Indirections: A Memoir 1909-1947
Chapter Eight — Hallenstein Bros
grandfather came over to Melbourne to meet me. In Sydney we stayed with Emily at Pymble. Soon after, Kate and Tommy arrived, and set off for a tour of the east which took them, among other places, to Java and to Angkor. Kate, extraordinarily brave and gay, was trying to distract Tommy from the heavy drinking to which he had fallen victim and which was to kill him a few years later.
I kept avoiding discussion of my future, to Grandfather's baffled dismay. I was resigned to what had to be, but did not wish to meet it sooner than I must. We returned to Dunedin, and after the holidays I was put to work in Hallenstein Brothers' warehouse, under a kindly Lewis Barclay who was to show me the ropes. I had to become familiar with every item of stock the firm dealt in, learning the whole trade from the bottom, and so work my way up. I was also expected to take accountancy classes at night, but that I managed to postpone.
I think I had made up my mind beforehand that business was not for me and that I was going to hate it. I stayed at Manono for a while. Sitting briefly on the front veranda before breakfast on summer mornings early in the year, looking down through the green depths of the garden to blue sky beyond and blue harbour below, I thought the world had never looked so miraculously beautiful, no greens and blues so intense and alive and eloquent, no play of sunlight in moving leaves and across lawns so rich and full of meaning. It represented what I was leaving behind, it seemed to me as I set off for work.
For I was only partly back in New Zealand. The centre of my world now was England, Europe; there my heart remained; there my thoughts turned. I was living, outside work hours, page 174in the bosom of the family, and meeting old Dunedin friends, but few other people. When I went to see John Laing at Outram, where he was working in the bank, we were still friends, but I think I felt how small a part of the other's life each of us could share now. I avoided my Waitaki friends. Inevitably they would think me changed, and would wonder what I had done to justify it, what I had to show for it; they would ask questions I could not answer without shame, for there was nothing, nothing at all that I could speak about. One day as I was returning to work after lunch one of them, talking on the pavement not far from the corner of Dowling Street, called to me as I passed. I kept my head down, pretending not to hear, not stopping. He caught my arm and called again — 'Charles! Charles!' I wrenched free, not looking, not answering, and hurried on.
James and Ian remained. Almost alone, they seemed to have gone with me; they would not be strangers anywhere. When James came down from Auckland at the end of January I went up to Waitaki for a week-end. Nothing was changed between us, nothing done or undone mattered, we were our old, our true selves still, and the world was still before us. We talked, among other things, about the magazine James was planning in Auckland, and about one that we three might run jointly, when they had gone overseas and returned. Their support, the knowledge that they still counted me one of themselves, gave me my only strength. When they drove me back to Dunedin on Sunday night in The Man's car, and I said goodbye to them at the foot of Mount Cargill, in the dark, I wanted to kneel down and kiss their hands in gratitude and love. With them, I was a New Zealander, whatever else I might be as well.
The country as I knew it, living there again, excited and moved and depressed me. Physically, it was as beautiful as always, wholly itself, hardly changed by what I had seen abroad. But the towns, and the life lived in them — the word that came to me for these (it had come when I saw Perth on the voyage out) was formless. I was reading Forster and Dostoievsky and Jane Austen and Rilke and now Kafka, having discovered The Castle, with Auden's Poems, The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge, and one or two other quite new books, in a surprisingly good small book shop in Sydney, the Roycroft. I had read Forster's five novels page 175since schools, some of them more than once, and was soon to read the overwhelming Brothers Karamazov. Hilda Hallenstein had introduced me to Rilke, whom I was drinking in by a sort of osmosis — although removed by the veil of language his work seemed so close to me, an astonishing discovery of the familiar, the once known and forgotten; poems, Malte, the Letters to a Young Poet: with all their strangeness, their circumstances so remote from mine, they were written, undoubtedly, for me. And that I think I felt of no other writer except, a little later, Wordsworth.
