the case required, allowed the bullock to pass his antagonists without injuring them, whereupon the stockman's whip would be brought into play, cutting great pieces out of the bullock's hide, and making the blood to flow in streams down his body.
After a hard battle had been fought with a free use of the whip and a display of good horsemanship on the part of the stockman, the bullock would eventually be compelled to follow the others.
Such then were some of the adventurous scenes which took place that day, several large herds having been delivered and the yards were becoming crowded, although they were unusually large ones; but still more were to be brought in, some portions of the run not having been visited as yet, and this the most dangerous portion of it all.
Seven horsemen, the best mounted and most expert (myself included), were selected for this critical and dangerous undertaking, it being situated at the extreme angle of the run, and the most distant from the yards.page 54
This locality formed a portion of the Papa Taipo (Devil's Flat) proper, and, when I state that no monetary reward, however great, would induce a Maori to deviate from its well-defined native tracks (the whole district being honey-combed like a rabbit-warren with under ground springs and water-courses), it may give some faint idea of the hidden dangers there to be encountered.
It being a considerable distance to this locality, there was, therefore, very little time to spare, so, after man and horse had partaken of refreshments and fodder, we departed on this singularly perilous undertaking.
I, on this occasion, was appointed leader, being more familiar with the country and its peculiar dangers than any other stockman of the party.
A lively ride brought us to this weird locality, the very name of which seemed to have such a terrifying influence upon the native mind.
To the casual eye there appeared no difference whatever to any other portion of the country surrounding.
Its strange peculiarities could only be seen or understood by a close and critical examination of the surface of the district, which would then reveal its many hidden dangers.
We made for a high knoll, the only one in the district, so as to get the best possible view of our surroundings, and with a field-glass which we had brought with us, we were enabled to locate several small mobs of cattle, and these we determined to collect into one big mob, if possible.
From our position I pointed out to my companions the dangers, so far as I was aware of, and impressed upon them the necessity of giving such a wide berth.
I also informed them that there were many others, but of their whereabouts I was uncertain.
I explained to them that many of these unseen pit-falls were covered or surrounded with a dense vegetation of scrub or fern, the cattle instinctively avoiding them, thereby not trampling or breaking down the vegetation covering them or to expose them in any way.
Such places, when noticed, they were to carefully avoid, as nature's index was infallible, for as the wild cattle avoided them, why therefore so much the more should the mounted man.page 55
We now separated, each one steering a course as best suited him, so as to get behind the cattle, after which we were all to converge upon the hill, driving the cattle before us, for there we anticipated making one large mob, and from which place to take the whole to the stock-yards.
I was now left to my own devices, but unaccompanied by dogs, my own being laid up sick, and it being useless to borrow any, as no dog works well for a stranger without practice, both being unused to each other.
Nevertheless, having marked out a spot where I had seen some cattle grazing, I made my way in that direction, little dreaming of the startling adventure that I was about, to experience.
I had progressed well towards the spot, and was about to round up the cattle, in fact many of them had already assembled together, startled at the sharp ringing cracks of the other stockmen's whips, which sounded quite distinctly far over the flat upon such a calm day as it was, but right in my path stood a young bull, who, watching me, was evidently determined to bar my further progress.
He tossed his head viciously, whilst now and then he threw up bunches of fern high in air, at the same time pawing the ground and giving utterance to low angry roars, but gradually approaching nearer me the while.
Fight I could plainly see he meant, and fight I was determined he should have to his heart's content, for mounted upon Aotea the true, I feared nothing—man nor devil—and was only too anxious for a scrimmage.
Patting my favourite upon the neck, I spoke encouraging words to him, to which the intelligent creature responded by turning his muzzle round and uttering a low whinny, denoting that he comprehended me perfectly.
Now was about to commence a duel, unique of its kind, and one which, from its peculiarly remarkable results, will ever remain engraven upon my memory.
I now drew rein to watch the bull's movements, and draw him on, but he evidently was in no hurry to commence the contest.
This did not suit my impatience, so I made up my mind to quickly hurry matters to an issue.page 56
I gathered up in a coil my "gully-rake" whip (which was an unusually long and heavy one of its kind, ready for immediate use, and such a weapon placed in the hands of an expert stockman is a most terrible instrument, the effect of which must be evident during the description of this remarkable duel.
