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Legends of the Maori

The Half-Caste Wife — A Tale of the Old Digging Days

The Half-Caste Wife
A Tale of the Old Digging Days

page 202

Chapter I.

IT was down in Otago, in the era of the great gold rushes, when tons of treasure were obtained from the alluvial gravels by the most primitive means. It was in the days of wonderful runs of luck, and some of the Maoris of Otago, as well as thousands of pakehas, hunted for the yellow god. Hartley and Riley had lifted, actually from the surface, one hundred and eight pounds weight of coarse gold. The rush in consequence to the bleak valleys of the Dunstan was simply enormous, and every man a sturdy digger.

Richard Broughton was one of those who came with the first rush, and he had been very fortunate. His claim worked out, he had gone to Dunedin for a spell, which meant perennial jollity whilst the coin held out. He was a fine stalwart man, and one most likely to prove very attractive to women. In one of his excursions he had visited the Maori Kaika out near Otago Heads, the headquarters of the southern clans of Ngai-Tahu. There he became acquainted with a half-caste girl, Erana, bright with the bloom of early womanhood, and he became, as he phrased it, “dead shook on the girl.” The girl liked him, but was unapproachable by the dissolute; marriage, and marriage with a pakeha, was her aim, but love or liking must also be a factor. The girl’s mother was the widow of a whaler—one of the variety which stands on the quarter-deck and withers the crew with blasphemy, the only remonstrance it understands. And, prompted by her late husband, old Karo had taught their daughter the virtues of restraint and discretion by means of a careful education. And so with knowledge and virtue clad, the girl was a very rich prize indeed.

The face and figure of Broughton, and his apparent wealth, some of which he was throwing about, attracted the girl. Finally they were married.

The couple had a gay time in Dunedin, in Dunedin’s gayest time, and then when the once plethoric chamois bag was much attenuated, Broughton took his wife to the Dunstan diggings, where he probably expected to refill the bag as easily as before. But thousands then toiled where hundreds had worked before, and after prospecting and fossicking about for a time Broughton determined to go to the Lake Wakatipu district, leaving Erana, page 203 or Nelly as he called her, in a hut he had acquired close to the township. In this hut Broughton was now shouldering his swag in the early morning previous to his departure. He kissed Erana and said:

“Well, so long, old woman; take care of yourself.”

“But, Dick, you are not going to leave me without money surely?”

“Oh, you can stick up what you want at the store, and if you need any stuff write to old Karo. I daresay she has something left in the stocking; she managed to turn you out pretty smart, anyhow.”

“How do I know the store will give me credit, Dick?”

“Oh, I’ll make that all right as I go through, and if I strike it rich we’ll have another good time in Dunedin. But as for cash, I’m short.”

“My God! Dick, you don’t intend leaving me like this, surely? Think of the baby that’s coming!”

Broughton looked down his handsome nose for a moment, and then unshipped his horse-collar swag, and took a roll of notes from some inner pocket of his shirt. It was not a very bulky roll, certainly; but that said nothing of its aggregate value. One of the notes he handed to Erana, and said:

“Well, here’s a fiver for you; take it, and give us a kiss, old girl.”

Erana did not give the kiss, but she accepted kiss and note. She was deeply offended, and her heart was full of foreboding for the future.

“What shall I do when this is done?”

“Oh, confound you, wash clothes for the boys!”

Broughton, the stalwart scoundrel, opened the door and started along the track, and as he went, an observer would have thought him a fine, sturdy honest digger. The eyes of Erana were now open. She’d had her doubts when Broughton left her night after night alone, and only returned with the perfume of the “Irish” still on his lips, after the strains of the band at the dance-house had ceased to desecrate the stillness of early morn. Now she knew she was no longer cared for. But she was no faint-hearted girl. The self-reliance of her parents of both races was strong within her, for her maternal grandfather had been a warrior among those who had slain the less vigorous Ngati-Mamoe and Waitaha, the original people of Otago.

Erana’s money was soon exhausted, for provisions were fearfully dear in consequence of the high freight, owing to the terrible roads. The storekeeper refused her further credit after a time—a long time; in fact, what he had given was a gift to the girl out of pure kindness of heart, though he never told her so. Broughton had made no arrangement with him—had not been near him on the morning of his departure. But Erana was not without friends. All the boys were her warm, respectful and silent admirers, and they stuck to her the more because they knew what Broughton was, and page 204 distrusted him utterly; and Erana was good to all of them impartially, in a way which never fails to call forth the effusive gratitude of the digger. Did one meet with an accident, no distance, no foul weather or muddy roads had prevented Erana from attendance at the bedside of the sufferer, with gentle care to soothe his pain. Hence it would not be conducive to the health of any to insult Mrs. Broughton, for she was always Mrs. Broughton to the boys, though they thought it a shameful waste that she was so.

