The Life of Katherine Mansfield
In November—the beginning of summer in New Zealand—Kathleen's father, in perplexity, arranged for her to go with a neighbour's party on a caravan trip through the Midlands of the North Island—the wild, uncultivated King Country, populated by scattered Maori pahs and a few farms, widely dispersed—the country afterward the setting of Milly and The Woman at the Store.
The journey—just a six weeks' trip in a caravan wagon through untamed New Zealand country—was important in the life of Kathleen Beauchamp for several reasons: not only did it give her new material for study—the Maoris in their native pahs, something more of their language, some deeper beauty at the roots of New Zealand beyond the frontiers forced by her pioneer Pa-men, and something, too, of the starkness of the tragedy which fills Porirua with insane—but when she returned from this journey, she was a different person. During those six weeks, she had journeyed within herself, as well.
The urge to write had taken complete possession of her. She kept an almost daily record of those weeks—filling one of the small black notebooks with shaky pencilled jottings as the wagon bumped page 285 over the rough trail; writing by candle in the tent while the others slept; scribbling by the first light while they were still asleep. She always meant to use this material, probably for a novel of New Zealand; undoubtedly it would have been written had she lived. But she did, indeed—in her series of stories for Rhythm—employ this background, this atmosphere of isolation—so stimulating for a few weeks, so disastrous to sanity after a few years.
They started by train from Wellington, north, by way of Kaitoke and Hastings, where she had arranged to collect her post:
“Dear Mr. Miller,
“I have to thank you for keeping my none too small amount of correspondence. I went to the Bank yesterday afternoon foolishly forgetting that it was closing day. Will you kindly address any letters that may arrive for me c/o Bank of New Zealand—Hastings—I shall be there Saturday.
“This paper is vile, but I am once more on the ranch.
“Once more thanking you,
“K. M. Beauchamp.”
They continued, through Napier on Hawke Bay, to Petane, a few miles further up the coast. There the train journey ended, and the caravan started through the Petane Valley, east, through the King Country—the Kaingaroa Plain—to Rotorua.
Kaingaroa (Uriwera) Plain. “November, 1907.“On the journey, the sea was most beautiful, a silver point etching and a pale sun breaking through pearl clouds.page 286“There is something inexpressibly charming to me in railway travelling. I lean out of the window, the breeze blows, buffeting and friendly against my face, and the child spirit, hidden away under a hundred and one grey city wrappings, bursts its bonds and exults within me. I watch the long succession of brown paddocks, beautiful, with here a thick spreading of buttercups, there a white sweetness of arum lilies, And there are valleys lit with the swaying light of broom blossom. In the distance, grey whares, two eyes and a mouth, with a bright petticoat frill of a garden creeping around them.“On a white road once a procession of patient cattle wended their way, funeral wise—and behind them a boy rode on a brown horse. Something in the poise of his figure, in the strong sunburnt colour of his naked legs reminded me of Walt Whitman.“Everywhere on the hills, great masses of charred logs, looking for all the world like strange, fantastic beasts: a yawning crocodile, a headless horse, a gigantic gosling, a watch dog—to be smiled at and scorned in the daylight—but a veritable nightmare in the darkness. And now and again the silver tree trunks, like a skeleton army, invade the hills.“At Kaitoke the train stopped for “morning lunch,” the inevitable tea of the New Zealander. The F.T. and I paced the platform, peered into the long wooden saloon where a great counter was piled with ham sandwiches and cups and saucers, soda cake, and great billys of milk. We didn't want to eat, and walked to the end of the platform, and looked into the valley. Below us lay a shivering mass of white native blossom—a little tree touched with scarlet—a clump of toi-toi waving in the wind, and looking for all the world like a family of little girls drying their hair.“Late in the afternoon we stopped at Jakesville. How we play inside the house while Life sits on the front door step and Death mounts guard at the back.