Chapter 34 | Among Friends Again | The Adventures of Don Lavington

Chapter Thirty Four.

“It’s all over with us, Mas’ Don,” whispered Jem, as soon as they were some little distance in the retreat. “That blackguard Ramsden’s sure, after all, that we’re in here, and that Tom Hoppers has come to his senses, and felt it was me as hissed at him, and they’re coming to hunt us out.”

“Let’s hope not, Jem.”

“Yah! What’s the good o’ hoping.”

Churr–urrt shrieked the cockatoo from far below.

“There now,” said Jem. “Hark at that! He’s telling ’em we’re in here, and coming on before to show ’em the way.”

“What nonsense, Jem!”

Churr-ur! Shrieked the cockatoo, ever so much nearer.

“Well, do you call that nonsense?” whispered Jem.

“The bird’s being cheered on; some one coming.”

Churrchurrchurr-ur-ur! Shrieked the cockatoo nearer, nearer, and then right in front of the cave, as it flew by.

“All right, Mas’ Don; I arn’t going to hargue. You think your way, and I’ll think mine; but if that wasn’t saying in New Zealandee as those two misfortunate chaps is hiding in this here hole, I never lived in Bristol city, and I don’t know sugar from tobacker.”

“Hist!” whispered Don.

Hiss–s–s–s came from far in the depths of the cave.

Gurgle-urgle-gugg-pap! Went something of a liquid kind.

“Here, I can’t stand this here, Mas’ Don,” whispered Jem; “let’s make a rush of it; and get right away in the woods.”

“Hush! There’s some one coming,” whispered Don, drawing his companion farther back into the darkness.

“All right, Mas’ Don! Take me in again where the bad air is; poison us both. Good-bye, Sally, my gal. It’s all over now; but I forgives you. Shake hands, Mas’ Don. I don’t bear you no ill-will, nor nobody else. Here they come.”

There was a rustling and panting noise, and they were on the tip-toe of expectation, when there was a heavy concussion, a deep-toned roar, and then an echoing rumble as the sound reverberated among the mountains. Then utter silence.

Jem gripped Don’s arm with force, and stared at him wildly.

“Well!” whispered Don. “It was only a gun from the ship to recall the boats.”

Jem stooped down and gave his leg a slap.

“You are a clever one, Mas’ Don, and no mistake. Why, o’ course it is. I never thought it was that.”

“What did you think it was, then?”

“Some o’ them hot water-works gone off, bang! And blown up the mountain.—There!”

He pointed to a hideous-looking head appearing above the edge of the shelf, and seen by the evening light as it fell athwart it, the countenance with its blue lines and scrolls ending in curls on either side of the nose was startling enough to make any one fear danger.

The owner of the face climbed up to the shelf, followed by another bronzed figure, when Don recognised the second as the tattooed Englishman, while there was no mistake about the first, for he made Jem give an angry grunt as a human voice shouted,—

“My pakeha.”

“Somebody calling you, Mas’ Don?”

“My pakeha!” shouted the New Zealander again. “Jemmeree Wimbee.”

“Eh! Here, I say, call a fellow by his right name!” cried Jem, stepping forward.

The chief met him with advancing step, and caught him by the shoulders, and before Jem could realise what he was going to do, placed his blue nose against that which was coppery white, and gave it a peculiar rub.

“Here, I say, don’t!” cried Jem, struggling to free himself, when the chief seized Don in turn, and bent down and served him the same.

“Don’t you stand it, Mas’ Don. Hit out.”

“Don’t you, youngster,” said the Englishman. “It’s only his friendly way.”

“Yes, that’s what they say at home when a big dog goes at you, and nearly rolls you over,” grumbled Jem. “I say, have you got anything to eat?”

“Not here, but plenty at Ngati’s place. I’m glad to see you both safe, my lads. It gave me quite a turn when he told me he’d hidden you in here.”

“Why?” said Don sharply.

“Well, I’ll tell you, my lad. There’s a kind o’ bad steam lies along the bottom farther in, and if a man was to lie down on the floor and go to sleep, I don’t s’pose he’d ever wake again. Come along!”

“Where are the men from the ship?”

“Gone off with their mates. Didn’t you hear the gun?”

Don nodded.

“They’ve been searching all over for you. Can’t make out whether you two got to shore, or were chopped up by the sharks out yonder. They won’t come again till to-morrow, and you’ll be safe till then. You must be hungry.”

“Hungry?” said Jem, with a mocking laugh. “Hungry? Lookye here: you’d better take me where there’s something, or it won’t be safe. I heard tell as people ate one another out here, and I didn’t believe it, but I do now. I’m ready for anything or anybody; so come along.”

Ngati took possession of Don, and led the way, evidently very proud of his young companion; whilst Jem followed with the Englishman down the gully slope, and then in and out among the trees, ferns, and bushes, till the dangerous hot and mud springs were passed, and the whare was reached. Then the weary fugitives were seated before what seemed to them a banquet of well-cooked fish, fruits, and roots, with a kind of hasty pudding preparation, which was far from bad.

“Feel better, now?” said the Englishman, after he had sat and smoked till they had done.

“Better? Yes, I’m better,” said Jem; “but I should like to know one thing.”

“Well, what is it?”

“Will they go on feeding us like this?”

“Yes; and if they don’t, I will.”

“But—it don’t—it don’t mean any games, does it?” said Jem, in a doubting tone.

“You mean making game of you?” said the Englishman with a broad grin.

“Yes, hare or fezzun,” said Jem.

The Englishman laughed, and turned to Don.

“I’ll see if you can’t have a better hiding-place to-night. That was very dangerous, and I may as well tell you to mind where you go about here, for more than one poor fellow has been smothered in the hot mud holes, and scalded to death.”

“Is the water so hot as that?” said Don.

“Hot? Why, those vegetables and things you ate were cooked in one of the boiling springs.”

“Phew!” whistled Jem.

They sat talking in the moonlight afterwards, listening to the tattooed Englishman, who spoke about what he had heard from the ship’s crew. Among other things the news that they might sail at any time.

Don started, and the tattooed Englishman noticed it.

“Yes,” he said; “that means going away and leaving you two behind. You don’t seemed pleased.”

Don looked up at him earnestly.

“No,” he said; “I didn’t at first. Don’t think me ungrateful after what you’ve done.”

“I don’t, my lad,” said the man, kindly; “I know what you feel. It’s like being shut away from every one you know; and you feel as if you were going to be a savage, and never see England again. I felt something like that once; but I didn’t come out like you did. Ah, well, that’s neither here nor there. You’re only a boy yet, with plenty o’ time before you. Make yourself as happy as you can; these chaps are not so very bad when they don’t want to get fighting, and I daresay you and me will be good enough friends. Eh? Hullo! What’s the matter?”

He leaped to his feet, and Don, Jem, and the New Zealand savages about them did the same, for half-a-dozen of Ngati’s followers came running up with news, which they communicated with plenty of gesticulations.

“What are they a-saying on, Mas’ Don? I wish I could speak New Zealandee.”

“Two boats’ crews are coming ashore from the ship. I wish you two was brown and tattooed.”

Jem glanced wildly at Don.

“Come on,” said the Englishman. “I must see if I can’t hide you before they come. What?”

This last was to a fresh man, who ran up and said something.

“Quick, my lads,” said the Englishman. “Your people are close at hand.”