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Chapter XX

page 448

Chapter XX

Peregrine had sent for Tiffany quite in the Grand Mogul manner—and who could have expected anything else with his portrait, painted by Australia's best artist, hanging, eyeglass and all, in Parliament House? “Since your mother has been ailing for some considerable time,” he wrote, “I permit you to pay her a short visit. You will understand that it is solely for her sake….”

“Nice old gentleman,” said Darien, when Tiffany showed her the letter “Keepin' that fire hot for twenty-four years.”

“So it is,” said Tiffany, surprised. Four years since Brant was drowned in the big river flood of 1884, since she had let Peak Hills so the boys could stay at the English schools to which Brant had sent them. “Oh, do you think mamma is really ill?” she asked anxiously.

“Not she! Learnin' how to get her own way at last, that's all. It always did take Sal-volatile a damn long time to learn anything. I'd have taught that mean black rig something in a month. I did, too. You won't stay up there, Tiffy?”

It was nice to have Tiffy back at Bendemeer, since Sophia was so taken up with her curios that one always expected to find some in the soup or the shepherd's pie. Nearly as dangerous to dinners as the politics and governors of the early days, Sophy's curios.

“Could you see him allowing it?” said Tiffany, between a laugh and a sigh. Tiffy had got back her old brightness now, and might even go on marrying, thought Darien, who could never keep her hands off marriages. She had got Deb and Janet settled, though it had been a devil of a page 449 job, with Janet drowned in love and tears, and Linda never speaking to Darien again. But Prue had remained stubborn. Perhaps she really had cared for that Bethune, thought Darien, who never could understand why one man wasn't as good as another since all a woman needed of him was a home and comforts.

Fewer now to provide the home and comforts since the land-boom burst at the end of 'seventy-nine, setting so many of New Zealand's gentlemen to keeping their anxious noses to the grindstone. Yet in the South they still made gallant show with hunts and balls and races, and the shipping of frozen meat to England since 'eighty-two had helped many to their feet again. With wool and wheat worth nothing (and the whole world, it seemed, was in the same box) it was very convenient of sheep to turn into valuable mutton … though of course it meant great changes in breeding. But Darien was equal to that.

So far she and her fortune had been equal to holding off the little men now come nibbling everywhere on the edges of the great stations; but much of Durdans was gone, and Tiffy had had to sell some of Peak Hills. What with taxes and Liberal notions and voting by all males over twenty-one, said Andrew, the writing was not only on the wall, but in everybody's cheque book.

Sophia hurried in, dropping odds and ends from her loaded arms.

“Jerry brought me back … some of his Clara's mending … only not mended, and how could it be mended with six children and only one maid,” panted Sophia, pushing an old green hat of Darien's further off her pallid brow.

“Damn careless of Clara to have so many kids in these bad times,” said Darien, going out to speak to Robertson about the next draft of fattened lambs.

“Blessed is the man who has his quiver full … but I never was sure about women. Oh, will you help me, Tiffy? Thank you, but don't tell Clara, for I said I'd do them page 450 and it is so shocking to be thought untruthful. Though I do wonder why Truth lies in a well where nobody can see it…. This blue gingham is for the blue frocks, and the checked for the checked one…. I suppose we shall all have to wear white in heaven, though I do think a little colour would be more cheerful …if it isn't blasphemous to say so.”

“I fear you don't know the meaning of the word, Sophy dear,” said Tiffany, getting needles and thread. Something of a relief to be blasphemous occasionally, to indulge in rare flights of titanic ribaldry over Buddhist philosophers, fat old monks laughing in their wide sleeves, gods drunken on Olympus.

She and Linda's Prue often laughed together at Life, blasting their own hard way step by step towards the realities. Prue's existence, muffled in Caroline's bronchitis and Linda's self-absorbed fluffiness, needed a deal of blasting.

Tiffany, so happy with Brant, so tip-toe with her daily fear that kept her love a nervous living thing, had been quite bewildered with that stimulating menace gone. And now Brant might know that she had deceived him and would forgive her, as all good angels must … which seemed rather an anticlimax, somehow. Tiffany had never much wanted forgiveness unless she earned it.

“It really was a pity Jerry built Lovel Hall before the crash … though of course he couldn't have built it since,” said Sophia. “But such a big house. So hard to keep clean and tidy.”

So hard for any of us to keep our inner houses tidy … big or little. Mine never will be any more than Bendemeer is, thought Tiffany, looking round the familiar room. Except for increased shabbiness it had not changed. Wool of a different texture—southdowns, shropshires (Tiffany could never remember sheep)—filled the row of brass pots, and the files on Darien's desk would hold different names.

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But above the mantel Darien still smiled down in her young gorgeousness of red curls and white shining flesh and green drooping scarves, and in some way the essential Darien had not grown older. Still set on her piracies, still trampling those who got in her way, still piling up such wealth as she could, just as Nick Flower had done. What for? wondered Tiffany, who was nearly as poor as she ever had been (since all the Peak Hills income must go to the boys), and who felt that she did not mind at all.

There's lots of fun in life yet, she thought, hearing through the opened window Darien at her usual altercation with Robertson; leaning out before Sophia drew the blinds and lit the lamp to savour the June weather hesitating yet on the edge of winter. Ploughland, straw-stacks, the harsh sweetness of gorse blossom exhaled a faint ecstasy, tinctured with wood-smoke where men were burning grubbed gorse-roots in the next paddock—since sturdy gorse (like the sturdiness in all of us) continually refuses to stay within set bounds. The poplars she and Darien had planted twenty years ago were a row of golden candlesticks before the flaming altar of the West; Nature making her own oblation to her God….