“After brief snatches of terribly unrefreshing sleep, I woke, and found the grey dawn slipping into the tent. page 287 I was hot and tired and full of discomfort—the frightful buzzing of mosquitos—the slow breathing of the others seemed to weigh upon my brain for a moment; and then I found that the air was alive with birds' song. From far and near they called and cried to each other. I got up and slipped through the little tent opening on to the wet grass. All around me the willow still full of gloomy shades—the caravan in the glade a ghost of itself—but across the clouded grey sky, the vivid streak of rose colour blazoned on the day. The grass was full of clover bloom. I caught up my dressing gown with both hands and ran down to the river—and the water flowed on, musically laughing, and the green willows suddenly stirred by the breathings of the dawning day, swung softly together. Then I forgot the tent and was happy….“So we crept again through that frightful wire fence—which every time seemed to grow tighter and tighter, and walked along the white soft road. On one side the sky was filled with the sunset, vivid, clear yellow, and bronze green, and that incredible cloud shade of thick mauve.“Round us in the darkness, the horses were moving softly, with a most eery sound. Visions of long dead Maoris, of forgotten battles and vanished feuds stirred in me, till I ran through the dark glade on to a bare hill. The track was very narrow and steep, and at the summit a little Maori whare was painted black against the wide sky. Before it two cabbage-trees stretched out phantom fingers, and a dog watching me coming up the hill barked madly. Then I saw the first star, very sweet and faint in the yellow sky, and then another and another, like little lilies—like primroses. And all around me in the gathering gloom the wood-hens called to each other with monotonous persistence—they seemed to be lost and suffering. I reached the whare, and a little Maori girl and three boys sprang from nowhere, and waved and beckoned. At the door a beautiful old Maori woman sat cuddling a cat. She wore a white handkerchief around her page 288 white hair, and a vivid green-and-black check rug wrapped around her body. Under the rug I caught a glimpse of a very full blue-print dress, worn native fashion, the skirt over the bodice.”
As the caravan lumbered on its first lap up through the Petane Valley, she wrote to Marie:
Petane Valley. “Monday Morning (Dec. 18, 1907).
“Bon jour, Marie dearest—Your humble servant is seated on the very top of I know not how much luggage, so excuse the writing. This is the most extraordinary experience.Our journey was charming. A great many Maoris on the train; in fact I lunched next to a great brown fellow at Woodville. That was a memorable meal. We were both starving, with that dreadful, silent hunger. Picture to yourself a great barn of a place—full of finely papered chandeliers and long tables—decorated with paper flowers, and humanity most painfully in evidence. You could cut the atmosphere with a knife.“Then the rain fell heavily, drearily into the river and the flax swamp and the mile upon mile of dull plain. In the distance, far and away in the distance, the mountains were hidden behind a thick grey veil.”
The letters that she had written on the swaying caravan as they travelled through the manuka bush and sheep country,“very steep and bare, yet relieved here and there by the rivers and willows and little bush ravines” —she posted that evening at Pohue, a few miles up the Petane Valley. The day had been intensely hot; they were dusty and tired when they reached Bodly's Accommodation House, where “his fourteen daughters grew peas.”
That night they made camp “on the top of a hill page 289 with mountains all around, and in the evening walked in the bush to a beautiful daisy-pied creek with fern and tuis.”
Fascinated by the Maoris in their native life, Kathleen watched them cook on their homestead, listened to “their hoarse crying,” looked at their roses. She had known old Armena at Anikiwa on the Marlborough Sounds, when she was a child, and there she had seen the deserted pah on the hill by the Maori's burial ground which held Armena's “seven husbands”; she had known Maata and had found her more fascinating than any girl she had met—but Maata was a half-caste, brought up in English ways, and Armena had worked for the English, and had even married an Englishman. Here were Maoris in their native pahs—living much the life they must have lived when The True Original Pa Man pioneered in New Zealand in the ‘5's. It was all “meat” to her, as she used to say. For the time, she even forgot London.
The next morning they made an early start in summer rain. The roads grew rougher, less travelled. As they climbed Titi-o-Kiara, with the bush and the wild mountains all around, the day cleared. After their lunch which they had beyond the Maori pah, they found themselves out in the wild bush.
They camped that night at the Tarawera Mineral Baths.“We laughed with joy all day,” Kass wrote in the black Note Book.