In her time of trouble, when the baby came, an exuberant lady from one of the calico and scantling pubs, a day or two before the event, bustled into the hut, and removed a flaming hat from above a little less flaming face, remarking, “It’s very ’ot, my dear.”

Erana had seen her before, but never spoken to Mrs. Carry Peters, of the Old Gold Hotel.

“It’s all right, little ’un. I’m come to stay for a week or two; and if the doc. is wanted, you bet he’ll come; but I think you and me’ll worry through between us.”

“It’s very good of you, Mrs. Peters.”

“Good be blowed! Do you think I’m a town-bred lady as ’ud leave a woman to fight it out alone. Mine’s gone, lovey. Shot at the Eureka stockade, over in Victoria. ’Sides I want a spell, and Peters’ll look after the pub— after a fashion,” she added to herself.

And they did worry through without the doctor, and Carry Peters hugged and kissed the boy and cried over him, and re-established her dignity and self-respect by cursing the first man who came along to inquire.

“Mrs. B. is as well as can be expected, and a darned sight better! Ain’t I here, yer fool? Here, you chunk, go and tell Peters to shout for all hands, for the sake of the kid and his mother.”

But there was a little circumstance which took place a couple of days after Broughton left which should be recorded. One morning a couple of diggers, strangers to Erana, knocked at the door, and when it was opened each lifted an enormous Yankee hat from over a bronzed face, exposing strangely white brows in the process. Said the elder, Sam Ross, to Kit Carroll, “Now, then, youngster, wade in, and choose the talk proper.”

Said Kit Carroll, blonde of hair, blue of eye, with nearly 6 ft. of sturdy youth below that eye: “We hopes we are not disturbing you, Mrs. Broughton, but Mr. Broughton asked us to keep you supplied with firewood whilst he was away, and we thought you might want some now.”

“It’s very kind of you; I’m quite out of wood.”

“Kind, marm?” put in Sam. “It’s kind of you to give us the order. We’ve only got a poor claim, and it pays better to get firewood from the gullies than wash poor dirt.”

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“But I don’t think I shall be able to pay you for very much. It is dreadfully dear here.”

Sam had to do all the talking now. He explained afterwards that “Kit was struck silly, and couldn’t look the donah in the face.” So Sam replied, “Lor’ love you, Mrs. Broughton, it’s all paid for in a lump sum for as long as he’s away—in money, and a ‘lay on’ when he strikes it.”

“I didn’t know Dick was so rich when he left,” said Erana.

“In course you didn’t. He’s too good to let on. It was paying us made him short when he took the track. We’ll bring it this afternoon. So long, marm.”

Said Kit as they walked away, “Did yer drop to that, Sam? ‘Didn’t know he was so rich!’ Bet he’s left her no stuff, the blooming bounder.”

And they went and cut the wood, leaving their mates to wash only 20 oz. out of the poor claim, poorer that day on account of their absence. And Nelly never went short of firewood.

When the baby got big and strong, Mrs. Carry Peters came to the hut one day, as hot as usual, and with an affectation of extreme weakness. She sat down on the bed immediately on arrival, and placing her hand on her ample bosom appeared to experience a great difficulty in finding sufficient air in the Dunstan Valley to fill the lungs that bosom contained.

“Oh, my dear, I’m so bad. We’ve been that beastly busy, what with reg’lar callers, and the boys passing through to the new rush at the Cardrona, that I’m fairly knocked up. I know I am himposing on your good nature, but would you mind coming up and ’elp in the bar. It’s lined with drugget, and nice and warm to the feet, and I’ve got old Slocum’s girl to mind the kid in the kitchen. I knows I’m taking a liberty, but I am so bad.”

And Erana went, and it was astonishing how that walk improved the health of Mrs. Carry Peters, for ten minutes after she got home she was threatening to punch a rowdy digger and swearing at Mr. Peters for not keeping the decanters filled, and failing to “take them blooming marines to the bottle heap.”

