Check to Your King
Chapter Twelve — God Omits to Save the King
God Omits to Save the King
Visionary as the movement of the Baron de Thierry may seem to some, and insidious as it is considered by others, we cannot help entertaining an opinion that he might be the means of effecting a moral and political good for New Zealand.page 97
(Thus handsomely declared the Sydney Colonist, October 5th, 1837.)
Animated, as he appears to be, by an ardent desire to benefit the country, and indifferent to all the difficulties and obstacles he must inevitably encounter, he will, if his intentions be carried into effect, contribute to exalt the character of the natives, and extend the interests of commerce. But let him recollect that going, as he proposes to do, independent of all assistance from Government, and relying solely on his individual energies to satisfy the wants and defend the lives of those persons accompanying him, he has no ordinary task to accomplish.
“I had well considered all that,” writes Charles, in one of his unavoidable footnotes.
On the evening of October 21st, the New Zealand missionary, Mr. Henry Williams (by then Archdeacon Williams), supped with the de Thierrys; in the morning he arrived at the Nimrod with a package of eleven letters of introduction to other missionaries and residents on the Hokianga and Bay of Islands shores.
“What!” cry in scandalised tones those who know anything of the inner workings of New Zealand history. “Our Henry forgathering with your Charles? Writing him letters of introduction? Incredible!”
But wait a moment. It was not for some months that Charles, having delivered his letters, discovered their nature. Far from being the complimentary epistles he had supposed, they warned the fold to beware of him.
It was a little astute, even for a missionary.
Mr. Henry Williams, his wife, and his two young children had settled in the wild country in 1823, when he founded the Church of England mission station at Paihia, in the Bay of Islands. Somewhat later he was joined by his brother, the scholarly and gentle Mr. William Williams.
Centred around the Bay of Islands – a day's journey from the Hokianga – was the stir of a slowly developing civilisation, for most of which the early missionaries were responsible. A plough turned soil there in 1820. “Behold, I bring glad tidings,” old Samuel Marsden declared to the natives, from an improvised pulpit draped with black-dyed flax.
Shunghie swept down on the Whangaroa Mission Station and destroyed it in 1827, to perish a few years later from wounds received on the battlefield. Foreign colours dipped through the shining waters. The Republican explorer, Dumont d'Urville, had page 98 taken the Astrolabe through the whirlpools of French Pass, in the south, and his ship had lain anchored in the northern harbours. These picturesque gentry came and went. The missionaries dug their toes in, reigning over folds of ever-increasing size. Archdeacon Williams, acknowledged leader with the Church of England group, worked hand in hand with Mr. James Busby against the “French aggression” of the much-discussed Baron de Thierry. The rencontre in Sydney was seemingly of diplomatic nature only. Perhaps it was morally justifiable. There are numerous sticky patches in the Bible.
The Nimrod sailed with her King, her royal family, and her consignment of settlers on October 22nd, 1837, and, under the captaincy of a first-rate seaman, made an excellent crossing of the Tasman Sea in ten days.
The lower decks were gay as a village fair, with squeaking Jew'sharps and concertinas. In his cabin, the Sovereign Chief had begun to build up the etiquette of his little Court. There are still tremendous yarns about all that. Some say that Charles made all who entered the Presence retreat tail foremost, for all the world as if he were a Hapsburg, a Hohenzollern, a Bourbon itself. Others insist that he wished, on landing, to create his Captain an Admiral. In this there may be truth. He would certainly have coveted an Admiral. That he sailed with an Archbishop is little less than a miracle, and can only be explained by the notorious conservatism of Archbishops.
Was the voyage without calamity? Alas, no. On the fifth day out, he was called to preside over a burial at sea.
Poor Strawberry. And he had been so proud of her. She lives for ever in his records.… “A fine cow, which I bought myself for New Zealand, and which died by gross neglect.”