I urged Aotea gently forward, who, all the time with eyes ablaze and ears drawn back, was watching our antagonist's every movement.
Presently the bull moved forward, at the same time uttering his low growl-like roars more menacingly, but, when some twenty or so yards intervened between us, he lowered his head quickly and charged instantly.
The moment his head lowered, my whip was circling in the air, in anticipation of delivering a stinging cut with it, whilst on came the bull furiously, little anticipating the reception he was about to meet with.
As he drew upon us, Aotea, that instant, pivoted like a goat upon his fore-quarters, whilst at the same time he kicked out furiously with his mail-clad hind feet, which rattled upon the bull's ribs like a drum; but simultaneously with the horse's action the dreadful whip thong embedded itself deep in the bull's hide, literally tearing, by the recoil, a piece twice its own size out of his body, from which the blood spouted like a small fountain.
The pain caused by this punishment made the bull bellow and roar with fury, but he quickly doubled back, and nothing daunted, once more came to the charge.
This time he was a foot or so further from the stallion, who, pivoting as before, threw out his heels with greater leverage, which caused a much heavier blow to be delivered, at the same time the terrible whip was plied both right and left with great rapidity, tearing pieces out of the bull's hide, and causing the blood to now in streams down his sides.
Now rendered desperately furious by his severe and painful rebuffs, the bull, for the third time, prepared for the encounter by turning much quicker and shorter than hitherto, hardly leaving time for preparation before he was down upon us.page 57
Nevertheless the sagacious stallion had this time planted his heels so well and judiciously that he sent the bull staggering backwards several yards, where he came heavily to the ground, panting and blowing frem the effect of the kick; the whip, all this time, being plied right and left most effectively, great pieces of hide and fleshy being drawn from the unfortunate animal, covering him in, blood, so much so, indeed, that it was almost impossible to tell what was his original colour.
Fortunately the ground where this singular contest had been fought was comparatively free of any very heavy growth of scrub or fern, affording ample clear space for such a contest, bat there was no telling when or where the exigencies of such a duel might shift it.
Presently the bull rose to his feet and shook himself, but appeared partially stupefied from the effects of his encounter, then looking around he quickly espied his old antagonists, and immediately move towards us, but not with the same savage fury as formerly.
He stopped when within about ten yards, shaking his head and blowing saliva and mucus tinged with blood, from both mouth and nostrils, which indicated the severity ofhis punishment.
After contemplating us for a few minutes, he again moved slowly forward, but when half the distance between us was covered, he suddenly lowered his head and rushed to the charge.
We were both watching him warily, and the instant his head was lowered were ready to meet and punish him again.
The noble and intelligent stallion was, all this time watching an opportunity to plant his heels with effect, there being no necessity on my part to guide him, as he understood his duty perfectly, and well and nobly performed it, it being only left me to keep my seat in the saddle, and to ply the whip with power and effect.
The instant the bull came within striking distance, Aotea once more pivoted, at the same time throwing out his heels with great force, whilst I struck stinging cuts twice with the whip, before the savage brute was out of reach.page 58
His punishment was severe, but it did not cool his courage or prevent him from persisting in yet one more attack.
Now, bellowing in mad fury, he suddenly turned, coming down upon us, determined once more to try conclusions.
On each occasion that we met we were gradually shifting position, though sometimes only a few yards at a time, but still it made a difference, and the quick doubling of the bnll this time compelled us to turn also, to meet him, allowing almost no time for preparation.
Contrary to his usual custom, Aotea felt nervous beneath me, and trembled perceptibly, when suddenly, the intelligent creature reared upon his hind legs, and commenced to paw the air rapidly with his fore, whilst uttering wild screams of fright, a creepy undefinable sensation of the unknown passing through my own body at the same instant.
I could quite plainly feel him shifting his feet as if. the ground was giving way beneath him, when suddenly, the surface soil for many yards around us was seen to crack, then it rolled perceptibly, when lo! it gave way entirely, and down, down, we both went, amidst dust and debris, a fetid earthy smell assailing our nostrils, which was most offensive.
