The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 11, Issue 7 (October 1, 1936)
Limited Night Entertainments — The Queen's Earrings
The Queen's Earrings may be found to-day within half a mile of the spot where deeptoned whistles chime, and express trains sweeping up. the valley momentarily light with the glare of their head-lamps, the white-painted cattle stops on the road to Te Marae.
The jewels, once worn by Mary Stuart, were presented by her to Malcolm Lenzie, Laird of Glemnayne Priory in Renfrewshire, who aided her escape to England after the disastrous battle of Langside in 1568. They remained at Glenmayne until 1857 when Ardoch Lenzie, finding himself on the death of his father dispossessed of the house and estate by a moneylender named McWhin, resolved, at the suggestion of his wife Catherine to seek new lands and fortune in New Zealand.
So it came about when the ship “Druimuachdar” sailed from the Clyde in October, 1857, she carried as passengers, Ardoch and Catherine and an old woman, Mrs. McBride, who had been Catherine's nurse, and whose devotion was so great that nothing could prevent her from following her mistress to live “heels ower gowdie” amongst heathen savages at the bottom of the world.
They brought with them several bulky cases containing household effects of no very great value, and one small package that represented a modest fortune in the shape of the Queen's Earring.
The knowledge that these jewels were aboard had come to the ears of a certain undesirable waterfront character whose partner, in crime was Mr. Holloway, a seafaring man whom chance had made at the eleventh hour mate of the “Druimuachdar.”
However, the jewels were apparently safe enough, since the ship was commanded by Captain Charles Barcle, Catherine's brother, and all went well, until, within a week's fair sailing of the New Zealand coast, the ship was struck by a cyclonic storm and Captain Barcle swept overboard.
The bow-legged man ran sideways like a crab. He leaped fences and ditches, and no matter how fast Frewan ran he was always there, just behind, wringing his hands and pointing to his mouth which hung open like a black cavern in the red immensity of his face.
Frewan gasped and struggled and suddenly found himself feverishly awake with the moon shining full upon his face. He was not altogether free of the superstition implanted in him years ago by old Nàn McBride that there was madness in the light of the moon. Certainly it seemed to have the power to resurrect childish fantasies.
Queer, he thought sitting up in bed and listening to the familiar night-sounds of the house; the clicking of the iron roof contracting in the cool of the hour before the dawn, the scratching of the clematis vine as it rubbed against the outside wall. Queer how that old dream of the bow-legged man had come back to him down the years, it gave him the feeling that somewhere deep down inside him there still lived as separate entities, the baby, the boy, and the youth who had all played their parts in moulding the wayward rebellious character of the young man Frewan Lenzie.
Frewan, now eighteen, was ten years younger than his half brother Robert, and this disparity in their ages was in part responsible for the sense of frustration which had dominated his life. Partly, but not wholly. To understand Frewan, and to explain the defections in his character not yet ripened to badness, one has to go back to the time when he was still a member of that backyard fraternity which comprised an ancient collie, a yellow cat, numerous crumb scratching fowls and his sister Mary.
Even in those far-off days he was a romanticist in search of colour, who, suddenly tiring of play, would go and beg a story of old Nan McBride. And Nan, busy with the bottling or the ironing, or one or other of the hundred and one duties that made up her life would chase him out again. But later on she would relent and then he would hear about the Tailor o’ Killiekrankie or the Dwarfie Stone.
One day, when he was seven, and Father was away after cattle, Nan took him into the big room with the leather chairs and books all round the walls, and showed him a stone sunk in the floor in front of the fireplace, and told him that beneath it were some precious jewels. Then she took off her apron andv sat down in one of the leather chairs, an unusual thing for Nan to do, and Frewan heard for the first time of his ancestor Malcolm Lenzie and the Queen, hunted like a hare, from her own country. Ever after that the stone in the library seemed to him like the live heart of Te Marae, a heart beating with the rich blood of adventure and romance.