There was a sadder loss – though one should not under-estimate Strawberry, for cows, at this time, were scarcer in New Zealand than virtuous matrons, and the scarcity of virtuous matrons had to be personally investigated to be believed. You remember the “gentleman of high classical attainments”, the tutor? Charles lost him, too. He did not die – not at all. Worse than death. The day before the Nimrod sailed, he revealed still another attainment, also classical.
“He was seized with a violent fit of delirium tremens,” says Charles. “And I was forced to leave him in Sydney, convinced that he was no fit associate for the sons of gentlemen.”
On Charles de Thierry's own jour de fête, St. Charles's Day, November 4th, 1837, the Nimrod, flying bunting stem and stern, page 99 and at her mast-head the great crimson-and-azure flag of the de Thierrys, entered the river-mouth of the Hokianga.
“Where was the hostile array of natives which was to warn me from New Zealand? The Nimrod carried my flag at the main, the ships in the anchorage were gaily dressed in their colours, and my arrival was hailed with warm congratulations, except by two or three persons whose sullen look portended that they had much rather I had not interfered with their operations.”
Already, when the Nimrod anchored, twilight had dimmed the glitter of the waters. Settlers chattered, gaped, shouted, argued, sang. A splendid moon arose. Landing was for the morrow.
Close to one hundred years ago. What was it they saw?
Yes, it is beautiful, the Hokianga. At that time it must have been much more animated, less forsaken, than today. As an anchorage for traders, whalers, frigates, stormy petrels of the Seven Seas, it was only less than the Bay of Islands in importance. It appeared to have a future. Those ships, dressed in gay colours… one might now lie for a whole year in the warm sands and see never one of them. There still exists the crazy old wall of stone blocks, quarried in the convict hell of Botany Bay, and brought over as ballast in the sailing ships. Mounted on this wall, slowly rusting into decrepitude, still scowl the ancient pieces of ordnance that the native gunners used to pop off so merrily when given the chance.
Beautiful; neither with that overblown, cocotte beauty of the Pacific isles, nor with the farouche beauty of the South Island, its white mountains mirrored in the staggering turquoise of the cold lakes. The tidal river of the Hokianga extends a warm blue arm between yellow sand-faces. On one side, as you advance up-stream, the hills are piled up with patterned drifts of gold. The lupins, whose yellow matches the sand so well, and whose honey-scent so intoxicates the bees, cannot have been growing there when Charles saw the place, for the plant is not indigenous. Otherwise, I should imagine it much the same. On the side where he landed, the sands lie disposed in a smooth stretch, warm and fine, below little foothills which precede the darker and wilder slopes, given over to native forest. In November, when the Nimrod arrived, the pohutukawa, whose unreasonable name is usually avoided by calling it “the New Zealand Christmas-tree”, would have been in first flower, whole leagues of it. The tree cannot live away from the sea-shores. Its grey twisted boughs burst suddenly into a perfect bonfire of blossom, shading from pale coral to richest crimson. These impressive flowers, when inspected, prove to be nothing but page 100 millions and millions of inch-long stamens, protruding from pale little honey-cups. The massed effect, however, is very spectacular, like Brunhilde's curtain of flame. When the brief flowering -time is done, the stamens fall to make a deep crimson carpet.
Possibly, if one thinks in terms of the picturesque, Captain Hobson, who was to be first British Governor of the Colony, did the Hokianga a service when, by sacrificing all the far north to build up a city at Auckland, he drained this inlet, like the Bay of Islands, of population and commercial importance.
The Bay of Islands took its depletion hard. The first capital, Russell, was builded there, and then forgotten, forsaken, washed out. But there's more to it than that. The Bay had advanced, through hectic intercourse with the world's ships, so far along the road to importance – it was everywhere called “The Hell of the Pacific” –that it couldn't go under tamely. Even now, under its tourist gloze (my God, those fishermen, sitting about under stuffed sword-fishes, and talking like tadpoles!), all that part of the country is sick and sullen, like a caged beast. One is always expecting it to break loose, and yet aware that it lacks the force. It is haunted, and not by genteel presences.
