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Chapter VII

page 123

Chapter VII

Sally, who hadn't expected anything of the kind, tried to hide her dismay when Caroline arrived at Peregrine's new house on the next section and proceeded to “settle in”; hanging numberless stuff curtains confined by heavy woollen cords and tassels, putting up gilt brackets everywhere; arranging books of engravings and “Keepsakes,” bound in olive-green velvet, on the one-legged round table in the middle of the sitting-room, and otherwise being ornately vulgar in the best Victorian manner, while the girls crocheted feverishly at bright woollen mats to put under everything.

“I never waste time,” said Caroline, bustling about with a great swishing of many petticoats. Nor did she, thought Sally, coming to call and feeling as though she had somehow got into a rag-bag. Caroline never wasted anything, except life, and now her whole mind was full of climbing to the pinnacle of Auckland Society.

“Everything is possible now,” Caroline cried with whole orchestras of thanksgiving in her voice, “though of course most people would pay one for looking after their houses for them. But I've learned not to expect gratitude … Sophia! How long do you mean to take over hemming that frill?”

Sophia, who always tried so hard to be good that no one could bear her, jumped, upsetting a vase of red geraniums over the purple merino. And then she cried so much that Caroline had to box her ears and send her for the brimstone-and-treacle.

“Oh, no. Oh, please, mamma. I know that's what makes my spots so bad.”

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“Wicked ungrateful child! If you have spots with brimstone I'd like to know what you'd have without it. Leprosy, probably,” said Caroline, administering a large dose and dabbing the merino with her handkerchief. “I do think you ought to make Darien drench herself, Sally. She is getting far too lively. I hear all sorts of stories about her.”

Caroline would soon be adding to them, thought Sally, going away; wondering why Mr Lovel had given Caroline the house, and never guessing how he had desired to put poor John under an obligation with a view to annexing the finest of his flocks and herds when the time came for the Peregrine Lovels to settle on the land. I don't want to be selfish, but I do wish they were not so near, thought Sally, who had had so much of Caroline at Kororareka.

Meanwhile Auckland erected another equally hideous barracks behind those on Britomart Hill, called them Albert after England's Prince Consort and proceeded to house the increasing number of regiments so grudgingly sent by England.

In fact, what with the land-trouble and too many tupara-guns, Queen Victoria's Maori nurslings were having the time of their lives; pot-shotting each other out of sheer delight and keeping their nursemaids continually on the trot trying to prevent it, while taxes went up and revenue went down and Governor Grey still refused to execute the Charter.

Peregrine, working so diligently that one had a constant impression of flying coat-tails, scented disaster in the wind and thrust out more tentacles. When the steamer H.M.S. Driver came up the Waitemata some years back colonists sternly refused to believe in her, referring to her distantly as to some vulgar feat of legerdemain. But Peregrine believed. Steam would come; and as New Zealand had no iron for machinery-making, ship-building must fail. The land … the land which no one could have was the only real stability, decided Peregrine, wondering how page 125 he could get it, pulling here and there at interminable strings, and mounting an eyeglass—which was difficult to see through but gained him much added respect.

“Our Peregrine goes through life as he will go through eternity, always expecting it to touch its hat to him. And it usually does,” said Jermyn. “Lord, how the British stock loves an autocratic aristocrat.”

Major Henry was looking anxiously at Jermyn in these days. Peregrine, always as impressive as the Parliamentary Black Rod, was bound to get along; but this dear Jermyn, with his bounteous powers that should raise him to the skies, was getting nowhere. A silent haggard Jermyn, shot with strange fires and coming home drunk much too often, thought the Major, who liked a night on the tiles as well as any man. Love, of course, that betrayer of youth and plaything of old age. But who was the damnable fair? The Major's mind stoutly refused to suspect Sally. Fate, huzzy though she was, could not do such an awful thing to Lovels.

Night had fallen as suddenly as it always does in the North. Jermyn, leaning from the window, was lost in it. Lost, felt the Major frantically, to him.

“Jermyn?” he said. But when Jermyn turned, no more than an outline graceful as a cat against the window, the Major knew that he was as secret as a cat, with neither jest nor confidence to offer an old uncle. The boy never tells me anything now, he thought, bewildered and savage. Yet why should he? I never told old men, he thought, going back sadly to his thumbed copies of Swift and Voltaire.