“I really think I had better shut the window, Tiffy,” said Sophia, anxiously. “Night air is so harmful, and perhaps you will make the toast for tea….”

“I was just wanting a burnt offering,” said Tiffany, going to do it. After all, what oblations do most of us offer except to our stomachs?


A real railway-train to take Tiffany all the way to Lyttelton, a real steamer to take her up the coast to Wellington raised her to such heights of exultation that when she saw Roddy on the Wellington wharf there was nothing left to do but cry in his arms.

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“Oh, dearest … I don't often. But I did think you were in the Mountains of the Moon or somewhere.”

“I was. Came down last night on a moonbeam. Pray don't apologize…. I enjoy having lovely females cry in my arms and provide a little romance for the bystanders. Tiffy, why did you never wear a little wine-red bonnet with velvet strings before? It's adorable. And please tell me that I am too. I like to hear it, though I am not allowed velvet bonnets.”

So Roddy was still whimsical Don Rodrigo, keeping his troubles (and behind his smiling eyes one could see that he had them) in their proper place, conducting her courteously to a hansom.

“An elopement. I saw those two nice old ladies whispering it. Now, if you could contrive to scream just loud enough to send them to the police, my Tiffany, it would add such a spice of excitement to what I fear must be rather dull lives….”

“If you could contrive to be sensible just long enough to tell me how mamma is,” said Tiffany.

“Oh, you'll soon see that. Between us we have pulled the wool over the eyes of His Omnipotence in the most approved manner … and how we are enjoying the joke. My dear, it's so long since I ran away with a girl that I really don't know how to behave. Should I hold your hand….”

“In a hansom! You dare! Roddy, isn't she ill at all?”

“Just effectively.” (Whatever Tiffy might learn later, there was no need to sadden her now.) “Here's our bijou residence, and … well, hang it all, you really are Sally, you know,” said Roddy, standing by to see this shining flushing little creature disappearing under Tiffany's dark cloak.

Sally never had adequate words for occasions, and it seemed that Tiffany hadn't either; so Roddy drove them page 453 in from the gusty wind; tucking Sally up on a sofa with gay rugs and cushions, straightening her cap.

“The meeting of the waters. Why must females cry so much? I had hoped that tears went out with crinolines,” complained Roddy, a little anxious for Sally, while Tiffany sat back on the floor and declared that they were only laughing…. “Oh, I can't believe I haven't seen you for over twenty years, mamma darling.”

“You'll believe it when you see His Omnipotence,” said Roddy, bringing Sally's medicine. “He's gone to get his hair cut in order to persuade himself that he still has some. An excellent beginning; we may presently be able to persuade him that he still has a daughter.”

Any kind of talk would do while these dear women controlled themselves; drying each other's eyes, with Sally saying shakily: “So wonderful … to have you both together….” What, she felt, had she ever done that so much happiness should be hers, that the trampling years should have passed these two by so lightly, leaving laughter and beauty with them both….

Peregrine pushed open the half-closed door, seeing a most merry and charming family group in the red firelight, and felt a surprised twinge of pride in the consciousness that it was his own. That it stilled and separated as he came forward was (he acknowledged) a tribute to his domination, and Tiffany on her knees by the sofa was quite in the proper position to offer the supplications of an erring child.

But Tiffany had always been a disappointment. Now she stood up, smoothing back the thick bronze hair that still would run into curls, smoothing down the dark serge of her gown with hands grown suddenly cold. Here he was, the man who had denied her love and home for half a lifetime. Here he was, this foolish old man whom you had to laugh at or you'd hate him.

“Oh,” said Sally, looking up from her blue cushions with blue imploring eyes.

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“Ah …” said Peregrine, scuttled for once under what looked suspiciously like amusement in Tiffany's bright brown gaze. Roddy did what he could, drawing Tiffany forward.

“Mrs Hutton of Peak Hills, Canterbury, sir. I believe you met her first at Kororareka. A handsome woman. I recognized her on the wharf by her likeness to yourself.”

“I hope I see you well, papa,” said Tiffany, dropping a demure little curtsy, while Roddy wanted to box her ears. This proud jade with the damask flush hot in her smooth cheeks would never learn to dissemble.

“Quite, I thank you.” Peregrine bowed stiffly. “I trust you may not have overexcited your mother. My dear … I think you had better rest….”

“Oh, please … if I can just lie quiet and hear you talk,” pleaded Sally, still hoping prayerfully for the melting of these two unmalleable metals.

Peregrine sat down and embarked on conversation with his family, while Tiffany, feeling as though she were dragging a springless cart over heavy shingle, wondered why people who had learned to keep safe from the laws they made so seldom learned to keep safe from each other … or themselves. Papa was still a little afraid of her, just as she was afraid of herself … so let us talk of law, since New Zealand was still getting so much of it … poor dear little country whom men never would leave alone.

Vogel's public works policy, said Peregrine, had on the whole been beneficial, but it should have been consolidated by a board of works in control. He and Vogel had fought hard for that, but the Opposition (a menace to all common sense) had thrown it out; and the resultant waste and confusion, with every member fighting tooth and nail for his own district, was quite beyond words, said Peregrine, proceeding to put it into words, walking page 455 about with hand under his coat-tails quite in the old musical-box manner.

