In Search of the Castaways
Part 9 out of 11
wears over its black, cassock-like plumage.
"The tui," said Paganel to the Major, "grows so fat during
the Winter that it makes him ill, and prevents him from flying.
Then he tears his breast with his beak, to relieve himself
of his fat, and so becomes lighter. Does not that seem
to you singular, McNabbs?"
"So singular that I don't believe a word of it," replied the Major.
Paganel, to his great regret, could not find a single specimen, or he
might have shown the incredulous Major the bloody scars on the breast.
But he was more fortunate with a strange animal which, hunted by men,
cats and dogs, has fled toward the unoccupied country, and is fast
disappearing from the fauna of New Zealand. Robert, searching like
a ferret, came upon a nest made of interwoven roots, and in it a pair of
birds destitute of wings and tail, with four toes, a long snipe-like beak,
and a covering of white feathers over the whole body, singular creatures,
which seemed to connect the oviparous tribes with the mam-mifers.
It was the New Zealand "kiwi," the _Apteryx australis_ of naturalists,
which lives with equal satisfaction on larvae, insects, worms or seeds.
This bird is peculiar to the country. It has been introduced into
very few of the zoological collections of Europe. Its graceless
shape and comical motions have always attracted the notice
of travelers, and during the great exploration of the Astrolabe
and the Zelee, Dumont d'Urville was principally charged by the Academy
of Sciences to bring back a specimen of these singular birds.
But in spite of rewards offered to the natives, he could not obtain
a single specimen.
Paganel, who was elated at such a piece of luck, tied the two
birds together, and carried them along with the intention of
presenting them to the Jardin des Plantes, in Paris. "Presented by
M. Jacques Paganel." He mentally saw the flattering inscription
on the handsomest cage in the gardens. Sanguine geographer!
The party pursued their way without fatigue along the banks
of the Waipa. The country was quite deserted; not a trace
of natives, nor any track that could betray the existence of man.
The stream was fringed with tall bushes, or glided along
sloping banks, so that nothing obstructed the view of the low
range of hills which closed the eastern end of the valley.
With their grotesque shapes, and their outlines lost
in a deceptive haze, they brought to mind giant animals,
worthy of antediluvian times. They might have been a herd
of enormous whales, suddenly turned to stone. These disrupted
masses proclaimed their essentially volcanic character.
New Zealand is, in fact, a formation of recent plutonic origin.
Its emergence from the sea is constantly increasing.
Some points are known to have risen six feet in twenty years.
Fire still runs across its center, shakes it, convulses it,
and finds an outlet in many places by the mouths of geysers
and the craters of volcanoes.
At four in the afternoon, nine miles had been easily accomplished.
According to the map which Paganel constantly referred to,
the confluence of the Waipa and Waikato ought to be reached about
five miles further on, and there the night halt could be made.
Two or three days would then suffice for the fifty miles which lay
between them and the capital; and if Glenarvan happened to fall
in with the mail coach that plies between Hawkes' Bay and Auckland
twice a month, eight hours would be sufficient.
"Therefore," said Glenarvan, "we shall be obliged to camp during
the night once more."
"Yes," said Paganel, "but I hope for the last time."
"I am very glad to think so, for it is very trying for Lady Helena
and Mary Grant."
"And they never utter a murmur," added John Mangles. "But I think
I heard you mention a village at the confluence of these rivers."
"Yes," said the geographer, "here it is, marked on Johnston's map.
It is Ngarnavahia, two miles below the junction."
"Well, could we not stay there for the night? Lady Helena
and Miss Grant would not grudge two miles more to find a hotel
even of a humble character."
"A hotel!" cried Paganel, "a hotel in a Maori village! you would not find
an inn, not a tavern! This village will be a mere cluster of huts,
and so far from seeking rest there, my advice is that you give it
a wide berth."
"Your old fears, Paganel!" retorted Glenarvan.
"My dear Lord, where Maories are concerned, distrust is safer
than confidence. I do not know on what terms they are with
the English, whether the insurrection is suppressed or successful,
or whether indeed the war may not be going on with full vigor.
Modesty apart, people like us would be a prize, and I must say,
I would rather forego a taste of Maori hospitality. I think it
certainly more prudent to avoid this village of Ngarnavahia, to skirt
it at a distance, so as to avoid all encounters with the natives.
When we reach Drury it will be another thing, and there our brave
ladies will be able to recruit their strength at their leisure."
This advice prevailed. Lady Helena preferred to pass another night
in the open air, and not to expose her companions to danger.
Neither Mary Grant or she wished to halt, and they continued
their march along the river.
Two hours later, the first shades of evening began to fall.
The sun, before disappearing below the western horizon,
darted some bright rays through an opening in the clouds.
The distant eastern summits were empurpled with the parting
glories of the day. It was like a flying salute addressed
to the way-worn travelers.
Glenarvan and his friends hastened their steps, they knew how short the
twilight is in this high latitude, and how quickly the night follows it.
They were very anxious to reach the confluence of the two rivers before
the darkness overtook them. But a thick fog rose from the ground,
and made it very difficult to see the way.
Fortunately hearing stood them in the stead of sight; shortly a
nearer sound of water indicated that the confluence was at hand.
At eight o'clock the little troop arrived at the point where the Waipa
loses itself in the Waikato, with a moaning sound of meeting waves.
"There is the Waikato!" cried Paganel, "and the road to Auckland
is along its right bank."
"We shall see that to-morrow," said the Major, "Let us camp here.
It seems to me that that dark shadow is that of a little clump
of trees grown expressly to shelter us. Let us have supper and then
get some sleep."
"Supper by all means," said Paganel, "but no fire;
nothing but biscuit and dried meat. We have reached this
spot incognito, let us try and get away in the same manner.
By good luck, the fog is in our favor."
The clump of trees was reached and all concurred in the wish
of the geographer. The cold supper was eaten without a sound,
and presently a profound sleep overcame the travelers,
who were tolerably fatigued with their fifteen miles' march.
CHAPTER IX INTRODUCTION TO THE CANNIBALS
THE next morning at daybreak a thick fog was clinging to the surface
of the river. A portion of the vapors that saturated the air
were condensed by the cold, and lay as a dense cloud on the water.
But the rays of the sun soon broke through the watery mass and
melted it away.
A tongue of land, sharply pointed and bristling with bushes,
projected into the uniting streams. The swifter waters of the Waipa
rushed against the current of the Waikato for a quarter of a mile
before they mingled with it; but the calm and majestic river soon
quieted the noisy stream and carried it off quietly in its course
to the Pacific Ocean.
When the vapor disappeared, a boat was seen ascending the current
of the Waikato. It was a canoe seventy feet long, five broad,
and three deep; the prow raised like that of a Venetian gondola,
and the whole hollowed out of a trunk of a kahikatea.
A bed of dry fern was laid at the bottom. It was swiftly
rowed by eight oars, and steered with a paddle by a man seated
in the stern.
This man was a tall Maori, about forty-five years of age,
broad-chested, muscular, with powerfully developed hands and feet.
His prominent and deeply-furrowed brow, his fierce look,
and sinister expression, gave him a formidable aspect.
Tattooing, or "moko," as the New Zealanders call it, is a mark
of great distinction. None is worthy of these honorary lines,
who has not distinguished himself in repeated fights.
The slaves and the lower class can not obtain this decoration.
Chiefs of high position may be known by the finish and precision
and truth of the design, which sometimes covers their whole
bodies with the figures of animals. Some are found to undergo
the painful operation of "moko" five times. The more illustrious,
the more illustrated, is the rule of New Zealand.
Dumont D'Urville has given some curious details as to this custom.
He justly observes that "moko" is the counterpart of the armorial
bearings of which many families in Europe are so vain.
But he remarks that there is this difference: the armorial bearings
of Europe are frequently a proof only of the merits of the first who
bore them, and are no certificate of the merits of his descendants;
while the individual coat-of-arms of the Maori is an irrefragible proof
that it was earned by the display of extraordinary personal courage.
The practice of tattooing, independently of the consideration
it procures, has also a useful aspect. It gives the cu-taneous
system an increased thickness, enabling it to resist the inclemency
of the season and the incessant attacks of the mosquito.
As to the chief who was steering the canoe, there could be no mistake.
The sharpened albatross bone used by the Maori tattooer, had five times
scored his countenance. He was in his fifth edition, and betrayed it
in his haughty bearing.
His figure, draped in a large mat woven of "phormium" trimmed
with dogskins, was clothed with a pair of cotton drawers,
blood-stained from recent combats. From the pendant lobe of his
ears hung earrings of green jade, and round his neck a quivering
necklace of "pounamous," a kind of jade stone sacred among
the New Zealanders. At his side lay an English rifle, and a
"patou-patou," a kind of two-headed ax of an emerald color, and eighteen
inches long. Beside him sat nine armed warriors of inferior rank,
ferocious-looking fellows, some of them suffering from recent wounds.
They sat quite motionless, wrapped in their flax mantles.
Three savage-looking dogs lay at their feet. The eight rowers
in the prow seemed to be servants or slaves of the chief.
They rowed vigorously, and propelled the boat against the not
very rapid current of the Waikato, with extraordinary velocity.
In the center of this long canoe, with their feet tied together,
sat ten European prisoners closely packed together.
It was Glenarvan and Lady Helena, Mary Grant, Robert, Paganel,
the Major, John Mangles, the steward, and the two sailors.
The night before, the little band had unwittingly, owing to
the mist, encamped in the midst of a numerous party of natives.
Toward the middle of the night they were surprised in their sleep,
were made prisoners, and carried on board the canoe. They had not been
ill-treated, so far, but all attempts at resistance had been vain.
Their arms and ammunition were in the hands of the savages,
and they would soon have been targets for their own balls.