Like a wounded scorpion, Jermyn was now stinging himself and his Lovel pride so brilliantly in the Chronicle that it decided to send him down to report on that upstart town Wellington, which had actually given a ball in its own Government House and set up its own legislation, being so neglected by Auckland. “Trounce 'em well, the blaggards,” said the Chronicle; so Jermyn went up page 126 the hill to hurt Sally with his information—if she cared, but who knew what women would do, thought Jermyn, once so certain that he knew all about them.

Peregrine was there, stuffed as full of importance as a Strasbourg goose and bristling with demands.

“Then, Jermyn, I can utilize you in my new enterprise,” Peregrine said, walking up and down a carpet as flowery as his periods, while Sally sat like some dim enchantment in a corner, stitching wristbands, weaving spells. “Corny Fleete and I have been considering these increasing little settlements along the east coast,” said Peregrine, “and we believe that a regular service might prove lucrative since they now have to depend for necessities on whaling-ships or an occasional lugger. So we are sending the Nestor with a large consignment of agricultural implements, hardware and so forth, and I offer you a free passage on her if you will report results at each settlement. Captain Bone, though an honest man, is no scribe. You understand?” asked Peregrine, pausing at last before Jermyn and peering through his eyeglass.

“I desire to discover,” Peregrine went on, “if a regular service—possibly as far as Wellington—is likely to be satisfactory. It must come some day since water is naturally the only means of traffic this country can ever have.” Peregrine was quite unable to visualize roads through these hundreds of miles of relentless ranges and still more relentless Maoris, and was determined to make some hay before the rain of steamers spoiled it.

“You might discover Nick Flower and his smugglers,” suggested Darien from the rocking-chair where she was humming like a tawny bee—with a waspish waist and sting, thought Peregrine, asserting acidly that Jermyn would not need to occupy himself with chimeras.

“I wouldn't call Nick Flower a chimera. Much more like a mastiff,” declared Darien. And Jermyn is a greyhound, she thought. With those long slender limbs and his cinnamon-colour coat he was very like a greyhound; page 127 though he had never kissed her again, nor called her a parterre of roses, nor written anything in the album, now so full of burning verses that it was a wonder the cover didn't shrivel. She dropped him a curtsy as he went away.

“Adieu, fair sir. I may be engaged when you return.”

“Congratulations to the happy man … or men, for I can't think you'll be content with one,” said Jermyn, going out with Peregrine.

“A shocking quiz, I vow,” cried Darien, shrugging. Jermyn—her brilliant Lord Nelson—should come to Lady Hamilton some day even if she had to find a husband first to make him jealous. She ran up to her room to write in her diary: “Jermyn is a Brown Fawn and a Don Juan, and perhaps I shall marry some fool to Floute him and make him so jealous he will run off with me and do some great Deed to make him notorious. Till then I will be a notorious Bell myself for it is vastly entertaining.”

Downstairs Sally was putting Tiffany and Belinda through “The Battle of Prague” on the piano. Poor Salvolatile, who could have had no lover after all, since she had been so grave lately. They've all come to me, thought Darien, trying to dance in a whirl of sea-green skirts to “The Battle of Prague,” and giving it up to lie on her bed and count adorers on her slim fingers. It takes both hands now, she thought triumphantly.

Jermyn did not come to Lovel Hall again, and Sally found Eternity further off than ever since it seemed that Jermyn did not mean to speak to her until they got there. But Jermyn, tossing southward on the Nestor, knew that when he came again he would not be content with speaking. And then the Lord help us both, he thought, conscious that he hoped the Lord wouldn't.


A man with many irons in the fire needs the material for constant stoking, and so Nick Flower, having no page 128 patience with cooling irons, was rarely in one place long. Waterside taverns everywhere knew the tall man with his big shoulders and harsh voice and sharp half-closed eyes; rickety little offices in Auckland and Wellington and Sydney knew him, their owners rising to shake hands in a heartiness they seldom felt—for Flower usually got more than his pound of flesh out of every bargain. The Maoris knew him and welcomed him more freely than others did, since proud chiefs, refusing to deal any longer with ordinary traders, found Flower always ready to remember that they had backbones and had owned the country long before the graceless pakeha came.