Sally shut her eyes with a sigh. They had been so happy without him, and she had heard the sins of the parliament members so often.

“From 'seventy-one to 'eighty we imported one hundred thousand immigrants from England and Europe,” Peregrine buzzed on. “In that time our debt has risen from eight million to twenty-nine million pounds. Does that convey nothing to you? Since brains are apparently not required here, such gentlefolk as arrived have chiefly gone to manual labour, demanding high wages and constant concessions like the rest. We have become a vulgar country, ruled by the mob instead of class.”

Well, of course, thought Roddy, the old die-hards would always talk like that; and to gentlemen who had visions of establishing county families, of being barons or even kings in the land, all this must be particularly unpleasing.

Tiffany, suddenly awakening to pride in the South, offered papa the through railway from Dunedin to Christchurch (hadn't she travelled on part of it herself?), reaping-machines, water-races spreading all over the Plains so that it was no longer needful to drive sheep weekly to the rivers, frozen mutton…. “We must thank Sir Francis Bacon for the frozen mutton. He kept a fowl stuffed with snow for ever so long,” said Tiffany, feeling it quite time that papa thanked somebody for something.

But Peregrine preferred to thank Sir George Grey for rabbits which (he understood) had become such a plague throughout the country that we should soon have to discontinue sheep-breeding, exporting rabbit-skins instead of fleeces. “And even that don't teach the labour party what the man is like,” said Peregrine bitterly.

“Oh, here's tea,” said Sally with a sigh of relief. Nothing, she felt, being so wickedly stimulated by Roddy page 456 and Tiffany, ever taught a man what he was like himself.


When Sophia went to Canterbury, Lucilla had her sister Maria as nursemaid, seamstress, and anything else she could make of her, which, she felt, was not much, even then. But she kindly took Maria to see Tiffany, lending her a feather boa to make her smart but wearing her own best hat of black velvet bows and orange plumes, so that no one should mistake the difference in their positions.

Yet Fate, it seemed, was making a mistake somewhere or surely they would not have arrived simultaneously with Jermyn's latest book, which Sally was just taking from its wrappings, pausing now and then because even this chilly hands-across-the-sea affair made her stupid heart jump and flutter so. Lucilla struck attitudes at once, having become much more dramatic since Mr Piper got on the Sanitary Board.

“La! What do I see? The latest Jermyn Lovel? What joy! I simply dote on his heroes.”

“They're not like Mr Piper, certainly,” snapped Maria … who should be thankful that Mr Piper paid her any wages at all. Sally smiled faintly, allowing Lucilla to take the book. No secrets now from Jermyn, inscribing one copy of each of the many volumes appearing so regularly to: “My old friends, Sir Peregrine & Lady Lovel. With the author's compliments.”

The author's compliments were still terrifying to a Sally who had once found the mysticism of love and religion so finely blended in her that she had nightly pledged herself to God and Jermyn, feeling them so very much one, since it was only they that made life possible. But that was so long ago. Everything was so long ago, thought Sally, hearing Lucilla being dramatic over Jermyn's book.

Passionate Partners. I vow I never heard anything page 457 more romantic. Isn't he clever! And the heroine called Adora. Oh …” Lucilla reflected. There was still time to produce an Adora herself. After three boys there would surely be some more girls. If only one knew, she thought, feeling that we really didn't know half enough yet.

“Is that his wife's name?” asked Maria.

“Don't be stupid. You know she's Sabina. But he may call her Adora. He is so vastly original. I vow he is the most original man I ever met.”

Tiffany stopped handing cakes and crumpets and sat down suddenly. She had never heard of this marriage. Had mamma forgot to tell her, or was it that she just couldn't? Without daring to look she knew it was because she couldn't, and suddenly she snatched the book from Lucilla, and searched for what she feared to find. Had this stuff run serially in The Young Ladies' Journal? It seemed likely. No wonder Jermyn was rich, for the world has many Lucillas.

“Such a mercy he went to England and married someone who could help him. He sells thousands and thousands of his books now, Tiffy,” said Lucilla.

Tiffany shut her lips on a tart: “So I should imagine.” She must not hurt this poor little mamma who cared for Jermyn still. Jermyn's weakness, Sally's strength … both could destroy. Jermyn, it seemed, was already destroyed, and he was destroying the woman who had loved him so long. Oh, what could she say? If only Roddy were here to help her out.

“I haven't had the chance to read any of his books yet,” she said haltingly. And then (bless him) Roddy came in with his magic wand that could bring smiles to any face. Tiffany felt the tension lifted as Lucilla flung herself gushingly upon him.

“Roddy! Oh, what do you think? Passionate Partners! Jermyn always chooses such elegant titles.”

“Whatever he does will always be elegant,” said Roddy, very genial. “No! You're not to have it, Lucy. Buy it, page 458 my dear. That's the action of a true friend.” He put the novel on top of the bookcase; crooked his arm and bent his knee as though holding a guitar, sang with his laughing eyes upon her:

Oh, dear! How I love my Lucy.
She's fair. Her lips are red and juicy.

“Get along with you, you impudent wretch,” cried Lucilla, highly delighted. “I vow no one but you would dare sing that to a married lady.”

“Well, I own it's neither gentlemanly nor clever,” said Roddy. But it had served its turn. Passionate Partners was forgotten until Tiffany resurrected it later when Roddy came to her room to say good night.