They were soon aware, from a few English words used by the natives,
that they were a retreating party of the tribe who had been beaten
and decimated by the English troops, and were on their way back
to the Upper Waikato. The Maori chief, whose principal warriors had
been picked off by the soldiers of the 42nd Regiment, was returning
to make a final appeal to the tribes of the Waikato district,
so that he might go to the aid of the indomitable William Thompson,
who was still holding his own against the conquerors.
The chief's name was "Kai-Koumou," a name of evil boding in the
native language, meaning "He who eats the limbs of his enemy."
He was bold and brave, but his cruelty was equally remarkable.
No pity was to be expected at his hands. His name was well known
to the English soldiers, and a price had been set on his head
by the governor of New Zealand.
This terrible blow befell Glenarvan at the very moment when
he was about to reach the long-desired haven of Auckland,
and so regain his own country; but no one who looked at his cool,
calm features, could have guessed the anguish he endured.
Glenarvan always rose to his misfortunes. He felt that his part
was to be the strength and the example of his wife and companions;
that he was the head and chief; ready to die for the rest
if circumstances required it. He was of a deeply religious
turn of mind, and never lost his trust in Providence nor
his belief in the sacred character of his enterprise.
In the midst of this crowning peril he did not give way to any
feeling of regret at having been induced to venture into this
country of savages.
His companions were worthy of him; they entered into his lofty views;
and judging by their haughty demeanor, it would scarcely have
been supposed that they were hurrying to the final catastrophe.
With one accord, and by Glenarvan's advice, they resolved
to affect utter indifference before the natives.
It was the only way to impress these ferocious natures.
Savages in general, and particularly the Maories,
have a notion of dignity from which they never derogate.
They respect, above all things, coolness and courage.
Glenarvan was aware that by this mode of procedure, he and his
companions would spare themselves needless humiliation.
From the moment of embarking, the natives, who were
very taciturn, like all savages, had scarcely exchanged a word,
but from the few sentences they did utter, Glenarvan felt
certain that the English language was familiar to them.
He therefore made up his mind to question the chief on the fate
that awaited them. Addressing himself to Kai-Koumou, he said
in a perfectly unconcerned voice:
"Where are we going, chief?"
Kai-Koumou looked coolly at him and made no answer.
"What are you going to do with us?" pursued Glenarvan.
A sudden gleam flashed into the eyes of Kai-Koumou, and he said
in a deep voice:
"Exchange you, if your own people care to have you; eat you
if they don't."
Glenarvan asked no further questions; but hope revived in his heart.
He concluded that some Maori chiefs had fallen into the hands of
the English, and that the natives would try to get them exchanged.
So they had a chance of salvation, and the case was not
quite so desperate.
The canoe was speeding rapidly up the river.
Paganel, whose excitable temperament always rebounded from
one extreme to the other, had quite regained his spirits.
He consoled himself that the natives were saving them the trouble
of the journey to the English outposts, and that was so much gain.
So he took it quite quietly and followed on the map the course
of the Waikato across the plains and valleys of the province.
Lady Helena and Mary Grant, concealing their alarm, conversed in
a low voice with Glenarvan, and the keenest physiognomists
would have failed to see any anxiety in their faces.
The Waikato is the national river in New Zealand. It is to the Maories
what the Rhine is to the Germans, and the Danube to the Slavs. In its
course of 200 miles it waters the finest lands of the North Island,
from the province of Wellington to the province of Auckland. It gave
its name to all those indomitable tribes of the river district,
which rose _en masse_ against the invaders.
The waters of this river are still almost strangers to any craft
but the native canoe. The most audacious tourist will scarcely
venture to invade these sacred shores; in fact, the Upper Waikato
is sealed against profane Europeans.
Paganel was aware of the feelings of veneration with which the natives
regard this great arterial stream. He knew that the English and
German naturalists had never penetrated further than its junction
with the Waipa. He wondered how far the good pleasure of Kai-Koumou
would carry his captives? He could not have guessed, but for hearing
the word "Taupo" repeatedly uttered between the chief and his warriors.
He consulted his map and saw that "Taupo" was the name of a lake
celebrated in geographical annals, and lying in the most mountainous
part of the island, at the southern extremity of Auckland province.
The Waikato passes through this lake and then flows on for 120 miles.
CHAPTER X A MOMENTOUS INTERVIEW
AN unfathomable gulf twenty-five miles long, and twenty miles
broad was produced, but long before historic times, by the falling
in of caverns among the trachytic lavas of the center of the island.
And these waters falling from the surrounding heights have taken
possession of this vast basin. The gulf has become a lake, but it
is also an abyss, and no lead-line has yet sounded its depths.
Such is the wondrous lake of Taupo, lying 1,250 feet above
the level of the sea, and in view of an amphitheater of mountains
2,400 feet high. On the west are rocky peaks of great size;
on the north lofty summits clothed with low trees; on the east
a broad beach with a road track, and covered with pumice stones,
which shimmer through the leafy screen of the bushes;
on the southern side rise volcanic cones behind a forest flat.
Such is the majestic frame that incloses this vast sheet of water
whose roaring tempests rival the cyclones of Ocean.
The whole region boils like an immense cauldron hung over
subterranean fires. The ground vibrates from the agitation
of the central furnace. Hot springs filter out everywhere.
The crust of the earth cracks in great rifts like a cake,
too quickly baked.
About a quarter of a mile off, on a craggy spur of the mountain
stood a "pah," or Maori fortress. The prisoners, whose feet
and hands were liberated, were landed one by one, and conducted
into it by the warriors. The path which led up to the intrenchment,
lay across fields of "phormium" and a grove of beautiful trees,
the "kai-kateas" with persistent leaves and red berries;
"dracaenas australis," the "ti-trees" of the natives,
whose crown is a graceful counterpart of the cabbage-palm,
and "huious," which are used to give a black dye to cloth.
Large doves with metallic sheen on their plumage, and a world
of starlings with reddish carmeles, flew away at the approach
of the natives.
After a rather circuitous walk, Glenarvan and his party arrived
at the "pah."
The fortress was defended by an outer inclosure of strong palisades,
fifteen feet high; a second line of stakes; then a fence composed
of osiers, with loop-holes, inclosed
V. IV. Verne the inner space, that is the plateau of the "pah,"
on which were erected the Maori buildings, and about forty
huts arranged symmetrically.
When the captives approached they were horror-struck at the sight
of the heads which adorned the posts of the inner circle.
Lady Helena and Mary Grant turned away their eyes more with disgust
than with terror. These heads were those of hostile chiefs who had
fallen in battle, and whose bodies had served to feed the conquerors.
The geographer recognized that it was so, from their eye sockets
being hollow and deprived of eye-balls.
Glenarvan and his companions had taken in all this scene at a glance.
They stood near an empty house, waiting the pleasure of the chief,
and exposed to the abuse of a crowd of old crones. This troop of harpies
surrounded them, shaking their fists, howling and vociferating.
Some English words that escaped their coarse mouths left no doubt
that they were clamoring for immediate vengeance.
In the midst of all these cries and threats, Lady Helena,
tranquil to all outward seeming, affected an indifference she
was far from feeling. This courageous woman made heroic efforts
to restrain herself, lest she should disturb Glenarvan's coolness.
Poor Mary Grant felt her heart sink within her, and John Mangles
stood by ready to die in her behalf. His companions bore
the deluge of invectives each according to his disposition;
the Major with utter indifference, Paganel with exasperation
that increased every moment.
Glenarvan, to spare Lady Helena the attacks of these witches,
walked straight up to Kai-Koumou, and pointing to the hideous group:
"Send them away," said he.
The Maori chief stared fixedly at his prisoner without speaking;
and then, with a nod, he silenced the noisy horde. Glenarvan bowed,
as a sign of thanks, and went slowly back to his place.
At this moment a hundred Maories were assembled in the "pah,"
old men, full grown men, youths; the former were calm, but gloomy,
awaiting the orders of Kai-Koumou; the others gave themselves up
to the most violent sorrow, bewailing their parents and friends
who had fallen in the late engagements.
Kai-Koumou was the only one of all the chiefs that obeyed the call
of William Thompson, who had returned to the lake district,
and he was the first to announce to his tribe the defeat of the national
insurrection, beaten on the plains of the lower Waikato. Of the two
hundred warriors who, under his orders, hastened to the defence
of the soil, one hundred and fifty were missing on his return.
Allowing for a number being made prisoners by the invaders,
how many must be lying on the field of battle, never to return
to the country of their ancestors!
This was the secret of the outburst of grief with which the tribe
saluted the arrival of Kai-Koumou. Up to that moment nothing had
been known of the last defeat, and the fatal news fell on them
like a thunder clap.
Among the savages, sorrow is always manifested by physical signs;
the parents and friends of deceased warriors, the women especially,
lacerated their faces and shoulders with sharpened shells.
The blood spurted out and blended with their tears.
Deep wounds denoted great despair. The unhappy Maories,
bleeding and excited, were hideous to look upon.
There was another serious element in their grief.
Not only had they lost the relative or friend they mourned,
but his bones would be missing in the family mausoleum.
In the Maori religion the possession of these relics is
regarded as indispensable to the destinies of the future life;
not the perishable flesh, but the bones, which are collected
with the greatest care, cleaned, scraped, polished, even varnished,
and then deposited in the "oudoupa," that is the "house of glory."
These tombs are adorned with wooden statues, representing with
perfect exactness the tattoo of the deceased. But now their tombs
would be left empty, the religious rites would be unsolemnized,
and the bones that escaped the teeth of the wild dog would
whiten without burial on the field of battle.
Then the sorrowful chorus redoubled. The menaces of the women
were intensified by the imprecations of the men against
the Europeans. Abusive epithets were lavished, the accompanying
gestures became more violent. The howl was about to end
in brutal action.