So Flower did heavy trade in the midlands; and, besides the smuggled ammunition, many kegs of strong black tobacco, many cases of saws, axes and knives, many bottles of sauces and vinegars to give a relish to plain food were landed free of duty from brigs and cutters lurching in the rough seas along those rugged wooded coasts. Flower, who never saw why he should have mercy on any man, fleeced the chiefs too, but not so savagely as other white men did … white men who had infinitely fewer morals than the Maori, he thought, sitting now by a camp-fire within the tall carved ramparts of Te Mahia's pa below the snowy shoulder of Mount Egmont in the Taranaki.

Close in the red flicker of light lay a young Maori; hands clenched, dark eyes rolling under the anguish of tattoo, but scorning (stout fellow) to let a groan out of him as the naked squatting old tohunga tap-tapped out the long cheek-lines with mallet and shark-tooth knife, wiping away the blood with the twist of dressed flax round his little finger. For many months the torture would go on, as much at a time as the protesting flesh could bear, with charcoal dropped into the open wounds until the smooth brown young cheeks and forehead were scarred for ever into an indigo ferocity. And then the tohunga would begin on the man's rump.

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By what right did the English consider themselves so superior to a race which passes into manhood through such an initiation; whose chiefs-to-be must prove themselves in yet bitterer ways; whose every child-game is a gruelling test of courage and determination and strength? Our white skin, I suppose, thought Flower, shrugging and consulting a note-book.

The selling of tattooed enemy-heads to museums all over the world had been almost stopped, but there were still a few to be picked up and secretly got away. Te Mahia (said Flower's note-book) had several…. The missionaries, always so ready to believe, thought they had stopped the tattooing; but, in spite of that giant Bishop Selwyn walking all over the Island on his long legs, what did the whites know of the happenings in these deep forests?

What did those arrogant English gentlemen know, fussily planting English oaks and silver birches round their new houses, importing Chinese pheasants and peacocks to walk on their new lawns, importing brindled bulldogs to hunt the great droves of Captain Cook pigs back in the hills, importing blooded horses for their racing and silk bonnets for their ladies to walk abroad in? What did they know in their blind childish conceit of the dangers they were piling up for themselves by their insolence to the Maori, their crazy denunciation of their governors in the papers?

All the ignorance of civilization, thought Flower, strolling through the dimness to another fire, where a missionary-taught lad out of one of the Bishop's schools was slowly translating from a recent Chronicle. “With eyes turned to heaven and lips dropping unctuous rectitude our Pecksniffian Governor is robbing Peter to pay Paul and elegantly building schools for savages while consistently denying to white immigrants the use of their land….”

The jolly little group round the camp-fire understood enough of that to bellow their amusement. A young war- page 130 rior took the reader's head under his arm, pretending to punch it. “Hori Grey!” he shouted, and the men beat their heels on the ground in ecstasy. So that was where England's honour was going to. Yet the Maoris would have respected Grey if they had been allowed, for he surely was doing all that mortal man could do in the face of more confusions than any country had ever before been cursed with.

“Aue,” grunted Te Mahia at Flower's elbow. “This is not good. Should a Maori say half that of a chief he would be dead in two days. Why does not your white chief also kill?”

“He can't,” said Flower dryly. Te Mahia digested that slowly.

“All the Taranaki is saying that to be ruled by a chief whom his own warriors laugh at is an evil thing,” he remarked at last.

“Wanganui is saying it too. And the Waikato.” Flower looked sideways at the grim old face. Touch a Maori's pride and only blood will comfort him. Well, damn it, why not touch it? War had to come anyway. “Some day Maori warriors may learn to laugh at their own chiefs, Te Mahia.”

“The chiefs are thinking of that,” said Te Mahia, walking away.

Flower went down to Wellington with the tattooed heads in a carpetbag. He had paid through the nose for them, but they were worth their weight in gold now. Vienna Museum … that one in Budapest … considering their relative merits, Flower walked through the steep little Wellington streets (Wellington was already hanging like numerous swallows' nests on its high cliffs) and drank a modest brandy at a little table in the Prince Consort tavern. A young man with loose fair hair and a general elegance gone somehow astray sat alone at a distant table. Jermyn Lovel, egad, looking for once as though the world was not well with him. Flower went down the sanded page 131 floor, asking for Auckland news, but Jermyn, it seemed, had none to give.

Indeed, he gave so little of anything that Flower was immediately interested. Something biting this young buck, so smart in his sherry-colour coat and ruby pin catching the firelight, so sullen about the tired eyes and drooping well-cut mouth. Feeling his way, Flower talked idly of the commerce of crowns and countries, the feeding-bottle logic of the old men, the heady aspirations of the young.