All these worked together in me, for me, and the word formless, by which they led me to describe New Zealand life, had moral as well as aesthetic connotations. It meant mindlessness and torpor; failure to distinguish and discriminate; the ugliness of living content with the second-best. It applied to standards generally, to behaviour and manners, to the raw shapeless towns, scattered thinly about the country like an unrelated, unassimilable scum of human tide-wrack, with their bleeding colour and un-human corrugated iron. A few people, a few lives, in my acquaintance, could not be so described; but into the prevailing formlessness I had somehow to fit myself and conform. I think I was not prepared to, or, rather, did not even consider it; I knew without thinking that I had to lead my own life, no matter how or where so it was my own.
I knew. I could even make a decision. But could I act on it? In my turmoil of mind after seeing James and Ian, I decided that I must leave the business — not at once, but as soon as my father, who was unwell, came out of hospital after an operation. Whether that was really consideration for him, or only weakness of will, I do not know. I was sure that Grandfather, if not my father, would allow me enough to live on.
Well, there was a plan of sorts, but, living from day to day, I felt no certainty that I could carry it out. Fear, lassitude, selfdoubt, habit, all continued to unsettle me. So did the few friends on the spot to whom I turned for support. Dora de Beer had stayed on in Dunedin after her mother's death; her being there in itself helped to strengthen me, although I did not feel able to confide in her. The spirited and delightful Swiss Mrs Spencer, mother-in-law of one of our old family friends the Patersons, page 176with whom I was reading German and Italian, reminded me that after all one had to live: man muss leben. The friend to whom I came closest then, Bettina Collier, was more positive — she thought I ought to stay in Dunedin and in the business, with Grandfather, for his sake. Which shook me more than anything else. And she did not wait to be argued with, but returned immediately after to Wellington, where she was a young house-surgeon.
The Colliers too were old family friends, but of a different order, their lives and opinions entirely their own. Mr and Mrs Collier had come from England when young; he was a solicitor, rather delicate, retiring and studious, with a large head, pince-nez, a butterfly collar, and a slightly provincial accent — they came from Reading or near it. Mrs Collier was as quiet and gentle as she was strong and loving. She wore her straight hair in a loose bun on top of her head, and was indifferent about clothes, simply unaware of them. Her face seemed always aglow, whether she was smiling or not, lit with love for her family and other people and her garden and the world; the faces of some of Renoir's women are lit like hers; she was as selfless as possible for one to whom living gave such intense pleasure.
Lel and I had always known the Collier children, Pruie and Bettina who were older, and Hilary, the only boy, who was my age. But I had not known them well, for myself, before this time. Now Bettina and I became fast friends, and I felt the greatest admiration and affection for Mrs Collier. She was a passionate gardener, who collected native plants on summer expeditions all over the South Island. Mr and Mrs Collier were Baptists who might have been Quakers. Because Mr Collier so much enjoyed the music at the cathedral he eventually became an Anglican; his wife followed him, rather out of wifely duty than conviction, Bettina told me. Pruie and Hilary too became Anglicans, but Bettina joined no church; on official forms she called herself a Protestant, but did not believe in any Christian dogma; she tried to follow Christ's example and teaching.
I always associated Mrs Collier very oddly with root artichokes (one of my favourite vegetables) — perhaps I first consciously liked them in her house. It was a house as individual as she was; very awkwardly planned in fact, but a delight to visit. page 177It stood on sloping grounds below Cliffs Road, St Clair. You entered from the top end; a passage winding past several doors led you to steps that descended into the living-room, a narrow room running the whole breadth of the house, built out on wooden legs and probably a later addition. Its large windows opened onto a magnificent view: the ocean, the whole length of St Clair and St Kilda beaches and the cliffs beyond, the Peninsula, part of the town between sea and harbour, and, through a group of tall bluegums downhill, Mt Cargill to the north. You looked along the lines of the waves driving, rolling in, the nearest only a few hundred yards away and perhaps one hundred and fifty feet below. You always heard the sea, loudly in rough weather; and smelt its salt. Above and behind stood Cargill's Castle and the cliffs winding south to Black Head, where the Colliers constantly walked and which I got to know with them. They belonged in this setting.*
Bettina loved poetry, without making strictly literary judgements of it. She read my poems, with appreciation that warmed me. And still she thought I ought to stay in the business! That reflected her admiration for Grandfather more than her understanding of me. When she married a few years later I made the judgement she was making now, rather shocked that she should quite suddenly leave her adored mother, whom she had just returned from England to be with, and go off across the world with a man she had met for the first time only a few weeks before. Yet I felt as close to her in most ways as to any woman I knew. She seemed born to be a doctor. Compassion was the music to which she moved. Wherever she might be, she was impelled to help other people, no matter whom, especially simpler and more helpless sufferers, and poor and old people, and children above all, who turned to her as naturally as flowers to the sun.