“Roddy, I didn't know about Jermyn's marriage or anything. Are all his books as bad as that dreadful thing?”

“The last enchantment of the medicore, I'm afraid, Tiffy. A sort of Victorian pagoda with swarms of little tinkling bells. It's not the same Jermyn, poor old chap.” Roddy considered for a moment the tragic disorderly vitality of our humanity. “You see, I think the little mammy would have had him hitch his wagon to a star … and the star was too far off. He had to have something he could lay his hands on now. But she's kept him sweet in some way. He never wallows in the indecencies. Just offers sops to simpletons … and so many writers do that.”

“Don't make excuses for him.” (This Roddy who could always discern some happy ghost, some faint shining of the immortal spirit in the most earthy of us!) “I'd much rather he were indecent,” cried Tiffany, pushing her hair up until she looked like an accusing Fury. “That would show some kind of strength in him. But to sink his wit and brains to this! And for money! I shall never forgive him.”

“That's neither here nor there. She has.” Nothing a bedazzled, befooled Jermyn could do would alter that page 459 love's pure passion which set it among the Eternities. “I saw him in England, you know. He has married one of his coronetted correspondents, and she has helped him to an adoring following. He really does the best he can with … with what he has now, and it is natural that he thinks it better than it is. We're all apt to do that.” So seldom, he thought, do any of us dare hammer out of our conscience the weapon which may slay that poor pride which we so cherish.

“Don't! To have loved mamma … and come to this! It makes me ill.”

“Well … I can't blame him. A man is all loose ends without a woman, Tiffy. Though I have never found mine … except in dreams.”

“Roddy dear … Do you find her then?”

He nodded, looking away with the lines on his brown face deepening.

“It won't go into words, Tiffy. The real things never will. Some kind of ancient hauntings … memories … I don't know…. Sometimes I feel that she lived in some long-past world and that I knew her there … and will know her again in another world. Or it may be a dim ancestral knowledge of the central spirit of all Beauty and Love taking shape…. I can't explain. I shall see her some day. Not here….

“It really is a sane insanity, Tiffy,” said Roddy, being gay again and going away….

Lucilla, thought Sally, must have been more noisy than usual to have tired her so very much. But it was good to lie on her couch, and watch the chintz roses on the chairs and dream she was back in the chintz room where she was a girl. And better to have Roddy come with his gay smile, holding her hand until some power in him seemed dancing through her.

“Roddy,” she ventured, “Tiffy will have Brant in Eternity, but … do you think you could spare a little time for me there? Just sometimes, dear?”

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“God bless you, you ridiculous little handful! You won't be able to get rid of me. Not even when Jermyn comes.”

“Oh! No! No, Roddy.” She struggled up on her cushions in distress. “Don't say such a dreadful thing. He has his wife.”

“Don't you fret. That little sugar-plum of his don't belong to the Eternities. She's only a makeweight. You'll have us both fighting for you like the lion and the unicorn all around the sky … and His Omnipotence skirmishing outside the meteors with his celestial coat-tails flying.”

“Oh, Roddy, don't make me laugh…. Oh!” Her hands went to her breast, she looked with piteous blue eyes. “So sorry, dear … this silly heart. It feels—”

With the first pale light in the East they thought her gone. But Sally had yet one thing to say, opening eager eyes, flushing brightly.

“I see the flowers, Jermyn,” she cried triumphantly. “There will be bouquets for buttonholes.”


It is a wise person who knows just where small things end and great things begin. They seem to run into each other so, thought Linda's Prue, feeling how they were doing it now with the going off of the boys to the South African war in this October of 'ninety-nine. They looked on it as a game…. Jerry's sons, other men's sons, while for Prue the tremendous march of evolution went continually past her door with its ringing feet … and never came in.

It would be more than a game to me, she thought, leaving her horse at the top of the river-cutting and running down between cabbage-trees and flax already wild in the growing wind. Life, that was what it would be, and that was what they would find it, for all their clear eyes and careless laughter. She stooped to tear a flax-blade apart, suck the red gum, so bitter beneath the sweet. Always page 461 she had loved the flax-gum because it was different from anything else, just as she loved to ride bareback, feeling the rough throbbing body between her knees. Janet and Deb had never wanted to do that, and they had become good wives and mothers of families.

There must be something the matter with me because I can't take that decorous and well-trod road … and there's no other for a woman, thought Prue, caught by the full blast of the nor'west as she turned the corner, and was pinned gasping against the clay cliff. She pulled off her hat, letting the wind tear at her black hair, pepper her pale face and scarlet mouth with sand-particles, wind her skirt about her long slender limbs.

This, anyway, was life; if not that gracious life of sarabands and love, that sudden hot strange passion of flesh and spirit which one man had brought to her life for so short a time. Bethune would never come back. His kind didn't. If his wandering feet still carried him anywhere it would be to other loves. So let us stretch empty arms to this boisterous lover, the royal nor'wester; stripping with his hot power mountains and valleys clean of snow, sending the raging torrents down this wide grey desolate river-bed, until startled little backwaters clucked and whitened and ran together, and on sand-spits and scrubby islands driftwood skeletons waked and clashed their bones. Only another burial and resurrection for the skeletons who, what with blown sands and floods, had experienced so many.

A fine thing to be the nor'wester, or even somebody's son going to the war, thought Prue, riding home as best she might through a scatter of little flying stones on the road, tall hedges whipping at her face, and dust everywhere.