“No mistaking your hand in the Chronicle now, Mr Lovel. It's a great thing to have an influence on men's minds. I have to content myself with influencing their fortunes.”

There are no great things, Jermyn wanted to say. How could there be when an honest man is reduced to making a virtue of prostituting his conscience? He said instead: “Have the ordinary men minds?”

“Precious few, I grant you. Nor fortunes either.” Another drink or so, and Jermyn would loosen up, thought Flower, instructing the waitress. What did this young fool know of the plums Flower could drop into that sulky mouth if he chose? The New Zealand Company (Flower could tell him) will shortly throw in the towel, handing over its debts to England and getting out as best it can. And England will undoubtedly push those debts back on the New Zealand Government—which is Auckland, More I.O.U.'s for Nick Flower then; fewer liqueurs for the gentlemen and not so many Paris bonnets for the ladies. Lord Almighty, what a scoop for young Lovel and the Chronicle to get in first with that news. Of the Maoris Flower could tell him; of the blind stupid mistakes made by every civilization in taking hold….

“Why have no white men the imagination to read history?” he asked.

But Jermyn was not here to be asked riddles. He gulped raw brandy, that began to glitter in his eyes, page 132 loosened up with a tirade against hell of all places. Hell, he said, very tragic and confidential, has been defined as the epitome of effort and failure. Did Flower know anything of failure?

“Perhaps I've never made enough effort to learn,” said Flower. This young buck, all on edge with his puny efforts, what could he guess of that great and terrible thing?

“Philosophers know,” declared Jermyn, pouring more brandy. “Their job to dissect the soul…. Where is the soul?”

“In most women and few men, I should imagine,” said Flower. What woman was young Lovel chasing with such smoky tempest in his eyes?

“A woman, sir,” said Jermyn, staring profoundly out of disordered waves of hair, “is an 'nigma.”

“She thinks she is,” amended Flower.

“And life in t-towns is jush a refined way o' going to pieces.”

“A very elegant way, I'm sure. I hope I'll never have to try it.” How many more platitudes was this fellow going to cast at him? “What did you see along the coast?” he asked.

“Sent tools ashore instead. P'raps they know how to behave. I don't. T-tryin' … self-restraint. Ever you try self-reshtraint with a woman?”

“Oh, take her, man. For the Lord's sake, take her if you want her. What else is a woman for? Don't you know yet how the pretty creatures despise us for self-restraint?”

“What's that?” Jermyn sat up with a glare. “Despise us? For-for not throwing their caps over windmills? Don't b'lieve it. No woman likes throwing——”

“Plenty of underground ways, ain't there?” asked the man who did all his important business underground. And went away, for there is no profit in conversation with a man besotted by love.

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The year wound its way into the hot Christmas weather, with a dance of heat on the fern and the harbour like milk, curdled here and there by passing boats. Major Henry, missing Jermyn, took much notice of Roddy and Tiffany, finding pleasure in enlarging their innocent minds beyond the strait limits of Peregrine and his dogmas … and all other dogmas that preached what they did not practise.

“I'm going to be a Mohammedan,” announced Tiffany, borrowing Major Henry's best rug for a prayer-carpet and sneaking down to the bush-gully to conduct her orisons among the birds. “Now I am a Confucian,” she cried, coming out of a tattered book on old China with glowing eyes. Making her soul, this intense childish Tiffany revelling with the immortals while Darien played havoc with the mortals and provoked several private duels.

Never, thought Darien, did I know anyone could be so happy. Handsome macaronis, balls, routs, kettledrums, picnics by land and water, riding-parties—Darien in a long rust-colour habit and wide hat with sweeping plumes was even bowling over Captain Lord Calthorpe, the adamantine barracks bachelor.

Very thin about the legs, little Lord Calthorpe in his tight glossy Hessian boots, and always too redolent of scent and brandy. But all the young ladies were envious, and Letitia Baizey so far forgot her pledged friendship as to call Darien an odious cat.

So what more could a girl ask to fill the days while waiting for Jermyn, who had gone to Sydney or the South Island (both as remote as the moon). I ask no more, thought Darien, snipping little curls from her abundant bright hair for fob-lockets, scattering breast-knots to be mumbled over by male lips, and contriving, despite Peregrine's niggardliness, to do with an old sprigged muslin of Sally's and a few ribbons what other girls couldn't do with a banking-account.