The Hokianga was neither so wicked nor so vigorous. It held the promise of a future for so short a time, and now it remains the sort of place where one wants to sleep in the sands and the sun . . to sleep for a long, long time, in sands that, unlike the others, are really golden. One might easily see, through half-shut eyes, moving up the glittering blue waters of the river-mouth, that preposterous and delightful ship.
Ships.… New Zealand gets them now by the thousand. Old Te Rauparaha, one of the most skittish among that bunch of wild horses the English found so difficult to break in, put the matter in a nutshell. “E rara! This land is destined to be the nest of ships.” But of all the squadrons, I like the Nimrod best. To begin with, Charles meant so well. The others, when you look into them, do not. Their intentions are both terrifying and depressing, especially when they believe themselves to be virtuous. And then they are so self-assertive. The earthquakes growl a little when they come and they go; but only a little, in slumber.
He must have heard the more-pork owl from the decks of the Nimrod that first night. A little banshee of a thing, fluffy, but with an enormous voice, which wails incessantly, “More-pork… more-pork,” like a starving orphan.
We return to the first official communiqué, delivered per dinghy as the Nimrod lay at anchor. This billet-doux was from a person of page 101 importance–nobody less than Lieutenant Thomas McDonnell, “the ex-Assistant British Resident”.
My Dear Baron,
Captains Robson and Cabell will wait on the Baroness in the morning, to escort her to Te Horeke. They will take care that your lady shall leave the Nimrod with due honours, and I will take especial care to receive you with the battery of Te Horeke.
With my kind regards to the Baroness, believe me,
“Had he been sincere,” writes Charles, sadly, “the day would have been among the brightest of my life.”
It was, at all events, a sensational day, all blue sky and little flags twinkling in the wind. In the brilliant morning sunshine the de Thierry settlers were landed–the largest expedition till then brought to New Zealand shores. They were pressed at the deckrails, shouting, chattering, all in their finest feathers; the men wearing fustian, corduroy, white moleskin trousers, and caps of skin; the women with bonnets strangely plumed or beflowered, jackets pulled rigidly upon waists not yet escaped from the leather corset. There were hands outstretched as the Sovereign Chief, the Baroness, and the young family mounted the gangway, and many a voice cried, “God bless you!”, at which Charles, for once in his life too overcome to make a speech, could only smile and wave a hand.
Then, breaking the mirror of the morning and making the women almost jump out of their petticoats, the battery before Te Horeke spoke. The hills shook, the guns roared and roared; the ships lying at anchor, their flags brilliant tatters against the white sheet of the sky, took up the chorus. Twenty-one guns… the royal salute, thundered in unison by Lieutenant McDonnell's battery and by ships in the Hokianga.
It was thus that the King of Nukahiva and Sovereign Chief came into his own, thus that he was welcomed. We have had a duke or so since, one or two heirs apparent. Never another king.
How did he feel about it? Devilish, I should imagine, until his feet were set upon earth again. There is something very reassuring about soil. It's a talisman, destroying the sense of unreality. You crumble it between your fingers, tread it lightly, knowing that it remains the same the world over. Everything goes into it. everything comes out of it. Once you have soil, you have the lot. It is the principle of the kingdom.page 102
When one is getting on for ten years old, when one wears a white cashmere pelisse, white stockings, and a snood of white velvet beneath an almost grown-up bonnet, the fairy-tale is very real. The proud, burnished colours cannot be flicked away with a touch, a rough word. There are dragons, but merely for the convenience of the stripling princes who get their exercise and enjoyment disposing of them.
Thus Isabel, her hand tucked decorously into her papa's arm, landed like what she was. The lost Princess. One to do credit to the Brothers Grimm.
Lieutenant McDonnell, obliging as his word, pressed upon Charles the use of his upper house at Te Horeke, with storehouses as a temporary residence for the settlers. As an afterthought, he spent the afternoon trying to sell for £2,000 these desirable abodes. “Not worth a quarter of the morney,” write Charles, “and besides, I told Lieutenant McDonnell frankly that I had not at this time the means.”
