The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 11, Issue 3 (June 1, 1936)
Limited Night Entertainments
The Queen'S Earrings.
This afternoon,” said the schoolmaster to a class of fifteen earnest students of geography, “we shall draw a sketch map of the North Island of New Zealand and put in from memory the principal towns and rivers.”
Fourteen pupils began laboriously to trace a rocky pattern which they trusted would, when completed, bear at least a passing resemblance to the contours of the coast line of Te-Ika-A-Maui. The fifteenth pencil was held by a little girl at the bottom of the class. She had bright chestnut hair and sticky fingers and she reduced the windswept vastness of the Ninety-mile Beach, the bush-clad shores of Kawhia Harbour, the azure sweep of North Taranaki Bight, to a wavering line of imposing blackness. Cape Egmont swelled in a bulbous curve, there was a puncture in the paper at Castlecliff and a rubber-smudge near Kapiti Island.
From the puncture at Castlecliff a line of surprising delicacy ran inland. At the end of this line was drawn a railway station with a signal in the “off” position, and then with sleepers, and all complete, a railway ran to where about an inch above the fortieth degree of latitude, appeared a house and a figure on horseback. This map earned a detention for its creator on the score of its unconventionality. But she was, after all, only emulating the old-fashioned cartographer who loved to embellish his chart with ships and mermaids and such romantic legends as “Here be whales.”
If Mary Lenzie, for that was the little girl's name, could have been induced to write such a legend upon her map, her journey's end would have been inscribed “Here be the Queene's Jewelles.” For it is a fact that this point, if you can find it on an orthodox atlas, is where the Queen's Earrings may be found. They lie in a wooden casket beneath the hearthstone of a farmhouse on the eastern slope of a fertile valley. The casket, which is of Maori origin, dates from about 1850, but the earrings, two exquisite fire opals set in whorls of beaten gold, are much older than that, for their story goes back to a day in May, 1568, when Mary Stuart fled from the Battle of Langside.
* * *
Disaster came at the moment the Queen lent forward to caress the arching neck of her mount. It was an impulsive gesture born of the beauty of sun-dappled hills and the breeze, that, sweet with the scent of hawthorn in blossom, brought the sound of pipe and kettledrum and the confused jingling murmur of an army on the move. Six thousand men, her men, were winding down the lane to the village of Langside behind the pennons of Hamilton and Argyll. True, they were but retiring to await reinforcements at Dumbarton Castle, but the sight of them, and the loyalty they represented had power to still the bitter memories of plot and imprisonment, spiritual and physical suffering, and promise a new beginning of better things.
Distance perhaps and the love of a woman for a brave show dimmed her eyes to the folly of such a manoeuvre and the obvious unworthiness of the rabble of levies that the sergeants-atarms cursed along in the rear. But the village lay quiet, and beyond it by a grove of stunted oaks a scattered group of Murray's horse appeared no more than a reconnoitring party ready to take flight at the first sign of danger. Tears of joyful emotion filled the Queen's eyes in response to the restless movements of her jennet stallion, which, with ears pricked forward towards the distant glint of sun on steel, fretted his curb chain and shifted his hoofs with eager impatience.
“Sois tranquil, mon petit,” she murmured, putting forth a hand to quiet him, but her fingers did not touch the quivering neck muscles, for at that moment he curvetted violently as a rattle of firearms rang out from the village below.
Dun clouds of dust and powder smoke drifted over the roofs, lances tossed in confusion as chargers reared, struck at point-blank range by the slugs of the hackbutters who, under the command of Kirkaldy of Grange, lay hidden behind the walls and shuttered windows of the village street.
Another volley, and riders thrown from maddened horses were trampled beneath the hoofs of their fellow troopers, as they turned about in a desperate effort to escape from the death-trap into which they had ridden.
The infantry, pressed up close in the narrow lane, their vision obscured by dust and smoke, orders drowned in the din of battle, had no chance to rally themselves before they were ridden down by their own leaders; and the Regent's men loading and firing their hook-guns at leisure and in perfect safety, poured volley after volley into the hopelessly jammed soldiery.
Panic followed and rout, the Royalists leaping walls and ditches were soon spread out over the countryside; tiny fleeing figures that threw down their arms as the pursuing cavalry overtook them. A score of Murray's horsemen spied the little group formed on the hilltop by the Queen and Lord Herries, Livingstone and the Douglases, and spurred their horses toward the rise.