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She grows lovelier all the time, thought Sally, fondly peeping through her fingers during morning prayers. And indeed Darien was lovely in the clear sunlight this morning, with faint violet shadows beneath her dark-lashed changing eyes and a paler rose on the fair skin. But she felt suddenly red right down to her white ruffle when a little later she put herself in the way of Mr Lovel going for his hat.

“I have to inform you,” she said with all the majesty she could muster, “that I engaged myself to two gentlemen last night and I don't want either of them. Will you kindly tell them so?”

“Oh, Darien!” gasped Sally.

“You did what?” demanded Peregrine, really unable to believe his ears.

“Two gentlemen. Double-banked. And … and I don't know what to do with the fools,” said Darien, feeling hysterics coming very fast. “If only men knew what they look like on their knees … both knees and he forgot to pull his trousers up … don't stare at me like that! I won't have it. Your eyes are too close together. I always say so. Sally,” cried Darien, feeling the hysterics arrived, “why do you let his eyes be too close together … ?”

“Stop that infernal nonsense,” said Peregrine, almost forgetting his dignity. “Am I to understand that you accepted proposals from two of Mr Seager's guests last night?”

“They were so funny. I wanted to see how funny they could be. Men in love are always so peculiar. Oh, don't stamp. Don't. It makes you so funny to-o,” giggled Darien, collapsing into a chair and mopping her eyes.

“Oh, darling,” cried Sally, rushing with a glass of water. Peregrine plucked her away.

“Kindly leave this to me, my dear. What are the names of these deluded gentlemen, Miss Vibart?”

“Oh, not deluded, I think. A little d-drunk, perhaps….”

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“Their names, if you please … should you happen to know them.”

“Of course I know them…. I don't know Mr Milliken's Christian name, though Bertram would suit him. That fop Calthorpe has as many names as a fine puss gentleman might be expected to. Eustace Algernon Charles——”

“Am I to understand that you have accepted Lord Calthorpe?” Peregrine felt himself cooling down amazingly. No good record attached to this young sprig of the nobility who (said rumour) had been cashiered from the Hussars and squeezed by anxious relatives into an infantry regiment sailing for the colonies, the relatives promising that he would receive a handsome remittance so long as he stayed there. But few lords with handsome remittances grew on colonial bushes, and all the Auckland mammas were after this one … who must have been drunker than usual to allow himself to be caught.

But caught he'd stay now, thought Peregrine, promising to go up to the barracks and attend to the matter immediately.

“Tell him to give you that curl of mine he has in the locket with the diamonds,” said Darien, feeling herself reviving a little. “Leta Baizey is in the chased one.”

“Oh, Darien,” said Sally helplessly as Peregrine went out. Darien sighed.

“It's terrible to be a woman and say what you don't mean and be caught on the hop. I'm not half ready to marry yet, Sally. Women get nothing out of marriage … though they do get something out of engagements. Presents and envy and things.” She wiped her eyes and stood up. “Oh, dear, I wish I hadn't got in a panic. Two engagements at once would be so amusing and experiencing.”

Sally suggested that an engagement with Darien would probably be experiencing although not very amusing for the gentlemen.

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“I have no wish to amuse them … idle fops,” said Darien, beginning to tidy her hair. Since Jermyn wouldn't propose, all men were monsters. “Men are monsters, Sal-volatile, and so conceited you wouldn't believe. It is women,” cried Darien, suddenly feeling herself inspired, “who carry all the burden of this horrid pioneering. But who will go down to history as the heroes of it? Not women.”

“We … we do what we can, dear,” said Sally, bewildered.

“What we can? I should just think we did. It's only we who have made it possible. And men….” Darien (who could be shrewd enough when she chose) went on to picture men keeping voluminous diaries in order to explain to posterity how each of them had saved the country single-handed—if it should be saved, which was uncommon doubtful since they held the reins.

“And will there be any mention of women in those diaries, Sally? Not one, I'll wager. In a few generations,” cried Darien, waving her arms like a prophetess, “all the women who made New Zealand possible will be forgotten. Even I will be forgotten. And the men will still be putting up statues to each other. My diary will tell posterity the truth, anyway,” she cried, rushing off to it, while Sally put the china together with trembling hands, quite frightened at this tumbling of the gentlemen off their pedestals.

