Chapter 21 | An Invitation | The Adventures of Don Lavington

Chapter Twenty One.

It seemed to Don that the object of the captain in coming to New Zealand was to select and survey portions of the coast for a new settlement; and for the next few days well-armed boat parties were out in all directions sounding, and in two cases making short journeys inland.

“I say,” said Jem one morning, as he and Don stood gazing over the side of the ship at the verdant shores.

“Well, Jem, what do you say?”

“Has that ugly-looking chap Ramsden been telling tales about us?”

“I don’t know; why?”

“Because here’s a fortnight we’ve been at anchor, and since the first day neither of us has been out in a boat.”

“Hasn’t been our turn, Jem.”

“Well, p’r’aps not, sir; but it do seem strange. Just as if they thought we should slip away.”

“And I suppose we’ve given up all such thoughts as that now.”

“Oh, have we?” said Jem sarcastically; and then there was silence for a time, till Jem, who had been watching the steam rise from the little island about a quarter of a mile away, exclaimed, “Wonder what’s being cooked over yonder, Mas’ Don. I know; no, I don’t. Thought it was washing day, but it can’t be, for they don’t hardly wear any clothes.”

“It’s volcanic steam, Jem. Comes out of the earth.”

“Get along with you, Mas’ Don. Don’t get spinning yarns.”

“I’m telling you the truth, Jem.”

“Are you, sir? Well, p’r’aps it’s what you think is the truth, I say, arn’t it lovely out here? How I should like to have a cottage just on that there point, and my Sally to keep it tidy. Hullo! What’s up?”

The boatswain’s shrill pipe was heard just then, and a boat’s crew was summoned to take an exploring party ashore.

To Don’s great delight, he and Jem formed part of the boat’s crew; and at last he felt that he was to see something of the beautiful place, which grew more attractive every time he scanned the coast.

This time the captain was going to land; and, as the men were provided with axes, it seemed that they were about to make their way into the woods.

The natives had been most friendly, bringing off and receiving presents; but, all the same, no precautions were omitted to provide for the safety of the ship and crew.

It was a glorious morning, with hardly a breath of wind stirring, and the savages were lolling about on the shore. Their canoes were run up on the sands, and there was an aspect of calm and repose everywhere that seemed delightful.

But the boat’s crew had little time given them for thinking. The captain and a midshipman of about Don’s age took their places in the stern sheets, Bosun Jones seized the tiller, the word was given, the oars splashed the water simultaneously, and the boat sped over the calm surface of the transparent sea, sending the shoals of fish darting away.

The boat’s head was set in quite a fresh direction, and she was run ashore a little way from the mouth of a rushing river, whose waters came foaming down through blocks of pumice and black masses of volcanic stone.

As the boat’s head touched the shore, the men leaped over right and left, and dragged her a short distance up the black glistening heavy sand, so that the captain could land dry-shod.

Then preparations were made, arms charged, and Bosun Jones gave Don a friendly nod before turning to the captain.

“Will you have this lad, sir, to carry a spare gun for you?”

“Yes,” said the captain; “a good plan;” and Don’s eyes sparkled. “No,” said the captain the next moment; “he is only a boy, and the walking will be too hard for him. Let him and another stay with the boat.”

Don’s brow clouded over with disappointment, but it cleared a little directly after as he found that Jem was to be his companion; and as the party marched off toward where the forest came down nearly to the sea, they, in obedience to their orders, thrust the boat off again, climbed in, and cast out her grapnel a few fathoms from the shore.

“I am disappointed,” said Don, after they had sat in the boat some time, watching their companions till they had disappeared.

“Oh, I dunno, Mas’ Don; we’ve got some beef and biscuit, and somewhere to sit down, and nothing to do. They, poor fellows, will come back hot and tired out.”

“Yes; but’s it’s so dull here.”

“Well, I dunno ’bout that,” said Jem, looking lazily round at the glorious prospect of glistening sea, island and shore, backed up by mountains; “I call it just lovely.”

“Oh, it’s lovely enough, Jem; but I want to go ashore.”

“Now if you call my cottage dull inside the yard gates at Bristol, I’m with you, Mas’ Don; but after all there’s no place like home.”

There was a dead silence, during which Don sat gazing at a group of the savages half-a-mile away, as they landed from a long canoe, and ran it up the beach in front of one of the native whares or dwellings.

“Why, Jem!” Don exclaimed suddenly, “why not now?”

“Eh?” said Jem, starting from watching a large bird dive down with a splash in the silvery water, and then rise again with a fish in its beak; “see that, Mas’ Don?”

“Yes, yes,” exclaimed Don impatiently; “why not now?”

“Why not now, Mas’ Don?” said Jem, scratching his head; “is that what you call a connundydrum?”