All the folk driving that evening to Bendemeer for Darien's good-bye party to young soldiers endured this buffeting bellowing dusty dark according to their natures; and Peregrine, muffled up on the front seat of the Lovel page 462 Hall dog-cart beside Jerry, endured it like a deeply-annoyed and rather shaky eighty-three. New Zealand, after all he had done for her, had failed him. Sally (for whom he had done so very much) had failed him, leaving him to be cared for by sons and daughters-in-law who had built the Lovel Hall veranda too narrow and their family much too wide and noisy. And the winds were a disgrace to anybody, and so was Caroline, who was certain to talk politics to-night, though she knew how they upset his digestion.

“Here we are,” said Jerry, thankful for the sudden shelter of the macrocapa hedge, the comparative hush of this bullying roar. “A brutal wind. I hope it didn't knock you out, sir,” he added, helping his parent to descend before the open welcoming doors.

“I do not knock out,” said Peregrine testily. These young things would persuade him that he was old if he allowed them. Great Heavens! What a nasty old witch Caroline looked, with her fat raddled cheeks and her simpering at the young fellows over a fan of purple feathers. Peregrine put up his eyeglass with an air, offered austere greetings, permitted Linda (still pretty in a pink, cushiony middle-age) to kiss his cheek, retreated from a lean enveloping Emily, and repulsed with an elegant snarl Sophia rushing with footstools and cushions.

Too many young people; too much noise and colour; far too much Darien in saffron silk and diamonds, laughing, joking, pervading everything. That woman would never know how to behave. None of this generation knew how to behave in the presence of their elders, thought Peregrine, staring aloofly at flushed faces, white shoulders, black sleeves crushing together round the piano where Jerry's Brian was going to sing. That long-legged black gawk might be the best rider on the Plains, but he had none of the grace of Peregrine's own boy Brian, killed … how many years ago? Yet this youngster was going away to be killed too. And Jerry's Roderick was page 463 going—which Jerry should not allow, since he would carry on the title some day. Unless his own Roddy married a Chinese, which was quite likely since he had lately accompanied an expedition to Tibet.

“La!” cried Linda. “See the old gentleman quizzing us. What are you thinking about, Uncle Peregrine?”

“Peregrine,” cried Caroline, waking from a doze which had set her ornate cap crooked … (Sally's cap … always crooked …) “who did you vote for at the last elections? I didn't see you there.”

Parliament, out-heroding Herod, had given women the suffrage in 'ninety-three. Peregrine said frigidly: “It makes no matter whom one votes for in these days.”

“Now, now,” cried Caroline, trying (Heaven forgive her) to be voluptuous with three chins, “don't tell me you think we ladies don't deserve the vote.”

“I do not think the country deserved it … any more than it deserved the Land for Settlements Act that cut up the large properties, which alone gave it distinction. Nor its continuous ministry. Nor its pandering to Labour with higher wages and shorter hours. Nor its earthquakes. But it has to suffer them.”

Shoo, fly, don't bother me,
For I belong to Company G….

sang the fresh young voices at the piano. Tiffany, bringing a screen to keep the draught from this lean old frigid papa who would never forgive her, said cheerfully: “New Zealand can never keep quiet, can it?”

Indeed that was true enough. Maoris, wars, parliaments, bad times, earthquakes … . But New Zealand had conquered all except the earthquakes.

“I always think,” announced Caroline, “that we don't trust enough. If we had trusted more we should never have had this shocking Land and Income Tax Bill. Linda don't like it. No more do I.”

“It don't hurt you,” said Darien. “You haven't an page 464 income. But what it's costing me…. Good Lord! I suppose Jerry pays yours, Peregrine.”

Darien was very happy to-night. She was still the richest person in the district; breeding the finest sheep and horses; entertaining scores of hungry riders at the hunt breakfasts; giving her carpet-dances and tennis-parties; scattering presents among all these young things, who (since they were not of her own blood) were quite decently grateful. A clean, open-air, vigorous crowd, the young things with their shining hair and eyes and their clear skins.

Darien knew how they kept her young … hard masculine arms flung in careless caress round her shoulder as she passed, soft lips dropping warm little kisses. But they ought to be at their marrying, all the same. Given a little more time and she'd have had Rick and Annot Crofts mated before he went away. It was criminal that Rick, who would one day be Sir Roderick Lovel, should leave no progeny. But since humans were so unreasonable and the boys leaving to-morrow, even Darien at her most Homeric couldn't do anything now.

Since turgid patriotism was the fashion of the day everyone sang “The Soldiers of the Queen.”

For the sake of England's glory, lads,
When we had to show them what we mean….

And “The Boys in Blue.” And then it was:

There's a flag that waves o'er ev'ry sea, no matter when or where,
And to treat that flag as aught but free is more than the strongest dare….

Pernicious mush, thought Peregrine, who had never forgiven England for allowing New Zealand to be free, any more than he had forgiven her when she didn't allow it. Visions of New Zealand rushing freely down headlong paths to perdition were enough to make a politician of the page 465 early days feel positively ill. Peregrine (quite ready to feel ill in a suitable cause) considered the lavish angry 'seventies with Grey giving birth to that unspeakable Opposition; the agonized 'eighties, when wheat and wool sank to nothing, and soup-kitchens and Songs of the Shirt were everywhere, and labourers, brought at such cost to develop the country, departed in their thousands; the toilsome 'nineties struggling to climb the steep grade again.

All Grey's fault. The fault of that intense furious old man, launching his poisoned darts at everyone. Fighting for the “poor man,” he had said. Egad, he had made everybody poor….