The following day they reached the Waipunga Falls. How fierce the winds through the flax and manuka! How bad the roads as they forced their way up hill through the shimmering heat to Rangi- page 290 taiki. Kathleen's abiding memory of the Rangitaiki Valley was expressed in a poem of that name which she wrote a year or two later:
“O valley of waving broom,
O lovely, lovely light,
O heart of the world, red-gold!
Breast high in the blossom I stand;
It beat about me like waves
Of a magical, golden sea.
“The barren heart of the world
Alive at the kiss of the sun,
The yellow mantle of Summer
Flung over a laughing land,
Warm with the warmth of her body,
Sweet with the kiss of her breath.
“O valley of waving broom,
O lovely, lovely light,
O mystical marriage of Earth
With the passionate Summer sun!
To her lover she holds a cup
And the yellow wine o'erflows.
He has lighted a little torch
And the whole of the world is ablaze.
Prodigal wealth of love!
Breast high in the blossom I stand.”
At Rangitaiki Kathleen posted the letters she had been writing while they travelled. That evening they camped nearby, and they had cream at a clean farmhouse where the happiness of the man and woman and their daughter, isolated in the wilderness, was astonishing to Kass. She saw there, too, the wild pigs which had descended from those which Captain Cook had released in the '70's, and of which Cousin Ethel had told her years before at Anikiwa.page 291
Two days later they struggled across the plain in a torrential downpour, over a fearful road, with “long threading purple mountains” in the distance. Wild horses swept by them; they saw one clump of broom through the rain, and heard larks singing. After a time they reached manuka bush and saw more wild horses over the far plains. Their clothes were drenched, but they had no water to drink. It was a strange night in the tent, with “quivering air” and the solitude closing them in. The next few days Kass recorded fully in the black Note Book. She kept her impressions in flying words, with no attempt at form or style. It was a swift series of jottings to serve as background against which to weave future tales:
page 295“In the morning rain fast—the chuffing sound of the horses. We get up very early indeed, and at six o'clock ready to start; the sun breaks through the grey clouds—There is a little dainty wind and a wide fissure of blue sky. Wet boots, wet motor veil, torn coat, and the dew shining on the scrub. No breakfast. We start—the road grows worse and worse. We seem to pass through nothing but scrub-covered valley, and then suddenly comes round the corner a piece of road. Great joy, but the horses rush right into it; the traces are broken; it grows more and more hopeless. The weather breaks and rain pours down. We lose the track again and again, become rather hopeless, when suddenly far ahead we see a man on a white horse. The men leave the cart and rush off. We met two men, Maoris in dirty blue ducks—one can hardly speak English. They are surveyors. We stop, boil the billy, and have tea and herrings. Oh! how good—Ahead the purple mountains—the thin wretched dogs; we talk to them. Then we drive the horses off, but there is no water; the page 292 dark people, our conversation—Eta hoeremai te kai—it is cold. The crackling fire of manuka, walking breast high through the manuka. … We approach Galatea. We lunch by the Galatea River; there is an island in the centre, and a great clump of trees. The water is very green and swift. I see a wonderful great horse-fly; the great heat of the sun, and then the clouds roll up.“‘Hold the horses or they'll make a bolt for the river.’ My fright—Encounter one man, surveyor on white horse; his conversation. At the city gates we pull up and walk into the city. There is a Store and Accommodation House, and a G.P.O. Mrs. Prodgers is here with the baby and the Englishman—It is a lovely river. The Maori women are rather special—the Post Boy—the children—an accident to the horses—very great. The Maori room, the cushions. Then a strange road in a sort of basin of strong underbush.“Through the red gate were waving fields and fresh flax—the homestead in the distance—a little field of sheep, willow and cabbage trees, and away in the distance the purple hills in the shadow—sheep in for the shearing.“Here we drive in and ask for a paddock. Past the shearing shed—past the homestead to a beautiful place with a little patch of bush—tuis, magpies, cattle and water running through. But I know from bitter experience that we shall be eaten by mosquitos. Two Maori girls are washing; I go to talk with them; they are so utterly kids. While the dinner cooks, I walk away and lean over a giant log. Before me a perfect panorama of sunset—long, sweet, steel-like cloud against the faint blue, the hills full of gloom, the little river with the tree beside it is burnished silver—The sheep, and a weird, passionate abandon of birds—the cries—the flocks—“Then the advent of Bella, her charm in the dusk, the very dusk incarnate. Her strange dress, her plaited hair, the shy, swaying figure. The life they lead there. In the shearing sheds—the yellow dress page 293 with tui feathers on the coat and skirt and a () with scarlet () blossom. The () heat and look of the sheep. Farewell.