“Leave me now.” The Queen, overcome at the sudden dissolution of her army, seemed listless, ready to surrender and face imprisonment, perhaps death. “Leave me, I pray and fly for your lives,” she said, preparing to dismount, but the jennet stallion, excited by the drumming of galloping hoofs, reared, and in an instant the eyes of the brooding, defeated woman were lit with the fire of new determination, as she displayed her skill as a horsewoman.
Herries swung from his saddle and laid a hand on the stallion's bridle.
“Madam,” he cried earnestly, “Tarry no longer here, or these rogues burn thee, but ride with us southward to Dumfries and England—and I'll warrant page 37 within a month the Queen will send such a force as will make this rebel lion a lamb for slaughter.”
The rumours of the Royalist defeat came to Malcolm Lenzie as he sat in the library at Glenmayne Priory, an old stone building which lay in a hollow on the road to Kirkconnel. Lenzie, who was a man of some substance, had fallen heir to the Priory some years previously and had planned to end his days among its cloisters and panelled rooms. Peace and comfort had played no small part in these plans, for his life had been full of travel and warlike occasions, but so hard do the habits of a lifetime die, and so certain are the seeds of hard living to come to fruition, that his manner at times was more that of a caged bear than of a retired gentleman who professed to find his greatest adventure in the culture of roses by the terraced walks of the Priory garden.
The black mood, then, in which he found himself this May morning, was occasioned by his inability to take part in the stirring events, the news of which was fanning the countryside. Mary Stuart, for so long little more than a memory, had escaped from Loch Leven Castle, and riding across the half of Scotland had come to Hamilton Palace where many of the Loyalist families had gathered round her.
Malcolm's own son—sixteen-yearold Robin Lenzie—had the day before gone off with twenty men; a prideful figure, clanking his scabbard as he mounted the black gelding. Old Malcolm would fain have gone with him but for the cursed rheumatic pains— a legacy from the Low Country wars —which as he was wont to say, “twisted the strings of his back as though the Di'el himself would play upon a harp,” and left him no choice but to wander painfully through the silent rooms, and brood upon the tartan kilt which young Robin had cast aside for the panoply of war.
Raising his eyes he spied beyond the open window old Angus, whose duty it was to gather up dead leaves and trim the grass plots, presuming to thrust his ugly pendulous nose into the heart of one of the choicest of the early rose blooms.
“How now you old puddock,” cried Lenzie, “do you suppose that if the Good Lord had intended roses for your delight He would not have made them in the form of a trumpet—the better to fit your inelegant neb?”
“Na, Lenzie,” the old fellow answered complacently, “I'm no but on my way to tell ye news o’ the battle.”
“Battle? You bring me news of a battle and stop to play with posies on the way? I should have you trussed!”
“An’ ye did t'would be no more than what's come to Hamilton, skewered upon the pikes o’ the Kirkaldy's men —so they say.”
Lenzie leaped from his chair and immediately clapped hand to his back with a cry of anguish.
“Aye,” old Angus admonished him, “there may be wars but they're no for the likes o’ you and me.”
Lenzie hirpled across to the window.
“Who says that Kirkaldy bested Hamilton?” he demanded grimly.
“Man, the coutryside is full o’ runaways, one dinned at the gate and telt me that the Queen herself was headed this way. Forbye there's five others with her, and a score of green jackets not a bowshot behind them. There'll be a grand burnin’ I'm thinkin', an they catch them.”
“They'll never whiles I draw breath,” cried Lenzie. “Open the gates by the stable yard—quick now, and get you into the road and should they come before I get there, cry as loud as your pipes will let ye, that this is Glenmayne, and we will stand siege against twenty times twenty o’ Kirkaldie's rabble if need be.”
In the distance, as he finished speaking, came the drum of galloping hoofs and Lenzie, a hand clasped to the small of his back, hastened from the house. He joined old Angus at the gates, which swung wide as the Queen and her party came into view over the rise. Waving his arms and making every sign he knew for them to stop, he ran into the roadway.
Herries drew sword and would have cut him down as they swept by, but Livingstone, who knew the laird by sight, cried to him to stay his hand and the lathered horses were reined in on their haunches.
“We cannot halt here,” barked Herries, “Murray's men are just beyond the brow.”