The Tailor and the bogies and fairies were forgotten, always now when he came to Nan for a story it must be about the Queen and her jewels, and the hardy men and women who had guarded them for her through the centuries in an old stone house lashed by the bitter lowland rains. They were like Robert and Father, those people of the old house, grey-eyed and sandy-haired and tremendously practical and serious—all except his grandfather, for whom Frewan, catching sight of his own brown eyes and black hair in the polished backs of the stewpans around the kitchen walls, felt a certain rebellious sympathy.
Grandfather it seemed had done something foolish, and Father and Robert's mother were not able to live in the old stone house any more. So they had taken the jewels and old Nan with them and gone to sea in a ship, which so Nan said, looked something like the one that they were throwing Jonah out of in the big illustrated Bible on the library table, and right at the end of their journey they were struck by a terrible storm and the captain was washed overboard. And three days afterwards Robert had been born and a man called Mr. Hoiloway page 39 had taken command of the ship and had tried to steal the jewels, pretending he knew nothing about them.
“Eh!” said Nan, “I was scairt—but I kenned then he had the jewels, for why would he he traispin' aboot at deid o' night wi' oot his buits?”
She waited until he had got the lantern fairly alight and snapped the shutter over it, and then she followed him. He went through the pantry hatch into the lazarette, which was a kind of store-room filled with casks and barrels of ship's biscuit arid boxes of better-class provisions for the cabin, and there he pushed back the shutter of the lantern and Nan had to squeeze out of sight among the casks while he raised the lid of a manhole in the floor, and flashed the light about looking for the rope ladder to lower down through it.
He swung his legs over the edge of the hole and the light went flickering and bobbing out of sight, and presently when the hooks which held the ladder to the lip of the man-hole stopped clicking (by which Nan knew that lie had got to the bottom), she came out of her hiding place and peered over the edge after him. It appeared to be the after part of the hold that Mr. Holloway had let himself down into, and he was climbing over the top of the cargo toward the ship's side. He carried an auger in his free hand, and when he came to the ship's side he set down the lamp and began to bore a hole in one of the ribs of the ship. He worked away for a while lifting the lantern now and again and blowing into the hole until it semed to be deep enough, when he took something from his pocket and pushed it into the hole with the handle of the auger. He drove a cork in on top of it and smeared the cork over with lamp black, and Nan had to take a hurried bearing, counting the number of ribs from the edge of the manhole, so that she would know which one it was, as Mr. Holloway turned to come up.
“An’ a michty long time he took,” she said, “to pull up the ladder after him and put the lid back on the manhole. Whistlin' atween his teeth a' the time softly like a man groomin' a horse an' dustin' his claes, an' me so close a' could ha' tagget his red bull neck if a'd no' been hauf dead wi' fright, and fuffed wi' wantin' toe sneeze.”
But he went back to his cabin at last and Nan stayed on in the lazarette for near an hour listening to the creaking of the ship and the scurrying of the rats about her, and praying that wee Robert might not wake and cry out or his mother have a bad turn. She came out of her hiding place as “stiff as a crutch,” and stole softly back to the cabin where she lit a candle and then listened awhile in the hope of hearing some sound of snoring from Mr. Holloway's cabin. But there was nothing except the plaint of wookwork and the gentle hiss of the sea.
So she went back to the lazarette and raised the manhole and lowered the rope ladder down through it and went down into the hold. She counted up the ribs of the ship and ran her hands over them until she struck lamp black, and then she had to work with a knife at the cork until she prised it loose. Sure enough it was the jewels that were hidden in the hole, but no sooner had she pulled them out than footsteps came running overhead and she could hear the mate shouting orders and the watch stamping their feet as they hauled on the braces swinging the yards to meet a change of wind. And Nan got a scare and upset the candle which went out and rolled away amongst the crates and she crouched there in the dark, thinking that Mr. Holloway would come back and maybe pull up the rope ladder and put the lid back on the man-hole and that would be the end of Nan McBride.