Kai-Koumou, fearing that he might be overpowered by the fanatics
of his tribe, conducted his prisoners to a sacred place,
on an abruptly raised plateau at the other end of the "pah."
This hut rested against a mound elevated a hundred feet above it,
which formed the steep outer buttress of the entrenchment.
In this "Ware-Atoua," sacred house, the priests or arikis taught
the Maories about a Triune God, father, son, and bird, or spirit.
The large, well constructed hut, contained the sacred and choice
food which Maoui-Ranga-Rangui eats by the mouths of his priests.
In this place, and safe for the moment from the frenzied natives,
the captives lay down on the flax mats. Lady Helena was
quite exhausted, her moral energies prostrate, and she fell
helpless into her husband's arms.
Glenarvan pressed her to his bosom and said:
"Courage, my dear Helena; Heaven will not forsake us!"
Robert was scarcely in when he jumped on Wilson's shoulders,
and squeezed his head through a crevice left between the roof
and the walls, from which chaplets of amulets were hung.
From that elevation he could see the whole extent of the "pah,"
and as far as Kai-Koumou's house.
"They are all crowding round the chief," said he softly.
"They are throwing their arms about. . . . They are howling. . . .
. Kai-Koumou is trying to speak."
Then he was silent for a few minutes.
"Kai-Koumou is speaking. . . . The savages are quieter.
. . . . They are listening. . . . ."
"Evidently," said the Major, "this chief has a personal interest
in protecting us. He wants to exchange his prisoners for some chiefs
of his tribe! But will his warriors consent?"
"Yes! . . . They are listening. . . . . They have dispersed, some are
gone into their huts. . . . The others have left the intrenchment."
"Are you sure?" said the Major.
"Yes, Mr. McNabbs," replied Robert, "Kai-Koumou is
left alone with the warriors of his canoe. . . . . Oh! one
of them is coming up here. . . . ."
"Come down, Robert," said Glenarvan.
At this moment, Lady Helena who had risen, seized her husband's arm.
"Edward," she said in a resolute tone, "neither Mary Grant nor I must
fall into the hands of these savages alive!"
And so saying, she handed Glenarvan a loaded revolver.
"Fire-arm!" exclaimed Glenarvan, with flashing eyes.
"Yes! the Maories do not search their prisoners. But, Edward, this is
for us, not for them."
Glenarvan slipped the revolver under his coat; at the same moment
the mat at the entrance was raised, and a native entered.
He motioned to the prisoners to follow him. Glenarvan and the rest
walked across the "pah" and stopped before Kai-Koumou. He was
surrounded by the principal warriors of his tribe, and among them
the Maori whose canoe joined that of the Kai-Koumou at the confluence
of Pohain-henna, on the Waikato. He was a man about forty
years of age, powerfully built and of fierce and cruel aspect.
His name was Kara-Tete, meaning "the irascible" in the native tongue.
Kai-Koumou treated him with a certain tone of respect, and by
the fineness of his tattoo, it was easy to perceive that Kara-Tete
held a lofty position in the tribe, but a keen observer would have
guessed the feeling of rivalry that existed between these two chiefs.
The Major observed that the influence of Kara-Tete gave umbrage
to Kai-Koumou. They both ruled the Waikato tribes, and were equal
in authority. During this interview Kai-Koumou smiled, but his eyes
betrayed a deep-seated enmity.
Kai-Koumou interrogated Glenarvan.
"You are English?" said he.
"Yes," replied Glenarvan, unhesitatingly, as his nationality
would facilitate the exchange.
"And your companions?" said Kai-Koumou.
"My companions are English like myself. We are shipwrecked travelers,
but it may be important to state that we have taken no part in the war."
"That matters little!" was the brutal answer of Kara-Tete.
"Every Englishman is an enemy. Your people invaded our island!
They robbed our fields! they burned our villages!"
"They were wrong!" said Glenarvan, quietly. "I say so,
because I think it, not because I am in your power."
"Listen," said Kai-Koumou, "the Tohonga, the chief priest of Noui-Atoua
has fallen into the hands of your brethren; he is a prisoner among
the Pakekas. Our deity has commanded us to ransom him. For my own part,
I would rather have torn out your heart, I would have stuck your head,
and those of your companions, on the posts of that palisade.
But Noui-Atoua has spoken."
As he uttered these words, Kai-Koumou, who till now had
been quite unmoved, trembled with rage, and his features
expressed intense ferocity.
Then after a few minutes' interval he proceeded more calmly.
"Do you think the English will exchange you for our Tohonga?"
Glenarvan hesitated, all the while watching the Maori chief.
"I do not know," said he, after a moment of silence.
"Speak," returned Kai-Koumou, "is your life worth that of our Tohonga?"
"No," replied Glenarvan. "I am neither a chief nor a priest
among my own people."
Paganel, petrified at this reply, looked at Glenarvan in amazement.
Kai-Koumou appeared equally astonished.
"You doubt it then?" said he.
"I do not know," replied Glenarvan.
"Your people will not accept you as an exchange for Tohonga?"
"Me alone? no," repeated Glenarvan. "All of us perhaps they might."
"Our Maori custom," replied Kai-Koumou, "is head for head."
"Offer first these ladies in exchange for your priest," said Glenarvan,
pointing to Lady Helena and Mary Grant.
Lady Helena was about to interrupt him. But the Major held her back.
"Those two ladies," continued Glenarvan, bowing respectfully
toward Lady Helena and Mary Grant, "are personages of rank
in their own country."
The warrior gazed coldly at his prisoner. An evil smile
relaxed his lips for a moment; then he controlled himself,
and in a voice of ill-concealed anger:
"Do you hope to deceive Kai-Koumou with lying words,
accursed Pakeka? Can not the eyes of Kai-Koumou read hearts?"
And pointing to Lady Helena: "That is your wife?" he said.
"No! mine!" exclaimed Kara-Tete.
And then pushing his prisoners aside, he laid his hand on the shoulder
of Lady Helena, who turned pale at his touch.
"Edward!" cried the unfortunate woman in terror.
Glenarvan, without a word, raised his arm, a shot! and Kara-Tete fell
at his feet.
The sound brought a crowd of natives to the spot. A hundred arms
were ready, and Glenarvan's revolver was snatched from him.
Kai-Koumou glanced at Glenarvan with a curious expression:
then with one hand protecting Glenarvan, with the other he waved
off the crowd who were rushing on the party.
At last his voice was heard above the tumult.
"Taboo! Taboo!" he shouted.
At that word the crowd stood still before Glenarvan and his companions,
who for the time were preserved by a supernatural influence.
A few minutes after they were re-conducted to Ware-Atoua, which was
their prison. But Robert Grant and Paganel were not with them.
CHAPTER XI THE CHIEF'S FUNERAL
KAI-KOUMOU, as frequently happens among the Maories,
joined the title of ariki to that of tribal chief.
He was invested with the dignity of priest, and, as such,
he had the power to throw over persons or things the superstitious
protection of the "taboo."
The "taboo," which is common to all the Polynesian races,
has the primary effect of isolating the "tabooed" person and preventing
the use of "tabooed" things. According to the Maori doctrine,
anyone who laid sacrilegious hands on what had been declared
"taboo," would be punished with death by the insulted deity,
and even if the god delayed the vindication of his power,
the priests took care to accelerate his vengeance.
By the chiefs, the "taboo" is made a political engine,
except in some cases, for domestic reasons. For instance,
a native is tabooed for several days when his hair is cut;
when he is tattooed; when he is building a canoe,
or a house; when he is seriously ill, and when he is dead.
If excessive consumption threatens to exterminate the fish
of a river, or ruin the early crop of sweet potatoes,
these things are put under the protection of the taboo.
If a chief wishes to clear his house of hangers-on, he taboos it;
if an English trader displeases him he is tabooed.
His interdict has the effect of the old royal "veto."
If an object is tabooed, no one can touch it with impunity.
When a native is under the interdict, certain aliments
are denied him for a prescribed period. If he is relieved,
as regards the severe diet, his slaves feed him with the viands
he is forbidden to touch with his hands; if he is poor
and has no slaves, he has to take up the food with his mouth,
like an animal.
In short, the most trifling acts of the Maories are directed and modified
by this singular custom, the deity is brought into constant contact
with their daily life. The taboo has the same weight as a law;
or rather, the code of the Maories, indisputable and undisputed,
is comprised in the frequent applications of the taboo.
As to the prisoners confined in the Ware-Atoua, it was an
arbitrary taboo which had saved them from the fury of the tribe.
Some of the natives, friends and partisans of Kai-Koumou,
desisted at once on hearing their chief's voice, and protected
the captives from the rest.
Glenarvan cherished no illusive hopes as to his own fate;
nothing but his death could atone for the murder of a chief,
and among these people death was only the concluding act of a
martyrdom of torture. Glenarvan, therefore, was fully prepared
to pay the penalty of the righteous indignation that nerved
his arm, but he hoped that the wrath of Kai-Koumou would not
extend beyond himself.
What a night he and his companions passed! Who could picture
their agonies or measure their sufferings? Robert and Paganel had
not been restored to them, but their fate was no doubtful matter.
They were too surely the first victims of the frenzied natives.
Even McNabbs, who was always sanguine, had abandoned hope.
John Mangles was nearly frantic at the sight of Mary Grant's
despair at being separated from her brother. Glenarvan pondered
over the terrible request of Lady Helena, who preferred
dying by his hand to submitting to torture and slavery.
How was he to summon the terrible courage!
"And Mary? who has a right to strike her dead?" thought John,
whose heart was broken.
Escape was clearly impossible. Ten warriors, armed to the teeth,
kept watch at the door of Ware-Atoua.
The morning of February 13th arrived. No communication had
taken place between the natives and the "tabooed" prisoners.