“Had strawberries.”“Waki.“Lunched in a space in the bush cut through and then by devious routs we came to the pah. It was adorable. Just the collection of huts, the built place for Koumara and potatoes. We visit first the house. The bright, clean, charming little place, roses and pinks in the garden. Through the doorway, the kettle and fire and bright tins—the woman—the child in the pink dress and red sleeves in all the (). How she stands gathering her pleats of dress—She can say just ‘Yes.’ Then we go into the parlour—photos—a charming clock—mats—kits—red table cloth—horsehair sofa. The child saying, ‘Nicely, thank you.’ The shy children, the Mother, and the poor baby, thin and naked. The other bright children—her splendid face and regal bearing.“Then at the gate of the P.O. a great bright coloured crowd, almost threatening looking—a follower of Rua with long Fijian hair and side combs—a most beautiful girl of 15. She is married to a patriarch—her laughing face, her hands playing with the children's hair. Her smile across the broad river—the guide—the swimming dogs—it flows on—he stands in the water, a regal figure—then we alight, and we are out. The absolute ease of his figure, so boneless. He speeds our parting journey. His voice is so good. He speaks most correctly and enunciates each word. We see him last stopping to rest his horse.“The sun is fearfully hot. We camp by the guide's whare. The splendor of the night.”“Early (Monday).“The wet bushes brush against my face….“We pick Ngamoni (sweet potatoes) with the page 294 Maori children—in the sunshine—Their talk and their queer, droll ways…. We learn, too, though it is difficult and tedious because our hands are so stiff. One girl is particularly interesting with auburn hair and black eyes. She laughs with an indescribable manner and has very white teeth. Then another Maori in a red and black striped flannel jacket. The small boy is raggedly dressed in brown—his clothes are torn in many places—he wears a brown felt hat with a koe-koe feather placed rakishly on one side.“Here, too, I met Prodgers. It is splendid to see once again real English people. I am so tired and sick of the third-rate article. Give me the Maori and the tourist, but nothing between. All this place proved utterly disappointing after Nmuroa which was fascinating in the extreme. The Maoris were () some English and some Maori—not like the other natives. All these people dress in almost English clothes compared with the natives here. And they wear a great deal of ornament in Muroa and strange hair fashions. So we journey from their whare to Waiotapu. A grey day and I drive long dusty thick road and then before us is Tarawera,* with great white clefts—the poverty of the country—but the gorgeous blue mountains all around us in a great stretch of burnt manuka. We lunch and begin to decide whether to go to the Wharepuni. The men folk go, but eventually come back and say that the walk was too long—also the heat of the day—but there is a great pah, 1½ miles away. There we go. The first view—a man on the side of the road—in a white shirt and brown pants—waits for us. Opposite is a thick () Maori fence—in the distance across the paddock, whares clustered together like snails upon the green patch. And across the paddock a number of little boys come straggling along, from the age of twelve to three, out at elbow, bare-footed, indescribably dirty—but some of them almost beautiful—none of them very strong. There is one great fellow Feropa who speaks Eng. Black curls clustering round his broad brow, rest, almost langour in his black eyes—a slouching walk and yet there slumbers in his face passionate unrest and strength.”
The next night they slept outside a whare. Kass found there a girl whom she knew—Walie, who brought them a great bowl of milk, a little cup of cream and some lard—great luxuries for travellers in that wild country. The girl stayed to dine with the caravan: Kass gave her a cigarette; and Walie taught her Maori in return. Kathleen kept a list of Maori words and phrases during that trip. She had always known greeting phrases. (All New Zealanders know them.) And the Pa Man had many from his father, which he had taught the children. But on this journey, Kass acquired something of a vocabulary, learning the words in common use, the names of articles, and dress.