“Don’t be stupid, man. I say, why not now?”

“Yes, I heared you say so twice; but what does it mean?”

“We’re quite alone; we have a boat and arms, with food and water. Why not escape now?”

“Escape, Mas’ Don? What, run away now at once—desert?”

“It is not running away, Jem; it is not deserting. They have robbed us of our liberty, and we should only be taking it back.”

“Ah, they’d preach quite a different sarmon to that,” said Jem, shaking his head.

“Why, you are never going to turn tail?”

“Not I, Mas’ Don, when the time comes; but it don’t seem to have come yet.”

“Why, the opportunity is splendid, man.”

“No, Mas’ Don, I don’t think so. If we take the boat, ’fore we’ve gone far they’ll ketch sight of us aboard, and send another one to fetch us back, or else make a cock-shy of us with the long gun.”

“Then let’s leave the boat.”

“And go ashore, and meet our messmates and the captain.”

“Go in another direction.”

“Out of the frying-pan into the fire,” said Jem, grinning. “Say, Mas’ Don, how do they cook their food?”

“Don’t talk nonsense, Jem; that’s only a traveller’s tale. I believe the people here will behave kindly to us.”

“Till we got fat,” said Jem, chuckling; “and then they’d have a tuck out. No, thank ye, Mas’ Don; my Sally wouldn’t like it. You see, I’m nice and plump and round now, and they’d soon use me. You’re a great long growing boy, thin as a lath, and it’d take years to make you fit to kill, so as it don’t matter for you.”

“There is a chance open to us now for escape,” said Don bitterly; “to get right away, and journey to some port, where we could get a passage to England as sailors, and you treat it with ridicule.”

“Not I, Mas’ Don, lad.”

“You do, Jem. Such a chance may never occur again; and I shall never be happy till I have told my mother what is the real truth about our going away.”

“But you did write it to her, Mas’ Don.”

“Write! What is writing to speaking? I thought you meant to stand by me.”

“So I do, Mas’ Don, when a good chance comes. It hasn’t come yet.”


A hail came out of the dense growth some fifty yards away.

“There,” said Jem, “you see we couldn’t get off; some one coming back.”

“Ahoy!” came again; “boat ahoy!”

“Ahoy! Ahoy!” shouted back Jem, and the two boat-keepers watched the moving ferns in front of them, expecting to see the straw hat of a messmate directly; but instead there appeared the black white-tipped feathers, and then the hideously tattooed bluish face of a savage, followed directly after by another, and two stalwart men came out on to the sands, and began to walk slowly down toward the boat.

“Cock your pistol, Mas’ Don,” whispered Jem, “quiet-like; don’t let ’em see. They’ve got their spears and choppers. Precious ready too with their ahoys.”

“Why, it’s that tattooed Englishman, Jem, and that savage who called me his pakeha.”

“And like his impudence!” said Jem. “You’re right though, so it is.”

“Morning, mate,” said the Englishman, who, save that he was a little lighter in colour than his hideous-looking companion, could hardly be distinguished from him.

“Morning, my hearty,” said Jem. “What is it? Want a passage home?”

“Do I want what?” growled the man. “Not I; too well off here.”

“Wouldn’t be safe to go back, p’r’aps,” said Jem meaningly.

The man darted a fierce look at him, which told that the shaft had hit its mark.

“Never you mind about that,” he said surlily.

“But you are a lifer, and have run away, haven’t you?” continued Jem, in a bantering tone.

The man’s aspect was for the moment so fierce that Don involuntarily stole his hand towards the pistol at his side. But his countenance softened directly after.

“That’s neither here nor there, mate,” said the man. “There’s been chaps sent out abroad who were innocent, and others who have been punished more than they deserved; and you aren’t the sort of fellow to go talking like that, and making trouble for a fellow who never did you any harm.”

“Not I,” said Jem; “it’s no business of mine.”

“And he isn’t the fellow to make trouble,” put in Don.

“That he isn’t,” said the man, smiling. “’Sides I’m a Maori chief now, and I’ve got a couple of hundred stout fellows who would fight for me. Eh, Ngati?” he said, addressing some words in the savage tongue.

“Pah, ha, ha!” roared the great fellow beside him, brandishing his spear; and seizing the greenstone paddle-like weapon, which hung from his neck, in his left hand, as he struck an attitude, turned up his eyes till the whites only were visible, distorted his face hideously, and thrust out his great tongue till it was far below his chin.

“Brayvo! Brayvo! Brayvo!” cried Jem, hammering the side of the boat; “brayvo, waxworks! I say, mate, will he always go off like that when you pull the string?”

“Yes,” said the Englishman, laughing; “and two hundred more like him.”

“Then it must be a werry pretty sight indeed; eh, Mas’ Don?”