The next instant the heavy body of the bull came through the same opening, but, in falling, his hind-quarters dragged over the horse's neck and he landed just beyond us, which was a most fortunate escape indeed, for, had he descended directly upon us, one or both would have been seriously hurt—if not killed.
The air in the cavity was now becoming bearable, and would soon be comparatively good and clear.
Here was a most serious dilemma to be placed in, having fallen into a pit with no egress, and caged like a rat in a trap, with a mad bull for companion.
Should he be still pugnaciously inclined he would have it all his own way, and could gore us to death without our being able to offer any resistance.
Fortunately for ourselves, the fall and the predicament he found himself in seemed to have frightened the bull so much as to have taken all fight out of his head for page 59the time being, whilst a profuse perspiration broke out upon his body, causing him to smoke like a steam engine, but at the same time he trembled all over with fear.
Most fortunately, in falling, the stallion landed upon all four feet, neither disturbing me in the saddle nor hurting himself in the least.
Instinctively the horse turned his heels towards the bull to be prepared for any emergency, but the latter paid no attention to either of us, having moved over to the other side of the cavity, where he remained immovable and sullen all the time of our confinement.
The extent of this cavern at the bottom was considerable, being close upon fifty feet in circumference by about fourteen in height.
The whole of the top of this had not as yet collapsed, only the central portion, of about ten feet, leaving the remaining portion of the roof still intact and concave in shape, but which threatened destruction to those beneath, should it give way.
A miniature stream of clear cold water flowed along the bottom, which was the origin of this cavern, but how long it had taken nature to hollow out this cavity it would be impossible to determine.
For safety's sake I moved Aotea so as to be directly beneath the opening, for the grave reason that the remainder of the top threatened to come down any minute; neither had I left the saddle, as I deemed it safer to remain there.
I spoke to and caressed my noble dumb companion, which the intelligent creature understood and appreciated, rubhing my legs and feet with his muzzle whilst uttering a low whinny of pleasure.
My lively and playful manner, whilst talking to and caressing him, had the extraordinary effect of quieting his nervousness, whereon he became quite calm and seemed contented, nevertheless he watched the bull warily, sideways.
I had no fear of being entombed long, well knowing that so soon as my companions missed me some of them would return immediately to carefully search the locality, whilst the cattle dogs of some of the stockmen would also be put upon the trail, whereupon those sagacious animals would soon locate us—although the disturbed and page 60broken appearance of the surface of the ground where this sanguinary duel had been fought would be quite sufficient evidence in itself of where we were to be found.
About half an hour had elapsed after our misadventure, when I deemed it necessary to give some signal notice of our whereabouts should any of my companions be in quest of us, so I gave utterance to each in turn of those two well known Australian bush calls, the "Coo-oo-oo-oe" and "Soo-loo-moon-joy," which, after repeating some half dozen times, with about five minutes interval between each call, I fancied I could hear a response, which soon became louder and more distinct, whereupon I answered, and knew, from the reply, that I was located, and would soon have help.
Not many minutes elapsed before I heard a man's voice call out "Where are you?" to which I replied—"Here, in a cavity, where both horse and myself have fallen, the ground having caved in beneath us!"
He had by this time dismounted, and was approaching the mouth of the opening, when I called out to him to keep back, as that portion, of the top which had not fallen in was dangerous, and threatened to give way any minute.
I told him about our fighting adventure, and that the bull was down in the same hole with us, who was sullen and quiet, but not to be trusted too much.
He informed me that they had assembled a large mob of cattle, and, whilst driving them to the yards, had felt uneasy at my absence, whereupon he was sent back to the rise, and instructed to carefully examine the flat with bis field glass, but he could see no trace of me anywhere, after which non-success he returned, and overtaking them, reported that I was not to be seen.
Once more he was instructed to proceed to the same locality to reconnoitre, whilst another of their number was dispatched to the home station to report the mishap and secure assistance, which might be expected in about an hour and a half's time.
He also informed me that it was whilst examining the flat with his glass from the eminence for the second time that he fancied he could hear my calls, whereupon he answered them, with the result mentioned.page 61
Alone, he could do nothing for me without endangering himself, and that would be, indeed, the height of folly, so there was nothing for it but to wait patiently until the arrival of assistance.
