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Tiffany and Roddy (with sometimes Hemi and Eriti Fleete) had a private world where they trafficked gloriously with goats, giants, Maori tohungas, Queen Victoria, and a Chinese god called Pang out of a book of Major Henry's; and visits to Uncle John's farm were purgatory, thought Tiffany, because her world could never accompany her there. “Couldn't one of the boys page 95 go this time? It's so always me?” begged Tiffany, her warm-coloured little face so piteous under the bright curls that Sally was hard put to it to deliver Mr Lovel's dictum that as there were only girls at the farm it wouldn't be proper.

So Tiffany sighed (since parents always got the last word) and was presently tied into a clean checked sun-bonnet and bulging cotton pantalettes to accompany John, who had brought Belinda with him, to the farm in a bullock-dray.

John, quite the farmer now, would have enjoyed chewing a straw only he rather feared the child Linda, who always gave him away to Caroline.

So he chewed instead the proposition just advanced to him by Peregrine and felt humbly grateful. Old Peregrine was the man to make money. John, dang it, never would. Even those steers from which he had hoped so much had sold badly, the monthly market being overstocked. Must go in more for Clydesdales, as Peregrine advises. Army needs 'em, thought John, pushing back his wide cabbage-tree hat to glance at Belinda (all gloves, bonnet, and propriety) prim on the seat beside him.

Five girls to find husbands and dowries for, as Caroline was always reminding him. Five dull little pieces like Linda, thought John, turning with relief to ardent Tiffany with bonnet flying, weaving her own secret games of magic round the bullocks lurching up between wastes of burned blackened timber, lurching down to squelch through creeks of emerald mosses in woody dells. “Don't you want to run with Tiffy, Linda?” he asked.

“It is not genteel, papa,” answered Linda, putting papa in his place. John, stimulated by town, nearly pitched her out by the nape of her prim neck and the tail of her stiffened skirts. But where was the use? She would only get him into a row with Caroline, who was so full of rows already. Strive not, thou earthen pot, to break the wall. Somewhere he had read that and re- page 96 membered because, dang it, he was the earthen pot, producing no more than a superfluity of lesser pots.

Tiffany, wooing bush robins, coteries of tiny wrens, swinging in supple-jack loops with a bellbird ringing its chime for her, came at length to lie in dusty hay in the dray bottom and let the bush come round her in the gloaming which would so soon be dark. The bush had tremendous voices for Tiffany lying in the hay.

I was here first, the bush said, crowding close with its monstrous totaras and matais and kahikateas going straight up into the sky like dark towers laddered with vines where one could climb to heaven. I've been here always. I remember the sun when it was a baby and all the stars being born, and I don't like the white folk, said the bush, peering with ghostly eyes through the thick leaves.

It gave Tiffany a kind of muddy feeling to come from that vast sweet murmuring freshness outside into the stuffy ill-lit passage with red Aunt Caroline (in soiled apron and hung all over with chains and lockets) pecking her cheek and all the pale pig-tailed cousins in a row being shocked at the torn edging on her pantalettes.

“You are late, Sir John,” said Caroline. “But of course you never think of me.”

“Peregrine kept me. A suggestion, my dear. I'll lay a tenner you'll like it,” said John, trying to be cheery and kissing everyone.

“Pray where would I come by tenners … nor you neither?” retorted Caroline. Since John insisted that they should live in the bush he need never think she liked it. “I suppose you didn't bring me a maid? Even the dullest immigrant knows better than to bury herself in the bush, and I must say I never expected——”

“Is dinner ready? Girls, take Tiffany to wash her hands,” said John, curtly. Thank heaven he'd be rid of them soon. For all his faults Peregrine was a good brother.

Tiffany washed in a cracked basin, surrounded by little page 97 cousins twittering at her and Linda for news. Linda had information about lace fichus and a new pattern for quilting petticoats, and then they were all asking:

“What presents have you brought us, Tiffany?”

“Books,” murmured Tiffany, despairing. Presents, suggested by mamma, were always chosen by papa, who couldn't be told that books were considered an insult at the farm. This time it was Sanford and Merton and The Pilgrim's Progress in drab bindings. Linda and Sophia (being old enough to have absorbed gentility) said nothing; but Emily and Maria and Baby Lucilla burst into loud sobs.

“Oh, I did want a pair of button shoes….” “Oh, I did want a doll….” “Why don't you never bring us something pretty?”

Sophia said spitefully: “Well, you've got to do lessons with us every day you're here. Mamma says so. And you don't know as many hymns as I do.”

In the other room John was saying: “I have a proposition from Peregrine for you, my dear.”

“What does he expect to make out of it?” demanded Caroline, stooping over the big colonial fireplace where two camp-ovens and a black kettle hung on hooks. She handled the ovens with gloves … which she didn't use in conversation, thought John, explaining that now labour was so cheap Peregrine was building a house on his second section in Official Bay…. “He may sell it later, but in the meantime he offers it to you and the girls. I shall stay at the farm.”

“Wants an unpaid caretaker, does he? I won't go without a servant.” But Caroline's heart was leaping. Once she got into that house it would take more than Peregrine to get her out. “When will it be ready?” she asked….

Governesses had brought Tiffany as far as compound addition, and from the books she read at Major Henry's she knew all about Gulliver, Buddha, and other interesting gentlemen. But under Aunt Caroline all the children page 98 wrote “Be good and you will be happy” in sand-boxes and did addition on their fingers. “How else can you be certain? I won't have you guessing,” said Aunt Caroline, black and upright as a ruler.

“But I always guess right,” pleaded Tiffany, pushing up her bronze curls. “And I'm scarcely ever happy when I'm good.” Then she upset her sand-box, and Emily giggled until Caroline boxed her ears, since Tiffany was privileged until they got into the new house. Emily shrieked, and Sophia (so temperamental) began to cry. “Jerusalem, my happy home,” she wailed. But Caroline had no patience with happy homes, and Linda was more than usually complaining when they went to bed.

“Papa has no notion of progress or we'd live in town too. I vow it is quite shocking for Lady Lovel and the Misses Lovel to be on a farm like immigrants. For of course we are more ladies than you,” said round-eyed Linda, rubbing buttermilk right down her neck as a proof of gentility.

“He's breeding stud cattle that'll help the country more than anything,” declared Tiffany, very stout for Uncle John.

“Breeding! La, how coarse you are. That comes from associating with Maoris. Do come to bed, Tiffy. I detest being cold in bed. I wish I were old enough to be married and have someone to warm my toes on every night.”

Tiffany came reluctantly. Buttermilk smelt, and Linda would cuddle so.

“I'm glad I sleep alone,” she said dreamily. “I like lying straight and rather cold and pretending I'm out under the stars with the fern rustling all round and just one little morepork owl calling back in the bush.”

“La! What horrid notions you do have. I don't think they're quite respectable,” said Linda, cuddling her plump little body in close.