A limited supply of provisions was in the house, which the unhappy
inmates scarcely touched. Misery deadened the pangs of hunger.
The day passed without change, and without hope; the funeral
ceremonies of the dead chief would doubtless be the signal
for their execution.
Although Glenarvan did not conceal from himself the probability
that Kai-Koumou had given up all idea of exchange, the Major
still cherished a spark of hope.
"Who knows," said he, as he reminded Glenarvan of the effect produced
on the chief by the death of Kara-Tete--"who knows but that Kai-Koumou,
in his heart, is very much obliged to you?"
But even McNabbs' remarks failed to awaken hope in Glenarvan's mind.
The next day passed without any appearance of preparation for
their punishment; and this was the reason of the delay.
The Maories believe that for three days after death the soul
inhabits the body, and therefore, for three times twenty-four hours,
the corpse remains unburied. This custom was rigorously observed.
Till February 15th the "pah" was deserted.
John Mangles, hoisted on Wilson's shoulders, frequently reconnoitered
the outer defences. Not a single native was visible; only the watchful
sentinels relieving guard at the door of the Ware-Atoua.
But on the third day the huts opened; all the savages, men, women,
and children, in all several hundred Maories, assembled in the "pah,"
silent and calm.
Kai-Koumou came out of his house, and surrounded by the
principal chiefs of his tribe, he took his stand on a mound
some feet above the level, in the center of the enclosure.
The crowd of natives formed in a half circle some distance off,
in dead silence.
At a sign from Kai-Koumou, a warrior bent his steps toward Ware-Atoua.
"Remember," said Lady Helena to her husband. Glenarvan pressed
her to his heart, and Mary Grant went closer to John Mangles,
and said hurriedly:
"Lord and Lady Glenarvan cannot but think if a wife may claim death
at her husband's hands, to escape a shameful life, a betrothed
wife may claim death at the hands of her betrothed husband,
to escape the same fate. John! at this last moment I ask you,
have we not long been betrothed to each other in our secret hearts?
May I rely on you, as Lady Helena relies on Lord Glenarvan?"
"Mary!" cried the young captain in his despair. "Ah! dear Mary--"
The mat was lifted, and the captives led to Kai-Koumou;
the two women were resigned to their fate; the men dissembled
their sufferings with superhuman effort.
They arrived in the presence of the Maori chief.
"You killed Kara-Tete," said he to Glenarvan.
"I did," answered Glenarvan.
"You die to-morrow at sunrise."
"Alone?" asked Glenarvan, with a beating heart.
"Oh! if our Tohonga's life was not more precious than yours!"
exclaimed Kai-Koumou, with a ferocious expression of regret.
At this moment there was a commotion among the natives.
Glenarvan looked quickly around; the crowd made way, and a warrior
appeared heated by running, and sinking with fatigue.
Kai-Koumou, as soon as he saw him, said in English, evidently for
the benefit of the captives:
"You come from the camp of the Pakekas?"
"Yes," answered the Maori.
"You have seen the prisoner, our Tohonga?"
"I have seen him."
"Dead! English have shot him."
It was all over with Glenarvan and his companions.
"All!" cried Kai-Koumou; "you all die to-morrow at daybreak."
Punishment fell on all indiscriminately. Lady Helena and Mary Grant
were grateful to Heaven for the boon.
The captives were not taken back to Ware-Atoua. They were
destined to attend the obsequies of the chief and the bloody
rites that accompanied them. A guard of natives conducted
them to the foot of an immense kauri, and then stood on guard
without taking their eyes off the prisoners.
The three prescribed days had elapsed since the death of
Kara-Tete, and the soul of the dead warrior had finally departed;
so the ceremonies commenced.
The body was laid on a small mound in the central enclosure.
It was clothed in a rich dress, and wrapped in a magnificent flax mat.
His head, adorned with feathers, was encircled with a crown of
green leaves. His face, arms, and chest had been rubbed with oil,
and did not show any sign of decay.
The parents and friends arrived at the foot of the mound, and at
a certain moment, as if the leader of an orchestra were leading
a funeral chant, there arose a great wail of tears, sighs, and sobs.
They lamented the deceased with a plaintive rhythm and doleful cadence.
The kinsmen beat their heads; the kinswomen tore their faces
with their nails and lavished more blood than tears.
But these demonstrations were not sufficient to propitiate the soul
of the deceased, whose wrath might strike the survivors of his tribe;
and his warriors, as they could not recall him to life, were anxious
that he should have nothing to wish for in the other world.
The wife of Kara-Tete was not to be parted from him; indeed, she would
have refused to survive him. It was a custom, as well as a duty,
and Maori history has no lack of such sacrifices.
This woman came on the scene; she was still young. Her disheveled
hair flowed over her shoulders. Her sobs and cries filled the air.
Incoherent words, regrets, sobs, broken phrases in which she extolled
the virtues of the dead, alternated with her moans, and in a crowning
paroxysm of sorrow, she threw herself at the foot of the mound and beat
her head on the earth.
The Kai-Koumou drew near; suddenly the wretched victim rose;
but a violent blow from a "MERE," a kind of club brandished
by the chief, struck her to the ground; she fell senseless.
Horrible yells followed; a hundred arms threatened the
terror-stricken captives. But no one moved, for the funeral
ceremonies were not yet over.
The wife of Kara-Tete had joined her husband. The two
bodies lay stretched side by side. But in the future life,
even the presence of his faithful companion was not enough.
Who would attend on them in the realm of Noui-Atoua, if their
slaves did not follow them into the other world.
Six unfortunate fellows were brought to the mound. They were
attendants whom the pitiless usages of war had reduced to slavery.
During the chief's lifetime they had borne the severest privations,
and been subjected to all kinds of ill-usage; they had been
scantily fed, and incessantly occupied like beasts of burden,
and now, according to Maori ideas, they were to resume to all
eternity this life of bondage.
These poor creatures appeared quite resigned to their destiny.
They were not taken by surprise. Their unbound hands showed
that they met their fate without resistance.
Their death was speedy and not aggravated by tedious suffering;
torture was reserved for the authors of the murder, who, only twenty
paces off, averted their eyes from the horrible scene which was
to grow yet more horrible.
Six blows of the MERE, delivered by the hands of six powerful warriors,
felled the victims in the midst of a sea of blood.
This was the signal for a fearful scene of cannibalism. The bodies
of slaves are not protected by taboo like those of their masters.
They belong to the tribe; they were a sort of small change thrown among
the mourners, and the moment the sacrifice was over, the whole crowd,
chiefs, warriors, old men, women, children, without distinction of age,
or sex, fell upon the senseless remains with brutal appetite.
Faster than a rapid pen could describe it, the bodies, still reeking,
were dismembered, divided, cut up, not into morsels, but into crumbs.
Of the two hundred Maories present everyone obtained a share.
They fought, they struggled, they quarreled over the smallest fragment.
The drops of hot blood splashed over these festive monsters,
and the whole of this detestable crew groveled under a rain of blood.
It was like the delirious fury of tigers fighting over their prey,
or like a circus where the wild beasts devour the deer.
This scene ended, a score of fires were lit at various points
of the "pah"; the smell of charred flesh polluted the air;
and but for the fearful tumult of the festival, but for the cries
that emanated from these flesh-sated throats, the captives might
have heard the bones crunching under the teeth of the cannibals.
Glenarvan and his companions, breathless with horror, tried to
conceal this fearful scene from the eyes of the two poor ladies.
They understood then what fate awaited them next day at dawn,
and also with what cruel torture this death would be preceded.
They were dumb with horror.
The funeral dances commenced. Strong liquors distilled from
the "piper excelsum" animated the intoxication of the natives.
They had nothing human left. It seemed possible that the "taboo"
might be forgotten, and they might rush upon the prisoners,
who were already terrified at their delirious gestures.
But Kai-Koumou had kept his own senses amidst the general delirium.
He allowed an hour for this orgy of blood to attain its maximum
and then cease, and the final scene of the obsequies was performed
with the accustomed ceremonial.
The corpses of Kara-Tete and his wife were raised, the limbs were bent,
and laid against the stomach according to the Maori usage;
then came the funeral, not the final interment, but a burial until
the moment when the earth had destroyed the flesh and nothing
remained but the skeleton.
The place of "oudoupa," or the tomb, had been chosen
outside the fortress, about two miles off at the top
of a low hill called Maunganamu, situated on the right bank
of the lake, and to this spot the body was to be taken.
Two palanquins of a very primitive kind, hand-barrows, in fact,
were brought to the foot of the mound, and the corpses doubled
up so that they were sitting rather than lying, and their
garments kept in place by a band of hanes, were placed on them.
Four warriors took up the litters on their shoulders,
and the whole tribe, repeating their funeral chant, followed in
procession to the place of sepulture.
The captives, still strictly guarded, saw the funeral cortege leave
the inner inclosure of the "pah"; then the chants and cries grew fainter.
For about half an hour the funeral procession remained out of sight,
in the hollow valley, and then came in sight again winding up the
mountain side; the distance gave a fantastic effect to the undulating
movement of this long serpentine column.
The tribe stopped at an elevation of about 800 feet, on the summit
of Maunganamu, where the burial place of Kara-Tete had been prepared.
An ordinary Maori would have had nothing but a hole and a heap of earth.
But a powerful and formidable chief destined to speedy deification,
was honored with a tomb worthy of his exploits.
The "oudoupa" had been fenced round, and posts, surmounted with faces
painted in red ochre, stood near the grave where the bodies were to lie.
The relatives had not forgotten that the "Waidoua," the spirit
of the dead, lives on mortal food, as the body did in this life.
Therefore, food was deposited in the inclosure as well as the arms
and clothing of the deceased. Nothing was omitted for comfort.
The husband and wife were laid side by side, then covered with earth
and grass, after another series of laments.
