From the southern snow-ranges Roddy wrote to Sally: “Tell my father I have found a new range and called it Lovel, and there are snowgrass valleys that will feed great herds of cattle some day.”
To Tiffany he wrote out some of that restless heart which echoed in her own.
“What is the meaning of colonization? I think it gives those born in it an outlook that the older generation can never understand. They sit solid on their traditions, but we have to make our own, Tiffy dear, and to know I'm a Lovel don't mean to me what it does to papa. Dunedin nearly got me, for it's roaring wild with miners and their women…. So here I am alone in my little tent with the great mountain-parrots shrieking as they always do at night, and rivers heavy with melting snow roaring past my door, and all that don't seem to break the enormous silence. I think the other world can't be far away in these places, and if I could stay here and be a hermit I might come to the understanding of life some day. I wish you were here to help me.”
Tiffany wished it too. But how could she help anyone, she thought, reading Roddy's letter by the wide colonial fireplace, with the black kettle singing on its hook and Uncle John in slippers dozing over the Times. A breath of the cold pure air of distant heights the letter brought into these humdrum days. But Roddy couldn't stay there. It's people one has to learn to face. No use running away, thought Tiffany, who was just beginning to learn that.
Dogs began a furious barking. “The bull loose again, page 345 damn him,” said Darien, not looking up from her rows of accounts on the table. Someone knocked on the door and John went to open it. A scud of rain blew in, and he shut it behind him, stepping on to the little veranda. Then came Maori yells, loud expostulations from John.
“Drunk as lords,” said Darien, jumping up and catching Tiffany running out to John. “Stop, you fool! They'll make short work of us women if they know we're here.” There was a rattle of shots, yells of horrible laughter, no more sounds from John.
“Killed him!” said Darien. In what seemed like one swift movement she overturned the lamp, flung newspaper and accounts on the river of blazing oil, and thrust the table against the window-curtains.
“Come,” she gasped, and had Tiffany out through the back door as the Maoris burst in at the front and stopped short with howls of anger at the flames.
“That'll blind the devils,” said Darien, running fast with Tiffany across the yard. “Blast the brutes … killing poor old John!”
Tiffany was completely dazed. Uncle John was dead. They would mutilate him. She knew about Maori mutilations. Uncle John was dead…. Beyond the outhouses, on the black edge of the bush, the two women crouched down, Darien rubbing the nose of her favourite dog, loosed at the kennels as they ran by. The reed roof of the house was blazing now, and dark forms moving in the glare.
“Drunk as lords,” whispered Darien. “They'll stay there and swill in the heat. Got your breath, Tiffy? Come on then.”
Tiffany, it seemed, had suddenly gone wild. She struggled with Darien. “No, no. We can't leave him. We must go back.”
“Do as you like,” said Darien, letting go. “You know what will happen. I'm going to get the sheep.”
Tiffany stood panting and trembling, looking back at that hellish pandemonium of leaping naked bodies round page 346 the burning house. No, she could do nothing. She never could. Meekly she crept after Darien, now in the ram-paddock with the dog, bringing them out on the road in the misty rain. “I think I might take the prize lambs too,” muttered Darien, stopping at the next gate.
Well after midnight a puzzled sentry at Quorn's redoubt heard the faint murmur of travelling sheep and turned out the patrol. Afterwards he told how even a wren's feather would have knocked him down as two ladies (handsome pieces as you could wish) yarded a mob of sheep into the enclosure before the red-haired one said, calm as the Queen of Sheba: “The Maoris have murdered Sir John Lovel and burnt the farm.”
That kind of thing was all in the day's work now; but one certainly didn't expect to have Lady Calthorpe perched on a great troop-horse, riding out with them at daybreak to the farm. And as for her language over the wholesale slaughter, the sergeant spoke of it appreciatively for months. Every animal the Maoris had not cared to take lay in blood. Even the dogs were dead upon the chains. In the heap of smoking ruins a few charred bones were gathered up and reverently conveyed to Auckland.