They stayed at the whare until the next midday.“There is something sad about it all,” Kathleen felt, as they left. A week later, Thursday, they were at Rotorua. Letters were awaiting her there, and a telegram from her mother. She answered her mother the next day:
“Mother dearest“Thank you for your wire which I received today and for Chaddie's (Marie's) lovely letter—So Vera has definitely left; I can hardly realize it. What a strange household you must be feeling.“You sound most gay at home. I am so glad.“I wrote to Chaddie on Wednesday. Yesterday was very hot indeed. A party of us went a Round page 296 Trip to the Hamurana Spring—the Ottere Falls across Lake Rotoiti to Tikitere and then back here by coach. I confess frankly that I hate going trips with a party of tourists. They spoil half my pleasure—don't they yours—You know, one lady who is the wit of the day, and is ‘flirty,’ and the inevitable old man who becomes disgusted with everything, and the honey-moon couple. Rotorua is a happy hunting ground for these. We came back in the evening, grey with dust—hair and eyes and clothing—so I went and soaked in the Rachel bath. The tub is very large. It is a wise plan to always use the public one—and there one meets one sex very much ‘in their nakeds’—Women are so apt to become communicative on these occasions that I carefully avoid them. I came home, dined and went into town with Mrs. (Ibbett). We ended with a Priest Bath—another pleasant thing—but most curious. At first we feel attacked by Dee-pa's friends—the humble (). The bath is of aerated water—very hot, and you sit in the spring— But afterwards you”
(and there she broke off, leaving the letter unfinished).
Rotorua was a fearful disappointment to Kathleen. It was not at all what she had expected. What did she anticipate in that city of geysers and mud baths? Whatever her preconceived notion of it (and her visual images always were powerful) she was disconcerted at the outset. Always she was a barometer to elusive and usually unperceived differences; and something in the very atmosphere as she approached the place confounded her. The boiling mud baths seemed like great festering “sores upon the earth.” The smell of sulphur, the heat of the steam “disgusted and outraged” her. It was “a little Hell—loathsome and ugly.” Actually it made her so ill with sickening headaches that she had to sit by page 297 herself in the town grounds while the others explored the dreadful “wonders of the world.” Later she tried to bathe in the Priest and Rachel baths, but “felt fearfully low.” She, herself, was no less surprised at the strange effect of it all upon her than were the others. In her Note Book she tried to analyse the conflicting inconsistencies of the beauty and the horror:
“On The Journey To Waiotapu.“In the distance these hills; to the right, almost violet; to the left, grey with rain. Behind, a great mound of pewter colour and silver. Then as we journey, a little line of brilliant green trees and a mound of yellow grass. We stop at a little swamp to feed the horses, and there is only the sound of a frog.“Intense stillness, almost terrible. Then the mountains are more pronounced. They are still more beautiful, and by and by a little puff of white steam … and by twists and turns in the road we pass several steam holes. Perfect stillness, and a strange red tinge on the cliffs.“We pass one oily green lake—fantastic blossoming. The air is heavy with sulphur and steam…. By and by we go to see mud volcanos—mount the steps all slimy and green, and peer in. It bulges out of the hole in great blobs of loathsome colour like a terribly grisly sore upon the earth. In a little whirling pool below, a thin coating of petroleum—black with jet—Rain began to fall—She is disgusted and outraged.“Coming back—the terrible road—the long, long distance—and finally soaking wetness and hunger. Bed and wetness again. The morning is fine but hot—The nearer they get to the town, the more she hates it. Perhaps it is the smell …”
“Thursday.“The loathsome trip.”page 298
“Friday.“She is so tired that she sits in the town grounds all morning. That evening—horrid.”
“Saturday.“Letters…. The quiet afternoon—fearful rain—up to the ankles—the wet camp—the fear of having to move— She thinks Rotorua is loathsome and ugly—that little Hell.”
