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Hine-Ra, or The Maori Scout: A Romance of the New Zealand War.

Chapter XXVI. — The Denouement

page 120

Chapter XXVI.
The Denouement.

When Marutuahua, Mataraki, and the rest of Te Nama warriors returned to their pah after their only partially successful raid on the Pateas, what a sight met their horrified gaze! Their whares destroyed or despoiled of their treasures, and their relatives, fathers, mothers, wives, and children slain or carried away into captivity. It was indeed a terrible home-coming, and long and loud was the Tangi that ensued.

But thoughts of bitter vengeance followed hard upon these wild expressions of grief, and it was determined in the Korero that a deadly raid should be instituted to sweep the treacherous Hau-Haus —for to them was rightly imputed the catastrophe—from the face of the earth, so soon as opportunity offered.

The chief and his son were inconsolable. The light of their eyes, the pride of their hearts, Hine-Ra, daughter to one, sister to the other, was missing—was, as they surmised, either slain, or a slave in the kainga of her captors. But nothing could be done rashly, nor without due consideration and preparation. First of all, the British authorities, with whom the tribe was in league, must be informed of the occurrence, and their aid sought to punish the perpetrators of the outrage. To this end, then, Matariki, the son of the chief, was despatched to head-quarters at New Plymouth, to confer with their representative, Mr. Burnett, and through him to the officer commanding the British forces.

When Jack Hall missed Tainui from his side in the cavern, his first idea was for immediate pursuit, but his next was the question, what was he going to do with him if he captured him? “No,” he he said, laughingly, “let the fellow go; he is not likely to trouble anybody again on this side Taranaki, and he'll most likely make his way to the head of the Patea, if he doesn't meet his deserts either at the hands of the Hau-Haus or the Namas.”

But what was to be done with Hine-Ra, now she had been rescued from the power of the brutal Tainui? To return by the way they had come was dangerous, for, as the scout remarked, there was little doubt that after the trick they had played on Hepanaia and the Uriweras, a strong party would be sent out in pursuit, and that, as they had been able to track Tainui, so the Maoris would, in turn, be able to track them. While they were in the cavern they would be safe, and the better plan would be to escape by water. To this end Frank and the girl must follow the passage to the end by means of the guiding rope, while he went back and brought round a canoe to Matutira's cave, which should convey them back to a place of safety, either to Te Nama or to New Plymouth, as the case might be.

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The Abduction of Hine-Ra [Page 114]

The Abduction of Hine-Ra
[Page 114]

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There was no denying the wisdom of this course, and, as the day was waning, it was determined to carry the plan out next morning. Certainly it was a dismal and cheerless place in which to spend the night, but at the extremity of the passage several lamps were kept, so that they would have light, while in the galleries running off it were plenty of chambers where Hine-Ra might be made fairly comfortable for the night.

They had no means of knowing the time, Frank having left his watch at Tauranga, so that it was late in the morning when the scout started to bring round the canoe, and swing back the huge stone which lay between them and the fresh free air and daylight.

But while they slept in their strange place of refuge fresh perils had arisen. It was even as the scout had suggested. The Uriweras, enraged at having been so skilfully tricked, had sent out a strong body of warriors in pursuit.

This party Tainui had fallen in with as they were about camping for the night on the shoulder of the mountain, being unable any longer to see the trail, and, mad with rage at his defeat, had by his representations induced to pursue the journey.

“You have the Pakeha swine, and what is more, the Rangitira Wahine no Te Nama, the peerless Hine-Ra, entrapped and at your mercy,” he said, “if you will be guided by me. They are in a cavern under the mountain, a cavern which has an outlet to the sea. What I tell you is no lie. Come with me and I will show you what to do, and they cannot escape.”

“You must tell us more, and show us that you can do what you say. Words are but wind,” replied the leader.

“My words are no wind, as you shall soon see. In half an hour I will show you the opening in the mountain. That you can easily block up by piling boulders over it. The other way they cannot escape by, for they have no canoe there. That I know. But there is a large war canoe at the mouth of the Waiweranui, near Parihaka, and that you can take unseen, and, entering the cave from the sea—I know the place and its secret—can kill them or take them alive, as you wish. I say they cannot escape. That is my word.”

After a short conference among the leaders of the party, it was determined to follow the advice of Tainui, giving him to understand that if he were deceiving them his life would be forfeit, a condition to which he cheerfully agreed.