Preparing to tumble another gentleman off, Peregrine sent in his card to Lord Calthorpe who, somewhat limp in a saffron gown with green cords, was cursing his batman because breakfast tasted like hell. He greeted his visitor sulkily. “What'll you have? A chair? Brandy? Shall I send for some eggs? Gad, I must have been on the tiles properly last night. Can't remember how, though,” he added, scratching a sandy head under the gold-tasselled nightcap.

Quite prepared for this, Peregrine reminded him so page 137 clearly and skilfully that the little lord sat up straight for once.

“My eye, did I though? I must have been blind drunk. 'Ssure you, Mr Lovel, I always stop short of proposals. Promised my family … word of honour, don't y'know. Accepted me, did she? Doosed awkward, that. I thought she had more sense. Well … just tell her I was in my cups, will you? In my cups and no harm done … I hope?”

“As Miss Vibart's guardian, sir,” said Peregrine, at his stateliest, “I am entitled to ask what you mean by that. Are you repudiating an engagement which Miss Vibart in all good faith has already made public?”

“Has she, though? By Jove! Doosed awkward, that. Bloody awkward,” said Lord Calthorpe, collapsing again and staring feebly at Peregrine.

“Are you repudiating the engagement, sir?”

“Oh, no, no. By no means. Can't do that … can I? Gentleman can't … can he?” said Calthorpe, who was always discovering to his sorrow that he had been born a gentleman. “If gal sticks to it—she does stick to it? Eh?”

“Would she have announced it otherwise? I confess I am at a loss to understand your attitude, sir, when I have come to offer my congratulations on your conquest of a particularly charming lady.”

“Eh? Oh, cert'nly. Mettlesome filly…. Doosed good in you and all that. Have some brandy? I … I don't think I fell quite well,” said the little lord, pouring it out.

“Nor does she, poor child. She was weeping with excitement when I left. You know what women in love are, my lord,” said Peregrine, offering balm to go with the brandy. And the two appeared to blend so well that before he left Calthorpe had almost reconciled.

“Stops the others chasing me, eh? Won't it? 'Ssure you, sir, mammas are the devil. I scarcely dare get drunk. I'll page 138 get drunk to-night, though. No more danger, eh? Well, I can't go and call this mornin'. Parade duty. I'll be up this evenin' if she's still stickin' to it. Eh? You think she will be stickin' to it?”

“Can you doubt her?” said Peregrine, going off to interview Lieutenant Milliken. If Darien made any more trouble he'd put her in the stocks.

Milliken, being frankly detrimental, was easily managed. “I love her, sir,” he said, sadly. “But of course it was too much luck for me. I … I wish her happy. I know I am … unworthy….”

“What woman can resist a title and diamonds? Calthorpe has both,” said Peregrine, finishing a fruitful morning by presenting the Southern Cross and the Chronicle offices with a few extremely important scrawled words procured from Calthorpe, and returning to Darien who (how like a woman!) received his news in the aloof manner one might associate with queens, while Sally (who never had any sense) wept copiously.

“Well, of course I didn't really suppose he'd want to give me up, and I fancy an engaged gentleman is quite funny. Did you tell him I won't return his presents when I break it off, even if he is mean enough to want them?”

Sally, looking up timidly at Mr Lovel, saw something in his face that did not go with breakings-off and cried harder. Surely not even Mr Lovel could force darling reckless Darien into that? But Jermyn had once said that it was God's great jest to allow Adam to develop his ego before Eve appeared and he had been developing it ever since. Mr Lovel's ego spreading across the world so darkened it that it was quite difficult to fulfil her promise to Tiffany and presently beg that the child might go to school at Mrs Dupont's.

“Mrs Dupont? Who is she? Is it a School of Detention?” demanded Peregrine, remembering a Tiffany who would certainly be the better for that.

“A … a seminary for the daughters of gentlemen, just page 139 opened in Commercial Bay. Lady Martin is sending her daughters…”

“I should not dream of it. A girl has no need for tuition outside her home. A blue-stocking in my family? No, I thank you. Let Tiffany learn to do her duty by her parents and her brothers and she will, I hope, later do her duty by her husband and her children. I very much dislike publicity for females,” declared Peregrine, still smarting under Darien's publicity.

He took a turn through the room, glancing at Sally sitting so quiet in her pale flowing muslin with that decorous little cap on her bent head, and an unexpected rush of thankfulness went through him. “If she grows up like you, my dear, I shall be well content,” he added more kindly. “And Caroline don't mean to send her girls, you know.”