When Erana left for the hut a couple of weeks later she carried more money than would keep her for three months: “The usual wages, my dear, and you’ve got to take ’em.” And doubtless Mrs. Carry could well afford to pay, for the crowd in the bar whilst Nelly was there was always great, and when one shouted, he shouted for the crush, and each seemed to think that it was necessary to call for the most expensive drinks, and get outside them in quite a perfunctory manner, as who should say, “This is the tack I was reared on.” One day, whilst the boys were black in the face in their efforts to convert involuntary oaths into genteel words ere they had quite escaped from their lips, a casual rowdy made use of a filthy word to the page 206 barmaid, and he was never properly accounted for afterwards. What he left in the bar it took a long time to wash out. This was by no means her last visit to the Old Gold, and the calls upon her always came before her money was all gone.

Chapter II.

There is a spurious variety of the digger species who takes it out of his fellow miners occasionally as badly as a London syndicate—the fictitious prospector for alluvial fields. He will go for a month or two into the bush, and having found the smallest prospect, will return to some large mining camp, and report the discovery of a new field, with the object of getting up a rush of men, which he hopes will discover the rich gold he had failed to locate; then he will peg out a claim, perhaps as prospector. About the time we left Erana on the Dunstan, one evening two men sat outside a tent on the southern bank of the Dart River, where that stream empties into Lake Wakatipu. They could not go west, they had no food to take them where none was to be had; they could not approach the settlements, for the river and lake stopped them. A canoe was in sight on the opposite side of the swollen Dart, the side of succour; but neither could swim. Many days before, their mate Broughton had ferried himself over on his way to Queens-town to fetch food; and he had left with his mates ten pannikins of oatmeal—nothing more, and no game to be had. The three of them had been as many months away, prospecting up the Dart, and in the country towards the West Coast. They had found fair prospects—nothing worth reporting. It was agreed to prospect farther, and Broughton was to fetch food quickly, and with every secrecy. This point his mates insisted on. A day or two after his departure Dromore broke a small bone in his foot, and was thus disabled; and this evening McCaul was saying that on the morrow he would go far up the stream, find a fordable spot, cross over and forage for the weka, the Maori hens that they could hear opposite. This he did, and he had saluted his mate with a cooee from the other shore, and then Dromore, together with the rest of the world, lost sight of McCaul for ever.

Queenstown at this time was as gay a digging township as any in New Zealand, and no flash digger in it was gayer than Broughton. He had exhibited gold, in nuggets and quartz; he talked of reefs and alluvial in the country between the Lake and the West Coast, till he was surrounded by admiring friends day and night. In the tallest of Yankee hats, the snowiest of moleskins, with crimson sash, and knee boots with “nugget” embossed in gold letters in front, he mashed the barmaids and dancing girls, and responded to invitations to drink from all and sundry. Days grew into weeks, and yet he gave no thought to his mates, who, foodless, had their path to safety blocked by the swollen Dart, rushing turbid to the lake. At last he page 207 moved, and with him went a great crowd of men, eager to reach the new El Dorado.

Dromore had long ago eaten his last spoonful of meal, and had bidden farewell to hope, as day followed day, and the mate he knew to be faithful, in spite of the defection of the other, returned not to his side. At last he abandoned the tent, and crawled to the brink of the river, and then consciousness forsook him.

As the twenty-ninth evening from the time of Broughton’s departure was deepening into night, the helpless figure of Dromore was sitting by the river with knees up and hands upon them, in the palms of which his face was buried, in an instinctive attempt to shut out the swarms of sandflies, and check the operations of a horrid hoard of carrion-seeking flies. The loathsome hum and buzz of the flies were the only sounds which broke the stillness of desolation.

The serrated range of lofty Alps over the lake to the eastward was yielding to the coming night the white purity of its peaks, and the icy summit only of giant Earnslaw was blushing rosy red, as the last rays of the departing sun struck its eternal snows, when loud reports of guns, and lusty shouts of men broke the insect-haunted stillness, and betokened that at last succour had come to the dead McCaul and the moribund Dromore. The newcomers searched the tent, but found no occupants, but Dromore was shortly afterwards discovered on the river brink. The life spark still feebly fluttered, and soon many billies were boiled. The warm water helped to restore animation, and duck soup was sparingly poured down his throat. All search failed to find McCaul, but next day, on the top of a precipitous rocky gulch, the atmosphere was tainted with the odour of decaying flesh, and on looking down, far out of reach from below or above, buzzard hawks were seen as they wheeled in heavy flight, and seagulls, as they circled near a ledge of rock, screamed the dirge of the wandering Irishman.