To the entrance in the mountain he therefore led them, and, as noiselessly as they could, they blocked up the gullet where it narrowed a little way down, leaving half a dozen men to watch it, while the rest, some thirty in number, rapidly marched off to steal the Parihaka canoe and carry out the other part of the programme.

When the scout, therefore, in the morning, reached the mouth of the gallery, what was his astonishment to find egrees impossible. Similing grimly to himself, he muttered, “This, then, is your work, E Tainui. We shall have a bitter reckoning when we met again. page 122 Well for me that there is another entrance to this place, of which you know nothing.”

Retracing his steps a little way, he struck off to the northward, and presently emerged into the open air from a small bush-hidden orifice, on the other side of the spur of the mountain.

The sun was already up in the sky, and he lost no time in descending to the coast to a spot where, at the mouth of a small creek, he kept a canoe concealed.

Jumping into it, he pulled along the coast for the cavern in the cliffs; but what was his astonishment at seeing a large war canoe, fully manned, shoot round a headland to the southward, impelled by sturdy rowers, and apparently making for the same point.

They raised a yell of triumph when they caught sight of him, a yell that sent the blood surging in his veins, and impelled him to lay his entire strength into his work. It was a race for life. They had the greater speed, but he had the advantage of a shorter distance, so that he reached the cave fully five minutes before they did.

As he had expected, it was empty. Not an instant did it take him to leap ashore, to pull up his canoe on the beach, to fling open the rocking stone and close it after him with a loud noise.

But in his hurried passage through the cave he had picked up a small case which stood in a corner.

“Back! back!” he shouted to Frank and Hine-Ra, who stood amazed at his impetuous entrance. “Back! for your lives, along the passage, and shelter where you can in one of the side galleries. We are betrayed by that villain Tainui, and the Hau-Haus will be here in a couple of minutes. But fear not,” he continued, “they shall have such a reception as shall ring throughout the length and breadth of the land.”

“What are you about to do?” asked Frank.

“Ask no questions, but take the maiden to a place of safety along the gallery.”

As he spoke, and as Frank retreated up the passage, he quickly lifted a small cask to a spot opposite the opening, pulled out a spile in it, and plunged a double wire into the orifice, fastening it down with the spile. Then he retreated rapidly up the passage, unrolling the wire as he went.

There was no time to spare, for barely had he reached the side gallery where the youth and maiden were sheltered, when the stone swung back again, and the hideous face of Tainui appeared grinning ferociously at the opening. The cavern beyond was filled with a crowd of howling, yelling savages, eager for slaughter.

“What are you about to do?” again asked Frank, in a whisper.

“Silence, and listen,” was the reply.

Following Tainui, a dozen or more of the Maoris entered the passage, the rest crowding in at the doorway, when the scout gave a few rapid turns to the handle and pressed a key in the page 123 battery he had in his hand, for, as the reader may have guessed, it was an electric battery he held.

The result was instantaneous and not the less terrible. With a roar and a crash like that of the loudest thunder, the cavity was filled with a blinding sheet of flame, the earth seemed to lift and fall again, the granite walls to rock, and the rugged roof to collapse. The horrid clang reverberated in a thousand echoes along the mysterious intricacies of the vault, and then the deafening tumult was followed by a deep silence, and the flash of flame by thick, blinding, suffocating smoke.

The scout had blown up the entrance to the cavern, and the entire war party had perished in the explosion.

But, like Samson, when he pulled down the temple on the heads of the Philistines, he had brought destruction on himself as well as his foes. A huge mass of rock, hurled with terrific force, had struck him full in the chest and crushed it in. He had slain his enemies, and in doing so he had also slain himself.

When the dense cloud of smoke had somewhat cleared away, Frank and Hine-Ra found him crouched against the wall in a corner of the gallery, livid with pain, and coughing up blood. The death damp stood thick on his brow, for the end was near, and he could barely speak.

Still with a struggle he whispered, as the paroxysm of coughing ceased: “I told you my life was bound up in yours, lad. I knew it, but not how. My death has sealed your happiness, and it is well so. I thought to have seen your wedding, but it was not to be. Frank—Hine-Ra—good-bye—if—–.” A torrent of blood choked his utterance, and with a convulsive shudder he fell forward, dead.