Then the procession wound slowly down the mountain, and henceforth
none dare ascend the slope of Maunganamu on pain of death,
for it was "tabooed," like Tongariro, where lie the ashes
of a chief killed by an earthquake in 1846.
CHAPTER XII STRANGELY LIBERATED
JUST as the sun was sinking beyond Lake Taupo, behind the peaks of
Tuhahua and Pukepapu, the captives were conducted back to their prison.
They were not to leave it again till the tops of the Wahiti Ranges
were lit with the first fires of day.
They had one night in which to prepare for death.
Overcome as they were with horror and fatigue, they took their
last meal together.
"We shall need all our strength," Glenarvan had said, "to look death
in the face. We must show these savages how Europeans can die."
The meal ended. Lady Helena repeated the evening prayer aloud,
her companions, bare-headed, repeated it after her.
Who does not turn his thoughts toward God in the hour of death?
This done, the prisoners embraced each other. Mary Grant and Helena,
in a corner of the hut, lay down on a mat. Sleep, which keeps
all sorrow in abeyance, soon weighed down their eyelids;
they slept in each other's arms, overcome by exhaustion
and prolonged watching.
Then Glenarvan, taking his friends aside, said: "My dear friends,
our lives and the lives of these poor women are in God's hands.
If it is decreed that we die to-morrow, let us die bravely,
like Christian men, ready to appear without terror before the
Supreme Judge. God, who reads our hearts, knows that we had a noble end
in view. If death awaits us instead of success, it is by His will.
Stern as the decree may seem, I will not repine. But death here,
means not death only, it means torture, insult, perhaps, and here
are two ladies--"
Glenarvan's voice, firm till now, faltered. He was silent a moment,
and having overcome his emotion, he said, addressing the young captain:
"John, you have promised Mary what I promised Lady Helena.
What is your plan?"
"I believe," said John, "that in the sight of God I have a right
to fulfill that promise."
"Yes, John; but we are unarmed."
"No!" replied John, showing him a dagger. "I snatched it from Kara-Tete
when he fell at your feet. My Lord, whichever of us survives the other
will fulfill the wish of Lady Helena and Mary Grant."
After these words were said, a profound silence ensued.
At last the Major said: "My friends, keep that to the last moment.
I am not an advocate of irremediable measures."
"I did not speak for ourselves," said Glenarvan. "Be it as it may,
we can face death! Had we been alone, I should ere now have cried,
'My friends, let us make an effort. Let us attack these wretches!'
But with these poor girls--"
At this moment John raised the mat, and counted twenty-five natives
keeping guard on the Ware-Atoua. A great fire had been lighted,
and its lurid glow threw into strong relief the irregular outlines
of the "pah." Some of the savages were sitting round the brazier;
the others standing motionless, their black outlines relieved
against the clear background of flame. But they all kept watchful
guard on the hut confided to their care.
It has been said that between a vigilant jailer and a prisoner
who wishes to escape, the chances are in favor of the prisoner;
the fact is, the interest of the one is keener than that of the other.
The jailer may forget that he is on guard; the prisoner never forgets
that he is guarded. The captive thinks oftener of escaping than
the jailer of preventing his flight, and hence we hear of frequent
and wonderful escapes.
But in the present instance hatred and revenge were the jailers--
not an indifferent warder; the prisoners were not bound,
but it was because bonds were useless when five-and-twenty men
were watching the only egress from the Ware-Atoua.
This house, with its back to the rock which closed the fortress,
was only accessible by a long, narrow promontory which joined
it in front to the plateau on which the "pah" was erected.
On its two other sides rose pointed rocks, which jutted out over
an abyss a hundred feet deep. On that side descent was impossible,
and had it been possible, the bottom was shut in by the enormous rock.
The only outlet was the regular door of the Ware-Atoua, and the Maories
guarded the promontory which united it to the "pah" like a drawbridge.
All escape was thus hopeless, and Glenarvan having tried the walls
for the twentieth time, was compelled to acknowledge that it was so.
The hours of this night, wretched as they were, slipped away.
Thick darkness had settled on the mountain. Neither moon
nor stars pierced the gloom. Some gusts of wind whistled
by the sides of the "pah," and the posts of the house creaked:
the fire outside revived with the puffs of wind, and the flames
sent fitful gleams into the interior of Ware-Atoua. The group
of prisoners was lit up for a moment; they were absorbed in their
last thoughts, and a deathlike silence reigned in the hut.
It might have been about four o'clock in the morning when the Major's
attention was called to a slight noise which seemed to come from the
foundation of the posts in the wall of the hut which abutted on the rock.
McNabbs was at first indifferent, but finding the noise continue,
he listened; then his curiosity was aroused, and he put his ear
to the ground; it sounded as if someone was scraping or hollowing
out the ground outside.
As soon as he was sure of it, he crept over to Glenarvan and John Mangles,
and startling them from their melancholy thoughts, led them to the end
of the hut.
"Listen," said he, motioning them to stoop.
The scratching became more and more audible; they could hear
the little stones grate on a hard body and roll away.
"Some animal in his burrow," said John Mangles.
Glenarvan struck his forehead.
"Who knows?" said he, "it might be a man."
"Animal or man," answered the Major, "I will soon find out!"
Wilson and Olbinett joined their companions, and all united to dig
through the wall--John with his dagger, the others with stones
taken from the ground, or with their nails, while Mulrady,
stretched along the ground, watched the native guard through
a crevice of the matting.
These savages sitting motionless around the fire, suspected nothing
of what was going on twenty feet off.
The soil was light and friable, and below lay a bed of silicious tufa;
therefore, even without tools, the aperture deepened quickly.
It soon became evident that a man, or men, clinging to the sides
of the "pah," were cutting a passage into its exterior wall.
What could be the object? Did they know of the existence
of the prisoners, or was it some private enterprise that led
to the undertaking?
The prisoners redoubled their efforts. Their fingers bled, but still
they worked on; after half an hour they had gone three feet deep;
they perceived by the increased sharpness of the sounds that only a thin
layer of earth prevented immediate communication.
Some minutes more passed, and the Major withdrew his hand
from the stroke of a sharp blade. He suppressed a cry.
John Mangles, inserting the blade of his poniard, avoided the knife
which now protruded above the soil, but seized the hand that wielded it.
It was the hand of a woman or child, a European! On
V. IV Verne neither side had a word been uttered.
It was evidently the cue of both sides to be silent.
"Is it Robert?" whispered Glenarvan.
But softly as the name was breathed, Mary Grant, already awakened
by the sounds in the hut, slipped over toward Glenarvan, and seizing
the hand, all stained with earth, she covered it with kisses.
"My darling Robert," said she, never doubting, "it is you! it is you!"
"Yes, little sister," said he, "it is I am here to save you all;
but be very silent."
"Brave lad!" repeated Glenarvan.
"Watch the savages outside," said Robert.
Mulrady, whose attention was distracted for a moment by the appearance
of the boy, resumed his post.
"It is all right," said he. "There are only four awake;
the rest are asleep."
A minute after, the hole was enlarged, and Robert passed from the arms
of his sister to those of Lady Helena. Round his body was rolled a long
coil of flax rope.
"My child, my child," murmured Lady Helena, "the savages did
not kill you!"
"No, madam," said he; "I do not know how it happened, but in the scuffle
I got away; I jumped the barrier; for two days I hid in the bushes,
to try and see you; while the tribe were busy with the chief's funeral,
I came and reconnoitered this side of the path, and I saw that I could
get to you. I stole this knife and rope out of the desert hut.
The tufts of bush and the branches made me a ladder, and I found
a kind of grotto already hollowed out in the rock under this hut;
I had only to bore some feet in soft earth, and here I am."
Twenty noiseless kisses were his reward.
"Let us be off!" said he, in a decided tone.
"Is Paganel below?" asked Glenarvan.
"Monsieur Paganel?" replied the boy, amazed.
"Yes; is he waiting for us?"
"No, my Lord; but is he not here?" inquired Robert.
"No, Robert!" answered Mary Grant.
"Why! have you not seen him?" asked Glenarvan. "Did you lose
each other in the confusion? Did you not get away together?"
"No, my Lord!" said Robert, taken aback by the disappearance
of his friend Paganel.
"Well, lose no more time," said the Major. "Wherever Paganel is,
he cannot be in worse plight than ourselves. Let us go."
Truly, the moments were precious. They had to fly.
The escape was not very difficult, except the twenty feet
of perpendicular fall outside the grotto.
After that the slope was practicable to the foot of the mountain.
From this point the prisoners could soon gain the lower valleys;
while the Maories, if they perceived the flight of the prisoners,
would have to make a long round to catch them, being unaware
of the gallery between the Ware-Atoua and the outer rock.
The escape was commenced, and every precaution was taken.
The captives passed one by one through the narrow passage
into the grotto. John Mangles, before leaving the hut,
disposed of all the evidences of their work, and in his turn slipped
through the opening and let down over it the mats of the house,
so that the entrance to the gallery was quite concealed.
The next thing was to descend the vertical wall to the slope below,
and this would have been impracticable, but that Robert had brought
the flax rope, which was now unrolled and fixed to a projecting point
of rock, the end hanging over.
John Mangles, before his friends trusted themselves to this
flax rope, tried it; he did not think it very strong;
and it was of importance not to risk themselves imprudently,
as a fall would be fatal.
"This rope," said he, "will only bear the weight of two persons;
therefore let us go in rotation. Lord and Lady Glenarvan first;
when they arrive at the bottom, three pulls at the rope will be
a signal to us to follow."
"I will go first," said Robert. "I discovered a deep hollow
at the foot of the slope where those who come down can conceal
themselves and wait for the rest."
"Go, my boy," said Glenarvan, pressing Robert's hand.
Robert disappeared through the opening out of the grotto.