* See poem 'Lines from Black Head', in The Estate
It was another yet the same glacial wind under the stars that had helped mould the Park where I sat to its perfect shape; such glacial waters that had fretted and moulded the stones on its shore. And those winds and waters worked on me, I thought, to the same intent, to make of me something I could not foresee; I was to leave myself open to them, not to let myself slip now into some pre-ordained fixed stock shape, my responses ordered, mind and sense all but closed; to take whatever chance might come; not to play safe. To be like the Park itself, a jewelled leaf, long, narrow, finely drawn, thrusting into the cold waters of the lake, nearly all shore surrounding a mere spine of rock and earth and that tall prow-wedge of trees, warm in their darkness, rocking, soughing. Like a dark agate, seen from above, the dense black centre, the palely lit shores. Shores of whitened stones that glowed in the strong clear light; a myriad of stones, each one warm and polished to its own shape, each veined, marked, glittering with mica grains, or with flecks of gold, or milkyglassy with quartz; each, it seemed, an individual that had taken hundreds or thousands of years to reach its special perfection. Those must be my exemplars, if natural objects could be; patient, wholly themselves, enduring. *
* See poem 'Queenstown Park', in Home Ground
A few weeks later, Grandfather told my father. I was subjected to the usual battery of family wisdom. They wanted proof of my literary ability. They told me I could not possibly decide for or against business in so short a time. They said I could write in the evenings. They assured me that everyone passed through this stage of wanting to do something — foolish? extravagant? but they managed to leave the implication undefined. I was less 'developed' than X, a plausible slippery cousin a little younger than myself who had taken to business with avidity. I ought to earn my living. I must consider the disastrous possibilities of failure to do anything good. Yes, Yes. I doubted myself, utterly, and yet the only point in all this that moved me was whether I ought not to wait before making the break, and so satisfy them.
The men in the warehouse were not surprised, they told Grandfather; they did not think I'd be much good at business. They did not know — only I knew — that I had convinced myself beforehand I wasn't going to be. My regrets were only for Grandfather; and his disappointment, his restraint, made it harder than it would have been otherwise. But I managed to sit out the uproar. When I wrote to tell James, he replied that of course it was the only thing for me to do.
it was nine months before I returned to England. All that time I lived half in the waiting future, and yet no less fully in the present. First I went to stay with James and his family in Auckland. They were living in a new street in Devonport, looking across the channel to the long symmetrical lines of Rangitoto.* Pohutukawas grew at the water's edge beneath the low cliff of yellow clay; when we sat by the fire on still nights we could hear the sea among the rocks. On sunny mornings we swam briefly, although it was the end of May; we walked along the rocks and beaches to Takapuna, seeing as far away as the Hen and Chickens when it was clear, and blue Coromandel, smoke turned to stone.
* See poem 'A View of Rangitoto' in Disputed Ground
Blue of sea and sky and distance, and white vaporous cloud. Light in Auckland dominates, penetrates, suffuses, as nowhere else in New Zealand; it envelops earth and trees, buildings, people, in a liquid air which at any moment might dissolve them into itself. Land and its solids are there only a condition, changing all the time, of water, air, light.
I felt as much at home as always with Mrs Bertram, and in her informal quiet-speaking house contentedly, calmly free. But James here in Auckland was partly a stranger. At first I felt entirely passive, a foil to him who was so active; my ignorance seemed to me childish even if half innocent; and yet I was at home in myself and there, as I thought, in my rightful place on earth, unshaken for the moment by passions and jealousies, by identities I longed to enter and could not. James was now a man, years older than 1 in many ways — he had always been old, Mrs Bertram told me; old in the sense of caring, and acting responsibly, not from any want of youthful vigour and enthusiasm. As he had been a leading spirit at Waitaki, so now he belonged to the most gifted and active students at Auckland, and we spent much of our time with his particular friends. A few of them were to become my friends too, friends for life.