“Sunday Morning.“The early start— It seems at each mile post her heart leaps. But as they leave it, the town is very beautiful and Whaha—full of white mist—strangely fanciful …“Oh, it is too hot where they lunch. She feels so ill—so tired—her headache is most violent—she can barely open her eyes but must lean back, though the jolting of the cart pains her….“They meet a Maori again, walking along, powerful and strong. She shouted, ‘Tenakoe (good day!).’ …”
“Monday.“All Sunday the further she went from Rotorua, the happier she became. Towards evening they came to a great mountain— It was very rugged and old and grim, an ancient fighting pah. Here the Maoris had fought, and at the top of this pah a spring bubbled … Then rounding the corner, they saw the Wairakei River, turbulent, and wildly rushing below them …“They camp in a paddock down by the river—a wonderful spot…. Before them a wide sheet of swift, smooth water—and a poplar tree, and a long straight line of pines…. Just there—on the bank ahead of them—a manuka tree in full blossom leans toward the water. The paddock is full of manuka …“After dinner … they go through the gates—always there is a thundering sound from afar off—down the sandy path, and into a little pine cavern. page 299 The floor is brown with needles—great boulders come in their path—The manuka has grown over the path—With heads bent, hands out, they battle through and then suddenly a clearing of burnt manuka—and they both cry aloud—There is the river—savage, fierce, rushing, tumbling—whirling suddenly the life from the still, placid floor of water behind—like waves of the sea—like fierce wolves—the noise is thunder—And right before them the lovely mountain outlined against a vivid orange sky—The colour is so intense that it is reflected on their faces—in their hair; the very rock which they climb is hot with the colour. The sunset changes—becomes mauve—and in the waning light, all the stretch of burnt manuka is like a thin mauve mist around them. A bird—large and silent—flies from the river right into the flowering sky. There is no other sound except the voice of the passionate river.“She climbs on a great black rock and sits huddled up there alone—fiercely—almost brutally thinking—like Wapi. Behind them the sky was faintly heliotrope—and then suddenly from behind a cloud a little silver moon shone through—the sudden exquisite note in the night—The sky changes—glowed again—and the river sounded more thundering—more deafening. They walked back slowly—lost the way—and found it—took up a handful of pine needles and smelt it greedily; and then in the distant paddock the tent shone like a golden poppy—Outside the stars and the utter spell—magic mist moving—mist over the whole world—Lying—her arm over her head—she can see faintly—like a grey thought—the moon and the mist. They are hardly distinguishable. She is not tired now—only happy. She can see the poplar tree mirrored in the water. The grass is wet. There is the faintest sound of crickets. As she touches her hair, a wave of cold air strikes her. Damp cold fingers about her heart.“The sun comes. The poplar is green, now. Oh, it shines on everything—a little grove of forest. Across page 300 the river the mist becomes white, rises from the mountain ahead. There are the pines—and there just on the bank—the flowering bank—is a moat of white colour against the blue water. A lark sings—The water bubbles. She can just see ahead the gleam of the rapids—The mist seems rising and falling …“Sunshine—had there ever been such sunshine—They walked over the wet road through the pine trees. The sun gleamed—golden locusts cornered in the bushes—Through her thin blouse she felt its scorching touch and was glad.”
As they turned south, on the home journey, she began two letters:
“This will, I think, be my last letter to you before I reach home—I wrote last to Chaddie from Rotorua—I must say I hated that town—I never felt so ill or depressed. It was H—-.”
“I am a vagrant—a Wanderer—a Gypsy tonight—booming wind—it rises half a tone above each minute—but that is all—it never ceases … and where the water catches the light there is a rainbow—pink—blue—amber—white—But it is all too short—-”
They were driving due south, on the road to Oraki-Korako, now. Mounting the hill, they looked down on “mile on mile of river winding in and out among the mountains” with toi-toi waving on the bank. On all sides the plain stretched, calm and still,“like a mirror for the sky.” But at a turn, the stillness was shattered:
“Then there came rapids. Great foaming, rushing torrents—They tore down the mountains, thundering, page 301 roaring—We drew rein—and there was a wide space of blue forget-me-nots.”