“Ah, it’s all very well to laugh,” said the Englishman good-humouredly; “but when they mean mischief, it’s heads off and a feast.”

“Eh?” cried Jem.

“They’ll kill a man, and cook him and eat him after.”


“Gammon, eh?” cried the Englishman; and he turned to his savage companion with a word or two.

The savage relapsed into his former quiescent state, uttered a loud grunt, and smacked his lips.

“And so you do do that sort of thing?” said Jem, grinning. “You look in pretty good condition, mate.”

“No!” said the Englishman fiercely. “I’ve joined them, and married, and I’m a pakeha Maori and a great chief, and I’ve often fought for them; but I’ve never forgotten what I am.”

“No offence meant, old chap,” said Jem; and then from behind his hand he whispered to Don,—

“Look out, my lad; they mean the boat.”

“No, we don’t,” said the Englishman, contemptuously; “if we did we could have it. Why, I’ve only to give the word, and a hundred fellows would be out in a canoe before you knew where you were. No, my lad, it’s peace; and I’m glad of a chance, though I’m happy enough here, to have a talk to some one from the old home. Never was in the west country, I suppose? I’m an Exeter man.”

“I’ve been in Exeter often,” said Don eagerly; “we’re from Bristol.”

The Englishman waded rapidly into the sea, his Maori companion dashing in on the other side of the boat, and Jem and Don seized their pistols.

“Didn’t I tell you it was peace?” said the Englishman, angrily. “I only wanted to shake hands.”

“Ho!” said Jem, suspiciously, as their visitor coolly seated himself on the gunwale of the boat, his follower taking the opposite side, so as to preserve the balance.

“Enough to make you think we meant wrong,” said the Englishman; “but we don’t. Got any tobacco, mate?”

“Yes,” said Jem, producing his bag. “’Tarn’t very good. Say, Mas’ Don, if he came to see us in Bristol, we could give him a bit o’ real old Charlestown, spun or leaf.”

“Could you, though?” said the man, filling his pipe.

“Yes; my uncle is a large sugar and tobacco merchant,” said Don.

“Then how came you to be a sailor boy? I know, you young dog; you ran away. Well, I did once.”

“No, no,” said Don, hastily; “we did not ran away; we were pressed.”

“Pressed?” said the Englishman, pausing in the act of striking a light on one of the thwarts of the boat.

“You needn’t believe unless you like,” said Jem, sourly, “but we were; dragged off just as if we were—well, never mind what. Feel here.”

He bent forward, took the man’s hand, and placed it upon the back of his head.

“That’s a pretty good scar, isn’t it? Reg’lar ridge.”

“Yes; that was an ugly crack, mate.”

“Well, that’s what I got, and a lot beside. Young Mas’ Don here, too, was awfully knocked about.”

“And you stood it?”

“Stood it?” said Don, laughing. “How could we help it?”

“Made you be sailors, eh, whether you would or no?”

“That’s it,” said Jem.

“Well, you can do as you like,” said the man; “but I know what I should do if they’d served me so.”

“Cutoff?” said Jem.

“That’s it, mate. I wouldn’t ha’ minded being a sailor, but not be made one whether I liked or no.”

“You weren’t a sailor, were you?” said Don.

“I? No; never mind what I was.”

“Then we had better cut off, Mas’ Don,” said Jem, grinning till his eyes were shut; “and you and me ’ll be painted like he is in fast colours, and you shall be a chief, and I’ll be your head man.”

“To be sure,” said the Englishman; “and you shall have a wife.”

“Eh?” cried Jem fiercely; “that I just won’t. And, Mas’ Don, if we ever do get back, don’t you never say a word to my Sally about this here.”

“No, Jem, not I.”

“But you’ll leave the ship, mate?”

“Well, I dunno,” said Jem, thoughtfully. “Will that there pattern all over your face and chest wash off?”

“Wash off? No.”

“Not with pearl-ash or soda?”

“No, not unless you skinned me,” said the man, laughing.

“Well, that part arn’t tempting, is it, Mas’ Don?”

Don shook his head.

“And then about that other part, old chap—cannibalism? I say, that’s gammon, isn’t it?”

“What do you mean?”

“Why, you know—the cooking a fellow and eating him. How dull you are!”

“Dull? You be here a few years among these people, talking their lingo, and not seeing an Englishman above once in two years, and see if you wouldn’t be dull.”

“But is that true?”

“About being cannibals? Yes it’s true enough,” said the man seriously; “and very horrid it is; but it’s only when there’s war.”

He had succeeded in striking a light now, and was smoking placidly enough on the boat’s edge, but dreamily thoughtful, as if he were recalling matters that were past.

“Has he ever—been at war?” said Don, altering the fashion of his inquiry when it was half uttered.