First of all, Jack Bennett. If in the conditions of a particular society men are born to be one thing rather than any other, Jack was a born scholar, one whose sympathies were wide and humane in inverse proportion to a narrow nonconformist background which it took determined courage for him to break away from. He was tender and generous and loved whatever is beautiful and excellent; unassertive, easily wounded, but with a quiet toughness of fibre as strong as his principles. He looked delicate and underfed, his pale brownish parchment skin went with weak eyesight and a slight scholarly stoop. But his brown hair grew thick and his fine voice came surprisingly deep and strong at times; his beautifully formed face with its perceptive generous mouth and candid glance showed delicacy but no weakness — a face to love and trust implicitly.
The keenest intellect of us all perhaps was Hector (D. H.) Monro, already moralist and philosopher, slow of speech but witty in talk as in writing, temperately sceptical, of cool sound literary judgement. He was smallish and sturdy, with wide-open page 181blue eyes honest and searching under prominent brow-ridges and fair skin and hair, a strong walker who smoked a short pipe. His nearest friend Blackwood Paul looked perennially gaunt and ascetic — brown hair, colourless pale skin, owlish round glasses — and spoke with mature deliberation, emphatically; he was reading law but in the end did not practise, being called to manage his father's bookshop in Hamilton, which he was to make in time the best in the country — the least worldly of successful practical men, an idealist who cared how the country was run, in small matters as in great.
I met again Warwick Stanton whom I had known at Waitaki, where he was admired as an unusually lovable gifted upright boy of whom much was expected; he was to die wastefully on Rua-pehu soon after — the first, for me, of a long roll of friends, all in some way exceptional, whom the mountains took. Fred Robertson was going into the Presbyterian ministry and later turned Anglican, a tall spare man with a Roman nose and authority and a great love of plainsong. Of their lecturers, it was P. S. Ardern, Pip, to whom James and Jack owed most. He was a fine scholar who would have made his name anywhere, they believed, and gave them an excellent grounding in Anglo-Saxon and Middle English and Icelandic; but as an eccentric and half-recluse he was not greatly trusted in the university hierarchy. Among several intelligent charming girls Jean Alison wrote and published poems, and for a long time James was very close to Jackie Martin.
James had time, it seemed, for everything; for concentrated study, for regular football, for clubs and debates and other student affairs, for literature, politics and religion, for walking and swimming and (when he could) riding. My own abilities were so circumscribed that I observed this with some awe. Not that he tried to lead his friends where they could not go; he seemed only to want them to be themselves. One day I found in town a copy of Edmund Blunden's Poems 1914-30, handsomely bound in white linen with gold lettering on the spine — Cobden-Sanderson was a publisher whose all too few books were notable for their good design, printing and binding. This was large, more than three hundred pages of poems running on without blank spaces, and James sat down and read it through page 182without stopping in a single afternoon or evening; then he gave his opinion of the poems. I should have taken several days to read them — I would have been surfeited after fifty pages — no, far less, and have had to put the book down and come back to it later. I was astonished, disturbed, and not a little envious, but James was unaware of my feeling; it was normal for him to read with such concentration; a few years afterwards he spoke of reading Paradise Lost at a sitting, in order to get a clear impression of it as a whole.