There is a good deal of awful truth in the last hint. Just what means had the expedition? It had faith… and Charles had made the most beautiful plans for disposing of the produce of his settlement to reputable merchant houses, though it is true that he had yet to catch his settlement and grow his produce.
It may be imagined that a shipload of nearly a hundred emigrants, under the leadership of the notorious Baron, would not be taken lying down by the Hokianga settlers, especially not by those who were living on Charles's claim of 40,000 acres. Immediate attempts were made to perturb the new-comers, who were separately and collectively harangued, being assured that the Baron de Thierry had no lands at all, and had but brought them to New Zealand as sacrificial victims for the orgies of perfectly insatiable cannibals. That reminds me. I had almost forgotten Tarea. Tarea was the chieftain who, before Charles ever left Tahiti, sent word that if the Baron de Thierry ever landed in New Zealand he would both kill and eat him. They had their methods, too. One was the swallowing of eyes, supposed to give additional strength in battle. Another involved the significantly named “brain-pots”. However, history gives no record of Tarea's actual performance after the landing. He was evidently in no position to make himself a pest.
Numbers of people wished to meet Charles at once. But what they all wanted, especially the missionaries, was to convince him that he would never do any good for himself, and had better go away without delay. On the day after his arrival, he was summoned to a meeting under the leadership of the Rev. Nathaniel page 103 Turner. “To persuade me that I possessed no land,” Charles puts it. The fine-looking chief Nene (one of the three signatories to that famous deed) turned up. Horrors! Nene has been converted, they have baptised him by the name of Thomas Walker, and he is now known throughout the land as Tamati Waaka Nene. This in itself would not matter, but from the first it becomes plain that Nene means to please the missionaries, and that the missionaries intend to render Charles, Baron de Thierry, completely powerless to form an Independent or any other variety of State.
Charles, of course, is furious about this. Refers to Nene as “the crafty chieftain”, and to the missionaries in terms as forbidding. However, Nene is actually a man of scruple, and, admitting having received a share in the purchase price of the land, he offers one of those “without prejudice” settlements to the Baron's claim.
“The distance was rather more than three miles from where we first landed, which was to be the first boundary. The farther boundary was a great totara tree, on which Nene now cut the letter T. The depth of my lands was to be bounded by the horse-road, and was rather more than four miles. Under existing circumstances, I was willing to accept this, and concluded that as this point was conceded, and the sale to Mr. Kendall at least so far acknowledged, time might do more for me.”
Time might, perhaps.… It would have been a very minute kingdom, set upon twelve square miles, grimly wooded, deep of ravine, and with no knowing what might befall the settlers should they poach beyond the giant totara marked “T”. But, for a few days, the Sovereign Chief rode or strode about his Utopia with the air of Napoleon. He picked up an interpreter, little Ted Davis, and continually made speeches to the Maoris, exalting his own aims, and the unsuspected possibilities of the Maori character.
This concentration on virtue… one can have too much of it in the long run. It is not comfortable. One might have known that sooner or later it would get him into bad odour with the multitude, and it did.
Lieutenant Thomas McDonnell commenced to bribe the emigrants. His bribe came out of bottles.
“The ex-Assistant British Resident,” Charles writes, “told my emigrants that they should get a pint of wine a day… and that he would bestow this on them if they would desert me.”
Lieutenant McDonnell, of course, had two motives – self-interest and patriotism. He himself was established on part of the land-claims. Again, while Charles could produce ninety-three settlers at his back, and no end of talk concerning the excellent business page 104 prospects for their produce overseas, he remained the nucleus of a power in the land. Other white men, not all of them satisfied with the Hokianga's condition, might have been attracted. Most serious of all, he might have obtained considerable influence over some strong native tribe, as Thomas Kendall had once possessed with Shunghie.