Broughton disappeared on the first sight of Dromore. He knew that he would receive but short shrift should the diggers discover (and the sight of Dromore was discovery) that he had left his mates to starve whilst he was enjoying himself in Queenstown. Whilst there, he had never hinted that they were in want—he had confined himself to painting in glowing colours the imaginary gold—nor even lightly sketched the miserable setting to the picture. Only when they were all leaving did he hint that it would be well to hurry as the tucker might be run out. He knew his danger, but he knew not where to go. He must avoid Queenstown, but he might make his way to the Arrow or the Cardrona. But when he came to think of it, he recognised that he would be safe in no digging centre of the province when the news got abroad of the fearful state of Dromore and the death of page 208 McCaul. He determined finally to get out of the country. He had his blankets on his shoulders, and started east on his way to Dunedin.

Chapter III.

Erana and her baby were in the hut, and they were not alone. There was quite a lively conversation going on, in English pure and English broken, in Maori with the harsh “k” substituted for the soft “ng,” and in the language which only mothers can interpret as it issues from the pouting lips of the babbling babe, and is as the cooing of the dove. Old Karo was responsible for much of this polyglot chatter. She had come up by Cobb’s coach to see her grandson, and prouder kuia never carried tamaiti on back than that same relict of a whaler captain. If Erana had been beautiful and attractive as a maiden, she was simply glorious as a matron. Old Karo was neat and prim, in the style peculiar to the Anglicised Maori of the domestic kind.

Supper was over, and they were sitting by the fire chatting, when a knock came to the door.

Erana was not alarmed, for since the advent of Karo, Kit Carroll, Sam Ross, or others of those diggers who formed the great firewood brigade would drop in of an evening. The half-caste girl simply said “Come in.” Turning to investigate the visitor, she gazed straight in the face of Broughton, and was speechless.

“Well, Nelly, old girl, how are you. Got a family party, eh?”

(Erana is the Maori form of Eleanor or Ellen, otherwise Nelly.)

Tenakoe, pakeha,” from his wife. Not a word from Karo, usually so voluble.

He had on the crimson sash and the nugget boots, and the hat with its spire high towards heaven, and only the moleskins and the soles of the boots showed signs of service. He had been uneasy lest the news of his escapade should have reached the Dunstan before him. By the absence of horror and outcry he was reassured, so in a cool, calm voice he remarked:

“You seem pretty comfortable here, old girl?”

“Yes; we fitted it up out of the last money you sent.”

He was sure of his ground now; his failure to supply means was the only grievance, and as he had an object to gain he would be cautious.

“Is that our kid? Let’s give him a kiss.”

“No, it is not; don’t touch him.”

“Whose is it, then? We ought to have a kid knocking around somewhere. I hope he ain’t kicked out.”

“You never sent to inquire after him. This boy is mine.”

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Karo thought it about time to assert a claim, so with a gesture of the hand towards Broughton, she said, she so proud of her English: “Pakeha whakarongo mai. Na maua te tamaiti nei” (“Listen! The child is ours”).

Broughton would not be angry, he would carry his point. The aspect of affairs in the hut betokened prosperity.

“Have you anything to eat, Nelly?”

“Yes,” and in silence all she spread the rough but clean table with bread and meat and poured some tea from the pot yet standing by the fire, and then:

“Sit up, eat.”

He did so, amidst a solemn silence, and having finished, rose and went to his swag and commenced to unpack, when Nelly said sharply: “Stop, put it on your back, and go.”

“By God, it’s my house, and I’ll do as I like. But I don’t want to be disagreeable, especially as I have something to say, and as you don’t want me to stay, I may as well say it at once: I want some money.”

“Pawn the silk sash and tall hat; there’s no money here.”

He was standing near the door, where he had dropped his swag when he came in, and Nelly was nearest to him on one side of the fire, whilst Karo sat on the other. Broughton lost his temper, and, seizing Nelly by the arm, he shouted, “By God! I’ll make you stump up or search the hut.”

Nelly rose like a tigress and smote him in the face, at which he laughed, which was not wise, as it made an opening which Karo filled. It will be observed that the old lady had said but little—perhaps she was thinking. In any case she now showed herself a woman of action and resource. As the handsome mouth of Broughton broadened with a grin, she rose suddenly from the fire, holding a long burning stick of manuka with both hands, which brand she thrust suddenly into the gleaming teeth of Broughton.

