The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 13, Issue 4 (July 1, 1938.)
The names of people in this story are wholly imaginary, though the incidents referring to some of the employees as being refugees from the Law are true. In the early days the remoteness of some of the mills made it quite possible for “wanteds” to hide in seclusion for many months.
Kingswell was somewhat surprised to find that all had changed into their best clothes for dinner. There was a running fire of conversation during the meal. Everyone seemed to be on an equal footing. Lynn noticed that Wynder directed most of his attention to Cushla. She sat next to him, Lynn opposite, and her father between, at the head of the table. Occasionally Wynder's eyes wandered across to Lynn. Once their eyes met. Lynn smiled, but Wynder's face assumed a cynical expression, and a hard glint came into his eyes which Lynn could not fail to notice. “This man does not like me at all,” he thought to himself. “I wonder why?”
“Did you have any adventures, Lynn, on your way here?” asked Cushla.
“None whatever. It was the loneliest ride I think I have ever had, and it seemed the journey would never end. Then when I met you and you offered to show me the way, the dreariness all vanished and I would not have minded had it been longer.”
“That is a very pretty compliment, is it not, Mr. Wynder, and we do not have many thrown about down here?”
“Well, we are more circumspect and would like to know first if they were acceptable,” Wynder replied.
“Then you do not know much of ladies. They appreciate compliments if they are not nonsensical,” replied Cushla. “Dad is the only one who says nice things to me.”
“Your father is privileged,” returned Wynder.
“I'm afraid the odds are against me, Cushla, but I don't retract,” said Lynn. “What is your opinion, Mr. Jasper?”
“Compliments, when sincere, are heaven-sent recognition of various attri-butes, but the devil's snare, when in-sincere.”
“Good for you, Jasper,” said Mr. Hawkins.
“Now, Lynn, you heard Mr. Jasper's verdict. Were you sincere, or insincere ?”
“I generally mean what I say, replied Lynn. “And I do think that people would be grateful, when they had earned some recognition, if the fact were mentioned, as Mr. Jasper says, with sincerity. After the dismal ride I had had, any one of you would have welcomed, when nearing the journey's end, the presence of Miss Kay. Don't you think so, Mr. Wynder?”
“I can't say I ever had the opportunity.”
“That's your fault, Mr. Wynder. I've asked you several times to come for a ride, haven't I? Dad said it would do you good after being shut up in the office so much.”
“You never asked me, Miss Kay,” put in Jasper.
“I thought you could not ride, and the horses are ridden so little that they are pretty fresh.”
“I would have taken the risk, anyhow, if you had asked me. A few tumbles would not hurt me,” said Jasper.
“Well, we will leave it at that. You are certainly all right. What about the sitting-room? Do you play the piano, Lynn?” asked Mr. Kay.
“No, I'm afraid not. I used to try and sing, but the household objected so strongly that the attempt was given up.”
“Do you play cricket?” put in Mr. Jasper.
“Yes, I can oblige you there. I played a good deal in Australia.”
“Yes., Have you a table here?”
“Rather. Two. What do you say to paying the saloon a visit?”
“Coming, Mr. Hawkins?”
“No, thank you, Jasper. I've got a good book.”
“Do you play for stakes, Mr. Jasper?”
“He can beat every one in the place, Lynn, and then give them points, too,” said Cushla.
“You will meet some of the mill hands, Mr. Kingswell,” said Jasper. “Many of them play, but the marker only lets the best players use the tablepage 39
we'll play on, and it's jolly good, too. Anyhow, it'll give you a chance to meet some of the hands, and by Jove! they are mostly a fine lot of men.”
Lynn was glad to have the opportunity of making himself known to as many as possible. Jasper, who apparently held their respect, was greeted with: “Good evening, Mr. Jasper. Have you come to clean us all up?”
“No, friends. We really came down so that you may meet Mr. Kingswell, who is the son of Mr. Kay's best friend. I don't know what duties are allotted to him beyond to help where he is wanted and to hear and adjust any complaints you may have to make.”
“I'm glad to meet you all,” said Lynn. “An it won't be my fault if we are not friends. So far as I can see you have good quarters, and though you are so far away from the outside world, Mr. Kay has done all he can to make you contented.”
