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Legends of the Maori

Chapter IV

Chapter IV.

Five years had passed. The Whakamarino diggings had been rushed, and the cream taken off, and the West Coast was at the high tide of its prosperity. It was between two rushes on the Grey, and in a room at Jack Harris’s, behind the saloon, where fourteen golden—haired dance girls were prancing to the strains of Buckingham’s braying band, sat four diggers, pipe in mouth, occasionally sampling the “forty-rod calamity.” On the page 212 table was a handful of nuggets, coarse bits and specimens, the property of a new arrival, who gave the name of Bishop. This individual was close-shaven, and said he had just come from the Sounds, and that the gold before them was got there. He wanted tucker and mates, and the result of the consultation was that the other three purchased a cutter and provisioned her for three months; and the four sailed away south for the Sounds.

About two months afterwards three of these men were sitting one evening round a fire at the head of one of the Sounds, and the cutter was at anchor in deep water close in shore. They had been led by Bishop into innumerable inlets and streams, over hills and mountains, and through swamps, and yet they had not struck the place where the former got the gold. They got a little gold everywhere, but Bishop said his bump of locality had been bad ever since he got a sunstroke at Rockhampton. He had been away for two days in the ranges, looking for landmarks, “to remind him of what he never saw,” said Jim Manby, who continued: “Look here, boys, I’m full up of this little picnic. I didn’t tell you before, waiting to make sure, but yesterday I picked up this, which puts the kybosh on the caper.” And Jim showed them a brass compass box, on which was scratched “R. Broughton.”

“Now,” continued Jim, “I was in that little thing on the Dart when we found Dromore, and somehow I thought I’d seen Mr. Bishop before when we met him on the Grey. Yer see, I didn’t see much of him among the crowd at the Dart, and he scooted as soon as Dromore was found. That made me uncertain; but since his beard has grown I was pretty sure, and when I found the box I was cocksure. My mate Pete told me Broughton had got some new chums on a lay at the Taipo, so yer see, when he told us he’d come from the Sounds, he’d really come from the Taipo, across the Teremakau, and down the Arnold into the Grey, and had a shave.”

“That’s been his game for years,” said Bob.

“You bet, and many a good man’s got bushed through him, and never showed up again. I’m off to-morrow. He’s looking for a pass to skedaddle through.”

“Yes,” said Charley, “and when he’s found it he’ll steal tucker from the cutter and scoot. I’m with yer, Jim.”

“Me, too,” said Bob. “We’ll do a vamoose.”

The next morning the cutter sailed, leaving on the little beach an upright, on which was nailed a candle-box, in which were ten pannikins of oatmeal. On the outside was written in charcoal: “Richard Broughton—a present from his loving mates, Dromore and McCaul. R.I.P.”

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Meanwhile in the Grey things were going on as usual, and our old friend Carry and her husband had a big hotel, solid timber, and Nelly was with them, such a beauty—for all Otago had come to the Coast. Kit Carroll had a homeward-bounder in Maori Gully, and he was in town for a spell—not to see Nelly.

One evening a big crowd was at Jack Harris’ to welcome the boys of the prospectors’ returned cutter, and Kit was among them. After an account of the cruise had been given, someone asked Jim Manby, “But where is Bishop, Jim?”

“Bishop, be blowed! He worn’t no blooming Bishop-that wor Broughton.”

“What! Broughton of the Dart?”

“You’ve struck it.”

The atmosphere of Jack Harris’ house was sultry for a while, and then someone asked again where he was.

“How do I know? He’s such a terror to travel. He may have gone for the old Dart across the ranges; he may have made for Te Anau, or Riverton, or the Bluff, and he may have reached it if he’s very lucky; but me and my mates think he’s gone prospecting for the Great Golden Throne Lead, and that he’ll strike a hot old duffer.”

Kit said never a word to Nelly, but in his heart he hoped that Broughton had gone prospecting for that lead.

About a month afterwards an Invercargill paper found its way to the Grey, and’ in it was this news item: “The sealing cutter Comet has just returned from the Sounds. She reports finding the body of a man in Dusky Sound, dead but a day or two, but in a sad state, nevertheless. From papers in his pocket it is certain that his name is Richard Broughton, and from the description of his person it is equally sure that he was Broughton, of Dart notoriety. But how did he get there? Another mystery of the wilds.”

And then Kit did tell Nelly, and soon they met in church and then have not parted since.