Caroline had sniffed at Mrs Dupont. But that, according to Major Henry, was quite understandable since Caroline would certainly find preventing education so much easier than educating herself up to the girls' possible standard.

So Sally said, “Yes, Mr Lovel,” and went to tell the bad news to Tiffany, who ran straightway down to Major Henry and became a Buddhist.

“How many more religions are there?” she asked, seriously doubting if any single religion would be enough comfort just now.


In Auckland affairs moved but slowly; with no money behind any enterprise, with sailor-men waiting in rough water-front taverns for their ships to fill with hides, tallow, and timber; with immigrants waiting for land and continually tragic or abusive according to their natures.

This country, the immigrants said, gave no increase save of customs duties, which were now its only revenue. page 140 So they sailed away in large numbers to the Australian and Californian gold-fields, and Maoris, who took a holiday if you spoke to them, wheeled the barrows of gunny-sacks and drove the patient red-and-white bullocks down the steep streets to the rickety wharf and the mud-flats still greasy in the sun and unconquered by the Harbour Board.

Yet for the gentlemen, so strangely favoured by St Paul, life had plenty of salt, with no end of regattas, pig-hunting, horse-racing, flirtations, and, on the night Jermyn returned from the South Island, a tremendous to-do at the Mechanic's Institute with all the members present.

Jermyn's work had preceded him in a quite outrageous letter to a Sydney paper, where, after praising the enterprise of Wellington, he had basely attacked Auckland, to this effect:

“Auckland, although a mere scatter of huts, sheds, tents, raupo whares, and lean weatherboard houses singularly unimpressive staggering alongside ill-kept streets, chooses to flaunt as a Town by erecting a tavern to every three miserable stores in Commercial Bay and baptising all with such Sounding names as Crown Hotel, Theatre Royal, the Law Courts, which though propping the gaol would fall without its support. In Official Bay the Governor has set up the horrid Pomp of autocracy so that his boots are kept clean by the lickings of his Toadies; the Colonial Office, and the Legislative Council, which, since the Governor holds two votes in a Council of four appointed by the Crown, is no more than a political rag to cover the nakedness of all concerned, are between them daily driving the country further on the Road to Ruin.”

There were few who were not hit, and the air in the dirty little room was very hostile. Peregrine, severely pricked by the jibe of toadying, opened with: “We have requested your presence here at the earliest available page 141 moment, Jermyn, in order that you may explain the meaning of these outrageous insults…..”

“My insults were never considered outrageous so long as they referred merely to the Governor,” retorted Jermyn. He looked older, thought Major Henry, uneasily, with new lines beneath those wide bright eyes, that were almost glittering gold to-night. Still hag-ridden, thought the Major, cursing the hag, whoever she might be. Peregrine said majestically:

“With the country in its present state, it is sheer suicide not to uphold the Government.”

“Assuredly it cannot uphold itself.”

“Ah … so long as we all stand shoulder to shoulder, our difficulties will adjust themselves,” declared Peregrine, wishing he could believe it.

“What infant's hornbook did you find that in?”

Gentlemen permitted interest to replace the glare in their eyes. Jermyn's tone was more than offensive. A personal matter, eh? Bad blood between Lovels? Major Henry plunged in hastily with:

“Stand together, of course…. So many different standards … damned conflictin'….”

“There is only one real standard of right, Major,” said Peregrine, very black and haughty.

“Yours, naturally,” said Jermyn. He brushed his hand over his wet forehead. Until he saw Peregrine again he had not known how he wanted to kill him. And when he saw Sally again…. God Almighty, what was he going to do then?

Gentlemen were excited, if a little nervous. This was vastly unpleasant—but which would hit first? Was it possible that they were going to see Peregrine Lovel knocked out of his Jovian calm at last? His pinched nostrils were getting white, and Jermyn was like a wildcat with those big glittering eyes and his thick hair all over the place.

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“If England would understand …” began Mr Seager, offering her as a sop to the gentlemen who wouldn't have her. England, they felt, had no wish to understand. But this attack on their own town … on Auckland….

There was a howl from old Sir Winston, who never took any notice of the young fellers, hang 'em. He had just discovered for himself what was the matter with Auckland and every other place, and he proceeded to expound it with a scatter of quotations, thumping his green umbrella on the dingy boards until his hat fell off and his yellow wig slid over his ear.

