Hine-Ra, or The Maori Scout: A Romance of the New Zealand War.
Chapter XVI. — The Return
All this time, or at least for several chapters back, we have left some most important characters out in the cold, so to speak. It is now about time to return to them and see what they are doing in connection with this story.
When Matariki, in company with Tainui te Ngatiawa, rejoined those of his tribe whom he found camped near the Karakamea ford over the Patea river, preparing for a night attack upon the Patea village and the rescue of their young chief, one of the first to greet and congratulate him on his wonderful double escape was Frank Burnett, who had joined the war party with the full intention of extricating his friend from his perilous position, or of taking a bitter revenge for his death.
The few words of Matutira had relieved him of great anxiety, for he did not deem it probable that, after what had occurred the previous day, and in the face of the warning and threats she had held out to the Pateas, they would dare to proceed to the extremities they had at first intended.
Besides that, the opportune appearance of Jack Hall, and the mysterious promise he had made, had tended still further to reassure him of his friend's safety.
As it had been decided, therefore, not to prosecute the warlike demonstration further just then, in view of complications with the Waimates and the revolted tribes, a rapid countermarch homeward was determined on, and put into immediate operation.
He had seen the gigantic Tainui arrive at the camp with Matariki, and for some reason which he could not divine had conceived a strong repugnance for him, he could not tell why. Nor could he help noticing that Tainui appeared to avoid his observation, and to keep in the background, or to slink away whenever he approached the spot where he was. It was strange, he thought; he could assign no cause for it, and strove to drive it from his mind. Certainly, once he mentioned the matter to Mataraki, who replied carelessly that Tainui had been wounded some days before, and that, perhaps, he was a little feverish, and therefore odd in his manner.
“Wounded a few days since,” mused Frank thoughtfully. “Can it be? is it possible? But no, that's all nonsense. What reason could he have?—and yet it's very singular. Where was he wounded?” he asked.
“Oh, I don't know exactly. In some skirmish up North, he says. Poor fellow; he narrowly escaped having his arm broken, and now, as you see, it's bandaged up.”
Frank made no further remark on the subject, but took a mental note of it for further investigation at a more fitting season.
“I have much to say to you, E Tuakana,” said he to Matariki as they proceeded on the march; “let us walk apart and converse.”page break
The Maori Scout displays his Magic power.
“Willingly, E Teina; what would you say?”
“Matariki, what I have to tell concerns my happiness very nearly; mine, and, I think—well—another's.”
“Speak, Ehoa; the words of a friend are as music in my ears.”
“Matarika, you love your sister?”
“Love my sister?—love Hine-Ra? Surely I do. What, then?”
“I will be brief and plain. I, too, love your sister.”
“Well, I know you do. Is she not your sister as well as mine?”
“Yes, but you do not quite understand. You love your sister because she is your sister. You are proud of her because she is good and beautiful, and the princess of the tribe. But I love her with a different kind of love.”
“You do?” asked Matariki somewhat coldly.
“Yes, I do; I love her with my whole heart, and I would gladly make her my wife.”
“Yes, my wife.”
“And have you told her this?”
“I have. I told her of it this morning, before we started on this expedition for your rescue.”
“And she—what did she say?”
“She said—what she told me—to think—to believe—that—that—she returns my affection.”
“H'm! And what does my father say?”
“I have not spoken to him on the subject. I have had no opportunity. I intended to have done so at first, but circumstances occurred which wrung the confession from me almost unawares.”
“I fancy—I believe—nay, I know, that my father objects, will object, to our union.”
“That I hardly know, save for the difference in our race. What makes it still harder, and why I felt constrained to declare myself, is that he has spoken to her—has told her as much. She was offended, and properly so, and treated me coldly, cruelly, and so then I, madly, perhaps, confessed my passion. Ah! Matariki, be my friend in this.”
“Paranaki, I am your true friend always. Believe that. But my sister, the Rangitira Wahine, is not to be lightly won. Not—pardon me—even by you. Te Nama is a proud race, the proudest and noblest in this land of Aotearoa. We are not as other Maoris, for in our veins runs the blood of Hou, and, by the female side, of the Morioris themselves, the great people who dwelt here before our ancestors came from Hawaiki. Yea, indeed to us may be applied the saying: ‘I kunei ma i ha Hawaiki.’ (The seed of our coming is from Hawaiki, the seed of man.) No, my sister must not be lightly won.”