A minute after, the three pulls at the cord informed them
the boy had alighted safely.
Glenarvan and Lady Helena immediately ventured out of the grotto.
The darkness was still very great, though some grayish streaks
were already visible on the eastern summits.
The biting cold of the morning revived the poor young lady.
She felt stronger and commenced her perilous descent.
Glenarvan first, then Lady Helena, let themselves down along the rope,
till they came to the spot where the perpendicular wall met the top
of the slope. Then Glenarvan going first and supporting his wife,
began to descend backward.
He felt for the tufts and grass and shrubs able to afford a foothold;
tried them and then placed Lady Helena's foot on them.
Some birds, suddenly awakened, flew away, uttering feeble cries,
and the fugitives trembled when a stone loosened from its bed
rolled to the foot of the mountain.
They had reached half-way down the slope, when a voice was heard
from the opening of the grotto.
"Stop!" whispered John Mangles.
Glenarvan, holding with one hand to a tuft of tetragonia,
with the other holding his wife, waited with breathless anxiety.
Wilson had had an alarm. Having heard some unusual noise outside
the Ware-Atoua, he went back into the hut and watched the Maories
from behind the mat. At a sign from him, John stopped Glenarvan.
One of the warriors on guard, startled by an unusual sound,
rose and drew nearer to the Ware-Atoua. He stood still about two
paces from the hut and listened with his head bent forward.
He remained in that attitude for a minute that seemed an hour,
his ear intent, his eye peering into the darkness.
Then shaking his head like one who sees he is mistaken,
he went back to his companions, took an armful of dead wood,
and threw it into the smouldering fire, which immediately revived.
His face was lighted up by the flame, and was free from any look
of doubt, and after having glanced to where the first light
of dawn whitened the eastern sky, stretched himself near the fire
to warm his stiffened limbs.
"All's well!" whispered Wilson.
John signaled to Glenarvan to resume his descent.
Glenarvan let himself gently down the slope; soon Lady Helena
and he landed on the narrow track where Robert waited for them.
The rope was shaken three times, and in his turn John Mangles,
preceding Mary Grant, followed in the dangerous route.
He arrived safely; he rejoined Lord and Lady Glenarvan in the hollow
mentioned by Robert.
Five minutes after, all the fugitives had safely escaped
from the Ware-Atoua, left their retreat, and keeping away
from the inhabited shores of the lakes, they plunged by narrow
paths into the recesses of the mountains.
They walked quickly, trying to avoid the points where they
might be seen from the pah. They were quite silent, and glided
among the bushes like shadows. Whither? Where chance led them,
but at any rate they were free.
Toward five o'clock, the day began to dawn, bluish clouds marbled
the upper stratum of clouds. The misty summits began to pierce
the morning mists. The orb of day was soon to appear, and instead
of giving the signal for their execution, would, on the contrary,
announce their flight.
It was of vital importance that before the decisive moment arrived
they should put themselves beyond the reach of the savages,
so as to put them off their track. But their progress was slow,
for the paths were steep. Lady Glenarvan climbed the slopes,
supported, not to say carried, by Glenarvan, and Mary Grant
leaned on the arm of John Mangles; Robert, radiant with joy,
triumphant at his success, led the march, and the two sailors
brought up the rear.
Another half an hour and the glorious sun would rise out of
the mists of the horizon. For half an hour the fugitives walked
on as chance led them. Paganel was not there to take the lead.
He was now the object of their anxiety, and whose absence was a black
shadow between them and their happiness. But they bore steadily eastward,
as much as possible, and faced the gorgeous morning light.
Soon they had reached a height of 500 feet above Lake Taupo,
and the cold of the morning, increased by the altitude, was very keen.
Dim outlines of hills and mountains rose behind one another;
but Glenarvan only thought how best to get lost among them.
Time enough by and by to see about escaping from the labyrinth.
At last the sun appeared and sent his first rays on their path.
Suddenly a terrific yell from a hundred throats rent the air.
It came from the pah, whose direction Glenarvan did not know.
Besides, a thick veil of fog, which, spread at his feet,
prevented any distinct view of the valleys below.
But the fugitives could not doubt that their escape had been discovered;
and now the question was, would they be able to elude pursuit?
Had they been seen? Would not their track betray them?
At this moment the fog in the valley lifted, and enveloped them
for a moment in a damp mist, and at three hundred feet below they
perceived the swarming mass of frantic natives.
While they looked they were seen. Renewed howls broke forth,
mingled with the barking of dogs, and the whole tribe, after vainly
trying to scale the rock of Ware-Atoua, rushed out of the pah,
and hastened by the shortest paths in pursuit of the prisoners
who were flying from their vengeance.
CHAPTER XIII THE SACRED MOUNTAIN
THE summit of the mountain was still a hundred feet above them.
The fugitives were anxious to reach it that they might continue
their flight on the eastern slope out of the view of their pursuers.
They hoped then to find some practicable ridge that would allow
of a passage to the neighboring peaks that were thrown together
in an orographic maze, to which poor Paganel's genius would doubtless
have found the clew.
They hastened up the slope, spurred on by the loud cries that drew
nearer and nearer. The avenging crowd had already reached the foot
of the mountain.
"Courage! my friends," cried Glenarvan, urging his companions
by voice and look.
In less than five minutes they were at the top of the mountain,
and then they turned to judge of their position, and decide
on a route that would baffle their pursuers.
From their elevated position they could see over Lake Taupo,
which stretched toward the west in its setting of picturesque mountains.
On the north the peaks of Pirongia; on the south the burning crater
of Tongariro. But eastward nothing but the rocky barrier of peaks
and ridges that formed the Wahiti ranges, the great chain whose unbroken
links stretch from the East Cape to Cook's Straits. They had no
alternative but to descend the opposite slope and enter the narrow gorges,
uncertain whether any outlet existed.
Glenarvan could not prolong the halt for a moment.
Wearied as they might be, they must fly or be discovered.
"Let us go down!" cried he, "before our passage is cut off."
But just as the ladies had risen with a despairing effort,
McNabbs stopped them and said:
"Glenarvan, it is useless. Look!"
And then they all perceived the inexplicable change that had taken
place in the movements of the Maories.
Their pursuit had suddenly stopped. The ascent of the mountain
had ceased by an imperious command. The natives had paused in
their career, and surged like the sea waves against an opposing rock.
All the crowd, thirsting for blood, stood at the foot of the mountain
yelling and gesticulating, brandishing guns and hatchets, but not
advancing a foot. Their dogs, rooted to the spot like themselves,
barked with rage.
What stayed them? What occult power controlled these savages?
The fugitives looked without understanding, fearing lest the charm
that enchained Kai-Koumou's tribe should be broken.
Suddenly John Mangles uttered an exclamation which attracted
the attention of his companions. He pointed to a little inclosure
on the summit of the cone.
"The tomb of Kara-Tete!" said Robert.
"Are you sure, Robert?" said Glenarvan.
"Yes, my Lord, it is the tomb; I recognize it."
Robert was right. Fifty feet above, at the extreme peak of the mountain,
freshly painted posts formed a small palisaded inclosure,
and Glenarvan too was convinced that it was the chief's burial place.
The chances of their flight had led them to the crest of Maunganamu.
Glenarvan, followed by the rest, climbed to the foot of the tomb.
A large opening, covered with mats, led into it.
Glenarvan was about to invade the sanctity of the "oudoupa,"
when he reeled backward.
"A savage!" said he.
"In the tomb?" inquired the Major.
"No matter; go in."
Glenarvan, the Major, Robert and John Mangles entered.
There sat a Maori, wrapped in a large flax mat; the darkness
of the "oudoupa" preventing them from distinguishing his features.
He was very quiet, and was eating his breakfast quite coolly.
Glenarvan was about to speak to him when the native forestalled
him by saying gayly and in good English:
"Sit down, my Lord; breakfast is ready."
It was Paganel. At the sound of his voice they all rushed
into the "oudoupa," and he was cordially embraced all round.
Paganel was found again. He was their salvation. They wanted
to question him; to know how and why he was here on the summit
of Maunganamu; but Glenarvan stopped this misplaced curiosity.
"The savages?" said he.
"The savages," said Paganel, shrugging his shoulders.
"I have a contempt for those people! Come and look at them."
They all followed Paganel out of the "oudoupa." The Maories
were still in the same position round the base of the mountain,
uttering fearful cries.
"Shout! yell! till your lungs are gone, stupid wretches!"
said Paganel. "I dare you to come here!"
"But why?" said Glenarvan.
"Because the chief is buried here, and the tomb protects us,
because the mountain is tabooed."
"Yes, my friends! and that is why I took refuge here, as the malefactors
used to flee to the sanctuaries in the middle ages."
"God be praised!" said Lady Helena, lifting her hands to heaven.
The fugitives were not yet out of danger, but they had a moment's respite,
which was very welcome in their exhausted state.
Glenarvan was too much overcome to speak, and the Major nodded
his head with an air of perfect content.
"And now, my friends," said Paganel, "if these brutes think
to exercise their patience on us, they are mistaken.
In two days we shall be out of their reach."
"By flight!" said Glenarvan. "But how?"
"That I do not know," answered Paganel, "but we shall manage it."
And now everybody wanted to know about their friend's adventures.
They were puzzled by the reserve of a man generally so talkative;
on this occasion they had to drag the words out of his mouth;
usually he was a ready story-teller, now he gave only evasive
answers to the questions of the rest.
"Paganel is another man!" thought McNabbs.
His face was really altered. He wrapped himself closely
in his great flax mat and seemed to deprecate observation.
Everyone noticed his embarrassment, when he was the subject
of conversation, though nobody appeared to remark it;
when other topics were under discussion, Paganel resumed
his usual gayety.
