Raromi, or, The Maori Chief's Heir
Chapter XXI. 'Oh, Pilot, 'Tis a Fearful Night!'
Chapter XXI. 'Oh, Pilot, 'Tis a Fearful Night!'
The scuttle covering the entrance to the small cabin was pushed forward, and Dog's-ear and Scotty, standing up in the said small cabin, looked out at the threatening sky, the rising sea; and then, bringing their thoughts back, they began to think about themselves.
'What a day of excitement for us all!' said Scotty, looking at Falconer, who was steering.
'Yes; and those Maoris won't forget your "bang-bangs" in a hurry. Old Nivens never made a more valuable present in his life. But our "excitement" is not yet ended, I fancy.'
'Come! I vote for a rest,' said Scotty, laughing. 'Just think: we've tried exploring, we've "assisted" at our own capture, have been boarded by pirates, we've carried off an heiress, and passed a day on cold potatoes—'
'And shall pass several more.'
'Don't interrupt, steersman; we've been carried nolens volens into a "wasps' nest," and the Kahawai—sensible creature that she is—has carried us out of it, without being stung.'page 142
'True; but why not add, that we stung the wasps—and that they won't forget it in a hurry?'
'The bang-bangs very good,' said Dog's-ear, joining in. 'Maori not like—if you not have bang-bangs—'
'Not have cold potatoes, eh?' queried Scotty.
'Listen, friends,' said Dog's-ear, speaking in Maori; 'Te Rauparaha used the Ngatiraukawas when he was in trouble—as he used us Ngatitamas—but since—now he is strong—he stirred the Ngatiawas against the others, to weaken them, to—'
'Destroy them, eh?'
'Yes, to destroy them. He's like the rata, he climbs up by his friends, and when he's strong enough he destroys them. The Ngatiraukawas came to the feast at Mana, but they and the Ngatiawas quarrelled. Many men were killed, and now there is enmity between them.'
'And you, alone, went amongst your enemies!'
'I saw you pleading with Wetekina for us!'
'You did. I heard at Porirua that Tuimoa had seized Kahoki, the sweet maid of Rotorua, and that to take her away he had seized your vessel.
'I had great fear. I could not rest. I said, Raromi is in danger. I knew Tuimoa was a friend of Wetekina, and that he hates the Pakeha; I knew those fierce fellows who follow Tuimoa would burn, fight, destroy anything for that wild fellow—to capture and keep Kahoki.'
'Didn't I guess right?' asked Scotty.
'You did, Scotty; you've the head to think.'
'You risked your life for us, Dog's-ear,' said Falconer.page 143
'I see it all; but how did you get into the river alongside the Kahawai?'
Dog's-ear drew himself up to his full height, and looking Falconer in the eye, replied, 'I thought you were lost. I saw the band go aboard. I heard the cries and shouts. I could not endure it. I dashed down my guards, and seizing a tomahawk, ran down to die with you, like a Maori chief. Then came the rout, and I dashed into the river—"I will go to Raromi, or die," said I, "for he is my son, I have no other; alas! no other!"'
'All have fallen—all—' The old chief was silent, and tears ran down his furrowed cheeks. 'My last brave boy died by my side in the war near Taranaki. He was dragged away'—here a shudder passed through Dog's-ear. 'But now, Raromi, you have come to me. In you I see my own brave boy. You are my son. I have said it. Where you go I'll go; my land is yours; your Atua is mine. He is the God of peace—I'm for peace.'
'Let's reef down, Scotty!' broke in Falconer, 'and prepare for the worst—it is coming!'
The Kahawai was soon under close-reefed mainsail, foresail, and a small bit of a staysail. The weather looked bad. It was dark. And the little-schooner was now being driven away from land. The three voyagers at first rejoiced, as men do who escape violent death; but now they were tossed on the great ocean, without compass to steer by, without any means of knowing where they were by observation, and, worst of all, without food.page 144
'All hands to supper!' cried Scotty, suddenly, from the hold.
'Dog's-ear is starving,' said Falconer, 'and I'm no better—pass on the roast beef at once!'
'The bill of fare,' added Scotty,' is potatoes grilled in the fire, salt beef au naturel—what's left by the naturals—and a few pawas (haliotis), which our friends left on board; and if they won't try your teeth, say I don't know leather when I see it.'
'Have you the pawa?' asked Dog's-ear.
'Yes; here's some leather, alias haliotis. Try them, O chief; your teeth are good; eat, and "may your shadow never grow less."'
Pawa, potatoes, odds-and-ends, all disappeared. The crew had fed; and Dog's-ear went to sleep.
'Scotty, just one serious word with you. What have we got to live on—until we get hold of land again?'
'A few pounds of cooked potatoes,' was the reply; 'some haliotis—one or two—and a few morsels of salt beef; with water for two days—no more!'
The next day the weather was worse. The gale increased, and the sea began to labour and get wrathful. It was like a great giant feeling his immense strength, and lashing himself into fury against the first unhappy victim within reach.
The Kahawai was hove-to under a close-reefed foresail.
Falconer now stretched life-lines across the deck aft, so that any one on deck should not be washed away—for there was no shelter.
Huge seas now began to curl and break. These are page 145very dangerous, even to a big, powerful ship. Here and there a wave-top would acquire a fearful impetus, and come swooping along, hissing and foaming like a racehorse for speed; and woe to the craft struck by the full force of such a wave.
How then would it fare with the little Kahawai?
This seemed to fill Scotty's and Falconer's thoughts, and made them both serious. Scotty standing with his head up the scuttle looked down; and Falconer with a small book in his hand looked up.
'We've weathered a good deal of danger lately, Falconer.'
'We have, Scotty.'
'Shall we weather this? What do you think?'
When Scotty looked again, Falconer, overpowered by fatigue, had fallen asleep. His book lay at Scotty's feet. He picked it up, and read about the storm on the Lake of Galilee, and his thoughts centred in Him who calmed the storm.
Falconer woke up with a start, and began to prepare for the night.
'Where are you going, Falconer?'
'On deck. I must watch. Besides, the tiller ought not to be lashed—it will be broken.
'God bless you, Scotty!' said he, wringing his companion's hand. 'Don't forget Him who calmed the storm, Scotty. You know what He said?'
'I've just read it.'
The brave fellow gripped Scotty's hand again,' and went on deck to his weary, dangerous vigil.