“Aye,” Lenzie answered him, “and ye canna escape them if I don't ride with ye—for there be inhospitable country ahead. Madam,” he bent his head stiffly to the Queen, “your cap and cloak I pray you, and then inside where the womenfolk will care for you.” He waved a hand toward the little group, Mistress Lenzie, her daughters and several wenches who had gathered within the gates.
“You others,” he said, “gather round lest the odure that blows in your train sees me transform myself into a Royal fugitive.”
From Glenmayne Priory the road page 38 page 39 went undulating without a bend for several miles across the lowlands. To the right, however, across a stone bridge, a cart track used by fern cutters ran upward through a narrow glen thickly grown with young larches.
Fern-cutters’ tracks, though they may wander for miles among the hills come always to a dead end upon some lonely heath, so it was with a shout of joy that the Regent's men saw the flying cavalcade wheel into this turning beyond the bridge; but they shouted firm in the belief that the figure, close shrouded in a purple cloak, spurring a little ahead of the others, was the Queen.
Old Lenzie led the chase shrewdly. The going was heavier now and the strain beginning to tell upon the sadly blown horses. As they toiled up the glen and gained the shelter of the trees, he divulged his plan.
“Beyond this wood,” said he, “the track winds up the glen in plain view for nearly a mile, but just above it and at the wood's edge is a cavern, the mouth of which is screened by a mantle of fern and gorse. Let us ride there as swiftly as we may and hide in the cavern, and thus when the Regent's men find the road empty ahead, with no cover on the bare sides of the glen, they will think for sure that we are hidden in the wood. So may we at least gain time to breathe our horses, if we do not so confuse them as to give up the chase.”
And so it was. The last of the Queen's followers had barely squeezed through the rock opening to the cavern, for it would admit but one horse at a time and that only after a hard scramble up the hillside—that the green clad horsemen emerged from the wood. They halted blinking in the sunlight, evidently puzzled by the empty road ahead; and then as Lenzie had prophesied, returned to the wood and by their shouts and trampling amongst the undergrowth gave evidence of their search for the fugitives there.
The better part of an hour passed, and then emerging once more, they set off less confidently at a jog up the track, passing so close below the mouth of the cavern that the men concealed there kept close hold upon their horses lest the clink of a bit ring or a lifted hoof should betray them.
“A merry ride to ye, gentlemen,” chuckled Lenzie as the last one turned out of sight up the glen. “An ye follow it far enough, that road will take you to the Indies. And now my lords,” he turned to his companions, “lest these knaves grow tired too soon of parleying with the hares and sparrow-hawks, let us return with all speed to the road. You will ride south to Michael's Cross where you shall find a good Catholic MacDonald to bait your horses and hide you until I bring the Queen by quaking moss and hill path to you, from Glenmayne.”
Then bidding them God-speed at the cross roads Malcolm Lenzie turned the jennet stallion's head north once more to Glenmayne.
Though his venture was not yet at an end, he experienced as he rode alone, a feeling of despondency. The excitement of the chase had driven the chills from his back, but his heart was faint. Perhaps, after all, at the wrong side of sixty it was better to turn the pages of a book and watch the bright sparks fly up from the hearth. Somewhat wearily he turned beneath the arch into the courtyard at Glenmayne and there halted with cold fear at his heart at sight of the mired and drooping black gelding on which Robin had ridden off so blithely the day before.
From the contemplation of this object he was roused by a gentle bantering voice which addressed him from the steps of the house.
“Does the Queen ride without her courtiers?” it said. Lenzie turned and gazed a moment at a slim youth with red-gold hair rudely shorn, and dressed, yes, surely he was dressed in Robin's doublet and homespun breeches over which were drawn thigh boots, then he swept the plumed cap from his head.
“Your pardon, Madam,” he said, dismounting swiftly, “I left a Queen in the care of my womenfolk-I return to find-”
“Still a queen, but one more suitably clad for an arduous journey. Tell me, Lenzie, how goes it with our friends?”
“They are by now come near to Michael's Cross, where they will be safe for a time from pursuit. As soon as fresh horses are saddled. Madam, I will take you to them.”
He pressed a hand to his heart and reeled a moment with a black mist before his eyes.
“Nay,” cried the Queen, “but you are hurt.”