In literature I thought he showed quick sympathy and discernment and a just strictness; his sensibility was extraordinarily keen. His one seeming foible was that he liked to change his clothes several times a day according to what he was doing, which surprised and puzzled my priggish matter-of-factness. He did not seem to me strictly handsome, but the moulding of his strong face made mere good looks dull. If his eyes showed small and narrow, pressed between his upper cheeks and the full downy pads beneath his eyebrows, they were alive, his cheeks were rather heavy but with no superfluous flesh; his lower lip larger than the upper was rounded over very fully, protruding a little above his slightly cleft chin. His black hair curled crisp and tight, growing well forward down his forehead, his skin often looked ruddy, and I saw now that he had the long flat ears of a lohan. He gestured more than most people did with his hands and made quick decided movements of the head, affirmatively forward, tentative or questioning or surprised to one side, or thrusting forward and then partly withdrawing, pursing his lips in doubt, concession, half agreement; if angered by injustice or crassness he flared up (occasionally at me), sometimes he withdrew as if hurt and tender perhaps, but I seldom knew why. *
* See 'Semblances (i)' in Home Ground
Lel had been unwell; Tommy and Kate wanted her to stay at Amberley for rest and treatment and she must have spent several weeks with them. The digestive weakness she had shown in Melbourne had recurred, but this time I think it may have been due to the strain of the emotional demands which my father had been making on her since she left school two years earlier; she had travelled everywhere with him and until they got home she can have had relatively little life of her own. The dependence was mutual, no doubt, but I suppose his need of affection and companionship was too great for him to be able to see what he was demanding of her; while I having nothing to give him was quite unable to relieve her. She already wanted to go and live in London, and we talked of living there together; but — although I am sure I did not understand it then - it would have been as hard for her to leave my father as for him to let her go, and she would not be twenty-one for another year.
I continued to see Mrs Spencer and to read with her. And it was then I got to know Mrs Thompson, wife of the professor of modern languages at Otago University, as a friend of my own and not just as a Sunday visitor at Manono. Young people swarmed to her like bees to a hive; some because of her daughter Joan and their close friends Yvonne and Denise Champtaloup, all then students a little younger than myself and girls of more than ordinary good looks, grace and intelligence; but most I think continued to come for her sake, drawn by a still more potent charm, and she kept open house for them.
Of Grandfather's other visitors, I got to know the Galways page 184too at that time. Dr Galway was a rotund bald bouncing genial Englishman, who came to Dunedin from Brisbane as organist of First Church, and became the first professor of music at Otago. He was by his own account a Bach man, being an organist, and in his later narrower years no other composer interested him. He lectured very agreeably for Adult Education or w.e.a. classes on the appreciation of music and was sanguine, high-spirited and good company. Mrs Galway had grown up in Scotland and then lived in Australia with a learned bachelor uncle who taught I believe, at a college that trained Presbyterian ministers and who awakened her mind early. Her low soft voice gave charm of a kind I was not familiar with to a strongly Scottish pronunciation; most of the Scots-speaking women I knew were simpler, homelier, at least in speech. Mrs Galway was graceful, handsome, a little delicate-looking, with large fine eyes — she reminded me of Clint's portrait of Shelley — and with a decided touch of the wayward, the spoiled and kittenish. She rather seized on me, and I spent many evenings at her house reading and talking about poetry while her husband was lecturing or playing. I do not remember that we discussed religion and I doubt if it meant very much to her. Those evenings warmed me when I badly needed support; they were stimulating emotionally, if not intellectually, although I made no such distinction at the time.
In August 1931, on James's twenty-first birthday, the morning paper reported that he had been nominated as one of two Auckland candidates for Rhodes Scholarships; the other nominee, whom I did not then know, being John Mulgan. Scholarships to take students abroad were fewer then than now, and among them the two annual Rhodes Scholarships held extraordinary prestige; Rhodes Scholars became, for a short time, national figures. So, two months later, it happened to James and to G. S. Cox from Otago when they were chosen out of a field of eight or more. At the same time or soon after, Jack Bennett got a post-graduate scholarship which was to take him to Merton; and two years later Ian got a Rhodes, none having been awarded for 1933.
James came down to Waitaki for prize-giving, sat on the page 185stage in the new Hall of Memories, and was displayed to the school by The Man. He was planning a magazine which he was to edit for Auckland University College Literary Glub; it was to be printed by Robert Lowry and the first number was to come out early in the next term. At the end of January 1932 James, Ian and I spent a week-end at the Milners' bach at Waianakarua, where we wrote a good deal of that first number of the Phoenix. We were given an escort from Oamaru by a party of four, including Ian's brothers Hugh and John, two of them carrying rifles; Hugh and John fetched us again in the car three days later. The bach was a disused tram which The Man had had moved there some years before; it stood on a hillside among manuka, above the stream; we cooked on a fire outside. I seem to remember that the week-end was damp and rather chilly, that we sat up late at night writing and talking, and got up late in the morning. After every meal, Ian went down to the stream to brush his teeth, a habit in which he was so meticulous that it seemed a rite, as I have often noticed since.
