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A Romance of Lake Wakatipu

Chapter VIII

page 30

Chapter VIII.

A Typical Goldfields Township—The Urban Centre of the Dunstan—The Bar and Bar-parlour—Coach Night—The Warden's Lecture in Aid of the Hospital Fund—Rock-and-Pillar—Rattray Street Corner, Dunedin.

Clyde, the urban centre of the Dunstan, is a typical goldfields township of the early days. It is perhaps the only spot in Otago that knows no change, no improvement, other than the change and decay incidental to the advance of years. Other places improve in proportion as their industrial pursuits develop, but, as a township, Clyde has never succeeded in advancing beyond the initial stages laid out by its first occupants. It is an accumulation of shanties, and, if it had only a little more life and animation, would pass muster for a new rush.

In sauntering along the main thoroughfare, the lawyer noted that the pursuits and occupations of the place were pretty much on a par with those of the township from which he hailed. Business for the most part had been suspended for the day, although the lights shining from behind half-closed doors announced that stray customers would be attended to. The bars, bar-parlours, and billiard-rooms were the chief resorts, the more studious taking refuge in the public reading-room.

The only change from this routine was coach night, the performances of an occasional theatrical troupe, or a lecture delivered in aid of some public beneficial object, that laudable institution the district hospital coming in for the lion's share 75 of support accorded in that way.

Two such events occurred on the night in question. The first was the arrival of the up-country coach from Dunedin. Being wholly cut off from the outside world, unless by road traffic, it will be understood coach night was looked forward to with a good deal of interest. The coach made only one trip per week, page 31and, as it carried the mails, it was the sole intelligencer for the district.

As it came dashing up to the stand it looked by far the brightest thing on wheels the lawyer had ever seen. From the front axle-tree to the roof it was lit with lamps, whose bright reflections shot columns of light ahead.

Having discharged its living freight, mail-bags, newspaper parcels, &c., the succeeding half-hour was absorbed in perusal of the public prints and private correspondence.

That sensation was succeeded by another, the object of which was announced by the local bellman as follows: "Roll up! roll up! Mr. Warden Pyke76 will deliver his celebrated lecture on the West Coast Pass,* by Lake Wanaka, to-night, in the Public Hall, in aid of the Dunstan Hospital Fund. God save the Queen" Getting powerfully refreshed as he went along, the bellman got sadly mixed in his deliverances, his latest utterance being, "The celebrated Pyke will roll up the Pass tonight, to Lake Hawea, in aid of the fun of the Hospital. God save the Queen"

"Great Caesar" cried a respectable elderly gentleman, rushing out from the bar of an hotel, "will no one choke that drunken blackguard!77 If he goes on he'll damn both me and the lecture. For heaven's sake lock him up, and I'll give him six months for being a lunatic at large."

"Who is that handsome-looking old gentleman?" asked the lawyer of a bystander.

"Him with the flowers in his button-hole?" queried the other.

"Aye, that's him," said the lawyer.

"That's Vincent Pyke, the Warden. I thought everybody knew Vincent Pyke, the Warden."

Vincent Pyke, then Warden, and more recently member of the House of Representatives for the Dunstan, is, if not one of New Zealand's foremost men, at all events one of its best seconds. In general knowledge few men can compete with him, and in local information not many know more. Possessed of good broad sense, with a ready natural wit, expressed in his eyes by a twinkle of fun and good-humour, Vincent Pyke is the kind page 32of man to make friends amongst the diggers. For many years he dispensed law and justice on the goldfields, and, somehow or other, managed to stand well with all sections of the community. When Vincent Pyke finishes his course Otago will lose one of its ablest citizens.

Such was the character of the lecturer, and the lecture itself was in keeping with the character. He kept the audience in high good-humour for at least an hour and a half, and no one enjoyed the fun more than Daddy Campbell. In fact, Dad gave substantial token thereto by getting up and moving a hearty vote of thanks, which was responded to with tremendous applause.

Next morning Campbell continued his journey by coach to Dunedin, making a start from Clyde at the early hour of 3 a.m. It was a weary day's drive over a rough road, and through creeks difficult to negotiate; and when they had got to their halting-place for the night neither Dad nor his fellow-travellers were at all sorry.

Another early start was made next morning under a heavy, dull, leaden sky and drizzling rain; in fact, the whole country was enveloped in a damp fog.

As the coach approached the Rock-and-Pillar Mountain78 breaks were noticed in the surrounding gloom, through which extensive plains, basking in genial sunshine, were seen far down below. Gradually these rents79 became wider and wider, until at length the mist disappeared, revealing that magnificent tract of rolling country stretching out from the foot of the Rock-and-Pillar towards the celebrated Taieri and Tokomairiro Plains.80

The descent of the Rock-and-Pillar looked a perilous proceeding. With a steep cliff on the inside and a deep valley outside, and only a narrow roadway between, the wheels of the vehicle were at no place more than a few inches clear of the precipice. At other points they came on angles so acute that the coach and team, in getting round, depended altogether on the wheelers.81

Still, the coach succeeded in descending safely; and it is to Cobb and Co.'s credit that, despite the number of times they traversed this route, no accident of a serious nature took place.

Late in the afternoon the coach reached Dunedin, and our traveller alighted at the well-known Rattray Street 82corner.

page break page break

75 The majority of something.

[Note added by Danny Bultitude as annotator]

76 Vincent Pyke was the Commissioner of the Otago goldfields during the gold rush. He later became a significant member of New Zealand Parliament, and also worked as a journalist and novelist. Te Ara

[Note added by Danny Bultitude as annotator]

77 A man who behaves detestably.

[Note added by Danny Bultitude as annotator]

78 A mountain range close to Middlemarch.

[Note added by Danny Bultitude as annotator]

79 Large holes or tears.

[Note added by Danny Bultitude as annotator]

80 Agricultural land to the southwest of Dunedin.

[Note added by Danny Bultitude as annotator]

81 The horses harnessed beside the wheels and behind the leading horse.

[Note added by Danny Bultitude as annotator]

82 Dunedin's main street.

[Note added by Danny Bultitude as annotator]

* See Appendix, Note 17.