Mr. Hargreaves, Keeper of the Stores, turns out to be the leader of the rebellious faction among the emigrants. It is represented to them that Nene's land-grant is precarious, and that, in all probability, once committed to that isolated region, they will find their throats slit, their wives and daughters ravished or devoured – or both – by the natives. Offers of secure employment at the highest rates are made by Lieutenant McDonnell, who, incidentally, forgot all that with bland disregard, once the damage to the expedition was done.
Meanwhile, the Sovereign Chief is out riding in the Long Bush, and falling in love with his first tui… that very same bird whose morning song and seemly little bib and tucker of white feathers, spotless against glossy black chest, did not prevent Captain Cook from putting him in a pie. Permitted to give his concert uninterrupted, the tui can speak as one musician to another. His instrument is a peal of silvery bells, compassing the best part of an octave, then starting again from the other end. He is also a famous mimic, and can imitate a running stream, or a benighted native woman scolding her husband. Charles is infatuated. He comes back to Te Horeke, covered with grime and leaf-mould, but talking about his enchanted kingdom. Until…
In the dusk, a moon like a gipsy's fire, smouldering over the edge of Te Horeke's hill, as they rein in at the bridle-track. The boughs of the ragged, lean manuka trees, edged with that light, crackle in a crisp fire. Only one window of the upper house remains lighted; there is a barricade placed against the inside of the front door.
What is all this? An attack by cannibals? Charles, green about the gills, rattles the door and shouts. It is opened. The company are discovered weeping in the kitchen, with the exception of Margaret Neilsen, who, armed with a poker, snorts terribly, and between snorts ejaculates, “Fine goings-on!”
The emigrants have finally decided to desert. This, however, is not the limit of human baseness. With a very few exceptions, the emigrants are mad drunk. (Who supplied them with the liquor? Ask the ex-Assistant British Resident.) Already shouting insults, they have swarmed around the house half the afternoon, led by Mr. Hargreaves, Keeper of the Stores. Those stores present the page 105 problem of the moment. The emigrants’ idea is to broach and plunder them. Lieutenant McDonnell has filled them with a sense that they are wronged men. Charles shouldn't have brought them here, to be eaten by the cannibals. Or, if they have not yet been eaten, it is only because the cannibals have lacked time and space. Again, have they been given a pint of wine a day? These and other notions, which will instantly be recognised as the very ones that from time immemorial have placed kings and generals in a fix, have been so firmly implanted in their heads that it is doubtful whether they will ever again be eradicated… certainly not until the emigrants have sobered up. The question remains: are they to be allowed to broach the stores and leave the remnants of the expedition absolutely without resources? Or shall we resist them?
Everyone, from Margaret with her poker to the sons of the family, cried, “Resist them!” Little Ted Davis remained loyal, and offered himself as intermediary between the besieged and the rebels. Charles was positive that among the ninety-three must remain at least a few uncorrupted.