“Did you know Sir George Grey, my dear?” he asked Linda, tasting that name still bitter on his tongue. All Grey's fault that there would be no great county families building ancestral mansions, strolling with pedigreed spaniels in their vast and elegant parks. Every little man with his wife and sons and daughters able to vote such glories out of existence; vote the parks into cabbage-patches, the pedigreed spaniels into mongrel sheep-dogs nipping a gentleman's heels…. A country for the commoner, this New Zealand, where he had once dreamed of kingship, of sons about him like the great land-barons of old.

Linda was charmed to remember Sir George Grey, who was such a perfect gentleman, though she never could understand why he had become so fond of the workingman. “But since neither of our boys wanted to go on the land I think it is a good thing the Government cut up so much of Durdans for closer settlement,” declared Linda, her head on one side, like a plump hen considering worms.

Andrew (who very much showed the effect of the 'eighties) thought it was all for the best, since the big stations couldn't have carried the whole burden of taxation. “Bendemeer can, and a few more, but the little settlers grow fine crops where we could only afford to run page 466 sheep. Though they do break down the fences confoundedly at hunts,” said Andrew, who had plenty of hares to hunt now and much less leisure to do it in—which wouldn't have surprised him if he had known as much about Fate's cantrips as Peregrine did.

“Come on,” cried Darien, crashing out great chords at the piano. “John Peel.” Swaying with linked arms and shining eyes, these hunting boys and girls, born to the saddle, to the open windy spaces, sang it richly:

For the sound of his horn brought me from my bed,
And the cry of the hounds that he oft-times led.
Peel's View-halloo…. Tally-ho…. Gone-Away-y-y

Boys and girls, curving hands to mouths, setting chins up and shoulders back, let some of their secret trouble go in a great shouting and laughter.

“You'll hear that in South Africa, Rick,” said grey-eyed Annot Crofts.

“I'll hear you,” muttered the future Sir Roderick, edging her away….

So there it went on, this insatiable promenade of the generations; stately in crinoline, gay and lightsome in a barn-dance, marching with drum and fife to war, soft in slippered feet over the fire. Two and two, the promenade, looking into each other's eyes and never seeing where they were going, or looking aside and seeing too far. And what it was all for who could say? And why God and Nature (so extremely insistent on physical promenades) should be so indifferent to spiritual ones, which had to get along as best they might, who could say, either? Not Tiffany, running to help Sophia bring in the great trays for supper.

“I can enjoy crayfish salad,” said Caroline, accepting a large plateful, “but I certainly don't think it wise for you, Peregrine. What about hot milk with a little nutmeg in it?”

Peregrine knew it so unwise that it might presently kill page 467 him. But what other riposte for a gentleman of his standing except to take a helping apparently designed for a ploughman and then allow Tiffany (who was really quite skilled in such matters) to dispose of it unostentatiously, leaving her own empty plate to be casually exhibited to Caroline. This little ruse pleased Peregrine so well that he bore with equanimity the ensuing speeches and presentations: Sophia giving each departing soldier a curio and a wool-worked text, and Darien giving watches (so vulgarly ostentatious), and Caroline calling each abashed youth up for a little good advice.

“Soon you'll all be back with South Africa in your pockets,” cried Darien, managing to squeeze Rick and Annot out of the crowd. He'd propose if he could get her through the door, she thought, and that was so much to the good.

“A grand parade of England's possessions, each blowing its own trumpet and out of step with all the rest,” said Prue, who was sometimes too much like Jermyn at his worst.

“We'll learn to keep step some day,” said Brian, going to the piano, singing in a mellow tender voice that made one think of Roddy….

Oh, kiss the cup and pledge me, dear.
No time our hearts can sever.
Life's wine grows old, and lips turn cold,
But love shall live for ever….

Darien peered round the gleaming shoulders, the black coats. Annot and Rick were gone and the door shut. True enough: no matter who lived and died, Love lived for ever.


Hedges had brought the native birds to the Plains, and on this autumn afternoon the gardens at Bendemeer were full of them; little green white-eyes, flycatchers skimming page 468 along under the veranda in search of a late meal, small native robins with black glossy coats and plump saffron waistcoats hopping on the lawns all tawny with leaves of oak and sycamore fallen in last night's frost. In the shade frost was still as white as the flower-bunches in the laurustinus fence … and very emphatic in my bones, thought Tiffany, gathering a handful of the wine-red button chrysanthemums, and walking on down the frosty path, crisp as biscuits underfoot, and out through the side-gate to hot sun and the woodpile.

The woodpile of grubbed gorse-roots and driftwood and broken branches sprawled everywhere, and the station-hands got good ratting from it.

We really should clean it up, thought Tiffany, feeling that she really ought to clean up her own affairs too. She couldn't go on for ever, like the woodpile. Darien couldn't, though she always believed she could … never accepting old age, as Tiffany had accepted it. A difficult art to learn, this growing old; this giving up riding, or going out in the air without hat and shawl, this being gracious when Prue and the maids ran errands for you. Darien (her feet loose in slippers, her hands in mittens as she crouched over the fire) still talked largely of buying new prunellas, satin slippers, purple kid boots to fit a neat ankle, white kid gloves … size sixes….

