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Undisturbed by distracted colonists the seasons continued their stately procession; whipping warm blood into fair cheeks with the winter wind, attacking susceptible hearts with a gay onslaught of colour, of scent, of tinkling goat-bells, cattle-bells on the ferny hills of a warm evening when it was quite la mode to walk out in parties—which had a curious habit of dissolving into couples. Bishop Selwyn's palace grew some towers, and in Sally's garden scarlet verbena was impudent among tall white arum lilies. Caroline was the first to have her page 159 photograph taken by the new daguerreotype method (which prevented so many ladies from following her example), and in response to the gold reward Charles Ring discovered a few nuggets on Coromandel Peninsula, down the harbour. But the Maoris chased him off the land with no more than a handful.

Up at the barracks morose officers, always starting off on some wild-goose chase after the Maoris, became outspoken over breakfasts of rump-steak washed down by gallons of beer.

“We're always damned and drowned and starved in this foul country. Why don't Grey build us roads if he must send us into it?” (In the seclusion of the mess a man could air his mind.) “Why don't Grey get us the convicts the Colonel is always begging for? They could make us roads…. Why don't Grey import Chinese, as that Canterbury fellow Fitzgerald suggests? Why don't England….”

“Bah,” said O'Reilly, flicking dust off his Wellingtons, “England would give the country legislation to-morrow, but you don't catch our Lord High Panjandrum yielding an inch of his powers.”

“Pass the beer,” said Lord Calthorpe, sourly. “We'll be dry enough to-morrow.”

“We're never dry in the bush,” said a lieutenant, inviting curses since surely everyone must know that on the morrow Calthorpe would leave his fair lady for months of unmentionable hardship … although he certainly did his best to mention them to Darien when she presented him with a pair of carpet-slippers worked patiently by Tiffany, who would do anything for her.

“Give us a kiss, my charmer,” said Calthorpe, taking more from those full red lips than Darien could easily bear. So she pushed him off, straightening her white neck-ruffle. Men did maul so.

“Good-bye, and don't get your feet wet,” she said, feeling that now she could concentrate on Jermyn, who page 160 was being so peculiar that he must be mad in love with her and didn't dare say so. I suppose I shall have to say it myself. Men always leave the hard things for women, she thought.

And now there was this chatter about Haini Fleete. Auckland ladies did not call on stately Haini, who was a wealthy chieftainess in her own right. But the proprieties must be observed. “Let him marry her properly, my dear,” said the ladies, handsomely, “and we would have little objection. But it would not be right otherwise. We must keep up the standard at all costs.” So they said, heroically shutting their eyes to Maori wives in all directions and inviting the gentlemen to dinner. But Corny, said Jermyn, knew what he was about, since the chiefs would certainly confiscate Haini's land if he married her.

Meanwhile, down in the flax-gully, Hemi asked a thirteen-year-old Tiffany to marry him, and Tiffany told Roddy about it on a dusky evening in the attic.

“A Maori marriage is so easy. Just four feet under a mat. But I didn't want to, Roddy, and mamma wouldn't like it.”

“I should say not,” cried Roddy, getting quite hot in a new consciousness of his white blood. “Monstrous wrong of Hemi to ask you. Of course,” he mumbled, getting hotter with the thought of slender tawny little Eriti Fleete, “it's different for a man.”

“Of course,” said Tiffany, wondering why. But everything was different for a man. She sighed, knitting her straight dark brows. Poor Hemi had been so splendid in the bush-gully, letting himself go with the fiery eloquence of the Maori. “… Listen, Tihane, to the call of aroha … of love. Soon I shall go from here to learn to be a chief and wear the mat and huia feather. Soon I shall sing ‘Red plumes of the kaka’ while I go with my warriors to the battle. But always will remain my deep love for you, Tihane. Ina koia tera….”

It was quite hard to resist dear Hemi being so melodi- page 161 ously dominant. But he went very well in verses, even if she didn't want him under a mat. Indeed, he went so surprisingly well that Roddy only had to alter a few words before he took the result to Jermyn. “It's meant for poetry though it don't rhyme,” said Roddy, blushing. “Tiffy made most of it. Do you think it is poetry, sir?”

Since Bible quotations, Maori waiatas, and translations from old Chinese songs found in Major Henry's books were so finely mixed in the children by now, Jermyn need not have been so nonplussed.

“Where the devil did you infants learn all this, Roddy?”

Roddy looked bewildered. From earliest Kororareka days he and Tiffany, along with the little Fleetes, had assisted at births, deaths, and tangis, since every important Maori event takes place among interested spectators in the open, and no Maori has ever been taught that the natural is immodest. Tiffany and Roddy, though submitting perforce to English notions, were still iconoclasts at heart.

“All what? It is quite true, sir.”

“It reads like it. Good Lord …” said Jermyn, frowning.

Elegant verse was the order of the day and all papers had given much space to Mr James Fitzgerald's “Night Watch of the Charlotte Jane,” written while the Canterbury Pilgrims were still at sea and having a kind of homesick courage:

Here's a health to the land we are leaving,
And the land we're going to.

Everyone could understand that. To every exile the land they were leaving would be for ever the first, the dearer land. But here (so far as Jermyn knew) was the first voice of those who were no exiles, to whom New Zealand was the only land they knew. They knew the Maori too, egad, thought Jermyn, reading:

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Why did you bear me under the dark totaras, my mother,
With sad warriors leaning on their taiahas and the white men drinking in the town?
We are losing our land and we cannot marry the white girls, my mother.
The wind came out of the bush and through the tussock, saying:
What is the use? You were better in the womb, Maori warrior.