Following the river, they found quiet again—with mist hanging low. Kathleen watched the water through the leaves and trees until the danger and uncertainty of that passage between the hanging cliffs wrenched her attention; yet at the top, once it was gained, she was released for a fiercer beauty:
“There is the sea foaming torrents of water, leaping, snow-white, like lions fighting—thundering against the green land—and the land stretches out ineffectual arms to hold it back.—It seems there is nothing in the world but this shattering sound of water. It casts a thousand showers of silver spray—It is one gigantic battle. I watch it and am thrilled. Then through more bush—the ferns are almost too exquisite—gloomy shade—sequestered deeps—another rock—another view—here the colour is far more intense—the purple, the blue, the great green clad rock. The water thunders down, foams, rushes—then pours itself through a narrow passage and comes out on a wide blue bay…. A wide passage, more eddy. At last, far in the distance stretching shadowed steadiness—Peace. We plunge back again—there is a last view—very near—the water, the mountains far distant.”
They approached Orakei-Korako, around a bend of road and river, and she saw poplars, grouped like a study for an etching, with a mere suggestion of fence. Her quick eye followed the line, and the distant colours:“a green patch of flowering potatoes—mauve, blue and white.” The place seemed deserted, yet from the bush they heard “the death-like thudding—like a paddle wheel.” /'. page 302 Again she met the horror of smell and smoke, and the filthy festering sores upon the earth:
“We go down the dragon's Mouth. It is a most difficult walk down a scrambling path—holding on by bushes and trees—then there is one fierce jump—and we are there. It belches filthy steam and smoke. There is green slime and yellow scale-like appearances, infinitely impressive, and always that ominous thudding engine-like sound. We walk on a broad, flat terrace, and there is so thin a crust that one would have thought it almost too dangerous to move. We see a very small geyser and view the sulphur holes.”
In the terrible heat, and the thudding noise, Kathleen groped her way dizzily back to the known world from this new Hell, hated only second to Rotorua.
Later that day they drove through Wairakei, a few miles above Taupo, which is situated on the northern arm of the great lake. After the hot day, the Taupo Falls were a grateful relief:“The water is sea-coloured; the foam dips for a long way down the water. Again that sound.” They passed more poplars—this time less impressive—as they drove through the bush to the bridge and “stood there a moment—quiet—-All the thundering wonder was below us!”
“In the afternoon we climbed down the bank—first a ladder, then rough steps—another ladder—catching swaying—and a fern grotto—pale green—green fern leaf from the top all around us—dampness and beauty—and we are below the falls—the mountain of water—the sound—the essence of it.”
All this wild beauty, so known and loved by the Maoris, so little spoiled, then, by white settlers, had page 303 its effect upon her. The sound and rhythm of the Maori names were to her like sound and rhythm of flowing water:
She wrote them in her Note Book, with a list of Maori words, and their meanings. London was distant to her now. London was the dream state. Here was reality. For a time she was living and moving and having her being in the immediate moment. Gone that shattering division. Her roots were nourished again by their own soil; and for the time (so brief) she was at peace within herself, fed by the beauty and colour and strange magic—companioned, in a curious way, by the knowledge that natives who had known all this through so many centuries, had drawn from it essential life.
Despite the arduous journey of that day, she tried one of her Vignettes:
“Tuesday.“I stand in the manuka scrub—the fairy blossom.“Everywhere the broom tosses its golden fragrant plumes into the air. I am on a little rise: to my right, a great tree of Mimosa laden with blossom bends and foams in the breeze. Before me the lake is drowned in the sunset. The distant mountains are silver blue, and the sky first faint rose, then shaded into pale amber.“Far away on my left the land is heavily shadowed and sharply outlined—fold upon fold of grey cloud….“A white moth flutters past me. I hear always the whisper of the water.“I am alone. I am hidden. Life seems to have page 304 passed away—drifted and drifted miles and worlds on beyond the fairy sight.“Very faint and clear the bird calls and cries—and another on a little scarlet tree close by me answers with an ecstasy of song.“Then I hear steps approaching. A young Maori girl climbs slowly up the hill. She does not see me. I do not move. She reaches a little knoll and suddenly sits down, native fashion, her legs crossed, her hands clasped in her lap. She is dressed in a blue skirt and a soft white blouse. Round her neck is a piece of twisted flax, and a long piece of greenstone is suspended from it. Her black hair is twisted softly at her neck. She wears long white and red earrings…. She sits silently—utterly motionless—her head thrown back. All the lines of her face are passionate, violent, savage, but in her eyes slumbers a tragic, illimitable Peace.“The sky changes—softens. The world is all grey mist—the land in heavy shadow—silence in the woods.“The girl does not move—But very faint, sweet and beautiful—a star wakes in the sky. She is the very incarnation of evening.”