“I will do everything—”page 74
“Enough; I will think of this. I will speak to my father. I will speak to her. In the meantime, remember what I have said, I am your true friend always. We are still brothers, even although you should never be Taokete to me. And now we will change the subject.”
“Good, let us talk of you. Tell me of your adventure with the Pateas, for at present I know next to nothing.”
Matariki thereupon related to Frank the whole of the circumstances touching his capture, and subsequent salvation from torture and death on two occasions, also his marvellous and totally unlooked for escape.
“I, too, have a strange story to tell, but not now. I am bound under promise not to mention it until I receive permission. When that permission is given I will tell you all.”
“That is well. A friend of Te Nama must keep his word.”
“I may tell you this much, however, that Jack Hall was mixed up in my singular affair somewhat in the same way, and yet altogether differently, as he was in yours.”
“Yes, Jack Hall, the Maori scout, as he is called.”
“He is a strange and incomprehensible being. He brought down fire from heaven, and burned up a vessel of water. I saw him do it, or I would not have believed it possible.”
“Brought down fire from Heaven, say you? How did he do that?”
“How? By the Makutu; how else?”
“And do you believe in the Makutu?”
“Do I? I hardly know. I know some of the tricks of the sorcerers of our people. Yes, tricks, for it is trickery and fraud; but this is different. I know not what to think. But that he did bring down fire from Heaven I know, and that he caused water to burn—not to smoke, or to steam, or to boil, like the sacred Rotomahana, and Rotorua, and Wairakei, and a hundred other lakes away to the north-east, but to burn, to blaze; how else could it be done? I know he did it, for I saw him.”
Frank Burnett walked on in silent thought. His father had taught him to laugh at the puerile necromancy of the Maoris, had shown him how many of their tricks of pretended magic had been performed, and had laughed their priestcraft and sorcery to scorn, and he had grown up to partake of the feeling of unbelief and contempt. But there was something about this mysterious man totally beyond his comprehension. He seemed to know everything, to be everywhere. He had promised to free Matariki from the power of the Maoris, and, lo! he had done it. He was not a Maori, and yet he possessed a power over the tribes that not even their mightiest Arikis, Tohungas, and wizards possessed. What was it then? Clearly the Makutu or some other supernatural agency, or—if not, what?page 75
To quote, or misquote, Marcus Clarke: “His thinly-clad intellect would take cold if he ventured so far up the mountain. He must hasten to take refuge at the fireside of the great Don't Know.”
It was a long, weary march from the Patea river to Te Nama pah and Kainga, near Opunake Bay, and it was late before the war party reached home. But the Maori is trained to endure fatigue and privation, and he makes nothing of a day's journey through the bush, even where, to one unused to it, the path, or no path, would seem next to impassable.
Everything was quiet in the settlement. Although messengers had been sent out in various directions, who brought in reports and rumors, more or less true, of fighting in this or that direction, and although it was certain that active operations were going on, and that the European troops and the disaffected Maoris were in motion, still, in the immediate neighborhood of Te Nama neither one nor the other had, as yet, made any sign.
Probably the leaders of both parties, as well as the Rangitira, the great Marutuahua himself, were waiting for events. It was most probable that the latter would refuse to join the insurgents, as both his position and his interests lay in the other direction; but whether he would co-operate actively with the British, or whether he would simply remain neutral, had yet to be decided, and that would require deep consideration in the Korero, which, in the absence of his son, he had not given notice to summon.
The meeting of the chief and his son was marked by no special display of emotion, even though the latter had so narrowly escaped a painful and disgraceful death. The meaner persons of the tribe might indulge in the hongi, or even in the tangi, but the patrician dignity must be kept up.
Therefore was the greeting in the whare of the simplest character. “Aitimai E Tamatai,” said the father. “Tenakoe E Matua,” the son. Turning to Frank the former said briefly, “Aitimai Ekoro.” “Tenakoe E Rangitira,” was the reply; and the ceremony was over.
Where was Hine-Ra? Frank would have been glad to know. She was not there, and it would have been altogether contrary to usage to ask, at least then and there. He was courteously invited to take a seat on a mat, while Matariki once more related the incidents of the past two days. The old man listened without interruption, his face impassive as that of a statue, until the end of the narrative, and then saying briefly, “It is good. We shall see,” waved his hand in token that the young men might depart. They separated at the entrance of the whare, Matarika to seek out his sister, and Frank to have an interview with his father.