Of his adventures all that could be extracted from him at this time
was as follows:
After the murder of Kara-Tete, Paganel took advantage, like Robert,
of the commotion among the natives, and got out of the inclosure.
But less fortunate than young Grant, he walked straight into
a Maori camp, where he met a tall, intelligent-looking chief,
evidently of higher rank than all the warriors of his tribe.
The chief spoke excellent English, and he saluted the new-comer by
rubbing the end of his nose against the end of the geographer's nose.
Paganel wondered whether he was to consider himself a prisoner or not.
But perceiving that he could not stir without the polite escort
of the chief, he soon made up his mind on that point.
This chief, Hihi, or Sunbeam, was not a bad fellow.
Paganel's spectacles and telescope seemed to give him a great
idea of Paganel's importance, and he manifested great attachment
to him, not only by kindness, but by a strong flax rope,
especially at night.
This lasted for three days; to the inquiry whether he was well treated,
he said "Yes and no!" without further answer; he was a prisoner,
and except that he expected immediate execution, his state seemed to him
no better than that in which he had left his unfortunate friends.
One night, however, he managed to break his rope and escape.
He had seen from afar the burial of the chief, and knew that he was
buried on the top of Maunganamu, and he was well acquainted
with the fact that the mountain would be therefore tabooed.
He resolved to take refuge there, being unwilling to leave
the region where his companions were in durance. He succeeded
in his dangerous attempt, and had arrived the previous night
at the tomb of Kara-Tete, and there proposed to recruit his
strength while he waited in the hope that his friends might,
by Divine mercy, find the means of escape.
Such was Paganel's story. Did he designedly conceal
some incident of his captivity? More than once his
embarrassment led them to that conclusion. But however
that might be, he was heartily congratulated on all sides.
And then the present emergency came on for serious discussion.
The natives dare not climb Maunganamu, but they, of course,
calculated that hunger and thirst would restore them their prey.
It was only a question of time, and patience is one of the virtues
of all savages. Glenarvan was fully alive to the difficulty,
but made up his mind to watch for an opportunity, or make one.
First of all he made a thorough survey of Maunganamu,
their present fortress; not for the purpose of defence, but of escape.
The Major, John, Robert, Paganel, and himself, made an exact map
of the mountain. They noted the direction, outlet and inclination
of the paths. The ridge, a mile in length, which united
Maunganamu to the Wahiti chain had a downward inclination.
Its slope, narrow and jagged though it was, appeared the only
practicable route, if they made good their escape at all.
If they could do this without observation, under cover of night,
they might possibly reach the deep valleys of the Range and put
the Maories off the scent.
But there were dangers in this route; the last part of it
was within pistol shot of natives posted on the lower slopes.
Already when they ventured on the exposed part of the crest,
they were saluted with a hail of shot which did not reach them.
Some gun wads, carried by the wind, fell beside them; they were
made of printed paper, which Paganel picked up out of curiosity,
and with some trouble deciphered.
"That is a good idea! My friends, do you know what those creatures
use for wads?"
"No, Paganel!" said Glenarvan.
"Pages of the Bible! If that is the use they make of the
Holy Book, I pity the missionaries! It will be rather difficult
to establish a Maori library."
"And what text of scripture did they aim at us?"
"A message from God Himself!" exclaimed John Mangles,
who was in the act of reading the scorched fragment of paper.
"It bids us hope in Him," added the young captain, firm in
the faith of his Scotch convictions.
"Read it, John!" said Glenarvan.
And John read what the powder had left visible: "I will deliver him,
for he hath trusted in me."
"My friends," said Glenarvan, "we must carry these words of hope
to our dear, brave ladies. The sound will bring comfort
to their hearts."
Glenarvan and his companions hastened up the steep path to the cone,
and went toward the tomb. As they climbed they were astonished
to perceive every few moments a kind of vibration in the soil.
It was not a movement like earthquake, but that peculiar tremor
that affects the metal of a boiler under high pressure.
It was clear the mountain was the outer covering of a body of vapor,
the product of subterranean fires.
This phenomenon of course excited no surprise in those that had
just traveled among the hot springs of the Waikato. They knew
that the central region of the Ika-na-Mani is essentially volcanic.
It is a sieve, whose interstices furnish a passage for the earth's
vapors in the shape of boiling geysers and solfataras.
Paganel, who had already noticed this, called the attention
of his friends to the volcanic nature of the mountain.
The peak of Maunganamu was only one of the many cones which bristle
on this part of the island. It was a volcano of the future.
A slight mechanical change would produce a crater of eruption
in these slopes, which consisted merely of whitish silicious tufa.
"That may be," said Glenarvan, "but we are in no more danger
here than standing by the boiler of the DUNCAN; this solid
crust is like sheet iron."
"I agree with you," added the Major, "but however good a boiler may be,
it bursts at last after too long service."
"McNabbs," said Paganel, "I have no fancy for staying on the cone.
When Providence points out a way, I will go at once."
"I wish," remarked John, "that Maunganamu could carry us himself,
with all the motive power that he has inside. It is too bad that millions
of horse-power should lie under our feet unavailable for our needs.
Our DUNCAN would carry us to the end of the world with the thousandth
part of it."
The recollections of the DUNCAN evoked by John Mangles
turned Glenarvan's thoughts into their saddest channel;
for desperate as his own case was he often forgot it, in vain
regret at the fate of his crew.
His mind still dwelt on it when he reached the summit of Maunganamu
and met his companions in misfortune.
Lady Helena, when she saw Glenarvan, came forward to meet him.
"Dear Edward," said she, "you have made up your mind?
Are we to hope or fear?"
"Hope, my dear Helena," replied Glenarvan. "The natives will
never set foot on the mountain, and we shall have time to devise
a plan of escape."
"More than that, madam, God himself has encouraged us to hope."
And so saying, John Mangles handed to Lady Helena the fragment of paper on
which was legible the sacred words; and these young women, whose trusting
hearts were always open to observe Providential interpositions,
read in these words an indisputable sign of salvation.
"And now let us go to the 'oudoupa!'" cried Paganel, in his
gayest mood. "It is our castle, our dining-room, our study!
None can meddle with us there! Ladies! allow me to do the honors
of this charming abode."
They followed Paganel, and when the savages saw them profaning
anew the tabooed burial place, they renewed their fire
and their fearful yells, the one as loud as the other.
But fortunately the balls fell short of our friends,
though the cries reached them.
Lady Helena, Mary Grant, and their companions were quite relieved to find
that the Maories were more dominated by superstition than by anger,
and they entered the monument.
It was a palisade made of red-painted posts. Symbolic figures,
tattooed on the wood, set forth the rank and achievements
of the deceased. Strings of amulets, made of shells or
cut stones, hung from one part to another. In the interior,
the ground was carpeted with green leaves, and in the middle,
a slight mound betokened the place of the newly made grave.
There lay the chief's weapons, his guns loaded and capped,
his spear, his splendid ax of green jade, with a supply of powder
and ball for the happy hunting grounds.
"Quite an arsenal!" said Paganel, "of which we shall make a better use.
What ideas they have! Fancy carrying arms in the other world!"
"Well!" said the Major, "but these are English firearms."
"No doubt," replied Glenarvan, "and it is a very unwise practice
to give firearms to savages! They turn them against the invaders,
naturally enough. But at any rate, they will be very valuable to us."
"Yes," said Paganel, "but what is more useful still is the food
and water provided for Kara-Tete."
Things had been handsomely done for the deceased chief;
the amount of provisions denoted their esteem for the departed.
There was food enough to sustain ten persons for fifteen days,
or the dead man forever.
The vegetable aliments consisted of edible ferns, sweet potatoes,
the "convolvulus batatas," which was indigenous, and the potato
which had been imported long before by the Europeans. Large jars
contained pure water, and a dozen baskets artistically plaited
contained tablets of an unknown green gum.
The fugitives were therefore provided for some days against
hunger and thirst, and they needed no persuasion to begin
their attack on the deceased chief's stores. Glenarvan brought
out the necessary quantity and put them into Olbinett's hands.
The steward, who never could forget his routine ideas, even in
the most exceptional circumstances, thought the meal a slender one.
He did not know how to prepare the roots, and, besides, had no fire.
But Paganel soon solved the difficulty by recommending him
to bury his fern roots and sweet potatoes in the soil.
The temperature of the surface stratum was very high,
and a thermometer plunged into the soil would have marked
from 160 to 170 degrees; in fact, Olbinett narrowly missed
being scalded, for just as he had scooped a hole for the roots,
a jet of vapor sprang up and with a whistling sound rose six
feet above the ground.
The steward fell back in terror.
"Shut off steam!" cried the Major, running to close the hole
with the loose drift, while Paganel pondering on the singular
phenomenon muttered to himself:
"Let me see! ha! ha! Why not?"
"Are you hurt?" inquired McNabbs of Olbinett.
"No, Major," said the steward, "but I did not expect--"
"That Providence would send you fire," interrupted Paganel
in a jovial tone. "First the larder of Kara-Tete and then fire
out of the ground! Upon my word, this mountain is a paradise!
I propose that we found a colony, and cultivate the soil and settle
here for life! We shall be the Robinsons of Maunganamu. We should
want for nothing."
"If it is solid ground," said John Mangles.
"Well! it is not a thing of yesterday," said Paganel. "It has stood
against the internal fire for many a day, and will do so till we leave it,
at any rate."
"Breakfast is ready," announced Olbinett with as much dignity
as if he was in Malcolm Castle.
Without delay, the fugitives sat down near the palisade, and began
one of the many meals with which Providence had supplied them
in critical circumstances. Nobody was inclined to be fastidious,
but opinions were divided as regarded the edible fern.
Some thought the flavor sweet and agreeable, others pronounced
it leathery, insipid, and resembling the taste of gum.
The sweet potatoes, cooked in the burning soil, were excellent.