“I am not what I have to be,” declared Darien, defying time and rheumatism and all the other bogies, talking of all she would do with Nick Flower's legacy yet. A strange, rather tragic liaison that had been between Nick Flower and Darien, neither bringing anything but money and money's worth to birth, and both so proud of their bastard child. Yet Darien, at least, had helped the country, and now Rick and Annot were bearing at Lovel Hall the burden she had so reluctantly laid down.

A valiant soul, Darien, according to her lights, thought Tiffany, sitting on a log of the woodpile to watch a lark tossing his spray of song into the tall dazzling blue. So page 469 many valiant souls, and all fraying off at last into loose ends, out of which God must some day make the completed pattern, since certainly no one else ever could … unless (as Roddy had believed) we went on and made it elsewhere. Oh, this mysterious fragile lovely bubble called life, which one couldn't really share with another any more than one could share a bubble. Did it break when old breath ceased to fill it, or re-form in fresher gayer patterns, like the glass bits in Sophia's kaleidoscope?

A heartening thought, that, for some of us. But what of those of us like papa, of whom Jermyn had once quoted lines written two hundred years ago … and as true then as they always will be:

Who to the world is popularly known,
And dies a stranger to himself alone.

How surprised and embarrassed most of us will be when introduced by and by to those strangers who are ourselves….

Tiffany was glad to turn from that unprofitable stranger who would be herself to a masculine stranger alighting with dignity, though rather stiffly, from the hotel car pulling up by the back-gate, coming towards her in all the splendour of homburg hat and fashionable ulster. She got up, feeling that her plain brown dress and old brown hat pulled on anyhow were so palpably below the notice of this large elegant old gentleman that he must be coming to address the woodpile.

“Tihane!” he said, dropping a silver-mounted stick, holding out both brown wrinkled hands. “It is you, Tihane?”

“Hemi … oh, my dear….” No more words possible for Tiffany, feeling all the past rising up at her like this. Holding his hands, she bent solemnly forward, solemnly gave to Hemi the old Maori salutation of pressing noses, which she had never vouchsafed to him before.

Then they sat down on the woodpile, still holding page 470 hands, still smiling foolishly at each other. He looks much more Maori now that he's so brown and wrinkled, she thought. But his nose is the real royal kaka-beak. “Oh, how did you find me, Hemi? And why did you want to after all these years? Can I do anything for you, my dear? Though I fear I'm rather past doing anything for anybody.”

She could, he said, do much by just letting him look at her, since she was still his beautiful Tihane. And it was only when he came just now to the South that he had found her. “I have come to see the Maoris of Kaiapoi and Little River. I am in Parliament now, Tihane, and you know that the Maori ministers have to look after all the Maoris.”

“Parliament? How splendid, Hemi! I'm afraid I don't read the papers as I used to. Now you can fight for your own people there. And do you stun everybody with your oratory as you used to stun me in the bushgully?”

“I never stunned you far enough. I never had you under my mat,” he said, his dark sunken eyes on her with something of their once deep burning. Then he shook his head as though putting that away. “I am many grandfathers now, Tihane, and some of my grandsons are fighting with other Maoris in this great war in Europe … where I hope they will not shame their Begats,” said Hemi sternly.

“I have a grandson there too. His father lives in England. Oh, Hemi,” said Tiffany rather forlornly, “I was just nicely getting used to being old, and now you come and mix me all up.”

“I shall never think you old. But you were right not to come under my mat, Tihane. Always it is pain to me that I am two races. Never should pakeha and Maori mix. Te Whiti knew that.”

Tiffany remembered about Te Whiti, who had been the last of the real Maori troubles in the early 'eighties. page 471 A prophet, just as there would always be Maori prophets now that the big chiefs were gone. And (for the first time) a prophet who did not want to kill.

“A good man, Tihane. He saw true. We Maoris think he saw the Christ. And the Christ said: ‘Come ye apart, my brown men, for the ways of the pakeha are not for you.’ And you know how they were not. We could not understand. And we grew bitter … and drunken … and we despaired. There was a Sir Donald McLean in the Parliament, and he did much for the Maori. But Te Whiti did more … for he and his followers were imprisoned in their hundreds and they would not lift a hand.”

“I read about that. There were not enough prisons for them—just sitting down and refusing to live with the pakeha….”

“I was one. It was funny. The pakeha were all so puzzled. They could not believe that after all they have done for us … and it has been much, the Maori did not want to live with pakeha men. Some do … but they are not the best. But now we have got reserves, and the Maori can be Maori still, and the Urewera is Maori—though it is not much, being all cold forests and mountains. And they pay us well for the land they take. And in the Parliament I and others can do something. But nothing can give us back our warriors and our chiefs and our gods. I do not think the Maori believes in anything, now. Nor is he a proud gentleman any longer.”

Hemi's careful English had still the rolling Maori gutturals. When he let himself go, grew impassioned for his race, this old man, who was a Maori gentleman, would be very effective in Parliament. Tiffany cried:

“Oh, Hemi, I feel we should ask your pardon for so much … so much….”

“Well, I do not like jellies and custards at a tangi, instead of bullocks roasted whole. Nor do I like a Maori wife to paint her cheeks, instead of having her lips tat- page 472 tooed,” said candid Hemi. “But that is civilization, and we Maoris can be civilized when we choose.” He looked at her, half shy, half imperative. “Please take off your hat, Tihane, so I may see your hair.”

“It's white now,” said Tiffany, pulling off her hat.

“Never mind.” But he was clearly disappointed. “I shall always see it bronze, like the fern in the sun. Now we shall sing ‘Red plumes of the kaka.’”