James had six associate editors, Jean Alison, Rilda Gorrie, Rona Munro, Allen Curnow, D. H. Monro, and Blackwood Paul. There were nine contributors to the first number, we three, Rilda Gorrie and Allen Curnow, D'Arcy Cresswell, R. A. K. Mason, Jack Bennett, and Robert Lowry. The Phoenix was intended as a manifesto. It was to be a forum for the best original writing offering; its scope was to be nationwide; its interests did not stop with literature: 'The Phoenix is edited by a committee of people interested in literature, art and public affairs, more particularly in their latest developments in this country.' No literary journal then existed in New Zealand; there was no recognizable New Zealand literature. R. A. K. Mason had brought out three small collections of his poems in Auckland, and Ursula Bethell one — but in London; they were scarcely known. D'Arcy Cresswell had published The Poet's Progress in 1930, also in London; and there was Katherine Mansfield.
So what the Phoenix said was, in effect: 'Here we are: New Zealand literature begins here.' Coming from Mason and Cresswell, the claim was just; Allen Curnow, A. R. D. Fairburn, J. C. Beaglehole and others were to strengthen it in the three following numbers. James edited the second number before he page 186left for England. Mason edited the third and fourth, making them far more political, bringing them close to the orthodox left-wing socialism of the time. In the third number two blank pages represented an article by E. K. Cook, a Canterbury friend of Ian's, which had been banned by the executive of the Students' Association; I forget what its offence was.
Of the contents of the four numbers, only Mason's poems seem memorable now, and they were not the poems of a student. But Phoenix gave notice, at a time of social and political unrest, that a group of able young people from all over the country were aware, for the first time since William Pember Reeves left Wellington for London in 1896, of the place of literature and the arts in the life of a civilized land — of their social implications and responsibilities. Literature would then grow out of the life of the country; it would not be a merely literary decoration hung out for brief display on the top of a tree, in Kowhai Gold fashion. Kowhai Gold was an anthology of New Zealand verse, nearly all of it bad in an effete literary way, published in 1930, the first to appear in London since Alexander and Currie's New Zealand Verse of 1906. It shamed us in the eyes of the world. It set literature in a pretentious vacuum. Phoenix by contrast implied a keen awareness of the country itself, of its physical nature as an island group isolated in the South Pacific, and as a social entity with its own political and spiritual individuality, not solely an appanage or poor young relation of Britain kept at a safe distance at the other end of the world.
That Phoenix appeared when it did, during the world-wide depression which had struck New Zealand too, is coincidence. The depression did not beget that group of young men who were born some twenty years before; nor did it start them writing — the poets among them had all been writing earlier. It helped to make them socially and politically conscious; it turned Mason's two numbers of the journal more sharply left. But Phoenix would have been born had there been no depression. It was born of the stimulus of English writers who had not yet been recognized in this country, acting upon the self-awareness and the literary and social consciousness of a few young New Zealanders. Its begetters were D. H. Lawrence (from whom the title and the emblem were taken), John Middleton Murry (with page 187Katherine Mansfield behind him), and T. S. Eliot; it invoked Murry's journal the Adelphi as its mentor.
The state of the world at home and abroad bit deeply into the minds of all who wrote for it, but did not determine the kind of writers they became. In 1932 the unemployed demonstrated in all four main cities. They did so in Dunedin one day early in January while Grandfather was entertaining visitors to a well-served plentiful lunch; we could hear them clearly; I walked down afterwards apprehensively to see the crowds in George Street. No violence broke out, but more serious demonstrations took place in April, when winter was near, first in Dunedin and very soon after in Auckland. It was then that James, John Mulgan and other students were enrolled as special constables on the side of law and order, to help put down any violence that might occur; in other words to suppress those who had right on their side, because in a rich country they were out of work and often hungry. This was the climate in which Phoenix appeared, in which Mason swung it to the left, Eric Cook's article was suppressed, and the journal came to an end after four numbers.