The geographer remarked that Kara-Tete was not badly off after all.
And now that their hunger was appeased, it was time to decide
on their plan of escape.
"So soon!" exclaimed Paganel in a piteous tone. "Would you quit
the home of delight so soon?"
"But, Monsieur Paganel," interposed Lady Helena, "if this be Capua,
you dare not intend to imitate Hannibal!"
"Madam, I dare not contradict you, and if discussion is the order
of the day, let it proceed."
"First," said Glenarvan, "I think we ought to start before we are driven
to it by hunger. We are revived now, and ought to take advantage of it.
To-night we will try to reach the eastern valleys by crossing the cordon
of natives under cover of the darkness."
"Excellent," answered Paganel, "if the Maories allow us to pass."
"And if not?" asked John Mangles.
"Then we will use our great resources," said Paganel.
"But have we great resources?" inquired the Major.
"More than we can use!" replied Paganel, without any further explanation.
And then they waited for the night.
The natives had not stirred. Their numbers seemed even greater,
perhaps owing to the influx of the stragglers of the tribe.
Fires lighted at intervals formed a girdle of flame round the base
of the mountain, so that when darkness fell, Maunganamu appeared to rise
out of a great brasier, and to hide its head in the thick darkness.
Five hundred feet below they could hear the hum and the cries
of the enemy's camp.
At nine o'clock the darkness being very intense,
Glenarvan and John Mangles went out to reconnoiter before
embarking the whole party on this critical journey.
They made the descent noiselessly, and after about ten minutes,
arrived on the narrow ridge that crossed the native lines,
fifty feet above the camp.
All went well so far. The Maories, stretched beside the fires,
did not appear to observe the two fugitives. But in an instant
a double fusillade burst forth from both sides of the ridge.
"Back," exclaimed Glenarvan; "those wretches have the eyes of cats
and the guns of riflemen!"
And they turned, and once more climbed the steep slope of the mountain,
and then hastened to their friends who had been alarmed at the firing.
Glenarvan's hat was pierced by two balls, and they concluded that it
was out of the question to venture again on the ridge between two
lines of marksmen.
"Wait till to-morrow," said Paganel, "and as we cannot elude
their vigilance, let me try my hand on them."
The night was cold; but happily Kara-Tete had been furnished
with his best night gear, and the party wrapped themselves each
in a warm flax mantle, and protected by native superstition,
slept quietly inside the inclosure, on the warm ground,
still violating with the violence of the internal ebullition.
CHAPTER XIV A BOLD STRATAGEM
NEXT day, February 17th, the sun's first rays awoke the sleepers of
the Maunganamu. The Maories had long since been astir, coming and going
at the foot of the mountain, without leaving their line of observation.
Furious clamor broke out when they saw the Europeans leave the sacred
place they had profaned.
Each of the party glanced first at the neighboring mountains,
and at the deep valleys still drowned in mist, and over
Lake Taupo, which the morning breeze ruffled slightly.
And then all clustered round Paganel eager to hear his project.
Paganel soon satisfied their curiosity. "My friends," said he,
"my plan has one great recommendation; if it does not accomplish all
that I anticipate, we shall be no worse off than we are at present.
But it must, it will succeed."
"And what is it?" asked McNabbs.
"It is this," replied Paganel, "the superstition of the natives has
made this mountain a refuge for us, and we must take advantage of their
superstition to escape. If I can persuade Kai-Koumou that we have
expiated our profanation, that the wrath of the Deity has fallen on us:
in a word, that we have died a terrible death, do you think he will leave
the plateau of Maunganamu to return to his village?"
"Not a doubt of it," said Glenarvan.
"And what is the horrible death you refer to?" asked Lady Helena.
"The death of the sacrilegious, my friends,"
replied Paganel. "The avenging flames are under our feet.
Let us open a way for them!"
"What! make a volcano!" cried John Mangles.
"Yes, an impromptu volcano, whose fury we can regulate. There are plenty
of vapors ready to hand, and subterranean fires ready to issue forth.
We can have an eruption ready to order."
"An excellent idea, Paganel; well conceived," said the Major.
"You understand," replied the geographer, "we are to pretend to fall
victims to the flames of the Maori Pluto, and to disappear spiritually
into the tomb of Kara-Tete. And stay there three, four, even five days
if necessary--that is to say, till the savages are convinced that we
have perished, and abandon their watch."
"But," said Miss Grant, "suppose they wish to be sure of our punishment,
and climb up here to see?"
"No, my dear Mary," returned Paganel. "They will not do that.
The mountain is tabooed, and if it devoured its sacrilegious intruders,
it would only be more inviolably tabooed."
"It is really a very clever plan," said Glenarvan. "There is
only one chance against it; that is, if the savages prolong their
watch at the foot of Maunganamu, we may run short of provisions.
But if we play our game well there is not much fear of that."
"And when shall we try this last chance?" asked Lady Helena.
"To-night," rejoined Paganel, "when the darkness is the deepest."
"Agreed," said McNabbs; "Paganel, you are a genius! and I, who seldom
get up an enthusiasm, I answer for the success of your plan.
Oh! those villains! They shall have a little miracle that will put
off their conversion for
V. IV Verne another century. I hope the missionaries will forgive us."
The project of Paganel was therefore adopted, and certainly
with the superstitious ideas of the Maories there seemed
good ground for hope. But brilliant as the idea might be,
the difficulty was in the _modus operandi_. The volcano
might devour the bold schemers, who offered it a crater.
Could they control and direct the eruption when they had succeeded
in letting loose its vapor and flames, and lava streams?
The entire cone might be engulfed. It was meddling with phenomena
of which nature herself has the absolute monopoly.
Paganel had thought of all this; but he intended to act
prudently and without pushing things to extremes.
An appearance would be enough to dupe the Maories, and there
was no need for the terrible realities of an eruption.
How long that day seemed. Each one of the party inwardly
counted the hours. All was made ready for flight. The oudoupa
provisions were divided and formed very portable packets.
Some mats and firearms completed their light equipment,
all of which they took from the tomb of the chief.
It is needless to say that their preparations were made within
the inclosure, and that they were unseen by the savages.
At six o'clock the steward served up a refreshing meal. Where or when
they would eat in the valleys of the Ranges no one could foretell.
So that they had to take in supplies for the future. The principal
dish was composed of half a dozen rats, caught by Wilson and stewed.
Lady Helena and Mary Grant obstinately refused to taste this game,
which is highly esteemed by the natives; but the men enjoyed it
like the real Maories. The meat was excellent and savory, and the six
devourers were devoured down to the bones.
The evening twilight came on. The sun went down in a stormy-looking
bank of clouds. A few flashes of lightning glanced across the horizon
and distant thunder pealed through the darkened sky.
Paganel welcomed the storm, which was a valuable aid
to his plans, and completed his program. The savages are
superstitiously affected by the great phenomena of nature.
The New Zealanders think that thunder is the angry voice
of Noui-Atoua, and lightning the fierce gleam of his eyes.
Thus their deity was coming personally to chastise the violators
of the taboo.
At eight o'clock, the summit of the Maunganamu was lost in
portentous darkness. The sky would supply a black background for
the blaze which Paganel was about to throw on it. The Maories could
no longer see their prisoners; and this was the moment for action.
Speed was necessary. Glenarvan, Paganel, McNabbs, Robert, the steward,
and the two sailors, all lent a hand.
The spot for the crater was chosen thirty paces from Kara-Tete's tomb.
It was important to keep the oudoupa intact, for if it disappeared,
the taboo of the mountain would be nullified. At the spot
mentioned Paganel had noticed an enormous block of stone,
round which the vapors played with a certain degree of intensity.
This block covered a small natural crater hollowed in the cone,
and by its own weight prevented the egress of the subterranean fire.
If they could move it from its socket, the vapors and the lava
would issue by the disencumbered opening.
The workers used as levers some posts taken from the interior of the
oudoupa, and they plied their tools vigorously against the rocky mass.
Under their united efforts the stone soon moved. They made a little
trench so that it might roll down the inclined plane. As they
gradually raised it, the vibrations under foot became more distinct.
Dull roarings of flame and the whistling sound of a furnace ran along
under the thin crust. The intrepid la-borers, veritable Cyclops
handling Earth's fires, worked in silence; soon some fissures and
jets of steam warned them that their place was growing dangerous.
But a crowning effort moved the mass which rolled down and disappeared.
Immediately the thin crust gave way. A column of fire rushed to the sky
with loud detonations, while streams of boiling water and lava flowed
toward the native camp and the lower valleys.
All the cone trembled as if it was about to plunge into a fathomless gulf.
Glenarvan and his companions had barely time to get out
of the way; they fled to the enclosure of the oudoupa,
not without having been sprinkled with water at 220 degrees.
This water at first spread a smell like soup, which soon changed
into a strong odor of sulphur.
Then the mud, the lava, the volcanic stones, all spouted
forth in a torrent. Streams of fire furrowed the sides
of Maunganamu. The neighboring mountains were lit up by the glare;
the dark valleys were also filled with dazzling light.
All the savages had risen, howling under the pain inflicted
by the burning lava, which was bubbling and foaming in the midst
of their camp.
Those whom the liquid fire had not touched fled to the surrounding hills;
then turned, and gazed in terror at this fearful phenomenon,
this volcano in which the anger of their deity would
swallow up the profane intruders on the sacred mountain.
Now and then, when the roar of the eruption became less violent,
their cry was heard:
"Taboo! taboo! taboo!"
An enormous quantity of vapors, heated stones and lava was escaping
by this crater of Maunganamu. It was not a mere geyser like those that
girdle round Mount Hecla, in Iceland, it was itself a Hecla. All this
volcanic commotion was confined till then in the envelope of the cone,
because the safety valve of Tangariro was enough for its expansion;
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