We had not long to wait, for, in an incredibly short space of time, further help arrived in the shape of half a dozen farm hands, armed with spades, shovels, and ropes, who had also brought with them that very necessary accessory in such a country, a rope ladder.
These men had been placed in charge of one of the stockmen, from the fact that he was known to have considerable knowledge of the dangerous locality, thereby being better fitted to pilot them around.
They had all ridden hard, so as to afford quick succour, their horses being covered with foam, the result of a forced pace.
They had seen the signal of my first rescuer, which was a red handkerchief tied upon a tall flowering flax stalk, so made for it immediately.
They were surprised, but pleased, to find that nothing more serious had befallen me than having been engulphed in one of the numerous cavities of this peculiarly dangerous locality.
I received great praise from them for the courage and skill displayed during my hardly contested battle with the bull, traces of which were very evident upon the surface of the ground in the vicinity of the cavity.
They laughed heartily at the manner in which the bull had entrapped himself, whilst at the same time expressing the hope that he would keep quiet until I could be, extricated.
They wanted to raise me immediately from my peculiarly unpleasant position by means of the rope ladder, but I pointed out to them that that course would be attended with a certain amount of danger from the rotten aud loose nature of the top of the cavity yet remaining.
Were such a catastrophe as a cave-in of the remaining top to take place, it might be of serious consequence to myself and horse, but would most certainly bury the bull, so under such circumstances I preferred remaining until we both could escape together.page 62
I directed them to secure a sharp pointed stake, and commence pushing it into the ground until they had found the cavity, then, ten feet from there, to commence digging a trench from the surface, three feet wide, but sloping inwards and downwards towards the hollow, its greatest depth when opening into the cavity to be about six feet, which would leave the mouth of the trench about eight feet from the bottom of the cavity.
I told the men that when that portion of the top opposite the trench was let down, supplemented by a portion from the trench itself, it would have the effect of raising the floor of the cavity near it some three or four feet, leaving an easy jump out.
The men set to work with a will, and, from the easy working nature of the soil, made quick progress.
In less than an hour's time they had well progressed towards the cavity, and it now only remained to break in and let the roof down as easily as possible, this being the climax of the occasion, and upon its success depended the injury or otherwise of all within the hollow.
Fortunately the bull, all the time these matters were progressing, remained perfectly quiet, giving no indications of excitement or resentment, in fact he appeared as if half dazed and wholly oblivious of all that was transpiring above him.
The wall leading outwards began to give way rapidly, the men throwing the debris inwards, making the floor of the cavity to rise a few inches, whilst the opening began to assume a size sufficient to allow the horse to pass upwards and out.
The serious matter of letting the roof down was now about to commence, so moving Aotea over from the locality for safety, I awaited anxiously the result.
In a few minutes the loose earth began to fall rapidly, then a crack to show hear and there, the top near the trench moving perceptibly, when lo! the heavy mass came down with a crash, making us beneath to jump as if shot (the bull included); the dust from the collapse, for the space of a minute, was stifling in the extreme, but fortunately it soon cleared away.
When this had been accomplished sufficiently it was to be seen that the great mass of earth that had fallen page 63left only a small rise of about three feet towards the outlet, which was as nothing for the stallion to surmount.
The roof of that portion of the cavity immediately over where the bull stood still remained, but how long it would do so was a matter of conjecture.
I moved Aotea towards the opening, who with a hop was up and out, amidst the cheers and congratulations of my companions, comparatively nothing the worse for our remarkable adventure.
We left the bull there unmolested, confident that so soon as hunger pressed him he would find his way out by the same means that we had, and as he was already branded and earmarked, there was no necessity to disturb him, as that might have been attended with very unpleasant consequences to some of us.
After gathering up our tools we started homewards, pleased at being able to leave so uncanny and weird a neighbourhood, arriving there in due time where all were pleased to see me safe and sound again.
Many were the questions asked about my extraordinary adventure, and abundance of praise did I receive over my sharp duel.
But as all is well that ends well, so did this, to me, peculiarly adventurous day.