How, he demanded, could we expect to build England's pleasant land on a public debt that was assuming simply colossal proportions since the man Wellington had handed over the bankrupt New Zealand Company to the Imperial Government, which was wanting Auckland to foot the really staggering bills? How, with the caitiff Wellington continuing to beget bastard settlements all over the place, could we expect God to save the Queen or anyone else? Blessed be he who expecteth nothing for Doodlum Buck was all he'd get.

“Who, gentlemen … who, I say, is the ravening wolf coming down like the Assyrian on our fold? Grey! Who's the one-eyed Cyclops who can never see any but himself … and that squinting? Grey! Gentlemen …I put it to the vote. Grey!” Sir Winston shouted it, quite out of breath, grabbing his wig as it covered him up like a mask.

Conscious of a slight disappointment, the gentlemen genteelly cushioned impending trouble by voting Grey responsible for everything. They voted him responsible for Auckland's bankruptcy, and for the settlement in 1849 of Dunedin, at the far end of the South Island, although this was so near the South Pole that only such a body of stoics as the Free Church of Scotland would have fathered the adventure. They voted him responsible for the four ships bringing the Canterbury Pilgrims at the page 143 end of 1850 under the blessing of the Church of England….

“Church! Church! Don't every scurvy malefactor hide under the skirts of the Church?” bellowed Sir Winston, who disapproved of the way Bishop Selwyn and Judge Martin stood together with Grey for the Maoris.

Major Henry, whom Peregrine had sent to the South Island to buy land when the first Canterbury lots were put up, hastened to assure the company that so many unchurched Australians had followed the Pilgrims over the Port Hills from Lyttelton and settled like flies on the flanks of the infant speculation that it was fast becoming quite secular and very abusive among its marshes and howling nor'westers.

Yet in time we might be glad of Canterbury, declared the Major, hoping that Jermyn had gone, but what with smoking oil-lamps and smoking gentlemen how could one be sure? If gentlemen realized the placidity of the Canterbury Maoris, of whom there were so very few; the courage of enterprising colonists driving sheep and cattle into wildernesses of stony river-beds, level horizons of yellow tussock, long ranges succulent with snowgrass, and frequently finding colonists still more enterprising already established and building huge stations for their fattening flocks….

But the gentlemen refused to be glad of Canterbury, which sounded like a chimera, since all the New Zealand they knew appeared to be on edge, both morally and geographically; and Peregrine was very acid about Dunedin, which was already at ship-building, so that southern whalers were bound to make it their landfall, to the great detriment of Auckland. In fact, Auckland had become Cinderella, and with only Grey for a fairy godmother New Zealand's fate was sealed. Peregrine, who had been considerably rattled by Jermyn, foresaw England turning such a discomfortable and luckless country over to France page 144 or anyone else who would take her; and then Major Henry, heartened by seeing Jermyn flinging out of the room with his hat on the back of his head, had the most brilliant inspiration of his life.

“I protest,” he cried, getting up on a chair with some difficulty, “against such pusillanimity. Even Nature herself bows to the onslaught of man when rightly directed. Australia has discovered gold in her bowels. Why cannot we? How do we know that at this very moment New Zealand is not secreting beneath our feet riches beyond the wealth of Araby?”

After such a flight he mopped his forehead, while everyone made surprised and enthusiastic noises, looking to Peregrine for a lead. Feeling the tribute, he kept them waiting like a god in a frock-coat, saying at last: “I suggest that a reward be offered for the discovery of gold. It must be large enough to attract enterprise. I am willing to put down one hundred pounds as a nucleus to form a private company.”

Here, one felt, was the real Mr Peregrine Lovel of Lovel Hall. None other could offer half as much. Grey would be shut out and, should paying gold be found, the company—with Peregrine clearly headed for managing director—would be in a position to dictate terms to a bankrupt Government.

Damn it, muttered Major Henry, I can't like the fellow but I have to respect him. Yet so few things have to be respected, he thought, cheering up as everyone rushed to subscribe, and broke the remaining chairs during subsequent demonstrations, which they conducted as though gold was already in their pockets.

Jermyn was sitting with stretched legs and chin on his chest among the wolfhounds when the Major got home. He did not speak, so the Major ventured: “We had an interesting meetin', boy.”

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“Our Peregrine dressed in a little brief authority,” said Jermyn.

So Jermyn wasn't in the mood for that disclosure. The Major tried again: “See many charmin' ladies on your travels?”

“Plenty. Blowsy females with blown skirts showing weakly-gartered stockings.”

The Major went to bed.