“Quite right. No better boss ever lived,” answered one of the men.
Lynn shook hands with most of them. They were struck with his fine physique and manly bearing, and his pleasant, open face. Lynn was pleased with this reception and thought it augured well for the future.
“Are you going to have a game with Mr. Jasper? You'll find him a tough proposition, Mr. Lynn—25 and 30 is nothing to him in a break,” cautioned one of the men.
“What about some points for a start, Mr. Jasper?”
“I never buy a pig in a poke. Play a game first, and I'll be better able to judge,” said Jasper.
“What will we have on it, anyway?”
“The usual,” said Lynn.
“Right Oh! Toss for break. Heads I win.”
Heads it was, so Lynn led off and managed to put the two in balk. A nice up and down the table shot started Jasper's first break for 20. Lynn followed with a break of 25.
“And you wanted points. I'm afraid I have met my Waterloo,” said Jasper, as Lynn continued to increase his lead. “I'll have to put Mr. Wynder on to you.”
After the game was finished, and Jasper had paid his debt, the pair left the saloon. Lynn suggested that they go for a stroll.
“As a matter of fact, Mr. Jasper, I wanted to have a chat with you, and I want you to regard our conversation as absolutely confidential.”
“Readily, if it is not against Mr. Kay's interest,” replied Jasper.
“I can assure you that what I have to ask you is entirely in Mr. Kay's interest,” said Lynn. “And I wouldn't be speaking to you on a grave possibility without I felt I could thoroughly trust you, and I had to take into my confidence someone who knew the run of the ropes and on whom I could rely in the event of anything untoward happening.”
“What may happen, Mr. Kingswell?”
“That I can't say yet, but you'll agree with me that this mill is a long way from other settlements. It employs a large number of people whose weekly pay sheets must run into considerable sums, necessitating a large amount of cash always being on hand. This may be a temptation to some men whose honesty is not above suspicion.”
“I've thought that myself, when the boss takes on new hands who spring from God knows where,” said Jasper. “And lots of times I get up in the middle of the night and take a cruise round.”
“I'll be perfectly frank with you. I'm here to keep a special watch over this outfit. I've served some time with the Mounted Police in Australia and through my father's anxiety for Mr. Kay and knowing his thoroughly trustworthy nature, he brought me back to New Zealand and had me sworn in as a mounted special, with a fairly roving commission.”
“By Jove! it's funny, but when you came into the office I took you for something of that sort. Well, I'm glad anyhow,” continued Jasper. “You can count on me, but you'll have to alter your walk a bit, otherwise the very men you want will grow suspicious.”
“Thanks for the suggestion,” replied Lynn. “Now tell me, are there any here you don't altogether trust?”
“Well, Mr. Kingswell, there are one or two I would not like to meet on a dark night, or in a lonely spot.”
“I suppose I'll get a glimpse of them tomorrow. Just tell me who receives the money for wages and pays all hands,” asked Lynn.
“I do,” replied Jasper. “Some of them bank the cash here and it is deposited every week at the Bank, so that about £400 is sent away and roughly £400 in cash brought back for payment the following week. All payment for timber is lodged by your father in the Auckland Bank.”
“Who else knows of the amounts kept in hand?”
“Mr. Wynder, of course. He makes out the cheque for Mr. Kay to sign for the weekly drawings as per wage sheet which I prepare,” replied Jasper.
“Who does the conveying?” asked Lynn.
“Jacques Martin. You'll meet him tomorrow and like him, too.”
“Thank you very much, Mr. Jasper. I think I have the lay of things, but I'll have to walk fairly circumspectly and see which end of the concern requires assistance most.”
“The office end,” said Jasper.
“Suits me, but I think it advisable to avoid any familiarity, except when by ourselves.”
They shook hands on their agreement and then betook themselves to the house.
The following day Jasper found plenty for Lynn to do. Some large special orders had to be got ready and these he entrusted to Lynn to take to the yard foreman. It took Lynn some time to find that gentleman, who turned out to be one of the men he had spoken to in the billiard room.
“Mr. Jasper asked me to bring these