But the noise died down at last and she struck a lucifer and found the candle. She pushed the cork back in the hole and climbed back up the ladder and a waesome journey it was for an “auld woman wi’ bones in both her laigs,” but she got back to the cabin safe at last. Wee Robert had not so much as moved and his mother was sleeping with a smile on her face, so Nan sat down there and sewed the jewels into the lining of the baby's cloak and said no word of what she had clone until they were all safe ashore in Wellington.
Robert's mother lived only a few months in her new home. The heart that had so bravely planned this adventure and been its inspiration
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and driving force throughout, had never really recovered from the strain of her long illness, following Robert's birth, and proved unable to stand the rigours of the journey which ended in near disaster.
Lenzie, in order to spare her as many as possible of the hardships of settling in, had made ready against her arrival by clearing a quarter acre of his section and erecting on it a three-roomed house. Then he returned to Wellington, and about the middle of March when it was hoped that they might enjoy a spell of fair autumn weather, chartered a small schooner to convey them to the Wanganui River. The journey overland was to be made as far as possible in a bullock waggon.
For two days all went well. The waggon rolled with a pleasant undulating motion not unlike that of a ship, and crushed with its broad tyred wheels, sweet scented juices from the manuka scrub. The cracking of the bullockcy's whip made heroic music as the patient team toiled up the winding Turakina Valley.
The morning of the third day dawned without sunshine, and heavy clouds massed overhead. They were traversing a heavily timbered ridge, beyond which flowed the creek that formed the western boundary of Te Marae. The pleasant motion was gone from the waggon; it jerked and strained, and lurching heavily over fallen tree trunks threatened to spill its occupants and their belongings. At the top of the ridge they halted and the bullockey came back to sprag the wheels for the descent. He swore at the lowering sky, slapping the flies from his arms, aijd said they'd be lucky to get over the creek.
“Noble! Bosker!” he sent his long lash curling at the leaders, but the crack of it was drowned in the crash of thunder as the team strained forward, and the rain came sighing down over the bush with a sound like the steady rush of escaping steam.
By the time they reached the creek it was yellow with flood water—the bullockey refused to attempt a crossing. Lenzie argued, pleaded and threatened him, then he offered him five pounds, and he said he'd give it a go.
The bank caved as he swung the leaders across, and the nearside wheels sank down. The animals struggled belly deep in swirling water; the waggon sank lower and the water flowed over the floor boards, like a ship grounding on a sandbank, the waggon settled slowly over on its side.
Early next morning the sorry halfdrowned company arrived at the Te Marae homestead to find the door burst in, and the provisions that Lenzie had stored there against their arrival trampled and stolen.
Frewan was blooded, as it were, by these recitals in the history and traditions of his family, and by reason of the very sensitiveness of his nature, they fired him with the spirit of emulation. He was unable to accept them unconditionally as did Robert, or even his sister Mary, who was a year older than he, but must be for ever dreaming and romarrcing about them within himself. It was therefore a grievous hurt to discover as he grew old enough to understand, that in the eyes of his father, he was scarce.lv to be considered a Lenzie at all.
He knew that Robert, almost as soon as he was able to walk, had been hoisted up in front of his father's saddle, had been taught to split, with a little tomahawk, the totara chips to boil the billy, and afterwards sat listening to the growling talk of the men at dinner lirne. The whole range of rolling hills had been his playground, the crashing fall of tall timber, the showers of sparks and the dun clouds of smoke at the burningoff had been things to laugh and clap his hands at. Robert had never been ignored or suffered the indignity of a backyard graduation within reach of Nan's apron strings—rather his growing up had been a triumphant progress that had culminated in his being sent to college.
There was no one that Frewan could turn to with his secret trouble except Nan, and one day when a holiday from the newly-opened school which he attended found him wandering aimlessly about the empty barns, he returned suddenly to the kitchen and broached the subject to her. At first she was non-committal.
“It's juist that Lenzie has too much in his heid a'ready,” she said, “what wi' no' bein' able to sell his cattle and the bad seed they sold him for the burn. I'm thinking Rob will hae' to finish his schoolin' airly to help aboot the place.”