“Devil take it! You have no right to know all this, Roddy,” said Jermyn, reading through to the end.

“But it is quite true,” persisted Roddy. “Is it poetry, sir?”

“I should call it so.” Jermyn stared at Roddy, feeling that he had never realized Sally's children before. Yet there was in these verses much of that Sally who was always peering through wistful enchanted mists. Much of her in Roddy, although he had already that sapling height which the English stock seems to breed in a new country—probably maturing too quickly for tough fibre. Nothing in Roddy with his flute, his poetry, the dreams in his brown eyes to march with practical Peregrine and his founding of families.

These verses would plague Peregrine like the deuce. Jermyn said:

“I'll print these, Roddy, though they'll need some editing. We English are prudes, though you and Tiffany don't condescend to notice it. And I will put your name to it.”

“Oh, Uncle Jermyn! Oh, will you really?” Roddy was glowing like a sunrise. “But it's mostly Tiffy's, you know. Could you put her name on them too?”

“Certainly. And don't tell anyone. It will be a surprise, you see.”

But even Jermyn was unprepared for the surprise of a Peregrine who considered any publicity of women nothing short of profanation. Almost speechless under a shower of amused and somewhat unpleasant congratulations, he page 163 carried the Chromcle home and shook it in Sally's face.

“Is this … this indecency your doing?” he gobbled. “Where is your sense of modesty, of … of all that you owe to my name? Roddy shall have a good thrashing, the maundering young idiot, but as for my daughter … Good God, it is too much!” cried Peregrine.

Frightened Sally read with awe. An unexpected something leapt up in her rejoicing. Her own children had the words she never had for that lovely ghost-like haunting in her life. “They wrote it?” she cried.

“They have written the most outrageous and impudent indecency,” declared Peregrine, getting his breath back. He raged about the room like a judgment, shaking the paper. “My daughter! The first time a female Lovel has ever been so abandoned as to get herself into print. Even in death-notices she should be merely ‘the wife of.’ 'Pon my soul…. Where is the girl? Tiffany!”

Tiffany came running. A particularly buoyant and charming Tiffany, thought Sally, her bright hair snooded back with a lilac ribbon, her lissom young body (growing so tall) very slim above the spread skirts of lilac cambric.

“What have you to say to this, miss?” demanded Peregrine, thrusting the paper at her. Tiffany's clear glance flashed over the page. Sally saw her colour rising as the ecstasy of creation approved descended on her. She clasped her hands, shining like a star.

“Oh. It's ours,” she breathed.

Then Peregrine became so frantic that Sally wept like a river. Did not Tiffany realize what she had done? Was she really ignorant of the fact that even the most abandoned of women rarely had their names in the papers, and when they did get them there other women were not supposed to know it. Did she not realize that she was now branded for ever?

“Branded!” he cried, shaking her by the shoulder. “Never imagine, miss, that there is any worth in this … this indecent rubbish. Why, the two of you can't cook up page 164 a rhyme between you. Your uncle Jermyn has merely used you as a means to insult me….”

“Oh, no, no,” cried Sally before she could stop.

He turned, staring down on her with those black close-set eyes.

“And may I ask what you know about it? Are you in the plot too?”

“No, Mr Lovel,” murmured Sally, feeling how white she must be looking.

“Then kindly do not interfere. Verses! Dragging the Lovel name into vulgar publicity for verses! My daughter! And you cannot even rhyme! Get the cane.”

“Oh, please, Mr Lovel …” cried Sally.

“By heaven,” cried Peregrine, forgetting his gentility for once, “I've a good mind to whip you too. Tiffany! Get the cane.”

The Holy Immolation of Matrimony was hard to swallow during the next days while Tiffany consumed bread-and-water behind locked doors, and Roddy had three thrashings “to knock the nonsense out of him,” and Caroline openly hinted that she had expected something of the sort now, and Mr Lovel went about looking like the whole Book of Martyrs.

Indeed, Jermyn had done much mischief, the harem instinct being still strong among the English gentry, who said continually, “How terrible for the poor girl to get herself so talked of,” and then talked the more. Urged by Caroline, John came in to be quite sententious about the sanctity of womanhood to Jermyn, who laughed in his face.

“My eye and Betty Martin! What a storm in a tea-cup. If Peregrine will produce children he must take the consequences.”

“But … a girl …” protested John, tugging unhappily at his beard, and wishing Caroline would talk to Jermyn herself. But she had been so mysterious, saying that poor Tiffany needed such care.

page 165

“A girl is merely a soul which has had the ill-luck to be confined in a female body,” said Jermyn lightly. Through these days Peregrine was doing Jermyn's wooing for him more effectively than he could do it himself, and so Jermyn felt quite merciless. This would teach Sally what sort of husband she had chosen for her children and (since Peregrine had temporarily forbidden Jermyn the house) she would have plenty of time to think of it.

“What is the matter with you all,” he demanded of puzzled John, “that you don't realize the value of a definite new voice in a new land? Poets make a country, not politicians. Do you think all the politicians in the world could keep alive Ireland's hate of England if it wasn't for ‘The Wearing of the Green’? ‘An' if the colour we must wear is England's cruel Red—’ I'll warrant you, John, the word ‘cruel’ has never been used so effectively before or since….”