Over the hills they came to Taupo:“in the foreground blue, then purple, then silver—on this side the pines—the gum trees—the clustering houses—and a fringe of yellow meadow.” The little green Island, Motu Taiko, seemed to be floating in the lake,“with at last the mountain, the majestic God of it all towering against the sky.” They passed the little promontory of green flat, and the tracks of broom, approaching Tapu across a white bridge swinging over a river—“peacock-blue.” They followed the white road, past the Maoris “lounging in the sun.” There Kathleen watched a moment of drama—an old Maori page 305 woman and a little child crowded together, waiting—for what? The scene lasted a moment only, but to her it seemed a whole cross-section of life:
“Other Maoris come to help the old woman into a cart—a white, bony horse, very lamed. The child cries and cries. The old man sways to and fro. She holds on to him with a most pathetic gesture. They drive into the night.”
The caravan followed the road winding by the Lake and through great avenues of pines to the Hotel.“Here are lawns and cut trees … bolder walks—stray paths—all the red brown pine needle carpet. The house is not pretty, but poppies grow round it.”
She was in a receptive state now. All of the outer layers, hardened by conflict, by friction, were peeled away, leaving the mind so sensitive to beauty, reflecting from innumerable facets any loveliness to which it might be exposed:
“All is harmonious and peaceful and delicious. We camp in a pine forest—beautiful. There are chickens cheeping; the people are so utterly benevolent. We are like children here with happiness. We drive through the sunset—then supper at the hotel. And the night is utterly perfect. We go to the mineral baths. The walk there down the hill is divine. The suggestion of water and cypresses; it is very steep. Not a fire bath, though very hot—so pleasant. Then we go home—tired—hot—happy—blissfully happy. We sleep in the tent … wake early and wash and dress and go down to the hotel again. The birds are magical. I feel I cannot leave, but pluck honeysuckle. The splashes of light lie in the pine woods.”
All her life she had heard of the Waihi massacre, page 306 of the True Original Pa Man's pioneering era—now she walked over that very ground:
“Then—goodbye, Taupo, and we are on the plains. I feel quite at home again. At last we come to Waihi the scene of a more horrible massacre—only two men were saved: one rushed through the bush; one was cutting wood. We stop to look for water, and there are two men—one Oscar; one most perfect Maori—like iron.
“Then we are in a valley of colour—it is strewn everywhere. I have never dreamed of so much blossom.”
When they lunched, it was to discover again what they had found throughout the journey—that the natives accepted them with that inherent Maori kindliness and courtesy that made the blending of the two races so desirable. Kathleen jotted in her notes:“They do not seem so much surprised to see us. Give us fresh bread.”
December 14th was their last morning:“Oh, what a storm last night!” she wrote,“and the coming of the dawn with the willows lashing together.” In her final notes she already was projecting her mind toward the city—back again to her ambitions, to that ardent striving to “live” quickly. On December 15th, she wrote—not a description—but a poem, Youth; and her programme for the days ahead:
“6–8 technique 9–1 practise 2–5 write.”
They left the caravan and were precipitated into the civilisation of Wellington—another world, page 307 another epoch, almost all the distance between the days of the True Original Pa Man pioneer, and the days of Kathleen Beauchamp, lately from London.
Her final entry was indicative of the swift leap in time and place—the return to self-consciousness:
“In The Train—Dec. 17th.“Has there ever been a hotter day? The land parches—golden with the heat. The sheep are sheltering in the shadow of the (woods). In the distance the hills are shimmering in the heat. M. and I. sitting opposite each other. I look perfectly charming.”
* The mountain of that name, near Rotorua.