“My dear, I've not a scrap of voice left.”

“We will sing,” said Hemi, who hadn't had hundreds of imperious Begats for nothing.

They tried, breaking down in laughter that was near to tears. “Red Plumes” gone, like so much else. “The Maoris sing ‘Little Brown Jug’ instead,” said Hemi, who (it seemed) must also be gone. “There is a train to catch, and a minister must visit his constituents,” said Hemi, shaking hands like an English gentleman, stepping into the motor-car, driving away with the past sixty years in his pocket.

Tiffany sat still on the woodpile until the sun went down behind Mesopotamia—which was what Samuel Butler had chosen to call that wild region of mountains and glaciers and gullies when he lived there. Mesopotamia would never be tame, and neither would Tiffany—though she had believed she was until Hemi came stirring up the past again.

So many great things she had hoped to do … and none of them done, except the ordinary female function of carrying on the race. So many years since she had read her sheaf of verses for the last time; laughed and cried over them, and burned them. Too full of ardencies and hopes and fears for a woman who—though she might have the vote—was still expected by this country to use it only for the advancement of man. Some day (Roddy had said) men and women will realize that they are the two halves of the whole and pull together, instead of against each other. But Roddy was long dead in far-away page 473 Tibet. And Jerry was dead, and Rick was Sir Roderick now….

So many ghosts, though Roddy had stoutly scouted ghosts. “Good Lord,” Roddy had said, his brown eyes all gay and shining, “if you imagine we're going to peter out into that kind of thing you have a big bump coming, my dear. Swarms of lives … all the little mammy's Eternities ahead of us yet,” said Roddy, prepared to march on them with his flute playing a merry music. So he would find his dear love there. And mamma would find Jermyn, coming back with eager feet from his long straying. And poor anxious Sophy would find something better than her curios—which Darien had sold for quite a sum after Sophy's death, although the money hadn't gone to missions….

A fine creed, Roddy's, though Tiffany wasn't always certain of it yet, what with Buddha and Osiris and the others all pointing different ways. But (said Roddy, who seemed so much nearer than dear old solid Brant, now that Tiffany was less occupied by fleshly things) they all point to the future … which is an Eternity big enough to settle our problems for us….

The winter sun had sunk behind the great snowy ramparts and shadows of tall trees lay across the woodpile. Tiffany tried to jump up; felt the twinges in her limbs, and laughed, going in to Darien, who would never be occupied with other than fleshly things and who was very cross with Tiffany for not bringing the gentleman in to see her.

“So few of them on the Plains now. All these damned little farmers crowding in with their little patches. He looked quite a beau, and it was vastly mean of you to keep him to yourself, Tiffy. Who was he?”

“Hemi Fleete,” said Tiffany, smiling as she put one button chrysanthemum in a vase. Hemi had taken all the rest.

“Fleete? Don't remember. We've had so many beaux, page 474 haven't we?” said Darien, cheering up at the memory, and battering the fire with the poker. Few things she had the strength to batter now, this old Darien … who had returned to the elegancies with a silk gown and a scarlet shawl dangling silken fringes. I've always wanted to wear scarlet, but I couldn't till my hair turned, she had once told a shocked Clara. Mind you bury me in scarlet. I've never had enough of it.

Prue brought Darien's egg-nog and arranged the cushions in the big chair. “If you'd had more spunk you'd not be doing this,” said Darien viciously. “Why the devil wouldn't you be a sensible girl and marry all the men I found for you?”

Prue stood smiling with her long lips—which were still that wonderful dark red, though her smooth hair had streaks of grey.

“I'd have preferred going into Parliament. But I hadn't the education or the money.”

“Nobody has any education now. But I'd have lent you the money. I could afford it … though we're not so rich as we were, and Rick hasn't my eye for a sheep. Of course one couldn't expect that. It is genius,” said Darien, complacently, sipping the egg-nog, while Prue returned to the kitchen and her imaginings. Open the gate wide, said Darien to St Peter. Here's a genius and I bet you don't see many. And give me a gold halo and sprinkle some star-dust on my wings. I can afford to pay for it.

Dear Darien. As though any of us could afford to pay for all we want.

“Prue always puts a little more brandy in this than you do, Tiffy,” said Darien, sipping with relish. “The only one of John's bunch with sense. Do you remember Linda and Caroline going into black when Queen Victoria died? You don't catch me doing it, I told them. She didn't know how to govern New Zealand. Your father didn't either … messing everything up. I didn't go into black when they died. And I'm to be buried in scarlet. Don't forget.”

page 475

“I won't,” promised Tiffany, smiling as Prue came in with the lamp.

“And you can publish my diary then. It'll tell posterity the truth. It'll tell all that women do in making a new country … though Janet is damn slow about getting her grand-daughters married. If it hadn't been for me she'd never have been married herself. How old is Sybil? Eighteen? Eighteen, and not married? Good God, I must see to it at one. Prue, draw me up a list of all the eligibles in the district and I'll give a party … though heaven knows men are not what they used to be. No manners now….”

“I think Sybil wants to go to England and study art,” said Tiffany.

“Bah! She don't know what's good for her. There's no art greater than knowing how to manage men … though one mustn't take them seriously. I never did, and see where I've got to. Tiffy,” cried Darien, sitting up, her eyes glowing again, “look up a date at once. My rheumatism will be all right by next month, and I bet I can dance Sir Roger with any of you. I'll give a party….”

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