The situation became picturesque. Subduing the Boadicea tendencies of the Faithful Nurse, and quieting the fears of the Baroness, Charles commanded the whole family to retreat to a back bedroom, the door of which he barricaded with a couple of tables. Then, in majestic loneliness, he took out a pair of pistols that had travelled with him since his Paris days. There were two double-barrelled fowling-pieces in his luggage. He loaded each barrel with two balls, laid them on the table beside the pistols, and sat facing the door. Faintly he could hear the shouts and songs of the revolutionary party. However, nobody came; something of an anti-climax. His head started to nod as he sat with eyes fixed on the bright barrels of the guns.…
Faces and pictures flickered through the shadows. Fowling-pieces… he remembered giving Shunghie and Waikato a gun apiece, the barrels engraved with their names and his own, on plates of silver, just before the chieftains left Cambridge. Guns, that is what the native thanks you for… or axes; they will give anything for axes. But were thirty-six axes paid, or only twenty-four and could it be true that these were of an inferior make, turned out by a Hokianga blacksmith? He must speak to Thomas Kendall about this.… But Kendall came swimming heavily now into sight, his body a whitish mass, revolving slowly in the purple and green caverns of shadow. As it turned face upwards (ah, that destroyed face, where the brown eyes had shone so brightly!), the lips page 106 moved stiffly, and said, “Yes, but in Sydney Shunghie sold it all for muskets and powder.… He should have remembered to wear the King's armour, poor fool. Once a native acquires a superstition, he lives by it, my dear Baron. And I spent my share on an estate; but it is greener here under the sea. You are wrong, I paid thirty-six axes. If I remembered, I could tell you the names of the men who received them.…”
“Children of Marion, Children of Marion.… You are a pirate and a thief, sir, and have stolen this unfortunate gentleman's name together with his papers. But Sir Richard Bourke won't allow that, Captain FitzRoy; I am told he is most gentlemanlike and polite. At the Congress of Vienna, where the Marquis of Marialva was as a father to me.… My God, Moerenhaut, did you see the face of that tall priest… ? ‘I have only to tell you, Baron, that the guns of Te Horeke are commanded by a high eminence at the rear, and you will know what to do.… You will know what to do.…’”
A yellow spear of light thrust under the door-sill. Reality hardened in outline. The morning was young, the shouting still far away. Margaret Neilsen brought him coffee, and he noticed, with momentary absorption, that a large portion of her brown bun of hair had consisted of a switch, which she had forgotten to restore to its position. However, there was no time for speculation. Quite suddenly the shouts increased, thick and large, like bodies in a crowd.
“Pull him out! Pull him out!” Little Ted Davis went down the hill under a flag of truce and announced the Sovereign Chief's decisions. He would receive a deputation if the deputation promised to behave. Otherwise, he would defend family, honour, dignity, the whole concern with his fowling-pieces and pistols. He reminded them that he was an excellent shot. By this time he was feeling more in the vein, a flash of excitement which would pass as soon as the cold truth of the expedition's failure leaked into his heart. Nothing, he says, could have given him greater pleasure than to pepper the retreating behinds of the blackguards. But that was the question; would they retreat? He had the women to consider.…
The mob, incensed by the idea of sending a deputation, or in any way handling things on a basis of respectability, approached until right beneath his balcony, and then howled continuously. Unable either as musician or as gentleman to stand another moment of it, the Sovereign Chief emerged, and stood on the balcony, arms folded.page 107
Unwilling men, he said, were useless; pretended loyalty worse. He endeavoured to make a speech restoring their faith and their courage. It was hopeless. Most of them were still full of bad liquor and worse morality
If they wished to go, he said, then let them break their articles of agreement and be free.
At the end he found that he was not quite alone. Of the settlers, Ted Davis and his family, William Southerland, Richard Dwyer, Robert Mowbray, Matthew McCrea, William and Charles Lee, William McCready and his wife, and, after much hesitation, a tall, red-headed fellow named Thomas Kearney, stepped forward to join him. (“Amid the howls and execrations of the rest,” says Charles). Dr. Cooke stood at his side one moment, but a determined hand grasped the young surgeon's coat-tails. Charles looked down into the far from visionary countenance of Mr. Hargreaves, his surgeon's father-in-law.
“I bring a surgeon, whose duty it will be to afford gratuitous attention to the poor of either colour.… I bring with me also a gentleman of high classical attainments,” thought Charles.
Dr. Cooke said, “I'm sorry, Baron”; and so, with that large brown paw drawing him back to respectability, disappeared for ever from the chronicles of Utopia.
The stores, at all events, were safe for the moment. After debate as to whether they should attack or not, the deserters decided to make off over the hills to Kororareka, the main settlement of the Bay of Islands, where they were promised employment. Thus, straggling through the manuka, passing frankly anti-Royalist comments and singing bawdy ballads, fades away the largest organised white colony which had up to that date arrived in New Zealand.
The next thing was to get out of the fateful clutches of McDonnell, which Charles did without delay. “Leaving,” he says, “the baser materials of the expedition to the contempt of posterity.”
