Chapter 40 | Defeated | The Adventures of Don Lavington

Chapter Forty.

Two minutes at the outside must have been the lapse of time before the last spear held up in defence of the pah was lowered by its brave owner in weakness, despair, or death.

Tomati’s men fought with desperate valour, but they were so reduced that the enemy were four to one; and as they were driven back step by step, till they were huddled together in one corner of the pah, the slaughter was frightful.

Stirred to fury at seeing the poor fellows drop, both Don and Jem had made unskilful use of their weapons, for they were unwillingly mingled with the crowd of defenders, and driven with them into the corner of the great enclosure.

One minute they were surrounded by panting, desperate men, using their spears valorously, as the Greeks might have used theirs in days of old; then there came a rush, a horrible crowding together, a sensation to Don as if some mountain had suddenly fallen on his head to crush out the hideous din of yelling and despairing shrieks, and then all was darkness.

It was still darkness, but the stars were shining brightly overhead, when Don opened his eyes again to begin wondering why his head should ache so terribly, and he should feel so cold.

Those thoughts were only momentary, for a colder chill ran through him as on both sides of where he lay a low moaning sound arose, as of some one in pain.

“Where am I?” he thought. “What is the matter?”

Then he realised what had happened, for a familiar voice said almost in a whisper,—

“Poor little Sally! I wish she was here with a bit of rag.”


“Mas’ Don! Oh! Thank the Lord! Amen! I thought—I thought— Oh! Oh!”

A choking sensation rose in Don’s throat, for he could hear close beside him the brave, true fellow sobbing like a woman.

“Jem! Jem, old chap!” whispered Don. “Don’t, pray don’t do that.”

“I’m a-trying not to as hard as ever I can,” whispered the poor fellow hoarsely; “but I’ve been bleeding like a pig, Mas’ Don, and it’s made me as weak as a great gal. You see I thought as you was dead.”

“No, no, Jem; I’m here safe, only—only my head aches, and I can’t get my hands free.”

“No, my lad, more can’t I. We’re both tied up, hands and legs.”

“But the others? Where is Tomati?”

“Don’t ask me, my lad.”

“Oh, Jem!”

There was a few minutes’ awful silence, during which the low moaning sound went on from different places close at hand.

“Where is Ngati?” whispered Don at last.

“Half killed, or dead, Mas’ Don,” said Jem, sadly. “We’re reg’lar beat. But, my word, Mas’ Don, I am sorry.”

“Sorry? Of course.”

“Ah! But I mean for all I said about the poor fellows. I thought they couldn’t fight.”

“The women and children, Jem?”

“All prisoners, ’cept some as would fight, and they—”

“Yes—go on.”

“They served them same as they did those poor chaps as wouldn’t give in.”

“How horrible!”

“Ah, ’tis horrid, my lad; and I’ve been wishing we hadn’t cut and run. We was better off on board ship.”

“It’s of no use to talk like that, Jem. Are you much hurt?”

“Hand’s all cut about with that pistol busting, and there’s a hole through my left shoulder, as feels as if it had been bored with a red hot poker. But there, never mind. Worse disasters at sea, Mas’ Don. Not much hurt, are you?”

“I don’t know, Jem. I can remember nothing.”

“Good job for you, my lad. One of ’em hit you over the head with the back of a stone-chopper; and I thought he’d killed you, so I—”

Jem ceased speaking.

“Well, go on,” whispered Don.

“That’s all,” said Jem, sullenly.

“But you were going to say what you did when the man struck me.”

“Was I? Ah, well, I forget now.”

Don was silent, for Jem had given him something terrible to dwell upon as he tried to think.

At last he spoke again.

“Where are the enemy, Jem?”

“Enemy, indeed!” growled Jem. “Savages like them don’t deserve such a fine name. Brutes!”

“But where are they? Did you see what they did?”

“See? Yes. Don’t ask me.”

“But where are they?”

“Sleep. Drunk, I think. After they’d tied us prisoners all up and shut up all the women and children in the big whare, what do you think they did?”

“Kill them?”

“Killed ’em? No. Lit fires, and set to and had a reg’lar feast, and danced about—them as could!” added Jem with a chuckle. “Some on ’em had got too many holes in ’em to enjoy dancing much. But, Mas’ Don.”

“Yes, Jem.”

“Don’t ask me to tell you no more, my lad. I’m too badly, just now. Think you could go to sleep?”

“I don’t know, Jem. I don’t think so.”

“I’d say, let’s try and get ourselves loose, and set to and get away, for I don’t think anybody’s watching us; but I couldn’t go two steps, I know. Could you run away by yourself?”

“I don’t know,” said Don. “I’m not going to try.”

“Well, but that’s stupid, Mas’ Don, when you might go somewhere, p’r’aps, and get help.”

“Where, Jem?”

“Ah!” said the poor fellow, after a pause, “I never thought about that.”

They lay still under the blinking stars, with the wind blowing chill from the icy mountains; and the feeling of bitter despondency which hung over Don’s spirit seemed to grow darker. His head throbbed violently, and a dull numbing pain was in his wrists and ankles. Then, too, as he opened his lips, he felt a cruel, parching, feverish thirst, which seemed by degrees to pass away as he listened to the low moaning, and then for a few minutes he lost consciousness.

But it was only to start into wakefulness again, and stare wildly at the faintly-seen fence of the great pah, right over his head, and through which he could see the twinkling of a star.

As he realised where he was once more, he whispered Jem’s name again and again, but a heavy breathing was the only response, and he lay thinking of home and of his bedroom all those thousand miles away. And as he thought of Bristol, a curious feeling of thankfulness came over him that his mother was in ignorance of the fate that had befallen her son.

“What would she say—what would she think, if she knew that I was lying here on the ground, a prisoner, and wounded—here at the mercy of a set of savages—what would she say?”

A short time before Don had been thinking that fate had done its worst for him, and that his position could not possibly have been more grave. But he thought now that it might have been far worse, for his mother was spared his horror.

And then as he lay helpless there, and in pain, with his companion badly hurt, and the low moan of some wounded savage now and then making him shudder, the scene of the desperate fight seemed to come back, and he felt feverish and wild. But after a time that passed off, and the pain and chill troubled him, but only to pass off as well, and be succeeded by a drowsy sensation.

And then as he lay there, the words of the old, old prayers he had repeated at his mother’s knee rose to his lips, and he was repeating them as sleep fell upon his weary eyes; and the agony and horrors of that terrible time were as nothing to him then.