“Not I, but old bones, it seems, are less willing than old heads to make staunch followers.”
“Lenzie, your son has returned unhurt from Langside. May he not take me to Michael's Cross?”
“Robin? Unhurt?” Old Lenzie's eye lit with pride and joy. “Why, then, there's a lad who will guide you better and more swiftly than I, his bones are young, and his heart—”
Lenzie raised his eyes and remained staring a moment in uncomprehending silence. The Queen stood with her hand extended and in the soft palm of it reposed a pair of earrings. Two fire opals set in whorls of beaten gold.
“Lenzie,” she said, “the owls and the little mice that run in the fields are more favoured than a Queen without a kingdom, aye, and less dangerous creatures to defend.” She paused and threw back her head, “But we shall return to Scotland with power and wealth, and I pray you until that time keep these trinkets which fell from my ears as they clipped my hair; not as a reward for what you have done, but as a token of my gratitude and a promise that I shall not forget.”
(to be continued.)page 40
The Famous New Zealanders.
(Continued From Page 21.)
This marked for all the world to see the entrance of this Dominion into the Imperial partnership. In making declaration of war or peace in future, Great Britain must consult her partners over the ocean.
The Dominions were full nations now, entitled to take part in the deliberations which might affect their well-being and future. At the Imperial Conference of 1921, Mr. Lloyd George, then the British Prime Minister, defined the new position in these words:
“There was a time when Downing Street controlled the Empire; to-day the Empire controls Downing Street.”
The Soldiers and the Land.
Post-war legislation of a very harassing character occupied the attention of the Massey Government after the National Cabinet had come to an end. The principal problem was the making of provision for the repatriated soldiers of the Dominion. All those who wished to become farmers were assisted to settle on the land. Land was bought at high prices, while the country was still at the top of the boom for production, and thousands of returned men were placed on sections acquired at absurdly inflated values. Here the usual canny vision and sound judgment of Mr. Massey deserted him. He and his colleagues should have foreseen the collapse of high prices for produce; such a fall was inevitable once the war was over. But they carried on as if war prices would last for ever. The result was disastrous to many soldier-settlers, whose sections were loaded with charges far in excess of the normal and reasonable. This was the principal error of judgment which must be written against the Massey postwar regime.
Against this debit is to be set the creditable record of the sturdy Prime Minister, an unshakeable pillar of the British Commonwealth structure that resisted the heaviest shocks of war.
A Historian's Vignette.
Miss N. E. Coad, in her history “From Tasman to Massey,” thus admirably sums up the political character of the war-period Premier:
“He was considered the farmers’ friend. Did he not understand their needs and sympathise with them in their difficulties? If anyone could help them to make 2d. a pound more on their wool surely it was he. Patriotic, imperialistic, steady, industrious, unimaginative, prosaic, he stands forth as a representative New Zealander. Always well disposed, and obviously sincere, ‘Plain Bill of the Square Deal,’ as he was called, commanded respect alike in high Imperial circles and in the humblest New Zealand electorate. He died at the age of 69, in the year 1925, after guiding the country through the most terrible crisis the world has ever seen. If ever a pilot weathered a storm it was William Ferguson Massey.”
The seven years of heavy administrative toil that followed the end of the war made an increasingly heavy tax on the Prime Minister's physical resources. Like all successful and popular politicians, he overtaxed his strength. Had he been content to remain on his Mangere farm, quietly plying the calling of his yeoman fathers, he probably would be living still, a cheery octogenarian, judging ploughing matches—no better judge in the Dominion—and making felicitous speeches at the Agricultural Show, and, of course, heartily condemning the Government of the day. But the long toil at the desk, the long Parliamentary hours, the insufficient exercise, the unhealthy and unnatural conditions under which responsible legislators habitually work, laid him in his grave. He was mourned for as a strong and honest man, who for all his limitations served his country well in a period of unexampled stress.
The grave of Richard Seddon looks down on Wellington from the breezy heights behind the city heart. The sleeping place of William Ferguson Massey is on a beautiful and commanding site, the steep extremity of Point Halswell, looking out over the waters and shores of Port Nicholson. There is no tomb like it in New Zealand; that gleaming monument of marble like some fragment of a classic temple, its graceful curve set off by a dusky selvage of young pohutukawa trees, a fitting frame from Massey's beloved shores of the North.