“I could help about the place.” said Frewan, “only they don't seem to want me—Nan—” he reiterated passionately, “why should I be different from Rob? or even-Mary?”
“Mary's a woman,” old Nan began—then she took her spectacles and wiped them and regarded Frewan closely.
“Ye'll be eleven years old in a few weeks noo,” she mused, then, “it's a graun shame,” she said. “Laddie dae ye remember yer mither at a'?”
Frewan shook his head, “Hardly at all,” he said, “did she die, Nan?”
“She's no' deid. She went away, back tae the town where she came from. She was a feckless wumman, as pretty and gay as a picture. She liked music and dancin' and folks paying her court,” old Nan sighed, “she was no' for the bush life.”
So that was it. Frewan had turned away white-faced in silence and watched his dreams dissolve one by one as though they were vapours licked up by the hot sunshine of the stableyard.page 42 page 43
From that time on he sought a life of his own; smarting with the overwhelming sense of injustice that only childhood can suffer, he reasoned that if he was not to be considered a true Lenzie he would not live as one; if his dreams and aspirations were to be thrown in his face, then he would not abide by the traditions of his family. He grew to dislike the very precincts of Te Marae, persuading himself that its life was narrow and dull and without colour. He bowed to his father's will only when it was absolutely necessary, and wandered frequently down to the pa, which sprawled along the shores of a lagoon a mile beyond the eastern boundary. Here he could wrestle with brownskinned youngsters of his own age, and swim in the lagoon and lie naked in the sun and burn himself brown, while the pukeko flirted their tails among the reeds and Taipua, the old blind tohunga, spun one of his interminable yarns about Te Rangihaeta, his voice quavering through the hot summer afternoons until it broke on a frenzied recital of valour that left him trembling and foaming a little at the corners of his mouth.
Thus, Frewan, the boy and the youth, paved the way for Frewan the young man, a debonair and apparently carefree rascal destined to bring dishonour upon his father's name.
If the irresistible impulse to wander, to get up and ride forth without thought of direction or consequence be madness, then there was madness in the light of the moon that morning. Frewan dressed himself quickly, arranging the collar of his shirt with some care and donning a pair of tight-fitting moleskin trousers over which he laced knee boots. Then, leaving the room by the window, crossed the yard to the stables. Here he saddled a roan mare, hill-bred, and the apple of Robert's eye, and leading her out of the yard mounted and turned her head upon the track that led through tall bush south and west. Mid-day found him in open country, riding the crest of a high ridge with the river murmuring through a deep canyon on his left hand and blue smoke rising from a slab-whare on his right.
Frewan sniffed at the smoke and turned the mare's head toward the whare; when he was within a hundred yards of it, a man came out to draw water at a spring.
“G'day,” he called and waited till Frewan reached his side, “that's a sight for sore eyes,” he said appraising the mare, “want to sell ‘er?”
“Could you buy her?” asked Frewan with a grin.
“Could if I ‘could have a crack at the Mawhio races with her first,” the man replied.
“D'you think she'd win?” asked Frewan.
“Sure of it.”
“Then what a fool I'd be to sell her, for if I raced her I should both win the prize money and have the mare.”
“Are y'goin’ to?” asked the man eagerly, “I'd like to be on y'know.”
“I'll have to think about it.” Frewan swung out of the saddle and dropped the reins over the mare's head.
The man turned away to the spring. “Where're ye from?” he asked when he had filled the billy.
“Te Marae, if you know where that is.”
“Cripes—that's a long way from here. I was bush whackin’ on that block in ‘66, can y’ go a feed?”
Frewan sniffed the air again and nodded, and the man grinned, “Ah!” he said, “rabbit stoo. I'm the rabbit king round here that's why I have me tea in the middle of the day. Work all night y'see settin' and takin' up traps, skin in the mornin's and sleep in the afternoon.”
Frewan left the rabbiter after a rich two hours, in which he ate a generous portion of rabbit stew and learned that Mawhio, in addition to being a place where they held races down the main street, was also a railhead, and a place that promised all kinds of dubious entertainment.