While half the party stayed behind to care for the women, the rest of the settlers, with Charles and his two eldest sons in command, went up the river that same day by canoe to his farther boundary, the totara marked with Nene's “T”. Here he supervised the building of a fair-sized wattle-and-daub house… refuge, palace, whichever you please. The natives appeared most friendly. Brown lads slipped in from the trees to lend a hand. Negro-head tobacco and thick milkless tea was doled out in the heat of the day, and magnificent teeth flashed in thanks. Charles discovered, page 108 however, that the natives had already a name for him. “Pokeno”, they called him, “Te Pokeno”. He requested a translation from Ted Davis, who squirmed and looked embarrassed. Charles insisted.
It meant “The Pretender”. Nene started it.…
Well, after all, they did the same thing in England to Charles Edward Stuart. If every pretender had his rights today… Nevertheless, coming on top of the rest, it smarts a trifle. But something suddenly happens which does quite a lot for Te Pokeno's failing popularity. There is an attempted assassination.
Just in time, somebody shouted a warning. Charles leapt like a buck, and Thomas Kearney's axe crashed down on the spot where his head had been a moment before.
To acquire the prestige of a martyr without the resultant inconvenience… it couldn't have happened at a more opportune time. The loyalists, roused to fury, kick the rebel out of camp. The natives, with no small enthusiasm, offer to pursue him and knife him as he goes down the trail. Charles refuses… you can imagine with what a benevolent air. The whole atmosphere is cleared. Several native houses, flax-thatched, nothing much wrong with them barring appalling ventilation and a preponderance of active-bodied fleas, are purchased for the temporary use of the settlers.
The goods from the Nimrod were stowed next day – the seventh after her arrival – in boats and canoes. They left the house at Te Horeke, with no sign either of Lieutenant McDonnell or the runaway settlers, as they filed past the battery which had volunteered the royal salute. “And that night, we slept in our wild habitation.”
All the night was disturbed by the quaint, flurried voices of animals… bawling goats, pigs, and poultry, landed from the Nimrod and driven overland by excited Maoris. The morning of November 12th commenced with élan, the sky transparent as a vast bubble, the wattle-and-daub house sprawling like a child's castle, pieced together for some earnest little game. Below lay deeply wooded valleys, misty with the rising blue smoke of many streams.
Over the breakfast-table (“Thanking Providence, the hens lay here as elsewhere,” was Margaret's greeting) the family were very mysterious. The coffee, ground fresh in the little steel mill which was the boon companion of their travels, comforted his nose with an Arabian redolence. But they weren't willing that he should linger over breakfast that day.page 109
“Come outside, Papa. There's something to show you.”
They had chosen a sapling, slim as the mast of some baby Argo. Against the blue sky shone out the rising colours. The silken de Thierry flag, brought from the Nimrod, curled slowly to the top of the flagstaff, then took the wind and flapped free. The settlers. discreetly arranged in a half-circle, threw up their caps and cheered.
What could a Sovereign Chief do? Felt his eyes tingle, of course; congratulated everybody, male or female, on loyalty, and passed within his heart the most splendid resolutions. He christened the new habitation Mount Isabel, which might have been expected from the first.
The world said, in this little game of consequences that the flag wouldn't last a week. Actually, its crimson and azure continued to disport themselves in the breeze for years. And, much later, the flag again played a dramatic part, though an obscure one, in history.
As for the maiden now married to a mountain, she, with dark eyes solemn, watched the morning paint great ruffled flowers of shade on the valleys of her remarkable kingdom, which was not at all what she had expected. It was perhaps a drawback that there were no other children to play with, since she had acquired in Sydney a rose-patterned tea-set, and dearly liked pouring out tea for the dolls of the other young ladies. However, perhaps there would be brown playfellows, like the almost naked little boy who had presented her with a paua shell at Mr. McDonnell's house. For the rest, there were the compensations of the family circle, presided over by Papa.