It had more than served its purpose. It announced the birth of a new literature. It struck the first notes of informed, adult inquiry and criticism in a hitherto complacent, uncritical, incurious society: criticism which was independent of the economic situation, based on a perception of values drawn from literature. At once it brought New Zealand, which was usually a generation behind the times in cultural matters, into the post-war world. That great advance must not be abandoned, and from the time Phoenix died, James, Ian, Jack Bennett, other friends and I began talking about another journal to succeed it.
Early in December it was settled that I should return to England in the new year of 1932, travelling with Bettina Collier, who was to do post-graduate work in a London hospital. Grandfather and I spent Christmas with Kate and Tommy and their children at Amberley. For New Year we were all at their bach at Leithfield Beach, where the Thompsons met friends from fifty miles round whom they seldom saw during the year. Amberley Beach was as page 188yet uninhabited; It was one of those settlements where everyone knew everyone and social life was continuous — talk, swimming, tennis, tea, drinks, meals. The baches sheltered among the pine-trees that separate beach from land, a small island in space, with cars continually ferrying to and fro from the mainland.
On New Year's Eve I slipped away from the fireworks, walked along the open beach, and lay on a high sandhill in the warm loud dark. Gusts of wind hissed through the sand tussock; the sea made a black desolate roaring under gloomy clouds, through which one star showed to the north-west. Across Pegasus Bay I could make out a faint glow on the Cashmere Hills, the light on Lyttelton Heads, and a ship slowly moving at sea. Thin poppings and weak flares of fireworks rose in the vast ominous gloom, which both awed and filled me with exultation. That darkness was the future, my life to come, the pressure of coming time. I stayed out in it until I was chilled.
January 3 was Tim Thompson's twelfth birthday. He was a boy now, but still the most lovable, sweet-natured of beings; lean and leggy, with not much control over his limbs, wayward, often puzzled, already full of the sea and with that taste for romantic adventure for which he was to be so hard put to it to find a social form that would also meet his strong sense of responsibility for other people. He seemed to draw from both his parents a sweetness and goodness of nature that became in him quite distinct and individual, altogether unselfconscious, with no trace of the goody-goody or smug; indeed it was noticeably manly and independent, and was to become gay and salty and decidedly idiosyncratic. I had loved him dearly always. I saw now that I should never come very near to him, because we were so entirely different that it would be hard for us to understand each other; but I loved him none the less for that.
After Waianakarua, James came for a few days to Dunedin, and stayed at Manono. Then Bettina and I left. Ian brought James to join the train at Oamaru; we shared a cabin on the Rangatira, and next day walked from Kelburn down Tinakori Road to find Katherine Mansfield's house. After lunch James saw us off on the Maunganui. Geoffrey Cox, who had travelled in our carriage from Dunedin, was now sharing a cabin with me, but going on by another ship from Sydney. Bettina and I spent page 189a week with Emily and Elespie at Pymble, meeting her friends and our relations, picnicking and swimming, drinking in the lavish heat and the cool humming nights.
Late in February we sailed on a ship called the Barrabool belonging to the P. & O. Branch Line, which offered the cheapest fare there was, £39 from Dunedin to London; we paid I think £12 extra to travel in four-berth instead of eight-berth cabins. I have never travelled on an uglier, more unpleasant ship. The passage from Sydney to Hobart was cold and rough and made us both, in the hostile ugliness of the ship, deeply miserable. But Hobart was reviving. We took a bus to the springs on Mt. Wellington, then climbed to the top, to see that magnificent prospect of the long harbour with its maze of islands and bush country, and to drink in the fresh sweet air. The Hallensteins looked after us in Melbourne, then we were on our own.
My lasting memory of the passengers with whom we spent our time on the Barrabool is that they were natural victims. All were poor and had to travel cheaply, and so were prepared to put up with bad conditions; for the most part they were people who endured and did not complain. To Bettina however each of them was an individual, and every individual human being called out her wonderfully responsive care and love. I could not feel jealousy of our fellow-passengers for the time and attention she gave them, but it made me impatient sometimes; at the same time it increased my love for her, and my wonder at the depth and power of her love.