“And—? You know,” said Jem, who felt no delicacy about the matter.

The Englishman nodded his head slowly, and sent forth a tremendous puff of smoke, while his companion moved toward Don, and smiled at him, tapping him on the shoulder with his hand, and seeming to nod approval.

“Pakeha!” he said, excitedly; “my pakeha; Maori pakeha.”

“What does he mean by that?” said Don, after he had suffered these attentions patiently for a few minutes.

“Means he wants you to be his pakeha.”

“Yes: my pakeha; Maori pakeha!” cried the chief eagerly.

“But what is a pakeha?”

“Why, you’re a pakeha, I’m a pakeha. They call foreigners pakehas; and he wants to claim you as his.”

“What, his slave?” cried Don.

“No, no; he means his foreign brother. If you become his pakeha, he will be bound to fight for you. Eh, Ngati?”

The savage gave vent to a fierce shout, and went through his former performance, but with more flourish, as if he were slaying numbers of enemies, and his facial distortion was hideous.

“Well, when I was a little un, and went to school,” said Jem, “I used to get spanks if I put out my tongue. Seems as if it’s a fine thing to do out here.”

“Yes; it’s a way they have when they’re going to fight,” said the Englishman thoughtfully. “S’pose it would mean trouble if I were to set you on to do it; but it wouldn’t be at all bad for me if you were both of you to leave the ship and come ashore.”

“To be cooked?” said Jem.

“Bah! Stuff! They’d treat you well. Youngster here’s all right; Ngati would make him his pakeha.”

“My pakeha,” cried the chief, patting Don again. “Much powder; much gun.”

“Pupil of mine,” said the Englishman, smiling; “I taught him our lingo.”

“What does he mean?” said Don; “that he’d give me a big gun and plenty of powder?”

The Englishman laughed.

“No, no; he wants you to bring plenty of guns and powder ashore with you when you come.”

“When I come!” said Don, thoughtfully.

“I sha’n’t persuade you, my lad; but you might do worse. You’d be all right with us; and there are Englishmen here and there beginning to settle.”

“And how often is there a post goes out for England?”

“Post? For England? Letters?”


“I don’t know; I’ve been here a long time now, and I never had a letter and I never sent one away.”

“Then how should I be able to send to my Sally.”

“Dunno,” said the man. “There, you think it over. Ngati here will be ready to take care of you, youngster; and matey here shall soon have a chief to take care of him.”

“I don’t know so much about that,” said Jem. “I should be ready enough to come ashore, but you’ve got some precious unpleasant ways out here as wouldn’t suit me.”

“You’d soon get used to them,” said the Englishman, drily; “and after leading a rough life, and being bullied by everybody, it isn’t half bad to be a chief, and have a big canoe of your own, and make people do as you like.”

“But then you’re a great powerful man,” said Don. “They’d obey you, but they wouldn’t obey me.”

“Oh, yes, they would, if you went the right way to work. It isn’t only being big. They’re big, much bigger all round than Englishmen, and stronger and more active. They’re not afraid of your body, but of your mind; that’s what they can’t understand. If I was to write down something on a bit of wood or a leaf—we don’t often see paper here—and give it to you to read, and you did the same to me, that gets over them: it’s a wonder they can’t understand. And lots of other things we know are puzzles to them, and so they think us big. You consider it over a bit, my lad; and if you decide to run for it, I’ll see as you don’t come to no harm.”

“And him too?”

“Oh, yes; he shall be all right too; I’ll see to that.”

“Shouldn’t be too tempting for ’em, eh? Should I?” said Jem.

“Not for our tribes here,” said the Englishman, laughing; “but I may as well be plain with you. If we went to war with some of the others, and they got hold of you—”

“Say, Mas’ Don,” said Jem interrupting the speaker, “I don’t like being a sort of white nigger aboard ship, and being kept a prisoner, and told it’s to serve the king; but a man can go into the galley to speak to the cook without feeling that he’s wondering which jynte of you he shall use first. No thankye; it’s a werry lovely country, but I want to get home to my Sally some day; and if we cut and run here, I’m afraid I never should.”

“You turn it over in your own minds, both of you, my lads. There, my pipe’s out, and I think we’ll go. Stop here long?”

“Do you mean the ship, or here with the boat?”

“Here with the boat,” said the Englishman, holding out his hand.

“Till our party comes back,” said Jem.

“I may see you again,” said the Englishman; and shaking hands, he said a few words to his companion, and then began to wade ashore.

The savage smiled and shook hands in turn, after which he patted Don on the shoulder again.

“My pakeha,” he said, sharply; “Maori pakeha—my.”

He followed his leader; and Don and Jem watched them till they disappeared amongst the abundant growth.