The Taihape Railway Ambulance Division, which was established in April, 1936. Back row (from left): Messrs. H. B. Berry (Hon. Sec.), S. W. McPhail, C, D. Petrie, M. Organ, M. R. McGuinness, G. Cook, A. E. Rowley, A. K. Hickman and H. B. Cooper. Front row: G. A. Wilsher, Div. Supt. (pro tem), C. W. Newport, S. M. Geddess. Dr. Hay (lecturer), E. E. Bueck, G. F. Tregowth, W. A. Edwards, First Officer (pro tem), and G. G. Parkin. Absent member, Cadet Supt. J. E. Welton, of Wanganui (Practical Instructor).
“A man can get a drink there,” said the rabbiter licking his lips, “or a bit of a game, and if you've a mind y' can ride in a train clear to Wellington. Though there's not many that do, I reckon Weliington'd be a bit slow after Mawhio. Cripes boy,” he cried, in sudden excitement, “I've been around a bit—I've been in Sydney and the Queen City and all them big towns, and I say, give me the old up and comin’ shanty town if y' want to see a bit o' life.”
The high ridge on which the rabbiter's whare was situated gave way to rolling downs, here and there a homestead showed white against the inevitable clump of shelter bush. The drowsy peace of autumn lay over the hills, and the mare slowed to a walk so that the sun was already set when, rounding a spur which jutted like a promontory into a swampy flat. she encountered the monster. With open draincocks and clashing couplings it was backing down a rake of ballast trucks. The mare rose on her hind legs at the sight of it, she shed the weariness of her long day like a loose shoe and “went to market” with such a will that work ceased abruptly at the rail-head, and navvies and platelayers, and the grimy engine crew gathered round and made the sombre hills echo with shouts of delight as Frewan's girth parted at the buckles and he catapulted through the air to land sitting perilously close to the edge of a ballast dump.page 44
“Not every day does one have the honour to be butchered to make a Roman holiday,” said a cultured voice behind him, “as Ihe Bard once said, ‘talk not of standing: Publius, good cheer, there is no harm intended to your person'!”
A strong hand helped him to his feet, and Frewan found himself confronted by a tall man, bearded and so grimed with dust and sweat that it was difficult to say where his clothes which consisted solely of a suit of thick woollen underwear left off and his skin began. “I'll buy that mare from you for fifty pounds,” he added.
“That's the second offer I've had for her to-day,” said Frewan as he rubbed himself ruefully, “this time I've almost a mind to accept.”
“Well, we'd better do something about catching her, or she'll be anybody's bet,” said the tall man.
With some difficulty Frewan and his new acquaintance cornered the mare against a pile of sleepers, and the tall man passed knowing hands over her heaving flanks, “I take it,” he said, “that you are going to Mawhio.”
“I suppose I am,” replied Frewan, “if only to buy a new girth.”
“One doesn't buy girths in Mawhio, one grows lean there and evilly disposed towards one's fellowmen. We are slaves of the whistle, neophytes dancing before our lord, the bottle. Here, have you a knife? I guess a piece of flax will mend that girth better than any buckle you could buy in Mawhio.”
The tall man selected a leaf, from a nearby plant and, plaiting it, cunningly contrived a cinch which he rove through the ring of Frewan's girth. “There,” he said, drawing it tight, “that's a cinch-knot. Now I must leave you or the gent in the billycock hat down there who is the captain of my soul, will dock me an hour's pay. I should lead the mare past the engine if I were you, you will find Mawhio a mile beyond the bend. You will meet me there within the hour.”
Prevvan rode on past the engine, which now it was at rest, the mare regarded with less terror. Frewan looked back at it wondering how it and its train of ballast waggons contrived to keep on the narrow rails. Past a metal pit where men hung like flies from the safety ropes and the stone came crashing down as they pried it loose with their bars, and then, following the railway lines through a curved cutting, Frewan arrived at the “up and coming shantytown” of Mawhio.
(To be continued)