The fellow backed rapidly, stumbled over his swag, fell against the door and burst it open, falling prone on the stones outside. The two women (it is astonishing with what concert they acted without a word) seized—one the swag and the other the hat, threw them on the top of the owner, and then pulled to and barred the door. They knew Broughton would commence the attack as soon as he had pulled himself together, but as the door opened outwards, it would take some time to batter it in, and when he started, they would commence the first line of defence of the women of the pakeha, whether against mouse or man—they would scream for all they were worth, and some of the boys would hear them.

All was silent for a time, and then they heard a rattle of stones outside as the nugget boots sought a foothold to enable their wearer to rise. page 210 The two women drew in their breath preparatory to the first war cry. But just then voices were heard on the path from the township, and the amazons withheld their fire. The scuffling noise outside the door increased, and then rapid footsteps were heard descending the rocky path toward the river, evidently those of a person having important business ahead: they knew that Broughton was gone.

No, the reaction was not too great. Neither of them fainted, but each calmly returned to the fire, when Nelly suddenly remembered the baby. That embryo warrior had lain on his back on the bed during the whole business, and when his mother went to him he waved his chubby fists in the air and crowed the crow of victory.

The noises from the township sounded nearer and nearer, and footsteps halted at the door.

“Come in,” said Nelly, in answer to the knock, and in walked Mr. Christopher Carroll and his mate, Sam Ross. Mr. Carroll’s gorgeous get-up calls for the full Christian name and the prefix. Sam wore his ordinary evening clothes, those of a miner out of hours; Kit’s were diggers’ clothes intensified—very much intensified.

“Good evening, Nelly; how goes it, old lady?” was the salutation of each to the two women. She was Nelly to the boys of the firewood brigade in esoteric conference; she was Mrs. Broughton to all in the presence of outsiders. “Why, what’s up, Nelly; who’s been playing with fire?” queried Kit.

The two women laughed, actually laughed, and then Nelly said, “Boys, Broughton has been here.”

“You don’t mean it?” said Kit. “She’s poking borak,” said Sam.

“I see,” said Kit. “You’ve cremated him, and these are the ashes.”

Nelly saw they took it as a joke, and did not believe her, so she told all she knew.

Kit grew pale under his tan, and his blue eyes glinted with the glitter of steel. Sam remarked: “’Scuse me, Mrs. Broughton, but I disremembered when I came away that I left a box of matches on the bed and rats is plenty when we’re away. Heaps of stores has been set on fire by rats and matches, and I’m afraid of the hut. I’ll just take a stroll home, and back.”

If the ridiculous reason had not sold him, the “Mrs. Broughton” would have given him away utterly, so Nelly said, “Stay here, both of you, please. I gave him food, and I don’t want him interfered with by anyone from this house.”

Sam nudged Kit and murmured, “Sharp as speargrass to a naked foot, ain’t she, young ’un?”

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The young man acquiesced with a proud smile. Poor boy, there was not the slightest chance for him whilst Broughton lived, and he knew it; but he’d hold on—you bet he’d hold on. By-and-bye, another knock came to the door, and Jim Black, another of their mates, walked in.

“Well, Nell, how’s her head? How’s the world using you, Karo, my beauty?”

“Stow that gammon! I know you sailor man, gammon all the time.” Karo was at home.

Said Jim: “Poor Carry Peters wants to see you particular to-night, both you and Karo and the midshipman in the hammock there. She’s afraid she won’t last the night, and she says she’d sooner see you nor a sky-pilot, if it was a choice of the two. She’d sooner die wicked than do without you to-night; but if you go, why, then, maybe she’ll send for t’other.”

Nelly was no fool; but no harm had even come from Mrs. Peters’ fictions, quite the contrary, so she determined to go, and the boys went outside whilst the women and the baby got ready. There Jim told the other two an eye-opener, with the result that when they returned inside, Kit said, “Nelly, we conclude it’ll be better for a couple of us to stay here to-night, in case Broughton comes back, so you’d better choose one of us to go with you to the township,” and Kit’s heart stood still, in fear lest she might choose Sam or Jim. But she didn’t.

When they reached the pub., Nelly was surprised to see the redoubtable Carry serving drinks to the boys in the back parlour, and she wondered when the sky-pilot was coming. She asked Carry, and in consequence that lady scarce stopped laughing the long night through, with the exception of the time when she was telling Nelly the news about Broughton which had arrived that night.

From that time the half-caste did not leave the great Old Gold calico hotel, but served behind the bar, and was favoured as a daughter of the house, whilst Karo took the boy to Dunedin. Nelly knew that the care with which her mother had fostered herself would be repeated with her boy, but her heart was very sore at the parting.

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.